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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Come and See

This morning I did one of my favorite things, locking myself in my office for a little while to study and write in my journal to spend some time focusing. I began reading the gospel of John and was struck by something new. I love the beginning of John already because of the echo of Genesis, a very nice circle for our faith.

John does not talk about Jesus earthly birth, he immediately waxes poetic about the divinity, about Jesus’ role in the creation of all that exists. And also the fact that Jesus came to world, but the world did not know him. But these are things that I already loved about this chapter in John, something new struck me this morning (as it always does when I read scripture).

In John Jesus does not call his first two disciples, they follow him because John the Baptist tells them that he is the Messiah.  Jesus answers the first question asked of him by the disciples with “Come and See” as well as when Nathaniel asked “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Phillip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:45-46.

What kind of precedent does this set for us as faithful people? Does this question truly set a paradigm for what we are to do as people who follow Jesus? Mother Teresa always answered questions about how and what she and her sisters were doing in Calcutta with “Come and see.” I don’t know how many people took her up on that, but maybe that is how we should look at faith.

The things that “come and see” doesn’t have is a plan for salvation, a 5 steps to fix your life, or denomination. “Come and see” has absolutely no trappings of organized religion, it only has the component of being willing to be active. It has the need for people to get off of their duffs and get going.  Sometimes I feel that we have become overly dependent on hiding behind denominational walls and hiding behind doctrinal arguments to truly prevent any sense of Christian unity.

What changes when our ideas of our faith change from “I go to _______________ church” to “come and see what we are doing to serve our neighbor and the other in our community and world.” Maybe this is a radical idea to some, the idea for me is not radical, but truly living it is. I think there are so many people doing great things to serve those around us.

How can make our spiritual and religious lives more about “come and see” and less about how we are different or how you can look, talk, act, and live just like everyone else. Maybe we need to really look at our identities and our lives to see how we can bring ourselves to “come and see” where Jesus lives, and also show others to “come and see”. Like the woman at the well, go tell everyone “come see the man who told me all that I had done” (and loved me anyway…)

 

In Remembrance…

This week we celebrate the life and death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a visionary leader, an incredible motivator, and one of the most eloquent speakers to ever have lived. Dr. King was an incredibly gifted speaker, but also he did not let the bounds of what people thought was possible hold him back.

When I hear those scratchy old recordings that always get replayed during this holiday I cannot help but wonder what Dr. King would be working towards if he were alive today. Now let me be very clear, I do not think that we are in any way perfected in racial relations, nor are all the iniquities that Dr. King spoke against fixed. But we have come a long way from where we began.

When I hear the line “I have a dream…” it gives me pause, it makes me stop and think about the world that I live in.  I grew up in a place that was a bit behind the curve in the ways of the world.  Then I moved to a city that seems from the outside to have it all together, but I saw oppression and distress of a completely different kind.

We are often defined by our differences, by racial lines, by religion, by any number of hundred different things, but how is any human really different from another? Is not each human made up of constituent parts that are as a whole not that different from person to person. I understand the realities of racism and I also understand that we are not very different from each other, and therefore have to question our motives in defining ourselves.

As humans we like nicely controlled, neat little lives that really take the danger and vulnerability we all hate out of life. But what we truly need is less of this tightly controlled thing we call life.  Many of us do not know uncertainty, we have lived our entire lives going from step a to step b to step c, but that is a life that is not steeped in the unpredictability of the Holy Spirit.

Dr. King and his contemporaries took very seriously the commands of Jesus to love their neighbor, even when their neighbor hated them.  Even when Dr. King and other protesters were threatened with beatings or death, or had crosses burned on their lawns, they never wavered from following the convictions they believed were God given.

Dr. King is a constant reminder to me to follow after the Holy Spirit, as well as being an example in how to speak to a crowd. I heard this weekend that only the first 9 paragraphs of his “I have a dream” speech was written, the rest were extemporaneous. Dr. King was an incredible example in passion and gumption to stick to ones convictions, no matter how difficult that might be.

We all need a dose of a passion for our convictions. Not a belligerent and pig headed way, but in a way that affirms all human dignity. On the backside of this holiday, let’s remember the amazing life that Dr. King lived and take inspiration away from the way he lived.

 

The Need for Action

This morning was one of those rare mornings that I made sure when I got to the office to close my door and shut my blinds and pour over my Bible and my journal this morning. And I read something that really jumped out at me.  I was reading Luke chapter 23 which is the account of the arrest and trial of Jesus by Pilate and Herod.

Now it is a strange time of year to be reading parts of the crucifixion narrative, seeing as we recently celebrated the birth of Jesus. But there was something that jumped out at me in Luke’s account of Jesus trial.  Pilate examines Jesus, then sends him to Herod who was the ruler over the Jews, and Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate again. Pilate was trying to get rid of the case of Jesus, but he kept coming back to him.

