Archive for category Reflections

Outlaw Preacher

Who are the Outlaw Preachers?

Interesting question…

 

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Sail Away

This morning, my family had a brief time of worship together. We’re trying out homeschooling our four kids this year, and we’ve been trying to kick off each weekday with worship. It’s a simple thing: we light a candle, my daughter opens the Word and reads a verse she finds there, I read a longer selection from the Word (we’re going through the Gospel of Mark right now), and then we have a short discussion. We finish by going around and giving everyone a chance to share a final thought, then say the Lord’s Prayer together. It’s very much a “small group” experience.

Anyway, this morning, we read a very short story about Jesus, and I found it particularly intriguing:

The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. (Mark 8:11-13)

I love that!

A boat sailing away in sunset

First of all, Jesus was in the middle of a tour of the land in which he was going around casting out demons, curing deafness, and had only one paragraph previously fed thousands of people with just a handful of food, and not for the first time!

But the Pharisees wanted a “sign”.

And the Lord’s reaction? Wow. We all smiled at that, and laughed a little in sympathy. What a powerfully human reaction: he “sighed deeply in his spirit”. Of course he did!

But it was his next move that really grabbed my interest the most.

Did he argue with them? Nope. He said, “A sign? Sorry, can’t help you.” And that’s it! He didn’t point out all the signs he’d already provided, he didn’t explain to them what was wrong with their question, he didn’t call them out for what they were really doing or point out that they didn’t want a sign. I think I would have. Would you? He basically said they couldn’t have any signs, which I understand as him saying, “If you haven’t seen any ‘signs’ so far, then you’re not ever going to.” That’s powerful. But not overpowering.

Did he give them a sign? Well, technically, he had many times, and would many times again. He spent years doing miraculous things that could be taken as “signs”. But people were always able to interpret his actions in different ways. At one point, some theorized that he could cast out demons because he was somehow allied with them. But I think he could have given them a sign they would have to see. That they couldn’t ignore, or explain away, or deny. He could have opened a doorway to hell and taken them on a tour, then taken them up to heaven and shown them around. But he didn’t. He could have called down fire right there and then, but he didn’t. He could have reached into their minds and taken away their freedom of thought, reached into their hearts and forced them to want to worship him. But he didn’t.

Instead, he got in a boat and sailed away.

Sailed away!

I bet many there interpreted that as a sign of weakness. But that was powerful. When you know you’re right and good, and the people you’re with don’t want to hear that, go spend time with someone else!

Now, Jesus sometimes engaged people like this in debate. Sometimes he preached to them. But sometimes he just walked away. (Or in this case, sailed away.)

So what does this tell us? FIrst, it says something about the nature of God. Namely, that he isn’t going to force or trick or argue or debate anyone into doing anything. He wants more than anything else for us to love him. And love can only be given freely. It’s part of the definition. So if we don’t choose to follow, to worship, to believe, to obey, to love, then that’s that. He won’t force the issue. The sentence my daughter found to read at the beginning of this morning’s gathering relates to this idea:

Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:  But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2)

He is always reaching out to us, but we do things that throw up barriers between us and him. If we don’t want those barriers removed, then he’s not going to force his way through to us. Instead, he patiently waits.

So what does this say about our own lives? One of my sons pointed out that it’s a reminder to be more aware of the signs the Lord has given that are all around us all the time. His brother connected it to this really cool video:

(Quick aside: I highly recommend you, right now, go and subscribe to that guy’s YouTube channel. Go on. I’ll wait.)

Now, what I personally was drawn to this morning was the idea that, sometimes, the best thing to do when confronted with conflict, hate, obtuseness, temptation, is to just sail away. Cross over to the other side. Go spend time with different people, different ideas, different affections.

And that’s just skimming the surface. This four-sentence vignette from the life of Jesus has tons more depth to it that I’m not even beginning to mention here. What is that boat a symbol of? Why is it significant that it was Pharisees he sailed away from and not Sadducees, or lawyers, or tax collectors, or the demon-possessed? What’s the significance of the fact that he crossed water, rather than just walked away down a road?

