Sunday, July 19, 2009

Right Relationship…

I don’t know if y’all heard about the controversy last week in America’s Major League Soccer. But it was huge. Two of its biggest stars, Landon Donovan and David Beckham, sniped at one another in the press. Or should I say, one sniped, the other responded. In a recently published book, Donovan is quoted as saying, “Beckham is stingy and unprofessional...” Beckham (who is one of the planer’s most famous soccer players) responded, “No I’m not,” basically. What makes it all dramatic and explosive is these players aren’t just oversized egos going at one another for the sake of publicity. “Becks” and Donovan are teammates; captains, in fact, of their team, the L.A. Galaxy, and a new season begins this week. Not exactly getting things going on a good foot. Pun intended.

Which leads me state the obvious: Working well with people requires maintaining a good, or at least an adequate relationship. Or as my mother once told me, “Play nice, Shane. Or you won’t get to play at all.” You’ll notice this is both a moral statement and a practical statement. Moral because it talks about what we should do- Treat others with respect. Practical because it describes actions and consequences- Play mean and others will just stop playing. As any team-sport athlete will tell you, “playing nice” doesn’t always mean being best buddies. I wasn’t particularly fond of my teammates or coach junior year of high school. But we played nice together and won the Soccer State Championship.

In Christian theology, there’s a concept many use to describe Jesus’ importance. That concept is “Right Relationship.” Simply put, the idea is that Jesus is able, through his teaching or crucifixion or resurrection or…(different folk have different answers), to provide humans with a good, whole and ‘right’ relationship with our Creator God. This, of course, presumes that humans a) have, somehow, some way, lost that right relationship, and b) are incapable of restoring it by themselves. Praise be to God, therefore, that Jesus offers us a chance to live, once again, in right and close communion with the Lord. The benefits package is quite good.

The obvious follow-up is, “What does ‘right relationship with God’ involve?” Again, the answers are multitudinous. Jesus offers eternal salvation. Jesus allows us to live creatively, overcoming life’s many anxieties. Jesus liberates all people to act in solidarity with the poor, for whom God has a special concern. Jesus advocates for us to receive greater ‘blessings’ in direct proportion to the increase of our faith. “Right Relationship” with God has many purported effects.

Which brings me to the point of this letter- What do you believe about “Right Relationship” with God? What impact does Jesus Christ have on that relationship? I ask this because July’s Mission-of-the-Month is “Faith Sharing,” and you can’t get any more basic about Christian faith than those two questions. I’ll tip my hand; I don’t think there is one correct answer. Nevertheless, I think your answer will be incomplete if all you say is “I receive eternal life,” and faith has no impact on your daily living. Or rather, I feel that relationship with God through Jesus Christ holds so much promise for the here and now- insight, guidance and challenge- regardless of age or life circumstances, that it would be unfortunate to not perceive and receive all the Spirit has to offer. And that has as much to do with your relationship with everything that God loves (fellow church members, family, enemies, the ocean) as it does with your ‘playing nice’ with God.

So how about it? Will you take a moment this week to describe to yourself and someone else (a loved one, neighbor, me) the impact your relationship with God through Jesus Christ has on your life and your community? Where that relationship is leading? Maybe, like Becks and Donovan, you need to restart things. Maybe you’re just playing nice for now, and desire greater intimacy. Maybe you’re full-board, gung-ho on a spectacular, Holy Adventure. Who knows?!? Hopefully, you do. I pray that relationship grows righter and righter, and that you find courage to share it with others. In all things,

Grace and Peace,