I was listening to an interview on my way to work this morning on a local rock station. The interview was with Paul O’Neil; composer, lyricist, and producer for Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
During part of the interview he said, “One day my partner and I were looking at our average demographic and it was 12 year olds. And I said, ‘Are you sure this is right?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, beause for every 85 year old lady listening to our stuff, we have a 5 year old kid who knows all of our music.’ And he was totally right on. Because if you go to the shows, and that’s the great thing about our music; you’ll see some teenager with his nose and ears pierced sitting next to his grandma, both rocking at our show.”
And I thought, what a great picture of what The Church could be.
I was on my way home last week and I saw a bumper sticker that read, “Green is Good”. I had to do a double take on it though, because at first glance, I thought it read, “Green is God”. And I immediately laughed at my mistake; partly because it was a silly mistake to make, but partly because I wouldn’t have been surprised if the bumper sticker actually did read, “Green is God”.
Last month Nickelodeon was running this environmental challenge for kids to recycle and save energy. All month long they interviewed kids from ages 4 to 14 talking about what they do to save energy. One girl talked about how her family recycles and composts. Another child spoke about how he doesn’t run the water when he brushes his teeth and takes 3 minute showers. All good things.
Then, to follow it up, they had the “tween” stars of Nickelodeon trying to get others involved by taking a pledge and get online and play a video game to kill gas-guzzling cars and “hazardous CO2 emitting” vehicles. They also ran an entire day of programming devoted to helping planet earth. So, instead of encouraging me to turn off my television and my computer — both energy saving actions — Nickelodeon encourages me to help the earth by using more electricity. Interesting that they decided to run an entire day of programming instead of shutting down for the day.
I went to a small Christian Liberal Arts College in Southern California for my undergrad. We would have regular chapels during the week, and one of the only ones I remember was the president of the college stating in a sermon how recycling is pointless because when Jesus returns, he’s going to destroy the world anyway.
I find both perspectives ridiculous. God tells us that he created the world and everything in it, and when he was done, he looked at it and said it was very good. He tells us that he loves the world. He tells us that all creation; every rock, tree, flower, bird, everything–is longing to be repaired. And he tells us that in Jesus, God is restoring everything.
The bible speaks of those who follow the way of Jesus as stewards of this world, and co-laborers with Christ in the restoration process. Being sensitive to environmental issues is part of the story. “Being Green” is just jargon; it’s just a bandwagon statement. Being a steward means taking responsibility. It means taking responsibility for possibly one day having to answer for your choices. It is a means of a bigger picture — peace on Earth.
I had a bad day last week. This spring season, I’ve been having a hard time winning the battle for my yard, and it seems as though the dandelions are winning. So, last Tuesday, I race home from work to mow my lawn and spread around a bag of the weed-and-feed that I bought to kill these things.
About the time I was getting ready, my Father in Law was walking my two youngest boys home when he looks at me and starts laughing very loudly, exclaiming that I have so many dandelions in my yard a little bag of weed-and-feed will only take care of the front patch.
I wasn’t very amused.
Later in the evening, my middle son is putting some toys away, and he notices that one of our Wii games has gone missing. So, he tells me that he thinks it’s in the actual Wii console. Except that when he pushes the eject button, the gears don’t spit out a game, they just grind. So, at this point I’m about to lose it. I take the Wii apart only to discover that my 3 year old son had used it as a piggy bank. Out poured 25 or 30 coins, most of which had destroyed the Wii’s insides.
I was not a happy camper.
At that moment I remembered the words of Jesus, “Be angry and do not sin.” Have you ever tried to tell someone who’s angry, “be angry and do not sin” ?
There’s a passage in Mark 3 where Jesus is angry at the religious people who had gathered around him. They were looking for a way to accuse him of disobeying their traditions by healing a man with a disfigured hand on the Sabbath. The passage says that Jesus was angry with them. And while he’s angry, he asks them what is the right thing to do? He essentially says, “which would you rather me do on your Sabbath, good or evil? Which is better? Should I save a life or end one?”
Do you ever notice that low-level of anger just brewing around below the surface, that when something is out of the norm; you have to sit in traffic, your office coffee machine runs out right when you go to use it, the 10-items or less line has someone ahead of you with 25 items; you just get upset? That’s one of the things I find myself guilty of.
Jesus gets angry. But he doesn’t redirect his anger on trivial things. Instead, Jesus does something good with his anger. He heals someone.
Do you remember in high school when your guidance counselor asked you, “If you had a million dollars, what would you do?”, and that’s what you’re supposed to do with your life? What if the question was, “What makes you angry? When you look at the world around you, what makes you angry?” Maybe it’s children living in poverty or disease or injustice or the way Christians treat others…or whatever it is…maybe we operate with this low level of anger because we’re not using our anger to heal the world; we’re not using it where it counts.
It’s funny how something as simple as a weed in my yard and a video game system can be so significantly insignificant in my life…
Kevin Roose recently published a book called The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University, in which he describes how he transferred for one semester from Brown University to Liberty University — the college in Virginia that Jerry Falwell founded in 1971.
I read an article from the Associated Press about how Roose decided that in order to be a better well-rounded student, he needed to study all perspectives, including the Conservative Evangelical one. So, he decided to become a student and “infiltrate” one of the most conservative Evangelical schools in the country.
