A Lament for My Church, and for Me


(Spectrumbot) #1

Lord, I grieve for the loss of my tender identity as just one of Jesus’ little flock. Help me be just Your little lamb.

Lord, I grieve my cowardice to do courageous things in difficult times. I pray for grace, and the ability to give grace.

Lord, I grieve the times when a focus on rationality has crowded out truths that can only be spiritually discerned. Help me imagine, anyway.

Lord, I grieve that an over systemized belief of prescribed present truth has become a cemented mass with scarcely any room for dynamic flow. Help me, choose to be flexible, anyway.

Lord, I grieve that human convictions have become ideologies, used as exclusionary tools to parse who belongs in our tribe and who does not. Give me open arms to embrace.

Lord, I grieve that God’s kingdom is mainly presented as an us/them proposition. Give me divine guidance to see Your wall piercing kingdom work.

Lord, I grieve that our group has adopted triumphal corporate identity markers. Please help me resolve to shed all but your presence.

Lord, I grieve that well-intentioned church leaders emphasize the dominant/submissive, authoritative/obedience paradigms as representations of God’s way while minimizing the more foundational notions of freedom and persuasion that are key to the Great Controversy. Help me live openly and authentically, anyway. May I remember there are no perfect people or organizations, and that there is only the struggle to be whole.

Lord, I grieve that so called Christian powers and authorities minimize and stifle the dear truths that I feel a passionate desire to share. Correct my vision if I am on the wrong path.

Lord, I grieve that exclusionary ideology sometimes overtakes my mind so that there is little space for transformation. Help me meditate on Jesus.

Lord, I grieve when certitude has made strong cords of authoritarian leadership in my church and in my life. Help me walk humbly, with kindness.

Lord, I grieve that our church has missed the paradoxical power of a humble apology. Please help me admit my own wrongdoing and missteps.

Lord, I grieve that kingdom values are discounted in civil discourse and are labeled as just politically loaded terms. May I choose to value families rather than focus on family values; choose to be pro-living rather than pro-life; choose personally to care rather than be politically correct.

Lord, I grieve the times that I or my faith community have claimed truth with such confidence, overlooking the reality that thoughtful people today are drawn to humble statements that are corrigible – capable of being corrected. Be with me as I read, learn, grow, and listen, anyway.

Lord, I grieve that we tend to define faithfulness as standing firm against what we have identified as the sins of others. Create in me a clean heart.

Lord, I grieve that my denomination has put Infinite God into 28 propositions. Please, burst our bubble.

Lord, I grieve when pious Christians become a frenzied mob that gets energy by making fun of the doubts of others. Purify us.

Lord, I grieve that we do not recognize Jesus’ work against oppression that began as He stood in the temple reading writings of the prophet, Isaiah. Instead, we just label such ideas as social gospel or liberation theology, refusing transformation in our circles. Help us not to name ideas, but to act upon them.

Lord, I grieve that our church has embraced the political status quo. Help us, help me, enter history on behalf of the oppressed.

Lord, I grieve that the ways to present You to secular people, non Bible believing people, are slapped down in favor of old ways that appeal only to a narrower and narrower segment of our world. Show me how to break out of this box.

Lord, I grieve the times my enthusiastic zeal spilled unchecked from my mouth without regard to timing or situation or others. Help me cultivate self-awareness with a constant realignment of my desires to Your desires. May I speak words in due season.

Lord, I grieve that Galatians 5:6 has not become a central, unifying main thing for our tribe. May I practice only faith working in love, anyway.

Lord, I grieve the revolving door of Seventh-day Adventistism. I sense such beauty in portions of our tribe. I grieve that powerful people don’t appreciate the diverse answers and nuances and remedies that would lead to authentic discipleship for a big group of people. I grieve that many academic voices in our tribe, while recognized by other Christians, get castigated by loud voices in our own faith community. Please show me the things I can change and what I must accept. Grant me serenity.

Lord, I grieve the lack of acknowledgement that people following Jesus will be on varied and individualized paths. Be with me as I listen for Your voice, and follow.

Lord, I grieve the church as it speaks of a Savior yet is oblivious of its own need to be saved. Save us.

Lord, I grieve at my church’s confining descriptions of discipleship, a concept that is mentioned in the New Testament 250 times. I only commit to Your yoke and light burden.

Lord, I grieve how authentic Christianity is being encroached upon by the political constructs of Dominionism and Triumphalism without consideration of the implications of such theories. I pray for my own clear vision, knowing I have not always seen things accurately.

Lord, I grieve that kenotic self emptying (Philippians 2) has come to be considered as heresy and something to be feared. Help me to fear not.

Lord, may I remember the words of the apostle Paul,

“Now if your experience of Christ’s encouragement and love means anything to you, if you have known something of the fellowship of his Spirit, and all that it means in kindness and deep sympathy, do make my best hope for you come true! Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you. Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people’s point of view.”

Lord, give me the attitude of Christ. Amen.

Carmen Lau is a board member of Adventist Forum, the organization that publishes Spectrum. She lives and writes in Birmingham, Alabama.

Image Credit: Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8265

(Sam Geli) #2

In this age of uncertainty, calamities, and political polarization, this “Lament For My Church” by Carmen Lau stands out as an oasis of hope and encouragement. Thank you for this gift.


(Dan Springer) #3

Amen! As Solomon said, ‘a word, fitly spoken, is like apples of gold in pictures of silver’.


(Chris Blake24) #4

Thank you, Carmen. What I love in this lament is the trajectory from victimization to personal activism, from peripheral to central, from rigid certitude to humble assurance, from mouthing platitudes to embracing life. That is also my prayer.


