Monday, May 2, 2011

First is last

I'm writing this for Rachel Held Evens' "Rally to Restore Unity" this week. The idea is to remind us, with humor if possible, that no matter what we are all one body. I'll admit at first I wasn't sure if I could do this. Lately the gut-punches of being on the wrong side of the Real Christian™ fence have felt like they are coming hard and fast and I can't catch my breath before reading or hearing something that slams me down again. Sometimes I wonder what the point is. This post is simply my thoughts on the matter.


My boys are arguing again. I'm tuning them out because it is the same old argument that they've had for months and they both are right but insist the other is wrong; there is no winning until understanding grows.

The beginning? One of them declares a race of some sort. Who can get to the car first. Who can stand up fastest. Who can say "I win!" first. You know, typical 6 and 9 year old stuff. Nonessentials. And whenever the 6 year old wins the 9 year old says with the full weight of scripture behind him, "Well, first is last and last is first, so I win!" This, of course, sends the 6 year old into a tizzy as he defends his title and me straight into migraine zone if the argument happens on the way to school (as it so often does). This week I had a talk with the 9 year old about his attitude not quite being what Jesus had in mind when he talked about the last being first, but he clearly didn't get it.

As grownups we can be just as childish sometimes. We seem to think that Jesus said we should ACT like little children. Three years ago I read an article about a fracas between Greek and Armenian (not Arminian) priests and worshippers on Orthodox Palm Sunday at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Apparently it began because a Greek priest was present when it was the Armenians' time to hold THEIR service, so in the true spirit of the risen Lord, they kicked him out, pushed him down and started whacking him with palm fronds.

Yes, palm fronds. Which were then also used to assault the police who tried to break things up. Because nothing says "Hosanna in the highest!" like using your palm frond as an assault weapon. Apparently the centuries old 'status quo' of who can be where and when had been upset and all bets were off. And we won't even go into the pre-Christmas fight at the Church of the Nativity when the priests went at each other with brooms.

In some ways it's easy to read stories like that and be almost amused. Imagine that, those priests pummeling each other instead of living out a life of love made flesh, the very reason for the sites they are so jealously protecting.

And yet...and yet...are we that far above all that? Maybe we haven't turned to brooms and stones or palm fronds. But how often do we pummel at our fellow Christians over the insignificant stuff? Over who has the 'right' to do something? Over our worship styles, the formality of our services? Over whether or not one used appropriate language to speak of God? What is the 'status quo' we think we are protecting? Who holds the perfect understanding of every nuance of God's nature? We've marked our territory, we've declared that we own this part of Christendom and then someone comes in and challenges us, enters our sacred territory with different garb. And the fists come up. First is last, last is first...or is it? It depends on how we're looking at it, doesn't it?

So maybe we need to put down the palm fronds and the signs. Maybe we need to figure out where our common ground is. We worship a risen Savior. None of us can fathom the depths of who God is. We love because HE loves.
(apparently Jesus also loves us when we make silly faces)
I don't know how to heal from the slashes of the palm fronds. I haven't figured out how to reach across that divide in love just yet, there's too much risk. All I can do is try to speak love with every word and every action. The only person I can change is me.

3 comments:

  1. "We seem to think that Jesus said we should ACT like little children."

    That made me giggle. So, so true, Rea. That story of beating someone with palm fronds really brings the point home. YIKES.

    We love because HE loves. I am taking that with me today.

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  2. wow! as i rifle through all the various 'stances' on God and Osama this morning, i love where this post comes from. more than once, i have whacked somebody with a palm frond, i am afraid :)

    love this.

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  3. THe acting like children bit made me smile too. We sure mix that one up...we can quibble like children, but not ask questions like children.

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