Tuesday, March 09, 2004

12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee 8

12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (like me): Finding Grace to Live Unmasked by John Fischer on Amazon

STEP 8: "We are looking closely at the lives of famous men and women of the Bible who turned out to be ordinary sinners like us."

A few notes on the step 8 text:

12 steps for the recovering pharisee book coverI resonate with JF's saying like childhood itself, his imaginings about the Bible couldn't "remain so naïve." I also agree with his saying discovering the real stuff about these famous characters was a great relief. And I love JF's delineating the many foretastes of the New Covenant the Hebrew Bible includes. Sarah's subtle sins? JF suggests maybe we relate more to Sarah . . . lying to save my skin? Not a big lie like Jacob's but a smaller one like Sarah's . . . well, I'm extremely unlikely to commit a lie of commission, but one of omission? Today I'll say no more! Finally, JF says we need to tell our whole entire story about our successes and our failures, as "participants in the Story of which Jesus Christ is the beginning, the middle, and the end." Amen to that!

1. In what ways was your early Bible education/Sunday school experience similar to that described in this chapter? How did you feel when you found out the truth about the biblical characters?

Unlike JF, I didn't grow up on Bible stories because I didn't grow up in the Church or even on its margins or its leftovers! But I still so vividly recall the Sunday afternoon (I was about 7 or 8 years old) going past a church enjoying a summer picnic on the church lawn and I clearly remember thinking how fun it looked! So I thought I might like to belong to a church. Slow forward to these many years later, and I've lost all those naïve longings and yearnings and I live with the sometimes sad, often regretful or wistful memories that replaced my childhood naivety but I've also learned Jesus and how Jesus accompanies us along every step of the Way and how Jesus promises us the hope and joy of resurrection!

2. Are there any human figures in the Bible whose sin it seems should disqualify them from the place they were given? Why? What is your reaction to the sin of that person or those people? Does he or she resemble you in any way?

I'll go along with Jonah (and probably with Simon Son of Jonah, too). Previously on this thread I've written – despite my liberal and inclusive theology – one of my most major struggles remains not so much including those other-than-me's but more affirming them as being as worthy as I am. Their sin? Mostly not having the theological insight, ability to interpret scripture, vocabulary and so on and so forth. As the senior pastor I served with on the East Coast once reminded me, "Some of the people we serve have never even been in Harvard Square, let alone inside a Harvard classroom." So I'm saying the immense struggles I've been through these more recent years sometimes and somehow have obliterated my privileged background. So, like, I'm Leah Daughter of Jonah 

3. Has anything in your life led you to think that God cannot use you? If so, why? Is anything too sinful or too ugly or too shameful to be used by God for his glory?

Not really, though some ignorant comments from other pharisaical Christians who've informed me I'm not fit for professional ministry have made me wonder (in those bleakest hours of my most desolate nights). In real life I'm aware that, though I always was well-qualified for ministry, my more recent combats mean now I'm really qualified!

4. If God gets more glory working through sinful people than "righteous" ones, why shouldn't we aim to sin, knowing that his grace will be all the more visible in the light of our failure? What does Paul mean when he addresses this in Romans 6?

When I began reading this question I thought "Romans 6," so I'll refer you to Romans 6: since we've died to sin, how can we deliberately continue sinning?

5. Taking the teaching of this eighth chapter of 12 Steps as a model, what changes do we need to be considering and enacting in the local church?

Oh, we've got to intentionally be more inclusive of everyone. I'm still haunted by my intentional exclusion from a church where the pastor actually imagined letting me be active there (I was between calls, and it was another (but mainline, too) denomination) would mean some select big $$$ contributors would leave.

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