Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Jan Hus

A year ago today, I was driving down to Anaheim for General Convention. Little did I know what disruption that would cause to my saint-watching practices. I'll have more to say later about the additional of all the new folks that happened last year, but my initial reaction after almost a year is, bleah. Not "bleah" as in "yuck," but "bleah" as in, "Why?" Or something. As I said, I'll have more about that reaction later.

There are notable exceptions, and today is one of them: Jan Hus, burned at the stake on this day in 1415 for doing things like, oh, saying that the church shouldn't sell indulgences to pay for wars. Heretical stuff like that.

"In 1412 his archbishop excommunicated him, not for heresy, but for insubordination." Eventually, insubordination was renamed heresy when Hus said he thought the papacy was an organizational strategy rather than a Divine Plan of God. "The Council, having just narrowly succeeded in uniting Western Christendom under a single pope after years of chaos, was not about to have its work undone. It accordingly found him guilty of heresy, and he was burned at the stake on 6 July 1415."

You know one thing I love about Hus? It's not that he is saying that the papacy is bad (from the little I read); just that he recognizes that this is a way of ordering the work of the church. Is it good or bad? Depends on whether it is doing what it is meant to do: caring for the church and all its people in a way that reflects the love of God and love of neighbor. When it does things like fleece the flock to support its wars and internecine strife, well, then...not so much.

Oh, how we love to dress up our systems and methods as divine plans! And then, once they have become divine, they cannot change or be challenged. It's a real shortcut, isn't it?, to say "but God established this way of doing things," when really it's more, "This used to work quite well in running things."

It is often so difficult to see the distinction between God and organization. I am so grateful for the witness of Jan Hus who had the clearsightedness to see what was truly human and what was truly divine.

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