Prayer against “the tyranny of trifles”

General

May this be your prayer today as it is mine:

“In this, the day that the Lord hath made, help us, O God, to appreciate its beauty and to use aright it’s opportunities.

Deliver us, we pray, from the tyranny of trifles. May we give our best thought and attention to what is important, that we may accomplish something worthwhile. Teach us how to listen to the prompting of thy Spirit, and thus, save us from floundering in indecision that wastes time, subtracts from our peace, divides our efficiency, and multiplies our troubles. In the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

– from The Prayers of Peter Marshall

Best Warrior Competition by my son. Who is three. And awesome.

General

Epic Battles

I quizzed my son (who is three going on 4) today about who would win if they fought a battle.

Results:

Jedi Knight vs. Iron Man = Jedi

Jedi Knight vs. Thor = Jedi
(Why – Light Saber)

Spiderman vs. Thor = Spiderman
(Why – webs)

Superman vs. Ironman = Superman
(Why – strong)

Captain America vs. Jedi Knight = Jedi Knight
(Why – you know why)

Viking vs. Batman = Batman
(Why – Batman)

Who is the best warrior ever??

Jedi.

I thought it was awesome.

Passion Sunday

General

What are the two things that you’re just NOT supposed to talk about at family events?

Religion and politics – they say.

Why?

I think it’s because talking about these two particular topics reveals who you really are. As long as you are embracing the truth about you, your belief system will rear its ugly little head and let everybody know what you really think.

Disunity. Discord. Disagreement. This seems to mark us as humans. Its drives us apart. Capitalists don’t like socialists and conservatives can’t hang with liberals. Theology, in of itself does not divide, but it gives us a platform to embrace our human need to separate. What? You baptize babies? Anathema!! You reject the (read: my understanding of) body and blood?? Shame!! How can you call yourself a Christian and believe that there is no pre-tribulation rapture!! I mean, when you get to heaven, there is going to be a test –St. Peter will ask you what your interpretation of Romans chapter 1 is in relationship to gay marriage. So… get it wrong and it’s the boot for you!

Politics and religion highlight our need for “getting it right.” Our need for being right.

This does not make it a useless study or minimize the need to seek for the truth – I note it because there is something greater than “being right” – it’s unity.

Paul writes from a Roman prison. It’s likely that he dies there. He writes to a working church. One of his favorite churches. A church that is doing the right things. He likes this church. But there is discord. There is some strife and he addresses it head on in chapter 2 vs. 1-12.
I would bring to mind what he has already stated, namely, in chapter one, he notes that the pain and agony of imprisonment have not hurt him or the Gospel – it has made it better! Authorities have tried to contain Paul but it has not happened. The witness has gone forth in spite of the prison walls. He ends the chapter with a charge: 27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[e] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
The assumption here is that they already are doing this. They are already living it out – so, continue! Chapter two carries the narrative: 2:1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

“If there be” – there is. It’s the mark of fellowship. It’s the mark of a healthy family and congregation if there is encouragement in Christ, comfort of love, fellowship in the Spirit. A church body, following/living in the Spirit, are going to have these attributes present.

What prevents this from being present?

Strife/selfish ambition.
Vain glory/empty pride.

What?? Common!! Not in the church right? That never happens. Preachers don’t say things so that they will hear, “great, great message pastor!” Leaders never make pronouncements just to make the news or to affirm/justify the hatred of their flocks. Ever. Does. Not. Happen.

This, of course, is silly. Of course it happens. Every day a million times. We do this because we’re humans. We do this because of ego. We do this because it feels good and righteous. We do this because we carry the flawed notion that for me to be right – you have to be wrong. We do this because, fearing change, we rage against things we cannot control. Instead of resting in the grace of Christ that has carried us through far worse things, we embrace what we thinks is power and fight shifting sand.

