Saturday, April 7, 2012

Why am I still a Christian?

It’s the day before Easter, and I’m cramming to pull together the last thoughts for my early morning sermon. After preaching Easter messages for close to 30 years, something seems different this year. My reflections related to the resurrection story have been altered by a series of events that forces me to ponder what it means to be a Christian.

Sadly, I’ve had to ask a question that some may feel odd for a man who has served churches in three states since the age of 19. I’ve grown up under the robes worn to cover the humanity of those called to teach sacred truths. Yes, I came to this faith after gaining strength enough to unload the shackles that robbed me of my authentic identity. The call came shortly after I found faith, and it didn’t take long for me to find myself in front of the people each week preaching and teaching the lessons of that man who came to set the captives free.

So much has happened over the years. From the rise to the top among those who do this preacher thing, to one ostracized for taking on agendas that go against the normal breed of Church Folks. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about all that has happened to force that radical shift. The fact is I’m comfortable with standing in solidarity with those deemed worthless by those who sing those hymns and cry onto the Lord each week. I regard this as the cross I must bear.

My point of contention is about what does it mean for me to be a Christian? More and more I’m forced to ask that question. I feel isolated from others who read the same text and sing the same songs. More and more, I’m forced to examine the credibility of my claim of service as a leader of faith. Put another way, I’m lonely. I’m lonely and hurt and confused due to the separation I’ve endured. I feel the sting of isolation. I feel the agony of glaring into that cup and asking, “Must I drink this Lord? Must I take hold of the ache of separation?”

This Easter is unlike the rest. I’ve asked why. What is it about this year that forces me to dig deeper as I ask the question I don’t want to consider – why do I continue to call myself a Christian when so many Christian reject me? Why remain faithful to an institution that revels in maintaining the contradictions of its claims? Why continue to deliberate over what it means to be a prophetic witness while depending on those Christians you are challenging to feed you?

The more I think about it, the more I’m forced to embrace the question I don’t want to consider. It is the question we all should ask. Not only on Easter, but every day. What is it about this faith that keeps us engrossed? How do we take hold of these teachings while so many around us are using it to demoralize others and create deep wedges between the families of God?

The more I face it, the more it comes to me. I know why I continue to be a Christian. I’m a Christian because I’ve become more of a Christian upon becoming less of a leader of the faith. In giving up the life of leadership, I’ve discovered the message of redemption. Isn’t that what the Good Friday message means? Something has to die before something can live. Our dependency on faith as a means of defining special favor has to die before we can see the worth of others, and take hold of what it means to love another beyond the way we perceive them.

I’m beginning to understand, more and more, what it means to be stripped for service. One thing is missing for me. It’s the reason I carry so much pain during this Easter season. I’ve been waiting and praying for the power after the crucifixion. I know the death that comes with saying yes to change. Yes, I have died for the teachings I hold dear. I have embraced what it means to be a Christian, but I continue to wait for the hope that comes after the death.

I need my resurrection.

How do you preach when death remains? Could it be it came and I missed it due to looking in the wrong place? Was it hidden behind my expectation? Is it possible that I’m living within my resurrection, yet cling to death because I’ve yet to understand new life?

If that is true my work continues. If not, misery follows the death.

Speak Holy Spirit. Speak.

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