Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sexual healing

A few weeks ago I preached on lust from the sermon on the mount. One point I made was that any sexual activity outside the marriage covenant is ultimately taking without fully giving. In pre-marital or extra-marital sex, we are in essence taking physically without giving of our whole selves, refusing to covenantally bind ourselves to each other. Lust is the fullest expression of taking without giving, as you are only taking and not giving any of yourself: physically, emotionally, spiritually. Much of this I borrowed from Tim Keller's sermon on the same passage.

While in the 1980's, Foreigner posed a great thought, "I want to know what love is," I think an appropriate thought today would be, "I want to know what lust is....." And should you follow through with the same request of that song ("I want you to show me..."), I will do my best to show you and point you to the only one who can do something about it.

Since lust is basically a form of stealing (that's why I think Jesus says to cut off your hand if it causes you to sin in reference to lust). Gary Yagel describes men to a tee. "Men want the physical pleasure of sex without the hard emotional work of intimacy." The same could probably be said of women, particularly with the popularity of a Magic Mike.

The remedy for lust, which is taking without giving, is to come to the One who truly gives without taking.  While Jesus elevates the sexual ethic to a level where no one can attain, he ironically hangs around with sexually broken people. Often. Prostitutes hang out with someone who condemns even lust as a form of adultery? 

The beauty of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount lies in the fact that he exposes the depth of a law which we could never uphold, only to point us to Him who fulfilled all parts of the Law. The sexually broken, who have been all about take, take, take, and thus have seen that they have really been taken, taken, taken, regularly come to the one who gives, gives, gives. 

Does it not amaze you that the sexually broken do not run from Jesus but rather flock to him, as a true sophomore Lloyd Christmas once said, "like the Salmon of Capistrano?" This seeming paradox produces worship and obviously attracted people to him. Russ Douthat in his Bad Religion writes:

He's a celibate ascetic who enjoys dining with publicans and changing water into wine....he consorts with prostitutes while denouncing even lustful thoughts...

They didn't feel judged but rather loved by him. And that loving presence then led to repentance. Does that not make you think? And worship? And repent?

One cannot say, "Once such folks repented, then they felt welcomed by him." Well such an example clearly happens in Luke 7:36-50. But several adulterous ladies didn't repent before they met him as seen in the Samaritan woman in John 4, or the woman caught in adultery in John 8. In fact most of the time, it is only after folks encounter the presence of Jesus, that they seek forgiveness and desire any change. Sometimes that change happens immediately while for others (Nicodemus, Jesus' brother James) it takes some time. 
The same thing should be true today. The only way anyone has any hope of forgiveness or even desire to abandon certain lifestyles is if Jesus comes to them FIRST. So we should not expect any healing in this area to happen unless they feel un-judged when spending time with Jesus' people.  

It's kind of like that old adage (which technically true but kind of inaccurate) "Guns don't kill people, people do." Huh....? Well law without gospel kills and when people wield the law before the gospel, it can have the same relational effect.

Grace is what folks need to in order to (very imperfectly I might add) begin slowly following the law which leads us to freedom. The law points us to life not death, but when folks don't see Jesus the fulfiller of the Law, there is no motivation to repent.

If Jesus held such a high sexual ethic, and the women in his presence felt loved, then that should let remind evangelical Christians now that we don't need to lower the sexual ethic. Jesus' followers can hold a high sexual ethic without the world always feeling we are judging them. He did it, why can't we?

Provided our high sexual ethic makes us think even higher of Jesus than our own blemished record (remember lust?), we do have something that much of the world does not know: One who gives without taking. When folks know the One who gives without taking, that affects all of their lives, including, but especially our sexuality. We then become people who give to whole selves to our spouses instead of images of the "perfect" guy or gal. That is true sexual healing. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Let-Downton Abbey finale with a Redemptive Jimmy

Well Downton Abbey's third season came and left us. But I wouldn't say too soon. The last episode was a bit of a letdown, with some extremely sappy (not expecting this from the Brits) dialog, perhaps some over-acting, and a few too many story-lines. I actually am not looking forward to the 4th season now because of it, but will probably give it a go the way I did The Office after Steve Carell left-though that proved to be a monumental mistake and waste of time. If you do like Downton Abbey, definitely check out North and South, which features a fiery Mr. Bates as a union leader. Good stuff.

