Monday, July 28, 2008

Polite Dinner Conversation

Lately I’ve been having conversations about my upcoming internship – especially related to getting back into the habit of writing in this blog.

Why, Jason, you know people will be able to read
everything you’ve ever written, I’ve been told. Entries written about the current Bush administration, for instance, or articles written about inclusive language when we talk about God – or another type of inclusion: that of all people in our churches, regardless of the lines society often draws for us. Lines across race, ethnicity, economic status, or even sexual orientation and gender identity. Lines that have been erased in Christianity, as Paul couldn’t help but point out: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). And if that’s not enough, I’ve connected my opinions and beliefs with my Christian faith and identity.

Certainly these are things I cannot think anymore, right? I mean, at least not while I’m on internship. Does that mean I can go back to having these opinions on August 1, 2009, when I’m all done at my internship site? No, it would just continue, on to my first call after I’ve graduated from seminary, and so on…

I feel as though I’ve been called to be at seminary, and I especially feel I’ve been called to this particular aspect of seminary: internship. I’m going to be working full-time (and probably more) at a church, gloriously diving into all aspects of what it means to be in a church, to continue discerning what God has called me to do. Meeting people. Learning to be a pastoral presence. Preaching the gospel among the gathered believers.

But this call does not stop at the church doors, or only on Sundays. It does not only include my internship experience – it includes everything else in my life. It includes how I feel my faith informs my political and social beliefs. It includes how I feel the church is called to attend to the “least of these”…and how it so often does not. It includes accepting a certain level of discomfort and frustration with the current status quo of things.

So I argue that I can continue writing in this blog, even though it’s open to anyone. This means that my words might anger someone else, or go against the core beliefs of another person. And that’s okay. As a Christian, I am not called to be an intern at a social club, a gathering of like-minded, look-alike people, in order to feel better about myself.

I’m called to struggle, to doubt, to proclaim Christ crucified, to share in communion…with everyone. As my worship professor would say, especially with those whom we struggle. With whom we vehemently disagree. We are not called to agree…we are called to love one another, as God has first loved us. It’s that simple, and that inexplicably difficult and complicated: To love God, and to love our neighbor.

I’m not perfect, and thank God for that. Here we are – especially those of us working in the church – understanding God to be present, even amidst our glorious imperfections. Maybe because of those imperfections.

Any words I have written in here are meant to be a conversation-starter, not a cause for shutdown. This is my sincere hope.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Serving Christ in the World

This past June, 23 young people from across the country congregated in Chicago. This was to be a three-week immersion program, including time in the city of Chicago, Mexico City, Cuernevaca (to the south), and north of the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. The title of this program was "Serving Christ in the World."

And I will never forget it.

It wasn't just that I was changed as one of the mentors (which I was, more than I could have ever imagined). Or that the youth changed me (which they did; we each had 3-4 youth in a covenant group, with whom we met daily). Or that I had a good time (which I most certainly did) or found out I love working with youth (which, crazily enough, I do). Or even that I'll never forget these young people, who gave up a part of their summer to do this work (which I won't...and they did...with gusto - I don't know if I could have done what they did when I was their age).

No. It's so much more than that. It's that God was present in those three weeks, in a way I don't have words to describe. It always happens like that, you know? Every time I think I've got God figured out, or that I know how and when God normally shows up, God does it again. God breaks out of the pathetically small boxes we create, and bursts into the world, here and now.

Serving Christ in the world. What does this look like? The 23 phenomenal young people approached this question with daring, with passion, with hope. And we were all changed for the better.

So to all those people of God, I say thank you. Thank you for opening my eyes to the fact that we'll never be able to categorize our God, but that God will continue to break down walls - and refuse to let us get away. We are God's beloved.

What they did was remind me of this. As I head to internship in Bradenton, Florida (which starts August 1), what I needed was a refresher course. And, thank God, I got it - in abundance. I got a full dose of God's mercy, which, in the words of author Anne Lamott, meets us where we are, but doesn't leave us where it finds us.

Amen to that.