Doorway

Readings: Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; Hosea 6:1-6, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10

“Come, let us return to the Lord; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us;

he has struck down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.

Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have killed them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light.

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. [Hosea 6:1-6, NRSV]

Irrational: Believing that all my problems will simply dissolve into a puddle of happiness and security because I profess faith in God is about as realistic as believing that the world is flat. Sure, it looks flat from where I’m standing – but my lack of a wider perspective doesn’t change the shape of the planet I call home.

Rational: Accepting that wishes and my best efforts to do the right thing won’t change the fundamental truth that suffering and loss will be woven into the fabric of my life makes it difficult to assign to God the pettiness of vindictive action on those who share my faith and those who most certainly do not. How can I square the love of God with the notion that all the good things in life and all the hard things are just so many gold stars and F’s I’ve earned in some cosmic grading system? Sometimes, it’s easier to let go of those thorny scripture passages in favor of trusting my own common sense and and sense of justice. Or at least cherry picking the acceptable and leaving the embarrassing.

non-Rational: Perhaps I’ve missed the point because I’ve mistaken the purpose. Holy writ is holy because its words create a doorway. If the beauty, ugliness, reassurance, and doubt it offers gets me to stand still, even for just a moment, a miracle has surely happened. It only takes that moment for the Spirit to enter, embrace the imperfect child I am, and draw me into a love so deep that I cannot find its limits.

Sometimes, standing before the door scripture builds can feel like death – and death at the hands of God, no less. And maybe it is. It’s the tearing and striking down of a faith too small to hold me or God. But I’ll only know that in retrospect. The question is: am I willing to stand before whatever door I’m offered to get there?

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Johnna

I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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