11 December 2009

Simul iustus et peccator. Painfully so.

Today was yet another one of those days where you get dragged from "wow, this work is such a great privilege" to "who the hell ARE these people, anyway?" The day in bullets:
  • Spent two hours working on Teh Sermon at a local coffee shop this morning
  • Picked up a quick lunch and reviewed this week's chapter for Theology for Lunch
  • Theology for Lunch from noon to one, which was yet another invigorating discussion of a chapter in N.T. Wright's Surprised by Hope.
  • Spent about an hour talking with a student that was unbloggable, but I can say it was the 'high' moment of the day in terms of doing pastoral ministry.
  • Received a call from one of the Synod staff, who is doing an Advent call-around to check in with all the professional staff in our synod. I was touched and thankful for our brief conversation.
  • Did some work around the office and had a phone conversation with a colleague who is going to help our local ministry board move into a time of visioning for our future as a ministry.
  • Took a phone call and had a long conversation with a good friend and colleague who got blindsided by some folks this afternoon. I want so badly to say what it is about, but it's unbloggable. Dammit. Suffice it to say it's yet another example of how churches can sometimes do things so very wrong-headedly. This is a congregation I've thought exemplified a lot of good things and a remarkable amount of spiritual well-being and maturity. Until now. Triangulation, accountability issues, gossip, fear, lack of trust and second-guessing - you know, the church putting its best face forward, same as always.
In our Theology for Lunch discussion, the subject of our Lutheran understanding of sin was raised and discussed. Simul iustus et peccator, we say: every Christian is, at the same time, saint and sinner. It's one thing to know this intellectually, to understand the concept. It's another thing to see it happening in person. One of the wisest professors I had in seminary once said, "no Lutheran pastor worth his or her salt should ever be surprised." In theory, I agree, but in practice I find that, time and again, I am surprised by the petty nature of so much that happens in the church. Surprised, angered and, in the end, disheartened.

I remain, on the whole, an ardent supporter of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church I serve, with all her beauty and all her warts included. If you'll look at the bullets above, the negative is numerically overwhelmed by many positives. Yet sometimes the negative is so banal and ugly that it becomes impossible to ignore.

Good church things will happen, likely very soon. And perhaps, in answer to my ardent prayers, the situation troubling my friend and me will be resolved in a healthy manner. But these things will happen again, because we are who we are: sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly, God's children, one and all.

To insist the church is always beneficent is fantasy. To refuse to admit the presence of evil in the church is an inability to see reality. John the Baptist warns us that being the church, claiming those ties to God, means nothing if we live lives unworthy of repentance and abuse those around us. Tonight, I'm more aware of that than I'd like; here's hoping tomorrow the pain will pass, but the awareness will remain.

Grace & peace,

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