Tuesday, April 26, 2011

vatican ii

I was grateful to have a wonderful conversation with a good friend who is the administration of a school that I visit. She is a Catholic. I brave and strong catholic that was delighted to let me know that her daughter is taking communion for the first time this coming Sunday. She explained to me her daughters great concern with dealing respectfully with the elements since, according to most Catholics, communion represents the true flesh and blood of Jesus. This made the little girl very nervous to drop the crumbs, lest Jesus be scattered on the floor. Her mother assured her that worse has been done to Jesus and that he understands. It is good to have a God who understands the respectful fear of children ("Unless we become like these..."). I do not agree with the Catholic view of transubstatiation, but this does not mean that I do not appreciate the sense of reality that the Catholics have held onto in action of taking communion. What I mean is that I do not think Jesus is was the physical temple because he compared himself with it, but he is explaining spiritual matters with concrete physical objects. In some way the evangelical church needs to work harder at maintaining the physical realities of Christ's physical sacrifice on the real wooden cross. After our conversation on the Eucharist we got to talking about other things, especially our concern for social justice and she mentioned the Vatican ii documents. Here is the first paragraph of one of these documents:

The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.

I enjoyed what I read. I pray this is true of all Christians, that the "joys and anxieties" of all humanity "raises an echo in [our] hearts." I want to be more tender. It is my opinion that evangelicals should converse more with catholics. After all, we do share one Bible.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Meditation: Day 5

Psalm 22

There is a billboard in town, down by the ferry that asks the question: "Do you want to be happy?" There is a picture of a man (presumably Jesus) that is laughing and tossing a child in the air. This is the same questions Socrates asks in his dialogue with Euthydemus and what Pascal is getting to in his Pensee, "All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves." The question "what is worth happiness?" is an easy one to answer. Most of us will do anything for happiness. I think the more telling question is this: What is worth suffering for? The Bible is a strange text. It promises peace in a strange way. It is truthful in its retelling of stories. Any illustrated children's Bible seriously sensors itself. If it did not parents would be in an uproar about the lewd and indecent content. Not just graphically, but who wants there children reading Ecclesiastes, really? Happiness is the beginning of the story, but it is not the middle, and only for some it will be the end. This is not the laughable storyline you put on a billboard, but it is the truth.

Many feel like they can relate with King David because of his emotional highs and lows. In Psalm 22 we appreciate the honesty that the Bible does not hide, but includes. It is a man struggling with the apparent distance of God, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned m? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief" (Psalm 22:1-2). Have you ever felt this way? Well, so did another person who loved God passionately--King David. Does this help us make sense of God?

Two things help us: the end of Psalm 22 and Matthew 27:46. Psalm 22 end with praise. Is David just being crazy and recklessly believing God? I do not think so. His prayer is adamant, "Lord, do not stay far away!" I wish to go into this more, but I do not have time right now. Ask yourself: How is it possible that David could finish Psalm 22 the way he does?

In Matthew 27 we have Jesus crying the same words on the cross that David uses in Psalm 22. Luther was transformed by this. It shows that God heard David. God hears you too. Jesus is the answer. The man who "carried our weakness and was weighted down by our sorrows...but he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins...." Think of this: What does it fully mean to say, "Jesus is the answer"?

