Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-30-12

Scripture: 1st Samuel 20:34 (the Message)
Jonathan stormed from the table, furiously angry, and ate nothing the rest of the day, upset for David and smarting under the humiliation from his father.

Thought for the Day: I like the way the Message presents this verse of scripture, earthy and real.  The situation was complex, made even more thorny by the fact that jealousy and paranoia were involved.  Have you ever taken a step back from a situation and said to yourself, “This should be easier to solve than it is.  Why can’t we make it happen?”  Most problems would have an easy solution if people were not involved.  We complicate every situation because we are complicated.  We carry a lot of baggage, are strangely governed by our unnamed fears, and we like to be right.  When you face one of those complex situations, don’t become frustrated.  Instead, seek to be compassionate.  Taking the time to understand the people involved, hearing their fears and concerns, will often create a new environment where the solution can be found.  It is never easy, but with God’s help, it is possible.

Prayer: When the relations are tricky and people’s emotions are entangled in the mess, give me the insight to glimpse your alternative solution, O Lord.  Amen.


Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-29-12

Scripture: Jonah 4:4
And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Thought for the Day: It may seem a bit strange for a Christian to discuss a Jewish book using a quote from Buddha, but I’m going to do so nonetheless.  The Buddha said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”  Anger isn’t always bad in and of itself, the problem occurs when anger becomes the starting point and motivation of one’s decision-making.  Jonah was angry, and whether he was justified or not is of little importance.  The question being asked is about Jonah’s future.  What is Jonah going to do with that anger?  I’m always impressed by people who, though they are angry, are able to do some self-reflection, and in some situations, come to the conclusion that their anger was not an appropriate response.

Prayer: God, though I may feel a little bent out of shape by the words or actions of another, may you give me the grace to pause, prayerfully reflect, and respond in Christ-life fashion.  Amen.


Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-28-12

Scripture: Romans 12:13
Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Thought for the Day: Going back to the mid-70’s, Disney had a movie entitled, Peter’s Dragon, starring Mickey Rooney.  It is the story of an orphaned boy who had an invisible friend who just happens to be a dragon.  There is a scene in the movie where the boy is the scapegoat for a bad happening.  Someone yells, “There’s no room here for you.”  In good Disney fashion, this gives rise to a song that has as its first line, “There’s room for everyone in this world if everyone makes some room.”  It is an easy request if the person we are making room for is someone we know and like, but the Apostle Paul calls us to make room for the stranger.  It is too bad that Disney often proclaims the message of the church better than the church does.

Prayer: Help me to make room, O Gracious God, for all those in search of a little room.  Amen.


Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-27-12

Scripture: Ephesians 4:25
So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.

Thought for the Day: It is time!  It is time for the church to speak up!  It is time for the church to name names (well I’ll be cautious there prior to talking to my attorney)!  I just finished watching five minutes of a TV evangelist out of Fort Worth whose entire message was about how the Bible is full of wisdom insights that will teach you how to be successful and make lots of money.  Simply put, he and others are preaching a purposeful deceit (‘falsehood’).   It is okay to have differences of opinion in regard to how we translates a certain passage or how some Biblical concept is to be enacted within our current circumstance, but the prosperity Gospel is garbage!  No serious Christian can reconcile the life and teachings of Jesus with a Biblical view that says its all a financial plan for personal prosperity.  It is time to call these folks out!  It is time to live the radical message of Jesus who gave it all away for the sake of others.

Prayer: Lord, help us dream your dream where money and power are no longer the currency of your kingdom.  Instead, help my life show love, mercy and service as the real means by which your work is done.  Amen.


Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-26-12

Scripture: Proverbs 15:17
Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it.

Thought for the Day: There are times when the words of Mother Teresa sum things up pretty well.  She said, “In the West we have a tendency to be profit-oriented, where everything is measured according to the results and we get caught up in being more and more active to generate results. In the East — especially in India — I find that people are more content to just be, to just sit around under a banyan tree for half a day chatting to each other. We Westerners would probably call that wasting time. But there is value to it. Being with someone, listening without a clock and without anticipation of results, teaches us about love. The success of love is in the loving — it is not in the result of loving.” Yep, that sums it up pretty well.

Prayer: Help me make room for what is important, Lord, and help me realize that in almost every case, the important stuff is people.  Amen.


Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-25-12

Scripture: 2nd Chronicles 6:40
Now, O my God, let your eyes be open and your ears attentive to prayer from this place.