Paul appeals to the church to embrace a higher way. To embrace a better way. Unity. The only way to get beyond your own stuff is to recognize that whatever you are going through, it resonates in Christ’s story. Whatever you want to fight about – it wasn’t worth it to Christ. Hear the story:

5 Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
6 Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
7 But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God highly honored him
and gave him a name above all names,
10 so that at the name of Jesus everyone
in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
11 and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I really like how Eugene Peterson tells the story in “The Message”
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
9-11 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

Think on Jesus. He, rather than Adam, Satan or anyone else, had the actual right to be called God. He had the actual right to BE God, but he laid that aside for me. Jesus, looking from Heaven sees mankind unable to come to terms with God’s righteousness, unable to make it to purity even with the grace, even with the examples, even with 2nd, 3rd, 4th and more chances – “when the fullness of time was come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.[b] 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[c] Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Sons. Daughters. Children of the King.

That’s who Jesus came for. He looks from heaven, sees that we can’t get it right and does it for us. Pays our debt. Takes our charges, our punishment, our confinement, our execution. Our Death.

And we beat each other up about the proper interpretation of an obscure passage of Scripture written thousands of years ago. We pass judgment upon one another and destroy relationships – the gift of God to get us through hard times. Nice.

Jerusalem. Passover. AD 30. Pontius Pilot Rome’s appointment to control Palestine.

People from all over the world are converging on Jerusalem in order to do business, reunite with family, worship Jehovah, celebrate. It’s a party. Tensions are high. Pilot himself has come from his usual seat of power to Jerusalem to oversee security. Crowds, Soldiers, Priests, Peasants, Lords – they are all there.
Word comes that Jesus of Nazareth is coming up the hill. The word travels fast. The pilgrims are singing as the ascend to the Holy City,

“ I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

But their songs change. A man, dressed in the simple tunic of a peasant approaches the gates of the city riding on the back of a donkey. The people press in on all sides to see this thing that is coming to pass in front of them.

There are zealots sharpening their swords. Jesus is the answer to their wait. He has come to Jerusalem to lead them over the Romans. The Pharisees look with suspicion. The Zealots are the insurgents to Rome’s occupying force. They pine for what was in Israel, they chafe under the yoke of Roman (before that it was the Greeks, before that it was the Persians and on and on it goes) oppression. Christ has always had a very tenuous relationship with them.

One of Jesus’ own, Simon, is known to us as “Simon the Zealot.” Isn’t it interesting that Jesus also has in his entourage, Matthew, the Tax Collector. Here’s a group of people: blue collar, peasants, craftsmen – and a government official and a revolutionary. Somehow, they are able to lay aside their dynamically opposed views of the Roman Occupation in order to be a Disciple.

The Zealots get involved with the song – it changes: “Hosanna!! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!! Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our Father David!! Hosanna!!” They dry out for the kingship of Christ. They, in that moment connect Jesus, not with metaphorical salvation from sin but real, literal salvation from Rome!

In that moment of passion – all the oppression ceases – in the ecstasy, all the joy of connection with God is restored!! They have been remembered! They have been thought of! They have not been forgotten!! Jehovah cares and sees! The Psalms are true, the prophecies are fulfilled!! Salvation has come!!

I am not forgotten
I am not forgotten
I am not forgotten
God knows my name.
He knows my name.

Light over darkness
Strength over weakness
Joy over sadness
He knows my name

Father to the Fatherless
Friend to the friendless
Hope for the hopeless
He knows my name

I will praise You
I will praise You
For I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

I am not forgotten
Never forsaken

Feels good to hear those words! Feels good to know that God remembers us in our distress, in our defeat and pain. Hey! If God be for us who can be against us right?

Think about that for a moment. Think about that crowd in Jerusalem that day. They cried out for their king – but that’s not what Jesus was about. They threw the only clothes they had on the ground so that the hooves on his donkey would not touch the dirt or mud – they ripped branches off trees to create a road for the King!

They knew what they wanted. They interpreted Jesus’ words and actions in light of their own needs and wants. They made Jesus into their image and worshiped accordingly.