Even despite the dramatic last "Let-Downton" episode, there were a few fairly redemptive moments. Thomas the gay lad who has the hots for Jimmy, ends up with a golden opportunity to win his affection. Instead of another "Jimmy's down" (a la the Jimmy in Seinfeld) in a fight, Thomas breaks up the scuffle and for some reason gets beat up instead. I guess those guys, who clearly wanted revenge on Jimmy for taking their money during a tug-of-war battle, were happy simply to beat up somebody. Didn't make a lot of sense. Thomas offered himself in Jimmy's place, as a substitutionary atonement, and as a result was beaten like the 1977 and most of 1978 Bucs (literally winless during that stretch). I know that's a bit theological, but that was the gist. Again, I didn't buy what they were selling.

Unfortunately for poor Thomas, now bloodied and left for dead, Jimmy still didn't turn gay. I guess Thomas had hoped a good old country whoopin' (his whoopin') would have changed Jimmy's orientation. It didn't and in a rare, fairly powerful scene, Jimmy admitted, "I can't ever give you what you are seeking." Then later, "What is it that you want from me?"

Thomas responded, "Simply for you to be my friend."

Jimmy comes back with, "Yes, I could be your friend."

I fudged the lines a bit, but that was the short of it. Simple but actually rather brilliant.

From what I've read, particularly in Wesley Hill's Washed and Waiting, as well as from counselors, that this was exactly the kind of response someone in Thomas' britches needed to hear. The knee-jerk heterosexual reaction of "get away from me" that probably is far more common, is exactly what someone struggling (or has already accepted gay as an indentity) with same-sex attraction doesn't need to hear.

Again, I'm not an expert in such studies, and I didn't stay at Holiday Inn Express, but I have read some, studied, and dialogued with those more knowledgeable. What such men need is not for guys to say, "Ooooohhhhhh gross, get away." Instead they need more male friendships.

So remember that the best (or rather the first) thing you can do to someone of the same sex who has the hots for you or others of the same sex is not to run. Should they still want to be your friend despite your commitment to the biblical sexual ethic, stay and love them as a friend. This is powerful. Powerful enough to begin the slow redemptive process of a professor of gay and lesbian studies becoming a Christian. Powerful enough for gay leaders to become friends with those firm on their stance on homosexuality. The truth is we just never know what will happen if we stay. But regardless of the result, Jesus stayed with all kinds of sinners like you and me, and refused to run. Thankfully.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Alvin Plantinga

A follower of my blog named David Theroux has written a piece about philosopher Alvin Plantinga. Below is a small excerpt of that article, and the full article can be found here.
The world-renowned philosopher Alvin C. Plantinga has recently received the prestigious Nicholas Rescher Prize for Contributions to Systematic Philosophy, awarded by the University of Pittsburgh’s Departments of Philosophy, History, and Philosophy of Science, and the Center for the History and Philosophy of Science. Plantinga is widely known for his work in the philosophy of religion, epistemology, metaphysics and Christian apologetics, and he has revolutionized scholarly interest in Christian theism, shown naturalism/atheism to be self-refuting and incoherent, and set the new standards for the defense of free will, individual agency, consciousness, rational inference, science, objective truth and morality, and more. As a result, Plantinga has both directly influenced the entire field of philosophy and has mentored and inspired new generations of top scholars who are critiquing the reductionism, relativism, materialism, collectivism, scientism, positivism, determinism, and de-humanization of the modern era. In short, Plantinga has devastated the prevailing view in Western elites that human beings are merely “matter in motion” (i.e., purposeless, accidental, robotic products of a closed, natural world ruled solely by physical laws and that truth, reason, morality, and God are illusions).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What the Eagles, Bucs, and we can learn from the NFL Combine

Today begins the much awaited NFL combine. Well, even though the NFL Network covers and promotes it, most folks outside athletes, scouts, coaches, GM's, (you know the ones who actually have something at stake 16 games a year), really don't care too much about it.

Sometimes players can increase their draft status because they run a 40 yard dash faster than someone else. Sometimes players show how far they can jump or how high (not sure why you need an offensive lineman who can jump a little farther, or higher or run just a small bit faster than another-I mean is there a need for offensive lineman to jump high?). And most fans who have followed football regularly remember the letdown (at least for the Eagles) story of Boston College DE Mike Mamula, who's combine performance catapulted him to number 7 overall draft pick. Ironically enough, the Eagles traded with the Bucs, who were picking at number 7. How did the Bucs do? Well they ended up with Hall of Famer Warren Sapp and future Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks because of the trade. Not too bad on this end.

