the stewardship of self-offering
What does it mean to worship a God who’s act of self-offering is central to our faith? What does it mean for us to worship a God who came to us as “the word?”
God intervenes physically into time as Jesus who says he is “the word.” God comes to us – presents God’s self to the planet as the divine word, speaking creation into being and then speaking to a decayed church through a scrawny man who wandered around as embodied integrity.. God let’s himself be humiliated by human church heirarchy and begins an ecclesial revolution. Jesus stands there and takes the sucker-punches from the executives of the church, executives just like me, when in the blink of an eye he could have simply engulfed them in flames. Why did God, the king of the cosmos, choose the gentle way of words? Why was that modeled to us?
I try to write a dozen or so letters each week from the lap-desk in this photo. Of course my job as a fundraiser is letter-writing – in part; but the twelve are personal letters to friends. They are mostly thank you letters for kindnesses. It seems impossible to thank people too much. Even when they say not to thank them, most people like to be thanked since being thanked is a generous act to the person who wants- even needs – to do the thanking. And yet there are so many words in our lives.
The beautiful stroke of a pen on paper is lost in the long church readings, the endless sermons, the advertising which fuels wealth and the emails which burden us like bags of coal on the backs of victorian peasants. We groan under so many words. Even our liturgies easily become weighted down so heavily with word-fatigue that they begin to take on a funereal quality, sounding as if the resurrection never happened – as if no one s sure how the Jesus-story will turn out.
Going to a monastery did not help. The over-work, over-words and soul-dead-church-executives are there too but better protected from scrutiny. The only thing worse than fake spiritual leaders are elegant, charming, cruel fake spiritual leaders. I tried to hide in a forest but the same kind of leaders found me there too. No, we need to simply accept the situation our church is in and keep going. So I find places like the Cathedral – vibrant, loving, energetic, hopeful, caring places. And I write letters in silence, like they were written for our scriptures. I write to tell people I love them. I write to tell people that I know they love me. I write to describe beauty, loss, hope, anything which is kind.
The simple act of choosing a beautiful paper, glueing an old post card to it, gliding the pen on the paper in careful strokes with careful words can be sacramental. Our faith is based on letters. The Bible is a series of letters. The words tell a story of commingled love, kindness and courage as well as carelessness, stupidity and pride. Why should we think humanity has changed much? What we can do is steward our own kindness? There is little we can do about what happens around us – about the words or actions of others. As I approach 50 I am resigned to that truth. But I can, myself, do small acts of great kindness. The cards and letters I write to my friends are my form of anarchy. It will not be the first time that the world is turned upside-down by resolute connection and kindness.