When to go to church (or) the Christian Struggle with Perfection

“Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” Image

“I’ll warrant you’ll make plenty in it,” said Marilla. “I never saw your beat for making mistakes, Anne.”

“Yes, and well I know it,” admitted Anne mournfully. “But have you ever noticed one encouraging thing about me, Marilla? I never make the same mistake twice.”

“I don’t know as that’s much benefit when you’re always making new ones.”

“Oh, don’t you see, Marilla? There must be a limit to the mistakes one person can make, and when I get to the end of them, then I’ll be through with them. That’s a very comforting thought.”

 

I can still remember having a very “adult” conversation with my parents. It was one in which I must have been about 10, and my parents were telling me that I wasn’t perfect, and that I was going to have to live with myself. My response to this (because I knew no one could be perfect) was “I don’t want to be perfect, I just don’t want to make any mistakes!”

As Christians we have this ongoing struggle with perfection. On the one hand we want to be perfect, on the other part of being Christian (at least for me ) is admitting that we aren’t perfect. It is contending with our brokenness, and giving it up to God to be healed.

However, even though we know this about ourselves, I think that Christians often feel the mistaken need to pro-ject perfection. We want to look or at least seem perfect to everyone else. It’s as if our perfection reflects upon the perfection of God. If we aren’t perfect, then God isn’t perfect. If we don’t have all the answers, then God doesn’t have all the answers.

Instead of pointing towards God’s for answers, we rely upon ourselves or the “church” (i.e. that human conglomeration that we too often see as being the church) to be perfect/have the answers.

 

That’s where pastors mess up too right? Pastors feel that they have to be perfect, and instead of being open about their faith and their brokenness and talking about where they meet, Pastors try to be perfect, hide their mistakes/failings (which often leads to a whole nasty secret double life). Too often pastors skip their own confessions–of both faith and doubt, and then the quagmire’s come

So we are back to the perfection and mistakes. It is important to strive towards perfection, but to also rely on God on the source of all perfection. And even when I think that I know my way to God, it is important not to project that as the only way to God.

Too often, I think that Church is shown as a place for “perfect” people or (worse) people who think they are perfect. Too often Church is seen as the place where all of our answers are provided. After all, church is not the place to give standardized tests–God answers each of us personally and individually….Image

When, in actuality. God is a mystery, the church doesn’t know how everything works (Trinity, anyone? Or how about that Virgin Birth thing?) The church should be the A number 1 place to go when you AREN’T Perfect, it should be THE place to go when you have questions, and it should be the surrenduring of your mistakes and imperfections to God so that God is the one we are relying on to “project the right image” not humanity or the church in itself…..

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“A Family Church”

What does it mean to be a family church?

It means that we are a church that welcomes families (come please, especially if there are a lot of you…) No, wait I’m pretty sure that’s not it…

What it means is that we are a family that happens to be a church. Sure we have our wacky cousins, and the siblings squabble a lot, but we are committed to meeting and talking on a regular basis, because we consider one another family..

That is what we are called to do!

Christ keeps urging us to love one another–in fact he argues that his joy is based on us loving each other (really? God didn’t create us to bicker?)…

“As the Father has loved me,(A) so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands,(B) you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.(C) 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you

…so if this is our command, than to be a “Christian Family” is to love one another as Christ loved us…in fact, in verse 15 Jesus calls us Philo–friends, or if you like brothers and sisters. We have become family with God and we all know its not nice to hit your siblings….

In an age where we talk so much about valuing “Christian Families” we seem to be much more focused on the DO NOTS than the DOs. And it strikes me as being nit-picky, it is easy for us to tear each other down, but a true friend knows how to build one another up…

And as a mother of 3 children, I tend to read the Parenting magazines, blogs and articles, but sometimes all the negatively leaves a sad taste in my mouth. Let’s stop harping on what I should worry about (I feel like I can worry just fine all by myself thank you) and think, plan and move towards what we SHOULD be doing instead.

So Christian Families, what should they do together?

Rule no. 1 Eat together, as often as possible. Science shows it helps with discipline, squabbling, eating disorder, and Eating is FUN. Its a great way to build relationships, (all you visitors who sneak out during coffee hour don’t think I don’t know what your afraid of, its that eating together means your accepting our hospitality, it means that we’ve reached you, and you don’t want to commit yet).

Rule no.2 When there is a fight going on, make a covenant to stop and pray whenever ANYONE requests it (and I mean immediately, so far every time I’ve requested prayer, people have wanted to argue more and then pray….see anything wrong with this?)…Pray together, because prayer refocuses us on love and God instead of letting the argument devolve into personal vendettas

Rule no. 3 Be gracious with time, whenever possible give families and congregations time to just be together–and don’t forget to get your party on. My professor Kenda Dean at Princeton Seminary said that we should “Party People into the Kingdom” and I wholeheartedly agree. We should give people time to celebrate and celebrate with them. This means that if we are part of corporations, churches and companies we should enjoy those commitments made to each other and God in spectacular ways (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/melanie-coffee/maternity-leave_b_1518412.html?ref=parents where family is put before work, and support is the model.

Rule no. 4 If you are worried about someone else’s relationships, its time to work on your own. To gossip about someone else is easy, to stand in confession about what we are aren’t good at ourselves is difficult. This is why we have to constantly confess the Good and the Bad about ourselves, owning our true selves, taking responsibility for our entire beings, and then turning that Complete self (the good and the bad) over to God. This is what confession is all about, and as we are not without sin, we would do well not only to avoid casting the first stone, but even worrying about other people’s sins. Let them stand in confession with God, and instead focus on our own relationships (and I’ll give you a hint, what bothers us about other people are often things that remind of our own faults, or what we could be on our not-so-good days).

Rule No. 5 Setting boundaries is a good thing. If you’ve ever dealt with a child you know that part of loving someone is setting up rules so that everyone stays safe (no hitting, no crossing the street by yourself etc.)…There is a whole sermon in here about the rationale of the 10 commandments but I cannot possibly address that here. However, it is important to know your limits, and to set reasonable boundaries with those you love about what you can and cannot do with them. Set limits, stick to them, and then offer up the ways you are available to love. Setting boundaries and keeping them are a good way to maintain a relationship (setting no boundaries is a good way to burn out, and dropping someone because you are unable to set limits sets up hurt). You can love someone and not allow victimization, triangulation or some other form of hurt by setting up good boundaries…

Last Rule (which is really the principle of the Rules in clever disguise) Love without Labels (see you never would have guessed that this is just saying Love one Another in a new way). I have heard the sentiment hate the sin love the sinner and I understand where it is coming from, but to me it is a human attempt at graciousness. One where we love someone, but are constantly seeing their sin as a label on their forehead. I love so and so EVEN THOUGH they are a…There is no even thoughs for Christ. Christ doesn’t say love one another even though you drive each other crazy–Christ doesn’t love us Even Though we are human, Jesus loves us for and because of who we are. None of us are complete on our own, and it takes love to connect us to the people who complete us. (We are like puzzle pieces, trying to fill each other’s holes, so that, as Christ says, our joy can be complete)

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If we followed this rules in our immediate family, and then did so with our congregation. What else can we do to be a Christian Family? How can we upbuild and maintain our relationships with one another???

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