Sunday, December 26, 2010

Another Christmas Meditation: The Incarnation Calls Us to Be the Truth We Proclaim

Another journal entry to follow the one I posted yesterday as a Christmas meditation.  This, too, is Christmas-themed, and I wrote it on the same day (24 December 2010) that I wrote the one I posted yesterday.

It seems to me that many Christians today, who emphasize the church's role as a guardian of the truth and the obligation of church leaders to teach the truth, fail to recognize the significant connection between the incarnation and how people hear and receive--and above all, proclaim--the truth.  The incarnation introduces into the community of those who believe in Jesus an incarnational logic which requires us first and foremost to enflesh the truth we believe we're called to proclaim to the world.

We're called by the incarnation to live the truth we proclaim, before we formulate and proclaim that truth.  Incarnating the truth we want to proclaim to the world is a precondition to the verbal proclamation itself, so that the two must always occur in tandem, with the lived witness as a sacramental sign to the spoken truth.

And this incarnational logic therefore locks the leaders of Christian faith communities into what might be seen as a terrible logic of incarnational, sacramental witness to the truth they seek to proclaim to their own communities.  When the lived witness of the pastoral leaders of Christian communities is at stark variance from their proclamation of the truth that flows from the gospels--and this stark variance is increasingly apparent in the case of the Catholic church, as many of us look at how our pastoral leaders are dealing with the abuse situation--then profound cognitive dissonance occurs.

It is impossible for many believers to hear or appropriate the truth proclaimed by pastoral leaders whose lived witness belies what they proclaim.  The following journal entry reflects on one of the most basic proclamations of all: the proclamation that all who walk in the footsteps of the Word Made Flesh are called to welcome the stranger and open our arms to those in need, to those who are outcasts.  As this journal entry suggests, churches that profess to be concerned with welcoming those who are homeless undercut their profession of being all about welcome, when they simultaneously refuse to welcome their brothers and sisters who are gay and lesbian:

Our first stop when we exit the Piccadilly Circus tube station: St. James church, a Christopher Wren church.  We hope its little flea market is open, but it's not, on Christmas eve.

We go into the church.  I'm impressed by a welcome sign in the narthex: "A warm welcome from the church community of St. James, Piccadilly.  St. James is part of the Anglican Communion within the world-wide Christian Church.  We understand ourselves to be called: to gather as a body which welcomes and celebrates human diversity--including spirituality, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation . . . ."

And so I feel welcome as I walk into this church.  As I don't in almost any Catholic church today.  Because my church almost never posts such a welcome statement in its entrance ways.  And its notion of universality and inclusivity and diversity is now, effectively, to give solace and harbor to homophobes.  While telling me and mine, effectively, that we're unwelcome.

And then we go inside and walk down the north nave of the church, and I see a man bent over in a posture of profound prayer.  I hope I haven't disturbed him.

And then I see one man after another in the pews of that side of the church, lying down, huddled over, sitting.  And I realize they're homeless, and are gathered in that part of the church because its heaters are located there.

And what a novel thing, to find a welcoming Christian church celebrating Christmas by providing homeless people a place to warm themselves and rest on a very cold London Christmas eve.

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