There are three separate times that Pilate attempts to get rid of Jesus by just having him publicly flogged and humiliated. But the crowd keeps shouting for him to “Crucify Him!” Pilate is between a rock and a hard place. Every year at the Passover he released one prisoner to, in effect, keep the Jews happy and from revolting. Pilate wants to release Jesus, while the crowd wants Barabbas who was guilty of leading an insurrection and murder.

Pilate sees no reason to hold or hurt Jesus, but he eventually yields to the power of the crowd and releases Barabbas. Now my initial reaction was of shame for Pilate who was cowed by the masses, but I also knew this had to happen for the Passion to be complete. But how often are our actions like those of Pilate? He let the tide of public opinion, the power of the loudest voices make his decisions for him.

I wanted Pilate to stand up and be courageous, full well understanding why he did not, and being guilty of the same sins myself. Sir Edmund Burke once said, “All that needs to happen for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” How often am I, and you, and everyone else of doing nothing.  Our faith is to be active, but how often does our laziness or unwillingness to act end in us not being the examples in faith that we should be?

 

My Own Little World

So my friend Glenn Weeks and I have been bouncing posts back and forth for a while now. We have been bouncing things back and forth and last night he once again inspired me.  His post The Cat of December made me think, and because I am a musician it immediately made me think of a song.

If you are not a fan of Christian Radio (which I admit is oftentimes cheesy and the “on air personalities” are often absolutely annoying) you ma y have not hear Matthew West’s “My Own Little World” which you can watch here Matthtew West \”My Own Little World\”(again I’m sorry for the ads.) This song has been very influential for me lately, and it doesn’t hurt that it seems to be playing everything I have K-Love on the radio.

The song is the story of a person who is living in an insulated world, never known hunger, cold, or the uncertainty that poverty can bring into a life. A life much like my own. The chorus says “What if there is a bigger picture/ What if I’m missing out? / What if there’s a greater purpose/ I could be living right now” and this is a question that I try to ask not only myself but the youth I am in ministry to often. How many of us are caught up in comfort and the “American Dream” and subsequently focus only on ourselves.

I think we are living in a culture of me, myself, and I and right now.  We want instant results, we want instant gratification, and this has led to a way of living that is blinded to the pain around us.  We are surrounded by suffering, we hear about on the radio about the economy and in the grand scale of the entire United States. However, we don’t see the suffering and pain in our neighbors, or the loneliness that is crushing the souls of so many today.

Later in the song Matthew West writes and sings, “Father break my heart for what breaks yours, give me open hands and open doors.” I keep coming back to those lines because as much as I try I still miss the suffering around me every day.  It’s easy for me, because of the church I am a part of, to fall back on the charity and good works that are done here through Macon Outreach.  We feed a lot of people, give a lot of groceries, and even clothe a lot of people here, but that does not free me from my responsibility to do good.

How can I and how can you be better ambassadors for God and his mission in the world around us? We talk a lot about the abstract ideas of living out faith, but how can we actually live in a concrete way. We vow to give our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. How do we truly do that in the world around us.

 

Resolutions

So it is has been a while since I’ve been able to write a post. The busyness of the season got me, like it probably got most of you.  Today was my first day fully back to work, and I feel refreshed after a little break.

This time of year is one of resolutions, the new year always inspires attempts to change.  I am guilty of this impulse and I put it into action today. It was a balmy 45 degrees outside according to my phone, and I bundled up and went for a bike ride.  I often lament the fact that one of my bicycles has been sitting in my office for literally months without moving. So long in fact that the tires were nearly flat. But I have made a resolution to resume having exercise as part of my routine, every day life.

So why does the beginning of a new year always push us to be introspective and searching about our lives? Why does the calendar changing make us think about the places we feel our lives fall short? I think we all feel that we don’t measure up in some respects, it may be small things or it may be in some serious part of your life, but we all feel the pressure of perfection.

This is also why so many resolutions fail, they say that resolutions are usually broken by the end of January, and soon after comes the most depressing days of the year.  I think there is nothing wrong with resolutions, I think that we all need to examine our lives and make sure that we are living as God calls us to.  But I think that often resolutions are unrealistic in their scope, and when we fail to meet our pie-in-the-sky expectations we feel the sting of failure.

So I challenge you, as I have challenged myself to return to a bit of balance with exercise and being concerned with my health, to make a resolution.  Don’t necessarily relegate resolutions to the change of the calendar year.  I think we can all be more successful if we make small achievable resolutions throughout the year. Let’s see what big changes we can make when me make small incremental changes in our lives.