forsaking righteousness for relationship

Today I was going through the check out stand at Wal Mart. The nice lady who was ringing me up had a black, messy cross on her forehead. I saw a mom and dad with their kids walk by with the same crosses on their foreheads. Never being Catholic, I have never seen or participated in the Ash Wednesday ceremonies, or even Lent, for that matter. Now, there is a part of me that is thankful that I am not under “religion” but instead am in relationship, but there is a part of me that felt a desire to be a part of this obviously special day. What would it be like to walk around with a cross of ash on my forehead? How would it change my thoughts and behaviors through the day? How would it change how others saw me? Would the outer representation translate into a heart change?

This reminds of me a conversation I had recently with my friends Kate and Chris. We were talking about how we have forgotten righteousness and justified it through relationship. We think since we have freedom in our relationship with Christ that there is now no need for religion pushing righteousness on us. I am guilty of seeing righteousness the same as religion, finding it dogmatic and bringing only condemnation.  So instead we use relationship to justify sin and habitual downfalls, knowing that no sin can separate us from Christ, that His love will always be there for us. I don’t want that in my life. I want the relationship to lead to righteousness. I want to spend time with my Savior, with my friend, and walk away with a cross of ash on the forehead of my heart in remembrance to carry righteousness with me everywhere I go.

I pray my heart is always in search for Christ, and always transformed in righteousness.

ash_wednesday

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6 Comments

Filed under aiming at heaven, in my opionation, more like Him, my friends., my opionion does matter, right?

6 responses to “forsaking righteousness for relationship

  1. Great thoughts, P. Kate. I totally agree. I’ve witnessed a trend amongst young “hip” Christians where they use the excuse of “not being bound by religion” to live however they want and be justified by a night helping in a soup kitchen.

    In other words: Soup ≠ Salvation

  2. Mary Hendrickson

    I am practicing lent myself this year. 🙂 It’s really cool that you mentioned this, cause I really felt it’s significance in my life this year. The wonderful part about our freedom is that we’re not bound to this practice, but we can share in the beauty of it when we want to express our love and need for God in a practical way. Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. this was a really good nugget

  4. Kate, lovely Kate,
    I love this post. I actually felt a similar jealousy for the traditions that we miss because we avoid religiosity. I used to get really freaked out by titles… To even have called someone “pastor” _____ (enter name here) would have seemed religious to me, but in retrospect, I look at what we worship when we choose one end or the other of the spectrum. To honor the office is to honor the one the officer serves. To choose freedom and abuse it, or choose law and serve only that, is to ignore the King of kings. When we look back and examine who we’ve honored, what we’ve chosen, we realize that we have to find God somewhere in the middle… The tough, but fantastic part is that the middle is a very large, very free place.

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  6. Funny: I searched for Sigur Ros pictures on google and saw a picture of you, landed on your blog, read this post, and now have two cents:

    One of the tragic consequences of much mainline evangelicalism in America is its sad repudiation of the traditions that the catholic (lower case) church has acquired throughout its history. This anti-institutionalism is a hallmark of far too much pop-“spirituality” and not enough Word.

    One of my favorite authors points out the fact that when Jesus said “follow me,” he led his followers into the two main institutional structures of his day: the synagogue and the temple. Neither was without its faults and while there was much pomp and circumstance associated with things like Herod’s temple, Jesus was not impressed but neither did he boycott the place.

    He writes, “We sometimes say, thoughtlessly I think, that the church is not a building. It’s people. I’m not so sure. Synagogues and temples, cathedrals, chapels, and storefront meeting halls provide continuity in place and community for Jesus to work his will among his people. A place, a building, collects stories and develops associations that give local depth and breadth and continuity to our experience of following Jesus. We must not try to be more spiritual than Jesus in this business. Following Jesus means following him into sacred buildings that have a lot of sinners in them, some of them very conspicuous sinners. Jesus doesn’t mind . . .

    “. . . A spirituality that has no institutional structure or support very soon becomes self-indulgent and subjective and one-generational . . .

    “. . . Religious institutions are to the spiritual life what bark is to the cambium. What you see is dead bark but the dead bark protects the life. The more intimate and personal an activity is – sex or meals, for instance – the more likely we are to develop rituals and conventions to protect it from profanation or disease or destruction. The most intimate, personal, and intensely alive of all human activities is the life of the spirit, our worship and prayer and meditation, believing and obeying. But without the protection of ritual and doctrine and authority, Christian spirituality is vulnerable to reduction and desecration. It is also important to note that while the bark both hides and protects the cambium, it does not create it. The bark is dead. And neither do religious institutions create life – the life comes from invisibilities below and above, soil and air, all the operations of the Trinity.”

    The part of you that longed to participate in Ash Wednesday is the part of you that recognizes something sacred about a tradition that fosters consciousness of the gospel’s present and future reality. As a friend of mine says, this reflects a desire to respond as a community to a sacred season that recognizes that something bigger than themselves is going on. The ash on that woman’s head serves to remind her of her mortality, from ash she came and to ash she will return. But it also serves to remind her that this is the necessary precursor to what Lent celebrates in its culmination, Easter: the resurrection. This is the hope of Christians throughout the ages.

    When we participate in festivals and traditions that have a long, rich history in Christian devotion, we connect ourselves to the brothers and sisters that have gone before us. We also connect ourselves to those who will come after us, when we return to dust. But it all serves to remind us that the dust is not our final state. God will re-form that dust into what is imperishable and we will soon live the embodied form of which all our present institutional rites are but a shadow: a community of sinners redeemed and renewed according to the image of their Creator, as a covenant people of God.

    While I remain a committed Protestant, I admire this much about Rome: they understand the importance of sacred symbols and rites that lead people into a sense of historicity and prevent them from ahistorical isolationism – a kind of spiritual solipsism. They believe feverishly in the importance of teaching and preserving doctrine and the faith delivered once for all to the saints. While we can disagree about some of the finer details of these matters (some of which are drastically different), we can agree that neither religion, doctrine, or authority are unimportant.

    We should never seek to live by religion, but neither should we seek to live without it. I think this much is clear in Jesus’ teaching.

    Ok, that was a long “comment,” but I hope it is somehow helpful in thinking about these things.

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