What could possibly go wrong with this sort of technology?
Archive for July, 2013
Date: August 4th,
2013 – Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Texts: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14,
2:18-26; Psalm 100; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21
Context: If the theme for the
last two weeks centered on relationship with God and prayer, this
week’s readings take us into the meaning of life. Why is it that we
do what we do? What wisdom is there in seeking wealth or power or
youth or beauty for their own sakes? Do any of these things last?
How we spend our lives as an expression of our relationship with our
God is what defines us. If we attempt to define ourselves by
anything else, we run the risk of great unhappiness or, worse yet,
severing our relationship with our Lord and Savior.
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-26:
If we think that the meaning of life is a question that has only
really been a source of angst in the last 100 years or so, we are
fooling ourselves. Even ancient people wondered what life was for.
Ecclesiastes is attributed to King Solomon (verse 1), though there is
serious doubt that he actually wrote the book. Regardless, the
content is still fitting for consideration today.
Verse 2 sets up the situation –
everything in our lives that we do is meaningless. Verses 12-14
select the specific aspect of life for today’s consideration – how
we live our lives in terms of our work. Work is not an effect of sin
and the Fall from Genesis 3 – it is part and parcel of our identity
as human beings, Genesis 1-2 stuff. We are made to work. Work is
not a punishment, but work can be skewed by the sin that Genesis 3
reveals. Our author indicates that he has the means with which to
investigate such weighty matters as the meaning of life, as he has
been king over Jerusalem. He has been gifted with great wisdom (1
Kings 3), so we are to assume that his investigations are adequate.
Verses 18-26 show the crux of the
problem. Hard work isn’t the problem, the problem is that we work
hard for the wrong reasons – often the accumulation of wealth. But
once acquired, we really have little control over that wealth,
particularly in the matter of how those after us will use it. If our
striving to accumulate leads us to sorrow and vexation (v.23), how
sad a situation we find ourselves in! The solution is provided in
verses 24-26. We should enjoy our lives, the simple pleasures of
eating and drinking and working as we have been given to. God gives
us these abilities, and given the uncertainties of life and those who
will inherit what we work so hard for, spending our efforts wisely is
what we are commended to.
Psalm 100: While not appearing
to deal with work at first, it does deal with our identity. Our
identity is not forged chiefly from our family name or our level of
wealth or our professional successes, but rather from the fact that
God created us. Bearing this in mind is what helps us to balance our
lives better, seeking out the joy of worshiping our creator, and
recognizing that in much or little, God is good because He is the
creator of all.
Colossians 3:1-11: During the
season of Ordinary Time the Epistle lesson isn’t chosen to link with
the Gospel and Old Testament. But today, it certainly does work with
them. Paul encourages the Colossians to remember whose they are.
They are not just themselves, not the ordinary people they think of
and their neighbors think of. They are somebody else – somebody
more, perhaps more accurately. They don’t even fully know this
identity – only when Christ returns will they see themselves as
they truly are.
As such, the list of behaviors that
Paul warns the Colossians against are not merely rules – they are
indicative of the person that the Colossians are in Christ. That
sort of person will not engage in these behaviors. As they seek to
prepare themselves for this new identity, setting aside these
incongruous behaviors is only natural. It is not a law, not a work,
it is simply embracing who they have been made in Christ and acting
accordingly. It may be uncomfortable at first, but one day it will
be completely natural.
Luke 12:13-21: The emphasis here
is not on action and reaction. The man is not dying because of his
greed. It is not fundamentally a story about judgment and punishment
but rather a reflection of reality. How many times a week do we see
another headline about a celebrity who has it all, yet their life is
a train wreck? How many times do we read about someone with a
promising career ahead of them who dies unexpectedly? We don’t know
the time of our death. But we do know that – barring Christ’s
return first – we will die. How are we then going to spend
the time we have? This day? This minute?
The world leads us to live our lives as
if we are the ones in control, as if we are the ones who deserve this
or that, who have earned this or that. Yet all we have is a gift.
Some have a lot. Some have barely any at all. None of which is a
problem that couldn’t be solved if we began to take seriously the
reality that we are creations of God, and our lives and our
belongings are not strictly ours for the keeping. We can’t keep
them. We know this. Someone once said that the first half of life
consists of acquiring things, and the second half of life consists of
giving them up (voluntarily or involuntarily).
Note the reason that Jesus tells this
parable. There is a dispute. A dispute between brothers. A dispute
between brothers over the material possessions of their father.