But I’ll leave exploring that to you.

For me, for this moment, I’m taking away from this the following idea.

Sometimes, it is best to be like water: flow where gravity takes you, passing over and around the barriers, ever moving forward. And maybe in passing you will eventually wear down some rough edges. But don’t worry about that. Just change direction when you have to, and move on.

 

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Hands in the Air

roller coasterOur first postcard inviting people to check out New Way Church is in people’s mailboxes now. The second one is going out in less than a week. We’re advertising on Facebook, and through Google, and we’re inviting everyone we know. Because on Sunday, February 27th, at 10:00 a.m., New Way Church is officially launching.

We’ve been meeting quietly for half a year, and now it’s time to switch from quiet to loud. And it’s weird. Why? Because we are heading into unexplored territory and have no idea what will happen next. Will we get so many people showing up that there isn’t parking and seating for everyone? Will we get no one? Will the people who come check us out find value in what we offer? Or will our non-traditional take on Christianity make us a target of hatred?

Or will the Lord bless us with exactly what we need to learn and grow?

Why do roller coaster riders throw their hands in the air?

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The List

How am I doing?

Well…

  • The IRS still hasn’t finished processing New Way’s 501(c)3 application, so we don’t yet have our non-profit bulk mail permit, so our advertising costs for our launch campaign are going to be higher than planned.
  • I think I may be coming down with something between a cold and a flu.
  • Since adding a puppy to our household, I have had less sleep every night.
  • I have no idea what I’m doing.
  • I still miss my father.
  • I am still processing all sorts of confusing thoughts and feelings about life and death.
  • I am far away from my siblings and my mother.
  • I am not as good a husband or father as I would like to be.
  • I am easily distracted.
  • I am heavier than I want to be.
  • I am becoming increasingly aware of my own mortality.
  • I keep fighting the same spiritual battles over and over.
  • I am connected with an organization that is experiencing simultaneous financial, cultural, and structural crises.
  • I regularly struggle to understand the big questions, let alone their answers.
  • I treat my dark side like a pet.
  • I’m tired.

But on the other hand…

  • I have an amazingly solid marriage to a wonderful person.
  • Every one of my kids is a healthy, intelligent, loving, happy person.
  • I live in a good house in a nice neighborhood in a fun city in a privileged nation in an amazing time in a beautiful world.
  • I am living out a life’s dream, and not for the first time.
  • I am in constant dialogue with amazing people all around me.
  • Our puppy is really, really cute. And sweet. And (for a puppy) quite easygoing.
  • I don’t need to worry about personal finances.
  • I love and am loved by many people.
  • I can play music any time I like.
  • I live near The Salt Lick, Torchy’s Tacos, and a hundred good coffee shops.
  • I’ve been making good progress on New Way’s website.
  • I’m excited by what seems to me to be a new wave swelling far off shore in the broad spiritual movement that is the New Church.
  • I like what I do.
  • I have a pool.
  • I am rarely too cold anymore.
  • I had a great family Christmas.
  • I mostly can make my own hours.
  • I am regularly amazed, enlightened and moved by what I learn from God’s Word.

So, all in all, I guess…what?

I guess life doesn’t work that way. It’s not a balance sheet, or a see-saw, or a list. So what is it? Well, mostly it’s a “now” that’s heavily complicated by a no-longer existant past and a never quite here future.

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Running and Spirituality

So I started a new exercise program today. I’m a runner. I’m building up to a 5k run. Which is weird, because I have NEVER been a runner. But it’s time for an interesting change.

And because I am prepping to preach about spiritual self-improvement, I thought I’d share my physical self-improvement experience with others, and use it as a jumping off point to talk about what it takes to overcome barriers that may be preventing you from finding meaning in your life and fulfilling that meaning.

But I’ve said enough. Here’s the video from this morning:

So what do you think? How do you feel about exercise? How does that connect with spiritual health?

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