I was following the Twitter chat about the upcoming Lion and Lamb Festival in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Participants were asked what issues they were passionate about and what motivates them to act. Here are some of the answers:
- I am passionate about global policy on justice issues dealing with genocide.
- Empowerment of women & children around the world
- unity (or lack thereof) in the church- open and honest discussions about the future of the church
- Our broken immigration negatively impacts so many lives. Striving to work toward change!
- I’ve been thinking a lot about how broken the economic system is, and how we can fix it.
- I am passionate about unlocking missional imagination through music, word, visual art – for the transformation of the world.
- global health, mission, service & honest conversations about church, personal faith/doubts, connecting with non churchgoers
- awareness of sex trafficking around the world as well as in Indiana. Huge issue.
- It’s gonna sound weird, but I’m passionate about doubt & the role it plays in faith.
- children/youth justice issues, human trafficking, genocide. Hearing stories on these issues motivates
I did not see this story about disgraced pastor Ted Haggard when it first came out, but I am glad I did. It is a story about reaching out to Haggard and raising questions about why we Christians seem to turn our backs on the fallen among us.
The author finds himself reflecting on the words of friends who had told him that they will reject him if he reaches out to Haggard. And that stirs thoughts of Huck Finn.
The Ted Haggard issue reminds me of a scene in Mark Twain’s, Huckleberry Finn. Huck is told that if he doesn’t turn in his friend, a runaway slave named Jim, he will surely burn in hell. So one day Huck, not wanting to lose his soul to Satan, writes a letter to Jim’s owner telling her of Jim’s whereabouts. After folding the letter, he starts to think about what his friend has meant to him, how Jim took the night watch so he could sleep, how they laughed and survived together. Jim is his friend and that is worth reconsideration. Huck realizes that it’s either Jim’s friendship or hell. Then the great Mark Twain writes such wonderful words of resolve. Huck rips the paper and says, “Alright then, I guess I’ll go to hell.”
Twain did not believe in Hell, so far as I can tell, so I’m not sure what Twain thought of Huck’s sacrifice. Did he think Huck was taking an actual risk? I also note that the preacher or person who told Huck he’d go to Hell for not turning in Jim was wrong. But all that aside, the author of the article saw this as a case of sacrificial love in the mode of Jesus himself. Huck was willing to risk Hell to remain loyal to Jim.
I may be wrong, but I think this is the kind of sensibility folks such as the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ogletree have about their choices regarding church law and discipline. Loyalty matters more than consequences. I reflect on this because I am working on a post about Ogletree’s argument that takes a look at the structure of his argument (look for it tomorrow). The Haggard story reminds me that these are affairs of the heart, maybe primarily so.
In case you are interested, here is a video of Ted Haggard talking about how Christians become arrogant. Listen and you’ll hear him say “All means all.”
An interesting look at liberal and conservative Christianity and the challenges that both face in the contemporary context.
As it becomes clear that the fates of liberal and conservative Christianities may not be as distinct as is commonly assumed, the time has arrived for a re-evaluation of liberal Christianity. For conservatives, the task is to stop interpreting the demise of liberal congregations as a victory for evangelical Christianity, and to explore what might be learned from the fact that liberal Christianity’s roots lie in the attempt to adapt and respond to cultural diversity and modern individualism. For liberals, the challenge involves far more than finding the courage to address the significant decline in church membership. Their task begins only after acknowledging that liberal Christianity has a real problem transmitting itself to subsequent generations. As Steve Bruce has observed, liberal churches generally appeal more to disaffected conservatives than they do to people with no previous background in Christianity. This fact suggests that liberals need to give greater attention to why the doctrines and traditions of Christianity should matter to someone not already familiar with them.
God is beautiful. The world often is not.
God is loving. People often are not.
God is just. The world often is not.
God is merciful. People often are not.
God is steadfast. People are like grass that withers in the sun.
God is committed. The world can’t be bothered to care.
God is compassionate. People have places to go and things to do.
God is peace. The world craves war.
God is forever. People fear tomorrow.
God is fierce. The world is easily distracted.
God is joy. People often are miserable.
God is holy. The world loves darkness.
Among the top three or fourth verses that animated the early Methodist movement, Hebrews 12:14 has to be one of the least quoted in churches today.
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
I wonder why we speak of it so little?
