Repentance, the Eiger and Jeff Lowe

For some reason I get a little obsessed with the idea of what is actually foundational to Christianity and to Jesus and to the Gospels and to the Bible, etc.  As a result I look for things that show up in multiple Gospels with minimal change between writers.  One of the words, or rather concepts, that always seems to catch my attention is Repentance, which is the english translation of the Greek word Metanoia. 

In general I believe it to be a horribly misunderstood word.  Repentance, or the directive to repent, has come to mean something akin to “be better!” or “do the right thing!” or “stop sinning!” or at its worse: “conform to a specific way of thinking!”.  The greek word that is used here is metanoia, and that word does not really mean any of the things that I mention above.  Metanoia means, quite literally, to change the way one thinks: meta meaning change, noeo(noia) meaning think.  To put it another way metanoia/repentance means to change the way one thinks about the world, or to transform the way one sees or understands the world.  To repent is to see things differently, to understand the world is a different way.

In August of this year a very highly respected rock climber and mountaineer passed away: Jeff Lowe. He was a very famous climber, and is well known for roughly 1000 first ascents and new climbing routes.  I was recently reading one of his obituaries and I stumbled across what many consider to be his greatest achievement: a solo climb of the North Face of the Eiger.  I am aware that the words “North Face of the Eiger” probably mean very little to those of you not fully indoctrinated into the world of climbing, but for a climber the North Face of the Eiger, a 6000 foot cliff face found in the heart of the Alps, evokes palpitations, anxiety and fear.  It is easily the most difficult and dangerous climb in all of Europe and would rank among the most difficult and deadly climbs in the entire the world (not too far after K2).

The Eiger, Switzerland

The Eiger, Switzerland

In 1991 he sent out to forge a new route up the North Face of the Eiger, alone, in the winter, it was a very daring climb.  After nine days on the climb he was trapped by a storm just below the summit, without food and all his necessary climbing gear now below him.  He faced a number of options, all of them risky, but ultimately decided to risk climbing to the summit —without any safety gear—so that he could be quickly rescued by a helicopter.  

Before the climb, his life was in disarray- he had declared bankruptcy and gone through a divorce shortly before the climb.  As he tells it, his time on the Eiger changed his life, the whole way he saw and understood the world was transformed, his priorities were re-organized, it was a fresh start, a new life.  Instead of his difficulties ruining him, the climb gave him new energy, new hope, new vision, and he went on to build his reputation even more established than it was before, at a time when he could have easily faded away into his own self-pity and sense of failure.

He decided to name the climb Metanoia.

I tell this story because I think it illuminates the true nature of repentance.  Its not about being perfect or eliminating something perceived as sinful, rather it is about transformation, new ways of seeing, new life.  

Before I close, I want to leave you with a question: When have you experienced a moment of metanoia/repentance? When have you been around someone who experienced a moment of metanoia/repentance? What brought it on? What was the result?  I encourage you to discuss this with friends and family and fellow church members, and feel free to share with me what you discover!

A Simple Church

In preparing my sermon for this Sunday, based on Matthew account of Jesus sending the Disciples into the world (link here) I am struck by the simplicity of the instructions.  The disciples are instructed to bring no food, to carry no extra clothes, to enter the first home that seems reasonable and stay there until they leave.  And if no one welcomes them, to simply shake the dust off and move on.  And their task, although challenging, is also simple, it is to be like Christ. 

It is important not to confuse simple with easy. Following the pathways of Christ are not easy, by no means, but they are simple. The Gospels give lots of examples, and in this particular passage, it is summarized rather succinctly: 

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.   Matthew 9:35-36

Churches can be this simple as well.  Over the years, big churches created exemplary programs, but as many of those big mainline churches have shrunk, their ability to keep up that programming has been challenging.  In some situations, congregations have grown to identify themselves with their programs instead of their unity with the divine.  

