Archive for category Church
We American Christians were as excited to have a Bible to read.
Once again, Tom Wright brings wisdom and reason to a hot topic. Toward the end, he addresses the Enlightenment arrogance of those who say, “We know more about homosexuality” or “We have evolved from the ignorance of the ancient world”. While Wright does not come down on one side or the other in this video, he brings up a lot of points that people refuse to consider in this debate (or rather argument). Chief among the issues worth considering is Wright’s point about differentiation in creation.
That the disciple of Jesus taught his resurrection was a revolutionary concept. Here is Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham and one of the foremost New Testament scholars of our day, explaining why the resurrection must be true.
“The only way you can explain why christianity began and why it took the very precise shape it was is – let’s say cautiously first – they really did believe he was bodily raised from the dead…the only way you can explain the rise of the early Christian belief that Jesus was raised is if there really was an empty tomb, and they really did meet jesus alive again in a transformed body.”
During the message today, I mentioned a model of Herod’s temple that was built by a British pensioner. The man’s name is Alex Garrard, and he spent the last thirty years constructing his model – which stretches 20 feet long and 12 feet wide. Sadly, Mr. Garrard passed away in 2010, and the model is no longer displayed for the public.
You can read the Telegraph article about Garrard and his hobby. I have to say that while the Holyland Model is pretty cool (I saw it in 1997), the scale of Garrard’s model makes it pale in comparison. The Holyland Model is 1:50 scale, and Garrard’s is 1:100, but Garrard’s is much more focused on the temple complex itself.
Here are some pictures of Garrard’s amazing model. They help us get a grasp of the massive complex begun by Herod the Great in 19BCE and completed in 62CE. The entire thing was destroyed in 70CE by the soon-to-be-emperor Titus.
Why is it that when we talk about children’s ministry in the church, we often think of cartoon characters and bright colors; but when we think of “adult church”, it is often drab or dark?
For Thanksgiving service this year, we printed out some color sheets and put baskets of crayons at the tables for families to share. Do you know who worked the hardest on their coloring sheets? It was not the kids. We had grown men and women diligently coloring in those pictures of turkeys and family dinners. The kids were so engaged with the activities of the evening because their parents were engaged.
Much of who we will become as followers of Christ begins when we are children. Sometimes I wonder if we are not sending our kids the wrong message about faith and life.
We tell them that being a kid is “fun” but being an adult is “serious.” Without thinking about it, we communicate to children that they might as well enjoy their faith now; because once they become an adult, they will have to stop enjoying it. They will no longer be able to worship in the language of laughter and creativity. They will have to worship through lectionary and liturgy.
I don’t think the church’s worship should be childish or foolish. I think there is a way to integrate the joy of creativity and interactivity with the “serious” activities of worship. Why should we have to dull our senses when we come together? And why should we feel we need to shield our children from worship they can’t comprehend?
I could be wrong, of course, but when I read the Scriptures, I see that the early church was a family affair. We tend to think that they worshiped the way that Paul wrote his epistles – barreling straight ahead in a doctrinal treatise. But there are hints and shadows that the worship itself was not like Paul’s letters at all.
The apostle Jude calls the church’s worship αγαπη, literally “love” (v 12). Paul speaks of their worship as day long celebrations that began with meals (1 Corinthians 11). He also reminds the churches that their worship is supposed to be full of singing and celebration (Ephesians 5:19). Paul’s letters are also full of instructions for all members of the household, including children and even slaves.
Worship is supposed to be vibrant and creative, interactive to the core.
But somehow, worship has become about listening quietly or overreacting exuberantly. Children still get asked lots of questions in Sunday School, but adults get asked none in worship.
Somehow, we have gotten it backward.
Somehow, the only time a parent talks to a child in the “adult” service is to tell her to be quiet or to sit still. Why? Because that’s what we have been told to do ever since we were children. Why doesn’t it occur to us that church is not a “be quiet and sit still” place? Why isn’t church an interactive space, where our minds are stretched and our imaginations expanded?
