Friday, August 20, 2010

Feeling low

Today, the 142nd Psalm speaks to my heart.

The Psalmist, a struggler with faith, cries out to God, his refuge, from a low point in life. He seeks God's help.

Aren't there times when we share that low place with the psalmist?

We're brought low by the death of a loved one, by an illness or injury that persists despite treatment and prayer, by a disappointment that eats at the edges of our consciousness.

The psalmist looks up from his low place and sees God, His hand outstretched to him. God grasps him and lifts him from the pit to his loving presence, where the psalmist is comforted, strengthened, fortified with renewed hope.

My God, my refuge, lift me up from this low place to your presence where I may be still and know that you are God.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Author leaves the Christian faith

American novelist Ann Rice, a Roman Catholic, is in the news, because she says she's "resigning" from Christianity.

She's disillusioned by Christians who fail to live according to Jesus' teachings and example.

It's a timeless criticism. Today, atheist authors Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are making fortunes pointing out the failures of people of all faiths and arguing from them that God doesn't exist.

Although Ms Rice doesn't make this logical and theological error, she makes another one. I believe she has focused too much attention on Jesus' followers and our failures and too little on our Savior and Lord.

Our faith in Christ doesn't make us perfect; it doesn't immunize us against failures.

Our faith in Christ does, however, give us a model for a fully human life, a life lived in love for God and for one's fellow human beings. We love because he first loved us and goes on loving us, even to the point of dying on the cross and rising again and living within us in the Holy Spirit.

And faith in Christ connects us to his power through the Holy Spirit for living into that life, not perfectly, to be sure, but imperfectly because we remain human beings. We believers constantly seek God's forgiveness for our failures and receive his forgiveness and grace to start again.

And in this lifetime process of discipleship, we Christians grow into full maturity in Christ, as the writer of Hebrews puts it, ultimately becoming grownups in Christ--not in this world, but in the world to come, while doing some good along the way.

While Ann Rice is resigning from the Christian faith, I'm rejoicing that multitudes of Christians are faithful to Christ. We're devoted to his continuing call to work, pray, and give for the spread of God's kingdom of justice, love, and peace on earth.

Yes, we make mistakes. We hurt people along the way. We sometimes make a mess of discipleship and even embarrass our Lord.

But we persevere in our faith in Christ, despite our failures (and those of others). We're like that seed planted in the good soil that Jesus talks about in one of the gospel parables, which roots and grows into fruitfulness.

I'm sorry that Ann Rice has left the faith. If only she had given the seed of Christ within her more time to grow into that harvest of the kingdom.