In this era of 24 hour news cycles and new gadgets that promise to simplify tend to only complicate life, true simplicity is at a premium.  Churches can capture this simplicity by focusing on the life of Christ, and striving to follow in those pathways, focusing on the gifts that are already present in a congregation, instead of trying to be something that they may never be able to be, or want to be.

How holy it is to simplify.  

The Paradox of Slowness

While being struck by how slow everything has become with the birth of my new son, I am at the same time utterly struck by how fast my first son is growing up.  I am struck by his becoming a truly unique individual, with his own life and world and experiences, experiences I already can't fully comprehend.  It is a paradox, that when things slow down, they some how manage to speed up all at the same time.

Its like this in the church too.  As i have gone around to talk with churches and hear about the various mission projects they are engaged in, one thing that has really struck me is the way great mission seems to come out of no where.  I have heard it on numerous occasions, about how a congregation just happened to start some small project, and how before they knew it, it was bigger than anyone could imagine.  

I believe this is the Holy Spirit at work, when a church is ready, the Spirit gets things really underway.

I have always loved the analogy of ministry and farming. I have heard that experienced farmers know its not the crops that they truly care for, rather its the soil, how their real job in many respects is preparing and caring for the soil.  I think ministry is like this too. I have seen so many churches try to force programs into existence only to watch them fail, time and time again.  But its this notion of preparation that is important.

This is an important aspect of being a slow church. Its important to develop things slowly, to build leaders and a committed volunteer core, to listen to the needs of the surrounding neighborhood, to get to know the neighbors well, to build relationships.  And in a world where there is need at every turn, this can seem like a waste of time.  

But when the slow preparation work has been done, and the trust has been built, its amazing how fast things can take off.  The work of the church is not so much in the facilitation of programming, but rather in preparing the soil so that when the time is right, things just kind of take off.


So, I acknowledge that maybe this blog post is just an excuse to post a picture of my new son, Henry Walter McNamara, born on May 8.  But he has been a big part of my sights and sounds lately.  

This is my wife and I's second child, so we had some sense of what we were getting into, but so far, over the first few weeks, i have been amazed at how everything has slowed down, how time flows differently. This might be partially because of a lack of sleep, but i think it is also because it is such an intense experience, our minds slow things down, giving an opportunity to experience them fully. I think it goes without saying that this is not something anyone would want to rush through.

In the case of newborns, the slowing down of things, it helps with the parent-child bond building, it helps forge the relationship that with grow and shift and change over the years, it is a bond that last just about a lifetime, and these first few weeks and months, where time seems to almost slow to a halt, those are the most important moments, they are the foundation upon which everything else is built. It has to go slow.

Of course the world today, it doesn't like slow, it doesn't like to wait, it likes to get everything immediately, whether its news or the latest thing tech gadget, or the newest TV show, everything is nearly instant, slowness is counter to a world that seems to be speeding up every moment. There are people out there that have made fortunes on speeding things up.

I wish i could say i was immune, but in the past week i could barely wait to watch the newest season of House of Cards, I caught my self fast forwarding songs on an I-Tunes new music playlist at a staggering pace, i was counting the minutes my fresh direct delivery was past its delivery window. (Ended up with them 6 minutes late, and I was already getting ready to call to find out where the delivery was)  

For the last 4 years, I have been serving a church that really enjoys a long worship service.  We normally clock in around an hour and a half, and as far as i can tell, there is a good chunk of the congregation that could handle and enjoy an even longer service.  As a born and raised presbyterian, i grew up in the culture of congregants making sure the pastor could see them checking their watches as the worship service started to clock in around 45 minutes,  I visit churches as part of my presbytery job, and there are a lot of churches like that.  Another thing about my current congregation, we almost always start late, i really have to work to get things moving.  At my last congregation, at 10:01, if i wasn't out there ready to get things moving, someone came looking for me.  Too long a sermon would draw the ire of many a church goer, too many songs, songs too slow, or god forbid, singing any of the extra 2 or 3 verses listed at the bottom of the hymnal page, and the pastor, or the music director, or someone would hear about it.  And although this is nothing new in presbyterian churches, who pride themselves on doing everything decently and in order, the added pressure of NFL kick offs, kids soccer match, or not wanting to have to compete with the baptists during Sunday brunch, has not only caused some folks to seek faster services, but has caused a whole group of folks to leave the church entirely.    

