Friday, March 29, 2013

the truth about Good Friday

Today for me, along with those who share my faith, is known as Good Friday.  I must confess that for a good deal of my growing up years I was mystified by why this was called Good Friday.  I mean really...from Jesus' perspective on a cross it couldn't have been "good" could it?  It was about death and dying.  I always wondered why this day wasn't known as "Black Friday" instead of the day after Thanksgiving.  Shouldn't Easter Sunday have been named "Good Sunday"?  The only thing that I could possibly see as "good" about it was that, in my day, it was a holiday from School.  Now in these days of tolerance and equal time and all, the most that even Christian schools can seem to get away with is a half day off.  I guess its really a wonder, with this depth of understanding, that I ever entered into the field of pastoral artistry.  Fortunately I have come to see the relevance of the "good" in Good Friday.  The "good" is actually not about Jesus, but about what this event means to us.  It's good news because this very sacrificial act  stands in the place of our own inability to live up to the holiness and purity that God originally intended for us. It's good news because he died for my sin and shortcomings so that I can live free from them in community with a Holy God.   It's good news because he hung on the cross at all.  After all, him being the son of God and all, and within the great mystery of our faith he was/is God, he did not have to endure the events of the original Good Friday.  He could have called down angels, he could have come down from the cross, he could have not taken up the cup of suffering in the first place. He proved that he didn't have to just by the fact that on Sunday he rose, rolled away the stone, and went for a walk with his friends.  I can't hope to explain it all, nor would I want to, even in my role as a pastoral artist. 
I do think however that I understand the motivation...the mindset... the ability to take on this unthinkable task when he obviously could have done it another way.  In the book of Philippians we learn about this Jesus that although he was God, he didn't consider that to be something to hold on to, in light of the needs of his creation.  So he "incarnated" himself.  He became flesh and blood and walked the very earth that he created.  In short, he didn't hold on to the entitlement that one could argue was certainly his to hold.  Entitlement .... its a pretty big word that basically means, I deserve it, I've earned it, its owed to me.  Interesting.... he surrendered entitlement on behalf of and to live among and die for a creation that certainly has a tendency to wear our own entitlement like a badge.
One small example for us to consider.  I live in Seattle, where there are more dogs than children.  Now don't get me wrong...I love dogs...I've been a dog owner.  But in this part of the world, besides bicyclists, dog owners can come across as some of the most "entitled" people on the planet.  The other day I was chatting with a guy who manages what are considered to be "luxury" apartments.  Its a place that actually welcomes dogs into their community...and consequently dog owners.  This guy was sharing with me that there are actually people who live there who let their dogs relieve themselves anywhere they wish...hallways, elevators, etc.  This despite the fact that there are stations placed strategically around the complex with bags intended for owners to use to pick up after their four legged children.  Now I know what its like to be out with your dog and forgot the bag and well, a dogs gonna do what a dogs gonna do.  That's not the case here.  You don't even have to buy your own.   And yet...they cannot even be bothered.  So the maintenance crew, who don't have dogs at this complex mind you because they probably couldn't afford the rent, has the task of cleaning up after the "entitled" ones. 
Here's the thing that I think we have such a hard time comprehending about this God who demonstrated his love  for us and this Jesus loving us enough to die for us thing.  Its all about entitlement.  We don't get it because we have such a hard time dropping ours.  Personally I know that grace covers over everything and that the love of Jesus embraces us all.  It's there and its offered, but we have to open ourselves up to the understanding that, although its there and its real, its not an entitlement.  Its grace...its undeserved.  Personally I have a hard time imagining that anyone who lets their dog take a dump in an apartment building can ever let go of their entitlement and receive grace.  Fortunately that's not my call....that's why its called Good Friday.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Zipping through life

So it's been nearly a year today since we've surrendered our "God given" right to owning a vehicle that we could call our own.  If you weren't aware, the selling of our SUV and a subsequent blown head gasket on our econo car led us to the place of considering our ability to really urbanize our lives and walk, literally, away from car ownership for an undetermined  amount of time.  It was the grand experiment.  Quite honestly I thought that it would last a few months, and most certainly not beyond the rains of a Seattle winter.  It's been a year now and, although nothing is ever certain, I don't see a vehicle anytime in the foreseeable future.
We can walk to most anything.  We zip around in Zip cars when necessary, we recently joined the smart car fleet from Car2go, and if needed, Enterprise is always ready to pick us up.  All of this adds up to more intentional trips and far less cost.  When we began this experiment, there were many questions that we had to answer about how all of this all might work.   At the one year mark, I can honestly say that we've answered pretty much all of them.   The only question, for most people anyway, that's never been answered is "Why?".  Why would we "choose" this?  The reactions have been mixed.  It seems as if it has stretched from admiration all the way to pity.  Some honestly wish that they could break the chains of bondage to their vehicles while others seem to think that we are homeless.  It has even been implied that its our God given right to own a car.
The best answer that I can give as to why we would "live this way" is that its because we can.  I would never impose or expect this way of life from anyone else.  It's our choice.  In the land of tolerance and choice, it is very interesting to discover which choices really make people uncomfortable.  Where, in other socio-cultural choices one would be tempted to say " well I would never choose that but who am I to judge", not so much with this one.  A choice to abort a child would draw less attention than our choice to give up car ownership.  You may think that an extreme statement.  You wouldn't think it extreme if you lived my story.  This past year has revealed a great deal about how we can really view comfort, convenience, and the "American way".  We do this because we can.  It's just that simple.  It is stretching, but its good to be stretched.
We have been encouraged by people who tell us in secret whispers, or like Nicodemus, under the cover of darkness, that they dream of getting rid of their cars.  There is an undercurrent out there, threatening all things oil centered and convenienced based.  A secret revolution of sorts.....whatever.... We may or may not continue in this life. The choice is always there.   For the time being though, we will continue to enjoy the freedom and the ability to do something out of the ordinary, simply because we can.  It isn't the first time and will certainly, prayerfully, not be the last.