Thursday, December 17, 2015

Choosing foolishness

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, 
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. - 1 Corinthians 1:18

Six checks of $30,599.25 each going in the mail today --
the final disbursements from the
Rebuild the Churches campaign
Following Jesus is a life of foolishness. A life that causes the world to point and stare at us, as Bill Hicks would say, "like a dog that was just shown a card trick."

There's some crazy, foolish stuff going on at Christ Church Cathedral today.

This morning, we are mailing checks totaling more than $180,000 to six churches that burned in the south in the wake of the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

This evening, our Chapter will wrestle with a budget more than $200,000 in deficit and what that means for the future of Christ Church Cathedral.

On days like today, I have never been prouder to be part of the Christ Church Cathedral community. Because we are raising foolishness to an art form.

The checks we send out today close out the Rebuild the Churches campaign that saw more than 3,000 individuals and 200 congregations of many faiths give more than $730,000. With the help of wonderful partners like Rabbi Susan Talve and her assistant, Jen Fishering, activist Ashley Yates and the Rev. Karen Anderson, (and our own Annette Carr and office volunteers!) we showed that what hate burns, love rebuilds.

It has not been lost on us (and certainly not to the people in the congregation who have brought it up to me!) that we could certainly use this money ourselves. Some have even questioned us spending the energy and time doing this ... wouldn't it be better spent trying to ensure our own future? Our own survival?

But that is not the way of Christ.

Throughout this fall, Jesus has been speaking to us through the Gospel of Mark ... and over and over again, he has laid a simple choice before us:

Concentrate on your own survival or concentrate on following Jesus.

Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me.

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off.

Go, sell what you own, give the money to the poor, and come and follow me.

Survival or Faithfulness.

We must choose.

We cannot do both.

Someone once said that the difference between false faith and true faith is that false faith says, "Do not worry; that which you fear will not happen to you," and true faith says, "Do not fear, that which you fear may well happen to you, but it is nothing to fear.”

That following Jesus is called "the way of the cross" tells us surely enough that this is no prosperity Gospel. Shifting our focus from survival to faithfulness is not a test that will lead to survival if we pass. Shifting our focus from survival to faithfulness means we might survive and we might not ... but whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. And we trust that if there is death, resurrection will always follow.

That which we fear may well happen to us, but it is nothing to fear.

Shifting our focus from survival to faithfulness means the only way we fail is if we fall back in fear. Because success is not determined by how much money we raise or how many people are in our chairs -- but by how deeply we "have the same mind in us as Christ Jesus," emptying ourselves out of love for the life of the world.

As long as we love. As long as we give. As long as we step out in faith and not back in fear, we cannot fail.

But we're bound to look pretty foolish in the process. People are bound to point and stare and shake their heads and say:

"What kind of a business raises $730,000 for other businesses when it's running a $210,000 deficit itself?"

"What kind of a business raises money to move two people out of homelessness into housing for a year when it's not even sure how it's going to keep it's own doors open?"

"What kind of a business stands in the street with young people crying for freedom when public opinion is telling them to sit down and shut up?"

"What kind of business would embrace such foolishness with joy?"

The church. The Body of Christ. That's who.

Paul continues in his letter to the church in Corinth:

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’

I am proud to be the dean of this church of fools. I am grateful for other bands of fools like Central Reform Congregation and Ward Chapel AME for traveling with us. I am deeply moved by the courage of our Chapter and congregation stepping out in faith and not falling back in fear -- and wrestling honestly when we struggle with which is which.

And I am grateful beyond measure for Jesus Christ, who gives us the way of the cross as the way of life. If we are to boast, let us boast in that.


Colette Clarke Torres (Glass Covered Heart) said...

Amazing Grace! What a story for Advent. May all of us and our churches experience your true faith!

Colette Clarke Torres (Glass Covered Heart) said...

Amazing Grace! What a story for Advent. May all of us and our churches experience your true faith!

Bill Kolb, Memphis said...

Right on, Mike Kinman!