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Friday, December 22, 2017

12-25-17 A Christmas Wish - Seeking the Spiritually Marginalized


Who causes sadness, among the gladness, what makes us cry?
  What is the reason, for friends who leave us―it drains my laughter dry.
  Where do I fit in, where do I belong?
  Thought I had it all, thought the price was paid.
  But here I am alone again.
  Where do I fit in, where do I belong?
  I didn’t get back what love I gave―I’m just water down the drain.

                                                                                                Mark A. Cornelius

What a contrast is Christmas,

You Lord, know this best of all: In a time when a master country of unparalleled influence popularized and encouraged strange, even perverse cultural norms.  At a moment when individuals and countries lost themselves and depreciated their deeper beliefs in hopes of not becoming targets of ridicule or even persecution; in a land where your ways and your people were oppressed by an unwelcomed government determined to overrule you on the world stage―you appeared.

Your entry was not grand as I would have expected. Your humble approach in physical life seeming the polar opposite of what any might have imagined if God were to walk as a human. And how did we receive you? As a baby most did not recognize you, as a child you were ignored, as a man you were crucified. You joined the ranks of the marginalized.

“Oh,” many will say now, “I wasn’t there. Had I been, I would have opened my arms to you, cherished and worshiped you, maybe even given you some friendly advice on how to work with us.” Some think you are nothing but a concept; at best a moral example only; at worst an archaic notion easily replaced by supposedly improved societal inventions. Now, as then, we have difficulty fitting you into the framework of our modern self-centric lives.

I think to myself, beyond my belief in you, how can I break the cycle, how can I love you as you loved us? Your answer is a difficult one. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Not that I can’t or won’t serve my community and the nations beyond. In our defense, Lord, over the centuries and into this era, the world, me included, has demonstrated some capability at stepping up to the plate to donate a dollar, offer support, lend a hand to build a better world. Even the Romans understood this.

Then again, even the psychopath thinks he is improving things by his actions.

We all know the fancy credos: Teach someone to fish and we will all be better. Lift up the downtrodden and we all improve. So we march out, even those who don’t believe in you, to altruistically demarginalize those who have been cast aside. What a good feeling it is to invite them back into the fold.

And then, Lord, you correct me. It is not just their bodies and their minds that have been censured. It is their spirits that you long for. “They know not what they do,” you once said. And yet you sought to forgive them into relationship with you. If they would only ask, seek and knock for the same.
So you teach me once again what I thought I knew differently. It’s not just the physically or culturally aberrant that we sector off into convenient corners, it is the spiritually marginalized―the very ones you encouraged us by your example to touch.

But who are they really that we push aside in favor of our stronger standard? If we reached out to them in a sincere desire for mutual understanding (not forced tolerance), and requested the same in return…an honest dialogue…would your redeeming sacrifice be diminished? Would your better way be risked? Of course not, you assure me in your word. It is not only the why of redemption, but also the how.

Sadly, our human history of how has not been stellar. Instead of listening for the opportunity, learning the personal biography of hurt that each of them carries, and then inviting your Spirit to heal, we unknowingly or uncaringly encourage a more divisive cycle, sifting and censuring the right from the wrong, the best from the worst, the privileged from the unwanted.  Our churches and our institutions separate out those who don’t quite fit our expectations, don’t exactly match our theology or our social constructs. Not that we won’t assist them, we just won’t engage them on a deeper, more sacred level, becoming familiar with their personal creation story, daring to inquire of their salvation, whether or not they are even alert to the need for redemption, being bold enough if they say, “not interested” to hear the honest individual reply in follow up to, “why not?”

Is this the lesson-complete, Teacher? Or is there something more that I’m to receive? I confess that I have spiritually marginalized others…but can others acknowledge that they have denigrated my deeper values? Can we, every one of us, have the courage to admit that the spiritually marginalized are not just them…it is us. And what we have done to one another, we have then done to you.
Forgive us, for we still don’t know what we’re doing…without you.

Lord, I know that all of this is not just about listening, watching, and critiquing. It is as much about doing. That means some action on my part. I want to write about this and will dwell on the subject over a longer course of time. I desire to develop a more concise definition of what it means to be Spiritually Marginalized. But beyond that, you are inspiring in me a new hunger to engage the disengaged, to offer a reliable sanctuary for those who feel they have had their voices muted, their beliefs squelched. I want to invite and openly share in a deeper discourse, where even the faith and practices of those who believe openly and bravely in you may be safely shared without condemnation or reprisal toward their convictions.

And finally, Jesus, since I started with the subject; what does this all have to do with the season of Christmas? This is the season of joy, right? We are supposed to be all about hope and peace. Yet the number of suicides and crimes, the callous way we rush to parties and ambitiously aspire to either give or receive the shiniest gifts, suggest that we are either ignorant of, or resistant to the true purpose of your arrival…your offering of redemption to all who have ever been sidestepped or trampled upon by others. Ironic isn’t it, that all of us fit both the definition of “belittled” and “belittler”? Yet you loved us enough to offer your own marginalized life as a sacrifice for ours.

Thank you for your humble example and your open arms, Lord, that I, and any marginalized journeyer willing to approach, may find a home of truth in the message of your good-will. I pray now in invitation, for others to respond. Let the dialogue begin!

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
                                               Matthew 11:28-30

Peace and Good News from Him to us,

Mark C.