Easter Meditation: Day 4

Exodus 12:1-14

Throughout my years of college I made a habit of rereading books and stories that my parents had read to me when I was a child. Surprisingly I discovered that most of the stories contained vastly new meanings for me when I read them for myself the second time. I remember weeping when Aslan put the challenge to Lucy in the book Prince Caspian, "Even if no one else follows me, I still want you to come." Only upon experiencing a heart broken over a decision could I understand the weight of Aslan's request. When I read Wind in the Willows I sat up in bed and pondered for some time when Mole tells Rat of how terrifying awe can feel like. God is an even better story teller than these men who so perfectly crafted emotion and experience into words. God tells true stories that are not fully comprehended in the first sitting. They can be received by both children and adults and contain profound meaning for both. He does not just tell stories with words, but with all sorts of things like the rings of a tree or the perfect cradle in which our planet sits in the middle of a dangerous universe of twirling planets and hurtling objects. In the Passover we hear a story that is meant to be passed on from generation to generation, telling a story of God's faithfulness. The Passover did not just have meaning for the present, but also for the future. The Old Testament is impossible to understand (and many do not understand because of this) if it is not understood in this way. Hebrews 11:39-40 helps us understand this. After telling the story of faith through the life of several incredible individuals (the kind that make you think, "I could never be that cool!") it says this: "All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us." On Wednesday the community group that meets at my house celebrated the Passover together. Seeing it both in its original meaning and in its fulfillment. I am attaching a picture that we took replicating Leonardo Da Vinci's portrait The Last Supper (only we were wearing flannel, as you can see!). Do you understand that you are a part of the story?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Meditation: Day 3

Matthew 25:31-46

Perhaps Matthew 25 seems like an odd fit for an Easter meditation. The reason why it is wedged in the middle of the week is because it is one of the long sermons that Jesus taught between the triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the crucifixion. What was on Jesus mind during that time. C.S. Lewis writes that the truth and falsehood of something is proved when it faces death. Jesus life perfectly represented the passion of God. God was not about standing far off and speaking rules. Few verses affect so continually as John 1:14, "So the Word became human and made his home among us." He lived here.

What we find in Matthew 25 is that He wants us to "live among" the people of the earth too. Not by assimilation, but by compassion. Jesus proved by his death that sin was the main issue that needed to be taken care of. Sin is the plague. But in Matthew 25 it shows that God does not neglect any of the personal needs he created us with. He wants people to be clothed and fed and cared for. When the end comes our life will not merely be review on the basis of what we say we believed, but, according to Matthew 25, by what we "did and didn't do."

Keith Green has always been a passionate reminder of this for me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbGqXvGmM5g

John 15

As you can see in my meditations on the Easter passage, I am impacted by the saints that have lived before us. I have lived my life in conversation, mainly through books and biographies, with many of men and woman who have lived well. One of these saints is a man by the name of Andrew Murray. Andrew Murray lived by John 15. It is impossible to find a book of Murray's that he does not present John 15. He lived an "abiding life." He understood that the only life for a Christian to lead is one that is absolutely tied to the life of God. We receive everything from him. Jesus life was a lesson of this very principle. "I only do what I see my Father do," was his only pattern. If this is the life of the Son of God, surely it is a good principle for us to follow.

"Who is my neighbor" is the question that introduces the story of the Good Samaritan. In John 15:13 we are mean to ask ourselves, "who is my friend?" and "what does it mean for me to lay down my life." I have shared this story before, but it often comes back to me forcefully, sitting by the water, watching the sun set over the Olympic mountains, asking God how to live and love. What should I do? "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." So often we ask ourselves the wrong questions. If we really looked at the way we treat relationships/friendships we would realize how unfaithful we are. How easily we break trust and friendship with people! It will never be easy for us to lay down our lives. How easy it is to only take good things from someone and abandon them when life is hard. The Christian should live by a different pattern of life. Learn from Christ! Learn this: "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter Meditation: Day 2

John 12:12-50

"We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is the Son of Man, anyway?" (12:34) What a strange man the man Jesus was! Some might have even considered him morbid, always talking about death. We will only see and understand the man Jesus unless we see his deep motivation--"Father, bring glory to your name" (12:28). Jesus did not come to hang-out or share a moments joy. He knew that unless "the wheat planted in soil dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels" (12:24).

We who struggle to get all the success and momentary avoidance of strife that we can still find crucifixion a mean thing. Jesus is asking a daring thing: find yourself in the shadow of the cross. Oh soul, do you fear going there. What will be exposed? Jesus fearless confrontation with and victory over death has made it so that we can approach fearlessly the throne of God. Do you find rest in the shadow of the cross or is it still something that you fear?

