Jack Ditch (revjack) wrote,
Jack Ditch
revjack

Level Up & More Important Things

Today is the 8th anniversary of my ordination as a minister in the Universal Life Church. In the parlance I established back when I was young(er) and flighty and just getting started as a minister, that means I am now a level 9 cleric!

In a couple months I'll be facing my greatest challenge as a minister yet--performing my little brother's wedding ceremony. I'm somewhat nervous. It's a lot easier to stand up in front of someone else's family and be a ULC minister. I've always done my best and feedback has always been positive, but I feel like with my own family, there will be much less room for fallibility.

To be clear, I've never experienced harsh judgment from my primarily socially liberal Roman Catholic family. I grew up as the religious child of my generation, and gained some respect (I think) from my family for that, so when I wandered away from Catholicism, I still carried some spiritual credibility with me. But in many ways, it's that credibility that makes me nervous. The ceremony will be chock full of people who actually care about what I believe and say, and I really care about what they think. Not to diminish the seriousness with which I've always taken my ministry, but normally I think a minister's words at a wedding mostly go in one ear and out the other; people expect no more than "love blah blah commitment" spoken with a properly serious cadence. For my brother's wedding, I think folks might be paying a bit more attention to what I'm professing. And I'll have to choose my words in the context of recently divorced parents and all the other emotional baggage of family relationships. It's gonna be tough.

But I'm also very much looking forward to it. :)

The rest of my formally religious life is fairly sparse right now. I've only gone into a church once or twice in the entire past year. I think I'm doing well by the standards I set for myself a few years ago in my fifth anniversary sermon, as I've become really intensely focused on doing right by my family and dearest friends. But the best way I can do that as a middle-aged man is to work hard and make some money, and I don't have the attention left for doing much that is explicitly religious.

I was hoping to write a longer sermon for this anniversary on the topic of Christian forgiveness, because I've discovered forgiveness to be the most essential quality of my experience of Christianity. Instead, I'm going to just link to this very recent Andrew Sullivan blog post on the topic. He presents his readers' opinions on what is necessary for forgiveness, such as confession, contrition and penance. They are certainly reasonable human standards, and when I was young(er) I could've been less of an asshole by understanding them better. But I'm with Andrew at the end when he says, "My own view is that the imperative of Christian forgiveness is one enunciated by Christ on the cross. He forgave even those who nailed him there. It's a humanly impossible standard. But it is humanity at its highest moral incarnation." Well said, Andrew, and thanks for saving me some time by putting it so concisely. For me, this is the huge mystery of Christianity that brought me back to worship of Christ. The kind of forgiveness that comes after penance might as well just be another nuance of justice, for what kind of "just" God would continue to condemn the properly penitent? It's the kind of forgiveness extended to your murderers as they are in the process of murdering you that I'm talking about when I speak of God's forgiveness. We all need it from time to time, when we are so hard-headed that we cannot repent. Blessed are those who can extend it.

Those who enjoy my online sermonizing might also want to check out the comments section of this thread from Dan Savage's blog, where I explain my views on God's omnipotence in the face of criticisms I often hear from nonbelievers.

Finally, hopefully this year I'll be finishing up Episode III of my Star Wars rewrite. I'm about a quarter of the way done, but it has sadly been falling just below the threshold of things that are important enough for me to get around to doing. Last I checked, I hadn't been able to find a complete rewrite of all three prequels by anybody else, though there was at least one other who had the first two episodes rewritten. I could still be the guy who actually finishes the task that so many have contemplated. Amidst all the more important things in life, I'd like to get this done and give my few loyal fans the ending they deserve. Wish me luck. :)

God bless!
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