What is even more startling is that this trend has started to extend beyond worship as well.  Churches buy flashy and ready made Christian education curriculums that often are fasted paced.  It seems most mission projects are designed to require the least amount of effort possible, and are more often than not facilitated by some sort of outside organization (think Church World Service or Hefer Fund, even most mission trips these days are designed as one off work trips). This is not to mean these organizations are doing bad work, because often they are great work, but think about how they speed up the Mission process for a congregation.  Even evangelism, the number of ads I get in the congregation's mail for "proven evangelism tools" is overwhelming!

Recently i started to get involved with the Industrial Areas Foundation, a organization started by Saul Alinsky.  There is an affiliate getting started in Prince Georges County, where the church i serve is located.  One of the toughest selling points for getting congregations involved is how long the timeline is until an independent affiliate is officially created. The organizer working on the project has already been working on this for a few years, and momentum is just now starting to really build, but the reality is, the Prince Georges affiliate is still at least two more years from coming into full fruition.  This turns a lot of people away, makes people impatient, but the reason it takes so long is because it is completely reliant on relationships, strong trusted relationships, and those take time, just as it takes time to develop a strong life long bond with a child after they are born.  

Looking at the bible, given the shortness of the gospel accounts, it can seem like Jesus' ministry happened over night, but in reality it took at least 3 years from the time of Jesus' baptism by John in the Jordan to the his encounter with the cross in Jerusalem.  I say at least 3 years, because it could have taken longer, and who knows what kind of work Jesus did during his teens and twenties that prepared him for his "3 year" Galilean Ministry.

On top of this, Jesus is often slowing things down in the bible. He often takes off for the hills to pray, he quiets a storm so he can go back to sleep, he is always saying that no one will know the time of the father, and on at least one or two occasions, he faces pressure from his followers to go to Jerusalem, instead intentionally putting the journey off because he knows the time has not yet come for that.  

And maybe more striking is to look at the post resurrection accounts.  When Jesus is resurrected, it is done so quietly, only the women know at first, then the disciples, and then looking at the early chapters of Acts, maybe a few dozen folks. It is easy to think that the resurrection was this huge ground shaking event, particularly given the nature of our Easter worship services with horns and flowers and new clothes, but the reality is it happened slowly. It took another 10-15 years for Paul to start to do his most serious work and almost an entire generation before the gospels started to be written.  The first couple 100 years of the church was spent discussing things like whether Christ was the same or a similar substance as God, and how to make sense of the trinity, things that the modern church barely bats an eye at.

One of the reasons I got into ministry is that churches can be wonderfully counter cultural and prophetic.  And these days, what is more countercultural than being intentional slow. Think of it, church as an intentional slow place, slower worship, slower fellowship, slower Christian Ed, slower mission, slower evangelism. Think of the counter point that can make to the break neck pace of everything else in the world.

This isn't an idea I came up on my own, there is currently a full fledged slow church movement occurring, inspired by the slow food movement. I can't say i know everything about the slow church movement or that i could or would advocate for it all its finer points, but the basics are important, that a church has a unique ability to really take it's time, time to build relationships, time to reflect, time to be vulnerable. This doesn't mean that churches need to all start having 2 hour long worship services, but it does mean that churches can consider intentionally slowing things down.  The questions can be, how can worship develop deeper relationships, how can fellowship opportuntites develop deeper relationships, how can mission be more effective built on relationships, how can evangelizing be about relationships, how can Christian Education and Spiritual formation aid a deeper relationship with God?   

How wonderful a slow church can be!


