When people think of members of institutional religion, it is rarely in a positive light. It is far too easy to be cynical. Institutions often reflect the characteristics of those who are members. This includes their strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and even their fears. Far too often the words used as descriptors include strict, rules, traditions, boundaries, and rigid. There are far too many stories and experiences justifying this view. It is as if the institution can’t help itself.
Naturally, the assumption from those on the outside is that the institution paints an accurate picture of its god. In my experience, this is rarely the case. The god painted by an institution’s action is, at best, a faint etching of the real. We may hope our actions tell a real, vibrant story, yet we rarely measure up. In reality our actions tell of the god within our hearts; often selfish, full of doubts and mistakes, and rarely humble enough to admit anything other than our aspirations.
One of the myths included in this observation is the inability of the institution or believer to change his or her mind once the body takes a decision. After all, God doesn’t change course so why should we?
Yet God does. God sent a message; Hezekiah was going to die. Hezekiah cried and prayed, painful tears. In response, “God told Isaiah, ‘Go and speak with Hezekiah. Give him this Message from me, God, the God of your ancestor David: ‘I've heard your prayer. I have seen your tears. Here's what I'll do: I'll add fifteen years to your life. And I'll save both you and this city from the king of Assyria. I have my hand on this city.’’” (Isaiah 38.4-6)
I recently found myself in the presence of true sorrow and fear. The idea of holding rigid positions in this context was and is idiotic. Nothing could be more un-God like. It doesn’t mean that everything is as it was. Quite the contrary; in love and compassion I will act. In mercy and hope, I will engage. Hope is present.
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