We do this every day. We do this when we act and speak as though we own Jesus. We own Jesus’ teachings. We own Jesus legacy. We do this when we worship Jesus as we want Jesus to be. Jesus in our image. Jesus in our tribe. Jesus with our prejudices. Jesus with our troubles. Jesus with our failures. Jesus with our greed. Jesus with our shame. Jesus with our guilt. Jesus with our choices.

A week later, this same group would discard Christ as so much trash in the street. Pilot would discard Jesus on a tree for peace in his city. The Pharisees and Sadducees would discard the Son for perceived power. The Zealots would discard our Lord because, as it turned out, he wasn’t the king they were looking for. The disciples discarded their leader in fear and shame. In the end, those who created a god to fit their life choices, discarded that god when it didn’t pan out the way they planned. There, hangs a man discarded.

1 Here hangs a man discarded,
a scarecrow hoisted high,
a nonsense pointing nowhere
to all who hurry by.
2 Can such a clown of sorrows
still bring a useful word
when faith and love seem phantoms
and every hope absurd?
3 Yet here is help and comfort
for lives by comfort bound,
when drums of dazzling progress
give strangely hollow sound:
4 Life, emptied of all meaning,
drained out in bleak distress,
can share in broken silence
our deepest emptiness;
5 And love that freely entered
the pit of life’s despair,
can name our hidden darkness
and suffer with us there.
6 Christ, in our darkness risen,
help all who long for light
to hold the hand of promise,
till faith receives its sight.

Have you ever felt discarded? Efforts for naught? People who should have been with you, invested in you, just throw you away? Discard you in the trash somewhere? Then you know the pain of the One who laid aside his royalty, his majesty, his grace, his relationships, his comfort, pride, joy – to be one of us. This is the example Paul appeals to.

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!
What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.
Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!
Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.
My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!
What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.
My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.
Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.
The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.
My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!
Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.

Christ, who stands with God, at the beginning of time lays aside all of it to embrace the shame, humiliation of Calvary. This is your king. Humble. This is our king. Poor. This is our king. Naked. This is our king. Beaten. Bloody. Crawling out of the city alone in his shame. Bearing your sin. Your choices. My sin. My shame. This is our king.

1) What wondrous Love is this, oh my soul, oh my soul
What wondrous Love is this, oh my soul
What wondrous Love is this that caused the Lord of Bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul
2) When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down
When I was sinking down, sinking down
When I was seeking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul
3) And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on
And through eternity I’ll sing on

It’s Holy Week.

Stop.

Reflect.

Experience.

Now, as the Apostle reflects on his hymn of the Savior, work out what it means to be a follower of Christ, your own salvation, with fear and trembling.

Responsibility and Gun Control

General

I just bought a gun. Two actually.

I’ve been a gun owner for years and really enjoy shooting. I’ve owned about 20 different firearms since I became legally able to own them and currently own about a dozen. Like everything, its cyclical for me. I went through a “whatever I could afford phase” wherein I bought really, really, cheap guns; an “automatic weapons” (I refuse the title assault weapon – it’s pejorative and unhelpful) phase wherein I purchased multiple weapons that would deliver lots and lots of rounds downrange fast; a long hiatus wherein my “post deployment” blues caused me to put all my guns away and not shoot for years; and my current phase which is interested in hunting/historical replica shooting. I have a desire to own (a replica) of every gun the US Army has used in it’s history – kind of a bucket list sort of thing. Currently, I own two. I have a long way to go…

I say that to highlight that I care about owning firearms. I believe in owning firearms. I have a right to own firearms. I also recognize this:

Owning a firearm is a massive responsibility to myself and my community.

Simply put, owning any firearm means that I have at my disposal the means to kill very easily. The more rounds I can shoot, the faster I can shoot them, and the faster I can reload them simply adds to the severity of that responsibility. If I choose to purchase a a firearm, I am assuming the responsibility for how it is used.

Currently, the conversation that I have read/heard/witnessed seems to be stuck on bans/mental health/original intent/the AR15 is the new musket. All of which I believe frame the discussion in an unhelpful manner.

