Thursday, February 7, 2008

Identity: What defines us

Few people truly know the length of time and the degree to which I fought the "changes" in my understanding that slowly developed over the past several years. As a pastor I sought, and continued to preach, the traditional answers that I had been given and embraced since my earliest training. Even while some of the broadening/changing of my understanding was happening, I tried to understand it as "personally meaningful" instead of embracing it as convictional (which I knew would then have serious implications for my pastoral identity). There obviously came the time when I could not keep my changes "personal," but realized there was an enlargement of my understanding that was inescapably convictional.

Some have questioned what this means for my assessment of those who are still in my former context. In no way is my decision to change church affiliation meant to imply that I do not still consider the BIC an ecclesial community full of people who have incredible hearts given to Jesus -- as good or better than any I know. I would say that the heart of the matter for each person is simply living as fully unto God as we each are able with the amount of understanding we have. When we stand before the Lord, the question is NOT going to be: Did you get your theology exactly (or even mostly) right? There will be "believers" who never knew the name of Jesus (much less were part of the Catholic Church), who hungered and thirsted for righteousness and who, in hope, believed there is a God who is Mercy and Love, and so they gave Him their hearts on that basis alone. Yet Christian life truly is about both head and heart, and the two need to have compatibility so that a person is not a spiritual schizophrenic. I did what I had to do.

That being said, and all that I shared in The Journey Home interview, my passion is not about "being Catholic" or wanting to focus on the things that divide Christians. I have chosen to be Catholic because that most enables me to follow Jesus as fully as possible given my understanding of Christian Faith and the Church. I want the passion of my life to be following Jesus.

Tonight I am starting to teach an 8-week class on the Book of Revelation in our Diocesan Institute. One goal is to counter the sensationalism that so often accompanies this text of Scripture. But more than that, this book of the Bible reminds us of who Jesus is, because in all of this world or the next, nothing is more important than knowing Jesus Christ our Lord. When we come to the book of Revelation it reveals what God has done and what God is doing and what God is going to do through Jesus Christ. That's what the book of Revelation is all about. We need to remember who Jesus is. We need to keep before us each day what Jesus has done. We need to give ourselves again and again to the one who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. That's how this book of Revelation can encourage us. God wants us to be his people. He wants us to be his witnesses. And through Jesus Christ, God has done everything for us that needs to be done. Whatever else we might say about the book of Revelation, it calls us to be what we're all about. It shows us a picture of what is true —a true picture of Jesus Christ. The invitation is to know him in all his glory.

That's one way to understand what it means to have a "heart for God."

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