Tag Archives: wes gristy

all this color | guest post by wes gristy

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Why is it so difficult to learn a new language? Not a foreign language, but a new way of talking about things. For the last seven years or so, I’ve been enamored with a renewed vision of my faith. Not an altogether different faith; it’s the same one I grew up with, only now things that were once grayscale are showing signs of color.

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I still believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, only now he’s the God committed to seeing his creation fully restored, reuniting all things in heaven and on earth.

I still believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, only now he’s the Jewish King who brought Israel’s story to its world-renewing climax, and so bringing humanity’s story to its world-inheriting and world-reigning climax.

I still believe that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, only now his being God is more about God being faithful to the covenant he made with Israel, and his being man is more about Israel being faithful to the covenant they made with God.

I still believe that he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried, only now those things matter because of the kingdom agenda Jesus embodied from his birth to his death.

I still believe that he descended to the dead, and that on the third day he rose again, only now his journey from death to life launches the new creation God intends for the whole cosmos.

I still believe that he ascended into heaven, only now am I beginning to understand why that ascension subverts economic systems, political powers, and hailed ideologies.

I still believe that he will come again to judge the living and the death, only now do I see judgment as a thing of beauty, that glorious day when creation is finally liberated from all that has caused its ceaseless groaning.

I still believe in the Holy Spirit, only now am I open to his supernatural presence working through me and the entire church to bring God’s kingdom to bear upon this present age with great power and wonder.

I still believe in the holy catholic church, only now as more than a beneficiary of his transforming grace and love, but as an agent of it as well.

I still believe in the communion of saints, only now has this communion become a foretaste of the kind of community that is promised for all those who seek first the kingdom of God.

I still believe in the forgiveness of sins, only now these sins have grown to include systemic injustice, economic oppression, environmental exploitation, and religious arrogance.

I still believe in the resurrection of the body, only now it’s a resurrection not to heaven, but to a heaven and earth reunited, consisting of everything glorious in both the physical and the spiritual world.

I still believe in the life everlasting, only now it’s life as it should be, every human hope and desire amplified exponentially in the presence of God, among a flourishing people, and enjoying all of creation.

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A new language is clearly required, but learning its syntax and phrasing is cumbersome. The words fail me. I can’t articulate what is resonating inside, how I sense the pieces coming together, and how this new story is able to integrate everything that awakens our souls.

How do you talk about this? How do you talk about all this color? The kingdom of God, all things new, flourishing communities, heaven and earth reconciled, peace and justice filling the earth, creation regained, a restored world—these are feeble attempts.

And then how do you talk about these things in relation to sin, to Israel, to the prophets, to the law, to Jesus, to the cross, to justification, to right doctrine, to grace? And then how do you communicate the integration of these ideas in a way that not only inspires, but is intelligible; in a way that breaks old patterns of thinking without undermining the truth imbedded in those old patterns of thinking; in a way that opens up a colorful world without disregarding the black-and-white outlines of that world?

It’s a constant frustration of mine, that this new language eludes me still. Just when I think I’ve found a rhythm, I stutter again and miss another opportunity. Is the gravity of those older formations too much for me to lift off the ground into a sky filled with a whole new vocabulary? Or is this new world too magnificent for any mere mortal to describe? Is it a battle that can be won, or one that will never end?

I keep trying.

 

by Wes Gristy

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good men and the practice of resistance [PART 1]: a guest post by Wes Gristy

the-resistance.-part-1

There’s a line in a song called The Resistance by Josh Garrels that haunts me. It comes at the end of the first verse. After poetically describing the power structures of this world that abuse the masses, Garrels asks, how do good men become a part of the regime? The question assumes these systems of captivity to be the handiwork of good people, good Christians even. Ethical businessmen. Rule followers. It’s an assumption that runs contrary to our own. Unlike Garrels, most of us think that the waves of oppression, domination, and injustice arise solely from the drug lords, crooked politicians, and criminals—in other words, from the bad men. They are the ones responsible for the regime. Yet while bad men certainly play their part, I think Garrels has a point.