Are we so afraid of making mistakes or blowing it that church has become a place where you’re not allowed to express yourself? Not allowed to discover truth for yourself? Not allowed to interact with truth?
No wonder kids don’t like being in the services.
In the United States, violence is something that used to happen to someone else. It was something reserved for urban areas and gangsters or third world countries and oppressive regimes. But in the midst of the suburban American dream, violence was something you observed on television or in the newspaper.
All of that has changed in recent years. Violence has come home.
There has been a lot of bizarre news in the United States in 2012, and all of it has been violent. During the summer there were two – TWO! – strange stories of cannibalistic violence with people actually attacking and eating others. At the opening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, an insane man loaded all the weapons he could find and just started blasting away in a theater, killing a dozen people and injuring another eighty-five.
The past week has seen two very violent mass shootings in two suburban settings not usually associated with violence. In Happy Valley, Oregon, a lone gunman walked into a shopping mall and with apparent abandon, started blasting away at holiday shoppers. Then yesterday in Connecticut, a twenty year old man shot his mother and then went to the school where she worked and mercilessly killed her kindergarten students – her kindergarten students. Both shooters then turned their weapons on themselves.
The scope of these tragedies cannot be overstated. It simply boggles the mind that someone would be so messed up that slaughtering children seemed like an appropriate response to – well, anything.
A lot of people have been asking where this impulse of violence is coming from, and they have been coming up with all kinds of answers. Perhaps it comes from not having strict enough gun laws, or perhaps it comes from banning the Ten Commandments in schools. Perhaps it is a sign of the end times, or perhaps it is because of violent video games.
No one seems to be taking any time to consider what the Scriptures have to say about man’s violent nature.
Let’s consider for a moment just how violent human beings are.
It certainly is nothing new.
In Genesis 2, God creates man. In Genesis 3, man sins. In Genesis 4, man begins to murder his brother. In Genesis 6, we read these words:
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.
Genesis 6:11-12 (ESV)
Mankind fills any situation with violence, and the more of us there are, the more potentially violent we become. This is something that the author of this part of the Genesis narrative knew over 6,000 years ago at the beginning of human recorded history.
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies.
He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made.
His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.
Psalm 7:14-16 (ESV)
Violence is part of our sinfulness. It is multiplied and magnified in the “wicked man” but the potential exists among all of us. We need to understand that violence is part of the human experience – a natural consequence of the sin nature that lies within all of us.
And what does God say to all of this? The words he gave to the prophet Jonah echo his desire for mankind to lay down his violent nature:
Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.
Jonah 3:8 (ESV)
Jonah was speaking to the Assyrians in Nineveh in the 8th century BCE. This was a culture that used violence to good effect. They were renowned for cruelty and destruction. And yet, God points out to Jonah that there are at least 120,000 children in the city of Nineveh (Jonah 4:11). Judgment would have come on these children as well as their parents, and why? Because of their violence?
One of the promises God gives to David (around 1000 BCE) about the kingdom of Israel is that “violent men will waste them no more.” (1 Chronicles 17:9)
The reality is that violence is simply a matter of our existence here on earth. It is part of life. It has been a part of life for a long time.
We Americans seem to view violence from a distance, believing that somehow we have bettered human nature and have overcome the innate violence of our nature. Sometimes it seems like we have the underlying belief that we are better than those “other” people who are so violent.
Christians tend to think we have done this through moral law codes and sermons. Humanists think we accomplish it through just “being” better people.
But the reality is that we are not any different from Cain who killed his brother in an envious rage. We are no better than the Assyrians. We are still violent, and violence will continue to happen. Human beings don’t evolve and improve. We’re still just as sinful as Cain was.
A world without violence is an illusion. We can clean up the streets and pay more police officers, but we cannot get rid of the violence that resides in the heart of sinful man.
Perhaps nothing better illustrates our need for a Savior, for someone to take our violence upon himself. Christ’s crucifixion was a cruel, awful death; and yet it was a death invented by man to be inflicted upon man. What better way to illustrate how our violent and sinful natures torment the heart of God? What better way to show us the violent grace we receive through Christ?
