Friday, July 10, 2009

Reconciliation IN CHRIST

In a recent Outlook article, Princeton Seminary demonstrated why I get so much grief from my brothers and sisters when I begin to talk about reconciliation. Like "justice," reconciliation has lost its primary defining characteristic, and become some sort of self-defining end on its own.

Reconcilation is not about understanding the other; it is not about warm feelings. Justice is not about the world living up (or down, as the case more usually would be) to my standards of fairness. Neither reconciliation nor justice mean anything without their defining referent: in Christ.

Reconciliation in Christ is not about being proud of my identity; it is losing my identity, and being solely identified with Jesus Christ. I am not a white Christian; I am a Christian who happens to be white. I am not an Anglo-Saxon Christian; I am a Christian who happens to (predominantly) be Anglo-Saxon. The fact that our identity puts Christ LAST should tell us about His true place in Christendom; for reconciliation to be real, Christ must be FIRST. Christ must be ALL.

So many of our problems as a denomination come from this most toxic vestige of the church as a social policeman-- that Christ is only an appendix to our cultural identity, rather than the identity which leads us out of our own culture, and into the Kingdom of God. Instead of celebrating what we were, reconciliation is a recognition that culture is our identity no longer-- that Christ has transformed us so that there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. If we are ever to be one, it is only oneness IN JESUS CHRIST.

This is the radical reformation of our time in Western culture-- to preach that the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse all sin, heal all divisions, and unify all peoples. The blood of Jesus Christ is God's plan for the fullness of time, to bring all things back together in Him. That radical reconciliation is only possible through the Savior-- but if the Savior owns us, we are that reconcilation's ambassadors.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What We Found Around the Corner

Thanks for the prayers out there!
What we found out today is that nobody is absolutely sure what actually happened to Nell in December after the surgery-- which makes me feel a little bit better about the intern doctor who tossed us down the fast chute to hell that midnight after Nell's stroke-like symptoms surfaced. Two doctors seem to see a "residual deficit"-- a weakness that would say that what happened was not transient ischemia, but actual damage-- a stroke.

Dr. Sacco explained more of what neurologists are looking for in some of the arcane tasks they give to the person they are examining. From his description of what he would be looking for, what the other doctors claim is "residual deficit" may just be relative strength of each side of her body, and not a deficit at all. So, maybe she had a stroke-- maybe she didn't.

So with that clear as mud, we go to the pictures...which show beautiful new arteries forming a fern-like pattern out of the artery that now lies on the top of her brain. December, that half of her brain is dark-- no arterial flow at all. Now, it is almost as bright as the right. It's beautiful. As we left, I gave Dr. Sacco a compliment-- it turns out surgeons aren't any better at receiving them than I am! He had obviously been in surgery that morning, and was tired-- but he explained all that we needed to know. Whether he will accept it or not, he's pretty amazing. Thank you God for David Sacco.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Prayers Appreciated

Hey out there in cyberspace--
Six months flies by quickly. It's time to find out how Nell's surgery is working, so tomorrow we go in at 7am for the next MRI, and then have doctors read the results. What a blessing it is that now the scans are all electronic, not film. So, we turn another corner tomorrow, and we get to see where the path leads this time.
Everything we see is good, but...I've been surprised too many times turning corners to let my guard down too far. Tomorrow, we will see....

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

No Despair

Oh for five smooth stones-- and for a battle where five smooth stones were all that I needed. It's been a long time between posts if anyone is still reading out there-- a lot has been happening at OCPC, in Grace Presbytery, in the General Assembly work I was called to do, and in the work to bring some economic revitalization to the southern sector of Dallas. Between leaky roofs and water heaters, conversation groups, committee meetings and reports, time just disappears. I wish I felt like I had something to show for it.

I think that's the reason most of us leave the intractable problems alone-- we fall into despair. One of my heroes was a captain in the Royal Navy early in the 19th century, after Britain outlawed the slave trade. His life was spent in the frustrating reality that laws do not actually govern human behavior. Just because selling people into bondage was illegal did not mean that the merchants stopped doing it; slavery was, and still is, one of the most profitable trades. All his working life, the captain attempted to stop and seize ships engaged in this evil trade. Some he stopped, but many were too swift for him to catch; and he knew that there were many whose sails he never even spied. In this thankless task, he drove his crew on with a simple motto: "Nil Desperandum"-- No Despair.

This is a time for thankless work-- for clearing ground, laying foundations, digging ditches for a new Church that will rise from Christ's work in later generations. Nobody signed on for this; we all have grown soft from the sordid luxuries of Christendom. But it is time to work-- to again declare that Christ is a new identity, trumping race, glass, gender-- trumping EVERY other identity. And if we are in Christ, then we must be about Christ's business, and we must begin to find Christ's way to be one voice with one Gospel proclaiming one Hope and living out one Love across all the boundaries which have too long clung so closely to us that we have forgotten how to run the race set before us.

No one may follow-- but that cannot stop our preaching. No one may approve-- that cannot stop our obedience. No one may believe that such a future can exist-- that cannot stop us from working toward it. However long it takes, however many generations work, whatever comes of my life given to the work-- even if it is nothing-- the Word prods on: "Do not be afraid. No despair." For we work not for the reward from the work of our hands, but for the reward that is ours, given from His nail-scarred hand-- "take my yoke upon you, learn of me, and you will find rest for your souls." When I see Christ, that will be time enough to rest. On with the next meeting, the next paper, the next Bible Study, the next sermon. Nil Desperandum.