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Monthly Archives: July 2010

Humility in Life

“But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:10-11

This scripture comes out of a parable by Jesus about a wedding feast and how one should attend themselves.  How many of us know the people who always put themselves towards the front of the line? Who immediately assume they are to be first because of some innate sense of superiority?  This is an interesting point for me in Jesus’ ministry, because this familiar situation is not what we are called to do.  The parable talks of someone grabbing the seat of honor and then being asked to move, but Jesus tells to act in a counter-cultural way.

Jesus tells us that when we enter we should take the lowest seat, so that we may be asked to move up to a more honorable place.  This is not so that we will necessarily placed above others, but that we should be shameless self-promoters.  We all want to be honored, but Jesus tells us to take the place of the lowly so that through our humility we may be lifted high.  This theme runs throughout Jesus’ ministry, he tells us if we want to be first we must be last.  Jesus also tells us that to be the leader we must be the servant, this is the basis of our ideas of social justice in the church.

How do we deal with a world that tells us we are constantly entitled to the next step up the ladder?  We are bombarded daily, even sometimes minute by minute, with living the “good life” the bigger house, the nicer car, the right pair of tennis shoes.  Our striving to “keep up with the Joneses” has derailed some churches, and many more people’s individual faith.  How do we live with humility? How do we really and truly follow the example of Jesus in our materialistic and greedy culture?  How do we curb in ourselves the striving for stuff, money, or power? That is the question I am struggling with today, “how do I (Thomas Hodges) live an authentic life and engage in authentic and life changing ministry?” How do you?

 

Authentic Faith…Not Just a Buzzword

In the Letter to James, chapter 5 verse 12 it is written, “Above all my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let you ‘Yes” be yes and you “No” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation” James 5:12 NRSV.

This post came out of discussion during our weekly Bible Study at Barnes and Noble.  We were talking about the vows that the church makes when we baptize a baby.  When we pledge to support the church and this congregation with “Our Prayers, Presence, Gifts, Service and Witness,” which led to a discussion of what this means.  Which, for me at least, led to the idea of living up to these vows as “authentic faith.”  So far in this blog I have tagged several posts as having to do with Authentic Faith, so today I’m going to begin to talk about what that means.

Authentic Faith is often a buzzword used in churches today, a great deal of the time in congregations of particularly conservative persuasion.  Now for me, being relatively conservative in Theology, I understand this preoccupation of being authentic.  For myself Authentic Faith has a very scriptural basis, and one that I think should apply to the totality of my life.  So being authentic is relatively simple live the values that you say are important, authentic for me means something similarly to trustworthy or integrity.

That is what we are talking about most basically, is integrity.  When we study scripture regularly we can see the themes of what Jesus is talking about during his ministry.  When we talk about Authentic faith we must define authentic, and we must also determine how we are to live out that faith.  Words are incredibly important, but as the old adage goes “actions speak louder than words.”  We can talk the talk every day, but what real difference does it make if we do not actually let our words change our actions? If we have an authentic faith what concrete actions does that call you to? Think about that for the next few days…

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2010 in Authentic Faith

 

The Beginning of Wisdom

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Proverbs 9:10

This is another one of the fortuitous pieces of scripture that has fallen into my lap lately.  I sat down in my office early this morning, before most of the rest of the staff had arrived and had some quiet time.  As sometimes happens to me I was battling with my focus, thinking about a million different things and wondering where I could get a cup of coffee quickly and easily.  I went through my routine of a Gospel reading, a  section from the prophets, and then moved into Proverbs.  This scripture just hit me like a ton of bricks.

I have known this verse for a LONG time, it for some reason got burned into my brain long ago, but had gotten lost in the deep dark recesses.  I think part of why it got lost is the fact that it talks about “the fear of the Lord” and this is a concept that often puzzles me.  If the God we worship is indeed love then why should we fear something that is completely love.  If I were translating this I don’t know if I could use the word “fear” I would like something more like “awe”.  I think that is more of the feeling that I would want to portray about God in this passage.  Fear is an emotion I do not have a positive mental attachment to, but awe is something altogether different.

