The Art of Confrontation

18 Jun

Kathryn Hauser’s Reflection for 12 After Pentecost 4 Sept 2011

The Art of Confrontation

I have a nemesis.  It is in the form of a small, neurotic, yappy dog owned by the next door neighbors.  For years I have tried a multitude of dances with Confrontation and Avoidance, along with alternating between prayers and fantasies of revenge.  This dog yaps incessantly that the sky is falling whether or not it is.

That being said, it is no surprise that the yapper gathered her neurotic steam the other morning when I went out to hose the dirt off my car.  (We’d had one of those rains we get in summer in Southern California that leaves your car dirtier than before it rained.)  I don’t know who was more ballistic—me or the yapper?  I had already had a very stressful morning and the noise was piercing me to the bone and nearly eliciting PTSD symptoms.  The dog was screaming so I screamed back, “SHUT UP!!”  Naturally the beast continued yapping.  With hose in hand while I aimed the spray at the car (and not the dog, although it was tempting), I yelled back to the beastie, “Are you so stupid that you do not even know the words ‘shut up’?  Man, you really are stupid!”

“Bark?” retorted the beastie as if to say, “Who me?”

“Yes you,” I answered.

Then I pictured in my mind the movie Forrest Gump and told the dog, “Stupid is as stupid does.”  To my utter amazement the dog actually stopped barking.  There was a new peace flowing from the neighbor’s house for the next two days.  Now the neighbors had a choice to continue choosing peace and reinforcing it, or going back to old behaviors and allowing chaos to reenter the scene.  As the week unfolded, the dog went back to old behaviors and everything returned to status quo.  They did not choose peace.  I have no control over what others choose.  All God requires of any of us is that we try.

As messy and unorthodox as this confrontation was, (since in our society one is considered crazy to talk to animals, even though St Francis did,) I later realized it was a real example to me on Jesus’ teaching on the art of confrontation from today’s Gospel lesson.  I had followed the directions in Matthew 18:15 and pointed out the fault when the dog and I were alone (albeit with a fence between us, but that has spiritual significance as well.)  The dog had listened for a day or two, I had regained some sanity, and the whole neighborhood had become more peaceful, even though it was short-lived.  For lasting change, however, the people had to take responsibility for the change they wanted to see.  But of course that assumes they want things to improve, that they even notice or care that something is awry despite multiple posted notices, (Martin Luther had posted 95 Theses!  95!), and that assumes that everyone is “seeing” the same thing.  As the week progressed I noticed the same phenomenon at the library where I work, as with the neighborhood and the yappy dog(s).  The screaming noise at the library by unrestrained children and indifferent parents amplified the chaos like coyote howls in a canyon.  They displayed the same behaviors as the neighbors with the yappy dog.  Temporal life reflects the spiritual attitude of the world around us.  Librarians, the hall monitor, and the public, repeatedly attempted to enforce quiet by saying “Shhhh!”  When this had no effect on the steady stream of screamers coming into the library, staying for an hour [!] at a time–just to be replaced by the next wave of screamers, patrons exited disgustedly from the library.  What more could they do but their own “Exodus:” exit us?

“Gee, God, will this principle on the art of confrontation work with the Churches?” I asked.

Later on that same night of my experience with confronting The Yapper, I was watching BBC News and they showed a report on the growing Church in Nigeria.  They are growing because they are preaching a prosperity message to a very poor country.  And they ARE prospering.  The premise of their message is that Christ became poor so that we can become rich.  When I heard that I felt the wind of Wisdom get knocked out of my gut and then the blood of righteous indignation rushed to my head.  The Good News was being distorted again and it was more than I could bear!  My physical eyes could see the affluence and see the worshipers sincerely worshipping God, and my spiritual eyes could “see” how they were being misled by focusing on the idol of prosperity instead of coming to God in humility of Who He was/is and sharing of His generosity.  God wants us all to prosper at the “sacrifice” of sharing what He has blessed us with.  The message cannot just stop with prosperity without moving to include sharing.  Otherwise the message just teaches selfishness.  Christ came as a humble human to show us by example what a life of humility looks like before the Father.  We prosper in God’s character because of His unconditional love.  God is neither a vending machine god nor an authoritarian-punishing dictator god.  It is not right to preach either prosperity or punishing humiliation as a guise for genuine humility before the Father.  Genuine humility bows to God for Who He is and in awe of His unconditional love He freely shares with us.  We are to then share.  The sharing allows all to prosper and in the process balances out justice and brings equality.  But God must remain the focus, not prosperity, or justice, or equality, or the Laws of Attraction, or any other focus but the cross, otherwise it, too, can become an idol blocking the Flow from our heart to God’s heart.  Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, not so that we could abuse this freedom and milk prosperity out of God’s generosity.  Nor did He pay the penalty of death for us to go in the opposite direction and abuse ourselves and each other in false humility and self-flagellation.  His sacrifice was to restore God’s kingdom, to usher forth God’s character so that we can become like Christ as His ambassadors.

I asked God again, “Will this principle on the art of confrontation work with the Churches?”

