Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Those Who Try Us

Christ on Trial: How the Gospel Unsettles Our Judgement
by Rowan Williams

Some may remember that I read and posted on this book about a year ago. I recently re-read it - my congregation used it for our Lenten Book Study, and I liked it just as much the second time, if not more. Williams presents ideas that call us to look at WHY we have faith in the first place and what effect our relationship with God has (or should have) on the choices we make in day-to day life. In his chapter on Mark, Williams argues that a relationship with God is useless - that is, if we are applying the world's vision of "useful." Reminds me of Thomas Currie's book Ambushed by Grace: The Virtues of a Useless Faith. I read that years ago, and Williams may have spurred me to find a copy of it (when I read it before, I borrowed KB's copy) and think some more on this idea.

The main idea that I have been mulling over is the one from Luke where Williams essentially says that God is to be found in the connections that we cannot make with one another. As I considered that idea in light of his background idea of Trial - Christ's trial and the trials that we face from moment to moment, I realized that the very people who "try" my patience and who are the most difficult to understand may be the ones to whom I need to pay the most attention (oh really? do I have to?). The connections that we cannot make, and the barriers that stand in our way, may take a variety of forms. The most obvious is geographical, but there are also cultural barriers, as well as theological and ideological. Plus let's face it, there are people who look like us and think like us but for amorphous reasons STILL get on our nerves. In fact those personality dividers may indeed be the most difficult to overcome. Perhaps those people who try us in this way are the ones who (whether we like it or not, or whether or not we realize it in the heat of the moment) in some unexpected way can be a pathway to the experience of grace. Wow.

It's too soon to tell if it's "working" or not, but in the last couple of weeks I have been intentionally trying to be open to this possibility of encountering the Divine through people who (for whatever reason) get under my skin. I find myself praying a brief prayer that I learned from Heather King's book Redeemed (more about that book in a few days): "Bless her (or him), change me." I've been surprised by how difficult it can be to pray those words. I've also been surprised by how freeing it is once I say them. Hmmmmmm.

Reverent Reader


At 5/10/09, 11:15 PM , Anonymous Cornelia said...

If we look at ourselves honestly, there are always lessons to be learned from people who we fail to connect with. Like you say, though, that process can be trying as well as rewarding!
I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts about Redeemed, which I read recently!


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