It's Holy Week.
Here's what it has meant to me, consistently ergo predictably, over three decades of ordained pastoral ministry: evening meetings every day except Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday that attract about as much attention as the New Jersey Nets and MSNBC, shut-ins who expect the sacrament delivered to their doorsteps but only when they're not at the mall or out to lunch or seeing a stylist of some kind, emergency counseling, frenzy over who's doin' what and when and maybe even why, and...
Here's a little secret; and please promise not to tell anyone.
Most pastors have terribly mixed feelings about the weeks leading up to Christmas and Easter because, well, uh, geez, sigh, it seems folks miss so much of the meaning for the mechanics.
Besides, the pressure is really, really, really on the robed ones during seasonal Christianity as the C&Eers show up for their semi-annual pilgrimage to the holy land and church ladies get nervous about 'em challenging/chastening their infidelities lest folks who offend Him throughout the rest of the year and most of their lives feel offended by challenging/chastening their infidelities.
I've been thinking about Cal.
He went home to Jesus on January 30, 2010.
He was/remains the paradigm of remaining faithfully in churches/denominations/franchises in which any connection to Jesus is increasingly coincidental.
Just before moving from militant to triumphant, his family heard him pray, "If I have ever done anything that diminished Your glory, please forgive me."
His fidelity to Jesus inspired tough-minded and tender-hearted love (see Matthew 10:16) as a presbyter as well as pastor of one of our presbytery's churches for over three decades.
He was without illusions about the apostasies of our franchise; yet he chided anyone who encouraged separation to be faithful as, well, uh, geez, sigh, unfaithful.
As my daddy would say, "He knew how to tell people to go to hell in a way that they were looking forward to the trip!"
His laments over what has become of the PCUSA made him a missionary to the mainline: "A prophet's quarrel with the world is deep down a lover's quarrel. If they didn't love the world, they wouldn't bother to tell it that it's going to hell. They'd just let it go" (Buechner).
Rather than retreat into the neo-monasticism of folks separating to be faithful as if you can leave one stinking denomination for another that doesn't stink too - and, gggooooooooooollllly, how the EPCers and New Weavers are finding out that real peace, unity, and purity ain't gonna be experienced until the roll is called up yonder - he looked up, stood up, spoke up, and acted up for Jesus whenever, wherever, and with whomever.
Sadly, part of Cal's heart was broken not long before he died.
He pleaded with the church that he had served so faithfully/fearlessly for so long along with his successors to remain faithfully.
Cal told one of his dearest friends who is one of my dearest friends that he planned to write a letter to that church at official dismissal and demand he no longer be considered/designated as their pastor emeritus.
I mention that because it's Holy Week.
Part of following Jesus is passing through the cross on the way to the crown.
Yes, Cal's wearing the crown these days; but along with the ups, downs, twists, turns, good, bad, and ugly that he experienced/endured/overcame as a pastor for so long and for so many years at that one particular church, his last days were very painful as he felt wounded by people and successors who ignored what was a major theme of his life and ministry: remaining faithfully.
Eli comes to mind: "You can either carry the cross or be the one banging in the nails."
I've been thinking about Cal.
God, please help me to follow Cal as he followed You.
I've got several friends who have separated from apostate franchises to be faithful and several who have remained faithfully as missionaries to the mainline.
God knows who is "more" right.
We'll know in the end (see 1 Corinthians 13:12-13).
One friend has confessed, "I thought I could leave one denomination for another one that didn't stink as badly. I was wrong. They all stink because they're all so human."
He's part of those EPCers and New Weavers who are as tied to the same old same old cultural way of doing things as we are; except they kinda like Jesus a little more and don't choke on His name in prayer, meetings, and homilies.
Buuuuuuut they're already feudin' about women and ordination and already pickin' and choosin' which ordination standards to enforce/abandon and...
Cal was/remains right.
Well, that's so crucifying; and it's hard to stay really, really, really down this week because we know He arose at the beginning of the next one to enable us to overcome all of the ecclesiastical, political, and socioeconomic do-do of all days.
Lest I/we forget, we are resurrection people who know He has already triumphed; meaning we live victoriously in the meantime.
God knows we know there's more evidence for His resurrection than BBPBHO's being born in the USA: (1) the focus of Biblical Christians on the resurrection since A.D. 32; (2) shift of the worship calendar from Saturday to Sunday because of the resurrection on Sunday; (3) 27 testimonies called the New Testament; (4) transformation of the original disciples from cowards into bravehearted gospelers willing to face the tests of torture and martyrdom because of the resurrection; and (5) Jesus is alive to all who believe in Him: "You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!"
That knowledge/wisdom/inheritance soothed, salved, and saved Cal from that wrenching disappointment of his last days.
I trust the same for you and me.
Blessings and Love!
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