Monthly Archives: October 2016

Somewhere Out there

Somewhere out there is a person who knows this story is true.  Truth is a big deal to me because I grew up as an exquisite liar.  When I came to faith I found that truth shifted big into my priorities.  It’s been more helpful than not.  This is a true story.

I was told this story over a couple of beers in a little bar in PA by another pastor.  The story didn’t actually take a couple of beers, but it was told and we were sitting there… yeah, you get it.

So, my fellow pastor decides he needs a new suit.  That’s a big deal for a pastor.  New clothes are immediately noticed by parishioners (you know who you are).  Comments to many pastors, even complimentary comments, are received as judgments.  There are pastors who wonder what everything said to them means.  If you notice his or her new suit… perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, I guess we’re paying her pretty well.”  Or, “Hmmm… wonder if he bought that before or after the last fundraising campaign.”  Many if not most pastors are thin skinned in receiving comments.

I realize I’m not like that, but, I will admit that my son is 35 and I have a picture of him as a nine-year-old and I’m wearing the same jacket that I still wear today.  So, maybe I’m just avoiding the comments by wearing clothes until they just fall apart.

I had a man in one church offer me $250 to go out and buy a suit.  I had 3 suits that I just didn’t wear that often, but I was advised to accept the money.  Then I went to a 2 for 1 sale at a nearby men’s shop and did just that.  I have a friend who is an interior decorator, like a “let us fly you to Japan so you can do the interior of our yacht” kind of interior decorator.  When I told him about the initial offer he said, “Did you tell him ‘add $750 and then we’ll talk!’?”  I didn’t mention the sale to him.

So, anyhow, my fellow pastor gets a new suit that has to be fitted, etcetera, and so he goes to pick it up.  Since he has a meeting just after the purchase he wears the new suit out.  He arrives at a office building, parks and makes his way through the lot.  As he does he realizes there is something cutting at that soft skin in the back of his knee.  It begins to plague him as he walks and, of course, he shifts as he is walking, pinches at the material, thinks if may be a pin and stops to examine it all, walks and shifts and shifts and shifts.  All the time it is getting worse.  He can’t find anything.  There’s no lump, no pin, just the little jabbing, gently slicing feeling that gets more and more irritating.

Finally, he’s through the lobby of the building and into an elevator and heading up to the meeting.  Now, you should follow his emotional experience of this moment.  After all this frustrating irritation, he’s feeling like he’s suddenly in an enclosed space, all alone and with a few minutes to himself when he can probably take care of this issue.  He unzips his pants, hunches just a bit and jams his hand down his pant leg to right behind his knee.  As soon as his fingers touch it, he knows what it is.  It’s one of those “inspected by #3” stickers.inspected

But just as he is able to get it between two fingers, the elevator stops and the doors open.  Two women are right there, who suddenly stop their conversation and step back, staring wide-eyed at the hunched man with his hand jammed through his zipper hole.  And, of course, my friend says the worst thing he could possibly say at that moment, as the doors close, “Wait!  It’s okay!  I’m a pastor!”

Pastors will think about what other people think… forever.


P.S. See… didn’t think about the election the whole time you read that, did you?

The New Purity

The Cult of Purity developed by the Christian church over the centuries is showing its fractures from the devastating blows of our present Election season.  It is time for Christians to renounce purity as an objective of faith, to remove it from any form of expectation in spiritual growth and to denounce it as having anything to do with devotion to God in Jesus.

We are in the throes of an effort to retain the most exquisite practice of created purity and seeing it as our means of acceptance by God.  It’s a lie of our own making and we’re teaching it to our children.

Because we have worshipped our own efforts and rejected God’s free gift of righteousness, we have created everything from music to jewelry to trinkets as representative proof of why God should love us.  We claim it makes us pure when it really only separates us from others.  It isolates us from other human beings.  And, because of this, we have come to the place of shouting at each other over a fence about who’s right and who’s wrong.  This “fence” if examined objectively should be comparable to the plastic part of a child’s farming toy set.  There’s nothing actually there that couldn’t be stepped past or knocked over with the merest effort.  But we’re acting as if it is real, as if there is a real border between us when the truth is that it is completely and only our choice that separates us… a “more pure than thou” perspective, that is little more than air.

Neither of our two major candidates is worth defending. Neither should be attacked.clintontrump We should not be tying our name to theirs because they do not represent who we are nor what we believe.  Also neither one of them is going to achieve a future that will make a lasting difference to our lives or faith.  Their choice of Supreme Court justices, their decisions on insurance and the economy will not create heaven and it will not be of any effect on the will of God.  God is going to use whatever we throw at him to make things work according to his own ultimate design.  We will not find or be able to follow the will of God.  The best we’ll ever be able to do is acknowledge it is working, usually after the fact.  We cannot accomplish good or pure.

“Why do you call me ‘good’,” asked Jesus of a young man and then he made things perfectly clear by saying, “No one is good but God.”  Not you, not me and not by our vote.  The leaders who are suggesting you can get there are only trying to retain their own power.

You will not secure the future through trying to be pure because purity is not achievable.  It is a gift from God and cannot be earned any more than God’s love.

The way into purity is through peace with God.  It’s found in the wholeness that God creates in our souls.  We need to step back from the people who are shouting.  We need to step back from the posts on Facebook.  We need to step toward our brothers and sisters, and also toward all those who are ashamed at how we look on the world stage at this moment.  We need to become the community of Jesus because the new purity he brought us is ours because of his efforts.  This will require us giving up control of the future and trusting God.

Once, I was in a gathering of Christian leaders when one of them made a seriously racist statement.  The room went silent.  The single African-American in the room spoke about that later, that no one spoke up, no one challenged the statement.  I don’t know if they, as a young person, had ever experienced a cold plunge into unexpected shame before.  One voice actually clarified the situation that sparked the original remark, and that actually challenged the perception that led to it.  But the speaker wasn’t addressed again that evening.  He was shunned spontaneously because he had shamed the room.  He came back repentant the next day.  He came to see a new purity.

Step back from the keyboard and the keypad. Step toward faith.