Having read Ecclesiastes we can imagine how disappointed that father
would be to know that his hard work has resulted not in joy and love
between his sons, but rather animosity and bitterness. Where are
Jesus’ response reminds us that the Son
of God is not here to force us to play fair. He is not here to
settle our squabbles over stuff. The kingdom that comes in Jesus is
not one where our fundamental concern should be our material
possessions, or whether what we have is the same or better than what
someone else has. In asking Jesus to settle their dispute, these
brothers miss what Jesus has come to offer them. Not the solution to
a short-term problem, but eternal life where such issues are not
issues any longer.
Finally, this is not a parable about
tithing. This is not an admonition to give more to the church.
Jesus’ final statement has to do with our relationship with God. We
can tithe 50% of our income and still have a lousy relationship with
our Lord. God does not need our money. He desires us. All
of us, not just ten or twenty or thirty percent of us. Giving to the
church is not being rich with God, it is being rich with his church.
Being rich with God recognizes our proper relationship as his
creature who should seek the will of our Creator. In doing so, our
priorities are reordered, and we should find it easier to be rich
with others because we are so thankful for the riches of forgiveness
(and perhaps material blessing!) that God has poured into our lives.
All together, the readings remind us to
keep perspective about our lives. Our lives are not our own. We
were created for them, and to our Creator we must answer. He
dictates the priorities, not the world around us or our parents our
spouse – not even ourselves. Remembering this prepares us to see
our blessings in this world not as something to be hoarded and fought
over, but rather as a means of demonstrating our love for God through
love for others.
I blogged the other day about a situation with someone who called and wanted to use our facility for a reception based on their status as a former member. At the time I was writing about it, I half-considered not writing about it, since it involves specific people associated with the congregation, and it was possible that people would still know them.
There are fundamental rules that apply as time goes by, in churches and other corporate or communal entities as well as in love. And one of the rules is that if a long time has gone by since you’ve been around, it’s not very helpful to assume that everyone should immediately remember you when you pop up again randomly.
- Don’t assume that whomever is going to be answering the phone is someone that was there the last time you were.
- Don’t assume that the person responsible to respond to your request was there the last time you were.
- Don’t assume that if you haven’t been around for forty years, everyone (or even anyone) is going to remember you right away.
- Don’t assume that whatever relationship you had to this institution forty years ago entitles you to special privileges today.
- Even if you have reasons for assuming that you should have special privileges today, don’t assume that those special privileges can be immediately verified and activated in order for you to arrange for things in less than a week’s time.
- Try to be understanding if your initial experience or contact isn’t everything you think it should be.
I survived VBS.
be cycling through a series of VBS’, what if congregations of various stripes worked together to provide a single, cohesive VBS experience? What if VBS was a multi-congregational month-long opportunity not just for the kids but for the families? What if moms and dads were invited to not just come and clap for their children (which is wonderful!), but also to engage themselves in learning more about the Bible, about the Christian life? If VBS is primarily an offering to Christians of all stripes in a community, how could it be amplified to benefit those families the most?
Some light morning reading for you. Yet another scholar willing to point out the dramatic rise in the persecution of Christians worldwide – a rise that Western media has chosen to ignore.
Having recently attended a fantastic theological forum on 1 Corinthians, this article got my attention. The topic certainly isn’t new. I have no doubt that regardless of the general cultural mores on fashion, there have always been those who either out of necessity, ignorance, or pride have caused stirs about their mode of dress in worship.
I survived my first day of vacation Bible school.
I’m nervous. Not terrified, but nervous.
Date: Tenth Sunday after
Pentecost – July 28, 2013
Texts: Genesis 1817-19)20-33;
Psalm 138; Colossians 2:6-15(16-19); Luke 11:1-13
Context: There are few areas of
the Christian life so widely acknowledged and yet so elusive and full
of guilt as the practice of prayer. While Scripture often invites us
to prayer, it barely defines it, opting more often to demonstrate
examples of it. So it is that men and women of faith have struggled
to figure out what prayer means, how it works, what to do or say. In
the end, prayer remains alive and indefinable as God himself. It is
not a mechanical process, neither exclusively rote memory or mandated
originality. It is the expression of ourselves to God, and of God to
us, from one moment to the next different and yet comforting and
familiar. Our Old Testament, Psalm, and Gospel readings for this
Sunday direct us to consider the nature of prayer.
Genesis 1817-19)20-33 –
Continuing on from the Gospel lesson last week, we realize that
Abraham’s messengers are no less than the Lord (we would say the Son
of God in a ‘sneak preview’ of his incarnate human nature) and two
angels. They are journeying to Sodom and Gomorrah to see firsthand
whether the reports of their terrible natures are accurate. The Lord
confides in Abraham what He intends to do, and this worries Abraham.
