Thursday, February 28, 2013

Deconstruction and Lent

There's deconstruction going on at school. The old school of theology building is being torn down and an addition to the new one will be added.  I get to watch this all happen between classes.  Workers pound to get the old window frames out, others take tiles off the roof.  Everything that once made the building is being stripped away.  It is becoming a husk, a shell of what it used to be.  Soon it will disappear and something new will take its place.
As I watch this slow, steady process, I can't help but think about how appropriate this is for lent. Lent is about going inward and contemplating where you really are in life.  As you go inward, you start first with your complete self, the building before demolition.  It looks nice, but there's usually something lurking under the surface that needs to get fixed.  So you go in deeper, you explore every nook and cranny, you decompartamentalize yourself, deconstructing the bits that just won't do. You tear away the old windows, you get down to the bare husk of yourself.  Of course, in the case of the building, the whole thing will be torn down.  Lent isn't about getting demolished, it's more about renovation, but the construction sight still provides good imagery.
Of course, this is a difficult process and can't really be fully accomplished in 40 days, but we work on little bits every spring.  For example, this lenten season I'm looking into the parts of me that are judgmental, I'm examining why I feel threatened or insulted by certain ideas.  It could be that they are legitimately wrong and harmful, but mostly it's because I have different view points and simply can't understand where others are coming from.  I'm deconstructing the part of myself that holds strong beliefs, I'm looking at it, putting the majority of the bits back in their place, but modifying others as I find necessary. This is not done on my own of course, I have to delve into conversation with the divine.  For without the divine, how can I know what to keep and what to modify?  So I pray, and slowly I find the places that need some help.  Together, God and I are doing something. And if I walk away from lent this season with no significant differences in my views, at least I looked at them.
I ask that you take some time to think about deconstruction, to ponder what it means to your own lenten journey.  Where does it push you? What do you need to deconstruct in your life? Just ponder and reflect. Then turn to God and just simply be with God. Read the word, pray, do what you love to do with the divine.  See where you are called to go, what you are to do.  Take out the pieces of your life that hurt and examine them together.  If it hurts too hard, find resources to help you.  But I encourage you to reflect.
God's Peace be with you.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Biblical Prophets

We've been reading the books of the prophets in class, and it's a puzzling collection of oracles, both of condemnation and hope.
Often the condemnation is for the same problems.
The people have turned away and worshipped other gods.  That's the part that we seem to like to emphasize, and it's an important part of the prophecies found in scripture. Sometimes we even use that bit to get introspective and ask ourselves what gods we are following that are leading us away from the one true God.  That is important, but we can't stay there.
 The people have not cared for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed.  This gets emphasized in our churches a little less, mainly because it makes us feel like we aren't doing enough.  I can't tell you how often I've heard these prophetic words and felt condemned.  No, I haven't cared for all these people like I should. I haven't stepped it up and gone the extra mile. I'm sorry, but I just can't give to everybody. I don't have the money to give to multiple charities, and I don't have the time or choose not to use a lot of my time to help everybody else out.  I feel like I'm almost a failure as a person of faith.
Of course we could help this situation by realizing that this is the condemnation of a nation as a whole, not every single citizen.  Yes, we as citizens of the family of God are called to help out, but we as individuals don't have to take it all on. We are called to specific areas of concern that take on special meaning to us. As a collective, we can cover all the bases.
I think what we fail to truly emphasize within the prophetic works is the mixture of condemnation and hope.  We either take the hopeful words or the condemning words and separate them from the words that surround them.  But even within the chapters of condemnation, there are glimmers of hope.  There is an oscillation between the two, a balance that is often lost within the church setting.  We never seem to mix them  But what if we did? People are condemned because of their actions, yet God still cares, still loves the people.  God mourns when the people turn astray and God awaits the day when people turn back.  It's hard to think of God's condemning of the people, it seems harsh and inconsiderate, leading many in popular piety to think of that punishment as coming from the God of the Old Testament.  But even when the people are being cast into exile, God still speaks of hope, of a future.  There will be a time when the mourning will be no more.  This is not a spiteful God.  It's not a warm, cuddly, lovable Jesus, but it's not a demon either.  There's a balance.
And maybe when we take the prophecies as a balance between condemnation and hope, we can see the balance that was present within Jesus' ministry.  Maybe we'll have a more balanced Christ.  After all, if we believe God spoke through the prophets, then Jesus, being fully human and fully divine, should have a similar voice, right?