The truth is that good men contribute much to the structures of this world. Think about it. Good men are prone to protect, and so they work for stability. Good men like to keep the boat steady, and so they don’t allow for radical course corrections. Good men want to give assurances and make promises, and so they create lots of policies and procedures to keep us safe. Good men like to show the prettier side of things, and so questions that poke holes in their presentations are often labeled as negative or even disloyal. Good men can be conservative in the worst sense of the word, stiff-arming innovation with rolls of red tape, declaring with confidence, “The system works well enough. We’re doing the best we can. Our intentions are noble.” And so the status quo holds fast due to the diligent efforts of good men.

How does this happen? How do good men become a part of the regime? Garrels offers an answer: They don’t believe in resistance. They fail to critically analyze the ideologies of this world, and so they are unprepared to resist them. Too many good men fail to heed the words of the Apostle Paul, “Don’t let yourself be squeezed into the shape dictated by the present age” (Rom 12:2). Obedience here requires active resistance; the regime flourishes by subtle means when we let down our defenses. Without resistance, we’re assimilated, and we don’t even know it.

Without resistance, good men with good intentions will inevitably slip into the patterns of this evil age.

It’s not that sooner or later good men are unwittingly going to turn around and start shooting people, but rather that popular notions, incompatible with the ethic of Jesus, will begin to sound reasonable to embody—certain notions of success, of courageous leadership, of religious conviction, and of personal ambition. These notions slowly become the subject of our conversations, the content of our imaginations, the stories we tell our children, and ultimately the fuel of the very regime we say we despise.

I had a professor who once offered his students this proverb: “I used to think that bad people did bad things for bad reasons. Now I believe that good people do bad things for seemingly good reasons.”

That’s my fear.

That’s why this lyric returns to my mind again and again. And so I pray, Heavenly Father, save me from becoming a good man who quietly and unknowingly becomes a part of the regime. Teach me to practice resistance.

Wes Gristy is an associate pastor at All Saints Anglican Church in Jackson. He’s been married to his kick-butt wife Abbie for eleven years, and they have a brilliant four-year-old daughter and hilarious one-and-a-half-year-old son. Wes is one of my very best friends who has taught me much about the costs of resistance, and about what it actually looks like to push hard into the questions and compassion and work of the kingdom. I’m grateful to him for guest posting, among many other things.

This post is Part 1 of a 2 Part series. For Part 2, CLICK HERE.

djordan

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calling out in the darkness

I sat this morning watching a video (below) that highlights the last five years of a homeless ministry that houses and feeds the homeless in churches every night of the winter months. My mind went back to one evening about six years ago spent with Jonathan Stewart and Wes Gristy; we had been making and serving sandwich dinners on Friday evenings in a parking lot downtown, and our question had become “are there homeless in our community?”

In following that question and other rumors that accompanied it, we met at the church late one evening, made a pot of decaf coffee, and headed to the amphitheater where we had heard those who were homeless stayed.

I remember conversations about exit plans, what we would talk about, how we would find them. We parked facing the main road, flashlights in hand, and started walking through the damp ground toward the amphitheater calling out in the darkness.

“Are you there?”
“We won’t hurt you.”
“We aren’t the cops.”
“We have coffee.”

There was, of course, no one there.

Six years later, with churches across the community working together to host those who are homeless in their buildings night after night, what seems most certain now is that we were, indeed, calling out in the darkness.

We are, those of us fortunate enough to have grown up in church, blessed with a great deal of treasured heritage, and at the same time plagued by a deep spiritual paternalism that we can’t see until we are staring our ignorance straight in the face.

Were I to ask “Are the homeless christians?” the answer would no doubt be, “not necessarily.”
Were I to ask “Are the homeless not christians?” the answer would no doubt be, “not necessarily.”

But were I to have asked “Why do we serve the homeless?” the answer might have likely been “to show them Jesus.”

We are still often calling out in the darkness.

Six years later, I can say that I have learned more about who Jesus is and what he has done from the Christian men who are homeless in our community. Their homelessness is not a result of their not-Christian-ness. And they were not necessarily waiting around for me to show them Jesus.

They are often showing Christ to me, as even Jesus made clear that when we interacted with them we were interacting with him.

But we say we serve to show them Jesus, so we do little looking to see him in them.

But that is changing with those who are willing to open their eyes and see that when we have experienced relationship with those in need, we have experienced relationship with Christ.

Here’s to a future of continuing to open our eyes more and more, and continuing to call out in the darkness less and less.

Theirs is the kingdom, of course.

djordan
South Church St.

 

 

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