Friday, March 16, 2012

Ambiguity and ambivalence

I'm not afraid to admit that I don't know everything. I've always been like that. Just the other day was National Pi Day, for example. Now I know that pi is 3.14 etc. (and actually stretches on forever) but for the life of me, and no matter how many people have tried to explain it to me--starting with my dad, who was the best of them--I don't really understand what it means. And trust me, I'm not asking anyone else to try. PLEASE. Trust me, that's about as close to torture as you could put me through to have me sit at a table while you try to expand my brain--just one more time--with an explanation of pi. Nor, for that matter, do I find a discussion of the another kind of pie very fathomable. Now I can understand that manure breaks down and is good for fertilization but I don't want to have a conversation about cow pie. Not today, not ever. Not interested, not interested in my lack of interest.  So there's a whole lot of ambiguity about what pi (and pie) means and why it's important.

And there are a host of matters between in which I know nothing and have very little opinion. I don't care whether someone does thing or thinks that. Whether they believe in fly fishing, for example, or fishing with lures.  I'm absolutely ambivalent about fishing.  I'm also completely ambivalent about Chevrolent and Ford. This is a matter of extreme allegience for some people. Deal-breakers, one might say. We drive Toyotas, so that's probably why, though now that we don't need to cart wheelchairs and elders all over the county we're looking at downsizing in size and numbers of vehicles, so have looked at both GMs and Fords--because we just don't have strong opinions about such matters.  You might say I'm ambivalent about such things.

There are also some things about life with God in which I feel some ambiguity. God's purpose allowing certain things, for one thing--like holocausts and genocides, for example. I don't understand such things and cannot profess even the slightest notion of them. Nor do I know when Jesus will return. Yes, I realize that every other brother and his son like to predict such things (and, of course, women are not immune to such things, I just liked the sound of brother and son together), but the truth is we're all unclear about these matters. ALL of us. If there wasn't ambiguity, living in faith would be a whole different proposition. So yes, I live with ambiguity in my Christian life.

And you would be right if you said I was ambivalent about certain practices within the Christian church.  That is, I might believe a certain practice is correct but I do not believe that a different practice (within a range, I should clarify) is wrong. For example, there are a variety of ways to celebrate the Sacrament of Communion--from as often as the Body meets to once in a while. Likewise, there are many differences in what different churches believe about that sacrament-the range runs from everything that the bread and wine (which is always wine) actually becomes the body and blood of Jesus as we celebrate it to the sacrament being a symbol of His presence among us as we celebrate it.  I believe any of the distinctions are possible and the most important issue is that we celebrate Him until He comes again. That's the point.

Likewise with baptism--and the practices of infant baptism and the baptism of those old enough to make their own decision.  Though I have my own feelings about this, I don't find this a make it or break it deal-breaker. No way, no how. I will, however, say, that the practice of baptizing the dead can NOT be backed up in the closed canon of Holy scripture. That IS a deal breaker.
So yes, I live with ambivalence in my Christian life.

However, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1: 18f--"But surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No." For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us--by me and by Silas and by Timothy--was not "Yes" and "No", but in Him it has always been "Yes" in Christ."  There may be ambivalence in practice, and there may be ambiguity in future. But in faith there is only certainty. There is ONLY yes. Only YES.  There is no question about who Christ is. Or what He's done or what who we tell the world about Him.  We stand firm in who He is. Even in our ambivalence and ambiguity about other things, we stand firm about Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Because not only is Christ crucified, but we are also crucified to the world through Him--"For I have been crucified in Christ and it is no longer I who lives but Christ lives in me."  There is no equivocation in this. Christ died and the lives we now live we live IN HIM.

I'm not afraid to be unsure or unclear about things I don't understand. I don't have to know everything. Shoot, who would even want to? And I don't have to agree with everyone. Wow, how boring that would be! Even within the body, I don't have to break fellowship with those who aren't like me because HE brought together a whole slew of very, very diverse people--probably just to reveal to us how to do it, and that He wanted us to. But I do have to stand firm on Him. Always and always and always.

This is the sermon I always preach, I think...

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