I recently had a conversation with my friend Eric Severson. Eric is a philosopher/theologian, and he has just written a book entitled Scandalous Obligation: Rethinking Christian Responsibility (which, if you are interested, is available for pre-order on Amazon - Eric, you are welcome).
Well, Eric was having a conversation with several of us about his book, which is about how we as Christians think about responsibility for the bad stuff that happens in the world. It is not one of those books you pick up when you are looking for nice, easy answers, or cute, pithy sayings, or neat lists of things to do in order to be happy and change your life. It’s a book you pick up when you want to start thinking, and even to feel the tension inherent in a real life of faith and action - when you are ready to “lean into the discomfort,” if you will.
As we were talking, and I mentioned that my church is right across the street from our local high school, and down the street from three other schools, and that I believe that we as a church are responsible for the teenagers at those schools, Eric used a word which really helped me. He said that what I am doing is “lamenting” that my church cannot touch and influence every child, every teen, who attends those schools. He said that lamenting is an altogether appropriate response for our place in the world, as we claim a burden and responsibility for things that we can only partially hope to influence.
Now I’ve known about the psalms of lament, and of course Lamentations, and I suppose I’ve known in my head that lamenting is part of what it means to be a Christian in the world. But I never thought about embracing lament, of living there. Yet, you know, I think I’ve lived there for awhile - maybe even my whole life.
So, what do you think?
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Lent has always been one of my favorite times of the year. Even as a child I thought it special that we would “give something up” in order to remember the sufferings of our Lord. Kids like ritual and the idea that I would not play with one of my favorite toys, or not drink chocolate milk, or not punch my brother - all for Jesus - was a big deal.
Over the years I have learned to combine giving up with “taking up,” adding something to my routine in order to open my heart and life to the Lord. While the fasting aspect of Lent has always challenged me, and revealed to me the weaknesses I work so hard to hide, it is the taking up that has allowed me to go places I never knew I would, or could, go.
This year I am taking up prayer walks around our community. There is a battle for the lives of our young people, and as we are making more evident our efforts to touch lives for love and grace, there is another force at work, and the activities on the other side are also becoming more obvious. I have no desire to be anonymous in this conflict, or, as someone once said, “I do not want to be a stealth enemy of Satan. I want him to see me on his radar screen.” I also like the words of the famous American Revolutionary War naval commander, John Paul Jones: “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way.” This year for Lent, I intend to go in harm’s way, and prayer is my fast ship.
Where will this season take you?