Drifting Back into Thursday on Holy Saturday

holy-saturdayAs I contemplate the dark reality of Holy Saturday, I am reminded of the in-between; remaining stuck somewhere between the tragedy of Friday and triumph of Sunday. The problem is I cannot keep my mind in the in-between. As I live this side of resurrection Sunday, I have to try hard to step back and imagine what it must have felt like for the disciples. How dark. How desperate. How hopeless. But I can’t do it. I cannot imagine that place because I know what they did not–Jesus will rise and overcome the dark desperate hopelessness. I know that Holy Saturday is only the in-between.

But even then my mind cannot stay there. It needs a place to settle; resolution. So my mind drifts back into Thursday. Why? Because Thursday is where it all began. It is the place of divine surrender where I am reminded that in the midst of Holy Saturday’s darkness I need to follow Jesus’ lead and surrender to the divine. Thursday is the day God in the flesh willingly submitted to His fickle and comparatively weak created-ones to offer us freedom. It is the day where God whispered to us:

“I’ll allow you to break me so you can be whole.”
“I’ll allow you to revile me so you can be redeemed.”
“I’ll allow you to reject me so you can be reconciled.”
“I’ll allow you to kill me so you can take on true life.”
“I’ll allow you to hate me so you can know God’s love.”
“I’ll allow you to deny me so you can be accepted by God.”
“I’ll be forsaken by God so you will never ever be.”

Jesus’ divine surrender led to His redemptive suffering. Today I cannot help but wonder, will I allow His divine surrender to move me toward surrender? Will I live a life of self-giving love even if it means I am to share in His sufferings? Will I carry within me the death of Christ as I share the load of another’s burden? Because I know Sunday is coming I know the divine power that awaits. My Holy Saturday prayer is that I will allow this divine power to lead me to surrendering to the divine so my old self with all it’s self-serving desires can be carried away and crucified that I might receive the divine power of resurrection. I pray you will too, because one thing is sure this Holy Saturday.

Sunday is coming.

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Holy Week: Monday’s Prayer

Monday’s Prayer for Holy Week by Theologian Walter Brueggemann:

The pushing and shoving of the world is endless,
We are pushed and shoved.
And we do our fair share of pushing and shoving
in our great anxiety.
And in the middle of that
you have set down your beloved suffering son
who is like a sheep lead to slaughter
who opened not his mouth.
We seem not able,
so we ask you to create the spaces in our life
where we may ponder his suffering
and your summons for us to suffer with him,
suspecting that suffering is the only way to come to newness.
So we pray for your Church in these Lenten days,
when we are driven to denial
not to know the suffering,
not to engage it,
not to acknowledge it.
So be that way of truth among us
that we should not deceive ourselves.
That we should see that loss is indeed our gain.
We give you thanks for that mystery from which we live.
Amen.

(Awed to Heaven, Rooted to Earth [2003], 153)

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The Gospel and Cultures: The location of the gospel story

Fred:

This is a great post by a mentor, teacher and friend, Dr. Mark Love. Mark is the dean of the Graduate Department of Theology for Rochester College and oversees the Master of Religious Education in Missional Leadership (check it out!). But what makes Mark worth reading is that he is both theologian and missional practitioner. When he writes on how the gospel of King Jesus is worked out in every day life lived in every day places, I encourage you to take notice.

Follow his blog or connect with him on Twitter @drdrlove.

 

Originally posted on Dei-liberations:

This piece is written primarily for the benefit of my grad students who are taking an online class, Gospel and Cultures. I think it’s pretty important stuff for all of us to think about though. So, you get to read it as well. You might even decide to get a master’s degree in missional leadership and take more courses like this.

A few assumptions to get us all on the same page:

1) The gospel is cultural. Put another way, the gospel and things cultural are not two separate things. The gospel is always communicated in human language and in relationship to the local setting in which it is being performed. This is a part of the genius of Christianity. For the gospel to be news for all, it has to be news in each time and place. So, Christians have always been willing to translate biblical documents into another…

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Throwing Out the (Poor) Baby with the Bath Water: Bi-vocational Ministry

“Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.” Baby bath

What a terrible statement, but I get the point. We shouldn’t over-react or pendulum swing to extremes. But often many of us do. We see something utterly abhorrent, unjust, or plain wrong, and it just happens. From now on, this becomes our posture.

