Vulnerability is a big theme with me - in life, in relationships, in theology. It's one of the reasons I'm such a big fan of Brené Brown. In her TED Talks on vulnerability and shame, and in books like Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection , she writes candidly and movingly about the importance of being vulnerable and the challenges to doing so.
It's a key theological category for me because I think it's what we see so vividly in the person and ministry of Jesus. Not only there, of course, as the God who commits to creation, gives over free will, offers laws and guidance, pleads for people to treat each other well, gets angry when they don't, and again and again draws near to restore the broken relationship.... Well, suffice it to say that this God is an incredibly vulnerable God.
That vulnerably gets kicked up a cosmic notch, though, when you confess that God comes amongst us as the Word made flesh, taking on our lot and our life, and dying our death.
I suspect most of those reading this blog are, or are becoming more, comfortable with vulnerability as a way to understand God. Perhaps we're even comfortable thinking about the Christian life in these terms - that we should be vulnerable to one another, vulnerable to the needs of the world, and in all these ways vulnerable to the grace of God.
But are we comfortable with thinking about our congregations this way? Do we want our congregations to be places of real vulnerability, or do we look to worship and our congregational life as places to bolster our sense of stability, our sense that we're okay, or at least that we will be if we do the right things.
Pete Rollins calls those notions into question in this provocative video about discovering God in fragility. Peter, in his usual candid, at times even startling way - and always in his disarming Irish brogue - invites us to imagine that faith isn't about getting it all together but in meeting God - or really, being met by God - where things fall apart. What if the truth that Jesus says sets us free (John 8:32) is that we are fragile. Not just sinful - yes, that also of course, but there's more to our reality than sin. We are fragile, fearful, broken - and hopeful, joyful, strong - and God meets us in all these places.
The key is that we don't have to pretend. We can be who and what we are and trust that God meets us there. Martin Luther once said that a "theologian of the cross" was skilled at "calling a thing what it is." Broken, hopeful, fragile, resilient - God meets us there, not in the places we're pretending to be or promising to be but there, really there. And when we discover that we're free.
This is another element to consider in our ongoing conversation about Baptism. When we baptize our children, do we imagine that we are protecting them against something - disbelief, damnation, isolation... - or do we imagine that we are inviting them to be who they really are, trusting that God's response to them will always be, "You are my beloved child, and with you I am well pleased"?
A lot, I think, hinges on the answer.