Weren't today's readings fun? You get Jeremiah all, "How long will you people be lying about me? says the LORD" and then Jesus is all, "You think I came for peace? Ha, fools! I came to divide yo' ass!"
Yes indeed, that's just how we read it too.
In all seriousness, it was really good stuff. Usually you hear these sorts of passages and you think, uh oh - well, no, actually first you think "Thank God I don't have to preach on this!" then you worry about your friend who is preaching then you get on to the uh oh.
Our preacher did wonderfully, and even as I listened to the readings I was thinking about how they fit so well together. I got to read Jeremiah and I kid you not, I read it like I was a fire-and-brimstone preacher. Dr. John (Goldingay) loved it. I yelled at the folk. I was like "What's UP with you people??" They dug it.
But yeah, that reading was all about all the people lying in God's name, having dreams that they claim are God's word that are no such thing. It was about how the word of God is a "fire" and a "hammer that breaks a rock into pieces." Then the gospel went on to describe Jesus' mission as bringing "division, not peace," and all the lovely ways people will be divided over God.
And one person mentioned after the service that she was surprised I'd prayed for unity in our denomination, right after hearing those passages. But J pointed out that those passages are about division between the church and the world, not within the church. From the inception of the Church the Bible is quite clear about the unity that should always be there. But when it comes to the way of the world - not the people, but the systems and the sin and the selfishness - then we are the hammer that breaks the rock into pieces. We are the fire that burns the brush away, that burns out the impurities, but warms those inside the House of God.
As I write this paper on Islam I think more and more about how similar our religions are, how much we share goals. Islam's goal is to free people from their blindness, their slavery to false gods (materialism, political systems, evil desires) and free them for slavery to the one true God. Some think this can only be accomplished through Muslim rule, but others advocate more peaceful means. Either way, it's quite the same as what we Christians say we hope for: that God will cut away all the bullshit in people's hearts so they can see God clearly. And we want to help with that. And so do they. It's very much the same goal.
All through church I was thinking, as we were talking about our King eternal, I was thinking about my Muslim friends and how they have the same goal. They want the same thing: God's reign on earth. It's so close. But very far in other ways...mainly, that they definitely don't go in for loving enemies. There's nothing in their scriptures about that, it's very much unique to Christianity. I'm not sure any other religion advocates such a radical idea. Even Buddhism would say don't harm others, but I don't think that would be out of love, more the recognition that nothing can really hurt you.
Anyway, the message from Jeremiah said that those who have the word of God need to preach it faithfully, because many people do not have the real word, the authentic word that is fire and hammer, but probably something a bit more coddly and welcome. Jeremiah had a tough message to give, and he was surrounded by people giving the happy message, the one that is easier to listen to. Their own dreams of the way things are, should be. The LORD says they falsely attribute their own dreams to God. They falsely speak in God's name.
So the world needs all the true prophets it can get. All the people who are ready to listen to the word, whatever it says, no matter how unpopular it makes them and how much it pisses people off. If the real word is given you, preach it faithfully.
I am going to close my eyes and fall backward and pray that God catches me.
I'm going to put my trust back in this process. I'm going to go with it as long as it goes. And if I get ordained in the end, I will preach the word I'm given faithfully.
And I'm going to follow this fully, whole-hog, all the way. Meaning, I am officially suspending my PhD application process. I am going to invest all my energy into becoming whatever kind of minister God may want me to be.
I have this fire, in my bones, these words that I want to say, this message I feel like I have to offer. So I am stepping out of the safety of the academy and going to try to get it through to the real world. Or at least whoever God puts in my path.
And the scariest of all, I am going to try to write this book about the spirituality of food, on my own, no phd after my name, no big research grant. I'm just going to see if I can do it. I know it's something God wants me to try to tell the world. So I am going to write it and see what happens.
In the meantime, I am going to do whatever I can to become an excellent priest. I especially want to rediscover and recover my deep attachment to preaching, to digging into God's word. I've been floating away from it, off in the academic realms, and I want to come back to what was giving me life, when I was really and truly devoted to it. And that was serious exegetical work that then became beautiful writing that then was transformed into something new when it was preached, something different and yet the sum of everything that had come before. I want to get better at this. And I want to love it again, not do it last minute because I have to study for the GRE.
So no GRE. And I will finish this paper and not worry what grade I get. But I definitely don't love writing academic papers. I loved writing the Gadamer paper. J says that's because it was practical - it was aimed at helping people in the real world. It was more like a sermon than a journal article. That's what I love. And that's what I think I'm called to do.
No more chasing after my own dreams. God give me your word. With your help, I can preach it faithfully. God help me. Here we go.
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You GO, girl! Way to CLAIM it.
Thank you. I woke up with an "Oh, dear God, what have I done?" moment this morning, so coming in and reading that is very comforting.
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