Right now The United Methodist Church (the denomination I am blessed to be a part of) is going through a time of upheaval. There is a splintering that is happening, with boundary lines being drawn in permanent ink. We are all guilty of trying to decide and declare who/what is right and who/what is wrong. It’s painful. It’s heartbreaking, really. It’s hard.
The temptation for me has been to make sure my theology is really good. I want to have a tight-knit faith that is bullet-proof. I want all the answers to all the questions. I want to be able to defend any potential argument anyone may have around my religion. And if I’m honest, I want to do all this because I want to be right – isn’t that the job of a pastor after all?
But something is happening in me – again. As I lead a church, as I serve alongside these incredible and sincere people, I find myself cracking open more than I thought I needed to, but gosh do I need to open up. One of the gifts of this hard time in the United Methodist Church is that I’m falling out of love with religion and in love with God again. And again. And again.
G.K. Chesterton said, “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” I really should put that on my mirror so I can see it each morning. In the midst of all this in-fighting I found myself wanting to protect dogma, doctrine and a creedal faith (things that aren’t bad!). But God doesn’t need my protecting. God wants my love, my life. The faith I hold so tightly is meant to be held close, but not so close that I am not open to the provocative, flirty, dancing, loving, moving, wild and weird love of The Creator, The Redeemer and The Sustainer.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the United Methodist Church. I love how people of this tradition are diverse, evangelical, liberal and conservative. I love the focus on holiness, together. I love the hymns and traditions of this denomination. I love it and I believe it’s worth fighting for. But fighting, for me right now, has become less about picking up my theological weaponry and more about loving and making sure all people have the same access I do to that love.
I don’t totally understand what is going on inside me right now. I certainly don’t understand all that’s going on around me. But maybe that’s OK. Maybe understanding isn’t the goal anyways. Maybe, just maybe, I am supposed to take all this talk about mystery throughout the Bible a little more seriously.
Sunday is “Transfiguration Sunday,” where mystery and the wonderfully-weird part of our faith (Jesus with us!) take center stage. But as Steve Garnaas-Holmes says, I’m not going to try and explain it all this year. I’m not going to try and understand it all. I don’t need the Biblical Greek or a book full of ideas today. Right now, I’m just going to sit in this wonder and thank God that I am loved. I am going to thank God that loving is my primary purpose too. I am going to sit in the mystery and commit to err on the side of compassion, hope, joy and grace.
I hope you’ll sit for a minute with me.
Enjoy this beautiful reflection from Pastor Steve and embrace the mystery:
Oh, please don’t explain this story.Steve Garnaas-Holmes, “Weird,” https://unfoldinglight.net/2023/02/13/weird/
It’s truly, divinely, accurately weird.
Sure, there’s a moral of the story—
several, in fact: theological constructs,
stuff you should believe. Fine. Hold those in your pocket.
Meanwhile, sit there for a minute,
cock your head a little and just gawk at this story.
It’s weird. Jesus shining, dead people chatting,
Peter talking nonsense, a cloud that enters like a crab
and holds them in its pincers, a disembodied voice. Whoa.
Don’t start in on theology,or psychology, or meteorology,
or any fool ology. This is not about ology.
This is about wonder.
How Jesus shines. Life just shines.
The glory of God spills out of things,
leaks out of every container, even people.
Being alive is beyond explanation,
grace is odd, love doesn’t make sense
and God is inexplicable— a real, absolute, true
mystery. Not a puzzle: a mystery.
The uncanny more-than-itself-ness of life.
Faith is not about having religious opinions,
not knowing, certainly not certainty.
Sometimes faith is just awe.
The willingness to be bedazzled,
to look at life and go, “Wow.”
When beauty and grace and loveliness overwhelm you,
when words fail and being smart is of no use.
You sense God may be afoot but can’t say how.
All you can do is say, “Huh. Whaddya know. Wow.”
Let this story be weird. Let life be amazing.
Let God be more than you can grasp.
Your faith needn’t be much more
than grateful, gob-smacked wonder.
If you really want to get religious, let this be your creed: