Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Discomfort as a Spiritual Practice

This morning I am teaching adult education hour at Ewing Presbyterian Church. A few people have requested an outline, resources, whatever. Here are the texts I am using today.

"A Ministry of Discomfort" in From Each Brave Eye: Reflections on the Arts, Ministry, and Holy Imagination. My essay is the conclusion of this compilation of essays.

We need a ministry of discomfort in the church, and we need to remember what it is like to learn something new. Go take a belly dancing class or learn how to blacksmith or take calculus or learn a language. Remember what it is like to feel stupid, naked, vulnerable and excruciatingly uncomfortable. This has tremendous implications for us as we welcome guests or enter into communities as guests. Becoming a new creation in Christ has more in common with peeling off skin than with dancing familiar routines. If we can learn to embrace discomfort, we might find a key to reconciliation across racial lines, between cultures, and through gender and sexual identities. Just maybe.

The Sexual Theologian: Essays On Sex, God and Politics by Marcella Althaus-Reid and Lisa Isherwood. The text below is from the introduction to this excellent book.

This world is queer indeed, and those who wish to play it straight are failing to see that new horizons are declared holy and we are propelled on in courage not certainty. Where are those who will sit with the fear and uncertainty and not flee in the face of a queer god -- the early followers fled in the face
of a crucified god, very queer in the Jewish world! They fled to 'life as normal' but it didn't work--it can never work because life if fully engaged is far from normal. Norms are easy conveniences for those who like surveys and statistics, they are not for those who live. Life can never be normal for those who embrace the flesh as divine, those who are lovers of god through that flesh in all its diverse glory.

Theology that has incarnation at its heart is queer indeed. What else so fundamentally challenges the nature of human and divine identity? That the divine immersed itself in flesh, and that flesh is now divine, is queer theology at its peak. There can be no sanitation here, or something of the divine essence will be lost--it is not the genetically modified, metaphysical Son of God that declares the divine-human conjunction, but the screaming baby born amidst the cow shit and fleas, covered in his birthing blood and received into the uncertain arms of his child/mother, who declares salvation for all. Male theologians have preferred to distance themselves from these all too earthy moments and in doing so have missed the point--the divine is earthy, messy and partial and is to be found there in all its glory, not in splendid doctrine stripped of all humanness.

Matthew 8:18-34, immediately following the sermon on the mount. Jesus comes down, begins healing and upsetting the community. Who wants to be made well? Who wants others to be made well? Who wants to cut a new groove? Nobody, really. To follow Christ is not to seek comfort. When Jesus got done, the whole town came out and begged him to leave.

Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. A scribe then approached and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. The demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And he said to them, “Go!” So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood.

Finally, EPC is working through Brian MacLaren's We Make the Road by Walking as a community, seeking meaning for each of us individually and as a connected body. This week we are on Chapter 31, "The Choice Is Yours".

Be among the lowly in spirit, remain sensitive to pain and loss, live in the power of gentleness, hunger and thirst for true righteousness, show mercy to everyone rather than harshness, don't hide hypocrisy or duplicity in your heart, work for peace, be willing to joyfully suffer persecution and insult for doing what is right.

Dare to be a noncomformist by being boldly different, like salt and light in the world. Demonstrate your differentness through works of generosity an beauty.

Reject both mindless conformity to tradition and rebellious rejection of it. Instead, discern the true intent of tradition and pursue that intent into new territory.

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