Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Friday, September 09, 2005

fools... or buffoons?

This morning, on my day off, I spent a little time watching the US Open tennis tournament, and during the commercials was playing with the clicker, and I found a pastor explaining the symbolism on the back of the dollar bill while it was displayed on power point. He was explaining the meaning of the star made of stars, and I’m watching this guy declare so confidently the linkage between America as a chosen nation, and Israel as chosen people, and the twelve tribes, and the 13 colonies, and blah blah blah.

I quickly flipped back to tennis, and though an inane Geico insurance commercial was playing I decided that even this was better than watching the preacher. The whole brief encounter though, has me thinking about the meaning of Paul’s phrase about the gospel being foolishness.

Of course we’re foolish when we loudly and quickly blame disasters on God and/or sinners as evidenced this week when Christians have blamed the losses in New Orleans on abortion (because the hurricane eye looked like a fetus!), homosexuality, and general godlessness. (It's interesting that injustice and the plight of poor didn't show up on the radar screen of channel 18 preachers as a cause of judgement). We were foolish when we said Jesus was returning in 1974, or that Gorbachev was the anti-Christ, wearing the ‘mark of the beast’ because he has a mole on his forehead. The one’s who say these things say them so boldy, so arrogantly, with such assurance. It’s not only foolish; it’s shameful, and why I resist being called ‘pastor’. I don’t want to belong to the club that says this stuff and behaves this way.

But that, I hope, isn’t what Paul meant. I think he meant that those who follow Christ will embrace a value system utterly contrary our world’s values of self-preservation and self-service, values which lead to domination, injustice, lust, abuse, and the host of other ailments. The follower of Jesus comes along and, to the extent that the heart of Christ wins his/her heart, begins to adopt a different value system. That value system embraces hospitality instead of isolation, and works to bring hope, beauty, reconciliation, and justice into the world in Jesus name. That follower, therefore, gives money away, cares for the marginalized and aged, speaks truth rather than flattery, and so much more that is contrarian in our world – foolish.

Sadly though, we’re more often known for the wrong kind of foolishness – the
theological circus that’s carried out in a world completely out of touch with the kind of people with whom Jesus rubbed shoulders. That we’re called to be fools is fine. That the foolishness we embody is more buffoonery than foolishness is embarrassing. I hope I’ll get my focus straight and live attune to Jesus’ foolishness rather than my own.


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