The Future of the Church (or reaching for Trinitarian tension)

The world we live in today is one of increasing smallness.  It used to be that one could go their entire life without meeting someone from another country or even another religion.  Now, I can subscribe to the twitter stream of a Hindu monk in India.  This changes the game for religion.  It is no longer possible for a group to maintain hegemony through the ignorance of its adherents to other perspectives.  It requires a level of comfort with grey-ness, or tension, on a scale much larger than ever before.  The key to this life, as far as I am concerned, is to have and experience a faith that is centered on the Trinity.  For too long has the church ignored considering this central aspect of the faith.  For too long has it been relegated to chintzy metaphors that discount its profundity.  Now is the time to pick up the standard of the Trinity and hold it high before us as we march into the future.

However important this concept is, it has often been ignored because of the difficulty of relating it to the human experience.  My best understanding of Trinity is as the personification of relationship.  This is not personification in the sense of the literary device that gives human qualities to inanimate objects, but in the sense that the Trinity expresses relationship by creating a being that is explained best by relationship.  It is personification in the sense that it personifies (embodies, epitomizes, is the incarnation of) relationship.  This is a powerful way to understand and speak of God.  This would seem to indicate that as we relate to others, we are experiencing some piece of God, or that we are echoing the basic aspect of who God is.  In a world defined as much by globalization and social networking as anything else, a faith centered around the beauty of relationships is a powerful one.  It is in relationships with others that we grow, are challenged, are loved, and experience almost all of the deepest aspects of what it means to be human.

It is in its unique brand of relationship that Trinity exhibits another feature that is key to the future of the church: tension.  This tension is not merely the tension that exists in all relationships as we understand ourselves and our life in comparison and contrast to others. It is far deeper.  It is the tension created by two seemingly mutually exclusive concepts that find themselves held together in Trinity:  three and one.  Somehow those two concepts exist in the person of God, and that is exactly what a postmodern world needs: comfort with tension.  This demonstrates that God not only defies and exists in a dimension beyond logic, but that he is comfortable with things that seem to be true, yet are logically impossible.  In a non-tension based faith where logic is king, one has a difficult time reconciling the fact that evil exists in the same universe that an all-good, all-powerful deity exists.  However, when one finds life in tension, the response to that problem is to realize that beyond both existing, the truth of each confirms the existence of the other. Or you might say that there is creation and life in the  tension between those ideas.

It is in this tension that there exists a great mystery, the mystery of the Godhead.  The modern world has reached out its mind and tools only to be disillusioned with a world that might be fully explained one day.  Our race longs for something beyond us, something mysterious, something not describable by the scientific method.  That is the Trinity.  It is a being in which artist, flesh and spirit meet.  It is a being which stretches beyond the cosmos, beyond time, and beyond the finite, yet calls out to us in beautiful creations, captivating love, and extravagant action: O, great mystery.

If the church were to take hold of this distinctive concept and allow it to inform and infuse its ministry, there would be a connection and relevance that has not been seen for decades if not centuries.  No longer would we focus on impersonal programs where the priority is the anonymous dissemination of information, the church would focus on developing deep relational connections.  No longer would we demand to share the same logical explanation of God before eating with our brothers or sisters.  Knowing that life exists in the space between those in tension, we would welcome those of differing view points to our table, we would reach out and minister to the world together.  And, with the knowledge that our world desires mystery, we would let go of all the modern control issues and allow the Spirit to move in our midst.  We would open ourselves up to explore the mysteries of God and call others into that same exploration.  In short, we would be exactly what our world needs right now:  the Body of Christ.

Is the God of Muhammed the Father of Jesus?

PikiWiki Israel 13177 Christianity and IslamThis post is basically a summary of a chapter of the same title from the book Theoloogy in the Context of World Christianity by Dr Timothy Tennent.

What I like most about his chapter is that he takes a step back from this politically charged question and considers what exactly is being asked. Tenant comes up with three different, more specific questions that may be being asked, and addresses each in turn.  I will do the same here. The three questions are:

  1. Are the English words "God" and the Arabic word "Allah" interchangeable? 
  2. Do the subjects "God is..." and "Allah is..." refer to the same being? 
  3. Are the predicates that Christians and Muslims use to complete these sentences the same (are the specific beliefs about God and Allah the same)? 

