Thursday, March 28, 2013
"Go for it"
So an ex-student claims he's thinking seriously of becoming either a Roman Catholic or a Pentecostal, some kind of odd choice for a Christian Reformed kid maybe, but somehow understandable--and besides, somewhere on God's green earth there must be a contingent of spirit-filled Catholics. When it comes to religion, things of faith, despite what the Millennials and the post-moderns say, there's really nothing new under the sun. It's all been done. It's just that we haven't done 'em.
I've got a friend who most Sundays worships, high church, with the Anglicans; but when he gets the chance, he says, he swings across town and bangs his guitar in a praise band in some local RCA, among folks who must be happy to have him, if only for his guitar.
An old couple in Michigan--I read this yesterday--just got married. They were sweethearts sixty-some years ago, the newspaper said, but she broke it off because she was Catholic and he was Christian Reformed and never the twain should meet, or whatever, back then. She determined she couldn't spend her life with an unholy Protestant, so there were tears. Each went on to have his or her own family. She raised nine kids. And then, when the spouses were gone, sixty years later, the old guy went after her again, as if she was always the real thing, his prized Rachel in the bargain of life.
The two of them are happy because now, ostensibly, the old religious differences don't carry much weight. Who really cares about transubstantiation when you're 85? Seriously. The story says they took a trip to Europe when they were 80 years old, sleeping in the same room, I suppose. He asked her to marry him at a restaurant atop the Eiffel Tower. I'm not making this up.
Somewhere along the line did they lose their faith or did it just grow? What is faith anyway?
It's Holy Week, Easter Week. Started with Palm Sunday, today is Maundy Thursday, tomorrow's Good Friday, then comes Holy Saturday, and, of course, on the main stage, Easter Sunday. Amid the week's extravagant religious wardrobe, M,T,W go bare naked, I guess.
Yesterday, SCOTUS entertained arguments on same-sex marriage (should that be upper case or not?). Yesterday, the Christianity Today on-line edition headlined with "If the Supreme Court legalizes Same-Sex Marriage, What Next?"
It's a tough question for evangelicals, who put a lot of stock into demonizing the sympathizers. There's no easy answers either.
Somehow, given my guitar-pickin' friend, my ex-student who wants so badly to experience Christ, and those two old farts renewing vows they never took suggests, at least to me, that the legalization of same sex marriage won't mean the end of faith. Faith exists in so many varieties it makes Heinz look monochrome.
Me?--this Dutch Calvinist spends his Holy Week off-hours reading Mother Teresa, utterly amazed that a nun who may well have been the most honored woman in the world, whose ministries on the streets of Calcutta made her, literally, a saint, actually spent long and dark decades of her life believing herself abandoned by the Jesus she so loved she thought of herself as nothing less than "the bride of Christ."
I don't desire to be a mystic, and I'm guessing I'm just about as Spirit-filled as I'll ever be; but I love reading about her, going slack-jawed at her confessions of deep and true doubt, this saint, this actual saint.
Mother Teresa, for most of her life, suffered the agony of believing that Jesus Christ had turned his back on her, despite the fact that she coveted like nothing else the ultimate prize-- true atonement. She wanted literally to be at one with Christ, to be Him, to give her body, her self, away, and become Him. "Let the people eat you up," she told her Sisters. She didn't want to be like him. She didn't want simply to serve him. She didn't want to do his work. She wanted to be him, to refuse to be anyone but Him, not even herself. She wanted to die to the sin that was herself because she wanted so badly to be one with the Lord Jesus. And she thought he wouldn't have her. All of this behind the curtain.
Once upon a time, my mother had a Pentecostal friend, the wife of CRC preacher, who could and did, quite successfully, I guess, speak in tongues. My mother said she wanted to experience Christ like that, so this friend told her that glossolalia wasn't all that difficult. "Just open your mouth and let it come," she said. My mother opened her mouth--I'l never forget that image as she told me.
But there was no words there, not even any mumbling. Didn't work. No tongues flowed from her soul, and she felt somehow bereft.
It's Holy Week for all kinds of seekers, me included, all kinds of lookers and shoppers, men and women hungry for some kind of fulfillment. We're all looking really. The only ones I don't know if I trust are those who claim to have found it all.
So what are we to make of that old couple, who told the reporter who wrote their story that, now that the two of them were back together, their mantra had become "Go for it"? I don't know where they go to church.
How do you make sense of all of that religion?
It's Holy Week. I suppose we do what we can. All of us, we look around and do what we can. It's always there. And He is, even if the best of us thinks he's not.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:45 AM