Monday, December 13, 2010

So I Guess We Won't Be Going in First After All...

'"A visionary light settled in her eyes. She saw... a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of... trash... and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. [But at the] end was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right... They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away... In a moment the vision faded... In the woods around her the invisible cricket choruses had struck up, but what she heard were the voices of the souls climbing upward into the starry field and shouting hallelujah."

'What a radical idea! The 'freaks and lunatics' going to heaven before the morally upright tribe? But Jesus said the same thing, when he announced to the shocked religious leaders of his day, 'I tell you the truth, the tax collectors, and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God ahead of you.' (Matt. 21:31)"

-Tim Keller, The Reason for God

Monday, December 06, 2010

(Real) Olde Timey Revival

I've been in the church for 28 years but most of the time it feels longer. I've heard a LOT of sermons/talks but one of the subjects I have seen rarely covered has been repentance and confession- I mean real repentance too, not the typical "repent and be saved" watered down Gospel soup usually reserved for pew fillers either; this is intense, soul-searching, if-you-want-to-God-you-have-to-admit-you-cannot-do-it, in your face call to a reverse Kingdom. Oh, we in the church, are GREAT at calling this "sinful world" to repent of its drunken, over-sexed, self-reliant, greed-driven, ways but once they do, once they get inside those church doors most of us immediately stop the practice (with the exception of our more liturgical brothers going to "confession" as a spiritual discipline). 

One of my particular faith communities is going through a time where there has been- from a few corners- calls to repentance and confession. That to be healed, to move forward, and to become functional we must first admit that we-no, not we- but I am the problem. Me. That this is MY stuff, that I have done, I was wrong, I sinned, I ________________(fill in the blank of the sin). 

What is amazing about confession and repentance is that it is the basis for our faith in Christ; it begins it, and should follow us throughout our spiritual journey. Our tendency, however is to neglect it because it is uncomfortable and difficult. 

As a pastor and long-time follower of the Rabbi I think I may have a few reasons why we are bad at this spiritual discipline that our faith literally with rise and fall on:

1. Courage- many don't have the courage to step forward first and say it. Since no one goes first, no one goes at all. We lack courage.
2.. Execution- how many times over the years have we seen another brother, sister, spiritual leader, or pastor confess a sin or get caught then they are "helped" by having their careers, livelihoods, and relationships shot in the face. The church then likes to ask the question, "Anyone else need to confess?" Shockingly, the answer is often, "No."
3. Oppression- we cow to the lie that no one else struggles like we do, that it has gone on too long, or was only one time, that we are the exception.
4. Downplay- "Everyone has these issues." So what? Therefore, we don't have to discuss, repent, and confess? Doesn't that make us taking them seriously all the more seriously?

Recently, I heard tired prayer for revival and in the middle of it asked myself, "Do we really want revival? What would we do if God really showed up?" John and Jesus are continually calling people to repent for "the Kingdom of God is at hand" but today we don't really need to repent. We don't have to rely on God. 

And so our own ability to extend grace to ourselves and to, therefore, to others, is greatly lacking. We fall into the lie that other peoples' sins are worse than ours (especially abortionists, liberals, fornicators, homosexuals, drunks, and drug abusers) because we never really face our own sins that are listed right along side theirs within our Scriptures (e.g. lying, gossiping, slanders, those given to wrath, gluttons, etc.). 

Want to start that revival? I do. It starts with all of us confessing our own sins first and remembering that grace is all we have to rely on and love is all we are called to.