One night during my senior year of high school I drank an entire gallon of grape flavored Mad Dog 20/20, which I would never recommend for countless reasons (kinda proving my own point). To this day eighteen years later I cannot even stomach the idea of drinking grape anything (except the Eucharist, thank goodness). One bad experience with a grape flavored drink caused me to despise all grape flavor drinks. Forever.

The over-reactionary-swing-to-the-extreme-other-side posture is especially found in Christianity. You see it played out in Christian history and you can see it today.

The church (tragically) wounds me, so I throw the whole notion of “organized” church or institutional church, out the door. (Seriously, I almost did.)

A pastor allows ego to rule the day and takes the role of CEO of a church, so I slam the vocation of pastor in general. Indeed we are a people of extremes.

Before I share some wanderings that I hope will begin a meaningful conversation, I would like to disclose a five quick things:

1. I am a bi-vocational pastor and have been for 6 of 12 years of “paid” vocational ministry. Currently I serve as a pastor at Williamsburg Christian Church full-time and work part-time as the Social Media Marketing Strategist for a large executive search firm. Technically you might even say I am actually tri-vocational as I serve as the Mid-Atlantic Network Coordinator for Mission Alive. And before I entered into “paid” vocational ministry, I had the joy of planting and working in youth ministry while working full-time as a stock broker and banker. I take great joy in serving God’s people in my current way, and am honored to do so.

2. I am an avid reader and enjoy the specific conferences and networks to which I am committed. I have learned a lot and have been challenged more than I can share by the many men and women who lead, write and speak in these venues.

3. Despite all her bumps and bruises, I love the Church in all her forms and expressions: house, simple, missional, institutional, mega, small, country, urban, western, eastern, high, low,  etc. I have experienced the joy of personally being a part of a house church, traditional “low” church contexts (small and mid-sizes) and a “mega-church” context. Though I believe some expressions are healthier than others (for a variety of reasons), I appreciate her ongoing diversity and believe that the same HolySpirit that has worked through her the last 2000 years is still at it today. He knows what is up better than I.

4. I am head-long into social activism and justice issues where I live both in organic and organized ways. So I believe strongly in our call to join God in making right what has been broken by sin in the places we live–neighborhoods, networks, cities–within the context of the local church and faith community.

5. I believe in the royal-priesthood of all believers. 

Okay, I think that’s it. Hopefully that’ll clear up any perceived agenda.

Here is my concern and the reason for this post.

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I’ve noticed a surging trend of leaders who think little (and often belittle) “paid” vocational pastors while “pastoring” (certainly ministering) vocationally (or bi-vocationally) in a “paid” way via the platforms of writer, consultant, coach, speaker, or something else. Is it the belief that the paid vocation of pastor at best diminishes, and at worst robs, the people of God of ministry as they live on mission together? (For better treatment of this read here, here or here.

Perhaps it should not be assumed that all paid vocational pastors seek to diminish or create an ecclesial caste system within God’s people or perpetuate Constantinian christianity any more than the writers, consultants, coaches, conference speakers, network facilitator, thought-leaders seek to do. Actually, many pastors, writers, consultants, coaches, conference speakers, network facilitators, thought-leaders I know seek to do the opposite: to empower and equip God’s people to make disciples who make disciples as they live on mission in a mutually edifying and communal way.

To be transparent, I’ve known gifted writers, speakers and thinkers in the Church who could serve very well as a “paid” vocational (or bi-vocational) writer, consultant, coach, speaker, or network facilitator, but do not have the same platform or network connections. Some of these long to do so. Perhaps it is a calling? And to be increasingly transparent, I’ve known gifted pastors, teachers, apostles, prophets, and evangelists who could serve very well in a paid vocational (of bi-vocational) local church context. It just hasn’t “worked out” for a number of reasons. Perhaps this is a calling, too?

Is it the source of the pastor’s paycheck? It seems to me that the money the writers, consultants, coaches, conference speakers, network facilitator, thought-leaders receive for the service to the Church comes from the same source: christians and/or the local church. At least this is my experience and I am sure there are probable exceptions. Aren’t we creating an illusive position and false dichotomy between a vocational pastor’s financial support and the other folks financial support?

I know some folks (good folks) who often rail against a particular expression of local church, yet their financial support comes from the very same churches they rail against. I even know some who rail against “church marketing” in the name of this-is-the-problem with-the-American-church, yet they work as fee-based social media marketing strategists/consultants for churches. Am I the only one that finds this position odd?

And for the record, I appreciate all the sincere pastors, writers, consultants, coaches, speakers, network facilitators, thought-leaders, or anyone who gives their life away to the glory of God for the sake of His mission and the good of others, whether paid or unpaid.

