Faith & Permanence

Faith & Permanence
Image: Meena Kadri

“For what are you willing to die?”

I think that’s one of the central questions that dances in and amongst a discernment of the Christian faith. Where is the line in the sand, where is the place when you say ‘too much’ and stand, knowing – let’s be clear that this means literally – in the way of danger?

This central tension often helps people discern what it means to follow as a disciple of Christ. I also think (too often) it is sensationalised to a point that makes sacrifice look mandatory. I think that is an interesting debate and I offer that I do not think it is mandated. I feel, however, it is the inevitable outcome of embracing a love so radical that injustice and inequity become evidently apparent. It is in that clarity that it becomes a ‘no brainer’ to help others, because love – not that romanticised-Hallmark-five-dollar-card-kind – makes us radical, it makes us mavericks!

At one time, these are the one-on-one conversation I would have when I was in pastoral ministry. What is an individual or the community’s call? Where in the neighbourhood are the marginalised suffering and how does walking into solidarity affect everyone? Another interesting question in this context was: what are you willing to sacrifice? Of what do you need to let go, in order to be that radical love?

Not easy questions, certainly often without trite or simple answers, but the excitement that they create engenders discussions of Jesus among us, the Kingdom now and fully living in freedom, for which I believe we all long. And – getting to that place – is grounded both in trust and vulnerability: another difficult dance, though well worth the commitment. But – of course – I am biased …

twilight near!

twilight near!
Image: Nick Kenrick

My context – in the last few years – has shifted from the pastoral to one that is more structural or administrative in nature. In turn, as I began this year’s Lenten blogs, I was again wondering how would these musings translate into this new experience.? As I was sitting at a recent monthly gathering of church in Winnipeg, it became clear that the questions are just as appropriate individually, as they are collectively.

Let’s not sugar-coat the discussion and – as we are in Lent – wrestling seems appropriate. Whether as an individual or collective, which endeavours to follow Jesus, faith and dying are companions with whom we must walk. There is no doubt there is beauty in this ministry we have inherited. It often it comes in the awakening to the dream and an awareness of another person’s intrinsic beauty as a fellow Beloved of God. But this beautiful dream confronts – and likely always will – a dominant story of brokenness, inequity and oppression. As such, choosing to help others inevitably places a person of faith in direct tension with this ubiquitous story. If Jesus left us with anything, it is that faith and dying are intimate partners and in shadowed times, resurrection seems like a pipe dream of milk and honey that will remain a fairy-tale.

In the midst of this Lenten journey, therefore, how we – as The United Church of Canada – respond to such questions, may illuminate how we might describe our mission in the world as we await Light’s dawning:

• For what are you willing to die?
• What is our Call?
• Where in our neighbourhoods are the marginalised suffering and how does walking into solidarity affect everyone?
• What are we willing to sacrifice?
• Of what do we need to let go, in order to be radical love?