1. Bans generally do not accomplish what they set out to do and just create sub markets off the radar. Look at our bans in history: alcohol, prostitution, drugs, etc. Not particularly successful in stopping anything.

2. Do we really want to do down the road of mandating that a social worker report anyone who should not shoot a gun? Depressed? No shooting for you!

3. The AR 15 is nothing like a musket and who cares anyway. Going down the road of “original intent” is not usually helpful since we can say whatever we want about what they meant. Cause the Founding Fathers really cared about a woman’s/minorities right to own a firearm…

None of these conversations help us to get a reasonable place where there are some rules and expectations on those who desire to exercise their 2nd Amendment right!

I would compare this to the freedom of religion. The constitution guarantees the right to the free exercise of religion. However, one cannot just do anything they want to call it their faith. Churches have to obey zoning laws. Polygamy is illegal. One cannot just state that meth trips are a part of their faith and justify a church sanctioned meth lab. Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of child abuse. Traditionally, a church’s advise to a parishioner is confidential and a conversation between a congregant and minister is held in the highest confidence. Not anymore. Pastor’s are mandated reporters in many states and here in Kansas City, a bishop was held responsible for suppressing the actions of a priest. One cannot just do whatever they want and cover it in religious freedom.

Or the 2nd Amendment.

“Shall not be infringed” That boat sailed the first time a town said that you couldn’t bring a loaded musket into church or the saloon. As America westernized (I’ll say that since there were certainly active, functioning civilizations long before the Pilgrims landed) and started to apply English common law on these shores, regulations around the use of firearms came with it. Certainly they would have been different than they are today but that goes with common sense. Their laws matched their tools and our laws ought to match ours.

It would be silly to apply the road rules of say, 1900, to the massive Petersen Truck that has the ability to pull tons or freight at high speeds. Laws need to match risk.

I know, I know. Criminals won’t obey the law. Got it. That’s why they are criminals and should be treated as such. If a criminal has a gun illegally or someone buys a gun for a criminal, they should be treated accordingly. Got it.

Here’s a common sense idea: treat a weapon with varying levels of regulations related to risk.

Clearly, my single shot .410 is a dangerous weapon. It can absolutely kill, maim, wound. However, there is much less risk associated with that firearm than, say, an AK47 variant which has the ability to lots of lead very quickly. They are different firearms with differing capabilities. They should be treated differently, that makes sense.

I believe that anyone who wants to own an AK47 should be able to. I also believe that there is a grave responsibility one should also have to assume when purchasing that firearm. One should be able to afford it, demonstrate that they are responsible, upstanding citizens, can care for it (i.e. keep it out of the hands of those who should not have access to it like children), and, above all, be able to deploy it effectively.

Not all of those things can be governed. However, some can. What if a person had to take a class (like is required to get a Concealed Carry Permit) in order to own/shoot a certain class of firearms (like we already do with fully automatic weapons)? The ability to fire a hundred rounds as fast as a person can squeeze a trigger is not something to be taken lightly!

What if a person was held accountable for distribution of a firearm? I.e. if I sell a firearm to someone else, I am responsible to report that sale otherwise I’m in trouble for trafficking a firearm to a criminal. Lets put the burden of responsibility on the person who owns the gun. Again, it’s the idea that owning a gun comes with the responsibility for safe use.

I recognize there are laws on the books for this – good – lets find a way to leverage technology in such a way that it makes the laws easier to enforce rather than harder.

There are lots of creative ways to mitigate risk while protecting rights. Many more than I could think of to be sure. That’s the conversation that needs to happen – not fruitless fighting over bans and original intent.

What if we framed the conversation – how do we mitigate risk effectively – how can people utilize their rights in a way that is safe for the community.

By the way, I’m all for a well-regulated militia. I’m all for people getting together, training, shooting, holding each other accountable.

Reasonable regulations are always appropriate when there is significant risk involved. We do this with cars, money, drugs etc.

I like shooting. I believe in the 2nd Amendment. I do not believe that I need to “demonstrate a need” in order to own a gun. I also believe that I should be held accountable if a gun that I own falls into the hands of an unstable person, minor, or criminal by my negligence.

