Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Church, God, Grace, Inspiration, Jesus, Religion, Spirituality, Wholeness
There is an old joke that I have told to some of you. It is a standard joke that was told to me at seminary. To me it is painfully funny. The Baptist minister Rev. Knox dies and much to his relief is transported to heaven’s pearly gates. Peter is standing at the entrance doing paperwork when the pastor walks up to him.
“Ah, Rev. Knox I have been eagerly expecting you this morning. Come with me!” Peter exclaims excitedly as pushing a button the gigantic gates made of pearls begins to swing open.
“I would like to give you a tour of your new home, paradise. Let me know if you have any questions.” Peter says as they began to walk on a brilliantly yellow road.
While pointing out the different architectural features in the mansions that lay before them Rev. Knox became a little uneasy about some of the groups of people that he find surrounding him. To the right of the road is a group of people singing loudly and speaking what Rev. Knox could only make out to be gibberish.
“Who are those people?” Rev. Knox asks.
“Oh those are the charismatics” Peter replies and as they pass people from this group smiles and waves.
A little further down the road they encounter another group and the first thing that Rev. Knox notices is the turban on some of their heads. The men have long beards and they were all sharing a meal. They seem to be inviting Rev. Knox to join them in what looks like a sumptuous feast of Indian food.
“So, who are these people?” Rev. Knox asks.
“Oh those are the Sikhs” Peter replies and they accept some bread to eat on the rest of the tour.
A little further down the road they came to the mansion that is reserved for Rev. Knox and it is as magnificent as any king’s palace. Outside there is a great potluck and everyone is singing heartily “have you been washed in the blood of the lamb?” Rev. Knox feels at home, but before he can settle in his new home he hears a rumbling that he feels like he must explore.
Next-door is another majestic mansion yet all the lights are out except for one in a very large room. As Rev. Knox opens the door Peter was too far away to catch him. Peering inside he saw row upon row of people kneeling in fervent prayer.
Looking at Peter who was running toward Rev. Knox he asked, “So, who are…” but before he could finish his sentence suddenly Peter pulled Rev. Knox out of the door and out of earshot of the crowd.
“Shhhh” Peter said forcefully. “Those are the Presbyterians. They think they are the only ones here. They are praying for all the rest of us.”
Now you can insert any faith group in the punch line. I merely used Presbyterian because it is my own denomination. Yet, the punch line points out one of the ultimate responses to an ultimate question. The response is that we have no control over who is included or excluded by our creator.
“I now know that God shows no partiality.” What wonderfully liberating and terrifying words pouring out of Peter’s mouth. There is no unfair bias, favoritism when it comes to God. Grace by its very nature is unmerited and witnesses more to God’s freedom than to any one belief system or creed.
Peter is responding to one of the oldest religious problems in the world. Who is included? When we draw lines and make absolute pronouncements of who is included we are saying far more about ourselves than the people we would want exclude. What it says is that we are uncomfortable having faith in God’s grace and our own need to be in control.
Control is a tricky subject for us as humans. It has to do with our internal feeling of power or powerlessness. If I must confess to you that I have very little in which I have control then the perception is that I am powerless over my environment and myself. Yet, the reality of our situation as humans is that there is very little in our lives that we have any control over. In relationships, family and even inside of ourselves we have very little control in life. If we think that we can control a spouse we will have a very unhappy marriage and the sad reality of children knows that we cannot protect them from making their own mistakes. We are even limited to how much control that we have over ourselves. Over time we find that we are doing the same things that drove us nuts about our parents. We do not choose to be ill or the course that an illness will take within our bodies. Sometimes our brains conspire against us through mental illness or the loss of memory. Finally, the quintessential human experience is out of our control, our own death. That is the ultimate experience for which we can neither plan nor negotiate.
So, it is no wonder that we want to control God’s acceptance of others through our judgment of them. When we are ready we can find strength in the midst of our powerlessness. In a society that believes that strength only comes from power, money or prestige our path to faith is not very marketable. It means becoming dependent on God and others. It means living out the beatitudes promise of poverty of spirit. It is only when we acknowledge our lack of power that we can rely on something greater than ourselves. It is only when we surrender to the fact that often we are overrun by the things that dominate our lives that we can negotiate a peace that will make us live a life worth living. When we lose control we can see our lives for what they truly are, a gift given to us by a loving God.
Photo by TeeRish
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