Oh, and I am not suggesting you or I avoid taking a stand on a particular side of an issue. I am only suggesting that we honestly examine our tendency toward an either/or, over-reactionary posture.

I could go on but I must brace myself for your comments. What are your thoughts? And please, let’s be gracious to one another.please

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Jesus, Her, Me and Stoning-Circles

Many of us know this story in John 8, but just to be sure we catch the details I thought I’d repost the story here:

“At dawn He [Jesus] went to the temple complex again, and all the people were coming to Him. He sat down and began to teach them.

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. ‘Teacher,’ they said to Him, ‘this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?’  They asked this to trap Him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse Him.

Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with His finger. When they persisted in questioning Him, He stood up and said to them, ‘The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.’

Then He stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only He was left, with the woman in the center. When Jesus stood up, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’

‘No one, Lord,’ she answered.

‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus. ‘Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.’” (John 8:2-11)

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Everyone else was ready to throw stones, but not Jesus. Despite the fact she was caught in law-breaking, punishment-deserving sin, He didn’t even pick up a stone. 

Jesus stands with her not against her. He accepts her before advising her on how she should live her life.

God, if only I would learn from Jesus.

But nope. I’m more postured to stand against her than with her. I advise before I accept–if I accept. And I think I have permission to do so since I’m affirming what the word of God teaches. But am I? Am I affirming what the word of God teaches when the “Word of God that became flesh and made His dwelling among us” shows me what it looks like to *affirm* the written word of God when folks are about to be “stoned?” 

If the religious folk were reading their bibles right (like Deuteronomy 22:22 or Leviticus 20:10), she should have been stoned. They had the authority of Scripture–the word of God–behind them. And if they would have had their way she would have died. Yet the living Word of God decided He would die for her instead.

Her sin was terrible. Despicable. Death-dealing. Home wrecking. Yet Jesus didn’t throw stones. He stands with her, demonstrating in His actions that He accepts her before seeing fit to advise her on lifestyle issues. Then He dies for her so she could have the kind of life that really works when lived under the loving reign of God.

God, if only I would learn from Jesus.

Then this same Jesus tells me, tells us, that if we are going to follow Him we have to take Him seriously. We have to set our heart, mind, body and soul toward living as He lived, loving as He loved and take up our own crosses and follow Him, even if it leads us to stand with someone everybody else wants to stone.

But it seems to me that we‘d rather throw stones. Instead of playing the role of Jesus we find more comfort in playing the role of the religious folk quoting Scripture while picking up stones. I guess that’s the easier route to take. Its less gray and more black and white. 

I’m learning from Jesus that acceptance isn’t about affirming ones behavior, rather affirming ones worth. When Christians can’t tell the difference between the two we find it easier just to pick up stones. See, here’s the thing. You will not learn the difference between the two by simply reading about it or listening to someone else talk about it. The only way you’ll learn the difference is by standing in the stoning-circle with them. When “issues” have faces and names associated with people you love or consider a friend, you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to distinguish between the two. We must learn to follow Jesus beyond words and follow him with our lives, even if we find ourselves standing with “a sinner” in the stoning-circle.

God, if only we would learn from Jesus.

God, for the sake of all those You love and have called us to love, teach us to learn from Jesus.

Until then, I sure hope we don’t find ourselves in the center of that stoning-circle.

——-

Who needs you to stand with them in the stoning-circle? 

Who have you been standing against with your words, tone of voice, or posture? Sure, you may have never thrown stones at them yourself but you see others doing it. How can you begin standing with them instead of against them?

This post is a follow up to the previous one, which you can find here.

 

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There Are Many Ways To Speak ‘The Truth,’ I Suppose

There are many ways to speak truth, I suppose. To the overweight person I could say,

“Why would you want to get fat by eating too much? Why wouldn’t you try and exercise some self-control and pull away from the trough of gluttony? It just seems to me that having a smaller backside is more favorable than having a rather large one. I mean, come on dude, size 33’s are better than size 43’s!”

Or I could say,

“What would it take for someone to not put their health at risk by eating too much? Self-control is difficult. I struggle with it in certain areas of my life. Overeating isn’t necessarily one anymore, but I could name other ways I give in to gluttony. When people surrounded me to encourage me in love, I am able to stay accountable. I want to live a healthier life, one free from having something else–food, money, success–rule over me. But it’s difficult, I get it. But I have to believe that in and by Jesus, it’s possible.”

