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Monthly Archives: October 2010

Strugglings on Scripture

“He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; 2 he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4 for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4

I have to admit that this short parable found in Luke 21 and also in Mark 12:41-44 has often been troubling to me.  Here is this poor widow who feels compelled to put into the treasury of the synagogue, she feels so strongly that she puts in her last two “copper coins, which were worth a penny.”  This widow is literally down to her last penny and she puts it in the plate. Since she has nothing else she is literally using her last deed to give to the synagogue, with no money she would have no grain to make bread to live on.  Severe adherence to the letter of the law has put this widow to the point of giving up and going home to die. Not uplifting at all.

There is an alternative interpretation that was pointed out to me by Dr. Sharon Ringe at Wesley Theological Seminary, and that is that the widow put in her two coins because she knew her needs would be met by the community of faith.  I have spent many hours thinking about and studying this passage, and while this view is a very uplifting and hopeful interpretation I do not know if I can completely take it and run with it.

I think both interpretations are valuable and can teach us different things, but this parable makes me think that much more about why God would include such difficult things in His book.  We can look at this parable as discouraging and scathing, or as hopeful and amazing in the unity of community.  This is the amazing thing about looking at and interpreting the Bible, it is different to every person who looks at it, our life experience often shapes how we see a certain passage.

This parable is pretty difficult, but you know it should speak to us that if we pour ourselves into the bible, then we should be able to come away with something relevant to our current situation.  While I will continue to struggle with the parable of the widow, there is one thing that is certain, I will continue to struggle with and try to gain new insight from the Bible every time I open it up.

This video from Matthew West is an amazing song that I think speaks to our opening up our eyes and our Bible to the things in the world around us:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoWY1Rlx_Aw

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Don’t Blame Me…A New Paradigm

I wrote recently about my happiness at no longer being a resident of Washington DC, and I must say that upon reflection there are some redeeming factors about the DC Metro area.  Traffic is not one of these, but one of the things that I will take from my time there are relationships with some deep thinking people.

My friend, and incredible deep thinker, Glenn Weeks wrote a note on Facebook entitled “Blame Me…” this post pertains to politics, but also to some of the ills of the world being addressed by our government today. It is mid-term election season, and here in Georgia the attack ads are running 24-7 on all the major stations.  And this election has been touted not as an election on candidates, but as a referendum on President Obama.  No matter your views on the President I hope we can all see that this is short-sighted and a bit misguided way to base a vote.  In my area ads for the Republican candidate for Governor expressly link the Democratic candidate with Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid.  The thing that does not connect for me is how three politicians in Washington from other states have any bearing on the issues being debated (and I say that with a grain of salt) in this election.

We have a society that is obsessed in laying blame, many times un-rightfully at the feet of another person.  We have become self-satisfied with blaming someone else, and though we might not change the whole process we’ve been passive by-standers.  I recently walked in on a conversation with some gentlemen who thought of Obama’s policies as downright “un-American.” They argued that his raising in another place endowed him with a worldview that was not in line with “American” values. I had to walk away because I believe that the fact that America is a “melting pot” of all peoples makes it pretty hard to pin anything down as distinctly American.  I think what these persons should have said is “he does not have policies in line with my political leanings…”

But who can we blame? It’s amazing to me to lay all blame at one person’s feet for National or International problems, and just a wee bit short-sighted. My friend Glenn had a different way of looking at blame, how about we start laying blame on ourselves and start working towards a solution. If we all work together, regardless of creed, color, or political convictions, I think we can affect change in our world for better. But when we stop passing the buck to our politicians and work in our own backyard, then maybe we can actually make an impact that will feed, clothe, and give people opportunities in not only our town, but the world.

 
 

Why Service (Part Deux)

So about a month, seeing as it was time for our monthly “Third Sunday Service” I wrote a post using some big words.  I used that dreaded and often tricky word Theology, and I began to talk about my “Theology of Service.”  I basically wrote that the most basic building block of our active faith in the world is the fact that we seek to follow the example of Jesus.  Jesus’ served the lost and the least, and gave to those who no social or financial standing in the world around us.

This second entry on the Theology of Service is one that I have been thinking about since I wrote the last one.  I have wondered and I have been seeking to understand where I should go next with explaining a Theology of Service. The conclusion I have come to is to continue on the path of we serve because, but what does that mean we do? Yes we serve to follow the example of Jesus, but how do we figure out what exactly we need to do?

