Thursday, June 11, 2009

Letting Go of the Past, Forgiveness, and Planting

Welcome Kristen Robertson and her virtual book tour on the blogosphere. Check out and all the wonderful spiritual resources there, especially regarding the Forgiveness Journal which I first read during the recent UU Christian Fellowship Revival in Tulsa.

There is so much forgiveness opportunities in our lives, especially with those who have come into a place like the UUCF healing from earlier in life exposures to harmful forms of Christian spirituality, and those who follow Jesus in our pluralistic congregations who form right relationships with people who, for several reasons, are not in right relations with Christians either in UU churches or in the world. I often tell UUCF members that one of our callings is to be present in Jesus name and spirit with those who have been harmed in Jesus name.

I am also in my earlier life a Faulkner avid fan (even having received a Faulkner award for my fiction) and so I know, as he wrote, that the past is something not often, if ever, past. And yet I have also been formed theologically by immersion in the works of process-relational theologians Charles Hartshorne and Alfred North Whitehead (just occurred to me that for much of the 80s I was immersed in both all Hartshorne wrote and all Faulkner wrote; interesting parallels to explore later) and so I understand the approach that God is working in our universe and in our lives in helping to make the past the past, helping to co-create the future in freedom; as Whitehead says God is that factor in the universe that relates the what is to the what is not yet. Forgiveness, then, radical and endless grace and accountability, is a key characteristic of that spirit of God that grounds us in the process of becoming more fully human. When we work against that spirit, against forgiveness, when we give the past an ultimate power over us, we are making an idol of the past, and like all idolatries (taking something that has good within it and twisting it into a force for suffering) this keeps us from growing spiritually into fuller finite and blessed human beings.

Finally, given the thrust of this blog on planting new communities, let me just say that letting go of the past forms of church (re-integrating forms from before the Empire and much of the Reformation) does not often come without an emotional cost; does not come without some sense often of severing ties, betrayal, and fear of our new communities acting and behaving as the ones we have not found fulfilling of God's mission. Personal liberation, living healthy spiritually developing and grounding lives (see posts below about new forms of leadership needed) are all crucial to being agents of transformation today.

Repairing personal relationships, coming to terms with churches in our past, all is vital to leading the church into its new life too.