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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Disarming, Wonderful, Grace-Filled Honesty for 2014

I'm always impressed with readings and/or events conspire to make a point and provide me with some illumination. I'm passing this one on to you in case you might find it illuminating too.

I was reading from three sources, each of which made a strong point building with different blocks toward a particular point of view, leading to my desire for having the courage to employ a grace-filled, joyous, humor-laced, disarming honesty in 2014. The sources I was reading were, Henri J.M. Nouwen's devotional guide Bread for the Journey, Nadia Bolz-Weber's Pastrix, and the Bible, specifically from Matthew 7. Here are the quotes:

Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence. We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our minds about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we only create more division. Jesus says it clearly, "Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge ..., do not condemn ..., forgive" (Luke 6:36-37). ~Henri J.M. Nouwen
The Bible had been the weapon of choice in the spiritual gladiatorial arena of my youth. I knew how, wielded with intent and precision, the Bible can cut deeply, while the one holding it can claim with impunity that "this is from God." Apparently if God wrote the Bible (a preposterous idea), then any verse used to exclude, shame, harm, or injure another person is not only done in the name of God, but also out of love and concern for the other person. I had been that person on several occasions, lying spiritually bleeding on the ground, while the nice, well-meaning, and concerned Christian stood above me and smiled in condescension, so pleased with themselves that they had "spoken the truth in love." ~Nadia Bolz-Weber
Matthew 7:1-5: Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, "Let me take that speck out of your eye," while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye. ~Jesus, as reported by Matthew
How does all of this lead to the title of this post? Well, it all begins with what we should avoid, that temptation to judge, to label, to pigeonhole and dismiss. The desire to win arguments at all cost rather than listen ... or heaven forbid admit we might not know all there is to know.

I use these readings as the bedrock reminder of what not to do in 2014, as this is all too commonly what the culture wants to do right now. Jesus calls us to a countercultural approach, as do both Henri and Nadia. I have also been impressed with the wonderful honesty of theologian and scholar Walter Brueggeman on Krista Tippett's show on Being in which this learned scholar responded several times when she quoted things he had said over the many long years of his working life. He laughed first and then said he hoped he'd actually said that because it was pretty good. That was wonderfully disarming honesty laced with humor that was so refreshing to hear. Hearing that, I listened all the more intently to what he had to say. I have also been disarmed by the tremendous honesty of Pope Francis since his election. This Franciscan pontiff has said what he meant and followed it up with actions, focusing on the poor and the outcast, the marginalized and the misused. He has spoken out against many of the problems faced by rampant capitalism ... all issues Jesus has spoken to. It has also been disarming and a delight to a great many people.

It requires a mindset I just read about from Richard Rohr, requiring us to be wise and not smug. He states:

The contemplative mind does not need to prove anything or disprove anything. It's what the Benedictines called a Lectio Divina, a reading of the Scripture that looks for wisdom instead of quick answers. It first says, "What does the text ask of me? How can I change because of this story?" And not, "How can I use this to prove that I am right and others are wrong or sinful." 
The contemplative mind is willing to hear from a beginner's mind, yet also learn from Scripture, Traditions -- and others. It has the humility to move toward Yes/And thinking and not all-or-nothing thinking. It leads to a "Third Way," which is neither fight or flight, but standing in between -- where I can hold what I do know together with what I don't know. Holding such a creative tension with humility and patience leads us to wisdom instead of easy answers which largely create opinionated and smug people instead of wise people. We surely need wise people now, who hold their truth humbly and patiently. ~Richard Rohr

Wishing you all the best in 2014. Hoping you'll take up this banner of grace-filled, disarming, wonderful, humorous honesty and that we can all have some educational conversations that will help us all move forward in 2014 toward a common wisdom, toward reconciliation of all people, and as far away as possible from being opinionated, smug all-or-nothing people. Here's to a Yes/And year laced with love and laughter.


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