I have written, and talked about with the Youth here at Mulberry, about John Wesley’s idea of doing all the good you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can.  Wesley was a proponent of what many call “Social Justice,” way before Glenn Beck ballyhooed “progressive” churches.  What is meant by social justice is bringing the world around into a greater degree of justice in our social world.  Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and also working to make sure that all people have equal opportunity to see the benefits society has to offer. This last part is where Glenn Beck and other political and pseudo-religious leaders have a large problem, but I do not think we will deal with those issues today.

If we are going to serve, feeding and clothing, how do we start, and the answer is (drum roll…) one step at a time.  One mouth at a time, one back at a time, until such a time as all have their needs met.  The first century church is recorded to have, “taken everything in common, and distributing as any had need.”  While many people would call this idea communist, or at least socialist, the first century church saw this as how we effectively live in community.  I am in no way suggesting we all get together and share everything we have, the American way of life has changed the basic way in which we live. However, here is what I am saying, we should not hang on to our possessions to the point they possess us.

The second part of my Theology of Service is the idea of serving where w e are, and making sure that what we have is not seen as our own, but a blessing from God.  Paul wrote that “faith without works is dead,” and we must remember that when we truly hunger for the light that is Jesus, we will start with one step (which is a quote from Dave Matthews Band “Hunger for the Great Light”).

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Incarnational Faith…

How do we live our lives? That is a question that I am often confronted and convicted by. There are so many sides to our lives these days, we separate our lives into social and religious lives, we have school lives and home  lives, but how do we live the totality of our lives.

This weekend is October’s Third Sunday Service project, and we have a project that I am very excited about.  We are going to be making cookies and cards for the Methodist Home for Children and Youth located here in Macon. This may seem like a small thing to many people, but I think this is one of the most fun and rewarding projects we’ve done.  The kids in the Children’s Home are in periods of transition, from either rough home lives or foster situations that did not work out.  These kids have not been shown the love or care of Jesus, and our mission in this project is to do something nice for something else.

I had made a connection to the Children’s Home through the director who is a member here at Mulberry, and recently got to meet the Chaplain of the facility.  These two men talked both about the rought situations these young people come out of, but also in how they are loving them towards something greater.  Steve, the director, talked about the fact that he gives a quilt to every child that comes into the home.  He discovered that there are no ugly quilts, some he may not like, but a child will find beauty and warmth in that quilt.

Jim, the Chaplain, also spoke of how some children are amazed when they don’t find locked doors or over zealous control at the Home.  Because of previous situations these young people are conditioned into these types of situations. These youth are taught mistrust and the Theology of locked doors by others treatment of them.

I think when we think about living our lives we need to think about incarnation.  Now this is a big term, a Theological term, that makes us think of life and death, but it is more of how our faith is lived out. So when we think about church and we talk about church being “incarnational” we are really asking how the faith that is proclaimed, is actually lived out. This weekend we are going to incarnate love here at Mulberry from 5-7 pm, if you’re available come help us live the language of love…

 

Finding God in Beauty

I went camping this past weekend, the annual Scampers Group trip from the church.  This annual event brings 100 or more people together in one campground to have community in the mountains for the weekend.  Many of our people have RVs, but there are still some who do the good old-fashioned tent camping. I used to do a good bit of camping, especially during the summers, but have not been in a really long time.  There is something about sleeping in the woods, in a tent, on the side of a mountain that makes me think about God.

Now beauty is an interesting argument to me for the existence and even the benevolence of God.  I see the subjectivity in many of our “beauty” judgments (especially those for human’s physical appearance), and it makes my heart hurt for the people who are constantly told they do not measure up to an imaginary standard.  Now the beauty of nature is an argument for God that I can get behind.  I know of very few things that are more beautiful than a mountain view or the changing leaves.

The mental picture I have of God creating the world is that of an incredible artist, God knew exactly where things should be so that the aesthetic of beauty would be achieved.  Our world is filled with landscapes and vistas that simply take our breath away, and often we just keep rolling on without even noticing it. I think that we often lack the introspective sense to stop and see the beauty around us, and it we do not have to limit our ideas of beauty to physical concrete things.