1. Are the words "God" and the Arabic word "Allah" interchangeable? In the book, Teennant traces the history of the words and shows how (before Muhammed) Christians used the word "Allah" to refer to their God. There are even existing translations of New Testament books that use the word to refer to God. However, the word was never used to translate the proper name of God (the tetragrammaton YHWH). So, by the time Muhammed came onto the scene, Allah was commonly used by both Jews and Christians to refer to their God the same way that we use the word "god" to refer to any diety of any religion in English.

You can make a qualified "yes" in answer to this question speaking from a purely linguistic standpoint as long as you clarify that you are not using the word 'Allah' as a proper name for God.  Muhammed moved the meaning of the word in that direction (using it as a proper name) which requires us to explore the next question.

2. Do the subjects of "God is..." and "Allah is..." refer to the same being?  Transitioning from the previous question, you might restate the question this way: "Is the 'Allah' of Islam the same as the 'Allah' of pre-Islamic Arabian Christianity?"  In this section, Tennent points out that if one is truly a monotheist they have to believe that God is the ONLY deity.  If that is the case, then one could say that anyone seeking God can only be seeking the one being.

This gives yet another qualified affirmative.  One could say yes, but would have to explain that just because someone is seeking God does not mean they are finding Him.  This leads us to the final question.

3. Are the predicates that Christians and Muslims use to complete these sentences the same (are the specific beliefs about God and Allah the same)?  Here is where we obtain some clarity.  The good news is that a lot of what the Qur'an says about God is in line with the Bible.  For example, Christians and Muslims agree that God is the creator (Surah 57:4), that Abraham is a great example of faith (Surah 16:123) that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary (Surah 3:45-47), and that Jesus was without sin (Surah 19:19).  However, Christians hold some very central and distinctive beliefs about God that are not in line with Islam; namely, the trinity, the deity of Christ, the diety of the holy spirit, the incarnation of God in Jesus, God in Jesus suffering on the cross, etc..  Likewise, there are several problematic beliefs put forth in the Qur'an like the fact that God is the deceiver who leads people astray.

We can finally come to a well reasoned conclusion.  While the word may have been used to refer to the Christian God before the time of Muhammed and while a monotheist cannot believe that there is another god to which a human can direct their worship, one has to say that the being described by Christianity and Islam cannot be the same being as central concepts about that being put forth by each religion lie well outside the bounds of the opposing religion's understanding of that being.

So, no, The God of Muhammed is not the Father of Jesus.

We must be encouraged by this.  One of the things we discover when looking at these two religions is that there is a large amount of overlap.  That is good news!  That means that we can be like the Apostle Paul at Mars Hill (Acts 17:22-34).  He surveyed their temple and found a bit of their religion that he could identify as true and used that to open up a conversation about the One True God!  May we seek to do the same sort of respectful evangelism in our world!

Which Pharisee are You?

In my sermon today, I talked about the seven types of Pharisees[1].  I will reiterate them here for you, but wanted to think a bit deeper, a bit more introspective.  These are all things that Christians have a tendency to do (both good and bad).  I know I am tempted in all of them.  Maybe seeing the list will help name for you the thing that you have been dealing with

  1. Carries duties upon his shoulders – This is the Pharisee who adds to the law in the Bible thousands of minute details.  They place this heavy burden on themselves and everyone who would follow them Knocks his feet together
  2. Knocks his feet together – This Pharisee had exaggerated humility.  He wanted everyone to know how much he was sacrificing, how lowly he was making himself.
  3. Who makes his blood to flow against walls – This is the Pharisee who so wants to make sure he does not sin by looking on a woman lustfully that he bashes his head against the walls
  4.  Whose head is constantly bowed  - This metaphor probably has a close parallel to having your “nose to the grindstone.”  This Pharisee was always working never resting always on point.
  5. Asks,  “What is my duty that I may perform it?” – This Pharisee acts as if they have it all together.  They have completed every letter of the law and are so perfect that they have to seek out new ways to be faithful.
  6. From Love (like Abraham) – This Pharisee is obedient out of a love for the blessings God has promised those who are faithful.
  7.  From Fear (like Job) – This Pharisee is obedient out of a healthy fear of the punishment an almighty God has decreed for those who are unfaithful.
Here are some interpretations of this idea for our current setting.  Introspection is the word of the day today.  Which rings true within you?

