Bob and Weave

Musings of an impostor. Welcome to the masquerade.

Archive for March, 2017

Night Court!

Posted by flyingbk on 03/31/2017

I prepare weekly Bible studies for my church small groups. I want to share a quote from the cutting room floor by my main man, Robert Farrar Capon. Those of us who grew up watching the TV show Night Court will especially appreciate this one:

The Father’s will for you – his whole will, his entire plan of salvation – is that you believe in Jesus, nothing more. He has already forgiven you, he has already reconciled you, he has already raised you up together with Jesus and made you sit together in heavenly places with him. And better yet, Jesus himself has already pronounced upon you the approving judgment of having done his Father’s will. But if you do not believe him – if you insist on walking up to the bar of judgment on your own faithless feet and arguing a case he has already dismissed – well, you will never hear the blessed silence of his uncondemnation over the infernal racket of your own voice. “He who argues his own case has a fool for a lawyer” is true in any court. But in this court you will be more than a fool if you try that trick. You will be an idiot. There is no case. There is no evidence against you. And there is no courtroom to display your talents in. It is all quashed, all over but the fun of having an eternal drink with the Judge who makes Harry Stone look serious. This is the Gospel as Night Court. All you have to do is hoist your glass and say, “Yes, Judge. Cheers! Skal! Salute! Ein Prosit! Bottoms up!” The whole thing, you see, stands forever on its head: the last shall be first – just for believing.

-Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus

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Jaded or Joyful?

Posted by flyingbk on 03/28/2017

I’ve been attending in2 Crosswalk for about eight months now. (By the way, if you’re looking for a church with a friendly congregation, many ways to get plugged in, and a pastor who’s a preacher-poet, come visit us!). During that time, I’ve spent many weekdays and weekends in the greatest city in the world. I love so much about New York City- how there’s so much to explore and do, how there’s so much energy and buzz (I love people watching and I actually enjoy loud crowds and tight spaces), and of course, the FOOD.

But NYC certainly has its foibles. One night, while walking around the East Village after hanging out at a bar, one of my crazy bros decided to perform a trust fall directed at me. His attempt startled me, causing me to freeze. This pause unfortunately created a domino effect in which I staggered backwards into a man who was clearly in a rush. He promptly yelled obscenities at both of us, and another guy joined the sneering. My friend muttered something under his breath, certainly not anything hostile, and the first guy stopped, turned on a dime, and menacingly asked: “What did you say?” My friend replied, “Just… Have a nice night.” “That’s what I thought,” was the man’s final words as he whisked around and continued to walk quite briskly.

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When I think about my church, and I think about New York City– especially with most of us coming from a Korean performance-based and shame-based culture, I think to myself: Man, life must be exhausting. Life must be tiring. So many of us clock in so many hours at work and/or at school. We encounter rudeness, anger, selfishness, and insensitivity on a regular basis. Everyone is pushing us out of the way as they’re all in a hurry to achieve something or make much of themselves.

Also, my main prayer for my congregation has taken aim at another paradox. New York is so full of people everywhere, by day or by night. So when we see all these busybodies, and yes, when we see all those couples and lovebirds, the final equation is that our sense of loneliness only increases. It’s like the phenomenon in which one spends time on social media and gets depressed because he or she erroneously concludes everyone else is having a blast. That’s New York City, even if you walk around for just an hour.

And the end result of the all the rudeness, selfishness, self-actualization-chasing, and loneliness is… Jadedness. Cynicism. Disillusionment. If not in all areas of our lives, we struggle with a hardened heart in at least one area: Our jobs and our bosses. Our romantic life, or lack thereof. Our parents and siblings. Our relationships with and our suspicions toward people, perhaps especially in the Church.

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All this jadedness robs us of joy. So we must be ever vigilant, and fight for joy and against any hardening of our hearts.

I want to give four suggestions for how we can fight well. These are four weapons I like to use in my battle for joy and against jadedness:

Process It All

A friend recently shared about how she tries to make  time each week to sort out how she’s feeling. She journals, she prays, she takes stock of her emotional and spiritual state, she simply asks herself, “How am I doing?”

I do the same. I take prayer walks– not just to pray for myself and others– but to ask myself, “How am I doing?” I use this time especially to sort out any signs of discouragement and disillusionment in my life; I take inventory of all arenas of my heart. If there is something especially pressing down on me, I journal and write it out so that I can see what I’m feeling.

The key point here is to not let negativity linger. Whenever I see my heart even leaning in the direction of jadedness (i.e. when someone is rude or unfair to me, or when I’m sad and experiencing any kind of pain), I immediately look to stand against it.

Don’t Fight Alone

We need each other. I am so grateful for my many friends who have helped me process my heartbreaks and fears through the years. Whenever I was rejected by a romantic interest, I would fight against the temptation to wallow and isolate myself. Instead, I would share it with my friends, even while feeling ashamed that there were hearing the same old story.

There is power in processing with others, even if they’re just listening and not giving advice (in fact, this is actually better than giving advice in such situations). You realize new things as you talk out loud about your issues and problems, things you would not have conceived if you kept it bottled within.

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Do It Again

Processing and sharing are not one-time things. They must be done again and again. I take another walk. I journal again. I tell my friends one more time, even though I sound like a severely broken record.