Rain and Science

General, thought of the day

Every day I give a thought in a staff meeting. Since it is the Festival Season in the Jewish faith, I have used thoughts from that tradition for some time. Today’s was really good. It focuses on the relationship between science and faith. It comes from the desk of the Chief Rabbi in the UK.

 

For Jews the festival season is well and truly on us. We’ve just celebrated the New Year and the Day of Atonement, and next week we have Sukkot, known in English as Tabernacles. It’s difficult to explain Sukkot in Britain, especially this year, because it’s a festival of prayer for rain, whereas here we’ve had all too much of it, including the floods still doing damage in York, Liverpool and Wales. But in the Holy Land, where the Bible is set, rain was and still is the scarcest resource and without it there’s drought and famine.

So on Sukkot we take four kinds of things that need rain to grow: a palm branch, a citron, and leaves from a willow and myrtle tree, and holding them we thank God for rain and pray for it in the Holy Land in the year to come – even if we happen to be living in the soggiest of climates. Sukkot is, if you like, a festival about the fragility of nature as a habitat hospitable to humankind.

The natural world is something science and religion both speak about in their very different ways. Science explains; religion celebrates. Science speaks, religion sings. Science is prose, religion is poetry and we need them both.

Science continues to inspire us in the way it reveals the intricacy of nature and the power of the human mind. Rarely was this more so than earlier this year with the almost certain confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson, which someone with a sense of humour called the God particle on the grounds that it exists everywhere but it’s so hard to find.

But science can sometimes make us think we’re in control, which is why we need moments like Sukkot to restore our sense of humility. We’re so small in a universe so vast, and our very existence depends on an extraordinarily delicate balance between too much and too little, whose symbol is rain. Too much and we have floods. Too little and we have drought.

So as well as knowledge we need wisdom, and the better part of wisdom is knowing that we are guardians of a universe we can easily endanger and which we still don’t fully understand. Perhaps it’s not crazy, once a year, to lift our eyes toward heaven, the way we do when we’re praying for rain, and remember how dependent we are on things beyond our control. The more scientific knowledge and power we have, the more humility we need.

Get outside, see the colors

General, thought of the day

02 October 1925 – John Baird tests the first working television system. Thus giving to the world a way to sit in the comfort of their living rooms and live vicariously through others. Upon seeing the system, he remarked, “if only we could now record the actions of the most obnoxious members of our society – that would look wonderful on this system.” Approximately 70.3 years later, reality TV was born and the national intelligence rate dropped 22.4 percent.

01 October 1908 – Henry Ford, great grandfather of Steve Jobs, introduced the Ford Model T to the world. It came with a 20-horsepower 4-cylinder engine and had a top speed of 45 miles an hour. It weighed 1200 pounds and got 13-21 mpg. The car had a price tag of $850 and later sold for as little as $260. It came in black.

Today’s “thought of the day” for my morning meeting comes from Dale Carnegie – “One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside of our windows today.”

The colors are coming out. Do yourself a favor and go see them. Drive a car slowly. Even better, take a walk.

(by the way, I might have made up some facts in the first date…)

We – lets be honest eh?

General

The thing that gets me about politics – yes, I have political opinions and for all my “I’m above all that” attitude I like to believe about myself, I continually get sucked into the muddy slog that is politics in this country – the thing that gets to me is the spin. I know, I know – it’s all spin right?

Of course it is, I know it, and it still gets to me.

I’m fine with a party or viewpoint understanding and expressing the world as they see it. We all do it! I do it! It starts to bother me when a person is doing that and not understanding that they are doing it. When they get all puritan about their particular belief as though they don’t do the very same thing.

It gets to me when, to defend the viewpoint, we tend to not acknowledge when our viewpoint is just another expression of the opposite one.

Like when liberals, in defense of good and effective government, don’t admit that there are parts of are government that are, in fact, way to big, too inefficient, and needs to get smaller.

