Showing posts from December, 2011

Why the manger is not a quaint scene

"When God chooses Mary as the instrument, when God wants to enter this world in the manger in Bethlehem, this is not an idyllic family occasion,  but rather the beginning of a complete reversal, a new ordering of all things on this earth." -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
So the manger isn't such a quaint scene after all. It is a picture of the beginnings of a very quiet revolution -- an undermining of everything considered normal in circles of human competitiveness, where people climb over each other in order to "succeed." To everything that represents the old world order, the manger means danger.

May we live in the "complete reversal" and the "new ordering of things" this Christmas weekend and in the coming year!

How Jesus' home life shaped who he became

What characterized the home into which Jesus was born? 

Over the last three Christmas seasons, I have reflected more and more on this question. Joseph was upright and merciful. Mary was humble and obedient. Both had courage to follow the very costly path God laid out for them -- raise the savior of the world but be perceived by everyone to have "hooked up" before they were married.

Today I am thinking about the stigma of "sinner" that both Joseph and Mary carried. Jesus was born and raised in a house stained with the scarlet letter. Who does he connect with later? The "sinners" of Jewish society.

God used Jesus' home life to prepare him for his messianic ministry. Both the damaged reputation and the virtues of Jesus' parents would be relevant. Upright, merciful, humble, obedient, and courageous -- this describes the adult Jesus. Perceived by many as being a sinner -- this does as well. Both were key parts of Jesus' home life.

Celebrating the light of the world in spectacular fashion

All through the Advent season, we at Sanctuary Church have been focusing on finding stillness in a busy season. We enter the Christmas season with a desire to draw close to God and show love to others. However, the hustle and bustle of our December schedules can thwart our ability to be still with God. What can we do to create and protect stillness in our lives during December?
We have noticed in the Christmas story, that God visits people in quiet places at quiet times. We saw in the story of Mary that God visits someone with a quiet heart -- that is, Mary is not clamoring to have everything her way. She is ready to receive whatever God wants to give her.
Ah, stillness. It is delicious any time of the year but especially during the Christmas season... And then one of my friends sent me this. Stillness, be gone! :-)

In light of all we have talked about at church, I got a kick out of the Christmas lights video. I like it! It's just such an in-your-face juxtaposition from the theme …

What the blues have to do with postmodern culture and preaching

Delta blues music from the 1920s and the postmodern culture we currently live in -- what do they have in common? And in what way does blues music resemble good preaching? Here is what I discovered tonight.

In his book on the history of the blues entitled Deep Blues, Robert Palmer explains that black music underwent several fundamental changes in the 1920s. One of the most important involves the standpoint from which the music is written. Older black music tended to be written from a detached standpoint. A song might be about a possum or a train engineer. Blues, on the other hand, was an expression of the singer's own experience. It told a story from one man or woman's perspective. The blues meant a transition from objective to subjective. (Deep Blues, p. 75)

Interestingly, Palmer connects subjectivity to freedom. "Only a man who understands his worth and believes in his freedom sings as if nothing else matters [than his subjective experience of events]."

Now how does…

Doing church with shock and amazement

Last night I dozed off during a tv show about Pearl Harbor and drifted, half awake, into a show called Decoded. It was about finding secret messages in the artwork of Leonardo DaVinci. I found the analysis of DaVinci's work mildly interesting. What really caught my attention was how the show is filmed. It gave me a vision of how can do church (tongue in cheek!).

In Decoded, there are three investigators who go out and interview "experts" (I wonder about their actual expertise) about the subject in question. Every conversation goes like this:

Camera shows the investigators talking with the expert. One investigator asks a question.Expert gives an answer.Investigators give a surprised look to one another as if to say, "Did you hear that?!?"Repeat several times... Never mind the fact that a lot of the answers the experts give are interesting but not really that earth shaking. It doesn't matter. The looks of shock and amazement are exchanged after almost every c…

Breaking poverty through education

A recent Tweet by Brian Fikkart, one of the authors of When Helping Hurts, confirms what we have been talking about at Sanctuary Church: one of the best ways to break cycles of poverty is to get kids into school. In Haiti, we know dozens of children right in our neighborhood who are roaming the streets all day because there is no public school available, and their parents don't have money to pay for a private school. These kids who don't go to school are almost guaranteed to grow up perpetuating a cycle of poverty.

Fikkart refers to a New York Times opinion piece in which Nikolas Kristof writes,  "One common thread, whether I’m reporting on poverty in New York City or in Sierra Leone, is that a good education tends to be the most reliable escalator out of poverty. Another common thread: whether in America or Africa, disadvantaged kids often don’t get a chance to board that escalator." If you want to do something about the problem, a place to start is helping fund ou…

Two signs that someone is humble

I am working on a book chapter on humility, and as I was beginning the chapter, I realized that humility is pretty hard to define. And yet we tend to know when people are humble and when they are not. So I asked on Facebook, "How do you know when someone is humble?" The responses helped me clarify things in my mind on a couple of points. I'll quote a handful of the responses that consistently focused on two signs of humility.

Humility involves a certain kind of self-forgetfulness. Humility liberates us from self-obsession and frees us to focus our energy on others. The humble person "goes unnoticed much of the time," and that's okay. Humility means being willing to go unnoticed. 

When a humble person circulates socially, there is quiet peace about oneself and boisterous joy in the accomplishments of others. For humble people, "it’s not all about them all the time. They give credit when credit is due and don’t worry when credit for themselves …