(For the record I used to be overweight.)

Which one do you think is more gracious? Or if thats not the kind of question we like to ask, which one do you think is more effective in the ears of the overweight person?

There are many ways to speak truth, I suppose. To the person caught in lie after lie I could say,

“Why would you want to lie and be a liar? Isn’t telling the truth the honorable thing to do? I mean, why be a no good, despicable liar, lying all the time? If you think about it, a liar is no better than a cheat or a thief. Just stop lying. Own up and grow a pair. Stop trying to prove yourself or protect yourself from your own stupidity and just tell the truth!”

Or I could say,

“What good is it to not tell the truth? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve lied. Most of the time I lied out of a desire to save face, protect my own interests or just look better to the person I was lying to. But it’s wrong. Even greater, it’s destructive, not only to me but others around me. I can lose almost anything I own through a variety of circumstances, except my integrity. Yet when I lie or cover up the truth I choose to give away my integrity every time. The thing is, Jesus offers something greater. He offers a confidence that tells me that my identity and worth isn’t determined by you or someone else. No. My identity and worth is bound up in what God says about me in Jesus. That gives me freedom and hope.

Which one do you think is more gracious? Or if thats not the kind of question we like to ask, which one do you think is more effective in the ears of someone who is consistently dishonest?

There are many ways to speak truth, I suppose. To the person caught up in greed I could say,

“Why would you want to be a greedy, self-centered, stingy scrooge of a person? Hoarding things life your life depended on it is stupid. More, more, more, and more. No matter who you hurt, you have to get it–more money, more stuff, more approval–even if it means you have to reach out and just take it. You’ve got to get what’s yours, right? Its a dog eat dog world. Survival of the fittest, and all that nonsense. There has got to be more to life than being a selfish, inhuman, greedy person.”

Or maybe I could say,

“Its sad that many people set their entire lives toward accumulating more. Enough just isn’t enough anymore. I’ve been there. Many good folks fall into the trap of greed. The worst part is that its destructive. It can ruin you, you know? The human heart can easily become obsessed with the notion of “more.” Eventually “more” can take over and rule your life. Worse, it can ruin the lives of others, especially if someone is greedy enough to run over someone else to get what they want. I think that in our society its easy to subtly turn toward greed. But I can’t say its the world’s fault. Really, I am not sure how helpful finding fault really is. I think what we all need is a new heart filled with new affections and rooted in something deeper than what we do or do not possess. The best thing is that Jesus offers the world a new heart by proving that God made room in His heart for us.”

But there are many ways to speak truth, I suppose.

As I reflect upon my own life lived with Jesus I remember that it was His kindness toward me, despite me, that leads to repentance (relates to Romans 2:3ff). It still is. I could be wrong but I think people are drawn to a different way of life through love, not insult; through love, not judgment; through love, not belittlement. I think most people are drawn to Jesus by the truth being spoken in humility and bathed in love, not tongue-in-cheek or raw, unfiltered words. Paul and Peter, two of the bible’s most blunt folks had their own opinion about how we use our words.

Trying to reach a sin-stained, non-christian culture, Paul said this:

“Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, or which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it as I am required to speak. Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.” (Colossians 4:2-6)

Speaking to Christians suffering intense social and political persecution, Peter put it this way:

“And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God…” (1 Peter 3:13-18)

Our words matter. And so do God’s. He could have just settled for words, but instead the Word became flesh so that His words would carry greater power. Maybe one of the many things I can learn from the Incarnation is that sometimes my words must become flesh and dwell in the midst of those we are called to proclaim and demonstrate gospel. But if my tongue chases them away with unbridled words, then I will probably find myself with no one to listen. And if that happens, who did I “convince,” or what good did I really do?

Someone said to me, “Sin is sin, wrong is wrong, right is right, truth is truth.” I get that. And if I’m reading Paul and Peter right, and if I’m watching Jesus close enough, I think they might remind us that how we tell the truth matters. That too is truth. If we get the doctrine of Christ correct but lose the disposition of Christ along the way, well, we might be missing the point.

Given all the controversy concerning Phil Robertson’s interview with GQ Magazine,  do you think there could have been a better or more gracious way for Phil to candidly express his beliefs?

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Thoughts for the Journey: Sundays Matter

A beautiful snapshot by Garrett Laubscher (our family minister) of what happened this Sunday as we gathered as a faith community. Thoughts for the Journey: Sundays Matter.

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