Month: February 2006

No “Fat Tuesday” for these … they will always be with you …

The last Monday evening of each month you will find a group of young people serving. When it is very hot and when it is very cold they will be there. On the “Fat Tuesday Eve” they served. One of the men who helps coordinate our effort to feed the homeless, our Youth Pastor refers to them as “precious people”, noted the city of Oklahoma City is hoping to move these folks from the downtown area. He relayed some of the tactics employed.

Jesus said the poor would always be with us. Could it be they will be with us because we do nothing more than move them to more convenient places? Surely it could not mean they will be with us because we fail to hear his most basic call to “love our neighbors?” Doubtless Jesus meant we should go about our business of building cities and infrastructure so as to create more “exclusive” enclaves.

One of the ways we hope to instill the teaching of Jesus in our young people come from these very important “missional” practices. There are no complaints. We do not have to pull teeth. We are grateful to the folks at First Baptist Church Bethany for giving us the privilege of partnering with them. We pray the expression of the Kingdom of God has come to the least of these – and more than that, the Kingdom itself has come to them.

We reap what we sow … Grey’s Anatomy, the CP and the SBC …

If you have read for long you may know one of my favorite televisions series is Grey’s Anatomy. Some may find this odd for a pastor. Since the early days of this show I have been intrigued at the ways in which contemporary culture has been portrayed, critiqued and at the same time uneasily encouraged. Last night’s episode did not strike me as one of the best. However, the theme carried through on both obvious and subversive levels. In the words of “O’Malley”, “What did I do to deserve this (we reap what we sow)?” It could be argued much of the show carries this theme throughout. While many could not abide some of the themes, subjects and dialogue, it is good to know writers remain undeterred to press the theme of “reaping what we sow.”

For example, we cannot escape the ebb and flow of the relationship between “McDreamy” and Meredith. Their relationship began as a one night “hook-up.” Derek coming off a horrible experience of walking in on his wife’s infidelity and Meredith lonely. From there the story unfolds in a winding “Crash-esque” way. Apparently disconnected events become connected once the viewer puts pieces together. Now, Derek is making a go at reconciliation with his wife but there yet remains this unresolved romance with Meredith. Can a relationship endure infidelity? Is that not an age old human question?

Throw in Burke and Kristina living together, the clandestine encounters now a staple between Izzy and Alex and the often out of place O’Malley and it makes for an apt description of our culture. Many of our “culture warriors” may decry my infatuation with this show. I still find incredible themes running from episode to episode that offer interesting illustrations in the “real world.”

Grey’s is not fact but it is true. Life in our day does look much like the mess that is this series. And, we do reap what we sow.

When I read Marty’s post this morning and clicked the link to the Ethic’s Daily story referred to in the piece I could not help but think of last night’s episode of Grey’s and the recurring theme – “What did I do to deserve this (we reap what we sow)?” How dare I mingle such a show with the work of the SBC and the CP! Except it were a mess there may not be much reason for the connection.

Marty points to the BP article wherein the attempts to raise the awareness and participation in the CP. You can almost here the, “What did we do to deserve this?” Until it is acknowledged that we are where we are because we elected leaders who offered much less than stellar support for what may well be one of the greatest mission support cooperatives “EVER.” How is it that we came to this point? What did we do to deserve this?”

RANT WARNING!!!

I have regularly been told any consideration of alternate ways to support missions jeopardizes our missionaries. Is that not a guilt game? It is one I refuse to play. “What did they (missionaries) do to deserve this (the potential plunging support of the CP)? Nothing. That is, nothing more than to partner with a group whose leadership “took the CP for granted.’ Let’s rephrase that. “Ignored the CP.” I suspect (please dear reader understand this is my perception and I am not stating this as a fact) the truth is some of, if not all, these leaders used their displeasure with prior leadership (in the SBC) to send paltry percentages to the CP of the SBC. Now it has come home to roost. “What did we do to deserve this?” We ignored the one thing that brought us together (CP and Missions) when we elected our leaders. Why? Because we had to put forward “electable leaders.” Now we want to only elect leaders whose churches give 10% to the CP and we have the audacity to refer to it as the tithe of the church – talk about “extra-biblical.” Churches may well choose to give 10% to the CP but to suggest it the equivalent responsibility to tithing is a bit of a stretch if not manipulative.

