Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Terrible Twins

This coming Sunday (November 26th) is observed,
in the church calendar as Christ the King Sunday.
One of the readings appointed for the day is
from the 1st chapter of the Revelation of John,
where the Lord God declares, "I am the Alpha
and Omega" (the beginning and the end). On
one of the listservs I belong to, someone
mentioned she was going to preach on what
this phrase means.

Gosh, someone who is brave enough to tackle
the Terrible Twins of Theology!

Of course, preaching about the Alpha and
Omega is a relevant word for a culture
(and all of us living in these days and times)
in which we believe everything is about us,
our needs/desires/obsessions/seductions,
since WE are the beginning and the end of all

It's a relevant word for a culture which has
turned Christmas into the greatest buying
and selling campaign the world has ever
seen, rather than reflecting humbly or (yes!)
fearfully that the beginning of redemption
comes in the squalor of a stable, not in the
aisles of Nordstrom's; that the beginning
of redemption takes place in the pain
of childbirth, not in the numbed daze
of Christmas parties; that the beginning
of redemption takes place in a family
which is poor, which is rejected, which
is marginalized; that the beginning of
redemption takes place when Mary wraps
Jesus in swaddling cloths, because she
couldn't afford disposable diapers.

It's a relevant word for a culture which
continues to search for the fountain of
youth, and if we can't find it, then the
scientists and researchers had (by God) better
invent that pill, that treatment, that surgery
which will make us feel younger, look
younger, live longer, resist aging and death
for a few more years. After all, if the end
is not about us, then what purpose does
the end serve.

Thank goodness, John reminds us that if
the Lord God is the beginning and the end,
then God is also everything in between. And
if God is the Alpha and Omega (the first and
last letters of the Greek alphabet), then God
is every letter in between, and God is every
word that has been spoken, from the very
beginning first word calling forth light
to shine in the darkness, to the very end
word "Amen." And if the Lord God is the
One who is and who was and who is to come,
then we can stop worry about us, and our
past, and our future, and our end.

We can just keep our eyes open for the One
who is coming . . . the beginning and the end
of all we will ever need.

(c) 2006 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, November 06, 2006

No gloating allowed

I want to gloat.

Another evangelical leader has been caught with his piety down. Another conservative spokesman who trumpets "family values" has damaged his own family, as well as his church family. Another "Christian leader" who talks the talk has shown he has clay feet when it comes to walking the walk.

I want to point fingers; I want to snicker behind my hands; I want to gloat.

But . . .

. . . he has publicly admitted his weakness and his sin, asking forgiveness. And Jesus tells me (doesn't ask me to think about it, but tells me to do it) that when a sister or brother asks forgiveness, we are to grant such forgiveness.

In another place, Jesus commands us to love. Again, it's not an option; it's a requirement for following him. And, as Paul reminds us (in Eugene Peterson's marvelous paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13:6), love

'doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
doesn't revel when others grovel,
takes pleasure in the flowering of truth . . .'

And, of course, there is my sin, my dark side, my other self that I don't want anyone to see. An old Native American parable tells of theone who said, "I have two dogs fighting inside of me: one evil, the other good. Who will win? The one I feed the most." Until I can stop feeding the evil dog inside of me, I should not talk about someone else.

I want to gloat, but I can't.

(c) 2006 Thom M. Shuman