Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Look (outside the church)

I'm blogging for Advent, following along with the themes that we're focusing on at Crossroads. I talk more about why I'm doing this in my last post.

This morning, I went through a psychological evaluation as part of my ordination process in the United Methodist Church.

Then, I drove to Metropolitan Memorial UMC for a staff meeting and a worship planning meeting.

Then, I went to preaching class at Wesley Theological Seminary.

Which means that, for 12 hours of my day, in one way or another, I was absorbed in the work of institutionalized religion.

I find that a bit ironic. Because although the whole institutionalized religion thing is and will continue to be a big part of my life, the gospel texts of the first Sunday of Advent--for all three years of the lectionary cycle--are about God showing up in places decidedly outside of the boundaries of organized religion.

The first Sunday of Advent, churches that use the lectionary texts--from Matthew this year, Mark next year, and Luke the next--don't hear what we expect to talk about this time of year. We don't hear about baby Jesus and a manger. We hear apocalyptic texts, ominous texts, about the "day of the Lord" and the "coming of the Son of Man" and earthquakes and storms.

There are books and books written about interpreting these texts--some insightful, some horrifying--and I could go on and on about them. If you're interested, let me know and we'll chat.

But all I want to say tonight is that in none of these texts does it say, "Go to church and you'll find Jesus." They all say, "Look for Jesus in the storms and the crises and the tumult of the world."

So, while I go about my work and my school, while I go about the work of much-maligned organized religion, I need the reminder of this first week of Advent: that God is at work, not "even" outside of the walls of the church, but "especially" outside of the walls of the church.

Which means I better pick my head up from my work sometimes--from my sermons and meetings and applications--and look.


Speaking of storms--folks in the Philippines are still in dire need of assistance. If you want to support good, sustainable relief work, give through the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Since their administrative costs are paid for by Methodist churches all over the world, every dollar you donate goes directly to aid. 

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