Sumpteretc's Blog

What's on my mind at the moment

Month: February, 2005

Disappointment

As days go, yesterday wasn’t terribly disappointing, but I really feel that it could have gone better. Tiff and I had a good time of sharing in our devotions, and I kinda came clean with some of the stuff I have been talking about in here. But I was really hoping and praying that we could have a good time of authentic, open sharing in our small group. And, frankly, it just didn’t happen. The leader didn’t even ask some of the most probing questions, and the ones he asked, he quickly reworded so that they didn’t ask us about any personal issues. As we usually do, we spent a lot of time chasing rabbits. I wish we could focus on the issues at hand.

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Practicing the presence of God

Our small group has just started a new study, and as a part of that study we are to be working on doing everything in our lives just as Jesus would do them. In principle, I agree strongly with this idea. I think every Christian ought to live every moment as an act of worship, live every moment on purpose. Yet when it comes to actually applying this to my daily life, I seem somehow intransigient. It’s not that I don’t want to live daily in God’s presence (I don’t think), it’s just that . . . I don’t know, maybe it seems like a lot of work or that it will keep me from doing what I want to do. Is that not the height of arrogance–to think that my idea of how to spend my time is somehow superior to God’s plan? It reminds me of that quote–was it by G.K. Chesterton?–“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

This morning I was reading about the cloud that rested over the tabernacle in the wilderness. The sons of Israel seemed completely content to follow it without question. If it moved, they moved. If it hung out for a week or two, they hung out for a week or two. If it moved within a few hours, they moved within a few hours. For a stubborn and rebellious people, they seemed remarkably in tune with God’s leadership. Now granted, the Holy Spirit is perhaps more subtle than a visible cloud. It may not always be quite so obvious when it’s time to move. But I’m guessing I might not see the cloud move in big ways, because I’ve never learned to follow the gentle nudges.

I don’t want to admit how wrong I am in this area. My self rears up and says, “Oh, come on! You have the right to live life the way you want to. Where’s the me time if you’re going to always be focused on God? That’s just gonna be a lot of work.” And yet I know that there’s no way I could spend my time more profitably than just in following God’s plan.

I know introspection is not always healthy, and I especially tend toward the morbid.

Loopholes

It’s interesting to read the prohibitions in Leviticus. One kind of caught my eye this morning. It said that you were not to curse a deaf person or put a stumbling block in front of the blind. Well, duh! It’s kind of sad that you have to spell out every possible kind of meanness, or else humans will see that as a loophole and try to find a way around it. But, really, that’s what we’ve done, isn’t it? We have somehow found loopholes for even those things that are expressly forbidden in Exodus. God prohibits homosexuality, but we say a God of love would want loving couples to be together regardless of gender. God prohibits bestiality, but we say God would not want to place restrictions and limitations on our sexual freedom. God prohibits incest, but we say that love is more important than rules. God prohibits sacrificing to the goat demons, but we say that everyone should worship their own god in their own way.

It’s no wonder really that the new dispensation is a whole new way of thinking. God recognized that people would always find a way around the written rules, so he designed a better path. The “new and better way” was a relationship, a friendship with One who would steer us away from self-destructive behavior. Instead of focusing on the do’s and don’t’s of a rulebook, we would be obey out of a desire to please our Friend, who had done so much for us.

Clergy-laity distinctions

I just finished reading about Aaron’s ordination, and I’m suddenly feeling like my own wasn’t a very big deal. Aaron had fancy clothes, bits of blood & oil scattered here and there, and waved some big chunks of meat in the air. I just got prayed for and handed a Bible. Okay, so I’m being a little facetious, but it does make you stop and wonder . . . have we gone a little too far in eliminating the clergy-laity divide?

I understand that we are in a different dispensation now, and I know that there is a sense in which we are a priesthood of believers. We no longer offer blood sacrifices, we no longer have to go to a certain place to worship and we no longer depend upon another human to mediate with God for us. So, does this mean that those who provide spiritual leadership or religious assistance must necessarily fall in prestige?

I certainly think that it is healthy that the laity have been encouraged to step and shoulder part of the load. There is definitely a responsibility for them to be actively involved in evangelism, in Bible study, in prayer, in the exercise of spiritual gifts, and on and on. However, there is a different and specialized role for the clergy. These are the men and women who have received a special call from God to have the ministry of equipping others, so that the body of Christ may be built up. Have we not downplayed their role in the process of empowering the laity?

Paul clearly made distinctions between the clergy and the laity. He said we ought to give triple honor to those among us who minister the Word to us. He said that the worker (the clergyman) was worthy of his hire. He held the clergy to a higher standard and discouraged people from entering the clergy who did not feel a call from God and a commission from the church to do so.

How does this play out in modern Christian life? Well, the clergy probably do not need the elaborate costuming of the priest, but there is something to be said for a style of dress that distinguishes the sacred from the secular. Obviously, the animal sacrifices are not relevant to our culture or historical setting, but perhaps the member of the clergy needs to take more seriously the trust that has been placed in him or her by the church. If there was some more symbolic way to do this within the setting of an ordination ceremony, it might well be worth the inclusion.

Unintentional sin

It amazes me how much space is given in Leviticus to unintentional sin. Over and over it says “If a man sins unintentionally and later finds out about it . . . “Always, a sacrifice was required to cover that unintentional sin.

As a Wesleyan-Arminian, I tend to define sin as “a willful transgression of a known law of God.” However, it’s obvious that the biblical definition is much, much broader. Wesley, of course, did say that even our unintentional sins are in need of Christ’s atonement, but it seems that we always cut ourselves some slack in that area. It seems, though, that, if we lived more carefully, more consciously in the presence of God, even unintentional sin might not be so frequent.

I often feel that I am not sufficiently contrite for known sin. Would it be possible to live so close to God that even a new awareness of a past unintentional sin would send me running to his throne to plead his mercy?