If anything, it often seems, we argue for the opposite, like heart surgeons handing out Haagan-Dazs ice cream on the hospital ward.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
How do we speak of God’s holiness in ways that make people desire holiness for themselves?
In an age without authority and a church in which leaders have great anxiety about claiming authority, how do we read Hebrews 13:17?
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
The text is an exhortation to the people to follow the leaders of their church community because those leaders will be held to account by God for how they led the people.
This sense of accountability was part of what drove John Wesley to do what he did. He read passages like this and Ezekiel 33 as removing from him the choice of whether to lead and confront the people when their ways strayed from Scripture’s description of a holy and God-pleasing life.
You could say, in a sense, that Wesley was acting out of self-interest. He was taking up his cross mindful that if he failed to do so, he would fall under the grave condemnation reserved for leaders who shirk their duty to God’s people.
Now, some will read this and find it displeasing. What? Should we not do everything we do out of love only and never fear or a sense of duty and obligation? In the perfected heart that would be the case. But we are not perfect. Our flesh still rebels and tempts us to turn aside. It is the very example of love to endure that which is not pleasing to us for the sake of others.
But we live in an age in which “authority” is a dirty word. Our democratic impulses argue against authority. The very spirit of modernity and post-modernity is an assault on the idea of authority. Our exegesis and theology remove the threat from the passages of Scripture that speak of authority and accountability to God.
Does a verse such as Hebrews 13:17 have anything to do with the church today?
I heard a story today about preventing grace, although the person who told the story did not use that word.
It got me thinking about how much we internalize our theological vocabulary. Do we actually come to the place where we see and experience the world in terms of God talk?
My life is full of 30-minute delays: The times when 30 minutes after I have a conversation, I realize something important that I wish I had noticed or said in the moment.
I can’t provide many details of my last case. It involved a pastoral encounter. The summary is this: 30 minutes after it was over, I realized that my focus had been on earthly concerns and comfort rather than eternal issues. I’d dealt with clay jar concerns and neglected the treasure inside.
Pondering this, I was reminded of one of the pieces of John Wesley’s writings that sticks with me.
I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: Just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity!
These words have been on this blog since its creation. But how easily I forget them. How easy it is to treat people as just so many animals moving from birth to death. But they will live in eternity after this life is over. And as a pastor, it is my task to help guide them to a happy destiny. Salvation begins in this life, but extends forever.
This observation does not lead me to conclude I should be out screaming in the streets or even that I should press people in clumsy ways. But I do fear I am too often more interested in earthly comfort than eternal destiny.
Have I done what I can and should to make sure people I encounter do not drop into eternity unprepared? Do I act as if the last line of the Apostles Creed is actually true?
Anselm of Canterbury, who I’ve been reading recently thanks to Morgan Guyton, was intensely interested in the rationality of the Christian faith, but only up to a point and only in the proper order.
He wrote we should not try to understand our faith until we have faith. Christianity is rational, he wrote, but you could not get to faith in Christ through logic. You could only use logic to help you understand what you already believed. And failure to understand was not grounds for ceasing to believe what the Church taught.
I will say something to curb the presumption of those who, with blasphemous rashness and on the ground that they cannot understand it, dare to argue against something which the Christian faith confesses — those who judge with foolish pride that which they are not able to understand is not at all possible, rather than acknowledge with humble wisdom that many things are possible which they are not able to comprehend. Indeed, no Christian ought to question the truth of what the Catholic Church believes in its heart and confesses with its mouth. Rather, by holding constantly and unhesitatingly to this faith, by loving it and living according to it he ought humbly, and as best he is able, to seek to discover the reason why it is true. If he able to to understand, then let him give thanks to God. But if he cannot understand, let him not toss his horns in strife but let him bow his head in reverence.
Anselm was no Martin Luther. And as a child of the Reformation, I’m pretty sure I am supposed to reject this sentiment on spec.
But when I read it today, I was reminded of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s assertion in The Cost of Discipleship that only those who obey believe, and I was reminded of the gospel reading this week with Jesus’ statement that only his sheep hear his voice. This both strike me as in the ballpark of Anselm’s assertion that we cannot hope to develop a logical and rational account of our faith if we do not start with and from a bedrock faith, as long as we remember that Anselm argued equally that once we had faith we should by all means try to understand it.
We can easily come up with ways to poke holes in Anselm’s argument, but his point is worthy of conversation and reflection.