When I hear the word awe I think of my experiences of hiking on the Appalachian Trail or riding my bike on Skyline Drive in Virginia when you get incredible panoramic views of God’s creation.  When hiking or biking in the mountains you round a bend and all of a sudden you are faced with a view of beauty as far as the eye can see, it literally fills me with awe.  We can use the word fear for this passage, but not being scared of God only being so in awe that we cannot grasp what we see or feel.

But how do we move into the second section of this verse the “knowledge of the Holy One” if God is something so completely different from us as humans how do we gain knowledge about Him?  How do we come to any insight about God? I think this is a more difficult question, because we really cannot understand God.  Often when we talk about knowledge in the modern sense we actually mean understanding.  If we claim to “know about something” we claim to understand whatever it is we say we know.  The problem is we can never understand God, therefore we need to adjust our concept of “knowing” God.  We can come to know more about God through Scripture, Prayer, and our observing of the world around us.  How do you learn about and learn to know God?

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Plans for your welfare and not for harm…a future with hope

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NRSV

Unlike the other day when the scripture I chose came out of my quiet time, this is a verse that seems to be a running theme in the world around me.  The first time I gave a devotion to the Youth here at Mulberry it came out of this scripture, and it even resurfaces in the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament.  This scripture is often one I turn to when I feel down or discouraged about what is going on around me.

I wrote in my last post about our victim mentality, how we spend so much time on the ones who have done us wrong and often we do not act with love towards the unlovable. This verse is something of a note  of grace for us all, telling us about our importance in God’s scheme of things.  If you look at this passage verse 10 just before begins “Thus says the Lord” which is a classic form from the prophets.  This phrase means basically (to be utterly geeky and academic) “This is the direct word of God.”  So this note of hope that we have from the prophet Jeremiah is incredibly interesting in our current world.

Does this passage mean only good for us, or does it mean that all those who are sincere and heartfelt in their convictions are meant for good.  This is where this passage has at times been comforting and frustrating for me.  I am passionate and sometimes stubborn about what I believe and what I think is “correct interpretation.”  I have a hard time with the idea that different interpretations, one’s that do not agree with my own convictions, seeing this scripture in the same light.  This scripture in effect tells us that God means us all good, even those who we do not agree with.

As I have said from the outset of this blog, I intend this to be a place of conversation, a place where different viewpoints can be tolerated and discussed.  Also this blog shows my attempt at self-revelation, putting my mind and heart out there for people to see and examine.  So far I have not said anything particularly controversial, but the time may come when I have to stand for my convictions publicly.  But this grace gives me something of a buzz word for today’s world.  In the last election cycle the word hope was prominent everywhere I went, especially having lived the last election cycle in Washington D. C.  But long before it was a corporate ad for Pepsi or a campaign slogan for the President of the United States it was a Christian ideal.

The founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley was an incredible communicator and told us much about how to live as Christians.  As I am writing I have my Wesley Study Bible open to the note on the “Wesleyan Core Term: Hope” and it talks about transformation and a hope for something else. “The hope that is within us is both this-worldly and other-worldly because both are grounded in being transformed into the image of Christ.”  We are to be hopeful which will in turn cause a transformation both in this world and in the next.  We are to have a hope for something beyond ourselves both in this world and the next.  Remember we are to work every day for the hope that we have, in the things that are unseen, but also very, very concrete. The question is how do we live that life?

Listen to this song and tell me what you think it means when we apply it to our Christian hope.

 

For even sinners love those who love them…our victim mentality

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” Luke 6:32

I read these words this afternoon when I came back from lunch.  I shut my door turned the music  down low and spent a little bit of quiet time. After my first post about frames of reference, or whatever you would like to call it, this scripture was convicting to say the least.  How often do we in our lives think this way? How often do we focus so much of our energy on reacting to negative things around us? We spend time on many things, and so often we spend our energies on what so and so has done to us. Living in a nearly perpetual victim mentality.