This reminds me of one of my favorite poems by G.K. Chesterton:

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.

Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost---how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.

This world is wild as an old wife's tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall all men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

Isaiah 49:1-9

"I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." (49:6). One of the most common questions that a pastor gets asked is: what will happen to the people who have never heard? I do not pretend like I know the answer to this or that this question is the focus of these verses. These verses, in part, help me understand a little bit of the answer. God loves all people (I will argue this fact with anyone, even the person who does not think God loves them...even the person who does not want God to love them). According to this verse God is not just concerned with what we can see or appreciate. God considers people from right here to "the ends of the earth." This is very hopeful for us who live across the seas from the Middle East. This verse is talking about us too. I am a gentile. But by God's mercy I have become a son, adopted into the family of God by the Redeemer, Christ Jesus. God's mercy helps me understand the big hard questions. I am learning to trust God. Not out of naivete, but because His mercy has been extended to me too. Even Paul calls himself "abnormally born." Paul was a murderer and still mercy rescued. Mercy holds the ink to the pages of scripture. We learn that the whole time God has planned, out of his love, to make a way that all people can be saved (do not confuse the "can" with "will"). A song that I find helpful is "Lover" by Derek Webb. It goes like this:

Like a man comes to an altar,
I came into this town,
With the world upon My shoulders
And promises passed down.
When I went into the water,
My Father, He was pleased.
I built it and I’ll tear it down
So you will be set free.

Yes, and I found thieves and salesmen
Living in My Father’s house.
And I know how they got in here,
And I know how to get ‘em out.
Well, I’m turning this place over
From floor to balcony.
Then, just like these doves and sheep
Oh, you will be set free.

‘Cause I have always been a lover
From before I drew a breath
Oh, and somethings I love easy
And some I love to death.
You see, love’s no politician
‘Cause it listens carefully
So from those who come,
I can’t lose one,
So you will be set free,
Oh, you will be set free.

Go on and take My picture
Go on and make Me up
Oh, I’ll still be your Defender
And you’ll be My missing son
And I’ll send out an army
Just to bring you back to Me.
‘Cause regardless of your brothers’ lies,
Oh, you will be set free.

Because I am My beloved’s
And My beloved’s Mine;
So, you bring all your history,
I’ll bring the bread and wine.
Then we’ll have us a party
Where all the drinks are on Me
And as surely as the rising sun
Oh, you will be set free,
Oh, you will be set free.

The line that I find helpful is "Somethings I love easy, and some I love to death." I think this is the way it works. What we find predicted in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament is God's desire to "draw everyone to Himself" (John 12:32). This is the Redeemer, Jesus, who we are meditating on and celebrating this week.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Easter Meditation: Day 1

John 12:1-11

Oswald Chambers writing on this interaction between Jesus and Mary asked the question, "Have you ever been carried away for him?" The Christmas hymn sings "long lay the world in sin and error pining." Long the world has waited to be loved. The world doesn't think it deserves love, but it wants to be loved so badly. Who will love a broken world?

This is the story of the incarnation. God made the world. He has seen it grow from its natal stages to its old weather-worn state. He has seen it raped by war and torn by sins scarring knife. God loves the world and so he gave his Son.

Mary knew that she was loved completely. She felt safe. She was known completely, but still loved! How could she respond but to love in return.

Oswald Chambers goes on to write: "If human love does not carry a man beyond himself, it is not love. If love is always discreet, always wise, always sensible and calculating, never carried beyond itself, it is not love at all. It may be affection, it may be warmth of feeling, but it has not the true nature of love in it." Have you ever been carried away for him?

Was she aware of what she was doing? Was she aware that she was anointing him for burial?

Hebrews 10:1-18

How could a thing as complete and beautiful as the descent of God onto Mt. Sinai be called "a dim preview" (10:1)? The ten plagues, the magnificent deliverance in battle, the 10 commandments, the intricate sacrifices, these are all the previews--they are not the main attraction. Christ is the main attraction.