  1. This is the person who insists on getting every “I” dotted and “t” crossed theologically.  They place on their shoulders the heavy burden of a complex theological system that demands.
  2. This is a person whose self-serving false humility shows as they proclaim all their sacrifice of time, money, and status from the rooftops or laptops.  I have even (gasp) heard famous pastors talk about how they had given their entire salary back to the church.
  3. This is the person who allows their focus on keeping themselves from sin to keep them from doing meaningful ministry.  They are pure, but never see those in need.
  4. This may be the person who is a “Christian work-a-holic.”  They are always doing ministry or reading their Bible.  They do not rest or retreat except when they do so for ministry.
  5. Similar to #2, this person is the saint who everyone knows is a saint.  They not only live a strictly-controlled and apparently sinless life, they make sure everyone knows it one way or the other.
  6. This is a person who lives a God-oriented life (a life focused on God and becoming who he desires us to be) because they know that God is faithful and blesses those who are faithful.
  7. This is a person who lives a God-oriented life because they know that God will punish those who do not obey His commands.
Which are you?

[1] I ran across this in my "love" research in an incredible book called The Sage from Galilee by Craig Evans.  He referenced the Babylonian Talmud which is where I got most of the information from.

The Poetic Echo [Immerse Journal Feature]

I cannot tell you how proud I am of this piece.  I have been thinking along these lines for a long time and have been blessed to work with the great team at Immerse Journal to produce this article that is as much a piece of my soul and brain as I could possibly produce in words at this moment.  Luckily, they chose my article as one of the samples for this month's issue.

That means that you can read it in its entirety by clicking here.  Steve Lutz has done a fantastic job with a "going deeper" piece based on the article here.  You of course need to go out and subscribe to Immerse here immediately.

The article deals with the way Hebrew poetry is constructed and then ventures to use that to allow a poem by Maya Angelou and scientific findings about electrons to reveal the nature of God.

This is something that I would love for you to help me share by linking to it via twitter or Facebook or clicking the like button.  If you are interested in dialoguing with me, please shoot me a line: unpretending@gmail.com

Why Ashes This Wednesday?

"As the crowds increased, Jesus said, 'This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.'" Luke 11:29

The practice of using ashes as a sign of repentance and/or mourning stretches back millennia. Tamar tore her robes and put ashes on her head after she was raped by her half-brother, Job sits in ashes as his life goes to ruin, and so on. What is interesting is the way that the ashes connect mourning and repentance. This connection allows us to see clearly one interesting aspect of repentance. True repentance has at its root a mourning over the profound disconnection created by sin, and when worn on the forehead as a sign of repentance, as we do on Ash Wednesday, the ash is a sign to others around us that we are taking time to mourn the loss created by sin and reconnect with God.

In Jonah, we see a man coming with no name or reputation and delivering a simple message of the judgment of God unless the people repent. This is what many believe Jesus meant when he spoke of the “sign of Jonah.” Jesus was talking about those times when we hear the voice of God through a stranger; when someone we know little or nothing about speaks words that resonate in our soul as if God himself were speaking.

This is an excerpt from the youth curriculum I wrote for Fearless: The Courage to Question. The material is free, a media bundle with videos and graphics is only $25.

Shavuot and Acts 2

I accidentally prepared for the wrong reading when working on the last video for the New Testament Experience. I figured I'd do a brain dump here and share the wealth.

Pentecost (literally the fiftieth day) is the beginning of the Jewish festival of Shavuot. This is the religious festival that was all about celebrating God giving the law (torah) to the people of Israel (which coincidentally happened fifty days after the Exodus).

If you remember your flannelgraph correctly, you may remember seeing a fire at the top of the mountain. This passage (along with Ezekiel 1-2) is one of the theophanies (visible manifestation of God) that the Jewish people read during the feast of Shavuot. The other main reading for this Festival comes from the book of Ruth. That is interesting because the book of Ruth foreshadows the incorporation of the Gentiles into the people of God as she is not a Jew but a Moabite (who are forbidden in Deuteronomy 23:3 to be part of the Jewish people... they are to be totally separate).

What a beautiful setting for the giving of the Holy Spirit! The festival celebrates the moment when all the people saw a fire on top of the mountain and received the Law that was to help them cover their sin and live in right relation to God once again. Now, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the fire is no longer on the mountain, but separates and rests on them individually. It fills them and they cannot help but cry out! The law that is being celebrated in Shavuot is being fulfilled before their very eyes.

From: Unpretending

Baptism of Jesus (Jewish/Cultural Background)


This is the first of several videos that will explore background information related to the readings for the New Testament Experience series that the Newsong service at my church is doing.  This is about Jesus Baptism found in Matthew 3.  So much information it was hard to decide!  Please email me questions: cumcyouthpastor@gmail.com

This is also the first new post on the updated unpretending blog... see below!
(From: Unpretending)

A Shift in Authority

I have mentioned in another post about the periodic cultural shifts that have occurred in the Church throughout history. It seems that about every 500 years or so, we have to refigure who we are and how we understand our faith because of fundamental cultural shifts that are happening. I was pondering this as I was rereading (listening is more accurate) the book Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren. His goal in the book is to find a way that we can allow the multiplicity of doctrines to not divide us, but unite us.