On easter, I preached about the powerless power of God.  This notion came to me while i was preparing my Maundy Thursday Sermon (which i admit I thought was considerably better than my easter sermon).  This year, I went against the lectionary and preached from Matthew's account of the last supper.  The lectionary year is A, which means most of the year is spent reading passages from Matthew, so why read John for Maundy Thursday, when the goal of Year A is to try and discern Matthew's message for the church.  

Suffice it to say, I had gotten so caught up with John's account of Jesus' farewell discourse in connection with the last supper, that Matthew's account startled me.  Here was Jesus, knowing his friends were about to betray him, deny him, and fail him in a variety of ways. Jesus, not surprisingly maybe, calls them out around the dinner table, telling them that one would betray him, one would deny him. The disciples don't believe it, but as the rest of the chapter unfolds, readers find out Jesus was on target with his predictions.

He had a right to be upset, to be angry, to not honor them in that moment.  And yet, despite all that Jesus knows is about to occur, with the knowledge of his disciples soon-to-be sins, he offers them the Lord's Supper, a meal of deep forgiveness and reconciliation.  This is a radical act, he offers forgiveness before the sins occur. He acknowledges their broken-ness, but still offers them this radical act of Love, giving them his body and his blood.  

This is a powerfully radical and transformative act, one the disciples couldn't appreciate in the moment, but think of what it must have been like to reflect on such an event, to feel so much guilt and sorrow, and to eventually discover forgiveness was already offered.  

This is an act of weakness in opposition to an act of strength. 

Let me clarify, and I am relying heavily on the work of John Caputo for this, but an act of strength, it is a physical act.  Even in the old testament, the word for power in Hebrew is the same as the word for arm.  Jesus, at least in the gospels, rarely practices this kind of power, the exception possibly being the flipping of the tables in the temple.  Even as the disciples attempt to fight those arresting Jesus, Jesus stops them with the prophetic: those who live by the sword, die by the sword.

Weak acts, in opposition to acts of strength, are instead acts of relationship, acts like forgiveness, generosity, compassion, reverence, summed up very much as agape Love, the kind of Love Jesus preached about.  

Jesus lived into these weak actions, and in those weak action his power was (and is) found.  Forgiving his disciples instead of seeking vengeance, in surrendering himself to his enemies instead of fighting them, these acts of weakness, his powerlessness in many ways, were the levers of transformation God was in fact pulling.

That is what is being offered in Christ's resurrection.  It is God's way of lifting up an example for being in the world, in defeating the worlds ways of violence and death with peace and life.  

It is in weakness that the followers of Christ find their strength, their ability to truly change the world.       

Climbing Trees

So he ran ahead and climbed a tree to see him...

The lectionary this Sunday is the story of Zaccheaus, who was so eager to see Jesus that he climbed a tree in an effort to overcome his short stature.  In looking for an image to place on the front of the bulletin, i found this beautiful piece by Piet Mondrian.

Piet Mondrian is one of my all time favorite painters, right up there with Mark Rothko and Gaugin, and Matisse.  Of course, if you are familiar with Mondrian, this painting may look out of place, because Mondrian became know for his work with hard lines and solid colors, an effort to communicate specific ideas and/or emotions through Art as concisely as a language does.  His aims were high, and even if he failed, the effort for admirable.  

This painting, titled Avond (Evening): the Red Tree is from his earlier works, before he moved towards full abstraction.  But one can still admire the almost architectural style in exhibiting the limbs and branches of the tree, and knowing where his future work was headed, it kind of makes sense as part of a general movement towards pure abstraction that is structural in style.

Enough of my efforts at Art Historian, I am posting it because I was just so struck by this painting, and i don't have a ton to say more about it other than a desire to share something of such great beauty.

OK, the preacher in me can't get away with saying nothing, I love modern art because they were willing to break the rules, i know it could be argued that by the time Mondrian was painting, the rules included impressionism and expressionism, but there was a willingness and desire to explore, to expand boundaries, to reflect the world in new ways.  

Zaccheaus, in attempting to climb that tree to see Jesus, is breaking the rules in his own way. First off as a tax collector, he wouldn't have been made to feel particularly welcome in the presence of the pharisees (read as: churched folks/church establishment), who were known as sticklers for the rules, classicists if i may.  

