It has taken me over 30 years. But at least it's happening! I am finally starting to clear away the Christianese clutter and uncover a vibrant, real, true, and lasting faith. Much like when folks are treasure-hunting and digging in the ground...they uncover something that looks like it might be valuable...a ruby or emerald...that's been there all along...but has been heretofore covered with dirt, grass, and the like. But it's amazing what the gem can look like when the dirt is washed, the stone is polished and cut just so! It looks like a whole new jewel!!
So, here I am. I've been carrying this dusty, rough-cut jewel around since I was five, but didn't know exactly how beautiful a thing it was. It has at various times been covered in a film of name-it-claim-it vending machine Jesus rhetoric, a heavy coating of left-behind-mark-of-the-beast-cut-my-head-off fear of the Anti-Christ, moral-majority-everyone-should-be-a-Republican dust, be-externally-holy-or-else-you're-excommunicated sludge, you-have-faith-because-of-what-you-don't-do/drink/listen-to grime, etc. (And if none of that hyper-hyphenation made sense to you, thank your Lord!) Likely, in our country, however, at least one of those hyper-hyphenations rings true, whether you've lived smack in the middle of it or been smacked by it in some way. I would go so far as to call it American Evangelical brainwashing, even though some of it is obviously not all bad...most of it does not really look a thing like the Kingdom of God that Jesus describes. The Kingdom of God that is "at hand"...meaning it should be happening in each of us NOW. Not when the clouds split open and we all meet Him in the air on some glad morning.
I can understand how previous generations have had their minds on what is to come, generations of enslaved African-Americans who got through the day by singing about "across the Jordan" and having a "crown up in a that Kingdom." Early Pentecostals, whose lives were transformed by Jesus, yearning for the "sweet Beulah land" and flying away.
So, I'll give you all that. The whole of this American religious conversation and its movements have a root in something real, a real desire to see the world righted through political agendas, increased wealth, "turn or burn" fear factors, a drive toward holiness...Yes, and amen to those who see that the world is turning on an unholy axis! It solidifies the notion of original sin and that we are in need of something or someone to save us.
But we've missed the point. We've been so busy trying to build roads to God that we've missed the fact that there is no need for a road. He's HERE. He came here, and He lives here in the heart of His followers. When we FOLLOW him, rather than try to find a methodical way to get to Him, He will do the work of transforming the world around us. He will draw people to Himself, convict them of their sins, convince them of their need for Him and for His grace. He will extend love through us, heal broken hearts and broken bodies. He will revolutionize the political system, but not the way we think of it.
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matt. 6:33) His system is bizarro world to us. My Pastor wrote some modern beatitudes. This is what the Kingdom of God should look like NOW, HERE, on EARTH. This is what we will look like when we follow Him. It's not what we strive for, it's what He will mold us into. It's worth nothing less than everything we have.
My jewel is starting to look less grimy every day! Thank you Lord for revealing YOUR truths, for washing the filth off that has been accumulating...for revealing your beauty and for shining.