Monday, February 11, 2013

God's Kingdom, and the Papacy's Kingdom: One is Not Like the Other

Pope Benedict XVI will be stepping down at the end of February leaving the Pontiff position open.  The Cardinals will gather together in secret while the world will wait and watch for the rising smoke that signifies a new Pope.  With the Vatican's various missteps in theology, scandal, and unawareness make me wonder if this new appointment will even matter.

In Mathew 16 Jesus gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.  This is the reason for the Peterine Pontiff.  A careful reading shows that Jesus most likely did not give Peter himself the keys, but all his disciples.  If we read it where Jesus gives such responsibility to all his gathered disciples, than would this key not be copied and handed down to all disciples of Jesus?

Jesus wanted to let Peter and his disciples know that what they did on earth mattered.  The message of forgiveness, healing, and God's love was theirs to share.  They were given a message that invited people to a new life, a whole life, an eternal life.  The key was not for the disciples and Peter to hold people spiritually captive.  The Vatican, however, has become a city built for its own purposes.  The hat, the shoes, the clothes have removed the simple and powerful message from the broken and moved to the halls of decadence and indifference. 

Jesus, Peter, and his disciple did not sit upon thrones removed from the dirtiness of life.  Jesus washed feet, touched those with infectious skin diseases, stayed in the homes of greedy tax thieves, spoke and showed true love to prostitutes, slept in boats in the middle of storms, laid his head on rocks, and died on the cross.  Is the Pope not to be this example?

Unfortunately I do not see the Vatican being serious about the message of Jesus.  If the Cardinals, and Bishops, and Vatican royalty were authentic about the life giving message of Jesus our Christ, they would abdicate all their power, wealth, comfort, and position.

There are so many priests, pastors, and preachers who have given up so much only to have their message of good news to the poor, weak, sad, and imprisoned corrupted by the lie lived by the Pontiff. 

The truth is the Kingdom of God invites us to join the advancing ranks of God's love and forgiveness.  However, we cannot serve two masters, nor can we serve two Kingdoms.  We cannot serve God and money, God and pride, God and fame, God and Vatican, God and Republicans, Democrats, Tea Party, or any other.  God invites us to empty ourselves of any desire for power, money, and influence exemplified by the Vatican so that God can fill us with hope, peace, and joy. 

Therefore let us not sit and wait idly why another Kingdom elects its leader.  The truth is we have been given the Keys to another Kingdom.  While many other places may keep us locked out Christ not only invites us in, but he gives us keys.  Let us be active in using those keys to invite others into the ever expanding loving Kingdom of God.

Friday, February 1, 2013

a church for outcasts

I write this with a heavy awareness of what is happening in the world.  You do not have to listen very closely to hear the rhetoric of hate, anger and division that plagues our world, our nation, and our churches.

Fiercely we see people debate homosexual marriage, and immigration.  We see passion burning so hotly that it consumes us and those around us.  In the midst of all the politics, and all the arguments, and all the assumptions we have forgotten to listen to our Heavenly Father.

Perhaps we have been so focused on morality, or holiness, or tradition that we have forgotten the gospel...the good news.  Too often what we argue does not sound like good news.  I think we are so eager to make political stands, we forget to see that we are not standing on the rock.

These two issues homosexual marriage and immigration are very divisive yet very important for the church today.  How we speak about these and how we deal with them is extremely important to Christ.  But before we even begin to think and speak about such things we must remember the message of the gospel, the good news.

We need to remember Jesus began his preaching ministry in Matthew with the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus says:

Blessed are the poor in spirit for there's is the kingdom of heaven

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted

Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:3-5)

Jesus blesses those whom we would not otherwise see as blessed.  If Jesus preached that sermon today, who would he mention as those who are blessed?  Certainly we could mention the poor, the sad, and the weak.  But who fit in this category?  Jesus' list in Matthew 5 is not exhaustive; there are many more we could add such as:

Blessed are the immigrants for they will be given a home

Blessed are the homosexual for the Father will pour his love on them

Blessed are the tattooed for God will put his mark on them

Blessed are the drunk, high, and strung out, for God will inject them with the Spirit

Blessed are the mentally ill, for God will be mindful of them

Blessed are the single parents, for God will be their partner

Blessed are the children with no mothers or fathers, for God is their heavenly Father.

We could add so many to this list.  These are people who are hurt, ostracized, and often seen outside of God's favor.  Oftentimes we keep them at arm's length.

Remember the ministry of Jesus.  Remember who he healed, whom he touched, whom he ate with, spoke with, did ministry with.  Remember whom Jesus welcomed and who he blessed.  Instead of worrying too much about political solutions we should focus on Christ solutions.  Our arms are not made to push people away, but to bring people in. 

Look around today, who can we bless, who is Christ blessing today?