According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Monday, September 30, 2013

Despair and Disillusionment: "It's All Rubbish"

 

... And when she came to the mountain to the man of God, she caught hold of his feet.
And Gehazi came to push her away. But the man of God said, “Leave her alone, for
she is in bitter distress, and the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me.”

- 2 Kings 4.27 (ESV)

...Who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that
each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of
the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the
trumpet was beside me.


Is life all rubbish? Is everything that we have striven for, tried, and done, rubbish? Have we found ourselves on a never-ending merry-go-round dancing to the tunes-of-the-day faking content in the masquerade of life's daily grind?

Is there a God? And if so, where can He be found? Can God be found at church? Can God be found in Christianity? How many times have you asked yourself these questions? And how many times have these questions come back unanswered to your complete dissatisfaction? Or, as a Christian, how many times have you heard that God can be found here, at this location, at this place, this time, this event, this school, or in this idea?

Cave of Despair by Benjamin West
Christian disillusionment can be a very difficult thing to face, especially when finally determining there is nowhere to look - neither inwards nor outwards nor upwards - because all is rubbish and filled with deep despair and angst. At first, the erstwhile seeker would flee to wherever God was said to be. But once arriving to belatedly discover that, "No, God was not there at all... at least for me." Misbelieving that to get to the center of something that is "holy and wonderful" is to perhaps find a kind of escape from life's hard questions and even more disturbing ills. Years of hard work - of looking and spending precious time or money, of ministry and helps - may have produced no further insight than what one had begun years earlier. Causing a deep cry of soulful despair believing "All that was done was simply rubbish!"

And maybe it is. Maybe we have been deep contributors to this world's rubbish heap. Building into frail lives hate and despair, suffering and pain, even as we have been in turmoil and pain ourselves. Perhaps the garbage troughs that abound are part of our handiwork to this life which we have misspent and ill-provided for, and now must live with, under its stink and scour.

And so, where is this deliverance? Where are the answers? What did we expect when we thought to ourselves that we had found the answers to life's dilemmas? Or, having found none, and giving up, to escape into those glittery worlds of disillusionment to laugh and drink, to mock and lie, one's problems away as no more than a fantasy dream?

Wings of Despair
Perhaps as a pastor you've labored all your life under the idea of a Christian hope that others would discover the Jesus you know and love, but to then see your ministry lapse and fail against all reasonable effort and prayer? Perhaps as a faithful believer you've given you're blood, sweat, and tears to the building up of God's church by your gifts and ministry, only to find you've been building on the wrong foundations, or misunderstanding your direction and calling?

But like any life that is lived, at the last we must either thank God for it, or repent from it, and trust to His wisdom and grace, however much we may have missed the road signs along the way saying to turn back, do not go down this road, beware of washed out bridges ahead. While we were busy building bigger sheep pens for God, God was busy building that same sheep pen around us. Guiding and protecting us where possible. Bringing us to doubt and futility if necessary. Perhaps stopping us - turning us hard around, up-ending all our fantasies and whims, all our misspent days and intoxications, our misbeliefs and the half-truths we dared not face.

One of the jobs of God is simply to push hard after us until we see Him in all that we say and do. That it was by our own hand that we have chained ourselves to sin and ruin, even as it was by His hand of grace and mercy that would break those hardened chains imprisoning heart and soul. To finally know that all that we are, have, and have done, is His to do with as He pleases. That there is nothing remaining behind the sacred Temple curtain save His love and forgiveness beckoning "Enter into the Holy of Holies, and there abide in My holy presence with Jesus My Son, as unto Myself."

Usually the church is the last place to find God, even as it is the first place to find a fellowship filled with other flawed followers of Jesus seeking meaning to life's questions. Instead of finding holiness and love we meet many like ourselves simply trying to work life out - how to love, how to forgive, how to rest in Jesus' provide. Hoping to find a place where honesty might be present instead of the lies and dishonesty we speak to one another and too frequently live.

And yet, church is a place that should challenge our disillusionments. A place that might fit us around God's faithful presence in our lives. And then, "Push us back out into a world from which we had fled." Knowing its ok to live broken. Knowing that I'm rubbish without Jesus in my life. Knowing that escaping doesn't help. Knowing that God lives in-and-through His creation. Within this very world that we live with all its relationships and interconnectivity. And even within His Church struggling itself with knowing God's wisdom and leadership.

But the radical church also realizes that wherever a person is in their life, even so God is there with him, or her, in that very same life, however it is... or isn't whether church-bourne or not. That God's "Holy of Holies" is this very world in which we live. Here and not later, not there, not some other thing, person, or organization. Not someday when I die. Not in the Heaven to come. Nor in the Hereafter of life. But here. Now. Today. This very hour. Within these very soiled relationships that surround us. That inhabit our being with their presence and challenge, turmoil and strife, beauty and wonder.

Forest of Despair
That escaping from this life to somewhere else, or to someone else, or to something else, is not the answer. But rather, to know that where we are here-and-now is exactly where God is. Who has given to us all that we need to face the things we're not willing to face and are trying to flee from. That it is possible to suffer through the difficulties that we each live knowing God's deep love in the face of evil and wickedness. That we each bear burdens, must make tough decisions, or seek help when necessary, while learning (or providing) patience and forgiveness. Hope and healing. Wisdom and grace. For some, this will never be the case, and it is to those of God's honored martyrs whom we might have been able to help had we been more able to hear and to listen, to seek and to save.