Zaccheaus had a vision of a broader kingdom of God, one that included sinners like himself, outsiders, rule breakers. Many Mainline churches today talk about welcoming all people, but how many churches are looking up in the trees?  How many churches have tree climbers in them? How many are bold enough to really expand the Kingdom of Heaven?  

Some of what I learned on my summer vacation

I love doing a sermon series each summer because it gives me a chance to immerse myself in something broader than just a couple of verses.  Getting to preach a number of sermons on a single book, or a person, or even a theme offers deeper reflection and in turn a deeper relationship with God. On top of that, each new sermon series teaches me something new. This summer’s sermon series was no different and I really enjoyed getting to know Paul a little more deeply. 

What I really enjoyed about this summer was tying in Paul’s own words (in his letters to various early Christian faith communities) with Luke’s account of Paul’s actions in Acts. What emerges in placing the two writings next to each other is that the readers gets two very different views of Paul.  

In Paul’s letters, the theological concept of a Ministry of Reconciliation becomes quite clear.  Paul often interprets the teachings of Christ as pointing his followers towards embracing radical reconciliation and forgiveness.  

As a theological concept, the Ministry of Reconciliation is a strong one, it calls Christians into unity with the worlds around them, but it is the book of Acts that highlights how radical and awesome Paul’s movement towards this theological concept was.

At first, Paul, then known as Saul, was actually persecuting early followers of Christ because they didn’t conform to the norms of Judaism as Saul/Paul understood. In a miraculous vision on the side of the road Saul/Paul hears Christ, and nearly instantaneously becomes a devote promoter of Christ. As we read on, Paul then seeks to travel throughout the Near East to teach Jewish people about Christ. In the process he encounters conflict, is beaten, kicked out of towns, in large part because the Gentiles, or maybe more specifically non-jewish people or outsiders, began to listen to and like what Paul had to say. This was not his intention, but it became his experience.  As a result he became a stalwart defender of the Gentiles, and embraced them fully.  

This would have been no small internal conflict for Paul, but through experience and action, he was able to formulate the theological framework for his Ministry of Reconciliation, a frame work he in essence had to create because the existing Jewish Theological frameworks didn’t match up with the experiences he felt the Holy Spirit was leading him towards.

I believe its the same in all of our lives.  Sometimes the theological frameworks, or maybe put another way, canonical laws, they don’t match up with experience. Yet the Holy Spirit is willing to show another way. I believe if one is to take Jesus seriously, then striving to ever expand the Love of God comes before all else. And although Paul certainly inspires some canonical laws himself, his greatest achievement was learning to listen to the Holy Spirit’s call for him to always further extend and expand the Good News of Christ, even when it meant going way outside his comfort zone and his established community.  

So I conclude with this question is: How is the Holy Spirit calling you to expand the Love of Christ?  Where is God calling you to that might be outside of your comfort zone?  What experiences in your own life have led you to an expanded vision of the kingdom of God?   

Paul’s letters, and his biography in Acts show us how he lived out those questions, so how are you doing the same?



I stopped off at a shopping plaza yesterday, one I had been too many times before, and was, for some reason, struck by the sign above this store front. So simple and to the point: Boxes. You know what the store sells. It must be the plaza's owners that have this sense of simplicity, for there was also a sign above a other store front that with simple eloquence said "Barber" and yet another with "Pizza". I love it, one knows exactly what they are getting when entering those shops. Put that in contrast to Best Buy or Target, the name does not really help us undertand what's going on inside, but rather rely on serious branding and marketing. 

As someone who has grown up in a Presbyterian church, having a sign outside a place of worship that says "First Presbyterian Church" can seem just as simple, but the reality is that for the unchurched, they can be just as unknown as someone unfamiliar with Best Buy or Target's marketing (although I acknowledge the fantastiful nature of such an idea given both company's fairly global brand saturation).

