Christ In Winter: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter…
Along about 1200, Richard of Chichester wrote a prayer that was popularized in our time in the musical, “Godspell.” In it he prays for three things…
TO SEE THEE MORE CLEARLY: Christian theology has always said that the way we see God more clearly is by looking at Jesus. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus,” as Helen Lemmel wrote, “…and the things of earth with grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”
That is why the Bible is important to Christians: in it we see Jesus. That is why any part of the Bible that contradicts Jesus or does not reflect the way of Jesus is not a way to or word about God.
A little girl drew a picture in Sunday School. Her teacher asked her who it was. “God,” she said. “But no one has ever seen God,” the teacher said. “They will now,” the girl replied. I’m not sure how that fits in here, but I like it.
TO LOVE THEE MORE DEARLY: To love God more dearly is to commit to the first commandment—to have no other Gods.
That is not religious exclusivism, because loving God is not about worshipping God or praising God. [Which is one reason I am no fan of “praise” songs—they usually stop at praise rather than leading us beyond praise.]
Loving God isn’t saying, “Oh, God, you’re so neat.” It’s doing whatever the hell God wants us to do.
Marcus Borg says that we see what God loves in what Jesus loves.
Loving God means to love what God loves, and learning what God loves comes, as already noted, not from the Bible, but from Jesus.
TO FOLLOW THEE MORE NEARLY: No mystery here. Walk in the ways of Jesus.
That’s what Christianity was originally called, “The Way.” It had nothing to do with “belief,” that darkness that comes from the Enlightenment, that makes us think we are Christians if we “believe” in the existence of God, or in the historical reality of Jesus.
Thirty or so years ago, a young man told me he was leaving our church because we did not believe in the substitutionary atonement. That was news to me, but I had to admit that I just sort of assumed it without preaching about it directly, since I was not a “doctrinal” preacher, anyway. He was quite pleased with his new-found doctrine, and was also pleased that anyone who did not “believe” in it was going to hell. I asked him if that included Kathy.
Kathy was a member of our congregation. She came to church every Sunday with her mother, who wasn’t really her mother. She came to Doris as a four year old in a marriage that, when it ended, left Doris, not Kathy’s father, with a girl who would always have the mental ability of a four year old, even when she was twenty-eight, as she was then.
Kathy loved her mother and she loved the church. She loved to sing the hymns, although she often sang other words. She loved reciting the Lord’s Prayer with everyone, although she was often a line or two behind.
Kathy couldn’t even say “substitutionary atonement,” yet along “believe” in it. Steve acknowledged, with only slight reluctance, that yes, Kathy would go to hell because she could not “believe” correctly.
“Conversion” in the Greek originally had to do with turning around and going the other way. We are not converted to Christ until we are converted to his way of living in the world, until we go the other way.
When we are old, and energy is flickering and feeble, we have to find new ways of following in the Way. [Please let me know when you find out how to do this.]
Oh, dear Lord, three things I pray…
John Robert McFarland