And conservatives, who, in defending the idea that we have too much government imply that they are these independent folks that don’t ever take anything from government!!

Of course we do. We ALL take from government.We ALL use government subsidies. I really enjoyed this clip on “Here and Now” about that very idea. It is right and proper to talk about how much and how efficiently our government spends our money – lets just be real about it.

To paraphrase my CPE Supervisor – lets stop talking about “them out there” (who clearly are evil, greedy, socialist, bleeding heart whatever, them who are not us) and start talking about We. We who benefit from our government. We who all pay taxes is so many ways. We who are responsible to hold our representative accountable for how they govern. We who would rather do just about anything then get informed. We who are the problem and believe that “them out there” are the problem.

We need to fix this. All of us. Honestly.

Work and Worship

General

A thought this morning from Sufi Islam as translated through a street vendor from Senegal:

“Work as though you will never die. Worship as though you will die tomorrow.”

It is reminiscent of the “protestant work ethic” I grew up with. All things, to include our work, is done in service to God. We do what we do to benefit ourselves and society as a whole – all as an act of worship to God. The question I am asking this morning is: does my work benefit me, society as a whole, and can it be worship to God?

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Col. 3:17

Addictive “Worship”

General, Theology

So, my brother, who is a worship leader, brought this to my attention this week. Its an article that theorizes that “mega-church worship” has qualities that can be highly addictive.

“Through the influence of our consumer culture we’ve come to believe that transformation is attained through  external experiences. We’ve come to regard our church buildings, with their multimedia theatrical equipment, as mountaintops where God’s glory may be encountered. Many of us ascend this mountain every Sunday morning wanting to have an experience with God, and many of us leave with a degree of genuine transformation. We feel “pumped up,” “fed,” or “on fire for the Lord.”

No doubt many, like Moses, have an authentic encounter with God through these events. But new research indicates another explanation for our spiritual highs. A University of Washington study has found that megachurch worship experiences actually trigger an “oxytocin cocktail” in the brain that can become chemically addictive. The same has been found at large sporting events and concerts, but attenders to these gatherings don’t usually attribute the “high” to God.

“The upbeat modern music, cameras that scan the audience and project smiling, dancing, singing, or crying worshipers on large screens, and an extremely charismatic leader whose sermons touch individuals on an emotional level … serve to create these strong positive emotional experiences,” said Katie Corcoran, a Ph.D. candidate who co-authored the study.”

I found this article interesting on the level that someone is questioning the validity of “mountain-top” experiences. However, I would note that these types of experinces have exsisted throughout time and that they are part and parcel to the human interaction with the divine.

What I most liked was my brother’s response to the article – I thought it so good, I include it here in it’s entirety.

1.  I hate the Yankees, they have all the money, players and fans.  Easy to be a mega church hater.
2.  The same argument could be used for any worship style: Liturgical, Catholic, Old Fundamental KJV Hymn singers.  Any time we only look for God in a system or specific place its off.
3.  The most dangerous view may be that you can find God in all of those places and more.
4.  God says if you seek Him, you will find Him and I’ve found that to be true.  When I don’t seek Him, I can get way off track and only see darkness.  When I do seek Him, I see Him everywhere.  Kinda like a Rich Mullins song I used to listen to.  “And everywhere I go, I see you…”
5.  Even in the dark I see Him if I seek Him.  The face of a chinese orphan who will probably never hear of Him, a rock in Scotland, a good story, a piece of art, the devotion of a muslim.  See?  Told you that was dangerous.  But God is dangerous and His stamp is everywhere.
6.  We all have those warm fuzzy places where we go to find the divine.  Some, its a mega church rock and roll show.  Some?  Bill Gaither.  Still others?  A quiet place in the woods dressed in camo. Me?  I like a good secular concert.   I love it when I meet someone who “gets” this concept.  They are a cool person.
7.  That article makes me hate my job.  I’ll never make anyone happy.  Maybe the debate will get the author some speaking gigs and his wife will be able to buy that dress from Abercrombie.