Poo on the Path

September 26, 2021

Yep, another bike analogy!  Who would have thought getting in shape physically would have so much to teach me spiritually as well!  The ultimate two-fer!

A couple of weeks ago, while riding, I was in such a good head space…..until I wasn’t…!  

It seemed that every few yards, I had to dodge poo right in the middle of the bike path! 

Are you kidding me?  

Who would do such a thoughtless thing – not poo on the side of the path, but right in the middle! 

Who on earth could possibly think that this was a good idea? 

Who was so thoughtless? 

Who felt their own personal convenience gave them the right to do such things?  

Ironically, there were also full poo bags on the edges of the path; not as many as those uncontained deposits in the middle of the path, but bags there nonetheless. Did the poo bag depositors think half-baked responsible actions were better than nothing?!

Now, before I go further, let me say that I am a huge dog lover and owner.  I can’t imagine life without dogs!  My frustrations don’t come from a place of canine dislike, but rather from the impact of having to deal with poo impediments on an otherwise lovely, fitness-inducing, life-affirming path.

What impact?  

It was impossible to enjoy the ride, relish the scenery, and work on speed training, when having to keep an unblinking eye on the path directly ahead in order to avoid the poo; the thought of riding through the stuff and carrying the smelly unpleasant remnants along the rest of the ride was not an option. 

My visceral response to the poo depositors? You saw my thoughts already in the sentences above….

I began self-righteously and indignantly demonizing ‘those people’ as downright awful people! It never crossed my mind to do something about the poo by cleaning it up myself, or by trying to understand why someone would do such a thing with no underlying nefarious intentions! 

And therein, as they say, lie the lessons. 

+ + +

I know some who read this blog might think I am drawing a line between poo and the current conundrums surrounding COVID-19, but they would be incorrect.  

The lessons I learned as I considered the poo on the path are even more important, I believe.

They are lessons about the poo we Christians leave in the paths that frustrate others trying to making their Way on the pathway of life in Christ.  

This poo co-opts Christianity by denigrating our Lord’s message of unconditional love and forgiveness, boundless mercy and compassion for all creation.  

It is poo that we are all guilty of leaving on the path: conservatives, liberals, middle of the roaders, fundamentalists.  Unfortunately, we only see the poo left by ‘the others.’ 

What poo am I talking about?

  • The poo of those who feel compelled to ‘believer-speak’ for Christ.
    • Speaking holy speak words of judgment under the guise of loving accountability of scripture whether the words are contextually accurate or not.  
    • Perhaps you are familiar with the Council of Jerusalem written about in the New Testament (Acts 15:1-35).  
      • Gentiles seeking to become members of The Way were faced with the poo of having to become circumcised (and thus a Jew) before they could become Christians worthy of eating with the ‘righteous.’  
      • The Spirit of God removed the poo.  
      • Circumcision would no longer be a requirement for inclusion
      • Such  requirements would have made The Way a club, not a lifestyle.
        • Works aren’t what ‘get you into heaven;’ it’s God’s grace that comes through faith!  
        • Works are a subsequent expression of faith, not the catalyst!  
  • The poo of exclusionary lifestyles shutting out those who lived differently yet longed to follow Christ. 
    • Jesus was condemned for His association with tax collectors and sinners (Mark2:13-17)
    • Jesus embraced and included the very ones the religious leaders shunned (John 8:2-11)
    • Jesus condemned the lifestyle of the rigid religious law enforcers – the Pharisees – as those who may followed the ‘rules’ but failed to live into the essence of love of God and love for all.  (Matthew 23:1-36)
  • So much of the bad press Christ receives these days comes from 21st century Pharisaic Christians: those who know the rules but either don’t comprehend the foundational principles – or worse, ignore the principals altogether; after all, exclusion and judgment bring power – not to Christ but to self!  Poo on the path!
    • The Christ-life is one founded on love not judgment, inclusion not exclusion. 
    • Mutual identity with and understanding of the rest of humanity comes with realizing we all have poo – Christ came to cleanse all of us and make us clean! (Romans 3:22-24) How quickly we forget! 
    • Christianity becomes perceived:
      • as a club of defined by pious slogans not lived-out sacrificial love
      • as a gathering of the hypocritical who often see all sins but their own as worthy of judgment 

No wonder the ‘church’ seems to be dying! It has become all about personal preference, not about new life in Christ Who came for all.

And before someone reading this entry thinks – aha! I am not part of the poo problem…I would invite you to think again!

  • I would wager that most, if not all, of us judge those who aren’t of our political/religious mindset. 
    • Christianity has become a political battering ram – poo in the pathway – for all of us.
      • How often do we dismiss ‘those people’ who don’t agree with as misguided, ignorant, unscriptural, theologically unsound, modern-day Pharisees and unworthy of our care and love?
      • How often do we impatiently choose not to listen to ‘those people’? Are we afraid they just have a perspective we haven’t considered? 
        • Jesus listened to the rich young ruler who came at night, and, though the man left without accepting the truth the Lord lovingly offered him, there would still be time. Christ would wait. (Matthew 19:16-22)
      • How often do we ‘accept those people’ but not without a certain sense of sanctimony and condescension:
        • We’ll ‘let you in’ even though you voted for….even though you believe…..aren’t we wonderful! Poo!
          • Think of Peter and ALL the disciples and Christ’s inclusion of them after the resurrection! (John 21:15-23)
          • Never once did Christ drop this judgmental poo in front of His followers!

So many of the behaviors of the church these days is not of Christ; it’s just poo on the path. 

Christ calls for unity among believers – that we might be one. (John 17:20-24)

Christ calls for us to go into the world in His name and according to His word. (Matthew 28:16-20)

Christ, no human celebrity, is the One true head of the church. (Colossians 1:18)

We are called to be the One true Body intended to grow, as all living things do; a growth nurtured and held together by the divine love and the life-giving breath of the Spirit.

Christ calls for us to remember that we are sinners just like everyone else – sinners saved by grace – sacrificially loved without hesitation over how we have lived. We are to offer that same grace and love to others – without exception!

Anything else is poo.

So…… What am I – what are you – doing about the poo in the path that leads to true life?

Are we self-serving in our faith, conveniently shaping scripture to accommodate our purposes, not caring if we impede others seeking to make their own way on life’s path as long as we are comfortable?

Are we self-righteously condescending in our attitudes towards ‘those people’ nominally accepting them perhaps, but not unconditionally embracing them?

Realizing that all of us have some responsibility for the poo on the path is a start toward doing something about it.

Time to clear the path of stinky poo and make the way straight in the light of Christ’s love for everyone.

The consequences? A life-affirming, Christ- led journey home as we make our way together. 

Thinking I need to take some poo bags with me next time I ride!

And to God be the glory!  AMEN.

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

One thought on “Poo on the Path

  1. Since Acts 15:1-35 was my text for today’s message, I will have to share this with my parishioners. I used “barriers” – but I think they will like your poo anecdote better… and so do I. 🙂 Blessings!

    Like

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