You can read the entire article here. I much appreciated this last portion of the article: “Roose said his Liberty experience transformed him in surprising ways…Once ambivalent about faith, Roose now prays to God regularly – for his own well-being and on behalf of others. He said he owns several translations of the Bible and has recently been rereading meditations from the letters of John on using love and compassion to solve cultural conflicts. He’s even considering joining a church.”
I’m grateful for students like Kevin who go into settings like this with a willingness to learn and be challenged. I wonder if we might be able to learn something about ourselves and others from this situation.
I think I’m going to get Kevin’s book and read it.
I recently finished the book Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell. Thought it was a great read, and I wanted to share some quotes that hit me the most…
“Jesus is God’s good gift for the healing of the world. The church is Jesus’ body, a good gift for the healing of the world. It’s for the benefit of others. For the good of those who look different from us. A church is an organization that exists for the benefit of nonmembers. This blessing extends even to our enemies…If our church was taken away – from our city, our neighborhood, our region – who would protest?”
“The church says no to the animating spirit of religious empire, the one which leads Christians to look no different than the world around them. Churches can easily become centers for assimilation, where the seats in the sanctuary are eerily similar to the seats in a cinema, the website offers all of the programs to meet your specific religious needs, and the coffee in the hallway is just as good as in the shops across the street.”
“(The Church) is not a building because no building can ever be big enough for that kind of grace.”
“The measure of a sermon is not whether it affirms what you already believe. A sermon is not a product to be consumed and then evaluated according to how good it was or whether it was pleasing or enjoyable…The sermon is about starting the discussion. The sermon is about having the first word. The sermon is the catalyst that inspires people into whole new ways of seeing their lives.”
“When the goal of a church is to get people into church services and then teach them how to invite people to come to church services, so that they in turn will bring others to more church services–that’s attendance at church services. And church is not ultimately about attending large gatherings. Church is people. People who live a certain way in the world.”
“…it is very dangerous when a church becomes known for being hip, cool, and trendy. The new humanity is not a trend…A church is where the two people groups with blue hair-young men and older women-sit together and somehow it all fits together in a Eucharistic sort of way. Try marketing that. Try branding that. The new humanity defies trends and demographics and the latest market research. The Eucharist is not a product. Glossy brochures have he potential to do great harm to the body and the blood. Church is people. The Eucharist is people. To to brand that is to risk commodifying something intimate, sacred, and holy.”
“A church is not a center for religious goods and services, where people pay a fee and receive a product in return. A church is not an organization that survey its demographic to find out what the market is demanding at this particular moment and the adjusts its strategy to meet that consumer niche. The way of Jesus is the path of descent. It’s about our death. It’s our willingness to join the world in its suffering. It’s our participation in the new humanity, it’s our weakness calling out to others in their weakness.”
Since this is the season and all, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Ash Wednesday-Good Friday-Easter Sunday tradition a lot.
I have to admit that more often than not, it’s all about Good Friday and the Cross for me. But one thing I’m really realizing this year is that Good Friday without Easter Sunday is like watching a great movie and then shutting it off right before the climax of it hits my eyes; putting the movie away, and saying, “now wasn’t that a great story?!”
I know many people that give things up for Lent. This is a good tradition, I think; giving something up to prepare your heart…to remember His sacrifice. But that’s not the climax of the story. At the height of the story we have Jesus who is alive, walking out of the tomb. And in the end he says, “Look, I am making all things new!”
If Lent and Good Friday are about giving up and sacrifice, being broken and poured out…Easter is about everything being made new and fixed and reconciled and repaired.
Which got me thinking (with help from NT Wright on this one), if I’m giving something up for Lent, shouldn’t I do something new for Easter? Something new that’s about the good and about healing?
My family doesn’t pray for a meal when we sit down in restaurant or other public place. We do pray over a meal in our home, and we usually rotate who prays; but we don’t like to in public. It just doesn’t seem right to us.
If you’ve been around religious people during a meal at a restaurant, you’ve seen it happen. After the server brings out the food, there’s that small window of time before they come back to refill your drinks that you can thank God for the meal you’re about to consume.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the sentiment. I grew up with it. That’s what Christian families do, right? They pray before meals. But what if that’s all it is; just a sentiment? How much meaning is really behind a prayer for a meal in a restaurant? To use a very cheesy line (see previous post): is it about conversation or declaration?
I mean, you’ve got the nice idea of thanking God for the food in one hand, and then you’ve got what Jesus says in Matthew 6 in another. Things like “don’t pray like the hypocrites who do it in their temples and on street corners for all to hear,” or, “don’t babble on and on merely repeating the same words again and again,” but instead He says, “go away by yourself and shut the door behind you.”
The people in the booth next to me don’t need another reason to think that following Jesus is psycho.
Maybe my friends that are sitting next to me at my table who aren’t following Jesus are as uncomfortable as my server, waiting there for me to finish thanking God for my food, and anything else that crosses my mind at the time.
I wonder what my server is thinking as he or she is standing there, waiting for our table to finish praying, so that they can refill my drink.
I wonder if I should bring up the gospel before or after dessert.