"You did not want...You where not pleased..." (10:5). We begin to learn worship when we offer God what he wants, not what we are willing to give. A questions that comes to mind is: so what did God expect from the people? Was it not him who gave them the law and the sacrifices? Even more than these things God wants man to trust him for his supply. "Those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year" (10:3). What a terrible thing to be reminded of sin. I think we often misunderstand God's lessons because we overestimate our ability to respond and be responsible. Wherever there is great supply (wealth) does not necessarily mean that their will be responsibility. We find in the life of Israel and in our own lives that we must be reminded of our need for a Savior. The moments that we feel most self-reliant, with an attitude of "why do I need God", we are farthest away from the reality. This is the place of a lost, sickly soul. Doubt will veil the mind of the unbeliever until they mock God. The sacrifices gave them a pattern for active reliance upon God. But this is not ultimately what God wanted.

God wanted intimacy with people. He did not want sin to separate. Just like a couple who are in love feel profound pain to be separate by a great distance. God knew the problem, and we felt the effect. Then..."I have come to do your will O God", God was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world to himself (bringing the relationship back together).

I think of the Old Testament as a "long-longing." You feel the pains of waiting throughout its pages. When will the relationship be restored; when can I feel the arms of God again; when will he walk among us like he did in the garden?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

CCDA Philosophy | Christian Community Development Association

I am currently in Chicago--the famed "windy city"--sitting in their towering downtown library (yes, I found it) on a short break from the hectic schedule of the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) Immersion Conference. It is an awakening to the humbling fact that God is using more than the Coffee Oasis in the world and that I/we have much to learn. Dare I say, we are beginner. But I think we are blessed too. Viewing ministries within Chicago and speaking with organizations from across the nation and world I am growing to appreciate the depth of true relationship (I think what Francis Schaffer would call "True Spirituality") that I find in the Oasis community in Bremerton. I miss their presence and support while I am here (though they have assured me they are supporting me in prayer).

Here is a Chinese proverb that has been continuously repeated here at the conference and below that is a link to the CCDA philosophy:

Go to the people
Live among them
Learn from them
Love them
Start with what they know
Build on what they have:
But of the best leaders When their task is done
The people will remark "We have done it ourselves."

CCDA Philosophy | Christian Community Development Association

Saturday, April 2, 2011

to be human again

Victor Frankl, a survivor of the Nazi Death camps wrote in the preface to the 1984 edition of his bestseller Man’s Search for Meaning: “I do not at all see in the bestseller status of my book so much an achievement and accomplishment on my part [but rather] an expression of the misery of our time: if hundreds of thousands of people reach out for a book whose very title promises to deal with the question of a meaning to life, it must be a question that burns under their fingernails.... One day, a few days after the liberation, I walked through the country past flowering meadows, for miles and miles, toward the market town near the camp. Larks rose to the sky and I could hear their joyous song. There was not one to be seen for miles around; there was nothing but the wide earth and sky and the larks’ jubilation and the freedom of space. I stopped, looked around, and up to the sky—and then I went down on my knees. At that moment there was very little I knew of myself or of the world—I had but one sentence in mind—always the same: ‘I called to the Lord from my narrow prison and He answered me in the freedom of space.’ How long I knelt there and repeated this sentence memory can no longer recall. But I know that on that day, in that hour, my new life started. Step for step I progressed, until I again became human."

Friday, April 1, 2011

the dynamics of temptation and surrender

"The flesh resists this daily humiliation, first by a frontal attack, and later by hiding itself under the words of the Spirit (i.e., in the name of 'evangelical liberty'). We claim liberty from all legal compulsion, from self-martyrdom and mortification and play this off against the proper evangelical use of discipline and asceticism; we thus excuse our self-indulgence and irregularity in prayer, in meditation and in our bodily life. But the contrast between our behavior and the word of Jesus is all too painfully evident. We forget that discipleship means estrangement from the world, and we forget the real joy and freedom which are the outcome of a devout rule of life." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer