Pastrix Chapter 2

First, I direct you to my article about Confirmation to the right of this page entitled “Confirmation

Absolutes

Sucks”. If you haven’t read it yet, it will let you know how I feel about the whole “age of accountability” which actually does (but doesn’t) exist in the Lutheran Church in the form of Confirmation. This is the first ‘topic’ that comes to my mind while reading this chapter. I find it pathetic that in the Lutheran Church we have “Confirmation” or “Affirmation of Baptism” that seems to be such a ‘must do’ for so many parents, but then we ignore EVERYTHING we say it is about. Is this really a time when our youth take responsibility for their own faith? If so, would you let them go to another church? Would you let them go to another faith? Would you allow them to ‘not believe’ altogether?

Anyway, there is far more to this chapter than my angst and frustration about adolescent Christian rites and rituals. As a pastor (and a human), I continue to be curious about the sheltering strategy of the church. Nadia is right. Most Christians I know would respond to her dabbling in (or even just ‘visiting’ with) Wiccan events of any kind as ‘straying off of the path’ and would praise God that she returned to Jesus and ‘the Way’. Yet, my question about such explorations is this: does she know more about the nature of God then those who haven’t peeked around the religious corner or peered over the fence of Christian doctrine? I don’t mean ‘know more’ as if she took a class on world religion. But has she experienced more about who God is than those who haven’t explored in a similar way.

I am a guy who grew up without a dad…no father…no ‘male role’ model in the home. I don’t know what that does to my psyche or personality, but I do think that in some way I relate to the ‘male’ aspect of God differently. Not the same as women do…but different nonetheless. The idea of the divine feminin

e or the concept that God is at the very least ‘more’ than male isn’t foreign to me at all. In fact it is a concept that I feel very at home with. I wonder if in our clear attempt to shelter ourselves from things that are at least perceived to be ‘not God’, we also are unintentionally sheltering ourselves from the whole of God, the rest of God, the mystery of God.

To be honest, it makes me nervous…very nervous, that we as a church community claim to have a handle on the whole God thing. Doctrines, though I’ve vowed a a pastor to uphold them, make me a bit anxious. Not because they are wrong…but because no matter how hard we try, they are always incomplete. Maybe deep down I’m a mystic? Maybe on some level I long to embrace the mystery of a God that created all things and calls them all good? Maybe I simply want to admit more publicly than I already do that there are more questions answered with “I don’t know” than any other answer. Why do we, all of us…conservative, fundamental, liberal, open, traditional, contemporary, liturgical, postmodern…why do we act as if we have a corner on the theological and doctrinal market?
There was a time when nearly all of Christianity agreed with 1 Timothy 2, where women were to be kept in their place and have no voice. The church was SURE about that….ooops. What else are we SURE about?

…I’m waiting for the collective “ooops”…

Coxswain – Pastrix Ch 1

Ok…so the title of the first chapter is called “The Rowing Team”. Nadia writes about ‘the rowing team’…the band of addicts, depressives, messed up, screwed up, “f”-ed up people she met with, hung out with, became friends with, laughed with, loved with…as the group of people whom God used to call her into ministry (or maybe better said, the people with whom she realized that she was already ministering…I say ‘with’ because I believe that they were ministering to her even if they would never say it or know it).

It was at the death of PJ that Nadia’s call became clear…it took a death to bring to focus a new direction, new life one might say.

Many of us may not have this kind of a story (even though many may wish they had a story like this to begin a book with), but we do have stories.

Here’s the thing. I have heard many people ‘dis’ Nadia to some extent saying that fans of hers are simply drinking the postmodern, emerging church, Rob Bell flavored cool-aid. Maybe they are right…but then they would be talking about me as a part of that group too…so…there is that…

I urge each of us to be present enough to notice God in ‘those’ people. I don’t mean ‘present’ in a strange, ‘spiritual’ sort of way, but in a practical way. I believe that we all belong to God and as much as that is true…we are all “f-ed” up, in different ways. We may not all mask our brokenness by being comics on every night except Mondays, but we are broken….and God is still present. We need to be ‘present’ enough to notice. If we notice we will see that we DO have stories.

The ‘coxswain’ is the leader, rhythm setter, navigator of a rowing team…to be in ministry is not to be separate from the brokenness at all, but to realize that you are in the boat too…literally…messed up, screwed up, “f-ed” up…the only difference is that we ‘think’ we have a direction to steer the boat. That is what Nadia was called to do in the form of a memorial service, a funeral. She gave some direction and set a rhythm.

Who is your rowing team? Are you called? Did God use you to call someone else? Or … do you think its bullshit? (if Nadia can say it, so can I)

Judges…a violent example of God’s forgiveness?

Violence and forgiveness? Hmm…

So my confession is this, I really am uncomfortable of shepherdthe image of Jesus keeling down on one knee, holding a lamb in one hand, a shepherds staff in another, wearing a robe glimmering so freaking white that I’m surprised CLOROX hasn’t stolen the image for a TV commercial, all while smiling and talking to children as if in some sort of idealized Sunday School class outside on a hillside…you know the image I’m talking about…

I know that I’ve got a pretty messed up, angst driven, generation x polluted perspective, but this just doesn’t fit my image of Jesus…

To contrast the Norman Rockwell version of Christianity, I have started reading the book of Judges…give it a shot and see how it might shatter the painting of God you have in your head. I LOVE IT!! Yes it is violent! Yes it is gruesome! Yes there are a lot of names that are difficult to pronounce…but in the midst of all of that…grace is everywhere.

It is easy to get caught up in the obvious work of God against the enemies of Israel (the warrior God), raising up Judges, leaders to fight the enemy and lead God’s people back toward God. This is obvious…but what I find interesting is the reality that if God is a God who punishes evil, if God is a God to wages war to grant justice, if God is a God that balances the scales so that everyone gets what they deserve, then how come the people who continually do evil in the Book of Judges (the Israelites) are the ones God continually sets free? Said another way, how come those who are biblically stated as ‘doing evil’ and ‘turning away from God’ and deserve to be punished for it are the ones who receive no judgement or punishment whatsoever?

Is this God’s grace in the Hebrew Bible? Is this deliverance from sin? Is this the work of Jesus before the resurrection?

In a book (the Hebrew Bible) where many people define God as angry, vengeful, violent and mean, we see not just a glimpse of grace, love, acceptance, and forgiveness, but we see it to a fault. We love to see people get what they deserve and the Israelites do NOT get what they deserve…not even close.

What does this tell us? What can we learn? Is God really so different in the Hebrew Bible? If we all sin, do evil, turn from God, does God punish us? Or does God act in a different way?

I’m scheduled to speak at Carthage College on October 16th…come check out the discussion!

Pastrix…lets discuss…

I have begun reading Nadia Bolz-Weber’s book PastrixI am not surprised at all that I love it! Any book that begins like this: “‘Shit,’ I thought to myself…” is a book that I can get into. Therefore, I’m going to offer up some thoughts on the book, chapter by chapter and I invite you to read and comment with me. I know I know…some of you are thinking this is a ‘trendy’ book and I’m simply drinking the cool-aid. Maybe. But in reality, I enjoy anything that gets people talking about a more realistic walk of faith, a more relatable journey with God, and yes…a more relevant (whatever in the world that means) spirituality.

So…I’m reading the book now and would like to give you a chance to get the book and start reading. Two weeks from now I will begin to comment on the book, chapter by chapter. The idea isn’t so much that you read my thoughts, but that you share yours. We all have an experience of God and relate to other stories in different ways…please feel free to share yours and read along.

Again…the book is PASTIX by Nadia Bolz-Weber…get it…read it…join the conversation beginning Oct. 20th.