That being said, he was pointing out that in the medieval church authority resided in the church. If someone asked why you believed something, you said that you believed it because the church or priest told you. He went on to describe how in the modern time, the authority shifted to the Bible. However, we are now entering time when the focus of the authority for belief will shift again, and I believe I can see a bit of the direction it is taking.

I believe that the focus will shift towards the community of believers. In other words, when someone asks why you believe something, you will not say because the church says so, or even because the Bible says so, but because the community (body of Christ) has consensus. This feeling comes from several places.

One of the more recent developments in church History is the movements called the "waves of the Holy Spirit" From these moments several thriving denominations (though they may not want that label applied to them) have arisen. One of the key differences between these movements and current mainline denominations is their comfort with the revelation of the Spirit over and above (though generally not in contradiction to) the Scriptures. In addition to this is a growing cultural trust in the "Wisdom of the crowd" (think Wikipedia and Digg) which basically says that if enough people agree on something, it is probably right. Combining these in the realm of faith, you get a system of authority that is based on a melding of divine revelation and wisdom of the crowd.

I am not saying that I agree with this idea or even that I believe it is inevitable, but is feels generally correct in where it points. Like it or not, there will be a shift in the basis of authority within Christianity over the next fifty years or so. It would behoove all Christians to pay attention and help guide this to a place that is healthy, sustainable, and relatively orthodox. If not, no complaining when it doesn't go the way you want it to later!

Mary, the Garden, and a New Eden-View

I am preaching (or preached depending on when you read this) this Easter Sunday (7am!) on John 20. One thing that I did not (or will not) have enough time to talk about is this interesting bit of the story.
First things first, John is not a haphazard author. He is very intentional about how and where he uses words and details. That being said, there are two interesting qualities about the resurrection narrative that we will miss if we aren’t careful. When talking about the tomb where Jesus is buried John says, “At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.” (John 19:41) When Mary is in the tomb chatting it up with the angels, she turns and “thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’" (John 20:15b).

What is the obscure detail we hear? Garden, garden, gardener. John is trying to point toward something. He is trying to paint the resurrection as something far beyond that moment. He is painting it as the birthing of something sown at the very beginning of The Story. It appears that he is announcing a return of the gardener… a return to (of) the garden.

How can that be? Wasn’t the Garden of Eden perfect? If it was, and this is about returning to the garden, then something messed up because we all know that our world is far from perfect. I think there are two possible solutions (both of which could be simultaneously true).

First is the way many would instinctively deal with this. We would say that John was talking about the fixing or returning to a spiritual state that had been broken since the fall of man and can now be mended through Jesus. In other words, Jesus’ death and resurrection allows us to have true forgiveness and a relationship with God the Father.

Another way to understand it has its roots in the Hebrew language. Our understanding of the garden flows from a Greek dualistic view of the world (light and dark, good and evil, perfect and imperfect, etc.). This was not the way the Jewish people viewed the world. Without chasing that rabbit trail, we can recognize that they have a fundamentally different view of some things than we do. Perfection is one of them.

The Hebrew language does not have a word for “perfect.” In fact, the word we generally translate as perfect (tam/tamam) means complete/whole, and is relational meaning suitable/mature. In other words, it is not a static state.

In the Greek understanding the Garden of Eden must exist in a relatively static state of perfection because any change would mean one of the two states was not perfect. However, if we look at it through Hebrew eyes, we see that the Garden was suitable, mature. It was complete in the sense that someone who has completed puberty is a finished with their physical maturing and ready (physically) to create offspring or in the sense that the turkey has completed cooking because the little plastic thingy popped out. The Garden in this understanding is no longer perfect in the Greek way of thinking, but good. (I think it uses that term somewhere in the story)

That changes things. When Jesus rises from the dead, it doesn’t instantly bring guilt and condemnation in a new level because now we can be perfect (again?). Rather, it brings hope that we do not have to continue in a downward spiral. We do not have to fade into the darkness as the stone rolls over the cave. No! We can break out into glorious light as Jesus brings us once again to a place where we can mature spiritually. Where we are no longer stuck in some infinite spiritual adolescence (yikes!), but can get past the voice changes and tripping and get to the real life of being a follower of God the Father.
Like I said, two options. Both can be true. Or either. You must listen to Him, and I trust that the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to reveal the truth to your soul. As for me, I’m always discovering His truth and my own error.

