Monday, July 30, 2018

Professional Christian vs. dilettante disciple

Ephesians 1: 17-23
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
July 28, 2018 – Rev. Fa Lane Ordination 

A couple of weeks ago I attended a week-long theological conversation called a colloquy, another one of those churchy words, and it was centered on immigration and refugees. One of our guest speakers referred to several people in her family as “professional Christians”, which she translated as ordained ministers. Another guest referred to himself as a dilettante when it came to Christianity, which means “a person who cultivates an area of interest with no real commitment or knowledge”. One of the synonyms for dilettante is “amateur” but another is “layperson”. Yeah.

He called himself a dilettante because sometimes he really doesn’t know what he’s doing, but he knows that something needs to be done, and he can no longer get away with “Who do I think I am to be doing this work?” And I thought, “I’d rather be a dilettante disciple than a professional Christian”. Because often us clergy types are looked at as professional Christians, answer people, shamans with the magic words when really there are days we really don’t know what we are doing but we know something needs to be done and we can no longer get away with “Who do I think I am to be doing this work?”.

Verily I tell you, there is a Facebook page entitled Things They Didn’t Teach Us in Seminary and it has 15,712 members! You could fill a library with all the posts and comments. When asked if I can do anything about the weather or bring down some thunder and lightning upon certain persons or it’s generally assumed I have some pull with the Almighty, my go-to response is, “Hey look, I’m in sales, not management!” It’s not intended to be self-deprecatory nor is it false modesty. We all have the same questions, the same fears, problems with shame and inadequacy and being vulnerable, letting ourselves be seen, flaws and all. But it’s also about knowing our place in the universe; that if anything is “reverend”, it’s not us but the call we hold tenderly that overflows in our cupped hands. And we all have that call no matter who we are. It is the call of the authentic human being.

Nadia Bolz-Weber, dilettante disciple extraordinaire, says that “Faith is the thing that tells me that I am already enough. Faith tells me that I am loved quite apart from anything I do or not do.” Which sounds an awful lot like Paul, who told the truth as he experienced it and wished the same for others. “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know and be known, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which you are called, what are the riches of this glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of power for us who believe, according to the working of the Divine’s great power.”

Eugene Peterson begins his introduction to the letter to the Ephesians with these words: “What we know about God and what we do for God have a way of getting broken apart in our lives. The moment the organic unity of belief and behavior is damaged in any way, we are incapable of living out the full humanity for which we were created.” And so Jesus, living out his full humanity, embodying the Divine’s great power, went to work to heal that brokenness so that we could live out our full humanity and know that we are enough, just as we are.

That is the calling for all of us: to lean into our own healing between belief and behavior, to become an authentic, whole human being that we would be part of the healing, the transformation of others. We all do this in our own way. Teachers do it. Parents do it. Writers and storytellers and poets do it. Artists and musicians and actors do it. Scientists and engineers do it. Nurses and doctors and healers of all kinds do it. And pastors and chaplains and rabbis and imams and monks and nuns and priests and gurus. Whatever you do, you are a part of it too. And so as we will soon lay hands upon Fa and ask the Holy Spirit, the Divine’s great power, to come upon her and enable her to fulfill the call to healing and transformation, I invite us now to lay our hands upon one another, to ask the Holy Spirit, the Divine’s great power, to come upon us and enable each of us to fulfill our own calling.

Let us pray, and this is a repeat after me prayer:

God in community, Holy in one,

grant to this one

upon whom I lay a hand

of challenge and encouragement,

a spirit of wisdom and revelation,

that they would know themselves

and be known,

that the eyes of their heart be enlightened,

that they would see exactly

what God is calling them to,

that they would grasp the immensity

of this glorious way of life,

the utter extravagance

of God’s work through them,

endless energy, boundless strength.

Following in Jesus’ way,


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