While we can commend Abraham for his
merciful spirit, he also has specific links to Sodom – his nephew
Lot lives in that city (Genesis 13:12-13). What ensues is an amazing
demonstration of the power and privilege of prayer. God invites
Abraham to push for grace, and Abraham responds. In part, Abraham’s
role here is what God has already promised him it would be in
Chapters 12 and 15 and 17 – Abraham is to be not merely a
receptacle for God’s blessings, but a conduit through which those
blessings flow out to the world. Prayer – in this case a
face-to-face bidding session of sorts – is one channel for such
blessing to be expressed.
Psalm 138 – This psalm of
praise is also a prayer of praise, and can serve as another model for
what prayer can look and sound like. Verses 1 and 2 indicate the
speaker’s intent – to praise God. Verses 2 and 3 begin to explain
why such praise is warranted – the law and Word of God is
unsurpassing in beauty and holiness. Furthermore, God has responded
to the speaker, and God’s responsiveness has been a source of
Verses 4-5 envision a proper order –
where the rulers of earth are obedient to God and praise him,
following the Lord’s law and glorifying God for giving it. If this
were the way things worked, what an amazing world we would live in!
This is the proper role of a ruler – to be subject to God and to
model and guide such a role for all those who live within their
Verse 6 changes the focus – God is
not merely the protector of the ruler, but of the weak and lowly.
God always keeps even the least of his creation in his vision. As
such, in verse 7 the speaker can assert that regardless of his
struggles, they are not the result of God’s slumber or preoccupation
elsewhere. God is present with him and his continued life is proof
of that. The verse transitions to a declaration that the Lord has
and will save him from his enemies, culminating in verse 8 and a
final plea for God’s mercy and rescue.
Colossians 2:6-15(16-19) –
Paul exhorts the Colossians to remain steadfast in the true faith,
rather than becoming enamored or confused with alterations of the
Gospel that might make it easier to understand or believe by relying
on human reason or other explanations. The Gospel is that in Jesus
the fullness of divinity dwells. Jesus truly is the Son of God
incarnate. As crazy as that might sound, it is the Gospel, and this
Gospel is what builds up the Colossians to their full identity in
Christ. Moreover, the Colossians’ faith in Jesus has effected their
spiritual death and resurrection. They are new creations already,
and it is not their actions or efforts that will one day make them
Luke 11:1-13 – Without a doubt
the most direct teaching on prayer in Scripture. It was the custom
for a rabbi or teacher to teach his students special things, and this
included insight on how to pray. John followed this custom
apparently, so Jesus’ disciples want him to give them insight as
well. What is recorded for us is the Lord’s Prayer (recorded
in more fullness in Matthew 6:9-13). The prayer clearly addresses
God as our Father, glorifying his name and seeking for his will
(kingdom) to be established fully. Daily needs are prayed for, as
well as forgiveness of sins and protection from temptation.
Beyond this, Jesus tries to illustrate
what approaching God in prayer is like. No metaphor or analogy is
perfect, but we are to understand that while we may fear to come to
God in prayer for any number of reasons, God does and will respond to
us. We should be diligent in what we ask for in prayer because God
is sometimes moved to respond because of our tenacity. God is not a
harsh god, waiting to trick us or to abuse us for his own amusement
(which was believed of gods in surrounding cultures). Rather we are
told that God the Father is truly like a good father, and a good
father always seeks the best for his children. If human fathers are
capable of responding to the needs and requests of their children,
how much more will God!
Prayer remains complicated to us, most
likely because we are fond of focusing on the outcome rather than the
process. We want to know if God will do what we ask. We assume that
prayer is something that, when done properly, will yield specific
results. We ought more to focus on prayer as a conversation, a
conversation with someone we love and value. What matters is not
necessarily an outcome, but rather the fact of communicating,
intentionally aware of one another. If there is a warning regarding
prayer, it is that we are practical people, and we easily view prayer
as a means to an end, rather than as part of a relationship.
What matters most is not whether God
does what we want, how we want, when we want. What matters is that
we are privileged to commune with the creator of the Universe! He
hears us, is concerned about us, and hasn’t simply promised us his
best, but has already given us his best in his Son Jesus the Christ.
What an amazing privilege! What an unearned merit – to be able to
engage God in prayer at any moment, expressing fear, joy, praise,
thanksgiving, or need – knowing that we will always be heard and
God will respond according to the parameters of his plan for creation
and for our own lives.
Yes, prayer often times involves
specific requests for healing or safety or any number of other very
real needs. But just being intentional about communicating with God
– both speaking and listening – begins to change and alter how we
respond to the events and people in our lives. It is not an
obligation, but a privilege. God is God, and if God wants our
attention He will get it!
In the meantime, spend some time
getting to know the Creator of the Universe.