Bit o' Trinity

The trinity is a difficult subject to understand because it is so far beyond our experience of life, but at the same time, it is core to our belief as Christians. I recently wrote a theology of mission for seminary in which I took by best hack at a concise expression of my understanding of this doctrine. The emphasis here is on concise. It means no more and no less than what it says, for more, it would require hundreds of pages to work out all the implications as many books have attempted. My hope is that sharing it here will cause you to take a moment to ponder the nature of the being of God. Questions welcome.

Before we get into the specifics of mission, we must recognize the underlying concepts from which it flows. Key to this entire venture is the doctrine of the Trinity. This doctrine is important as it places at its core the person of God. Two aspects of the trinity that are key to mission are connection/relation and sending/reaching out. What is difficult about understanding the Trinity is its nature of being three distinct beings that are simultaneously one being. This idea is echoed in the phrasing the Bible uses to describe marriage in Genesis 2:24 where it figures the result of the marriage relationship as being that the two individuals “will become one flesh.”[1] Is it referring to a literal organic connection that causes them to be joined as one organism? Of course not. Rather, it is trying to symbolically represent the depth of relationship that two beings experience in the consecrated marriage relationship. If we take this conception and apply it to the Trinity, we can understand it as saying that the three beings are so closely and deeply related as to become one. The most useful semantic conception of this for me is to say that the Trinity is the personification[2] of relationship.

The nature of the person(s) of the Trinity is not the singular important attribute to the discussion of mission. Quite applicable in this discussion is the dynamic of the Trinity as sending/reaching out. The most useful description of this has come through the writing of Killian McDonnell. His description is both clear and concise: “One model of this dynamic is God reaching through the Son in the Spirit to touch and transform the world and to lead them in the Spirit through the Son back to God.”[3] Here we see the Father as continually reaching and receiving, the Son as continually sending and channeling, and the Spirit as continually connecting and directing. This flows directly from the scriptures as Jesus is seen almost as the hand of God in John 5:19.[4] Though God sends the Son, his sending is not complete in the Son, but as the Son sends the Spirit,[5] or more accurately, the Father sends the Spirit in the name of (through) Jesus.[6] The theological peculiarities of this model are not as important as it expressing the core reality that can be seen throughout scripture; namely, God is constantly reaching and sending. If we are to be His people, and are called to strive to display the image of Him that He has placed within us by becoming more and more like Him, we must echo his sending and connecting. This is the spring from which flows the river of mission. It is the divine source for all that we do to bring God’s Kingdom to earth.



[1] Genesis 2:24 NIV
[2] This is not personification in the sense of the literary device that gives human qualities to inanimate objects, but in the sense that the trinity expresses relationship by creating a being that ex explained best by relationship. It is personification in the sense that is personifies (embodies, epitomizes, is the incarnation of) relationship.
[3] Killian McDonnell, The Other Hand of God: The Spirit as Universal Touch and Goal. (Minnesota: Michael Glazier Books, 2003), 3.
[4] In this verse it says that what the son does, the father also does, in a sense as if Jesus is the physical expression of the reaching of God into the world.
[5] Acts 1:4,8
[6] John 14:26

The Seven Last Words of Jesus

The tenebrae service on good Friday is the only service in the church year that is supposed to be a service of mourning. The rest of the year we celebrate the risen Christ, but in this service, on this day, we mourn the death of God. This is the reading for that service. A warning, it is powerful. Take time to imagine each scripture. Easter will come, but for now, mourn.

THE FIRST WORD
Luke 23:33-34 -- When they came to the place called "The Skull," they nailed Jesus to the cross there, and the two criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, "Forgive them, Father! They know not what they do."

THE SECOND WORD
Luke 23:39-43 -- One of the criminals hanging there threw insults at him: "Aren't you the messiah? Save yourself and us!" The other one, however, rebuked him, saying: "Don't you fear God? Here we are all under the same sentence. Ours, however, is only right, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did; but he has done no wrong." And he said to Jesus, "Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King!" Jesus said to him, "I tell you this: Today you will be in Paradise with me."

THE THIRD WORD
John 19:25-27 -- Standing close to Jesus' cross were his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there; so he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that time the disciple took her to live in his home.

THE FOURTH WORD
Mark 15: 33-34 -- And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Elo-i, elo-i, lama sabach-thani?" which means, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

THE FIFTH WORD
John 19:28 -- After this jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture0, "I thirst."

