Catch and Release Season. That's my new name for Lent. Went through years of glum Lenten services as a kid. No desire to repeat. After all, if we were all born into sin (original sin, the sin of Adam and Eve and every intervening bloke), then actual sin (our own sin that we daily commit with virtually every breath of our own being) the problem always was and always will be way out of our hands. It was always a thing only God could fix, which he/she has done once and for all. Period.
So we are caught on the hook of sin but released by the work of Christ. Time for dancing in the streets, I say! Why wait for Easter? Every new morning is a new Easter.
Decades of my life have been ground into agonizing pulp wrestling with this stuff. At last, like the sudden movements of plate tectonics that finally shake up the world, it has fallen in on me. Stop groveling in your shame as though you didn't want Christ to have redeemed you on the cross, as though you'd rather reset the movie and try to do it on your own. "For freedom Christ has set us free," wrote Apostle Paul. So be! Free!
"Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty we are free at last!" MLK didn't use those lyrics for nothing. We'd do well to heed.
Been thinking a lot about the eight years I spent away from the church and why. Many reasons. But a great big boulder of a reason was the fact that during the Vietnam War my church had nothing to say. Yep, nothing. Flat out nothing. No help with the toughest moral decision of my life. Nado. At least nothing new. Same old message about forgiveness of sin, a message which I really had down since Kindergarten. Or thought I did. Yes, I could recite the words with the best of 'em. But I modeled the behavior of those around me.
Meaning I lived in the realm of mercy. Not in the State of Grace. Stayed stuck in mercy: "God forgives us again and again. He wouldn't have to, again and again, if we didn't keep sinning again and again." Message: you are a royal pain in God's butt, but ol' God just takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin', as the Timex watch commercials used to stay back in the non-digital Stone Age.
Mercy. Definition: God doesn't give us what we deserve. Underlying message: Keep feeling guilty about that for the rest of your life. Keep coming back for your weekly fix.
Did we ever hear the words of Paul about freedom? Did we so easily blow off Luther's revolutionary concept of the Stae of Grace?
Grace. Definition: Receiving from God in superabundance what we do not deserve. Redemption that leads to: Life. Freedom. New life. Breath each day. Creation. All that exists. Hope. Life. Eternal life. Passing, as John's gospel says, "from death to life." Not coming under judgment. Where is the dancing in the streets?
In short, receiving and living in the Kingdom of God. If you are clueless about the Kingdom of God, then go back and get to know Jesus and what he actually said. And don't feel bad. Even the church has been largely clueless about its own treasure for 2K years, at least much of the time.
Through millennia, the church has had much to say about sex, marriage and divorce. You could get the idea that God had a genital fixation and nothing else going. Maybe that's why when it comes to the most destructive human activity of all, war, the church has time and again been a gutless wonder. And has even waged wars of its own. Unwilling to trust grace while trying to keep a monopoly on mercy. Or power. The Kingdom of God has never been about the power of an institution. It has always been about the power of Christ.
Oh sure, WWII against the Nazis was a just war. Necessary, we say. I disagree. Because if the followers of Christ had lived the Kingdom of God, they would never have allowed the Nazis to come into existence in the first place. The "It's the economy, stupid!" screams that led to racism and genocide would have been dissolved by cheers of "It's the Kingdom of God, brother!"
Naive? Well then I guess Jesus was too. But did we actually ever trust his way enough to try his way? Fairy tale? MLK... Amish...
For sure, let's remember what we have been freed from. But for God's sake let's grasp and embody what we have been freed and empowered to: GgRrAaCcEe. (<--- Only way I know to grapically represent Paul's "grace upon grace" image.)
Kingdom of God. Search the Scriptures on that one. You were caught. You've been released.
As they say in New Hampshire, "Live free or die."
Stop wondering whether or not you could actually risk having anything to say about war.
Stop wondering whether you could stop war when you've actually been given the formula for dissolving it.
Since when have you let yourself believe that you need the Pentagon to defend your faith? Since when? The Kingdom of God is here. Shalom,