God adores us

March 14, 2011

For more commentary on this week's readings, see
the Reflections
on the Lectionary
page, which includes Wells's current Living by
the Word column as well as past magazine and blog content. For full-text access
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Century.

The three readings for this Sunday have few obvious
connections. But they do each point to forms of holiness: Genesis points to
vocation, Romans points to faith, and John points to rebirth.

In this week's Century
lectionary column
, I talk about how most laypeople seem to feel utterly
unworthy of the designation "disciple." They are all too aware that they don't
fit the bill as far as doing the right things (professionally or
puritanically), thinking the right things (doctrinally or politely) or feeling
the right things (religiously or interpersonally). It's not wrong for the
church to hold up an ideal of how Christians do and think and feel--but most
pastors are well aware that their people are chiefly conscious of their failure
to come anywhere close to the ideal.

I'm not making a passionate call to arms to address
some social injustice or other, though there's a time and a place for that.
Instead I want to highlight this week's psalm, in order to focus on a simple
but abiding truth: the heart of Christianity is that God adores us--always has,
always will--and our failures can't ruin this.

This sounds like a bland, blanket affirmation, but it
isn't quite as bland as it first appears. The idea that we can ruin everything
appeals to our ego--that we really are major decision-makers, and that God's
plan for the universe really can be set off kilter by our tawdry missteps.
Righteousness thus becomes a mixture of risk assessment and resentment.

In fact, righteousness is delirious joy and
spontaneous gratitude. Such a shift seems an appropriate goal for a Lenten
sermon.

Comments

The "designation 'disciple'"

I agree with your conclusion, but feel a need to gently disagree with a point you use to get there. I don't believe that "most laypeople seem to feel utterly unworthy of the designation 'disciple.'" On the contrary, they (we) accept the designation without even thinking about it. We take for granted our discipleship and all that it means. If we were more deliberate in our consideration of it, would we find it so difficult to understand that we would be surprised by the joy of being "born from above?" Rather, we "main-liners" are just grateful to hear the NRSV interpretation rather than "born again:" one less weapon the evangelicals have to wield over us (even though we don't understand what it means to be born from above any more than being born again). And we can't begin to even try to understand it because we are lackadaisical in what has become an entitled discipleship.

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