THE SIXTH WORD
John 19:29-30 -- A bowl was there, full of cheap wine mixed with vinegar, so a sponge was soaked in it, put on hyssop and lifted up to his lips. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished."

THE SEVENTH WORD
Luke 23:46 -- Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last.





Christ has died.

Scapegoats & Yom Kippur

In my sermon I talked (or am talking depending on when you are reading this) about the Jewish ritual of the Day of the Atonement (Yom Kippur) which is full of symbolism that points to Jesus and helps us understand His sacrifice for us. As a matter of fact, all of the Jewish feasts in the Bible have a messianic nature to them, but that is a whole class I teach from time to time. I digress.

The scapegoat bit happened at the end of the liturgy of Yom Kippur. After the scapegoat was selected, there would be a crimson piece of wool tied to its horns, after offering all the other sacrifices, the high priest would place his hands on the head of a scapegoat, symbolically transferring the sins of the people onto the goat, and pray, "I beseech You, O Lord; Grant atonement for the sins, and for the iniquities and transgressions which the entire house of Israel has committed against You, As it is written in the Torah of Your servant, Moses: 'For on this day atonement shall be made for you, to purify you from all your sins - before the Lord you shall be purified'." The congregation responds with the words "Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom, for ever and ever."

Then, the scapegoat was taken out into the desert to a place called Azazel where the priest would push the goat off of a cliff. Before he did that, he would take a piece of the wool that had been tied around the goat's horns because once the goat had died, the wool would turn white fulfilling the scripture, "Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall whiten as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be white as wool" (Isaiah 1:18)

Hebrews 9:11-14 talks about Jesus being the replacement for the goats used on the Day of Atonement. Dying once and for all for the forgiveness of sin.

What is interesting to me about all this is that we still use this term to refer to people who are blamed for the wrongs of others. This happens often in families. Saying "If it wasn't for your ________ I/they wouldn't be so _________." The problem is that no other human can take the consequences of your sin for you. The only one that can do that is Jesus. He did it once and for all. He is the only scapegoat that will stand up under such a heavy burden. Maybe it's time for you to unload... don't worry, He can take it. He already did.

Aliens and The Trinity

I have been doing a bit of preparation and research for our upcoming series on the Trinity (it's going to be called THR3E). I was looking for trinity symbols and information about the relatedness of the Godhead when I stumbled upon several crop circle representations of various trinity symbols. At first glance I thought that was weird and cool all at the same time.

I'm going to confess, I am a bit of a geek and VERY interested in space and everything that is or might be in it. The first question that popped into my mind was this: If there are aliens who are trying to contact us by bending agriculture into symbols (that sounds crazier every time I try and reword it) do they know and have a relationship with God?

But then it occurred to me. Aliens and the Trinity are kind of similar to us! The trinity is so difficult to understand because it is so different from our experience (one might say alien to it). In fact it is so difficult and different that we don't discuss it or think about it at all. But for those of us who have experienced its power, we are never the same. So maybe we need to think in terms of a trinity abduction. I could go on, but I will stop while I am still sounding a bit sane.

BTW, there's a series of fiction books that talks about aliens and God written by C.S. Lewis starting with Out of Silent Planet... if you are into that sort of thing.

The Ball and Worship

Laura and I went to our first official Mardis Gras ball this past weekend, and had a great time dancing the night away with some friends and family. Before the dancing started, there was a "show" where some of the members dressed up in costumes (think normal theatre costumes plus glitter) and performed to a soundtrack of music and a little pre-recorded talking. You could tell most of the people in the show were having a good time, but it all seemed a bit awkard.

That is something I'm always afraid of in worship. Are we just putting glitter on to cover up the drabness of our lives so that people will think it is interesting? Put another way, I am always striving to make sure that our youth worship is real and authentic. I think that sometimes we want to skip being real because it is difficult in favor of doing something that is merely fun and doesn't challenge us. That is the opposite of what Jesus did, and starts to make worship feel more like the Mardis Gras show than a deep encounter with the creator of the universe.

I think God desires an openness in worship that is both revealing and rewarding as we allow him to search the deepest parts of who we are. It's not easy, but it is where we need to be and I hope where we are going.

On a lighter note, Winter retreat was incredible as was the parent service the week after, we are so blessed to be at a church with such great students and volunteers.

On an EVEN lighter note, the funniest thing I saw at the ball was a 75 year old man dancing with his 70 year old wife to "Get Low"... yeah...