Regardless, the combine can be helpful to athletes but it often proves harmful for the overall team who selects one athlete ahead of another simply because his performance or appearance (literally-those dudes are dressed up in underwear and judged by their looks). If that part sounds like a beauty contest, that's because it pretty much is.

The NFL combine is in essence, the very opposite of how God calls His followers to think. For instance, God reminded Samuel that His choosing the smaller David over his bigger, more fit brothers was chosen not by appearance but by the heart. Later God reminds us through Zecheriah, it is not strength or the appearance of strength that will carry the day, but instead, "by my Spirit." And in the New Testament we have a similar encouragement for the types of people God chooses to play a part in the unfolding story of redemption.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. I Cor 1:26

For those prone to confidence in the appearance and gifts of others

One of my fellow seminary students had a lisp, and I immediately thought this would hinder people paying attention. God humbled me as he was the best preacher of the lot!

Whether it comes to electing leaders, choosing pastors, or discerning the next generation of teachers, it is important to not ignore gifting. Many future elders, pastors, teachers are gifted and as a community it is fairly easy to spot them when you give them opportunities. But to simply find which one is the most gifted is probably a grave error. One may "run" or "jump" a little faster or higher, but does that necessarily translate to fruitful ministry? No, just as those combine markers don't translate to NFL success. It is more important to recognize heart character. Some folks may appear tangibly more gifted than others, but God will sometimes do far less with them. He gets the final vote, and we see in the scripture how He rolls. He rolls with the humble and broken more than the top 5 "can't miss" draft picks.

For those prone to lose confidence based upon appearance and gifts of self

Now gifting is good and God is the giver of all good gifts. And God does raise up "Top 5" draft picks like Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Ed Stetzer. But many are not by skill set or appearance "Top 5" draft picks. And the encouragement for the rest of us is that we don't have to be. We have a place too. We can simply be who we are. I want to get better at what I do. So I listen to recordings of my sermons, read books, talk to people, get feedback, discern what others are doing. But the NFL combine reminds me to spend even more time developing the intangibles: the heart. Not listening to my heart but getting my heart to listen to the gospel every day. To take confidence in the gospel and not my appearance/gits or lack thereof. God does more with less than anyone else. But we see in scriptures that he does more with those who care about their hearts more than their gifts or appearance.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Blades of Glory and Shame

Perhaps the highlight of the Olympics last summer for me was the performance of the somewhat mythical "Blade Runner" Oscar Pestorius. A double amputee fitted with synthetic blades proved a tough opponent for the the first heat of the 400 meters. He didn't make it to the finals but he made South Africans everywhere proud as he competed and beat two full-legged athletes. He made his fellow competitors proud as one winner exchanged numbers with him. The whole experience of watching this unfold made you simply proud to be a human. Animals don't usually do this sort of thing.

We were mesmerized by what training, dedication and science/technology could accomplish. We saw a glimpse of what the Psalmist marveled at in Psalm 8.

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Dominion. Rule. Taking the chaos of amputated legs and bringing through the creation of prosthetics that grip the track just right. Honor and Glory. How people honored this man. How we cheered for him. What a success story.

Then last week he is arrested for murdering his girlfriend. From high to the lowest of lows, taking another life, robbing it of the dignity endowed by God. Removing the crown of glory and honor through anger and violence.

These verses are also true of Oscar. It is really true of all of us, though by God's grace we don't fully express our anger in such ways.

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.” 

15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

A few thoughts:

1.) People are always capable of doing this. I feel betrayed. How could the one who performed with such grace, and was shown grace by other athletes, display such malice? How could he display wrath instead of grace? Because that's what sinful people are capable of doing, no matter how nice they appear. God's common grace often keeps people from being doing what they are capable of doing. But this verse still reminds us that Pascal's greatness and wretchedness principle is spot on.

