Getting right about where to look

Christianity is about reframing, about recasting.  It is not about easing the journey through the life – though it often does that.  It is not about bringing peace as in comfort – though it often does that as well.  It is about reframing the world and how we choose to live in it, about joining a wider project.  To see the soul of this faith, we need to slip beneath the waves of common culture so to speak, easing ourselves down into a greater reality.  The apostle Paul spoke to this thousands of years ago in these words from 1 Corinthians.

“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,  but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

I love the line that for some the “block” was the desire for miraculous signs for others wisdom.   Profound.  I smile at how little we have changed.  An avowed atheist turned Christian, Mary Carr spoke of her spiritual life breaking open when she could finally say the word “Christian” without immediately coughing out the word – underneath her breath – “idiot.”  It is so easy to think of faith as needing the miraculous sign often because we see it as anti-intellectual, as flying right in the face of wisdom!

But the “foolishness” of God, of faith is actually a deep wisdom.  Last night I was reading of a group of Franciscan monks serving in the South Bronx.  No cell phones.  No iPods.  No money.  Just them – willingly stripped down to their capacity to love and serve others.   To many – and to me on certain days – that type of life style is baffling, foolish.  And yet who is engaging life from the deepest wisdom?  As the author noted he paradoxically found in these robbed brothers the most “out of touch” and yet “in touch” people he had ever met.  On a trip uptown, the world of Manhattan looked a lot more lost than the Franciscan world he found in the South Bronx.

Maybe that is why “holy fools” create such an impact on this earth.  I am often dismayed at the “Jesus Marketing Movement” that speaks almost exclusively of church growth vs. church mission. “Holy Fools” like those Franciscans as well as a few marginalized Swedenborgians – all of whom by the way I think would identify themselves as “Christians” first and foremost, preferring that to a denomination label – gently remind me that in simply and courageously living the Gospels we will appear “foolish” much of the time.  But that foolishness quietly conveys a gentle statement that “Life Can Be Different. Life is More.”


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2 Responses to “Getting right about where to look”

  1. Kate Rothwell Russell says:

    I found this to be an inspiring piece. It brought back some memories that were triggered by a difficult incident this week.
    I lost a very dear, extremely troubled friend this week. This is someone that we, as a family have known since his age of 15. He died this week at the age of 53. During our long friendship, Todd was like a family member.He was much like a brother to my son Eric. He was a caring fun loving explorer. He taught us many things. My first camping trip (yikes) his love of nature and animals. How he revered the elderly. His outlook on life was different than most. It was to be appreciated. Todd was just a “different cereal.”
    He lived with us off and on during the years. We all weathered many battles together. He was a champion when my husband Lane became ill. He came to my aid many times.
    Things took a drastic turn for Todd. He had a serious accident. this left him few choices and a very long and unrequited relationship with his employer. He suffered many years of pain and rejection due to these injustices.
    Todd was a true “mountain man.” He lived many years in Alaska. This was his real love. He always wanted to go back. He was never able to do so.
    Todd was a doer of good deeds. I was reminded by my brother Myles that my home was known as “hotel Basswood.” I always had a place for people to live. I enjoyed the company, comraderie and being able to cook for the masses.
    Todd, again lived with me a few years ago. It was a very troubled time for us both. We had a difficult parting of the ways. I had the feeling that old saying, “no good deed goes unpunished” fit the bill. Somehow, I had become the bad guy.
    I realize that my Christian beliefs were being left by the wayside. I was not using the Wisdom I had been gifted. I was being Foolish.
    Just last week I sent a packet of pictures to Todd. They were pictures of his beloved wolf/dog Claus. He lived at my house as a puppy for about a year. These never will be seen by my old friend, Todd.
    Timing is everything in this crazy world. So is love of your fellow man. I’m sorry our last journey together was such a bumpy one. I’m very grateful we had so many wonderful adventures together.
    I’m sure Todd is in a much better place now. His battles have been fought his ultimate reward is great. He is finally, at peace. I feel this tome is my last good deed for my old friend Todd. I feel I owe this to him. Thanks for listening. Thanks for triggering this need to do one last good deed.

  2. Chuck.Blair says:

    Thanks so much for sharing Kate! Very powerful. He is in my prayers.

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