RANT OVER!!!

I think there is a way forward together. It simply may require us to more honestly answer the question, “What did we do to deserve this?”

Humility … Prayers to keep us connecting to the humility of Jesus …

Bob Hyatt wrote this pieceafter reading the Liturgy of Humility.

(Thanks to Tommie for the pic.)

Prayer for Humility

From the desire to be esteemed,

Deliver us, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved by all…

From the desire to be honored …

From the desire to be praised …

Deliver us, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred to others…

From the desire of being consulted …

From the desire of being approved …

Deliver us, Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated …

From the fear of being despised…

From the fear of suffering rebukes …

Deliver us, Jesus.

From the fear of being forgotten, ridiculed and wronged…

Deliver us, Jesus.

That I out of my riches may give to others in their poverty,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That I may know the depth of my own poverty

Jesus, grant me the grace to understand it.

That others may increase and I may decrease…

Jesus may it be.

Competing narratives … Dino does us a favor …

Life is contextual. We often speak as though we possess a great deal of objectivity. Occasionally we state the obvious influences in an attempt to work ourselves out of the subjective and into the objective. From our perceived position of objectivity we can make grand assertions as though we speak to some one about some thing authoritatively. We could call this the delusion of idealism. You know, the kind of posture wherein you take apart (deconstruct) something in hopes to find the essence. You strip it bear of all things considered periphery and look to live in the new found construct. The problem – we cannot complete the project because we ourselves are bound to our own context and some of the very influences we believe unimportant to consider may indeed be more important than we realize. Since we assume the position of authority, these blind spots become difficult if not impossible to see.

Take for example a recent post by my brother Paul. At the outset let me say I agree with him. We often talk about these very themes and issues. The reality of discovering the “enculturation” of the church leads many to the process of deconstruction in hopes of constructing something new out of something jumping, as it were, from the pages of the New Testament. The result is a form of ecclesial idealism. Maybe you have been or are there.

I recall an incident from college. The church to which we belonged experienced some rough times. An anonymous group designated itself, “The Committee to Restore (said church) to a New Testament Church.” Aside from the insidiousness of anonymity, it created the question for me, “Can we find such a church?” Now some years later serving a local church and taken part in my own periods of “deconstruction” and “reconstruction.’ I find it very difficult to think we can reduplicate what was surely embedded in a particular culture at a specific time and space. Is it realistic to think we can find that for which we look. Paul offers a couple of follow-up posts (here and here).

So, as I read a series of posts by Dino (#1, #2, #3), I thought this is at least one way forward for us. Can we address our own operative narratives and locate our stories in the narrative of Jesus? Certainly as Dino points out we will jettison competing cultural narratives like the American Dream. But, what other narratives of our own creation will compete for the narrative of Jesus?

Yes, I do realize the questions a post like this may well generate. But, in those dark nights of the soul, these questions come to me too.

Thanks Dino for sharing your story and the way in which the Story of God intersected you and how the narrative of Jesus re-creates your story.

Ascol posts, a battle ensues and IMonk (a.k.a. Michael Spencer) talks of contentions …

Last week Tom Ascol posted asking “What kind of person would make a good president of the SBC?” In the process a battle of sorts took place in the comment section. I do not recall ever seeing a blog post with nearly 300 comments (by the time you read this, there could be more though the commenting has slowed considerably at this writing). In many ways you might say a 16th Century debate came forward into the 21st Century. I am personally wondering how to articulate the difference between “Reforming Faith” (which seems to be the Reformation call – “always reforming”) and a “Reformed Faith.” (The rediscovery of a 16th Century expression of faith deeply contextual to that era brought forward with impunity into the present as though the Gospel of God had been hidden for 15 centuries.) I realize that last sentence and its accompanying parentheticals may bring both confusion to the reader and/or the charge of not understanding about that which I type.

IMonk (a.k.a. Michael Spencer) offers some thoughtful reflections in a series titled, “The Caner Contention.” He continues with – The Caner Contention II: Yes, There is a Problem, The Caner Contention III: Physician … Heal Thyself, The Caner Contention IV: The Future of a Missional Evangelicalism.