But for many, spared such devastation, even as we seek the mountain tops of life, so must we learn to embrace the desperate valleys lying between those high pinnacles of life. Believing that even in these self-same valleys of unknowing and wander, lies God's blessings, His presence and faithfulness. To accept that all of our life is God's holy, blood-bought temple - from the highs of it to the lows of it - that we might abide within it's perimeters as devout, sacred, holy, precious, fragile, and strong. That we are the church where God resides - even as we must reside in Him. That our failure to find God is the failure of not seeing God within the interior spaces of our lives. Instead of looking out-and-around, here-and-there, running from place-to-place, we have forgotten to look within. For it is this God-in-the-mirror whom we have been looking for all our lives who has been with us as constant companion. Whatever the difficulty, the lie, the grief, the deceit, or dishonor. It was He who was with us, who dwells within us, by His Holy Spirit. Who is present with us along every step of our pride, our sin, our failures, our ill love for self or others. It was this God that we dared not look at within. Who abides with us while ever whispering healing and peace in Jesus' precious name.

Is life all rubbish? More closely, is my life all rubbish? Is there a God? And if so, where can He be found? Can God be found at church? Can God be found in Christianity? The answers are both yes, and no, as you would expect. But it all depends on where you look, upon what you believe, and upon whom you depend, even when you think this God is absent from very life itself.

To simply look at ourselves for life's answers will end in despair. But to look within ourselves at the God who is our Redeemer-ReCreator is to find hope and healing. The journey begins as it ever did with God alone through all the conflict, uncertainty, and doubt, that will arise. Life, after all, is difficult. It is hard. We will suffer. But we are not alone.

The answers to life are provided by a God who works through us - charging us with its remake and recreation. Its reclamation and provide. Even as God does now through us such as we are - through His broken church and flawed people. We are the hope to the world around us whenever Jesus is there to bind up all in God's grace and mercy. The foundations have been set by God in His Savior-Son. And empowerment given through His Holy Spirit. Not in some magical, mystical, extra-supernatural way. But through our fleshly hands and feet - our humbled tongues and hearts - our deep passions and patience - within this hard life that we must live.

Into the Valley of Despair
For it is left to our very selves to redeem a broken humanity for man's holy reclaim and rebirth in Jesus' place, and as His ambassadors, and by the power of His Holy Spirit. However we are gifted. However we are composed. Including all that we are but think that we are not - or are not enough - to be worthy vessels for the Lord's usage. But to know it is we, God's people (as are all people on this Earth though they reject His presence and duty, bounty and provide) who must be God's holy script written in the emptiness of the flesh who must overcome despite our disillusionments and pain, failures and sin. To persevere even as we are God's very example of resurrection into the newness of life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Once wearing rags but now clothed with holy vestments of God's empowering love, grace, forgiveness, mercy, and hope. These are no mean cloths to be despised or ignored. But cloths to the newness and testimonies of the power of God in the common man's life who thinks himself or herself to have been forgotten of God and left lying about without purpose or end.

For we are not without help. The same God who created this world will recreate it again through very mankind itself - however broken and sinful. For it is to humanity's deep burden and responsibility that we must wholly shoulder and undertake this godly work. But it cannot begin without Jesus leading its vanguard. And through the Church by whose humble and merciful example and leadership would raise high God's holy banners in truth and justice, love and wisdom, against this world's knowing response. But perhaps, like Jonah the prophet who came unwillingly to sinful Nineveh to preach repentance, perhaps this world does repent of its sins and ills and leans into the mystery of God's goodness and love if even for a time, and times, and half of times.

Even so, let it begin with  God's people today, moved by divine hands and repentant hearts, on bended knees and bowed heads, in prayer, and in unity's soulful fellowship to those broken worlds lying all about. Let us speak forgiveness and help, thoughtfulness and kindness, not forsaking those in need. Abandoned and betrayed. Unloved and despised. And let us speak powerfully in the voice of the Spirit who Himself moves the hardened hearts of men and women. Even we ourselves who were at one time rocks of granite against the Spirit's implore, prayers, and petitions.

Let us learn to build better dams and bridges. To govern and legislate more wisely. To teach and educate the youth of the future. To be better parents, moms and dads, sisters and brothers. To create dreams both lofty and practical. To know the negotiables in life, and how to negotiate them. To write passionately. Live passionately. Love passionately. Seek grace. Build trust. And be of good will and cheer. To learn forgiveness and give grace when we are deeply wronged. And when wronged again, to seek humility and wisdom, knowing we are not alone as martyrs to the cross of Christ, for the God of the universe is ever with us despite our doubts and fears. That at the end, it's only "all rubbish" if we allow it, or think it to be, when beholding life's foibles in our despairs, our hopeless futilities, apart from the Christ of our salvation and rebirth who is very life to our bones, heart, hands, and head. This is a truth. Amen and amen.

R.E. Slater
September 30, 2013

For further discussion on this topic go to -
 Devising a Meaning for David Guetta's, "Titanium ft. Sia"