Even those in the pews can't always easily define what Presbyterian means, or even what church means. Yes they can probably define it for themselves, but chances are there would be a lot of different definitions. 

What if a church were to have a name a descriptively simple as "Boxes" what would it be?   

How about Hospitality or Compassion or Love or Reconiciliation or Forgiveness. 

Because it's that what church should really be about, I mean reformed theology affirms that God can be accessed anywhere, by anyone, so we'd be hard pressed to put God on the sign, also community exists In a lot of different shapes and forms, so that can't be claimed as a unique facet of church. 

And although God's love is available everywhere, a church is ideally intentional about that, or reconciliation, that is something else churches can strive to offer that isn't promised in a whole lot of places.  

So what would you pick for your simple sign to hang in front of your place of worship?

Mt Marcy and the Triune God

Apparently I have mountains on the mind lately.

But this past Sunday was Trinity Sunday, and I love that there is a Sunday devoted to a Theological concept, albeit one that is pretty hard to understand.

Anyone who has ever attempted to teach a confirmation class to middle schoolers and was asked to cover the Trinity understand how difficult it is.  Its one in three, each a distinct person, but still all God.  In fact there was so many arguments about the Trinity over the first few centuries of the church, that the church nearly splintered under the weight.  

What is so wonderful about the doctrine of the Trinity is that instead of being "solved" by rational dialogue and reason, it was instead settled by Gregory of Nazianzus who declared that the trinity was like three dancers in unison, each unique, but fully united as the dance.  

The implication is that understanding of the Trinity isn't so much something that is figure out, but rather revealed, something Paul was big on in regards to the Gospel (which, it should be noted, did not exist as a written text until at least a few years after Paul's letters).

But I got to thinking about mountains, as I am apt to do lately, and I got to thinking about Mt Marcy, which is the tallest mountain in New York State, located in the middle of the Adirondack High Peaks.  Because it is central to a bunch of other mountains, of which some 45 i have climbed (sorry for the humble brag), i have been lucky enough to get a lot of different views of Mt Marcy.

Each view is unique, it offers a different vision of the mountain, yet it is all still the same mountain.  

The Divine is a mountain that is so large, that no matter how many vantage points one can achieve, one will never be able to get a glimpse of the entirety of it.  The Trinity is three distinct vantage points of God, vistas, other mountain tops, each a unique view, but still of one mountain.  

If i can try and take this to another level of mysticism, with the divine expressed in so many different ways, and with the divine as the root of all creation, if one looks hard enough, and has trained their "eyes" enough, then divinity can be seen in all places.  

In other words the Trinity is just the start of the full expression of the Divine.  In Christians affirming the Trinity, Christians are not affirming certainty, but rather the immensity of God, the fullness of God, that there is still an awful lot that can't be seen, even if experiencing the divine can be accessed in all places.  

I have to admit, i have not found the most effective language to engage the Trinity, but in the same moment thats the beauty of it, echoing with the first phrases of Tao Te Ching; The Tao that can be spoken, or written about, or named, is not the true Tao, the eternal Tao, for the nameless is the origin of all creation. (a paraphrase)

What beautiful wonderful Good News we have been given!


Talk to anyone who engages in the Trad style of climbing and they will be able to talk to you for hours about having a good "lead head" or some other variant. 

Unlike other forms of climbing, trad climbing brings with it maybe the greatest natural risk outside of mountaineering and ice climbing. In trad climbing, where you place you own gear to protect yourself from a fall, even relatively easy climbing can quickly become terrifying, say if you, climb to far above a piece of protection or you don't fully trust a piece of protection after setting it and moving on.

I have personally had some terrifying moments as I was forced to test a piece of protection as my fingers slowly slipped away from the rock, and I have even bailed off of doable climbs, covered in cool sweat and having to intentionally take deep breathes. 

Why do it you might ask, why take a risk like that? 

Well for me a least, the benefits outweigh the risks by a pretty high margin. When I have a good "lead head" it extends into the rest of my life. I am more confident, more desisive, better prepared to face difficulties at work or a home.  One way of putting it is that I am better prepared to face change. 

