Thursday, March 30, 2006

a thought for lent in america

"the great sin of white north-american middle-class protestantism is shallow hopelessness, 'cheap hope.' we cannot be said to have a gospel because we refuse to know enough of the bad news to prepare our collective soul for the good. our insistence upon being and remaining positive and optomistic is what prevents us from exploring deeply the meaning of hope, biblically understood. we want to have easter sunday without good friday- or better, we desire a friday so 'good' that it is no longer for us a sybolic mode of identification with the suffering world."
- douglas j. hall, confessing the faith- 1998.
image copyright: phil nellis, 2004.

14 comments:

chris said...

hey man,
just curious...what do you mean by 'our collective soul?' i'm also wondering what you would define as a truly 'biblical sense of hope.' i guess i'm not following and i want a better understanding of what you're saying.

thanks.

chris said...

i failed to notice that it wasn't you who said this...

what does d.j. hall mean by 'our collective soul?' and what is his understanding of a 'biblical sense of hope?'

sorry for the mix-up.

David Pasivirta said...

man. I am SO there.
I love the part of Holy week in the orthodox church (which I am a part of now) where we have a funeral for christ, and read the psalter over the icon of Christ laid out, surrounded by roses with only a few oil lamps and candles lighting the room. its beautiful in its admittance of darkness. A true dark night of the soul, where Christ is dead all night, and all the next day. It makes Christ rising from the dead SO heavy with meaning.

Aaron said...

phil, i hear you on this-- loud and clear. i think this is something that has been on my heart over the past weeks/months. i have easily settled into a life of cruise control, "remaining positive and optomistic", yet in ignorance of my sin.

it's so easy to become comfortable with one's sin, embracing it as an integral part of your life, and not even noticing it anymore. my desire is to move to a place where i have a proper and true view of myself... my sin... my humanity... which can only lead to a habit of repentence-- keeping short accounts on my sin. in turn, i beleive this is the only way to truly know God's grace and the hope that we have been given...

i was hoping i would move toward this during this season of Lent-- being intentional in repentence, seeing my sinful nature, and taking it to the cross-- but alas, i have slipped into cruise mode again and lent has become nothing more than the act of giving up sugar...

anyone else feel the same way?

elnellis said...

chris, thanks for demanding an explanation of me... i love trying to get away with dropping "quotes out of context" onto the blog. hall is a contextual theologian who wrestles with the question "what does it mean to follow christ in post-structural/post-modern north america"? here, by usuing "collective soul," he is asking us to own who we are as a people group- americans (or as is hall's case, as canadians). how can the "good news" of the gospel be truly good if we fail to own the darkness, not just of our personal stories, but of our contexual stories (slavery of blacks, massacre of first nations, materialism, stance of arrogance in regard to the rest of the world...).
he defines hope (as he biblically understands it... in the tradition of the jews) as needing to be held in tension with the past. in otherwords, our hope for the future is connected to our experience of the past and impacts the way we live today. his critique is appropriate for many of us who exist in "comfortable-nominal-mediocre-suburbia." darkenss is always out-there, sombody else's busniness... certainly not ours.

elnellis said...

aaron, thanks for what you posted. i think you nailed what i was wrestleing with in my own heart without being willing to say it. i as well gave up sugar for lent... but i have not been intentional about entering into the suffering of christ on behalf of the brokenness of the world and of my being. my commitment to give up sugar has become a form of legalism for me- it's become annoying and meaningless, yet remains a source of shame i have put on myself.
i'm remembering the words of an orthodox friend of mine. he said that at his parish, his priest made the following announcement to the congregation after the 40 days of lent:
"if you gave up something for lent, come to the table. if you didn't give up anything for lent, come to the table. if you tried to give up something for lent and didn't make it the 40 days, come to the table!"
this is grace.

chris said...

thanks for the explaination, phil.

biss said...

Here is a link to the Paschal homily of Saint John Chrysostom that was just mentioned: www.stmarysbluefield.org/Articles/paschal-homily-of-st-john-chrysostom

"For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour, will accept the last even as the first. He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour."

This is a homily worthy of weeping.

nathan Barrett said...

Phil,

This post is right inside my experience this year. I just got home from the Bahamas where one of our ministry ships was docked and we spent almost a week at the Atlantis resort (very famous) with some donors for our new ship. The week after I spent some time volunteering at an AIDS camp on the island. We ended up having to clean a lot of things, including maggots off of a scabbed leg with flesh falling off, wipe soiled bottoms, clean rat shit up everywhere and remove a head covering full of rotten food, rocks and other misc. items. I know this is graphic but if you could have seen the contrast from people with 50 million dollar yachts to people with nothing but TB, AIDS, 2 meals a day, and puss seeping out of their wounds you would have been confronted with a disgusting view of reality. We did get them to the hospital - I want to still be there and I don't. This hope we experience has to be something born out of what Hall states otherwise I wouldn't buy, at least not now.

elnellis said...

wow nate. your words make me want to weep and rage. what a convoluted world we live in. i would love to hear more about what that was for you.
i love how this unique encounter with darnkness and brokenness has caused you, not to dispair, but to hold hope more deeply and fully.
wow.

pedro said...

My wife and I are looking for a local church to worship with, and last Sunday we went to an urban church in North Minneapolis. The congregation is outwardly diverse, but the church leadership is well aware that true reconciliation must still be accomplished. I sat through a very uncomfortable sermon on racial reconciliation in which the pastor reminded us in the congregation that America has a history of "-isms": racism, classism, sexism, etc. My soul was laid bare as he admonished the whites in the congregation to let go of "white priviledge." He brough up a lot of stereotypes about blacks that still permeate our American culture. He then admonished blacks that "black power" and the "black is beautiful" mentality is equally as heinous. Our identity and security must not be rooted in our own identities but in Christ. The end of the sermon reminded me of The Cost of Discipleship, when Bonhoeffer paints a picture of radical discipleship and alienation for followers of Christ.

We white Americans, in sweeping misery and suffering under the rug, have lost a fundamental understanding of the gospel, but the the gospel and its hope are no less present for us. I often think that we need to let go of our selfish, secure lives, and see the suffering that exists under our plastic, sterile American facade.

nathan Barrett said...

Phil,

I am going to try and share through a newsletter because it is hard to explain what was experienced without making it general. I probably won't be as graphic as my earlier post though, but will fill in where neeeded. I fly out tommorrow for Azerbaijan for 4 days and will sent out an update shortly after returning. Keep up the great blog. Love you man and make sure you let me know if I can come and visit in August. Blessings!

Nate

Firelance said...

just wanted to say i'm honored to know such thoughtful christian friends as you guys. I don't comment much b/c i just don't have time anymore to spend online. But i read this blog and am sharpened and challenged. thanks, brothers.
Rob Mezger

ps. chad, i'm alive and well! sorry i never responded...

notso-swift said...

I don't know David, but he's so right. Holy week in the Orthodox liturgy is the most gueling beautiful experience of every year. I find myself wishing every year that I had been more disciplined during lent. It's so easy to just fast and forget to pray. With my prayer life as it is I might as well be eating steaks for dinner every day. My first Pascha in the Orthodox church I had been very undisciplined and it just about brought me to tears when Fr. Pat read the Chrystostom sermon you mentioned. We miss out on so much when we don't fast, but the grace of being invited to the feast anyway is very moving.