Holy Complaining Batman @unvirtuousAbbey

And so, God gave us complaining. As we look at the Hebrews in the desert, we notice they do a lot of complaining. Here they are, stuck in the desert, and they are hungry. So they complain, they grumble, they mummer, they complain. They realize that they are truly on their own now, they are free (through God), and in that freedom they are responsible, so they start to complain, they cast blame on their leaders Aaron and Moses (which, as Moses points out, means they are really blaming God)…

There are two kinds of complaining in the world. The overwhelming negative complaining……and then there’s the kind of complaining that bonds us together, the kind that makes us feel like a family.

When I was in College, my second week of Freshwoman year was 9/11. Through it I found lifetime friendships, and from that suffering we embraced one another, had giant sleepovers (because we couldn’t sleep in our parents room even though that’s what we wanted to do), and gave out hugs freely. This was my first, and best interaction at Oberlin. Immediately my friends and I’s motto started to be “always room for one more” causing us to continually scoot back and open up our table to the outsiders…and it mostly remained our motto (even for those who were so socially inept they had trouble even among us nerds and dweebs, although granted, THAT was difficult)

This kind of suffering bonded us together, because we walked with each other and felt some measure of the same horror that the other felt.

When my sister was joining a sorority, I was partially fascinated and partially horrified, here these kids were, afflicting one another so that the new group could “bond” thru shared suffering. That is how powerful suffering was..(my sister started to stir rebellious talks of decency and rights and never did make the soriority).

Its scary, but it also shows us how God utilizes complaining to ease our suffering and bond us together. I believe that God does not cause our suffering, I believe there is REAL and present evil at work, but I believe God suffers with us. I believe that she gave us Christ to witness, endure and walk with us in that suffering, and I believe that complaining can be a way to bind our concerns.

So when the Hebrews Complain, their surface complaint is that they are hungry, their real complaint is that they are free, that they are concerned, that they are facing the unknown and that they feel like no one is with us….

This shared experience, the whole community grumbled… is exactly what makes them not alone in the world. Because they are all complaining about the same thing, they start to coalesce , coming together as a true community and group–not one that is just universally oppressed, as they were in Egypt, but as a community that has to work together to survive and thrive, one that has to practice cooperation and trust (Truly this is why church is so important)

This is why Grumpy Cat is so popular, because he is voicing complaints that different communities can relate to! (in a caustic and snarky way), but that kind of complaining becomes confessional–we think hey, I feel like that too!

That is why we have Confession, that is why we have Joy and Concerns, because God gives us the opportunity to Open our Mouths, to admit when we feel like we are running on empty, that we are malnourished, and yet burdened, that we are expected to take on heavy loads, when we are at our limit.

And then, God does what we don’t expect.

God doesn’t condemn our complaining, mark it as sin, and then wash our mouths out with soap for our disrespect.

Instead he fills our mouths with food, so that we can’t complain. He fills our mouths with bread (living eternal bread through the communion with Jesus Christ), and meat, he fills our mouths with praise, giving us a chance to complain, helping us to come together as a community through that shared experience, and then gifting us with enough nourishment to sustain that community.

So come to church, complain (some), and share in each other’s crevices, so that they become not the cracks that make us fall apart, but instead the edges on which we grow!

PS for some Good Holy Complaining follow @unvirtuousAbbey on Twitter

Exodus 16:2-5

In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

John 6: 30-33, 41-42

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’[c]

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heavenand gives life to the world.”

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

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Embodied Spirituality: (w)holistic faith and what it means

Good Examples of Embodied Spirituality tend to be as follows

yoga

monks working

liturgical dance

and Mr. Rogers (because he’s the Presbyterian Superhero of faith 🙂

Here is the Spiritual but not religious issue in sum:

Christianity–more and more abstracted and spiritualized religion, emphasizing the moral lessons of the Bible, essentializing Jesus as love and pursuing faith. Like good Augustine-type-people we have more and more distanced ourselves from the body, turning communion into a remembering of Christ. Barb Hedges-Goettl concludes that we have moved away from the reality of the broken, embodied Divinity present in Jesus Christ. A particular example of this can be found in how communion is celebrated (more about this below/in the thesis)

Hence Christianity is about being “spiritual” and has almost nothing to do with our bodies

If anything we should deny our bodily needs, giving quick and easy solutions to issues of 1. addiction: denial, proof that worldly wants are addictive and evil 2. homosexuality: denial its just a bodily impulse and the body is evil 3. Health Issues: If you are truly pure your body will be healed, otherwise better luck in heaven. These are broad generalizations, but you get the idea.

Hence we have an entire generation of the spiritual not religious, because if Jesus is only love, and we should deny the body, why do we need to gather and/or embody Christ through the church? The church doesn’t embody Christ, in fact, it doesn’t even consider embodiment important, so bodies are–literally–gone from the church. Spiritual but not religious people can do all that from home. So that’s it, they’ll be Spiritual, they don’t need to be religious.

If what we eat, how we care for our bodies, where we are present and how we are active are spiritual activities, then spirituality very quickly turns religious….