(Herold Weiss) #5

Rather than a lamentation this is an affirmation, a confession, a declaration that understanding is really such when it is exemplified by a life. Thank you, Carmen, for your moving expression of the truth of the Gospel.


(Margaret Ernst) #6

“Lord, I grieve that my denomination has put Infinite God into 28 propositions. Please, burst our bubble.”

“Because these people draw near to me with their mouths
and honor me with their lips
while their hearts are far from me,
And their ‘worship’ of me
is a human commandment learned by rote,
So I will again do amazing things with this people,
shocking and amazing.
The ‘wisdom’ of their ‘wise’ shall perish,
and the ‘discernment’ of the ‘discerning’ shall be hidden.”
–Isaiah 29:13-14.

Thank you for your prayer, Carmen. Thank you for inviting us to join you in prayer.

He’s listening. He will answer.


(Heather) #7

Carmen, and correspondent Margaret E - may God bless both of you richly for putting yourself out there to be scrutinized and commented upon. It takes courage, and I pray your honesty will be rewarded, if not now, then when He comes to share His tears and His joy with you, and all of us who are utterly weary of banal phrases, side-stepping, out and out falsehoods, and fund-saving (for what?). And most of all, putting 28 or 29 ‘commandments’ before God’s gracious love gift to His children. The thief on the cross never knew of ‘fundamentals’. He recognized Jesus for who He was, He accepted Jesus’ message and gratefully took hold of Jesus’ gift.
Carmen - keep writing - it’s a gift that will bless until He comes, and who knows - perhaps God will need this talent in heaven.


(George Tichy) #8

Basically, this is a lament of grieving for the death of a Church that became a monster.


(Frank Peacham) #9

Seems like a too much grief for me to bear, without any path of resolution.


(DENNIS HOFER) #10

Does Jesus grieve ?
Has He expressed His point of view ?
Does He have a lament for His church, and for Himself ?

“What more could have been done to My vineyard
That I have not done in it?
Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes,
Did it bring forth wild grapes?” Isaiah 5:4

"For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,
And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant.
He looked for justice, but behold, oppression;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help."
Isaiah 5:7

"The Shulamite:
I sleep, but my heart is awake;
It is the voice of my beloved!
He knocks, saying,
“Open for me, my sister, my love,
My dove, my perfect one;
For my head is covered with dew,
My locks with the drops of the night.”

"I have taken off my robe;
How can I put it on again?
I have washed my feet;
How can I defile them?"
Song of Solomon 5:2,3

(Well, Shulamite, your Beloved washes feet . . .
and, He has plenty of ‘robes’ . . . .)

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,
I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me."
Revelation 3:20

“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.
So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,[fn] I will vomit you out of My mouth."
Revelation 3:15,16

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent."
Revelation 3:19

HOT:
The Shulamite to Her Beloved:
Set me as a seal upon your heart (‘heart’ = Hebrew ‘leb’, found in forehead)
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy (‘zealous-y’) as cruel as the grave;[fn]
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame.[fn]
Song of Solomon 8:6 NKJV

COLD:
"Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
If a man would give for love
All the wealth of his house,
It would be utterly despised."
Song of Solomon 8:7 NKJV

“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,[fn] I will vomit you out of My mouth.
Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— . . . ."
Revelation 3:16,17

Ellen described the ‘door’, the ‘hindrance’:
“If truth could be submitted to the reason alone, pride would be no hindrance in the way of its reception. But it is to be received through the work of grace in the heart; and its reception depends upon the renunciation of every sin that the Spirit of God reveals. Man’s advantages for obtaining a knowledge of the truth, however great these may be, will prove of no benefit to him unless the heart is open to receive
the truth, and there is a conscientious surrender of every habit and practice that is opposed to its principles.” DA 455-456

Donald Karr Short (the quieter one of the ‘Wieland and Short’ team that reminded the GC of ‘1888’) described in his little book, Then Shall the Sanctuary Be Cleansed, that God’s SDA church has an ‘unconscious sin’ that we need to become conscious of:
The will to kill God. . . to replace God.

It is NOT ‘my church’, is it ?
No, it is ‘His church’. . . and, it is His lament.

"And He said, “Go, and tell this people:

‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

“Make the heart of this people dull,
And their ears heavy,
And shut their eyes;
Lest they see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart,
And return and be healed.”
Isaiah 6:9,10 NKJV

"Then Jesus said,
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”[fn]
And they divided His garments and cast lots."
Luke 23:34 NKJV

. . . and, were His feet washed ?

Yes, with perfume, and with the tears of the only ‘disciple’ to do so --the 13th one, who first learned at His feet, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin (also, to ‘be mistaken’ ~ Strongs) no more.”


(Charles Scriven) #11

Such a prayer is so healing, so cleansing; so forthright in brokenheartedness and so insistent in hope. I am grateful to you, Carmen.

Chuck


(Carrol Grady`) #12

You’ve said it all, Carmen! Thank you.


#13

Thank you Carmen for deep insights. It is difficult to “mine” the gems in this piece in one reading. Thank you for your honest, candid treatment of some of these perplexing contradictions between truth and organizational bureaucracy. God bless you as you continue the journey.


(Harry Elliott) #14

The idea that there is a sanctuary in heaven that needs cleansing is an outrage. Heaven, itself, is the sanctuary of the universe, and surely it will never need purification.

Are we God’s church? I understand His church to comprise all of His followers. The Greek source-word rendered remnant in the KJV actually means other. That’s us, the others.

We need to remember that Ellen White clawed back her statement that our General Conference was the highest authority on earth.

I love the prayer.


(George Tichy) #15

This is part of the “Adventist theology,” but not a true Christian truth/belief.