*note: this post was written by contributor Pastor Frances Rosenau of Westminster Presbyterian Church of Albany. It was originally posted here on the WPC blog and in their newsletter. I haven’t set Frances up on the site yet so I’m posting this for her, but when I do, we’ll get her byline sorted out.
Even though it’s not my cup of tea, I understand why some people of faith are drawn to religious expressions that are absolutist, where right and wrong are clearly spelled out. Sometimes I, too, long for life to have an instruction book, for someone to tell me which direction to go and how to live faithfully.
As a new parent, I feel the yearning for certainty even more acutely. Some days when there is a new challenge to overcome, I would love for some guru to tell me what to do in order to get through the day. I am not alone. There is a multi-million dollar industry that thrives on new parents who want to be told what to do: books on different ways to approach everything from feeding to sleeping, discipline to diapers. I know because I’ve read them.
The parenting section of the bookstore feels very similar to the weight loss or the self-help sections: all making a lot of money off people who are looking for someone to help them.
Some would argue Christianity fits in this list. After all, doesn’t salvation come from above to save broken humanity who cannot save themselves? Truly, this would be an oversimplification of our belief on salvation. First of all, Jesus was not outside of humanity since he was fully divine and fully human. Also, Jesus teaches that there is tremendous potential already welling up among people.
Once Jesus was asked when the Kingdom of God would come. He answered that it is not the kind of thing you can point to (or write a book about) but that “the kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:21) In other words, the Kingdom of God is not something we can find if we follow Seven Easy Steps or if we have someone there to tell us what to do. Jesus himself said that the kingdom is not something top-down that is completely different from what we already experience. No, the kingdom is here already and it is among us just begging to be noticed.
As a parent, I still read some books. But I have also learned not to rely too heavily on the latest greatest school of thought. People have been parents since the dawn of time, and I can trust my own wisdom and instincts.
This Lent, I hope that you get a chance to see the kingdom around you. The tradition of spiritual practices, such as giving something up for Lent, is designed to give us new eyes to see our life for what it is and to see God’s blessings all around us.
This piece originally appeared as a Pastoral Reflection in our Lenten Newsletter.