Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Irony

This must have been pointed out somewhere, I'm sure.

Santa Claus myth:  Good people get presents, bad people get nuthin'.

Jesus story: Good people are actually bad, and the greatest gift imaginable has been given to bad people.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Showing Up" to Gatherings and Prayer

David Fitch, whose blog is called Reclaiming the Mission says that one of the best things our Sunday morning gathering can do is bore the hell out of us.  I must say, I wondered what he meant, but when I got to reading, I discovered a interesting balance to my growing conviction that Sunday morning doesn't really matter at all, and that it's totally arbitrary and if it continues to exist, it should at least be de-emphasized.  Here's a small quotation:
"Go to the gathering. Not to get pumped up and inspired. Not to take some notes on the three things you can do to improve your Christian life. NO! Go to the gathering to shut down from all the noise – to submit yourself to Christ – the practice of confession – the listening to the Word – the submission to the receiving of the gift for life at the Table..."
Yeah, I can dig that.  I need gatherings. I need lots of them probably. And I need at least one intentional way of clearing my mind of workweek clutter and sub-eternal cares that get caked on periodically.  That's what Sunday morning can do.  Bore me out of thinking about receipts and budgets and things. The eating of Word and Sacrament in community is the best way I can think of to kill my desperate desire to make my life "work."  Of course, if the gathering is not centered around Word and Sacrament, or has more to do with self-improvement imperatives than with Jesus Christ, that's another story...

A confession: I haven't been showing up to prayer lately. For a long time. I rarely ascribe things to the "voice of God" anymore, but this conviction was clearly his voice.  Not that I haven't been praying- I've made a habit of praying periodic, short prayers that don't consist of much throughout the day. Rarely out loud.  But to "show up" to prayer, to intentionally be focused on my conversation with Jesus, is a rare thing indeed with me.  The thing that strikes me about "out loud" prayers is that at some point in eternity, we're going to have to pray out loud because --get ready for a stunning theological assertion--  Jesus has ears.  Seriously, praying, like anything I do as a new creation, is an establishment of new humanity, and my new humanity includes proper use of things like tongue, voice, and eardrums.

My failure to pray out loud (with the exception of certain meals where I get "chosen" to say a blessing) and give prayer an time of intentionality, I think, is a product of what Fitch identifies in his post as "organizing God out of our lives." Words take energy, and time, and so does intentional "showing up" to pray.  This is energy that, in the scheme of things, could be used towards a more happy, productive life.  I could secure more benefits.  Speaking "into the air" as it often appears to be, doesn't really contribute to the categories I've deemed valuable.  So I do it in my mind, while driving to the post office, and say "good enough. I'm a pray-er."

So we'll see how this awareness of shortcoming works itself out in practice.  In the meantime, I'm going to add David Fitch to the blogroll on the right. I like him.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Scot McKnight's New Book

Well here's a great interview by Frank Viola with Scot McKnight, author of a new book called One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow.  I must say, the interview makes me wanna read it.  Check out the question about Kingdom- when asked to define it, he says:
You simply can’t say “kingdom” in the 1st Century and not think of a King, and a Land, and a citizenship and a Law that governs the citizens. You can’t get by with thinking it is nothing more than the personal experience of God as my king.
In short, a place with certain characteristics.  Contrast this with the average assumption in many post-modern readings, which generally concerns itself with Kingdom as an experience, a warm-fuzzy thing that happens to you inside.  Interesting. 

He also highlights "communities shaped by the Lord's prayer" as a theme for the book.  Scot is one of the more Jesus-y thinkers on the web these days, and it seems like with this book he's trying to push discipleship towards Jesus-shaped communities.  Sounds like a plan.  

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


In Acts 24-26 Paul goes to trial for stirring up trouble in Jerusalem as a member of the Way.  Eugene Peterson has this to say:
The trials in Acts 24-26 force us, if we're to stay true to the story we're reading, to give up the notion that the Christian community can catch the admiring eye of the world if we just live rightly and obediently.  We have ample documentation by now to disabuse us of such thinking.  God's revelation is rejected far more often than it is accepted, is dismissed by far more people than embrace it, and has been either attacked or ignored by every major culture or civilization in which it has given witness: magnificent Egypt, fierce Assyria, beautiful Babylon, artistic Greece, political Rome, Enlightenment France, Nazi Germany, Renaissance Italy, Marxist Russia, Maoist China, and pursuit-of-happiness America.  The community of God's people has survived in all of these cultures and civilizations, but always as a minority, always marginal to the mainstream, never statistically significant. 
This gives us pause. If we, as the continuing company of Jesus, have achieved an easy accomodation with our society and culture, how did we manage to pull off what Jesus and his community of followers failed to accomplish?  How has it come to pass that after twenty centuries of rejection, we assume that human acclaim is tantamount to divine approval?  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

...Our Piety Forgets About Us...

The first thing to remember is that we must never separate the benefits (regeneration, justification, sanctification) from the Benefactor (Jesus Christ). The Christians who are most focused on their own spirituality may give the impression of being the most spiritual … but from the New Testament’s point of view, those who have almost forgotten about their own spirituality because their focus is so exclusively on their union with Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished are those who are growing and exhibiting fruitfulness. Historically speaking, whenever the piety of a particular group is focused on our spirituality that piety will eventually exhaust itself on its own resources. Only where our piety forgets about us and focuses on Jesus Christ will our piety nourished by the ongoing resources the Spirit brings to us from the source of all true piety, our Lord Jesus Christ.
~ Sinclair Ferguson

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's Not Like This Is A New Idea...

But we might as well say it again, and Mike Leake does just that at Borrowed Light:

If our view of Scripture is akin to Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth then I doubt very seriously that we will be compelled to open its pages.  At least not until something goes wrong...Do you realize how hard it is to convince people to find Life in the Scriptures when this is our view?  It’s like trying to convince people that if they want to really enjoy food they should become acquainted with their refrigerator’s manual of operation. That is just silly. 
What if instead we started viewing it as a compelling story told by the Creator of the universe or as a drama that is acted out and then explained by God about God?
Rather than reading it to discover Jesus, says Mike, we're looking for "an answer." To a problem, like "what qualities should I look for in a wife?" Or, dare I say it "how should I go about my relationship with God?" Which is fine, as long as you're willing to admit that crack-cocaine gives people "an answer" too.  And often a more satisfying one, depending on where you're at.