Resume’

Resume'This Week’s Lectionary Text: Philippians 3: 4b-14

4even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

This passage begins with Paul almost sounding a little arrogant, as if he is presenting his resume’ for being a church leader and quashing anyone else that might think themself better for the job than he.  But then his tone changes quickly.  It’s as if the resume’ is just not enough.  The resume’ is not going to get someone to the point in this faith journey where they need to be.  So Paul’s words become a treatise on faith itself, rather than on Paul.  In fact, Paul is almost disputing that claim that being better-versed or better-practiced in the faith brings one closer to God.  I think he might even say quite the opposite.  Paul would discount any blind following of the rules and order of religion and opt instead for a bare openness to what the faith journey itself holds.  In fact, my guess is that Paul would claim that any reliance on our resume’ will get us nowhere.

I saw a feature on one of the news shows this week that talked about the “new” look of resumes.  With the changing economy coupled with the changing needs of the job market, the traditional one or two page, neatly blocked listing of one’s accomplishments just doesn’t cut it anymore.  Oh, it’s not bad, per se, but it will probably not get one farther than the myriads of other one or two page, neatly blocked presentations that get tossed into the same pile.  It just doesn’t work anymore.  Instead, prospective employers want to get a sense of who the person is.  People are now posting on Facebook and tweeting their presentations.  They are providing PowerPoint and You Tube media releases that either augment or replace their resume’s.  One guy called the company that he was hoping would hire him and asked for his resume’ to be pulled because he had another offer.  They called and talked him into interviewing and then hired him.  The point is, a resume’ is now more than a list of accomplishments; it depicts who the person is.  (Gee, I thought I was being stupendously cutting edge by printing mine out on cream or ecru colored paper!)

But, face it, we are a list-driven people.  We want to neatly and systematically check off what headway we’ve made and our faith journey is no different.  It’s really sort of a “catch-22” when you think about it.  Our religion and our belief system provide the necessary grounding that we need for our journey.  They point us in the right direction.  They start us on our journey and they keep us with at least some modicum of framework of what that journey entails.  And yet, if we rely on them, if we turn them into some sort of spiritual resume’, we are lost.  In fact, they just downright get in the way.   Religion does not provide the answers; it provides the questions.  The “prize”, if you will, is not the attainment of the goal.  It is not being “in”; it is not finally and forever getting the position that we so desperately want.  The prize is the journey, the opening of our lives so that God can weave through and truly become for us the One in which we live and move and have our being.  And in order to do that, as Paul says, we have to leave ourselves (and our resume’s) behind and journey into who we are rather than what we’ve done.

So, on this Lenten journey, forget who you are and journey toward who you are called to be. (And don’t worry about your resume’…we’re all behind the times anyway!)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

LENT 2B: Religiosity on Life Support

Lectionary Text:  Romans 4: 13-17 (18-25):
For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us,  as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) —in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

In our pragmatic 21st century minds, sometimes it is much easier to grasp at the obvious and to make that the basis of our belief.  But, as Paul reminds us, if our whole faith system depends on nothing more than adhering to the set of laws or interpretations that have been laid down by those that came before us, what good is faith?  Remember that faith is about relationship.  The law is not bad.  In fact, it’s usually a necessary construct to help us understand, to help us point to that which we believe.  But it is not the end all.  It is not the God who offers us relationship.

Now, that said, I personally struggle with those who profess to be “spiritual and not religious”.  Really?   For me, it’s a little like traveling without baggage, which can mean that your not weighted down and are essentially free to do what you want, but, chances are, at some point you’re going to find yourself virtually unprepared for what you encounter.  To put it another way, how many of you really want to go to dinner with someone who always leaves their wallet at home?  They may be fun to talk to and all, but is that really the way we live?

There is a story told among Zen Buddhists about a nun who one day approached a great patriarch to ask if he had any insight into the Nirvana sutra she had been reading. “I am illiterate,” the man replied, “but perhaps if you could read the words to me I could understand the truth that lies behind them.” Incredulous, the nun responded, “If you do not know even the characters as they are written in the text, then how can you expect to know the truth to which they point?”  Patiently the patriarch offered his answer, which has become a spiritual maxim for the ages: “Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon’s location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger, right?” (from a commentary by Daniel G. Deffenbaugh, available at http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?lect_date=3/4/2012&tab=3, accessed 27 February, 2012.)

Now I don’t think Paul would in any way dismiss religion or even the rules.  He’s just reminding us that they have their limitations.  They are not God.  In fact, it is easy for them to become idols of worship in and of themselves (and last I read that was frowned upon!).  But they have their place.  They provide a systematic way of at least attempting to understand something that, in all honesty, really makes no sense to us.  (And, to turn it around, professing to be “spiritual and not religious” actually has a good chance of becoming a religion in and of itself.)  An authentic faith, it seems, is one that weaves what doesn’t make sense into understanding, laughter into prayer, and a grace-filled encounter of the Divine into our everyday life.  It is about both transcendence and meaning and, on a good day, the weaving together of the two into a Holy Encounter with the Divine Presence that it always in our life. 

You cannot practice religion for religion’s sake.  That would certainly be the death of your being.  You need to somehow breathe life into it.  That’s where spirituality comes in.  But spiituality cannot stand alone because it has nothing on which to stand.  Together they are religiosity on life support—a practice of faith, an embrace of the faith community, a recognition of one’s call to help and serve others, all with the Spirit of God, the life of your being, breathed into onself. 

G.K. Chesterton said to “let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair”.

On and on…continuing with our act of giving up so that we can take on, on this seventh day of Lent, think about the rules that you follow in your life and in your faith.  Which of them give you life?  Which of you them do not?  Let go of those rules that do not give you life, even if they are the “untouchable” ones!  It’s not about rules; it’s about life! 

Grace and Peace on this Lenten Journey,

Shelli