Showing posts from April, 2014

Do you let people down because you are too busy? (Luminous Friday)

This morning I found out I let someone down. They asked me to do something, and I meant to do it, wanted to do it, intended to do it… but never did. The demands of life got in the way. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.
I think that’s a common thing we tell ourselves. The fact is, the pace of our lives leaves us less than fully present with each other. And when we are less than fully present, we play a game of relational Russian roulette. We put someone off and pull the trigger. CLICK. We get away with it. Sometimes it’s okay to be partially or wholly absent for a while. Then, unexpectedly, BANG – one of our relationships blows up because we weren’t there. Being relationally absent is the worst, most damaging kind of letdown we can perpetuate on people. It tells someone we are apathetic about them. We don’t care.
Presence-and-absence is such an important issue that I wrote three chapters on being Present in Luminous. Presence with God and other people is what the way of Jesus cal…

A sliver of hope in the bleakest of times

This past week I did something I don't do that often. I read a novel. I am a voracious reader, but I don't read that much fiction. Maybe I should. But then life is full of too many "shoulds," so I'm not going to worry about it too much.

What's the novel that brought me out of the woodwork? The Road, Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize winner from 2006. My teenage son read it in his high school literature class and recommended it.

To say the setting is bleak is an understatement. It is a post-apocalyptic landscape where color is restricted to shades of ash-covered gray because everything has been charred by some unnamed disaster a few years earlier. Only a few people are left. The story centers around the survivalistic wanderings of a father and his son. They scrounge for food. They hide from human predators. They trudge on. Hope is whittled down day after dreary day, but a sliver of it persists. At one point, the boy asks his father what's the bravest t…

Sympathy for the mocking Roman soldiers

Some time in the morning hours of Good Friday, Jesus was handed over to the Roman Praetorian guard before being led away to be crucified. It was a gruesome scene. Jesus had already been flogged within an inch of his life, and now the whole company of soldiers gathered around to mock and beat him. (Incidentally, historians report that this kind of treatment was not unique to Jesus. Others were mocked in similar ways.)

The soldiers mocked Jesus for being a false -- and in their eyes, laughably pathetic -- king. Jesus stirred up this kind of trouble when he rode into town on Palm Sunday in a fashion that mimicked and symbolized both King Solomon and King David. New Testament scholar Craig Evans writes,
Such an event suggested in unmistakable terms that Israel's king was Jesus, not Caesar. Thus, from the very moment of entry into Jerusalem, Jesus was set on a collision course with Roman authority. (The Last Days of Jesus, p. 6)  Evans also points out that many of the soldiers' ac…

A reflection on Communion for Maundy Thursday

Of any day of the year, today is the day to have some special reflection on Communion.  Today is the day before Good Friday -- that is, it's Maundy Thursday, the day we commemorate the Last Supper. That's the evening Communion started.

For reflection, I offer you two words today to describe what Communion is: miracle meal.

It is a miracle because Jesus meets us in a mysterious way in Communion. It's not just a religious practice to jog your memory about the Jesus story. Nor is it merely your own private, special prayer time.

Some of Paul's thoughts about Communion are conveyed in 1 Cor 10-11. It is a time of sharing in the body and blood of Christ, and Christ is present in such a way that people can come under judgment by disrespecting Communion. I think it's remarkable that Paul doesn't talk like this about anything else the church does. There's something special about Communion.

I conclude that Communion is a miracle, when King Jesus is present, and the v…

Becoming a friend of God through continual prayer

Marriage can turn boring, and so can our relationship with God.
In the midst of a spirited discussion, my wife and I agreed we needed to reinvigorate our relationship. We had been married for more than twenty years, and most of that time we had been navigating our work lives and parenting children. Over time we had slipped into a pattern of being co-managers of our household. Most of our discussions revolved around not what was happening in our hearts but the commitments on this week’s calendar and who was going to do what. We agreed we needed to become friends again. Making that decision and following through on it has breathed life into our marriage.  Something similar has to happen in our relationships with God. Rather than treating him like a co-manager of our lives (which is wrong on more than one level), we need to give our hearts to him and become friends with him. (Luminous, 51) Being friends with God means sharing each day with him. It is incredibly simple, but it requires lo…

Some helpful perspective when inviting someone to church for Easter

How does the church survive in a world that is not sympathetic to it? Last night I had another reminder of how alien it can feel to be a Christian and invite people to church. This morning I gained some helpful perspective on why all that is okay.

It's Easter season, and at Sanctuary we had some invitation cards produced. Rather than doing a mass mailing, we as a church are opting to pass them out person to person. It's challenging but more personal. Yesterday evening four of us met to walk around McKinley Park, praying and passing out invitation cards. One or another of us would walk up to random people and ask if they might be looking for a place to worship on Easter morning. Some of them were very happy to get the invitation. At least one parent seemed very interested in a supportive, spiritual community. Others gave us a polite, "Thanks but I'm not interested."

More than once I paused to look around the park. I have never seen that many people at McKinley wal…

Get Connected by Disconnecting (a Luminous Friday prayer exercise)

What do you do when you’re waiting in line? The first thing I do – and what most people apparently do too – is reach for the cellphone. I have a smartphone, so at any time I can pull the whole world out of my back pocket and access it in a moment. Email, texts, phone messages, social media, websites, news updates – it’s all there. Why stand in line doing nothing?
Have you ever thought about what a complete shift this is in our day-to-day existence? Never before has anything remotely resembling this lifestyle been possible. It is so new to human history that we don’t fully realize how it is affecting us.
One thing we do know is that spiritually speaking, being constantly connected isn’t good for us. Information is good to have. Information about God is great to have. The problem is, we can make information – even information about God – into our favorite hiding place from God. 
Instead of interacting with the God we need, we gobble up information we don’t need.
If you know Jesus, you c…

What I learned from an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting

Last night I went to my first AA meeting. It's not because I am coming out with an alcohol problem. It's because women from a local recovery house like to come to Sanctuary on Sunday mornings, and I wanted to support them. I wanted to get into their world a little. I found the AA meeting to be raw, inspiring, and spiritual -- in other words, what I wish more church meetings would be like.
This was the Young People’s group that meets on Wednesday nights at Clunie Community Center, the building where we hold our Sunday services. A Young People's group is targeted at people in their late teens and twenties. This particular group is big -- about 90 people were there last night, including the ladies from the local recovery house. Women generally sat on one side of the room, and men sat on the other. It was explained to me that this is intentional. Many people in the program are coming out of dysfunctional and destructive ways of relating to people of the opposite gender.
This …