Saturday, 26 March 2016

One size may NOT fit all... Something that I'm thinking about on Easter Saturday.

Like many Christian clerics on Easter Saturday, I am reviewing tomorrow’s sermon.  What do I say to the folks on Easter Sunday?  What challenge, what comfort, what truth do I strive to lay bare… what inspiration to Transformation dare I offer to the faithful who come every Sunday (or 3 Sundays a month, anyway) and how do I combine it with a message to those who will be there under duress  (you promised that you’d come to church with me this Easter!     
No Easter Egg hunt until after church!       
Maybe, I should go just to be safe…)?

Old School? New School? Out of School? 

This year, as with many years, I have some media features trying to shape my narrative – a national magazine wondering if Jesus really existed and another colleague featured in interviews decrying the stupidity of the “Old Man in the Sky” and professing to know that most clergy are in agreement with her position, just lacking in courage and support.

Allow me this confession – I am progressive.  I am personally persuaded by what most would call Process Theology.  I am in agreement with Gretta Vosper on many many points.  Not all – but many.  One might say that I am in “Essential Agreement” with her, but still end up in another place entirely.  (United Church clergy inside joke).  I have no reservation seeking personal wisdom or relying on the compassion of many of my Non-Theist and Atheist friends in a time of crisis.   But, I still want my Jesus.

I still adhere to a discreet Divine presence in the universe (throughout the universes, even) that inspires me toward justice and beauty, that loves me and persuades me in all aspects of my life.  I pray and I think that it matters; I hurt and I believe that I am not alone, even when nobody knows about my pain.  That’s me.  I also find that the teachings and the event of Jesus connect to me on all levels of my being: Intellectual, Spiritual, Emotional and even, Physical.   That’s me.  

Enough about me. 
   (egad! I barely know how to type that sentence)

Here are the two things that struck me today, as I was reviewing my notes for tomorrow.

1.      My Great Grandmother has a framed picture on her wall declaring that: “God couldn’t be everywhere, so He created mothers”.     It was likely a gift from one of her many children, but it also matched her theology:  A theology that wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes in seminary.  She was the kind of woman who sang “In the Garden” quite happily and had no doubt that Jesus walked with her, talked with her and called her his own…. Rather like a boyfriend.

How arrogant would I need to be to run back from Seminary and tell her that her faith was wrong… that it couldn’t stand up to real critical thinking and that it would not be sufficient to carry her through her life? A life in which she raised 7 children and even more grandchildren; buried loved ones, both adult and child; created a life with her husband and community that touched more people than I have touched in 25 years of Easter Sermons.  Hers was a faith inspired her to be kind and compassionate, understanding of the failures of others and unafraid to live even to the very end of her life (and beyond). 

I read Tillich and Moltmann; reveled in Whitehead and Cobb; worked through Calvin and found light and joy in De Chardin, discovered Von Balthazar and rarely put down Hall… I could enumerate most (if not all) of the things that were wrong with her silly hymns and ridiculous wall hanging..  
And I haven’t lived a life half as loving or nearly as authentic as was hers.  

Faith is meant to embrace us, it fits us and inspires us… it is not a “once size fits all” reality and just because you may wear a size 2 is no reason to insist that my size 14 is unhealthy or wrong.   It just fits me better.

2.      Back in the late 18th century, Residential Schools for “Indians” were opened in Canada.  We closed the last one in the late 20th century.  For two centuries it was our policy to give these Native people what they needed to live in the world as we imagined the world.  We knew that their ideas were silly and not realistic (imagine living on the back of a Turtle)… we knew that their language would never say anything meaningful in world dominated by English and French. We knew that their faith wouldn’t be enough for the real challenges of the “modern” world… so, we insisted that they learn English or French for their own good;  that they accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour and come to know the God of Abraham, the one true God, for their own peace and salvation.   And because we were so convinced that this was the right thing to do, we took away their language and rituals, we forbid any talk of their out-dated faith… we insisted that they talk and believe as we did, we wrested them from their families so that there would be no going back – after all, they were wrong and in our superior thinking we were so very right.

I am not suggesting that Non-Theists, Atheists or A-Theists are running residential schools – that would be an incredible disservice to those whose lives were lost and devastated; whose culture was almost murdered… but I would remind myself and other progressive thinkers and preachers that our arrogance can sometimes takes us down paths that we may not have intended, or certainly would not have chosen had we the privilege of foresight, or the wisdom of hindsight. 

  Your faith might be perfect for you… it might even be objectively “right”; so, too, might your culture and language be perfect, even “right”… but before you insist that others abandon their rituals, language and beliefs; give up their comfort and familiarity... think about my Great Grandmother and consider he truth of the Residential Schools with which we now struggle to reconcile. 

Please, be ready for the questions and the growth as it comes to be – allow people to let go and hold on as they choose, strive to find a common language or at least a way that we can speak together without insisting that either side stop talking their native tongue... but don’t for a moment imagine that you’ve got it all figured out…because one day, you might realize that a size 8 is a way better fit than you imagined. 

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