Does Christ remove the violence of the world? His own words indicate that persecution and violence will continue until his return (Matthew 24:6).
If there is a theology of violence, it is that violence will always be present in sinful man.
If there is an answer to our violence, it is Christ.
No laws will change that. Teachers can’t change it. We cannot improve ourselves enough to eradicate the darkness of the sinful condition.
So, what to do?
We must answer violence with compassion, war with peace. The Church must be the peaceful rocks of truth that the waves of destruction crash upon and we must continue to love.
We must not be a marching army, determined to conquer the violence of man’s heart. Instead, we must become the heart of society – the clear voice of the gospel in the midst of voices of chaos, rage, guilt, fear and pain. To be the body of Christ is to be the peacemakers.
We must do this although the strength to do it is not present in our own spirits. We must rely upon the Spirit of God, upon the direction of our grieving Creator who wishes to see His creation reconciled. It is not enough to mourn injustice or to lament violence. We must become the agents of His peace, in whatever ways we can.
Violence will not cease as long as their are sinful human beings.
So, grace must not cease. The Church must never cease to be Christ’s peace and grace.
You cannot say you believe something until you are willing to accept it in the void.
What do I mean by the void?
There are a lot of rational reasons to believe in lots of things. There are often a lot of rational reasons not to believe. Sometimes there are lots of things we don’t know – places where there simply is no conclusive evidence.
There is no conclusive evidence for the Bible or the Way of Jesus. There is no way to build a rock solid, undeniable, pack-it-up-and-ship-it argument for the viability of the Christian faith. There are always rational explanations for why things don’t have to be the way we think they are.
That is the void.
Sometimes there just aren’t any answers except, “I accept it by faith.” As the old school fundamentalists used to say, “The Bible says it. I believe it. That’s all there is to it.”
Force them to listen if you have to.
You cannot be the spiritual authorities for your family if you do not accept the authority of Scripture in front of them.
It is your job to teach them about the Scriptures, not their Sunday School Teacher’s or the pastor’s.
No excuses, moms and dads. It isn’t easy, but it is necessary.
There have been a couple of times over the years that I’ve ended the message on Sunday with “end of sermon.” This is as much a signal to myself as it is to the congregation. It tend to ramble on a bit, and I have to tell myself to stop talking.
We all have some kind of slightly odd behavior somewhere in our lives. This is why I think quirky things sometimes appeal to us. We find comfort in knowing that others find humor in their own idiosyncrasies.
This is a good thing. We need to celebrate the quirks that make us unique. These are the little reminders that God does not want us all to be the same. He loves diversity and originality when it comes from the inside.
In November, I will be teaching a series called “Singing Theology.” We will be talking quite a bit about music and worship. Over the years, my thinking on this issue has swung back and forth a bit.
On Sunday, our congregation sang people’s favorite hymns. Generally, we worship using music from many different ages. We cherish the great hymns of the faith, but we also include music from our own era as well. There is both depth and breadth to being familiar with all of them.
What was curious to me was the responses. For some people my age and younger, the older hymns must be boring by default. They have no appreciation for the beauty of their melodic lines and the intricacies of their lyrical composition. For others, who are generally much older than me, hymns are “how you worship” and the idea of including anything else is just unthinkable. They might even dismiss all modern music as “choruses” – a word they utter as if having to eat overcooked asparagus.
The message of the Gospel takes many forms, and will take many more before Jesus returns. Some are majestic, others are earthy. But all are glorious when the Gospel is at their core. In fifty years, the people who find hymns “boring” now will be complaining about the modern music of that era. It is a never-ending cycle.
“The Doxology” and “Just As I Am” were once controversial. There were churches who refused to allow the piano as part of their worship, and others who would not accept any song not from the Psalms. We just go around and around on this issue.
1. That God is glorified through Christ.
2. That we worship in spirit and in truth.
3. That our worship is theologically sound.
Everything else is flexible.