2.)  We are all capable of doing this, so let's deal with our anger NOW. I don't know what anger issues Oscar had. I don't know if folks called him "Oscar the Grouch" (probably Sesame Street wasn't big in South Africa). But we do know he had issues and allegedly there were incidents. Maybe I have anger fresh on the brain since my sermon a week ago, but this is a good reminder of what we are all capable of doing. I'm sure most people who shoot their spouses/girlfriends probably would have at one time said, "I'd never do something like that." I'm sure most people who love them would would likewise say, "He/she is not capable of doing such a thing." Well since both beliefs have been proven wrong time and time again, why not change the belief? Why not consider that we are capable of great evil? Why not instead begin to deal with all anger now?

3.) Esteem the ordinary people around you. I admit I have elevated athletes, particularly Christian athletes before. Not all athletes will let you down like Oscar, but I would dare say many would do so, and do so quite often if we really knew them. Just like your normal relationships. But what if we began to esteem our normal friendships like we do our celebrities, heroes, athletes? What if we considered looking at them through the lens of Psalm 8? That God has crowned them with glory and honor. How might that transform our relationships? I'm pretty sure they'd appreciate it and I'm pretty sure that kind of thinking is consistent with Philippians 2:3 "....count others more important than yourselves..."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why are Angry Birds so Angry?

I recently preached a sermon on anger from the Sermon on the mount (Matt 5:21-26) called "Why are Angry Birds so Angry?" Afterwards I experienced great encouragement from the seriousness at which folks began to take their anger. Obviously I hoped, and preached to this end: that they would be motivated by the supreme demonstration of Jesus' love, his taking their place at the judgment seat, council, and cross. 

Several folks asked me some great questions. Here are some of my brief-but now expanded-thoughts and responses, as well as questions I would have asked myself (I know that sounds a bit weird, but just go with me there if you would).

I didn't realize how much of an angry person I was. Should I stop using the word "Idiot?'

I loved her honesty. Now I reminded her that the main problem is anger in the heart. Jesus is reminding us that words can be used as weapons to harm people just as harboring anger in the heart can be used to make others pay. Next, "idiot" is not used here, but the Aramaic "raca," (which has since fallen out of popularity). So whether you call someone a fool, idiot, dumba#$, or whatever, the heart issue is the same. Finding a replacement word is not the issue, but recognizing the need for a heart transplant. Fortunately we have that promise in Jeremiah 31.

Anger also comes from self-righteousness

I posited as one of the main causes of anger is that something we need or something we feel we deserve has been taken away from us. Then I proposed 4 possibilities for exactly what those idols could be: convenience, power, respect, opportunity. Identifying these idols and beginning to more deeply believe the gospel has been very helpful for me. I've a long way to go and I'll actually never arrive until I'm safely in Jesus' arms. But there is hope, forgiveness and love from Him the whole up-and-down journey.

In the interest of time, attention, and retention, I focused on these idols. However I feel that after talking with a few folks, I could have also further developed the self-righteousness angle. If you check out some angry responses from bible, you will see that self-righteousness leads to anger. So if we are regularly angry, that is an issue we need to explore.

The Older of the Prodigal Sons, becomes very angry when the Father celebrates and gives a robe to the Younger son. Nothing has been taken from him, but something has definitely been withheld. He feels he is owed something whereas the younger "unrighteous" brother shouldn't be given anything. Much the opposite. Why? Because he claims, "All these years, I have served you and I've never received anything like this!" Self-righteousness is the root of his anger.

We see something similar in Jonah. Clearly there are forgiveness issues (the Assyrians were really ruthless), but Jonah is hoping only for punishment because these people deserve punishment. God shows mercy instead of judgment and Jonah gets angry. 

Several people expressed to me some of their issues and what seemed to make them angry.

One lad indicated that he felt perfectionism might be behind his anger. He seemed to become most angry when people didn't live up to his perfectionistic expectations. Another gal seemed to be most angry when driving, but it had nothing to do with others inconveniencing her. It had nothing to do with others disrespecting her. In fact she was angry because of safety issues. 

The first guy will have to continually remember that he is actually quite an imperfect mess. He will also have to realize that others may not live up to his expectations, but that he ultimately doesn't need them to do so. 

The 2nd gal will have to recognize that her driving may not be as good as she thinks. Perhaps remembering times where God has graciously spared her an accident could help deal with her self-righteous driving record? Perhaps considering other areas she is weak in can help to deal with an over-all sense of self-righteousness, particularly when she gets behind the wheel.

No quick fixes, just community-involved journeys of repentance and faith.

I'm thankful to have had such honest conversations. In the words of Paul Tripp's Instruments in the Hands of the Redeemer, "a person in need of change helping people in need of change." And vice versa of course.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Gospel Lessons from Home Depot: Somebody pays for it

The other day our lead pastor Barret Jordan used an illustration of an ethical dilemma he confronted while at Home Depot. He needed a very cheap part to fix his dishwasher, but that part only came in a superfluous pack with many different parts. As as an employee helped Barret think through his options, he came up with the idea to simply open the large pack with a knife and remove the smaller part. Merry Christmas.

Since Barret reasoned (and I think rightly so) that the employee didn't have the authority to do such a thing, he simply waited for him to disappear and proceeded to buy the now otherwise unsellable superfluous dishwasher pack.

Some folks may have questioned whether or not taking this small piece really would have constituted stealing. And I really don't want to get into that so much per se. Instead I want to consider the "cost" of this whole matter.

The point I want to consider is that someone has to pay for the dishwasher pack. If it is ripped and missing a part, then it no longer constitutes a full set comprising all of the needed parts. To take one part out of it, and leave it back on the shelf, does not then go back in time and erase that dishwasher pack from existence. It is now unsellable and so someone IS paying for it.

Either Barret pays for it, that employee pays for it, or Home Depot pays for it. Since it would have never sold, Home Depot would have paid for it. Now I'm no Home Depot apologist, particularly after the lack of help I received when I bought the wrong thermostat (costly mistake indeed!) and had to buy another one three months later. But any store that is hiring  80,000 will hopefully make a small dent into the economy.

Regardless, the point is that someone has to pay for that action. That's why, unless the employee had authority to do this, it was right for Barret to buy the whole pack instead of walking out with the "free" part.

This the same answer we essentially give when someone asks, "Can't God just ignore sin, and not make that big of a deal about it?" Well you could you go in a number of different ways, but consider this Home Depot illustration as a starting point. Someone has to pay for sin. The perfect world that was created has been broken by man's sin. God, the Holy, Infinite, Wise, Wonderful, Loving Creator has been deemed replaceable. We can't go back in time and erase that truth anymore than we can go back in time and erase that dishwasher pack from existence. Fellowship, shalom, harmony, holiness, has been broken. Someone has to pay for it. That's just all there is to it. The question is who will it be?

Much of the world is like the unauthorized employee: "Just don't worry about sin. It's not a big deal, and no one will think it's a big deal. Do whatever is most convenient and comfortable."

But either man could pay for it, or God could pay for it. Either man does pay for it by God's wrath remaining on him now and forever in Hell, or God has paid for it on behalf of those who will believe and rest upon His Son. Wrath either falls on man or it falls on Jesus at the cross. Those are the only options. Someone pays for sin.

Unlike the unauthorized employee, the hired hand, Jesus lays down his life for his sheep (those who believe in Him). When someone accused Jesus of playing the part of the unauthorized employee, we see this dialog in Mark 2:7-12

7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Someone pays. Only one can actually afford to pay, so let us repent and rest upon his effort and not our own.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Missional Living and Dying: A Lesson from 4 Chaplains

Words take on different meanings over time, so much so that many don't have a connotation, but rather several connotations. This is particularly true, if not even more true, in the context of modern evangelicalism. Think of terms regarding worship. What does "contemporary" really mean anymore? It could mean old hymns with guitar, it could mean old hymns re-worked with new tunes (and guitar), it could mean hymns with electric guitar, it could mean no hymns but only recent songs, it could mean no hymns but songs which were once recent, it could mean smoke machines and crazy lights (or is that "relevant" because I'm honestly confused?). The same goes with the word "missional." Some people look upon it with suspicion while others embrace it without discernment. Instead of thinking up a new word (I still can't use the word "Christ-follower" but you should feel free if you want), I'll do my best to describe what I think of when I use the word "missional."

In fact I've tried to define it before. And I did a fine job, but then again, since I'm the one defining it, what's that worth but the paper it's written on? And I wrote it Microsoft Word. So not too much to you.

