The Church is sometimes not easy to love. Ego, pride, control, competition can run rampant. My motivation for Church life and structure has taken a beaten this season. I still enjoy a good bible study. I explored a new Church this week-end Jesus Culture in Folsom High School. I needed fresh inspiration. It was my first “out of Bayside Church” experience. I was blown away by the sermon, worship, welcome and sense of celebration in the community. Spiritual revival is happening in Northern California. It’s powerful, audacious and the primary reason I’m still here.
This year marks the 500 year anniversary of The Protestant Reformation. Israel celebrates the 50 years after the 1967 six day war, an astonishing triumph of strategy and the reunification of Jerusalem. I was born on November 22, 1967, 50 years ago. Psalm 50 describes a God who; “Shines forth and will not be silent, a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages.” This psalm of Asaph also describes the destruction caused by wicked people, a wicked tongue and what happens to those who forget God.
My cultural adjustment back into California life has been slow and challenging. The isolation of suburban America, and lack of close bonds to thrive (I’ve lived here just under 3 years) has been a hard rain. This sense of social dislocation was not my norm growing up. After losing my mum in Ireland, I’m still journeying through a wilderness of grief. The sense of loss that accompanies the mourning part of the journey has eased up a lot. I’m still angry at God. The Institutional Church in Ireland hurt my mum badly in her formative years. I’m struggling to let it go.
This morning I had coffee with an Irish American friend. We talked about the excavations of the mass grave of babies and children found at the Taum care home in Galway, Ireland. Excavations at the site of the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home have uncovered an underground structure divided into 20 chambers containing “significant quantities of human remains”, the judge-led mother and baby homes commission said.
The power structures are changing in Ireland; culturally and politically. There’s a new hope amongst the younger generation. I was encouraged by this article describing the religious revolution taking place there. A bold and audacious faith is emerging unencumbered by the cruelty, dysfunction and repressiveness of the institutional church ;
I was comforted when I heard that many Holocaust survivors did not want to talk to God either, due to their anger. I can understand that. I’ve heard too that those who were part of Ireland’s Lost Babies describe this as a “selective mute” experience. It was their way of handling the trauma and taking control. One friend told me she was mute for 2 years, after being sent to America from Ireland for adoption, at the tender age of 3. Her only crime was she was born out of wedlock. My mum was mute for a period after being released from captivity in the Sisters of Mercy convent in Cork.
In ancient times the Hope of Israel was that they served a God who was and is full of mercy. Intellectually I know that he prefers that I speak to him, and seek his presence, He wants to hear my heart no matter what I’m feeling. Most of the psalms of the bible are lament psalms which is foreign to today’s nice, picture perfect Instagram culture. God can handle my pain or anger. Hebrew is more physical linguistically than Greek or English and it describes a God who is “truly slow to get his nose going in anger.”
The prophet Moses understood this better than anyone. In Exodus, the most important book in the bible, God tells Moses he is sending a messenger to accompany him and Israel into a holy war; to war and to possess the land and then give them peace. Moses was to strictly obey this angel, a messenger who walks between God and the people on earth. The messenger was their heavenly protection. But Moses knowing how stiff-necked the people of Israel were warned God about their stubbornness. He said if they sin the messenger won’t forgive them. He asked God to personally accompany them because he understood the mercy nature of his God. If and when Israel disobeyed Moses knew he could call on God’s presence, grace and mercy to save them. The angel wouldn’t cut it.
1. If I choose to be disobedient, selectively mute, angry, stiff-necked, stubborn, God can take it. He can also use it for good purposes.
2. I can ask for what I need just as Moses did.
3. The Protestant Reformation was a catalyst within Christianity but don’t romanticize the Protestant Church. It hasn’t rid itself of its hypocrisy and capacity for cruelty.
1. Moses understood the nature of Israel.
2. Moses understood the nature of God and used it to help Israel get to the Promised Land.
3. Only the Sovereign Lord can forgive our sin.
4. The Sovereign Lord has too too much mercy.
Bible Verse: Psalm 73 was Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s (German pastor martyred by the Nazi’s) favorite psalm. The last verse of the psalm says ;
“Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.”