But I also knw what it's like to lose a good "lead head", I have hung on a rope and yelled down to a partner, "my head is all screwed up!"  Losing a lead head can result from a recent fall, a long lay off from climbing, or maybe a failure in one's non-climbing life. 

I haven't done much climbing in the last 5 years or so, and have been trying to get back into it. Strength wise I am maybe as strong as I have ever been thanks to a local climbing gym, but I have been struggling with getting my "head" back. 

Maybe it's not a coincidence that I have had some rough times in the last five years. Things have taken a wonderful turn for the better the last few years, but I had yet to get my "lead head" straight.  


I few weeks ago I led this beautiful climb, called Arch in the Gunks near New Paltz, NY. Although it is rated at 5.5 (a moderately difficult climb) it's the hardest thing I have led in years.  

In the photo you can make out the roof of the Arch (hence the route's name). The climb goes up the center and then exits around a corner just below the tree in upper right hand corner of the climb, and moves right out onto the face below the tree.  

There is really just one challenging move, a move that gets harder if you are taller. It's not that hard, but all you've got is a fairly crappy handhold as you move around the airy corner. It's this fear factor that makes it a bit more of a challenging climb than the rating let's on. 

As I moved towards the hold, and readied myself to make the move, I felt that old fear bubble up to the surface. I took a few deep breaths and pulled through to the other side and into a more "comfortable position".  

Again the move wasn't that hard, it was still pretty scary. After making the move though, something interesting happened, I felt my "lead head" come back! 

Being, even momentarily in this place of discomfort, it allowed me to grow, to regain some confidence. I think being willing to exist in uncomfortable spaces is key to moving boldly forward.  

Now, I will admit I am not ready to start climbing truly difficult climbs, but I am certainly ready to get on more challenging and fun routes. But what's more impressive is the effect getting some of that confidence had on the rest of my life. I was better prepared ready the challenges and the surprises and all the world had to throw at me.  

I think this is echoed in the Gospels, as Jesus allows himself to be taken into captivity and eventually the cross. Jesus was very concious of his spiritual practice, constantly being willing to put himself in uncomfortable situations, whether with sinners or lepers or foreigners, not to mention his 40 days in the desert being tempted by Satan. 

To be able to proceed boldly to the places we are called, we have to practice being uncomfortable, learning to push through the fear we might have, and on into the new reality offered in the body of Christ 


Doing it Wrong?

I found this image while walking along U Street in DC.  I am sure there are many ways of interpreting this bit of street art, but the pastor in me sees God emerging from the clouds, with a look of concern, telling the person passing underneath that they are doing "it" wrong.

I guess part of the reason that I see that as the action is that if I am completely honest, there are times I wish God would come down and say "HEY, YOUR DOING IT WRONG" to folks that find ways to propagate violence or discrimination or pretty much the whole process of making certain folks 'other'.  

Yet, the reality is, there are probably a whole bunch of people that wish that God would come down and tell me I am doing it wrong, given my support of LGBT rights in the church, my pro-choice stance or my desire to be nuanced with religion, instead of declarative, and thats probably just the tip of the iceberg.

I guess the question then begs itself, would God even say something like that? Would the God presented in the Gospels come out of the clouds and tell someone "Your Doing it Wrong".  Seems to me that if God was going to come out of a cloud and say anything, it would be "I Love You"  or "Your Sins are Forgiven"  

This is maybe one of the greatest challenges of living into the Love of Christ, is that we are called to a ministry of reconciliation, that we are called to proclaim a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  Or that the greatest commandment is to Love God above all else, and Love your neighbor as yourself.  Or that Christ's departing words to the disciples included "Love one another as I have Loved you".  

Its hard to reconcile with certain people, its hard to love certain people, its hard to forgive certain people, and yet that is exactly what God is asking us to do.  

Maybe the artist of this work had no intention of it representing the divine, but it certainly gets me thinking...