Friday, March 18, 2011

A New Awareness of the Groaning

I'm hesitating, even as I sit down to write out these thoughts.  They seem so very....Christian.  It's the faith that I ascribe to, though a word whose public expressions and definitions I don't always love.  And yet, these are the things I've been pondering lately, and that is what this blog space has been for nearly six years now - a place to write out the bits and pieces I'm pondering.  To wrap words around those thoughts and give them form.

I'll probably never forget the first time I became aware on a deep, internal level, that Christ's death was necessary in part because of me.

It happened nearly two decades after I first invited Him to be the Lord of my life, kneeling next to my mom, against an itchy couch, on dark brown shag carpet.

I was in a Catholic church, and it was Palm Sunday.

Catholics mark Palm Sunday differently from the culture in which I'd been raised.  Protestants are joyous, celebrating the triumphal entry.  Services are full of construction paper palm leaves and children waving them, marching around the auditorium, singing Hallelujahs.  Two decades or more of observing faith, and I was pretty sure what I'd find when I sat down in a pew for a Saturday evening mass. 

I was wrong.

A few moments acknowledging the palms, the triumphal entry at the beginning, and then the account of the Passion.

It was a responsorial reading.  The priest read the role of Jesus, others the role of the major players, and the congregation, well, we read the part of the crowd.  And so I stood there, crying out with a hundred or so strangers, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

It was a bizarre and personal experience, fully unexpected, and bearing with it a deep thankfulness for grace.

I found myself thinking about that moment again this past Sunday, as I read a professional code of ethics for one of the classes I'm taking.

Again, it feels odd to say this openly, but as I read the ethical code, I was struck deeply by the fallenness of the world.  As I read the code I thought about how codes of ethics, particularly this one, designed to protect those with limited abilities, mentally, emotionally, or physically, would be so unnecessary if we only loved and valued and respected life.  If there wasn't sin, and a fallen nature, we wouldn't need this.

It is, quite frankly, an uncomfortable, and unpopular thought.  It's not one that sits easily, even for me, and I ascribe to the theological beliefs from which it comes.  It feels intolerant and judgmental.

And yet, we have code after code designed to protect those who should not need protection - the weak, the ill, those who have some sort of limitation.  Code after code of things that should be common sense if we simply valued people, loved them deeply as ourselves.

I don't have conclusions to draw.  The moment of awareness on Sunday caught me off guard, and has left me uncomfortable all week.

I'm thinking a lot about the passages that speak of all creation groaning for redemption, for resurrection, to be made new.  And this week, as I sit with these questions, these awareness, as they make me uncomfortable, as I think about things I've been reading, as I follow news stories from Africa, the Middle East, Japan, I feel that groaning, and I pray for things to be made new.