I am a flawed Christian. There I said and it is off my chest. In Matthew 5:48 Jesus Himself says “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” I am definitely not what Jesus says I am to be, and I know it all too well. Surprise, neither are you so don’t try and pretend you aren’t.
This morning I had a revelation and it went like this. Last night I stayed up way too late, my digestive system was rumbling, did not sleep well and the alarm keeps annoying me to get up and go to church. So I kept hitting snooze until I was just too uncomfortable to stay in bed. During the time of snoozing my mind was not fully cognizant so deeper thoughts were able to come forth, hence the revelation. I was thinking about our new priest (I am an Episcopalian) who is a Rev. Dr. and we all know that a PhD means “piled higher and deeper.” But he is called to be the shepherd of our church, the flock, and we are called to be his sheep. Then I began reciting Psalm 23, “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makest (I love King Jimmy) me lie down in green pastures…” I have been taught that in olden days if a shepherd has a sheep that continues to stray he will actually break the sheep’s legs to get it to lie down and learn not to stray.
It is the shepherd’s job to lead the sheep to green grass and protect them from wolves. Lord knows the world today is full of wolves. Over the years, however, I have learned that the priests and preachers, the myriad of teachers, evangelists, and all of the theological types are also just like me, flawed, imperfect. The problem comes in when they try to act perfect and they preach and teach like they are perfect and that we should be like them and act the part. It does not work. We are all flawed and imperfect and we are all dying, some faster than others.
So much of the Christian world today puts on a front and wants to have all the answers to being perfect and doing things right. If you brush your teeth with Pepsodent your will have white teeth, if you use Dove soap you will have clean and smooth skin. If you drive some car in some specific color you will be an in person, and so forth and so on. It does not work.
In the modern Christian church if you pray a certain way you can have an inside line to God and your prayers will be answered the way you want. If you follow certain teachings then you will be living the “good” Christian life and will be counted as righteous. And oh yes, if you give so much of your money God will rain down even more money. It is a guaranteed rate of return. Furthermore, you should not hurt or feel pain, that is very unChristlike.
When we are born we begin the journey to death and we begin to decay and fall apart. Yes, at a young age we are still on the uphill but at some point the journey starts going downhill. Maybe very slowly and maybe the journey is very quick. Maybe the monster named cancer will strike or any of a number of other unnatural diseases and ailments. Perhaps an accident, tragedy or your life will be taken in a senseless crime of murder. That has been happening a lot lately. Just watch the evening news but don’t try and keep score as it is scary and depressing.
So back to our new Episcopal priest and how he plays into this revelation I had. What I realized is that Episcopal priests, more than any other minsters or theologians I am aware of know that they are also flawed and imperfect. And that is of great benefit to them. They know there are no simple answers, nothing pat to offer. Instead they can just “be” with their sheep. They can tend them, love them, and wash their wounds. That, I think, is what Jesus would do and what He does do. That is honest ministry and that is what people need to draw them closer to the Lord.
God Himself does not offer us answers except to offer us Himself. He offered Himself so deeply that He came down from heaven as a man, a man just like you and me (I use the term man in the third person meaning man and woman). This week we celebrate His coming, God Himself coming, as a newborn babe, totally innocent and helpless, meek and mild, borne of a woman into a harsh world. Jesus came to be born in a stable; sorry the hotel/motel is full go away, to show us God Himself in all of His glory. The glory Jesus revealed first came to shepherd’s, men like our new priest, people just doing a job who took the time away to go and behold Him, the Promised One.
Merry Christmas to all. Blessings in Jesus name.