Still, here's what I mean, at least in part, when I say that I desire for myself, my family, and local congregation to live missionally: Outward facing mindset where one is willing to sacrifice self, self-comforts, preferences, and conveniences, without sacrificing the truth, for the sake of those yet to believe. 

This isn't exhaustive by any means, but I think living missionally should not include less than this. 

I personally like definitions. I love well crafted sentences, and nifty looking models; I have a particular fondness for Triangles (thanks to John Frame).  But sentences describing what ministry should look like don't do too much for me-or for anyone-when they stay just sentences and models. Examples and illustrations are much more powerful, shaping, and practical. That's why I try to use them often in sermons, for they flesh out definitions and propositional truth. 

If you want to know what I think it looks like to live missionally, we need to look no further than the example of several chaplains back in WWII. Do yourself a favor and check out the whole article here.

With the Dorchester rapidly taking on water, there were not enough life jackets readily available for every man on the ship. So, when the life jackets ran out, the four chaplains removed their own, and handed them to soldiers who didn't have them......

Those four chaplains, men of different faiths but believing in the same God, their arms linked, standing on the deck together in prayer.

They had willingly given up their futures, their lives, to try to help the men who had been placed by the Army in their care.

The U.S. Army War College has in its records a narrative of what happened that night. One of the men who survived the sinking of the Dorchester, a Navy officer named John J. Mahoney, is quoted as recalling that before heading for the lifeboats, he hurried in the direction of his quarters.

Rabbi Goode, seeing him, asked where he was going. Mahoney said he had forgotten his gloves, and wanted to retrieve them before being dropped into the cold sea.

Rabbi Goode said that Mahoney should not waste fleeting time, and offered Mahoney his own gloves.When Mahoney said he couldn't deprive Rabbi Goode of his gloves, the rabbi said it was all right, he had two pairs.

Only later, according to military historians, did Mahoney realize that of course, Rabbi Goode was not carrying an extra pair of gloves. He had already decided that he was going down with the ship.

According to the Army War College account, another survivor of the Dorchester, John Ladd, said of the four chaplains' selfless act: "It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven."

Three out of four chaplains were professing Christians and one was Jewish, but isn't this practically what it looks like to live missionally? Those chaplains were confident of their own eternal destiny and because of that, they were freed to lovingly sacrifice their comfort, preferences, even their lives for those yet to believe. I am not qualified to speak of the theology of the three, and I'm not sure that the writer of this article is. But assuming one bases his/her entire salvation upon the finished work of Jesus, and therefore doesn't sacrifice the truth, isn't this the epitome of missional living? Or rather missional dying?

I imagine the four recipients of those precious life vests would be quick to live more missionally after being rescued. How much more so should the Christian, who is the unworthy recipient of an even more meaningful death-for-life trade?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Groundhog's Day-The Beautifully Monotonous Gospel Story

Today is Groundhog Day. Though an undervalued holiday, it did give rise to one of the best holiday-centered movies (outside several Xmas films) of all time: Groundhog Day. This clever Bill Murray flick depicts a man experiencing the curse of going through the same day over and over again. Everyday is Groundhog Day. It literally couldn't get more monotonous. But it also couldn't be more clever. Yet I don't want to talk about the genius of simplicity displayed in the movie but rather the simplistic and beautiful monotony of gospel story-telling.

Christ Church Santa Fe pastor Martin Ban once challenged a potential pastor from going into ministry without recognizing the simplistic monotony of the gospel story. Cunningly he asked, "Are you sure you want to be a pastor, you know, we only have one story we tell each week?" Well surely you change the story up each week? He said, "Nope, one story and we tell it over and over. Being a pastor is like Groundhog's Day. We have one story and we tell it over and over again. We never change it. It never changes."

This simple story of the gospel is the story that saves us, shapes us, and provides meaning for life and power to love. Sometimes it is expressed theologically in the terms Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. Sometimes it is re-enacted in worship through a Call to Worship, Response of Praise, Confession, Assurance of Grace, Response of Thanksgiving, and then through a Sermon where God speaks to us via His preached Word.

Regardless it is the same story. And I love to tell it and hear it told each week. Each day. It is monotonously beautiful.

Of course we can go deep into different parts of God's story of Redemption, but it is the same monotonously beautiful story that never changes, but is constantly changing us. Or like Rich Mullins sang about the story expressed in the Apostle's Creed: "I did not make it, no it is making me...."