A Journey Through Lent: Week 3

Have you ever read the writings of a Nazi? It is quite an out of body experience. In college I read a book on the interpretation of Isaiah; unknowingly the work of a Nazi Christian author. I wish I could remember the author’s name. His work impacted me so much that I carry the weight of it to this day. While I was reading the author’s thoughts on the persecution of Israel, he asked the reader a very thought provoking question. “What do you do when you realize that you are the one who has been persecuting God’s people?”

This question has stuck with me for years. I consider myself a Christian. I am a part of the Church. I am apart of a community of believers that not only spans the whole globe, but also all of time. I am a part of a movement of people that helped preserve much of human history. The church has created some of the greatest works of art in history. Were it not for a fellow believer by the name of Telemachus the gladiatorial ring of Rome would not have had an early demise. Had the Church not influenced music we may never have heard Handel’s Messiah. The anti-slave and women’s rights movements started because of the Church. The Christian Church was one of the first religious movements to allow women in leadership. When the political structure of Europe was falling apart, the Church was there to hold it together. Have we always done everything right? No. However, we have done a lot of good. I am proud of that. I am proud to be part of a movement that spans thousands of years and is continuing to gain momentum. In fact, I encourage you to take time and research the good that the church has done.

We also have done a lot of harm. Were we not also a part of a movement that saw the Crusades? While human rights movements have historically started with the Church, we have also been a part of the systems that upheld oppression. We have been a part of systems that did not allow black people to have rights. We have stood in the way of gay marriage. We have told women that they need to be silent. We have historically been seen as the oppressor. We have members of our body who are vocal about building walls and expelling refugees from our midst. All while forgetting that the author of our faith is a refugee. I am apart of a movement that has caused a lot of pain. Is causing a lot of pain. What do you do when you realize that you are a part of a system that has persecuted the people of God?

Lent is not only about us as individuals. It is also about the community. All too often we forget that we are a part of a Body. We are the Church. A collective of individuals. A body that spans the world and all of human history. We have forgotten to listen to others. We have all too often cast judgment on those whom we do not understand. We have ignored the pain that we have caused. Many of us have not taken responsibility for our faults. Too few of us have apologized.

“The Church is a whore, but she is still my mother” is a quote that is often attributed to St. Augustine. There is a debate on who first said this; however, I believe that it paints a great picture of who we are. We are not perfect. We have made mistakes. Why Christ continues to love and pursue a relationship with us I will never truly understand. It is an odd picture. A king marrying a whore. One that Marty Schoenleber III captures quite nicely. Despite all the blemishes. We are loved. We are forgiven. This week take the time to listen to the stories of those around you. This Lenton journey is not yours alone. You may just find yourself in a place where you need to take responsibility for the hurt caused to someone by one of our members. As an act of love, can you ask for forgiveness?