Sunday, November 28, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Every few years I re-read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic book The Cost of Discipleship because it serves as a good reminder of what life in Christ is about.
Today I was reading his chapter about the Church called “The Visible Community.” Bonhoeffer writes: “The word of God seeks a Church to take unto itself. It has its being in the Church. It enters the Church by its own self-initiated movement.” (p. 250)
I learned a little song at summer camp when I was a kid that totally contradicts this statement. It went like this:
If I had a little box to put my Jesus in
I’d take him out and hug him and put him back in
And if I had a little box to put the devil in
I’d take him out and SMASH HIS FACE! and put him back in.
It’s kind of cute, but it serves to illustrate the point. We can’t put Jesus (The Living Word, ie. John 1:1) into parameters. We don’t have Him—He has us! We can’t give Him our list of expectations and expect he’ll deliver. What happens more often is that he gives us the list of expectations and then we philosophize about how he really meant something different. Here are some examples:
- Mark 9:35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."
- Luke 18:22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
- Luke 14:26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-- yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple.
- John 12:24 "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."
- Matthew 19:29-30 "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first."
- Luke 6:27-35 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked."
- Mark 8:36 "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"
I guess I'm just at a place where I'm tired of rationalizing away what Jesus said so I can do what I think will be more comfortable. Sometimes I feel like a crazy man. Bonehoffer was crazy, too, though. He, however, understood the nature of the call when he said:
"The disciple is dragged out of his relative security into a life of absolute insecurity (that is, in truth, into the absolute security and safety of the fellowship of Jesus), from a life which is observable and calculable (it is, in fact, quite incalculable) into a life where everything is unobservable and fortuitous (that is, into one which is necessary and calculable), out of the realm of the finite (which is in truth the infinite) into the realm of infinite possibilities (which is the one liberating reality). The Cost of Discipleship p.58
So what's the point? I think the point is that the Word of God is looking for a church to join, and when it finds that church—those people will learn about infinite possiblities of God's liberating reality.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
My dog, Teddy, is easily distracted by every bit of trash, leaves, sticks, bugs and acorns, that we come across on the sidewalk or in his line of vision. If he sees it, he puts it in his mouth. Of course, I know that some tidbits will be especially tempting as I anticipate his attraction from my height advantage. So when I take him on walks around the neighborhood, I really appreciate one of the commands that he learned in obedience class. I end up using the “Leave It!” command a lot. I want him to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the big beautiful world. There are birds, squirrels, children, other pets, water and flowers for us to explore together. However, Teddy will never get the Big Picture of what our walk could become if his nose is on the ground messing with junk.
Usually within one or two firmly voiced commands from me, Teddy has dropped the offending item. I say, “Good Boy!” and we are on our way. His obedient response makes our time together more much enjoyable with less tugging on the leash and worry over what he has just swallowed. I love it when my dog becomes re-focused, turns his darling little face toward me and we set off again on the path before us.
Since I have used the “Leave It” command, I have thought a lot about how much easier my life would be if I could audibly hear God say that to me at times. In my morning quiet times or as I try to meditate, I find it helpful to practice "Leave It" when my mind wanders to worries or lists of duties. My daily walk with God is interrupted as I become distracted by so much of the “trash of life.” Often it is just a bunch of little things that do not amount to much, but as I spend time on them—pick them up, puzzle over them, chew on them, or even play with them—I forget about my Master. Teddy is at least on the end of a leash as we walk. In my life, I am free to get just as distracted as I chose and wander far away.
Perhaps God does use the “Leave It” command in many ways. Surely the 10 Commandments are "Leave Its" designed to protect us from harm. Sometimes other people that I attempt to walk through life with offer me "Leave Its" as they share their experiences or wisdom. The Scriptures and godly authors, with the examples of those who have walked before us, are full of "Leave It" messages.
“Lord, Help me to listen to your Leave It commands. I truly want to look up and see that we have much to explore together.”
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Member of the Florida Hospital Church
Sunday, November 7, 2010
What is worth standing for? I had an experience several years ago that caused me to ask myself that question. It had nothing to with “taking a stand” but with actual physical standing. There have been times in my life where I have found reason to stand: holiday lines at Costco can take 20-30 minutes – about the same time I understand people stand in line at our local 4 Rivers Smokehouse for some of their famous brisket. But standing for 20-30 minutes? That’s nothing! I stood in line for over an hour to see the Sistine Chapel and about the same amount of time was spent on my feet waiting for the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
We live right next door to Disney World, and who hasn’t stood in line there? I think my record is about 45 minutes, but according to personal accounts on the Internet, people happily stand for several hours at a time for the newest theme park ride. And what about concerts? Even with tickets in hand, people tell stories of standing in line for two (Justin Bieber) and three (Lady Gaga) hours to see their favorite artists.
So back to the experience that was the catalyst for my question: I was visiting a church, and early in the service the congregation was invited to stand while we sang. I was fine until we began the third song. “Come on!” I thought. There was a perfectly good chair right behind me. What’s the point? The worship leader finally told us we could sit down, and the service continued. A few weeks later, a guest vocal group sang a medley of tunes as a special at my church. The medley ended with a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Without direction, each person in attendance stood to his or her feet. It was a wonderful, emotional and meaningful moment.
It was at that moment that it hit me: If my natural reaction is to rise to my feet in honor and respect for my country, why is it that I feel so “put upon” when asked to stand while singing praises to God? When I was perfectly honest with myself I realized that I was willing to stand for great lengths of time for things that are temporal and somewhat meaningless, and yet I felt it was unreasonable to be asked to stand for 15 minutes to sing praises to the Almighty . . . the Creator . . . the Alpha and Omega . . . the I AM.
I don’t believe that sitting or standing while singing to God is a moral issue – a matter of “right” or “wrong”. I think God gladly hears our songs regardless of our posture, but that whole experience made me realize that I need to truly consider what I’m doing when I enter a worship service. Whether I’m singing or praying, listening or participating – I am in the presence of the One who deserves my wholehearted and willing attention – from my seat and from my feet.