Do you ever feel like God is leading to do something risky on faith? Don’t be ashamed to say no, but don’t feel crazy if you say yes. When Carol and I are stacked together often our friends get the two of us confused. They think that I am the free spirited, risk taking and spontaneous fellow. Carol however is seen as the calculated, shrewd and organized planner. I am not saying that Carol does not possess some or all of the traits that are attributed to her, but I am not the most spontaneous or risk taking fellow.
There was a teahouse in Lincoln, Nebraska that I frequented quite often when Carol and I were first married called The Mill. I had been taking the bus to this shop ever since I was in Junior High school when all that surrounded it were warehouses and the train depot. At the time I was biding time working at Sam’s Club as a stocker from 5 a.m. until about 12:30 p.m. Even though I was often weary after those many hours, but I always ready to take a stroll downtown to have some tea.
So, out of our apartment that looked like a generic hotel I strolled past the Lesbian bar which I had only drank at once called Panic. Crossing the street I would amble by and into two of the thrift stores. First, I would run my finger down row after row of used books. Second, I would check out the records, tapes and compact discs that might have accumulated. Leaving the Disabled American Veterans I would slowly pass both the vintage clothing store owned by a prominent pizza owner’s wife and the pawnshop on the corner. Crossing the next street I would admire the 1960’s Range Rover which was hidden on the back of a used car lot. It was a couple of blocks with parking lots before I would come to one of the main downtown business areas. I would rapidly pass the corner that had been so important to my childhood. It had once been a cheap twin cinema and a record store called Dirt Cheap. Now both were inhabited by a yearly revolving couple of bars and clubs. Crossing the main street in Lincoln, O Street, I passed two Greek restaurants to come to my favorite used bookstore of all time A Novel Idea. I must always stop at the store of which I was the first customer. I had literally traded thousands of books with Cinnamon the owner. Then it was a rapid walk past the blues club called the Zoo bar and the high-end clothing store. Turning left I would cross the street and rapidly move past an Schlotzkies, Birkenstock shop and theater. Crossing another street I would pass a barbershop with wooden boat steering wheels and a bar with tinsel in it called Cliffs. Past Spaghetti Works, two theaters, the YMCA, the Greyhound Bus station, The Lincoln Journal Star offices, The Hilton and crossing the street in the middle of the street and I would be right at the Mill’s front door.
How do I know this route so well? I used this same route over and over and over again without much variance. Carol used to occasionally walk with me and notice that I would stop cold when she would deviate from the path that I was used to taking. I think that I would still be making that walk everyday if I hadn’t been challenged by my pastor to step out in faith, without any money, travel to Austin, Texas and study to become a minister.
Now my obsessive compulsive behavior might not seem relevant to our Lenten march, but I think that if you look deep inside yourselves that you might find that there are routines and cycles that you have found make your life seem safe and secure. Get up; drink coffee, read the paper and so on until it is time to lay your head upon the pillow to go to sleep. The circle of repetition covers all of our lives. The author of Ecclesiastes said it best when he proclaimed, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
Yet, we find ourselves in lent struggling with the notion that somehow as descendents of Abraham that this unchecked repetition is not what God intends for us to be fully alive. God is calling us to wrench ourselves from the stupor that these safe cycles give to us. It has been my strong belief that God is calling each and every one of us in this community to do a new thing in faith. Not relying on the things of the past to communicate God’s love to new neighbors. This means that we will have to pray and listen to God more. If we are too busy to do it now we still have no excuse. If we laugh at the hilarity of what we think God might be saying to us because it seems impossible God will still press us to action. It may take us repenting of certain mindsets. Telling ourselves that certain generations are not quite as committed as ours were, believing that having every event revolve around our children is good for them, the belief that we are small, poor, struggling. The belief that if we just had the right program we would look more attractive, that we do not have enough time to make God and community a part of our busy social and business schedule. That building community is the same as running a business, that the pastor is a subcontractor of the church. That what I say up here can change people. We must avoid conflict. If I am the loudest and most powerful voice that is democracy. That we go to church for the good of our children. That being right, successful, powerful, prestigious, surviving, financially secure are God’s goals for the body of Christ.
I am sure that some or all of these may be important to God. It doesn’t mean that they are irrelevant or against God, but if I know anything from Christ’s calling of the people of God it is always a challenge to their assumptions and norms. Faith does not need to be dissected into a group of complex theological and philosophical categories, it has to be lived in response to the calling of a living God. Sure it is challenging to change everything that we know to be true to get it in line with the kingdom of God, but when we have broken the shackles of the status quo we will realize that these were not what were giving us fulfilled lives it was in knowing ourselves and our communities through the possibilities of a life that answers God’s call to foreign lands and give up our dead idols to continue the multitudes of faithful descendants promised to an elderly man so long ago.
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