Betwixt and between…

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As we continue our Lenten series “The Story” at St. Andrew’s, today we were taking a look at Jesus’ life on Earth. The time before his ministry, or at least leading-up to his ministry. There isn’t a lot of Biblical material on this time and Geoff handled that (very well!) by taking some time to look at the doctrine of incarnation – the idea that God had to become one of us for the plan of salvation to work.

In the middle of his sermon, Geoff mentioned that believers today don’t question Christ’s humanity. We find it easy to believe that a man named Jesus lived in Israel a couple of thousand years ago. We find it easy to accept that he was, indeed, a human being. We struggle with the concept that he was also divine – the Son of God. But it wasn’t always that way. Early believers struggled to believe he was really a man. They found his divinity easy to grasp – after all, he performed miracles and rose from the dead. But they felt that it must be that he only “seemed” like a human.

I was glad Geoff pointed this out because it made me think of how much difficulty we have with paradox. We like things to be black or white, not a shade of grey. We like to be able to label something, definitively. To put a name on it. To understand it.

We’re not so good at dealing with “both/and” situations. We’re not so good at living in the tension between two possibilities. We tend one way or the other. So with Jesus, who was both God and man, we tend to highlight one of those things and downplay the other. In seminary, we call this having a high Christology (ie, it’s easy for you to accept Christ’s divinity) or a low Christology (ie, it’s easy for you to accept Christ’s humanity).

But the thing is…the life of faith is one lived between. Between our sin and God’s salvation. Between the moment of birth and the moment of death. Between knowledge and mystery. Between who we are and who we were created to be.

It’s not easy to live in the betwixt and between, but it’s good. It is there that God meets us. In the middle of our mess, in the middle of our confusion, in the middle of life.

During the journey through Lent, may you find yourself a little more at ease with paradox. May you find yourself living betwixt and between, and may you know the God who meets you there.

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.
Hebrews 4:14,15 NLT

Complex…

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I have often struggled with the idea of Lent. I think this is because, historically, Lent was a time when you couldn’t sing happy songs, when you couldn’t eat tasty foods and when you couldn’t wear bright colors. All of this was because you were meant to be participating in the sorrowful sufferings of Christ…so how could you possibly sing or eat or dress in joy? You were meant to be in mourning.

But my experience of faith is that things are not so hard-and-fast. In a time of mourning you may find yourself smiling or laughing. In a time of despair you may find yourself giving hope to another. In a time of brokenness you may experience healing. Life is kind of messy and emotions don’t stay in neat little boxes. Nor does God allow us to experience only one emotion at a time. God made us more complex than that.

So while I appreciate the idea of taking a season to remember all that Jesus has done for us and all that it cost Him to do it, I find it very difficult to impose what sometimes feel like false restrictions in order to do that remembering. Because that isn’t true to the beautiful, messed up, paradoxical life each of us is living.

For me, this winter has been brutal. I have struggled with illness after illness and while none of these illnesses were debilitating in the long run (it’s been two stomach flus bookending a wicked boomerang cold that came back just when it felt like it was on its way out), they have knocked the stuffing outta me and taken some precious time away from me. That’s been tough. I’ve shed more than one tear over that this winter.

At the same time, there are some very exciting things happening at St. Andrew’s, Brampton, where I serve as Associate minister. Our G.R.A.C.E. Group network is coming along, we are making strides forward. You see? Even in a time of struggle, God is at work, birthing something new and beautiful in our midst.

This passage from Hebrews reminds me of this “life doesn’t fit into neat little boxes” theory of mine:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
Hebrews 12:1, 2 NLT

Because of joy, Jesus disregarded the shame of the cross. Because of joy, Jesus went willingly to lay down his life for us. Because of joy – and shame and suffering, and death and new life – we know what it is to walk through this life as a beloved, cherished child of God, never alone.

I am thankful, even in a time of struggle or a time of mourning or a time of remembering suffering, for the fact that God made us complex enough to experience more than one emotion at a time. I am thankful that on the cross, joy and sorrow meet. I am thankful for the new things God is doing in our midst.