Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What Would Jesus Do?

Yesterday over at The laughing pastor, Pastor Blake mused aloud about the tension between being passionate and compassionate focusing on the question - "what would Jesus do?" in regards to the problem of homelessness ...

Beyond an obvious resonance with the whole issue of homelessness, I began wondering about the question "what would Jesus do?" and how that could be applied to modern life in more than a superficial - "LOOK at how Pious I am" kind of way ... I wonder how the Modern Church would stand up to such a rigorous measure of faith ...

Working to address issues of homelessness and poverty I marvel at the mediocre support afforded to social and outreach programmes like food banks, soup kitchens and emergency shelters by our faith communities. These programmes have become vital to the survival of too many amongst us and yet they function on a razor thin margin of donations from other charities, rather than sustainable and assured funding. ... Too often Churches practise 'cheque book charity' wherein they offer a small cash donation to appease their conscience while hunkering down in their "homes" taking stock of their toys and investments and hoping the poor among us will stay away ... I don't have to even ask - "what would Jesus do?" ... I know the answer ... he would deal with our modern Churches and their stinginess in the same way he spoke to the people of Nazareth, Chorazim and Bethsaida ... his words would sting ... but the truth would be undeniable ...

Having experienced a vast spectrum of violence against my person, ranging from libelous and slanderous emails sent out to my friends and associates, a slashed tire, shots fired at my home and vehicle, threats uttered, rude gestures, physical intimidation and last week being forced off the road ... I don't ponder 'what would Jesus do?' in regards to the small-minded perpetrators of these actions, but rather I would posit on the shoulders of those who have closed their eyes to the utter nonsense enacted by others ... The leadership of the Church in Minnedosa who said so flippantly - "oh, that didn't happen ..." or "that's not because of the Church" have never wrestled with the question - 'what would Jesus do?', for Jesus would not side with the malicious perpetrator of violence, but would stand in the middle with a firm and resolute - "STOP!" ... He, like ALL people of faith, would condemn the violence and toxicity, and not deny it, or worse enable it by doing NOTHING to confront the perpetrators and call them to account ... but alas, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that too often the very people who SHOULD and COULD stand opposed to the violence physical, spiritual and emotional, are often part of the cause ... and have themselves shared in the mob mentality that has created this milieu ...

Looking more deeply at my former Pastoral Charge and its earnest yearning to rebuild the structure it lost in 2006 to arson, I wonder what would Jesus do?? Would he continue to press forward blithely pretending that ALL is WELL, and that the building should and could continue? Or would he recognize the anguished voices of pain that are crying out from the margins of that Community of faith, and pause to rebuild the SPIRIT and the HEART of the community before trying to build a building?? I hearken back to a comment by a ministerial colleague who, as the crises that lead to my departure began to unfold said softly - "Shawn, the new building will never rise on the corner until the Spirit wills it to happen, and until Minnedosa United Church heals the rift within its souls and brings its congregation back together, there will be no building ..." Two years on, his words sound prophetic and accurate ... One can not build a "Church" if the heart of the community is rent and broken ... and I hear from too many people for whom the Church is no longer home, to see a Community of Faith building a new structure to house itself ...

Wandering the streets of Minnedosa, I have marvelled at the "warm and welcoming" responses I continue to receive from the citizens of the community ... averted glances, avoidance and outright shunning are common ... many of those who become visibly uncomfortable are the "good" church folks who have lapped up the vicious and UNTRUE rumours, gossip and innuendo that has been spread far and wide and accepted as fact ... I have mused countless times - "what would Jesus do?" if he heard the untruths and lies being perpetuated and spread - would he pass them on, or would he put his foot down and take a stand ... I opt for the latter ... unfortunately the cowardice and complacency of the Church, particularly the Church in Minnedosa has chosen to spread the rumours and add to them ...

What would Jesus do is a hard question ... it takes to the heart of our faith and our understanding of who and what Jesus was about. If ours is a 'gentle Jesus, meek and mild,' our response will be bland and beige and insipid, but if ours is a Jesus of action - the guy who kicked over the tables in the temple, and who confronted the crowds by challenging the status quo ... our response to the question would be life-altering and passionate ...

Jesus' compassion was not merely worn on his sleeve and hauled out at opportune moments ... his compassion under girded his passion and was motivated by his faith, and by his desire to the see the world more closely aligned with the Kingdom of God as he understood it ... a place of radical inclusion ... a place of healing and wholeness ... a place of boundless GRACE.

The church divided is not a place of Grace.

A church that averts its eyes to even one member is not a place of Grace.

A church that casts out one for any reason is not a place of Grace.

A church that relishes rumours and gossip over truth is not a place of Grace.

A church that prioritizes being a social club over changing the social order is not a place of Grace.

A church that will not live its faith and welcome in ALL people is not a place of Grace.

A church that lacks Grace is not a church at all ...

And today a vacant lot in Minnedosa reminds many of the cost of losing Grace ...

What would Jesus do?? It's a terribly uncomfortable question for those among us for whom faith is nothing more than a label we wear ... fortunately, there is ample evidence that faith is FAR MORE than just a label ... poverty, homelessness, inclusion, living the welcome ... the issues that we confront in our daily lives, and how we live our lives are all indicators of our faith ...

Looking around in today's world ... many of us are not even willing to consider the simple question - "what would Jesus do?" much less live an answer that sees us embodying Jesus's message in our day to day lives ...

There's some work to do ... and regrettably, the whisper - "what would Jesus do?" has been lost ... but we are a people of the Resurrection, and the Resurrection is about new life, even in the face of death ... As Bishop Desmond Tutu once said to a crowd gathered under the nose of the Apartheid regime of South Africa - that which opposes the Will of God will not prevail ... Tutu even brashly invited the police recording his sermon to "come and join the winning side" because they had already lost. Many years later his words proved prophetic ... that which opposed the will of God - a will of inclusion, welcome, justice, fairness and most of all LOVE had fallen and in its place arose, with hopeful optimism the possibility of MORE ...

At the end of the day, it's all about faith ... faith without works is dead, and works that are NOT faithful and faith-FILLED are dead ...

What would Jesus do ??? ... he would live his faith and expect no less from us ...

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2 comments:

Makarios said...

Good grief man, what is going on in your world? I can't know all the details but it sure sounds, from all the oposition that your getting, that you're doing God's will. Stay strong in the Lord even if you have to walk alone. Blessings.

MY OWN WOMAN... said...

Shawn, Shawn, Shawn. Why do I have such a heavy burden for you? I don't know you. I don't know what happened where you lived. I don't even know the story behind what is going on with you, but each and every time I read your posting, my heart grows heavy. Each time I read your postings, scriptures pop into my mind that I want to send to you, but feeding scriptures to a hungry man will not fill his stomach. I think you have made some very good choices, and pardon me for being so bold, you've made some very human choices. It's so hard to let go, and that is something I feel you are struggling with. I'd like to tell you to dust the dirt from your feet and leave what has happened behind you; but you are not ready for that yet. You yearn for what once was, but is no more. Eventhough scriptures sometimes are not what one wants to hear, I have to leave you with this one. "All things work for good for those who love the Lord." I believe you fit into that category.

Change comes hard Shawn; just like it came hard for those who persecute you, it has been a hard road for you as well.

Just so you know, you have touched me more than you know....if God sent you just for me....then you are a miracle. LIVE WITH IT!!!!!