Monday, March 18, 2013

Teenagers, Booze, and Grace - Oh my!

I am still exploring the scandalous Jesus.

However, I have come to a couple of conclusions:

1. I am too busy to blog all of my thoughts.

2. Jesus uses young people to speak his word.

3. Giving up stuff for Lent is totally a creation of the church.

4. Jesus will still die for me everyday so that I can know God's love everyday, no matter what I do.

Number one speaks for itself.

We went on a trip to see our dear friends JJ and Tessa and while at their church God spoke to me. He didn't speak through the Lenton devotional by Henri Nouwen that Danny and I read that morning. He didn't speak through the the sermon on the same topic. Instead, he spoke through a sophomore boy. I couldn't tell you what the young man said, but at that moment, I heard Jesus say I am right here. I have everything you need. I felt filled. I felt a peace I haven't felt in awhile. Most of society do not think that our youth have much to offer. In a comercial for Tully's coffee, it is the adult that literally does all the talking. Just the other day one of my students lamented that we (adults) never give them any place to speak. We are all just waiting for teenagers to "grow-up". I don't have any Biblical proof, but Jesus did not use adults to speak to me, but a young person. What would happen if the world gave young people more space to speak? It would cause a bit of disruption in our churches, because, trust me, young people do not always say things in the most eloquent way, but they may be saying what our hearts need to hear.

On the topic of giving stuff up. I have given up alcohol for Lent. I have also broken my fast twice. One night I got a bottle of wine with then intention of seeing what would happen if I broke my fast on a non-Sunday (apparently the rules of Lent-giving-up state that you get a break on Sunday, because it is a day of rest). I realized walking home, that it didn't matter. My salvation was secure. God said it didn't matter if I broke these "rules". He said he would love me no matter what rules I break. I also googled it and fasting during the 40 days leading up to Lent is a convention the early church created in order to facilitate a deeper understanding of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

At the same time, I have been challenged with not being disciplined enough. Today, I had a glass of wine. Today it wasn't a test of boundaries. Today it was because I had a lot of grading, Danny has been absent while he finishing end-of-the-quarter projects, and I am lonely. If I had some wine, was I a bad Christian? Was I filling the hole with something other than Jesus? Again, as I walked home from the bus I felt God's unconditional love like I haven't felt in a long time. I felt free from having to be the perfect Christian. I felt free to fail. I felt God holding me in his arms and saying that he would be there to help me cope.

Lent may be about understanding Jesus' suffering and sacrifice, but Jesus understands the suffering I see everyday, the self-sacrifice it takes to love my students, and the daily refinement happening in my heart. During my time of imperfect fasting, his resurrection has been felt more keenly than any other day this year.

I have given up alcohol for Lent once in college. I broke the fast only once, for Saint Patrick's day, and I never felt the grace of God like I have during this Lent season. I am f*ed up and am tired of pretending I am not.

What would happen if I held firm to my fast? Would I be blessed by feeling the depth of grace God has for me? Would I feel in my soul his deep love that compelled him to send his son to death? Possibly, but maybe not. Jesus chose to meet me in my unlawfulness with a glass of wine in hand, which is a substance that has a tense relationship with those in the church. If that isn't scandalous, I don't know what is.

So far, my Jesus has been found in a teenager's humble words, a bottle of wine, and some honest self reflection.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Scandalous Jesus: Diction

Note: This is the second post in a my Lent series. For the introductory post, click here.

Scandalous: Adjective
1. disgraceful; shameful or shocking, improper
2. attracted to or preoccupied with scandal

             Scandal: Noun
1. a disgraceful or discreditable action, circumstance, etc.
2. an offense caused by fault or misdeed.
3. damage to reputation; public disgrace.
4. defamatory talk, malicious gossip.
5. a person whose conduct brings disgrace or offense.

Diction is a lost art in today's world. The word "epic" is so over used that it can describe a car ride or an imaginary world full of mystical plant people. (Yes, the movie is actually called EPIC). Once upon a time, "epic" described heroic, majestic, or impressively great ( events. I'm not convinced that this can describe car ride to the grocery store or this specific movie. Epic has been cheapened in order to sell products. Daily I am challenged to continue using my adult vernacular, but define the "big" words I use so that my students are both exposed to challenging vocabulary and can still comprehend what I am trying to communicate. Word choice is significant in our journey to communicate with others effectively. 

That is why I started my reflective journey by first defining the word "scandalous".  Overall, the literal definition of scandalous or scandal seems to be any action or personality quirk that would ostracize you from society. Postmodern scholars will push back and question who decides what is disgraceful, improper, or offensive? What may offend people in my mom's generations, the baby boomers, may be a drop in the bucket to one of my peers. On the other hand, things that were normal in the 50s, like racial slurs, would be highly offensive to me today. Acceptable social behavior is influence by so many factors, like age, gender, religion, socio-economics, etc. So who decides what is scandalous? 

Well for the sake of this blog, I do. But in general, I would argue that if Jesus is not pushing our buttons - no matter our generation, gender, income level, ethnicity, religious background, or political party - then he is no longer scandalous. Jesus needs to remain offensive to all of us or his message is no longer challenging. If his message is no longer challenging, then why should we listen? If we aren't changed by our interactions with Jesus, then why should we follow him on a daily basis?

I may get on board with some of the things Jesus did in his ministry, like allowing women to be  disciples with the men (Luke 10:38-42) or feeding the hungry (Mark 6:30-44), but there are other things that challenge me. For example, when Jesus says those that mourn will  be comforted (Matthew 5:4), I often reply, yes, but when Lord? Some pain is perpetually inflicted or so deep that it takes years to heal from it. Will I really ever be truly comforted in this life? Will others who struggle with depression ever see freedom? I struggle with this promise. Another story that bothers is me is when Jesus call Peter, Peter walks on water, and then Peter fails. That just sucks. I know there are bigger truths to this story, but I still struggle with the fact that Jesus seemed to ask Peter to fail. Peter could have succeeded, but he didn't. He failed and I don't like that Jesus sometimes asks us to follow im into situations or places where we will ultimately fail. It makes me uncomfortable. 

I am going to see if Jesus' meaning in his actions would be considered disgraceful, shocking, improper or shameful today. Whether or not you agree with my use of the word scandalous or the way I define it in future posts, I hope the meaning of what I am trying to say comes through: Is Jesus still challenging us today? Does he make us uncomfortable in social circumstances? Does he push us to the outside of what is normal?