Even Satan Knows He Does Not Exist

Photo by  NASA  on  Unsplash

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Pastor Brian Zahnd was explaining Satan to those of us who do not take the Satanvery seriously. Generally those are the people who are in the west, highly educated, wealthy, “rational” and suspicious of those things that are unscientific. A decent sized group of people.

In his efforts to explain the Devil, Zahnd described the way meteorologists would describe a hurricane. Hurricanes are powerful, destructive and are even given anthropomorphic names. But even as we name a hurricane, we know that the hurricane is the result of complex systems intermingling and colliding with each other. The hurricane cannot exist on its own.

Likewise Satan is powerful, destructive and given a name. We know that Satan is the result of complex systems intermingling and colliding with each other. As such, Satan cannot exist on its own. Satan is the result of the most complicated systems interconnected with the most complex animal on the planet.

Those of us who have read Stanley Hauerwas may recall how he wrote in his book Matthew, “That is why the devil is at once crafty but self-destructively mad, for the devil cannot help but be angry, recognizing as he must that he does not exist.”

The #1 Obstacle To Discipleship Making

One of the underlying conditions of the UMC is that there are fewer and fewer people in the USA who attend a Christian worshiping community. It may even be said that if the UMC were not in decline then the current conversations about ministry with LGBTQIA persons would be much less hostile. Like in sports, if we felt like we were “winning” or being “successful” then we would not be too worried about many things we are worried about now (rightly or wrongly).

There are many reasons why we no longer attend worship in the numbers we once did and I do not have to belabor those points we hear all “know.” However, of all the reasons I have heard there is one that is perhaps the most subtle and perhaps the most nefarious: People are already disciples.

Word of Life Church founder and lead pastor Brian Zahnd recently said the number one obstacle to making disciples of Jesus Christ in America is people are already discipled as Americans.

Many of us as pastors are more willing to talk about the evils within racism than we are to talk about the evils within patriotism. Many preachers would rather preach on peace and the end of war-making than how it is our churches (and salaries) are wrapped up in the military complex machine that is the USA.

I can honestly say the number one reason that I fail at being a disciple of Jesus is because I have been and continue to be discipled by the American myths. The Church is the last best place that I know that can help provide a space for me to unlearn from my teacher in order to become like the Master.

The Lack Of Unity Is A Feature Not A Bug

Photo by  Jachan DeVol  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jachan DeVol on Unsplash

What if the lack of unity is a feature not a bug?

The more I immerse myself in scripture, the more I come to see that the Church of Jesus Christ has always had a lack of unity. Read Corinthians or Romans. Perhaps the Jerusalem Council in Acts or the obvious lack of unity between Jesus and Judas or Jesus and Peter. The Church has always had a lack of unity.  

But why would a lack of unity be a feature and not a bug? Perhaps it is because the lack of unity in the Church means that the Church is bound together by something deeper than beliefs, doctrine, interpretation or anything else.

Imagine we were to create a Church that does have a lack of unity. Imagine a Church that has all the answers, that has all the questions properly ordered and the interpretations unquestionably clear. This Church would be unified on all matters and all thoughts. This Church would not need a savior.

Paradoxically, what holds the Church together is our collective lack.

The Church of Jesus Christ has a lack of unity because it has a unity in lack.

The thing that binds the Church together is the reality that we all have a lack. We all have fallen short, we have missed the mark. We lack the ability to save ourselves. We lack the knowledge of how to get out of the messes we make. We lack the foresight and the insight to see how far reaching our sin and mistakes are. The Church has gathered for two thousand years to declare, “We lack salvation, we repent, forgive us and heal us, O God!”

The lack of unity in the UMC is not a problem, it reminds me that we are always and all in need of the savior we call Christ. The Good News is tied up in the reality that the Church is a unity of lack.

One Emotional Check Away

It was stated in the Prosperity Now report that 40% of Americans are one paycheck away from poverty. This is just one more reminder that so many of us are living week to week and it is vitally important that there is a net floor that provided by society that no one can fall below. I am not an expert on how good America is at providing that floor, but 40% seems rather high for such a wealthy country.

While it may be that 40% of us are one paycheck away from financial poverty, I would add that it is at least that many who are one “emotional check” away from devastation.

Photo by  Sydney Sims  on  Unsplash

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Most of us receive love and support from family, friends and community. It is something that I see each week when I attend worship. People coming together to remind one another they are loved, that God is with us, that we are bound together and that when life crashes down there is a foundation that you will not fall below..

These "emotional checks” are regular in most of our lives. However, in tragedy, loss or just circumstances, there can be a lapse in those “emotional checks” and many of us are not able to sustain that loss.

While the government opens back up and we still make our way to try to build up the social floor of support, let us not overlook the sources of our “emotional checks” in our world. Break bread with friends, call a loved one, connect with strangers, practice mercy, share in love, participate in a worshiping community - these actions are among those that help each of us through those times when our lives shut down but we still need our emotional checks.