My being a father is one of the greatest joys in my life, and one of the most beautiful things I hear every day are the giggles of Quin and Bobby.  Bobby has just begun to laugh a little and it is such a glorious feeling when he lets one out.  Quin has been giggling for a long time now, but the sound never fails to stop me in my tracks. I know not all people find beauty in the same places, but I was just amazed at how long it had been since I just stopped to admire the stars at night…

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2010 in Point of View, Religion, rest

 

My Thoughts on Social Media…

This is something I have been thinking about lately, especially with my now being on the outside of the walls of academia.  While in school, Facebook and other social networking sites are powerful and valuable networking tools, now these sites are becoming not only powerful networking tools, but a way to be increasingly aware of people’s lives around us.  The amount of information shared on these sites is copious, and our lives feel like we have gained community through these sites.

I can let people know what I am doing, what I think, my political convictions, and what I’m wearing all at the same time, but does this truly connect me to people on the other side of the computer? Increasingly our information is up for grabs, our information shared on websites makes us targets, for marketing firms.  With the unprecedented amount of information being stored and shared electronically marketing companies are able to increasingly and more effectively target advertising towards who their wanted demographic is. All this information is out there, but is it truly community or is it a pseudo-community or just a community-like feeling?

Here is what I think, and this and $4.00 will buy you a latte at Starbucks.  I am no expert sociologically, nor am I a researcher in the uses, abuses, and value of social media.  I think that at points social media has cheapened our human interactions, it has increased our interactions, but there is not a flesh and blood aspect of our connections.  We can have relationships without ever getting dirt on our hands, without ever dealing with the muck and mire that comes with personal interaction.  We can send kind words and messages of prayer by email or Facebook, or even tweet prayer requests, but we are not truly down in the pit of despair with our “friends.”

Now let me say that social media allows me to maintain relationships with people all over the country.  Just today I messaged someone 700 miles away to check on them and a personal situation.  This is part of the incredible power of social media, part of what has created an international craze to join Facebook, twitter, foursquare, yelp, or any other site that increase our information output.  But we see how technology has changed our interaction, even for giving for charities we no longer receive a letter.  Instead we see a banner ad, or a 30-second commercial on TV that has us text message to a number that then charges $10 to our phone bills.

I think we all need to strive to see where the uses and usefulness comes in social media, and understand that social media also allows us to control what we want to hear.  I admit that I have de-friended people on Facebook because I became tired of their political views being repeatedly posted on their status.  The control we have in our social media is that we don’t have to listen to someone who disagrees with, as well as they do not have to listen to our point of view either.

While social media is an incredible and powerful tool for us to connect to the people around us, it is also, at times, a detriment to our being stretched and challenged by others.  It is another way we can make our lives fit into neat little boxes and avoid the difficult parts of living in community with other imperfect humans.  So my challenge for this post is to think about how we use and abuse social media. Also how do look past the things we see on social media and actually physically, concretely connect to others around us who are in genuine need of human touch.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

A Return to Active Faith

I have talked before on this blog about my ideas of divine appointments, and how God sometimes wants us to interrupt our lives so we can get out of the way.  We talked on Sunday morning this week about the words significant and insignificant and what they truly mean, and what living as if God is the most important thing looks like.  How do we live into God’s purpose and just get ourselves out of the way?

I have one theme that I talk about constantly in my talks with Youth and something that I truly try to think about all the time.  When I think about matters of faith I try to focus on one idea.  The idea of living out faith, there are so many groups that understand faith on a mental level.  There are very, very few groups who take living out faith in a serious way.  When we talk about the command to love our neighbors as ourselves, what does that truly look like? How do we not just give lip-service to the things that we believe and truly let the “rubber meet the road.”

I have a hard time these days when I look at churches, I have a hard time not being involved or working towards ministry goals, but with not being completely on the line.  I have read a pretty good bit about the history of the early church, and I have difficulty squaring what the church has become two-thousand plus years later.  I’m throwing our culture or the society we live in away, because I know there is a way to live authentically in our modern world.  Life looks very different today than in first-century Palestine, but we have to make room for the Holy Spirit to work in and through us.

Now I do not, and indeed cannot, claim to have the answers to these existential and sometimes pointless questions.  Now I say pointless questions not because the thinking of them is pointless, but because we often get caught up in the exercise of thinking and forget to act.  That I think is the biggest sin of all, it is not praying and working to figure out what the truest expression of faith is, but failing to do anything.  One of the hallmarks of the early church is not its creation of good Theology or the proper hierarchical structure for the church, but they were a group of action.  They did not get caught up in many of the details, but got down to helping people in any way they could.

How do we get back to an active instead of a temporal faith? How can live faith instead of talking about faith? How? How? How? That is my question of the week, month, year, and indeed life…