God adores us
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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