Sunday, March 29, 2009

That Which Is Not Against Us May Not Be For Us, Either

The Fifth Sunday of Lent

Today's Word:
Jeremiah 31:31-34 (The day is coming when the Lord will establish a new covenant)
Psalm 51:3-4, 12-15 (Create in me a clean heart, O God)
Hebrews 5:7-9 (Jesus understands our sufferings, having experienced them in the flesh)
John 12:20-33 ("Whoever serves me must follow me...the Father will honor whoever serves me")

Ezekiel 37:12-14 ("I will put my spirit in you, that you may live")
Psalm 130:1-8 (With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption)
Romans 8:8-11 (If Christ is in you, your spirit is alive because of righteousness)
John 11:1-45 ("Lazarus, come out!!!")

(DISCLAIMER/ADVISORY: No, that last quote should not be taken to imply in any way that Lazarus was gay...)

An Open Letter/Prayer To God

Dear God,
I'm confused.

I hear that can be normal as one gets older. Still, I believe that getting in touch with you can help keep that in check; so here I am.

It seems I turn my back for one day to celebrate my son's birthday, and when I turn around again, a few things happen that ... well, confuse me.

Like the weather, for one. I just got used to it being spring, and we get five inches of snow last night. Heavy, wet stuff that at my age I should be getting someone else to brush off the car. Makes a real mess driving to church. And I was lucky, for which I'm thankful. One of my colleagues, the music director in my Catholic parish, took an exit ramp just a hair too fast at 7:45 this morning and her car wound up in a ditch. She's alright, and nobody else was involved, thank You - but she's without a car now, and the only time this would be worse would be if it happened two weeks from now. Then to top it off....

...the sun came out this afternoon like the last six hours had never happened!

Yes, I know the people along the Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota have more to worry about from the weather. I know there are people far worse off than they are. I pray that You are looking out for them.

I read that the Archbishop of Canterbury said that You're not going to help us out of the mess we may be in with regards to global warming. He may be right. (He seems to be an exception to an unwritten rule in this day and age.) You did make all of us stewards of creation, and it's obvious that we could do better. I hope that You will be more merciful than just. I have always put more weight on that.

I listened as best I could to the preaching on your Word today, especially John 12:26 (quoted above). The emphasis on that verse was unmistakable. I could tell that this was something I was going to reflect on, and share with the few people who've been reading my reflections this season, for whatever they are worth.

I am trying, really trying, to see Your way clear through life in 21st Century mid-central America. You know it's not easy. There are any number of distractions, real and imaginary, that want my attention. It's not that I don't try. I could have said 'enough is enough' ten years ago, and I nearly did; but You somehow found me and provided for me. You always do.

I know that, in entering the various roles of ministry, I must be willing - as Jesus said - to follow Him. And, as I reflected only a few weeks ago, the road that leads to Heaven goes through Calvary. I believe what happened ten years ago was one such personal trip there. It is probably not the last, and I could be reading this wrong; but it's just what I have come to discern over the years.

I've been beat over the head by religious academia, the concept that a person need to be educated as opposed to moving by the dictates of the heart; dictates that You put there.

I've been dragged through issues of church politics, and the subjective interpretation of Your Word many, many times; in the real world, and in cyberspace, where nobody knows your name but everybody knows your opinion. I've been caught between Your 'policy' and corporate policy.

I've found myself in enough 'no-win' situations that I have questioned the very value of my life. Yet, just when I thought I could take no more, You gave my voice a song. You broke me - gently most of the time. You lifted me up and put me back on the road once more.

Having acknowledged this, I'm really beginning to wonder if the Church that Your Son Jesus established has turned into the thinking-yet-unthinking, letter-of-the-law, Pharisaical mess that existed in the Jewish Temple at the time Jesus walked this earth. They come up with document after document that pronounce that this or that is wrong, while acting like the old boys' club when they think our backs our turned. To the best of my knowledge the trusted leaders of the Church have sidestepped the scandal laid at their feet within the last ten years, to pass judgment on whether or not an Oriental form of energy healing should be allowed to be practiced within the areas the Church's authority.

Didn't Jesus tell us that every good thing comes from You? How can something that is meant to heal the whole person - body, mind, and spirit - not be good? I am reminded that many of the Apostles and saints of the Church were able to perform miraculous healings. I know some of this today is not done in Jesus' name or Yours; but if every good thing comes from you, and it is acknowledged that the healer is simply a conduit, a channel for Divine energy, does anything else matter? If so, what is it that matters? And if not, why does the high clergy insist that it does? Does this mean I can no longer pray for a person's recovery from illness? That I cannot become a channel of peace for others? That I can't let you use me and everything you've given me to foster healing and peace to people anywhere?

I hear a lot about geriatric diseases, God. As I get older, I have a vested interest (as it were) to try and understand what happens. My mother-in-law doesn't remember much of anything in her life, especially in the last five years; my own mother has Parkinson's Disease, the same thing that ultimately ended the life of Pope John Paul II, a person many people outside Catholicism respected, even if they didn't always agree with him. He took the bold step of asking others to forgive the Church for any past sins committed by her representatives from Day One. He saw You in everything, even the thing that ultimately took his life and allowed his spirit to come home to You. Do we stop doing everything we can for those who have been so good to us? That is so unlike what You want for me.

I just wonder how many of the clergy are no longer able to think clearly and see where Your hand is guiding us. I am beginning to think they could be fashioning their own golden idol, giving it Jesus' name and identity, and demanding that we worship it.

I pray that in Your infinite wisdom you will answer the prayers of Your people and provide us with the youth and visionary leaders we need to turn the corner and get back on track to making the world the better place I keep hearing about. I fear, though, that the Powers That Be are careful enough to cover themselves and suppress that youth and vision, thus keeping us wandering in the proverbial desert for the proverbial forty years. Still, I know You've hit it out of the park for me and You'll keep doing so. I won't forget that and I will hang in there.

In my weakness, You make me strong. In my time of trouble, You rescued me. In my darkest hours, You are the light that leads me. I will always love You.

Oh, and if I help anyone come to know You better through by these words I write, the meanderings of my mind and spirit, I am forever grateful.

I have this simply beautiful image of what You're like. Despite all the confusion, I still see that image among the living here on Earth. I hope it's like that when I see all of You.

Thanks for being here. I feel ready to hit the road again.

-the Phoenix

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