Thesis 12: Healed By Brokenness

This post is part of a series of meditations on each of Luther's "95 Theses." You can view all posts in the series here.
12. In former times the canonical penalties were imposed not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.
So, according to Luther in this thesis, it used to be that a priest or cleric sinned and then received a penalty from the church. Following a truly contrite act of repentance, the person was absolved. End of story. Now, however, the penalty follows the absolution if the sinner was not repenting at a proper level of contrition.

This has me thinking about how long we hold grudges, or still tell stories about how a friendship, a marriage, or any relationship experience will play itself out based on previous experience. Where is the balance between making informed decisions about acting within any given situation using knowledge of previous occurrences, and giving the present moment the benefit of the doubt?

My heart is filled with cynicism around the church these days. It's my default stance. This is not fun.

It just feels so much easier to have low expectations and be surprised than to have high expectations and be disappointed. Consequently, low expectations breed satisfaction at pitifully minimal attempts at improvement. They breed complacency. I am left with few choices when the cynicism feels so thick that it's choking me.

The one that I yearn to choose more often is hope.

I have just returned from an annual "unconference" in Phoenix where I reconnected with old friends and put a body and face to friends I'd previously known only on social media. It was indescribably life-giving. We were small: 85 or so. Many of us shared a feeling of being broken, disappointed, or canonically penalized by the church. I am slowly coming to understand that I cannot heal myself or my church until I acknowledge these emotions, not just to myself but to the community at large.

So: I am broken. The church is broken.

Our Christ continues to show us that our brokenness is the starting line in a long, slow marathon towards wholeness, not something to be avoided. Ignoring this brokenness leads to breaking the body up further, to creating pockets of shunned voices, to splits that are wider than can even maybe be healed.

Or maybe this is the process God has in mind. Maybe this is the healing that comes even in the midst of the estrangement. Maybe this ignoring of brokenness within the church is what God is using to tighten the bonds of those experiencing isolation at the margins of the conversation.

Maybe. But it still hurts.


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