Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Credo: Saved for love

Going to heaven or getting to heaven is not why I believe. It's not really even on my faith radar. It's not something I think about like ever. I don't wonder what heaven will be like. I don't wonder if there will be angels on clouds or harps and golden halos. I rarely if ever even wonder who will be there or who won't even me. It's just not something I take the time to think about and definitely not worry about. I don't think this is a bad thing but I do think it can be an obstacle in my ministry sometimes because there are a whole l lot of people who do worry about these things. It seems like the "right" answer if it were going to come from my lips would reduce their anxiety, giving them comfort and peace, and maybe just maybe free up some of their mental energy to give back to the cause of working on making the kingdom of heaven visible here on earth.

That seems way more worthy if my time and effort. That's what excites me much more than spending a whole lot of energy trying to teach people the right answer to give to the right question, the right prayer to pray to save their right souls, or the right formula to recite at the right moment to convince themselves or others they know the one and only way to anything.

Salvation in this way just isn't my concern and it isn't at all why I believe or even what I believe. In fact if this is what salvation means I'm not all that interested in being saved anyway.

I don't believe in God because I'm looking for an escape from the fiery pits of hell. I don't trust in Jesus because he's going to snatch me out of the hands of a horned devil. I don't look to the Spirit so that I will be swept away from terror and devastation. I believe and trust and do my best to follow because the love that I hear about seems right. The injustice that I witness is wrong. The gap between human beings of different races, genders, sexual identities, ages, abilities, and resources is far to large and frankly artificial. It's just not right. I believe in God and trust in Jesus and hope to follow the Spirit's leading because the witness and the testimony of the faith that had come from this Triune God says that the way I am experiencing creation is not the way it's supposed to be, but the right thing to do is not to try to escape it and abandon it. The right thing to do is to be a part of the divine will to fix it.

For me salvation is not about trying to get away from the distortion of what creation should be like and could be like; it's about trying to reverse the direction we find ourselves going. I'm not looking for salvation to take me away from this world; I'm looking for salvation for this world (including me), a saving grave that will wake up in humanity the realization that all of God's creation is worthy of love and compassion and care and life, and likewise grace that will wake up in us the impulse to work toward that truth. I don't believe that God intends to save us FROM much of anything, but instead wants to save us FOR a whole lot more than soft white clouds, chubby angels, and all the golden and pearly riches in the world. God is saving us for relationships with one another and with the Divine. God is saving us for a creation where all people know and believe their value, their acceptance, and their status as beloved children of God.

If we are being saved from anything, we are being saved from ourselves and our own desire to work things only for the improvement of our own lives instead of the life of all creation. This less than usual view of salvation, I think, doesn't disregard the reality of sin, but it might just redefine it. Sin is anything, personal or corporate that dishonors or ignores or works against the reality of God's inclusive love. This of I treat others as less than beloved children of God worthy of compassion, care, and life, I sin. If I treat the earth as less than the blessed creation of the Triune God, I sin. If I treat my relationship with God as anything less than one in which I am loved wholly and completely and sacrificially (a word that I might need to expand on later because I'm fairly certain I don't mean it quite the same way as it is often used in Christian circles), I sin. If I treat God as less than the source of everything, the source of love, the source of compassion, the source of truth, the source of all that can make this world right, I sin. If I treat myself with less regard than God has willingly and freely given to me, I sin.

So I'm certain beyond all doubt at all that I sin. A lot. A whole lot. I contribute to the messed-up-ness (It's a technical theological term. Look it up.) of this world all the stinkin' time. Admitting you have a problem is part of the journey toward recovery, right? I admit it in my personal conversations with God. I admit it when I worship and pray corporately with others. I try to admit it directly to the people I hurt with my words, actions, and inactions. I probably fail at this one the most. I recognize that I sin and I offer up my recognition and my desire to change not because I trust that it will get me out of this world any faster, not because I will be suddenly stamped with a "saved" stamp like a "priority" sticker on a package in the mail. I confess how I am a part of what is against God's will for creation because I believe that in doing so God will turn me in a better direction. I believe that God will show me a better way to be a child of God. I believe that God wants to use me to help creation move in a divine direction. I believe that God wants to save me for love.


Common Household Mom said...

Thank you for putting my thoughts cogently into words.

"free up some of their mental energy to give back to the cause of working on making the kingdom of heaven visible here on earth." Exactly. I think that this is why God offers us salvation, so that we stop obsessing about sin and instead work with God on making God's kingdom visible here.

Stephanie Anthony/She Rev said...

Thank you for reading. I wouldn't say I've been restless in my church or at all dishonest or disingenuos about what I really think or feel, but lately I feel like I've got some more "on the edge" kinds of thoughts and beliefs that I wonder what people would think if I really let them out. I think my own understanding of the nature of the church is inclusive enough to be comfortable with people who have more "traditional" views than my own, but I'm a little nervous about whether some people would be as comfortable with my not-so-traditional (but I believe whole-heartedly still orthodox, and maybe chronologically even MORE "traditional") views. I've sort of been looking for an outlet to start fleshing some of these out for myself and more than anything just think them outloud, so to speak.

I've been picking through Marcus Borg's Speaking Christian and decided today that before I read each chapter on a different theological concept or issue of faith, I would write about my own understanding of that subject before reading his explanation of it. Turned out fun today! Now I need to read the salvation chapter and do the next one!