Friday, February 17, 2012

A Presbyterian's Purgatory

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)


"This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world,
but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness.
They went for the darkness because
they were not really interested in
pleasing God.
Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil,
addicted to denial and illusion,
won't come near it,
a painful exposure.
anyone working and living in truth and reality
so the work can be seen for the God-work it is."

Eugene Peterson, The Message



    I don't believe in purgatory 'cause I can't find it in the Bible.

    It sounds good if, uh, you need to make a better case for after life than you did in life.

    On the other hand, I've often re-imagined some kinda purgatory - Hey!  Hey!  Hey!  I'm a mainliner and we're always re-imagining stuff that ain't in there! - that's terribly uncomfortable pour moi.

    It goes like this.

    I die and find myself alone in some kinda video viewing room or movie theater.

    Suddenly, a video/film of my life starts playing; and, simultaneously, uh, He sits next to me, puts one arm around my shoulder, passes a bag of popcorn to me, and says, "This should be interesting."

    Knowing He already knows what's coming in an omniscient kinda way, I start getting anxious.

    Unnervingly, He shouts, "Stop the recording!  Bob, what was that all about?  What were you thinking?"


    Fortunately, I know Him as Savior as well as Lord; meaning I get in by the suffering skin of His gracious cross.

    But, and please don't tell any of our anal theologians or ecclesiastical thought police or other churchmeisters, I often re-imagine that in a purgatorial kinda way.

    No, I'm not having a flashback; and, yeah, I inhaled but never dropped if you know what I mean.


    Even I have one.

    And every once in a while - actually, frequently - I can hear Him asking, "What were you thinking?"


    As I've mentioned before, I'm just scratching the surface of my relationship with Jesus.

    As my big one approaches - click on "My Birthday Confession" (1/26/12) in the right column for a review - I realize I don't know as much as I pretended previously.

    I'm not even close to arriving; and every time I open up the Bible or hang out with Him in prayer/meditation-motivated-by-the-Word, I feel, except for hairline/waistline, like a rookie all over again.

    One reason for that is I'm still ridding myself of all of the garbage from "lower" education that got/gets in the way of His "higher" education if you know what I mean; and if you don't, take a look at 1 Corinthians 1:18ff. for a crash course.  BTW, it's really interesting/challenging/convicting/converting in Clarence Jordan's Cotton Patch Version if you've got one next to all of those other books on the shelves that you haven't read but really impress the...

    Anyway, I spent a lot of time reading books about the book in college, seminary, graduate studies, and for the longest time.

    It's like those small groups that get together for "Bible" study but really just read books about the Bible rather than reading the Bible itself.


    Why spend so much time on/in secondary sources when we've got the primary source?

    I like how Chan puts it in Forgotten God; recounting a conversation with some cultists who were so sure about what's in the Bible without having read it like so many of us: "I challenged them to read the Bible for themselves, rather than simply accept what they've been told about it...Had I ever sat down with the Bible and sought after its self-evident truth?  Or had I passively ingested what I heard from other people, much like my front-door visitors?"


    I gotta admit that I spent most of my college, seminary, graduate studies, and too many years as an ordained pastor trusting what others told me about what's in the book without ever really immersing myself into it.


    I think that's a really, really, really big clue why so many churches/pulpiteers/pewsitters are so messed up like me.

    I'm not saying I'm less messed up; just saying I've finally figured out how to get some of the mess out of my life/ministry.

    Get into the Word more than words about the Word!



    Matthew 23.

    The Message: "The religion scholars and Pharisees...[aka clergy] a good line, but they don't live it...It's all spit-and-polish veneer."

    I think of wearing all of those ridiculous looking vestments that I can't even re-imagine Jesus wearing for cost alone not to mention, again, how Halloweenish they look and hiding behind those God-awful-expensive pulpits and pontificating about loving Jesus by loving like Jesus while being so my-way-or-the-highway and irreconcilable about inane things like liturgy, bulletins, furniture, architecture, grammar, Brooks Brothers, wingtips, blah, blah, blah, and all of the other non-Biblical-especially-since-Jesus trappings of imperial priesthood.  And that's not to mention my hypocrisy of not practicing what I...

    The Message: "Their lives...[uh, clergy]...are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next.  They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called 'Doctor' and 'Reverend.'"


    The Message: "You're hopeless!  What arrogant stupidity!"

    Ouch, Ouch, Ouch.

    "What were you thinking?"

    I wasn't.

    Still don't too often.

    I have this terrible, uh, habit of spending more time reading about Him or auto-suggesting about Him than immersing myself in...

    How can I get over them/me and back to Him?


    Get into the Word more than words about the Word!


    I think I/we made/make a religion coincidentally/occasionally related to Him by trusting what we/they think about Him too much more than reading/digesting what He's best revealed about Himself in the Word.

    The difference between eisegesis and exegesis comes to mind.

    Candidly, I think today's church is more a product of eisegesis than exegesis.

    Kung: "What then is the aim? discover what is permanent...originally meant, before it was covered with the dust and debris of two thousand years...This is not another gospel, but the same ancient gospel rediscovered for today!"

    Truly, I don't believe in purgatory; yet I'm really, really, really trying to get the hell out of it, uh, sooner than later, uh, if you know what I mean.


    Now might be a good time to click on the link above.


Blessings and Love!


DG said...

Well . . . some would suggest that, for the desperate who are living without a sense of hope, our daily existence is a closer match to Hell than the "in-between place" of Purgatory.

At least with the RCC version of theology, Purgatory is just a spiritual Denny's alongside the freeway to the Promised Land. A couple of Papal Dispensations and your check is paid so you can get back on the road! On the other hand, Hell seems inescapable to those who have just enough spiritual awareness to know something is very wrong -- but no true relationship with Jesus after all is said and done.
The biggest glitch in your analogy is the past tense of the verb. "What WERE you thinking" can be seen as awfully condemning . . . In the here and now, what we should be striving to hear is "What ARE you thinking" so we can see His open door and light on our path . . .

That would save a lot of angst, don't you think?

Dr. Robert R. Kopp said...

I think you've got a great point, brother.