Tuesday, October 24, 2006

on My Rights

In John 13, Jesus washes the feet of His disciples. Certainly a lowly task in a walk-everywhere world. Then, when explaining what He was doing, comes to the sad truth that Judas is going to live contrary to Jesus. But Jesus does it like this,

But the Scripture will be fulfilled, "He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me." John 13:18

Ironic how the foot He just washed will be lifted against Him. Additional irony, Jesus is quoting Psalm 41 which starts:

Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him;
the Lord protects him and keeps him alive;
he is called blessed in the land;
you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.

The Lord sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness you restore him to full health.

Yet that very night, He will feel sick, be betrayed, and killed the next day - killed on a cross of curse and shame.

Question: at what point do I stand up for my "rights" - what determines whether I become a Strong Man or a doormat for someone else?

(to put it in terms of Jesus' story, When do I whip the boneheads in the Temple and when am I to be slaughtered like a dumb sheep?)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Why it's hard to Worship

Much of what I do/did as a pastor was overly . . . mental. "Belief" was the primary objective. Belief in contrast to believe-and-do. Yet my standard for ownership of a belief was the creative expression of the belief, that is, I believed (sic) that someone fully owned a belief when they expressed an action out of that belief that was unique to him/her.

Nonetheless, it has been quite a bit about what one believes, what one thinks. I think I am a part of a long history in the Church of such a pattern. Herein lies a problem. Much of what is called "teaching" or "preaching" is the presentation and defense of ideas. That is about all that comes from pastors. And I believe it is harming Worship of God.

Worship can and does have a myriad of forms, not just Sunday morning sing-time. Worship being defined as the expression of the god-ness of God. It feels like (hint: upcoming statistic is emotional, not an actual survey) about 50 percent of worship expressions are actually mental. To quote one definition, "I ascribe worth to God."

Summation: when so much of the Sunday morning / pastor / teaching experience of Christians is so overly-mental, it perhaps dilutes Worship. Christians are so tired of the baseline, mental activity (called sitting and listening to someone talk about beliefs) that it becomes difficult to ascend to Worship. When I used to run laps in junior high, I would get this sense that I was on auto-pilot - couldn't speed up nor slow down, just kept moving my legs. It's like that.

Perhaps this is one more reason why so much of the poetry and prose of the Church focuses on what God has done for Almighty ME. In stark contrast to a vast number of Psalms and prayers in the Hebrew Scriptures ("Old Testament"). Perhaps we are habituated into auto-pilot and cannot get our minds to ascend to the worship of the King, for the very ones who were to lead us (e.g. me) have numbed us.

God save you from me. And may you see Him when He does.

Monday, October 16, 2006

"Middle Evangelical"

I've been reading through the book of John and the following quotes from Jesus struck me:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. - John 5:39-40

If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. - John 7:17

In Mapping Postmodernism, Greer "concludes" that there is a necessary shift from seeing "turth" as an abstraction unto seeing it as a Person. So with that somewhere in my mind, I am reading these passages (in context) and finding that Jesus sees two things greater than the Scriptures: 1) Himself and (2) obedience.

I'm not sure any deep follower of Jesus would think that Jesus is great and that obedience is a great idea! But to force them to be in competion with the Scripture . . .

So here I find myself somewhat Evangelical and somewhat "middle." I hold to deep moral convictions that I believe are more than just good ideas, they are necessary. I believe that there is a source of Truth outside of my own/cultural rationale (and that it is most easily found in the Bible). Put those two together and source them in Jesus and I find myself "Evangelical." But that's about where it ends.

I find myself "middle" because I don't buy the far right abstraction of all human problems nor the far left "fix the problems but keep the seperation of Morals and State." I find myself in the middle. But to vaguely quote some journalist I heard the other day, "The middle is not a balance of left and right, it's a set of convictions on its own." The 'middle' is a third option, not a synthesis.

So here's what I understand "the middle" to be: actually wanting to make a difference in the world both today and tomorrow. Wanting to deal directly with the problems being faced - without regard for whether an idea comes from the left, the right, or somewhere else. Wanting to deal with issues of poverty/corruption, racism, eco-destruction, unbridled consumerism. Looking ahead and wanting to prevent social decay or destruction in issues like 2-party America, homosexuality, immigration, unbridled stupidity in the name of "science," and many more.

So I am making up a label (and hoping a political party will form so that I can at least have some other option at the polls): Middle Evangelical. Obeying the Scriptures because they are the Words of/from God, the Jesus who is my King, my Friend, my Spouse, my Lord.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Handling Fear

I was listening to my friend Rocco a few weeks ago discuss what he had learned as the most important part of being a "man." It is to initiate. This has stuck in my head ever since.

Then came discussions at home about courage and fear, etc. And it became apparent to me that dealing with fear has some pretty simple components. In particular, knowing what I'm afraid of, knowing the solution, and then, the one I tend to forget to identify: Initiate.

With my newer sensibilities, I find that this start-up action can have two paths: self-initiation (e.g. "God helps those who help themselves") or faith-step (e.g. Trusting God with what to do as well as the power to do it). I long to not initiate my own path but rather to initiate my step(s) into faith, into the unknown, often cloudy direction of faith.

Yet I must initiate. Without everything calculated, worked out, accounted for. Folly, save that it is supra-human to trust-walk as God's.