Archive for March, 2009

Loving the Church

March 31, 2009

Scot McKnight’s blog directed my attention to this post by Tim Keel yesterday. In it he quotes a passage written by Carlo Carretto:

How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you!
You have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you!
I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence.
You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand sanctity.

I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful. How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms.

No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, although not completely.
And where should I go?

Keel says:

Anyone who has sought to live out their life of faith in the midst of a particular community, who has sought to be a Jesus-person with other Jesus-people, knows both the highs and the lows of true, as opposed to idealized, community.

True that. Those of us who pursue the ideal Christian community, especially out of a reconstruction of the New Testament story, tend to build up an ideal image in our heads. Then when we live out the reality of our dreams, we discover that real life is much messier, much less “glorious” than we had hoped. And it’s not just because of all those fallen people you have to deal with, either. Part of the problem is you.

Thus we find ourselves pursuing the life of the church and failing at it left and right. But you know what? That’s the way it is all over. Just ask around. Nobody’s getting it all right. Most of us can only get one part or another down at a time. Maybe the best we can do is to be faithful to that facet of God’s purpose that we know we’ve been called to, and to be as open as possible to His work in others who follow a slightly different mission, but all by the same grace and the same Spirit.

I’m becoming more and more aware that we need one another. Not only within the local community, but within the larger community of the whole Body of Christ.

I need the input and challenge that comes from rubbing shoulders with Christians outside of my own little group.

I need the input of Christians from other parts of the country, and from other countries of the world.

I even need the input of Christians from other points in time. Those whose time passed centuries ago still have things to teach me, and I intend to hear what they have to say..

I think growth in Christ over time should make you more open to the larger Body of Christ, not less. That, I think, is part of loving the Church, too.


How God Loves

March 18, 2009

Earlier this month, an article made the rounds on the web explaining what it feels like to be both a practicing Christian and a non-practicing homosexual. It’s pretty good, and it set off a fair amount of online discussion. I’m not looking to explain my understanding of this hot-button issue here. I already wrote a really long article about it a long time ago. Wesley Hills, who writes as a Christian who is gay, tells of the loneliness that comes from being different from so many around him. What struck me most in his article was the following passage:

I know well-meaning Christians who often remind me, “God’s love for you is better than any love you might find in a human relationship.” While I believe this is true in an ultimate and profound sense, putting it this way seems to set up a false dichotomy. A statement more in sync with the drift of the New Testament might go something like this: “God’s love for us is expressed and experienced mainly through the medium of human relationships.”

That last statement really stuck with me. I’ve seen that false dichotomy before. And he’s right: I don’t feel God’s love in a vacuum. Separated from actual relationships with people, my relationship with God can be entirely “in my head.” Now don’t get me wrong…I know Him on my own, too. But my relationship with Him needs anchors–contact points with the world around me. And I find that comes most often through people.

I know, objectively speaking, that God is present, that He is involved in my life, and that He cares for me. But I am not merely an intellectual being (despite how my blog may make me sound sometimes!). I also FEEL. And I feel His love through the love of other people. And truth be told, the only truths that really change you are the truths that make you feel something. That’s not existentialism, by the way, it’s just a fact. We can “believe” all kinds of things without them really affecting us, changing us. But when something really moves us, we really change.

This made me think a bit about how God’s care for those around me gets communicated through me. It’s a humbling thought, really. For example, my children will gain part of their image of God through what I teach them about God, objectively speaking. But the most lasting impressions of Him will come from how I treat them. How I love them. If they grow up feeling the care and love of their father, they will find it much easier to see how their heavenly Father loves them, too.

In truth, the same thing goes for all my other relationships. It’s true for my wife, for my friends and extended family, and for the brothers and sisters in my church community. When I stop and consider it, I mean really stop. And consider. This thought adds such weight and meaning to even the simplest moments with others. I am becoming a vehicle for the love of God, right there in the middle of every day, boring stuff. Pretty cool.

Freudian Slippers

March 14, 2009

Now that’s just hilarious. When you wiggle your toes, it looks like he’s sticking his tongue out. I just may have to get me a pair of these someday.

Speaking of Freudian things…I finished reading The Watchmen this week, so now I can be an educated viewer when I go see the movie. I’ve never seen so much Freudian thought integrated into a plot! And since I didn’t come across this series when I was younger, I don’t expect to be indignant about changes like some folks seem to be. For example, I won’t be sorry to see the giant squid thing disappear from the storyline. That was just over the top. Alan Moore has some serious issues (no pun intended).

I also realized after reading Watchmen just how much the creators of The Incredibles must have been influenced by this story. Whole lotta striking similarities, but without the nihilistic darkness and gore. I’ll stick with The Incredibles, thank you.

Chicken Little Takes a Deep Breath

March 2, 2009

News broke this morning that AIG lost $62 Billion in the last quarter of 2008. That’s a staggering amount of money to lose in three months! It’s even more meaningful when you consider how that quarter began: It began with the government bailing them out, to the tune of $85 Billion, taking over about 80% ownership of their stock. Apparently, bailouts aren’t as effective as some people seem to hope they will be. But then again, I’m pretty sure the experts themselves never claimed they were fixing anything with all the money they’re shoveling around. They’ve only stated that these measures are being taken in order to slow down the collapse to a survivable speed.

I remember back in July of 2007 when the DOW hit the 14,000 mark. Today it dipped back into the 6000’s range for the first time since the last “hard landing” of 1997 (which happened because of a currency collapse that started in Thailand, of all places). That means our stock market has lost more than half its value in less than two years. As a history teacher who has done lessons on the Great Depression several times, I have to say that a lot of this stuff sounds really familiar. Of course, I hope I’m wrong and things are going to level off soon and the bad news will wane over the next few months. Speaking for myself, I would have a hard time learning to live like “The Greatest Generation” did. But then again, we are a pretty adaptable species, aren’t we?

I remember quietly panicking exactly 10 years ago because I had become convinced that “the masses” would withdraw all their money for fear that the Y2K bug would wreck everything. I even remember teaching a Sunday School lesson about it (God forgive me!). Well, my intentions were good, but I overestimated the extent of the problem and I underestimated human ingenuity in the face of a crisis.

So I think I know better, now. I learned from that situation that my imagination can get away from me sometimes, and I need to watch that. I also learned that people are really resourceful, when they need to be. Maybe that’s a residual effect of being created in the image of God. He is infinitely creative, and we share in that to some degree. So I won’t worry like the heathen do 😉 I know the larger story, and I know that, in the end, it all turns out good.