Ok, I know that I just landed here a couple days ago. I thought that for my purposes a simple blog hosted by someone else would be just fine. And, it wouldn’t cost me anything but the time to move it here. However, as I’ve thought about it, if I’m going to expect people to take me seriously as a writer, I’ve got to be serious. The work of creating word pictures and constructing ideas in print takes time and commitment. I realize that part of that commitment is financial. I can continue to play it safe, or I can put my money where my mouth is. So, today I set up a new site at:
I have imported this blog to that site. Future blog posts and any other work that I choose to do on the web will appear there. So, please join me, won’t you?
One of the things I mentioned in my New Year’s Things that I’m tired of was how scholars continue to kick dead horses. It seems that some things cannot be released and allowed to die. I have realized that these folks have been trained to question. They ask and ask and ask. This is, actually, a good thing. Nothing in faith is above questioning. That’s how we appropriate and make the faith our own. None of us can accept the word of someone else. We MUST learn how to make it ours. But, in this process I’ve found that a lot of folks make faith about US. We try so hard to appropriate the text and the tradition that we miss the supernatural, the other, the Godly. Evelyn Underhill got it when she wrote, “The tendency of all worship to decline from adoration to demand, and from the supernatural to the ethical, show how strong a pull is needed to neutralize the anthropocentric trend of the human mind; its intense preoccupation with the world of succession, and its own here-and-now desires and needs…It is the mood of deep admiration, the meek acknowledgement of mystery, the humble and adoring gaze…”
So many scholars and theologians can argue about the text. What it says or doesn’t say. But, very few are talking about the work of the Spirit. Where is the mystery? Where is the stuff that cannot be easily explained by historical or literary criticism? I think that the mystics among us are being overshadowed by the scholars. Christ followers are empowered and guided by what is unseen and unfelt. We are experiencers of God, not simply those who can understand some 2,000 year old text. I agree with Underhill. We need to get over ourselves and immersed into the reality of God, who is Spirit.
Recently, I heard a pastor deliver a message in which he expounded on the need for Christians to bear fruit. He then went on to look at Galatians 5, stating that was the only place in the NT that really discussed fruit, (sorry, wrong). He deduced that the lists in that text reveal that fruit in the NT deals with character issues, (again, not so correct). Now, I don’t want to be too hard on this person. This is the kind of stuff that is offered from pulpits in many, many evangelical churches. It’s about me and Jesus and how I treat my wife, kids, and members of my church group.
But, I think that there is a little more to bearing fruit than simply thinking the right things and behaving in a particular manner. There is the idea of service to those outside of our own groups. Caring for all who are poor, homeless, hungry, sick, blind, lame, unemployed, orphans…and the list goes on. John the baptizer told the crowds who came to him to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. He then explained what that was; “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” To the tax collectors he said, “”Don’t collect any more than you are required to.” Even to the soldiers he exhorted them, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely–be content with your pay.”
Jesus stated in Mat. 7 that folks would recognize false prophets by their fruit. He then showed what he meant: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” To make it clear what he was not talking about, he added, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'” It seems that the religious stuff isn’t the kind of fruit that we need to be concerned with. There were proper things to do, maybe like the whole of the Sermon on the Mount that preceded this statement.
Even Paul got it right. Colossians 1:10 states, “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” In every good work? Yes! Fruit bearing is being “doers of the word.” not simply listening or giving lip service. Ok, it also involves good character. But, it’s not limited to that. In fact, I think that good works will necessarily come out of a people of good character. The converse is also true. The verses following Col. 1:10 explain that endurance and patience, (and good character?), will result from doing good works. If we wait for character to develop on its own, good works may never happen.
Well, it’s Monday the 19th. Christmas is less than a week away. I still have shopping to do because the ads on TV tell me that. I saw a news blurb over the weekend that really tipped me off to this. The person being interviewed said that the next week’s dollars spent on shopping would tell whether Christmas would be successful this year. Of course, I want to do my part to ensure that Christmas is a success. I wouldn’t want the fact that my daughter is visiting from California be a factor in Christmas’ success. Being able to worship or spend time with friends and family apparently have nothing to do with it, either. People expressing their gratitude for their bounty by going to Walmart and paying for someone else’s layaway purchases doesn’t quite get it. Although they are spending money, it’s not for themselves. Clearly, subversive. No, Christmas will not be successful unless we all suck it up and spend the money we don’t have on stuff that no one really needs. I don’t know how Christmas has lasted so long. After all, didn’t someone say once, It’s all about the economy, stupid?
I’m sorry, but it’s not. It’s about people caring for one another. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and any other flavor of religious or not-so-religious people accepting and nurturing one another’s humanity in a time and place that does everything to denigrate humanity and fracture our relationships with one another and the Cosmos that sustains us. It’s about a kind and Generous Creator who has shown love for the creation by sending a baby to invade our small corner of the universe. A baby to illuminate the heart of God that cries out, “Peace! My good will is poured out upon all of those with whom I am well-pleased!” Perhaps, the ultimate success of Christmas will be people of good-will and hope actually embracing this statement and paying the peace and good-will forward. I don’t know…just a thought.
I just read an interesting idea about Jesus’ parables that end with the promise of divine retribution. Here’s the link:
Derek Flood presents a simple, yet thoughtful, look at this issue. With so many, especially the Emergents, questioning the existence of eternal torment for simply not believing like many Christians do the question deserves much and diverse discussion.
I’m not totally sure I agree with all that Derek wrote, but that’s because I haven’t yet taken the time to really reflect on it. However, I do agree that presenting Hell as the motivation for evangelism totally misses the mark. God’s love and mercy are the grounds for our belief and our sharing.
This morning I was reading Matthew 21:33 and following. This pericope is usually called the Parable of the Tenants. In it Jesus told of some folks who had been given charge over the vineyard belonging to someone else. It was their job to care for the vineyard and, at the end of the season, to give the fruit to the owner. Of course, they reneged on this and abused and killed those, including the owner’s son, who came to collect the fruit. This is usually sited as abuse by the chief priests and Pharisee’s in Roman Palestine. It gives justification for these so-called leaders to be ousted by the disciples of Jesus. As I reflected on this, however, I began to see that these leaders had a compelling desire to protect and control that which they had been given charge over. They were comfortable with the arrangement. Perhaps, because the landowner was what we would call an “absentee landlord”, they felt that they knew better than him how best to care for the vineyard. They may also have felt entitled to the land and its produce because they were the ones who cared for it. In any case, they were mistaken. The vineyard was not theirs to control.
I think that the church has developed a similar mindset. Although we say we trust God to care for and protect the church, we do not know how to relax our grip. I have heard leaders in my own church talk a good game about raising up young men and women to be leaders. However, what they are really saying is “When we think that you have become enough like us, then we can trust you to lead.” Like the tenants, we claim to know what’s best for the vineyard we have been given charge over. We want to protect it from the chaos that will most certainly come if we allow the next generation to come and lead in their own gifting as Christ followers. We want to protect and “oversee” them as if we are their parents. The ancient churches even refer to those overseers as “Father.”
I think that we are missing a great opportunity to share in the work of the Holy Spirit if we do not step back and learn from these young adults. Young adults who are expected to pick up the mantle of leadership in the culture, society, politics, the marketplace, and, yes…the church. We are not their parents, but their fellow laborers in the vineyard of the Master. It’s time we embraced that.