Jesus was a radical, do not let yourself be fooled by our having contained him to the church.  But one of the most sure things for me about Jesus’ ministry is the fact that he was real, he was ultimately authentic.  In this same chapter in the Gospel according to Luke we see Jesus being accused and despised by the leaders of the synagogue.  The leaders are watching Jesus, it says that they are watching so they could accuse him.  One of the advantages that Jesus had was that he knew what they were thinking , he knew their hearts and their motives.

We often spend most of our time with those who are easy to love, and not nearly enough time with people who are not easy to love.  There are growing edges for us all, and for many of us we are not comfortable with any tension at all.  We want everything to be perfect, for us and all our friends to be perfectly in sync.  Well, this is not the reality, not even close.  I spent my last three years learning to live with tension, my classmates and myself did not always agree, but had one thing in common we were passionate.  There has been a hijacking of political and religious speech lately where there is no longer dialogue.  Whether you are left or right on an issue we cannot even have a conversation because we can never possibly agree, and therefore we cannot even engage in dialogue.

Like I said in “The Opening Volley” I want this to be a conversation, I want to be challenged, but I also want to challenge you.   I see in the church today that there is, as Josh Loveless puts in his from Relevant Magazine “Is There a Church Mutiny Afoot” “And relationships formed over a lifetime with a people who are just like you is, honestly, a form of self-worship.”  We are separated by age, by political leanings, by any number of other things and we make a group that is self-identified by our own demographics.  If we cannot work together to work towards a common goal or future then what are we really doing? How can we cross the boundaries that we often see as unlovable, or dare I say it wrong, to foster a true moving forward? What I want you to think about as you read this, is how do I love the unlovable in our midst?

 

The Opening Volley

This is a blog, but you folks who are reading already knew that.  More specifically this is a blog that is all about point of view, how do I see things, how does my frame of reference affect my interpretations?  But a more important question for all of us to ask ourselves is, how does my frame of reference color how I see the world?

When I think about myself, not in self-importance, but in genuine introspection about my life and the world I see many different streams in my life.  I feel that I a person that is made up of many different streams of thought that make an interesting amalgamation of who is Thomas.  Some of these many streams are at times maddening to myself.  I grew up in a small town, in the country actually, then I moved to Athens, GA then I made the leap and moved all the way to Washington DC.  How does my having lived in all of these different places and now living in Macon color the way I see the world.

One of things that I see in myself is my differing ideas about how to care for the world we live in.  If you rad the tag of the blog (or at least the profile page) you will see that I like to ride bicycles, but I live in a town and a country where cars rule the road.  I have all the information about bikes being good for the environment, and also for my own personal health.  But because I ride bikes I see the world in a different way, especially when I see other riders out on the road.  I see the world of traffic and the contempt with which cyclists are treated by drivers and I don’t understand.  But it is because of my experience riding my bike on the road that confuses me all the more.

But here is where point of view, frame of reference, or whatever you would like it comes in to such a place of importance.  I know that my point of view is different from yours, but I’m not necessarily wanting to convince you of my position.  I hope to make you think, to raise an idea that might cause you to question.  This is a blog about faith, culture, life, and so many other things.  I might share funny things I see, or things that make me sad or things things that are just things.  I hope to be able to bring scripture into the area of our lives, because as Christ followers it is our guide.

The most basic question to be asked by my writing, and hopefully your comments, is how do we live authentic lives that are true to our belief systems.  What do we do when our belief systems seem to be in conflict with the world  around us? How do we reconcile a world more than 2000 years removed from the writing of scripture?  How do we live out our faith in the building and sustaining of community of faith, and other communities that we are a part of?

I have called this post “The Opening Volley” for a reason. I hope to start a conversation and a virtual community of people talking about how their faith impacts their lives.  My prayer is that I will have something useful, or at the very least entertaining, to say and that I will be able to contribute to the overall conversation on faith.