Monday, May 08, 2006

Thoughts on Swimming

Recently, I was accused of swimming in a stream that is not the main one. I have to say, I have never thought about that idea very much before. Though I am not entirely sure of the author’s motivation in making the comment, after a few days of reflection, I think my response is one of appreciation. This insight has opened up a whole new set of possibilities for me and my relationship with God.

See, I didn’t choose which stream to swim in, God chose it for me and said, “Hey little fishie, swim there.” All I can do is proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which God reveals to me through the presence of the Holy Spirit. All I can do is read the Bible, study the tradition, seek experiences with the living presence of Christ, and reflect on all of this using the gift of my rational mind. That’s all I can do. And when that is said and done, God says, “Look! Here is Andy Bryan’s stream. Swim and be happy, my little fishie!”

“But God,” I say, “This stream does not appear to be the Mainstream.”

“Not to worry; do not be afraid,” replies God. “It is yours. And it is a very nice stream. It’s where I want you to be for the time being.”

So, why is my stream not yours? I just don’t know – moot question. But I would like for you to show me. I want to hear about your stream, and why you swim in it. I am sure it is lovely! I know it must be, because I know that mine is. Will you let me tell you about my stream, and why I am swimming in it? Maybe after our conversation, I will decide to leap over into your stream, or you will decide to leap over into mine. Or maybe a little bit of my stream will spill over into yours and a little bit of yours will spill over into mine, and we’ll keep on swimming.

The only time I’m ever going to tell you that you may be swimming in a bad stream is if you are hurting other fishies in some way. Maybe your stream has been polluted or been dammed up or someone has built levees along the side and tried to steer its flow. I don’t know. But I do know that if your stream hurts others, this little fishie is going to say something about it. Likewise, I expect the same from you. If my stream is hurtful in some way, please let me know so that I can do something about it.

Too cheesy? Maybe a little bit. Oh, who am I kidding? This post is cheesier than Lambeau field on game day. But the metaphor gets the idea across, I think. And what’s wrong with a big fat cheesy metaphor every now and then?

God chose this stream for me; it may not be the main one, but it is mine. And I am going to swim here at least for a while longer.


Anonymous said...

I love cheesey, which will not surprise you. And I have always liked "Swimmy". Now I am going to have to think a while as to what my stream is like. Thanks. cb

Kevin Shelton said...

Swim on, my brother, swim on! For I know God is with you.

Peace in Jesus,
Rev. Kev

John said...

If the Methodist Left insists on pushing its radical sexual agenda, then there will soon be not one stream, but two.

But by all means, as Kevin says, swim on in that stream.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry that John feels that way. I hope he remembers that Jesus was extremely radical. But I do hope that being loving and accepting of ALL God's children is not a radical idea. If it is, God help us all. For we will not survive if harsh judgement of those with whom we disagree is the only way we can deal with one another. Such a forecast leaves me feeling very hopeless and needing the grace that God gives to us all. cb

John B said...

John's right, if Andy and those who think like him continue to try to swim against with in the stream we call the United Methodist Church, the UMC as we know it is not going to last much longer.

And while it's true Jesus was extremely radical, he called for a radical form of discipleship that denies oneself in order to follow him. Jesus offered radical grace that does not condemn when people accept it and commit themselves to "go and sin no more."

John said...

Good point, John B. Jesus called us to live radical lives, rejecting the values of the world. Those who seek to accomodate the homosexual sexual agenda are foresaking Christ for the values of the world. True Christian radicals do not accomodate sin.

Larry said...

Andy said:

All I can do is proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which God reveals to me through the presence of the Holy Spirit. All I can do is read the Bible, study the tradition, seek experiences with the living presence of Christ, and reflect on all of this using the gift of my rational mind.

So Andy - in your stream that you just described, explain to me out of the items you listed, which holds the most importance in terms of where you swim - do you think scripture (reading the bible) is of prime importance or is perhaps experience the most important? In other words which way does your stream flow? Do you go from your experience and then read into the bible from your experiential viewpoint, or do you take the scripture and allow it to flow into your understanding of experience?

For me, my stream has to flow from scripture to reason to experience. Which is the stream that I understand Jesus swam in too from reading the scriptures.

It seems like a lot of people like to swim opposite of that and take their experience and develop reasoning for it and then look for scripture to support it. I suspect that is how your stream is probably flowing.

Any thoughts reactions?

Andy B. said...

Thank you for the good questions, Larry. I start with Scripture, and reflect on my experience and the tradition by Scripture's light. I am always amazed as I plunge deeper into the Scriptures at how God opens up new understandings. There is always something new to know about God.

Anonymous said...

Don't all streams lead to the same place in the end? Is there a Methodist stream, a Baptist stream, a Cathlic stream, etc?

You can prove or disprove almost anything if you only use certain scriptures from the bible. Just look at the difference in the Old and New Testaments.

Christ swam a different stream from the Jewish faith of the time. Was Christ wrong?

I say if you have love and respect for others in your heart, all streams will end up in the same place by the grace of God.


Larry said...

Im glad this question came up Andy even if you thought it was cheesy.

Building on my earlier post, in my own opinion, what really seems to be happening is that people have ceased to view scripture as the topmost authority and have begun to substitute experience and reason in place.

Much of the talk about "inclusive love" and following your heart has to be predicated on an experiential based view, I know of no scriptural teaching that would back up this view.

I know it's a very self fulfilling feeling to be inclusive and loving as used in today's context. We have probably all experienced the welling of emotion that comes with unqualified acceptance. And I can understand that people would want to believe that being like Jesus must also be that way, but again when you examine scripture as whole, there is no such theme.

Jesus included in his commands to love the act of rebuking someone who is guilty of sin. Over a quarter of Jesus's saying in the gospels warn about future judgement for those who do not mend their ways. Those things are converse to the "unqualified acceptance" that most people advocate and they produce negative emotions in nearly all people. In fact my post is probably infuriating a lot of people. But scripturally, that's what you find.

So when someone holds fast to the idea of inclusivity without rebuke for sin, they are trading their own experience for the authority of the scripture.

Andy B. said...

You are right, and that is what John Battern was writing about too, when he described "Designer Religions."
Actually I pretty much agree with your comments here. Where we differ is in the application. I am by no means saying "anything goes" - or "unqualified acceptance" as you put it. Quoting someone (not sure who) - "There are some things up with which I will not put." This is true for all people, but our lists of those things look different, even though our sources for deriving those lists may be the same.
Again, I thank you for your thoughtful comments and this respectful dialogue.

Emily Neely said...

Hi Andy, I like your stream analogy. But I want you to know that some people don't even swim, they fly! I get to fly in Colorado. I am so blessed. It is also good to read about your stream in Kansas City. I miss hanging out in the same pond even if I am a flyer. Have a great day. Swim on my friend, swim on.