High, moral, or holy - not middle

Cornel West was gave an interview with Salon which was one of the more interesting and resonating comments on President Obama. Dr. West is one of those people that I would love to study under if ever given the chance. The main reason this would be an amazing opportunity is not only because I am drawn to prophetic people, but because of the way he uses language. 

Although Dr. West is speaking about President Obama, I feel this sentiment is also true about the Church and us in leadership in the Church:

"He [President Obama] doesn't realize that a great leader, a statesperson, doesn't just occupy middle ground. They occupy higher ground or the moral ground or even sometimes the holy ground. But the middle ground is not the place to go if you're going to show courage and vision."

The UMC has stood in the middle ground for a while now on a number of issues, mostly out of fear of losing members or resources in our congregations. Sometimes the middle ground is the right place to be. It is safe and provides a place for discernment and even can be a place of love. And it is these positives of the middle ground that many of us (myself included) are tempted to stake our tent on this ground.

But the middle ground is not what the church was built on. The middle ground is not where Moses encountered the burning bush. While the Hebrews walked through the middle ground of the parted Red Sea, the Egyptians were drowned in the middle ground. Elijah did not hear the still small voice of God on the middle ground. Jesus did not walk the middle ground toward the cross.

I pray that I may be one who does not linger too long on the middle ground but stands on holy ground.

Even if I stand alone.

Maybe we are just standing wrong

When I go the ocean I notice there are two kinds of people. There are the people who in the waves and look out over the vast ocean. They see the waves come in and they take in the greatness of the ocean and they seem to get a sense that they are very very small. Standing looking at the ocean is humbling and we are awestruck when we do. It is important to look at the ocean and face the mystery of the sea. But facing the ocean also comes at a price. You miss seeing the beauty of the land behind you. Which brings me to the other type of person I see at the ocean. 

These folk stand in the waves and turn their back to the ocean and look at the magnificent beach and skyline of the land. It is amazing to see how the earth's features seem to be shaped by a carpenter's plane. The roughness of the rocks that shape the shore become smooth and those same rocks are now tiny specks wedged in between their toes as sand. The sound of the ocean behind and the breeze at their back they take in the great beauty, but turning your back on the ocean comes at a price. You miss seeing the great mystery of the ocean behind you. Which may be why many people prefer to face the ocean. 

But when we stand in the ocean and face the shore or the sea, we put ourselves in a position of great vulnerability. Not only do we miss the other half of life when we choose a direction to face, but when your shoulders are parallel to the waves you are susceptible of being knocked over by the waves.

Being knocked over by the waves of life is perhaps rooted in the way we stand, our posture. Which may be why so many religions talk about having or taking a good posture. If our natural inclination is to either face the ocean or the shore, the spiritual life teaches us to turn our posture so we are 90 degrees - able to see the sea and shore. This is also a posture we are more able to take the one coming waves without being knocked over.

We do not turn our back on that which we know (the shore) and we do not turn our backs on that which we do not know (the sea). We take the posture of being able to see both the known and unknown.

"Doing" is only 1/2 of the spiritual life

A common metaphor of the holy spirit in Christianity is the Holy Spirit is like the wind. This metaphor may be rooted in the Biblical tradition of the arrival of the Holy Spirit among the disciples that came among them like a rush of wind. Or perhaps when Jesus says that like the wind, we do not know where the Spirit comes from or where it goes. 

Not long ago I was reintroduced to an older metaphor (I believe from Origen) who said that the spiritual life is that like a journey on the ocean. We are each the captain of our boats and the Holy Spirit of God is the wind in our sails. As the sailor of the boat we can do a lot of work to get the sails just right, but if the wind is not blowing, we are not moving very far. Conversely, if we do not do our part to put up the sails the wind will blow right past us. And we will not get very far.

The spiritual life is that of co-worker. God, through the Holy Spirit is the wind in our sails, but we must open our sails to accept the wind and try to work with the wind as it blows. The wind blows on everyone, but not everyone is prepared to catch the wind.

This has helped me consider why it is that sometimes I feel like I am working as hard as I can on my faith formation, only to not move very far. The winds are not blowing.

And so, the spiritual life is not a meritocracy (the one that works the hardest gets the greater rewards). The spiritual life is a life of preparation, being ready and hoping that you catch the wind in our sails. 

Simply put, the spiritual life is one of work and wait.

Source: http://www.jacksongov.org/content/3275/361...