Moving With Others

I know who I am. I am a Christian. I love my heritage and thank God for it. But my identity as a Christian can never be a barrier, a wall, a reason for apartheid. Rather, my identity as a follower of Christ requires me first to move toward the other in friendship, and then to move with the other in service to those in need. In so doing, both the other and I are transformed from counterparts to partners. This is good news for both the haves and the have-nots. The haves suffer dehumanization — a loss of human-kindness — when they hold themselves aloof from their fellow humans, just as the have-nots suffer when the haves hoard wealth and opportunity at the have-nots’ expense. The gospel calls both to discover salvation in encounter with the other, in the love of God.

— Brian D. McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?, p. 249

For Our Sins

When people begin rethinking atonement, salvation, and the eucharist along these lines, they often wonder, “What then does it mean to say that Jesus died for our sins?” They assume the for in that statement means “as a penal substitutionary sacrifice for.” It is far more natural, I think, to interpret the for more simply. Consider, for example, these two sentences: “I took medicine for my disease,” and “I got a ticket for speeding.” In the former sentence, the word for does not mean “as a sacrifice to appease my disease.” For means “to help cure my disease.” So we understand that Jesus’ death intervenes in human history to have a curative impact on our hostility and violence, to turn us toward the ways of peace. And in the latter sentence, for doesn’t mean “to pay for.” It means “because of.” Because I was speeding, I got a ticket, and similarly, because we are hostile and violent, Christ died. God didn’t torture and kill Christ; we did. And that tells us something essential about both God and ourselves.

— Brian D. McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?, p. 212

Butterflies and Birds

There is meaning in focus, concentration, attention. I now notice almost every single bird that flies by, as well as every single butterfly. I pay attention to most plain old butterflies, not just the ones in tiaras or argyle socks. Butterflies and birds are like one perfect teaspoon of creation.

— Anne Lamott, Stitches, p. 87

God Uses People.

My young preacher friend Anni pointed out to me that God could do anything God wanted, heal and create through weather or visions or the ever popular tongues of fire, but instead chooses us to be the way, to help, to share, to draw close. To me, that is a terrible idea. No offense. Look at us. Look at the dry bones of the ruined people in Ezekiel. This prophet, who probably looked like a complete nut, had a vision of these bones coming back to life, becoming people again. His compassion and witness were the breeze that stirred them, the spirit, which is an infusion of energy, which is life. He roused them and got them back to their feet. Again, if there is a God, He or She does not need Ezekiel, or the people of this small burnt town, but instead chooses people. What a crazy system.

— Anne Lamott, Stitches, p. 61