God has this annoying habit with me where He won’t always come right out and answer, at least not in a comfortable discussion.  On this occasion He chose to take me to today’s lesson from Ezekiel.  I read it and cried, “Waaaaaaaaaaaaa!” like Charlie Brown.  The word “wicked” appears seven times in five verses, along with mounds of burning coals of other similar words like sin, iniquity, evil ways, transgressions, and death.  Oy!  I squirmed.  This was soooo not pretty.  My skin peeling from a sunburn would be more fun.  I enjoy giving the pretty picture of God’s kingdom.  This was not pretty.  “God?  What do You want me to do?” I asked again.  (So He quoted scripture back at me, like I quote to Him:)

Ez 33:7 So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel [Church]; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.

“God, what do You want me to say?” I asked.

God replied, “Tell all the Churches to repent.  They have sinned against Me.”

So I donned the spiritual hairshirt of the Prophet.  I looked back over the years since my Calling.  I have addressed folks from ten different denominations, five bishops, six religious orders on two continents, and tried to engage (now) three prophets (each with a different gift.)  I thought to myself, “I haven’t had a great track record of being successful in connecting with the Church in any of her forms.  Why should this time be any different?”  God broke into my thoughts like He was eavesdropping, (which He was) and said, “Tell them for Me.  Don’t look at results.  Just tell them.”  So with those words from Him I take the whole Church in my hands like I was a mother cupping her child’s face and I look you kindly and respectfully and firmly in the eye and say,

“Repent.  In Christ’s name, for His sake, for love of Him, and for the well-being of your own soul, repent.  Publically admit AND confess that you have wronged God; Him, not me, Him.”

Now, for the public record, Gentle Reader, I am letting you know that I have also done the steps that Jesus has instructed all of us to do in the art of confrontation with regards to the Churches (and not just with yappy dogs).  I have done this cycle several times now with several churches:

1) Go to a member of the church and confront him alone (Mt 18:15)

2) If he doesn’t listen then take along a few friends as witnesses (v 16)

3) If he refuses to listen, tell it to the Church (v 17) 

These Reflections are to the Church.  I have been writing them every week since Ash Wednesday, 25 February 2009.  As of today, I have not had success with reconciling with the Churches.  This comes as no surprise, although it comes with sadness.  The Churches represent the Institution.  The “awake” Church is already doing what she needs to be doing and does not need to repent from anything.  The Church as Institution is asleep and must awaken through the Rites of Repentance and Confession.  Any institution can become a prisoner of her own institutionalism.  This very issue prevents her from reaching out personally and connecting the divine with the ordinary like golden spokes on God’s chariot wheel with Christ in the center.  The second half of Mt 18:17 says,

“…and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

So, what does one do when the Church cannot listen? 

After much prayer and seeking God, I realized this juncture is actually good news.  This means that when God does eventually connect me with a publisher or forum to release these Reflections, the “books” will go out to “the Gentiles,” (those who have no religious affiliations, or loyalties, or buy-in to preserve their own status quo, necks, –or collars.)  The message which the Reflections carry will go out beyond the walls of the institutional churches, and in the process God will be fulfilling yet another prophecy where John said,

Rev 21: 22I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

The rest of the world will hear the Good News and the Churches of the Institution can join the “Crystal Cathedral” on multiple levels.  I also realized that we are all in a period in history where God is doing another holy Passover.  The Holy Spirit IS passing over the Churches just as He did with the Israelites in Egypt. (Ex 12:1-14)  We are all putting the blood of the Lamb on the doorposts of our hearts and the Holy Spirit is passing over us.  All can choose to participate or not.  What we bind or loose (Mt 18:18) is a choice.  All God expects of us is that we try.

 

12 After Pentecost                           4 Sept 2011                           Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20

Exodus 12:1-14
12:1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

12:2 This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.

12:3 Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household.

12:4 If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.

12:5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.

12:6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight.

12:7 They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.

12:8 They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

12:9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs.

12:10 You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.

12:11 This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD.

12:12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.

12:13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

12:14 This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

Psalm 149
149:1 Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful.

149:2 Let Israel be glad in its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King.

149:3 Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.

149:4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory.

149:5 Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their couches.

149:6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands,

149:7 to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples,

149:8 to bind their kings with fetters and their nobles with chains of iron,

149:9 to execute on them the judgment decreed. This is glory for all his faithful ones. Praise the LORD!

Ezekiel 33:7-11
33:7 So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.

33:8 If I say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand.

33:9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life.

33:10 Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?”

33:11 Say to them, As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Psalm 119:33-40
119:33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end.

119:34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.

119:35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.

119:36 Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain.

119:37 Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways.

119:38 Confirm to your servant your promise, which is for those who fear you.

119:39 Turn away the disgrace that I dread, for your ordinances are good.

119:40 See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life.

Romans 13:8-14
13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

13:9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

13:11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers;

13:12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;

13:13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.

13:14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Matthew 18:15-20
18:15 “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.

18:16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

18:17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

18:18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

18:19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.

18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

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