There was one time I was particularly broken up about being rejected by a girl. She was someone I was close to, and it was killing me that I still wasn’t feeling better two months after she said no. I knew what I had to do. I asked a friend for help; I asked her, “What’s wrong with me?” She did give me good advice, mainly that I need to just be patient with myself. I gained much by attempting to process the pain once again.

It is a joy and wonder to know that there are people who really do care for you. They are willing to help carry your burdens, even if it feels like you’re bothering them time and time again. It’s not the same old story to them, and therefore not to me either. I wonder how many of us miss out on this sorely-needed blessing because of our pride and fear that prevents repeated vulnerability. This wonder of being accepted just as you are is indispensable in our battle to thaw out all the hardheartedness.

Remember Grace

Ah, yes, like I wrote yesterday. If we know that we are Kichijiro, in constant need of forgiveness, and freely able to ask for and receive it… We have discovered the only tried and true pathway to joy.

The only thing that disqualifies us from the grace of God is not admitting our need for it. It’s choosing to hold on to our anger and pride and disillusionment and how we’re victims of unfair treatment, and wearing them as badges of honor, even knowing it steals away our joy. It’s refusing to process them, or being unwilling to look weak by sharing them with others.

But it is in the weakness of processing, sharing, repeating, and remembering God’s grace and forgiveness where we find the strength to fight on against jadedness and for joy.

So I encourage us all: Keep fighting. Don’t give up. It’s worth it.

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In Need of Relief

Posted by flyingbk on 03/27/2017

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About two months ago, I watched the movie Silence. This Martin Scorsese-directed flick takes place in the 17th century, when the Japanese government ruthlessly persecuted Christians. The government discovered an ingenious way to put down the Church. First, the inquisitors killed Christians; but they soon realized that method only served to inspire the Church due to the martyrdom effect. So instead they forced Christians to step on a fumie, usually a stone creation which featured a picture of Jesus or the virgin Mary.

The government especially targeted Catholic priests and gave them an impossible choice: They must either step on the fumie, thereby apostatizing and losing their status as a Father, while sharply discouraging their following. Or else, they will continually witness the torturing and even killing of said following. This quandary propels the plot in Silence as Father Rodrigues (played by Andrew Garfield) is torn between the two options.

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I want to focus on another character in the novel and movie. He’s a tragic figure named Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka). He grows up as a Christian. But during this time of persecution, he steps on the fumie, which causes his fellow believers to shun him. And yet he keeps trying: He discovers Fathers Rodrigues and Garupe (Adam Driver) and helps them find refuge in a Christian village. During that time, he approaches Rodrigues, and says, “Father, I must confess my sins.” Father Rodrigues faithfully provides the opportunity for Kichijiro to receive forgiveness.

But soon enough, Kichijiro’s true colors show as he sells out the two priests to the government for a few silver coins (remind you of anyone?). Still, he finds Rodrigues in the prison camp, bows before him, and implores with clarity: “Father, I must confess my sins.” After he receives forgiveness– in literally the next scene– we see Kichijiro running naked out of the camp, free to go because he has stepped on the fumie again.

Near the end of the movie, there’s Kichijiro again, finding Rodrigues one more time. Rodrigues is strongly reluctant (for multiple reasons related to the plot), and yet Kichijiro insists: “Father, I must confess my sins.”

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My Union Square theater-watching companions groaned each time Kichijiro betrayed God and his people, and snickered when Kichijiro repeated the same request before Rodrigues.

Kichijiro is my favorite character in Silence. The Catholic way of confession aside, he understood that because of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, there is always forgiveness available. It doesn’t matter the depth, or length, or hideousness, or the number of offenses committed. There is always grace available, no matter what we’ve done, no matter how bad or unfaithful we’ve been.

There are still many of us today, even those who grew up in church, who struggle with how truly forgiven we are. Some of us believe the lie that we are beyond repair, beyond redemption. We hope that we’ll survive, but we think we’ll never thrive. So we settle for a mediocre Christian life, or we spend energy trying to run away from God because we’re afraid and ashamed of what we’ve thought, what we’ve said, what we’ve done.

We are all Kichijiro. We all desperately need unconditional love and acceptance. And because of what Jesus has done for us, we can always get a fresh start in God. If we fall, we can get back up. If we fall for weeks, months, and yes, years, we can still start anew right away because of the lavish grace that God pours out upon us. All we need to do is come before God and say, “Father I must confess my sins.”

Many of us know 1 John 1:9. It says:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)

(Hat tip to the book PROOF for the following point. I heartily recommend it, and hope you read it and get drunk on God’s grace.)

Have we actually thought about what this verse is saying? At first glance, this is what 1 John 1:9 should say: “If we confess our sins, God is kind and merciful… and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” If you and I are guilty of a crime, the last thing we would want is for the judge assigned to our case to be faithful and just.

So why does the apostle John choose these two adjectives? He chooses faithful and just because he’s highlighting the point– if you and I are in Jesus Christ, and thus believe that Jesus died for us, and we admit our need for his grace– then, it would be unfaithful and unjust of God to not forgive us! The relationship that God invites all of us to, one in which we receive full forgiveness and grace time and time again, is marked by His choice to bind Himself to this covenant.

Kichijiro and each of his scenes do serve as measure of comic relief in the movie. And when we know the power and depth of God’s grace, and receive a fresh start day after day, we also laugh at the hilarity of it all. We laugh at how ridiculous it is that we’re so wicked and depraved, and yet so loved, accepted, and forgiven. We guffaw heartily at the scandal of grace. And there is joy, all the day long.

 

 

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