Thought for the Day: This was part of a passionate prayer Solomon shared on behalf of his people.  As I read these words, I was reminded of Barton W. Stone, one of the founders of our denomination.  Stone wrote years ago, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace.  Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith.  If more time were spent in prayer and less in public speaking, when we assembled together, happier effects would be felt and seen among us.”  Though we do not understand how prayer works, it does.  Though it is not magic or a simple requisition form where one gets whatever s/he desire, it taps into the creative power of the divine.  Let us touch the One who offers that which our hearts truly desire: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Prayer: I knock upon the doors of heaven, O God of all creation, and there I find the One who has never stopped working with me and for the sake of all creation.  Thank you!  Amen.



Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-24-12

Scripture: Psalm 9:18-19
For the needy shall not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor perish forever.  Rise up, O Lord! Do not let mortals prevail; let the nations be judged before you.

Thought for the Day: I am a fan of the movie Kingdom of Heaven (staring Orlando Bloom and Liam Neeson), and I was watching it again last night.  One of the characters referred to as Hospitaller says to Balian, “I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of god. I have seen too much religion in the eyes of too many murderers. Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness…”  These words set centuries ago have great relevance in our current situation.  Some may believe that religion will be the source of the world’s destruction, and they may be right.  Though I may be a tad naive, I tend to think the acts of kindness and love inspired by God and seen among those who choose to follow in the ways of this God will be the world’s saving grace.

Prayer: Give me hope amidst the pessimism, O God, and make within me an attitude that celebrates grace-filled works over blind ideology.  Amen.


Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-23-12

Scripture: Jonah 3:3-4
So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

Thought for the Day: Bill Moyer wrote, “Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.”  The author of Jonah understood this basic idea.  The author used the mundane as the backdrop, splashed some creativity upon the canvas, and then for those who were paying attention, something marvelous became visible.  The above two verses may sound a bit boring, but notice how the story tells us that Nineveh was a three day walk across, yet Jonah only walked one day.  It may not be some earth-shattering point, but it is an incredibly creative way of communicating something about Jonah.  If you are asked to do a job, and you only do a third of it, what does that say about you?  What does it say about Jonah?  I don’t know if that quite reaches Moyer’s definition of marvelous, but it reminds us of just how creative many of the Biblical writers were.  And if we are paying attention, we might find some pretty marvelous insights.

Prayer: Help me, God, to see the complexity and beauty woven into the scriptures.  Help me to see them and to understand what is being communicated.  Amen.

Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-22-12

Scripture: Acts 13:52
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Thought for the Day: The French author, Pierre Coneille, once wrote, “Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of others, but from doing something worthwhile.” The above words of scripture are shared as Paul and Barnabas are struggling to remain faithful over against many who would like to see them fail (or see them dead).  The joy they knew did not come from success, for they had both success and failure.  It did not come from applause and adoration for there was little of that.  It came from remaining connected to God, the source of joy…the knowledge that no matter what might happen, God’s love would not be defeated.

Prayer: I want your joy, O Heavenly Father, not just worldly happiness.  Amen.



Brian McLaren’s New Book: Part 2

As I continue on with Brian McLaren’s book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?, I find myself struggling with the tension Brian names.  I describe the tension found in our choice between ‘hostility toward other faiths’ or ‘hollowing out our own’.  For far too long, we have assumed those were our only two options, and frankly, if I must choose, I will always hollow out my own faith before choosing hostility.

For far too many others, they would rather choose the way of hostility.  They quite often decorate it with flowery religious language and hold it together with a holier-than-thou border, but such an attitude almost always gets stopped in its tracks when it encounters another human in a true ‘I-Thou’ relationship.  It is easy to hurl insults and contempt at a caricature sketched in TV soundbites and viral email, but encountering the soul of another human being through conversation changes everything.

McLaren asks, “Does sincere faith in the uniqueness and universality of Jesus Christ require one to see other faiths as false, dangerous, or even demonic?” (p. 32).   Why is it that so many Christians have been willing to be nice to Muslims “when necessary in order to convert them to Christianity; otherwise, see them as spiritual competitors and potential enemies.  In effect, this approach tended to dehumanize the other, turning others into ‘evangelistic targets’” (p. 30).

We must find another way, one that is not hostile to those of other faiths, while still allowing each faith group to maintain a strong sense of one’s self and one’s convictions.  Could it be possible that our mistrust, hatred and violence toward one another comes, not from a place of strength, but from a terrified sense of our own frailty?  McLaren suggests that we “need to become better Muslims, better Jews, and better Christians…But doing so will demand a high cost from us.  It will subject us to criticism and maybe even threats and worse–from our religious fellows” (p.51).

The journey into a third way is a bit daunting, in part, because the road will be lined with many who will want nothing more than to see us fail.  The sad thing is that these same people will be those with whom we sit with every Sunday morning.

Give me your thoughts…