Kind promise: I will reinvent whimsically.
I spent two days last week in Minneapolis’ beautiful St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral listening to a diverse batch of women get real about God.
There were a thousand of us packed between the old stone walls. Every now and then, I imagined the ghosts of turn-of-the-century Minnesotan Episcopalians lowering their brows and straightening their spines as the speakers wrestled and ranted and lamented and swore at and with their God.
I’ve been squirming with Christianity lately. I’ve been feeling so invited and comforted, delighted and challenged by my Buddhist meditation teachers that I’ve been considering leaving the faith. “Why Christian?” was more than a conference title for me. It was a real question.
The Christianity I see around me is so often about exclusion and self-righteousness or plodding, well-intentioned protection of the status quo, I want to run away from it. It wears me down and I am not at a point in my life where I have anything left over for spirit-sucking obedience.
What I heard last week reminded me of why I want to claim the Christian story.
This idea of a God who took on mortal flesh not to gain power over some poor human woman (viz. Jupiter et al), but to “share our common lot” is… Well… Life-changing. This God makes holy our helpless babyhood, consecrates our hunger and thirst and anger and pain and sends us out with instructions to love and serve and bring justice. This is a God I want to know better. Especially as a person in a disabled – therefore culturally devalued – body, having an embodied God is transformative.
The story of a God of resurrection is important for me too. I want a God who calls me up from despair, who reminds me that what looks like death need not be, who defies the expectations and limitations of others.
This Christian God calls me into the world to work for justice and love others. With this God, I cannot be comfortable and safe. “Being a Christian is living at the fulcrum of your fear,” said Emily Scott in my favorite of many slices of wisdom from the conference. “That’s where Jesus does his best work.”
My challenge, then, is to find ways to live this faith without getting suckered into arguments over which translation said this, what committee needs to do that and whether we should allow food in the sanctuary.
When I sit down to meditate, my Buddhist teachers have taught me to pay attention to my body: feet on the floor, hands resting on my thighs, spine straight, chin tucked. I have internalized a checklist that allows me to move my focus to my breath.
What would a Christian checklist – one that allows me to focus on Jesus’ teachings – look like?
I want to plant my feet on justice and human dignity, open my arms to embrace all God’s children with my hands humbly empty. (So often we Christians mistakenly want to give you what we think you need.) I want to hold my spine strong enough to withstand cultural judgments and pressures and supple enough to respond to the improvisational urgings of the Holy Spirit. I want to open my eyes and ears and heart to the beauty of God’s world and the cries of God’s people.
Before we left the Cathedral, we celebrated communion. We remembered our embodied, resurrecting, risky God. Our voices polished smooth the stone ceiling of the Cathedral and my faith was reclaimed and renewed. Could be those Episcopalian ancestors cracked some smiles…