It’s not a bad idea to have a few pseudonyms. One of my favorites is Rotsap Pools (Pastor Sloop backwards). I turn to it during times I mess up. Self talk goes something like this, “Well that was a real Rotsap Pools move!”
When our daughter Elizabeth passed through the teen years at times we would address her as “Complainabeth.” Needless to say, while descriptive of her mood, this name served only to amplify complaining.
Neither identifiers is particularly positive. Over time they would begin to wear, and not comfortably. Hopefully a voice would emerge, perhaps an internal voice, protesting.
What’s In a Name?
One of the most critical times for our spiritual ancestors was their exile in Babylon. They had no reason to speak of themselves in the affirmative. Many were complaining, many were pointing the finger at each other. Given their lot they would have answered to the name Hopeless or Powerless or Worthless. A bully would not have made them feel lower. They were already there.
Along came a voice from within their community. Someone home grown. This voice refused to allow the present to define. Up on tiptoes this strong presence offered a counter-identity. Not one that had any substance based on circumstances.
Rather a strange and potent message: You Are Oaks of Righteousness
Sturdy • Tall • Expansive • Unmoved • Reliable • Worthwhile
This imaginative voice is Isaiah, specifically Isaiah of Jerusalem. His words, poetic words, are preserved as scripture. He spoke for God.
I dare you to speak as did Isaiah
To turn to another, to someone languishing in self-disgust or lamenting a former life, a failure that holds sway and say directly to them you are an oak of righteousness.’
And mean it. To do so is to live toward the fullness of life in Christ.
So Great a Love,
David A. Sloop, Interim Pastor
I was once accused of robbing the Walmart on Glenwood Avenue. That day I was casually walking toward the store from my car when suddenly people flooded out of Walmart’s main entrance. They were all pointing and shouting,
“They are over there! There they go!!”
I looked where this crowd pointed and saw two men on foot, holding a large package, running toward the Glenwood Avenue Chick-Fil-A.
Here’s where I come in
A Raleigh Police Cruiser came next to the two men (the actual robbers), and they, instead of sticking up their hands, point the officers to me!! Then the police came speeding across the parking lot…after me!!
“Officer,” I shouted, “turn around! Those two men are the ones who robbed Walmart!” And they high tailed it after the real robbers.
I admit to being dumbfounded by those robbers. Who in their right mind would steal a large package in broad daylight, in a large parking lot, flee on foot and expect to get away? Apparently, running away was not their intended plan. They had a getaway car. Only problem, when most needed, the car failed to start!
A True Lenten Experience
This parking lot fiasco has touch points to Lent. A true Lenten experience won’t let us say, “The real problem is over there, running away.”
What can sting with these 40 days is the freight of complicity. What holds us is the firm recognition that every getaway car gets us nowhere. We participate.
The opening salvo from our mouths as Lent begins:
“We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others as we have been forgiven.”
That’s Lent. Recognizing again our carrying off a package, and the burden it brings, what it exposes.
The older I become, the more I want of Lent
To welcome Lent is not to wallow in self-hatred. To live a good Lent is not to be dour and despairing. To embrace this season with passion is not about full time remorse. Rather it’s more about staying alive, about receiving and recognizing grace, about openness to the ongoing promise of Christ amidst the tragic realities of life.
Lord, have mercy,
Pastor David Sloop, Grace Interim Pastor
P.S. This year Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on Valentine’s Day