Friday, 20 April 2012

Being Bigger than Bigotry

As children, my siblings and I were taught that no one’s life exists outside of God’s love and grace.  Similarly, we were taught that even if a person went to a different church, or held beliefs different to our own, we should recognize that God’s grace is big enough to accommodate human difference.  The underlying principle is that Life belongs to God and not to us.  We occupy this world for a brief spell, and in that brief spell, we are permitted to touch this world by the manner we choose to live this gifted life.

With the advent of the Civil Rights Movement in the Untied States in the late 1960s, there have been times when I thought we, modern people that we are, had outgrown discrimination and bigotry.  I am bigger than that after all! Aren’t I?

I was caught off guard recently however.  In my business, being a minister and all, I encounter lots of atheists and agnostics and followers of other philosophies and beliefs.  Well, it has happened from time to time that a person of another following will make a derogatory comment about a God-centred life.  If God does not exist to them, how ridiculous must it seem to them, that whole populations base their lives around the idea that Life belongs to God.

The fact remains, that such derogatory comments aimed at theists are an expression of bigotry, but it does it stop there.  If I, a theist, turn my ire back on those who have spoken such offensive words, and unleash my own venomous words of anger against them in the name of my beliefs, haven’t I too slipped?  When I free myself to speak sarcastically or hatefully about the lives of those with whom I disagree, am I not fuelling the fires of bigotry?

If I am going to out-grow bigotry, then I am going to chose to be a person who gives Life back to God for God’s glory.  This will invite me to look for God’s hand beyond my own life experiences, and to refrain from reducing the Life that belongs to God to a collection of personal opportunities where I may use my words to shame, manipulate and coerce others into adopting my superior way of thinking.  I will not agree with all the people I encounter regarding the source and end of Life, but I will honour God when I take a stand to be bigger than bigotry.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Living in the in-between Places

 A Jewish custom, which for many is no longer practiced, involved carving the shema, on their doorpost or placing it there in a small box (called a mezuzot).  The shema, from Deuteronomy 4:6-9,  is  that reminder that there is one Lord and you are to love Him with all your heart soul and might.  In addition you are to teach this to your children, and you are to recite it whether at home or on a journey.  This reminder was to assist the faithful in remembering that all life flowed from God and to God, no matter where your foot might tread.

You might be asking, why the doorpost?  What is so significant about a door lintel?  Well for the ancients and for us, doorways are not just architectural passages offering protection and leading from one space to another, but they possess a spiritual significant as well.

Doorways are those places where we exit and enter our own world; a world created by us and for us in God’s grace, a resting place away from all that is unknown and might cause us to bristle.  Doorways are also those places where others enter and exit our world; a ceremony which too often happens with an indifference that might be worth reconsidering.  Finally, doorways are those spaces where we enter and exit the lives of others, also rooted in God’s grace; an event we do well to regard with more thoughtfulness.

So marking the doorway with a reminder that our lives are rooted in God’s love, and loving God, is a way of preparing the body and spirit of those daring the passage from one worldly environment to another.  It was a sort of blessing, because as it reminded those passing, it focused their spirits on the sacredness of each encounter.

The second week of Easter we hear that Jesus passes through a closed door.  Its occupants were not at home with God, in fact they were far away, because of the fear that their world was forever lost.  After all, Jesus had been killed, and his graced presence would no longer be there for them.

As you recall, Jesus passes through the door, entering into the midst of the disciples’ focus on fear, loss, and death.  There amongst all of that, he says ‘peace be with you.’
There in their pain and loss, he enters, and shares his own wounds, but more he shares his life which overcame all death.  His shared life gives them new hope, a hope that will lead them beyond the threshold of their own fear, pain and failure.  His sharing of his transformed life, crates within them a courage to go on and live for God’s sake, not their own.

Sharing and nursing wounds is no longer the end of life; sharing wounds is a reminder that while all are wounded as we pass in and out of life’s realities, the life we have in God is forever unending.

Looking beyond the death of Jesus to the never-ending and always present life, living for that life, we must rethink all of life’s thresholds, be them spiritual or physical.  Living in the confidence of Christ’s life, our thresholds may no longer be used as barriers and self made tombs.  Entrusting our lives to Christ we begin at the threshold of the heart, and here in the midst of life’s woes and wounds we meet LIFE as God offers it over and over again.