Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Vulnerability: Our Most Precious Inheritance

Real Live Preacher has a new essay in the Christian Century; Suffering Foolishness. Go read the story of Perry. Most likely we have all encountered characters like him. After reading RLP's piece, I must admit to some feeling of discomfort as I recognized some characteristics of Perry in myself when I looked in the mirror.

How do we respond to such scoundrels? Here's RLP's suggestion:

...In the eyes of the world there must and will always be something foolish about the church. Every pilgrim who walks through our doors and takes up the journey will be accepted and trusted. Our church doors are unlocked, and inside is a terrible power wrapped in velvet and lying in full view on the communion table. It is a temptation beyond what the weak can bear and an easy mark for those who seek spiritual levers and religious fulcrums to move their tiny worlds.

There is no response that can easily undo harm done in the name of religion by those for whom religion is such a tool. There is no protection we can seek that will not destroy us by removing our vulnerability, which is, after all, our greatest power and most precious inheritance. We therefore must carry their reputations along with the reputations we have rightly earned.

Our living must be right enough, our devotion deep enough and our love strong to speak for itself. We will have to be large enough to swallow what they have done and still carry on with our work. And all of this must happen without us becoming defensive or wasting our time explaining ourselves or answering for their sins...
Wonderful words. I would add however, that for those of us who find a bit of Perry within ourselves, we do need to answer for our own sins.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving kindness;
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
Wash me through and through from my wickedness,
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions only too well,
and my sin is ever before me.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One,
have mercy upon us.

Pray for me, a sinner.


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