Barb Hedges-Goettl suggests to us that a vital piece is missing, and that is the living body of Christ. My question is : If we say Christ’s body is both present in communion and embodied by the church, what does this do to our faith: God is NOT JUST present when we see love, God is calling us to presently embody love as a corporate (ie enfleshed/embodied/living-flesh-corpse) of Christ that is out in the community….I find this especially interesting in a digital world, where embodiment is finding new expression–and yet still nothing beats a face to face meeting (you can’t hug on skype)

“In my dissertation I wrote that faith is about meeting God and God acting upon us. God is the life-changing agent/subject, not the object of belief. The living resurrected Christ changes us; he is not just an example to emulate or the purveyor of an ethic or value”–Barb Hedges-Goettl Photo

Dr. Barb Hedges-Goettl ‘s thesis is : The Body is Missing: Eucharistic Theology of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Conversation with Zwingli, Calvin, and Nevin” (10107), has been submitted to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in preparation for posting on ProQuest)

PS Shepherd is the best fictional clergy, EVER

“I believe that…

“I believe that the divisions between these aspects of Christ’s person and life are artificial. All three Christological aspects (incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection) are a part of the answer to human brokenness. As incarnate, Christ demonstrated that human bodies and experiences are not inimical to intimate relationship with God. As crucified, Christ showed that God understands and participates in human pain, suffering and even in mortality. As resurrected, Christ manifested God’s power over that pain, suffering and death. To share in the Lord’s Supper is to share with Christ Jesus in all these aspects of his person and life.” –Dr. Barb Hedges-Goettl PCUSA Pastor

Communion, the real deal

I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst” and “I am the vine, you are the branches. Cut off from me you can do nothing,” both of which emphasize the relationship between believers and Christ without specifically including Christ’s body.[1]

 

his body as a living sacrifice and his use of common things, including bread and wine, to bless and heal, reconcile, and bind people together, and also to exhibit “the grace, power, and presence of the Kingdom of God.”


 

The Fig Tree

One day Jesus told a parable (Luke 13:1-9)…there was a fig tree and the master came out to inspect it.

“This tree has been here 3 years and never produced fruit, cut it down”

“Tell you what, I’ll dig out a new home for the tree and give it fresh fertilizer (and water), why don’t you wait a year and see if it produces fruit then” the gardener persuaded

“Fine but if it doesn’t grow, chop it down”

And that is the end of the story…no resolution, no happily ever after, why?

Because the point of the story is the need for nourishment, as the kids in church said today, chopping down a tree isn’t going to help it to produce fruit, but encouragement does…

But digging even deeper into the story, we have to wonder, what is the point of the fig tree producing fruit anyway? Here it goes to all the trouble of growing fruit for what…

to nourish itself?

to have it sit there forever?

to help itself to grow bigger and stronger?

No, it does it so that some other creature can eat its fruit! The usefulness of the tree is not in the tree structure itself; the tree was growing just fine without any fruit, but in how it nourishes others…

And that, my friend is the church, we exist not to nourish or help ourselves, but to share our fruits with others.

If we have no fruit, if we go on upholding our structure, then we are not, in fact, successful.

There is a theory (probably most famously put forth in the book “Bowling Alone”) that society embraced and loved institutions in the 1950s. There were many groups that flourished in this time: scouts, elks, bowling clubs, churches. Churches adapted the institutional structure and did as well as the rest.

Today the structure is to make your own kind of community. You do yoga alone, you make connections online and through relay rides and couchsurfers (for my thoughts on millennials read here). But, that doesn’t mean the hunger/the thirst for God isn’t still there (Psalm 63 was paired with the fig tree gospel reading for a reason). People long for a spirituality that feeds them, has  integrity (***please note, I do not mean they want a vending machine or religion that caters to their every whim, but something that is both relevant and still full of integrity), and one that practices what it preaches–supporting social justice & those in need. Millennials have just internalized the independent nature of our culture (I’ll do it alone, in fact I’ll make a community all on my own) hence: Spiritual but not religious. Church’s need to figure out how to nourish that independent nature so it too can produce fruit.

Its like a Farmer’s Market where people want to take responsibility for their food by connecting to the people who grow it…How can church be less like a supermarket and more like a Farmer’s Market?

After all, Jesus came and gave his ENTIRE LIFE as nourishment for all of us, that is why we (Presbyterians) practice open communion, because everyone gets to share in the spiritual fruits of Christ!

I’m not saying bowling is better than yoga or vice versa, I’m saying that when the church is able to make spiritual fruit to nourish others, that is called ministry! (again we are back to the Farmer’s Market at my church, how can we make it MORE nourishing)

 

How can we, as a church, make the fruit to nourish others.

 

PS do you know olive trees live thousands of years? In the Garden of Gethsemane I was able to see some fig trees which, in all likelihood, stood while Jesus prayed right before his crucifixion. So really, giving a church/person/tree of a couple of years when we can grow and be shaped by thousands is looking at things from a human perspective…How much more can God see, from where she sits? Here is a picture of some of those ACTUAL trees!