I was driving around recently, as I was looking for some shots of Boyne City, and was listening to the podcast from Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, MO. They have been doing a series on some of the prophets in the Old Testament. Which got me to thinking about a few of them, when I felt like we were being given the sign of Jonah (Matt 12:38-42, and Luke 11:29-32), when Jesus was talking to the pharisees. It felt like we are missing the point on the sign of Jonah, if you stop reading a verse too short.
A lot of people stop at the verse that says (from Matt 12:38-42, The Message), “Like Jonah, three days and nights in the fish’s belly, the Son of Man will be gone three days and nights in a deep grave.” And while this is true, there is more to this section, like the next verse: “On Judgment Day, the Ninevites will stand up and give evidence that will condemn this generation, because when Jonah preached to them they changed their lives. A far greater preacher than Jonah is here, and you squabble about ‘proofs.'” Other translations are very similar with the next verse in Matthew about the Ninevites condemning this generation. I think as Stephen Grabill says in a recent Seedbed video, that the church is struggling with not being the dominate force in the culture. So we have become like Jonah. The church currently comes across as loveless, like Jonah, and would rather see our “enemies” destroyed, than repent and be saved.
So many times in my Facebook feed, I see angry Christians with their conservative bent, sharing articles that seem more like they would prefer their enemies smited, than loved in to the kingdom. If you look at Jesus who says, “take up your cross and follow me,” but little do we realize, that if we follow him, we may have to die, literally, to do his will. This may mean to challenge the status quo. However, the church isn’t into challenging it, but rather would put out anyone that doesn’t hold together with the health and wealth gospel (notice that is with a little g) afraid someone is coming for them, when they rarely step out and look at the systemic sins of our society. You know the systemic sins of society, slavery, lack of justice, or when there is justice, lack of mercy. Fear of the foreigner, etc.
I also have liberal friends that would rather that the conservatives be smited, than loved into the kingdom as well. So many times the P.C. bullies talking about microaggressions, while they use just as hurtful and words and tactics on conservatives.
Part of the problem is they all listen and put their faith into the fear mongering stations of the cable news system (and I mean all of them, from MSNBC to Fox News) which constantly spout half true, superficial stories meant to make you cower under your blanket with your guns, if you are conservative, or your drug du jour to numb you if you are liberal. They say they are there to inform you, but they are all accountable to large corporations, bent on making money and if they threaten to pull their money, then stories are whitewashed.
But what do I know…
The first major change in a long time has finally happened, the old house sold. Mary and I signed the papers on Friday (8/6/10) declaring the house is no longer ours. We now just own one house, the one in Boyne Falls. I praise God for that. With that bit of news, there are some negative things that have been happening, as well. I won’t list them here, they are related, and they have been rather heart breaking, in the figurative sense of the word, but change is happening.
It has been a while since I shared about my spirituality. The short version is that I “sense” more than I used to, and reading the Bible has become more revelatory than I used to know. In this case, despite a few of the negatives that have shown up, I got the impression that Jeremiah 30:17 is in play, but only if people will do what Matthew 5:23-24 says. I’m struggling with this, because I feel the need to go to some of the heart breakers and talk to them, because they did hurt me. So, I have been praying. Now, I’m not sure when an answer to this prayer will come, but I heard three pastors a few months ago, that I think God was speaking through, to me, in preparation for this moment.
1. Rob Bell preaching about a Sacred Waste
2. Brian Zahnd preaching about Salt and Light
3. Duane Van Der Klok preaching about Mega Faith
I know that I will have to pour out an offering in figurative terms. That I will have serve those I pray for.
That I will not see an answer right away, even though it looks like nothing will ever happen.
In my RSS reader were these posts from some bloggers that I read. The first was from Don Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz. His post about Let Story Guide You had this excerpt that was rather reminiscent of events here, as of late.
The other problem with real life is it’s hard to tell whether or not you are the bad guy. We all believe we are the good guy or that our words and actions are justified. The other day I lost my temper at a stranger. I really let them have it. I still feel like they deserved it. It was a bully situation in which somebody was being threatened. But I went too far, honestly. I pretty much said things that person will be thinking about for years. I went for the jugular and put him in his place. Or perhaps it went in one ear and out the other, I don’t know. But regardless, I was thinking about that today, and realized that the things I said could be placed word for word into a film in which the character that said it got “what they deserved” at the end and nobody would really care. Stink. Can’t believe I said those things.
I worry about my temper at times when I need to confront things, because I don’t want to end up in this situation. Besides, when I do get angry in an argument, I can’t think clearly enough to make sense. So to combat this I pray. Of course, the book study that I happen to be reading online from theologian Scot McKnight is Psalms. The post that I read about has been Psalms 25:17-22. Here’s his commentary:
The psalmist’s inner heart is in need of relief (v. 17); the psalmist is in trouble and wants forgiveness (v. 18); the psalmist then thinks of his enemies and wants deliverance (v. 19). So he prays for deliverance (20-21).
And then suddenly, the psalmist moves to the People of God: redeem Israel (v. 22).
Read more here.
So the Psalmist is praying just the way I have been feeling, and for the resolution that I believe that we are looking for. That is my prayer tonight…Lord, give strength to reconcile without the anger, heal my broken heart, heal your church, and give me rest. Amen.
My rest is the only thing I can control. That is the one thing I will work on is resting. For these changes have been exhausting.
Okay, maybe dread is a little strong, but the way we celebrate Christmas in the U. S. to me is just wrong. What I mean is this, the church fights about the wrong stuff with this “War on Christmas,” stuff, instead of the problem that is more insidious. Consumerism.
Henry Neufeld, a United Methodist blogger, makes the point that I have been feeling for a long time.
While we’re worried about losing the external trappings of Christmas, such as public trees and manger displays, the real war on Christmas is practically won already. Christmas has almost nothing at all to do with Jesus. This has been my opinion for many years. Christmas as celebrated in America, even in most of our churches, is about us and our economic prosperity, not about Jesus and his good news.
This is something that needs to be taken out of the church. It is hard to extract, but I think that if we extract this consumeristic view of Christmas, we may just get a revival in this land. I think that some of this is happening. It will be a slow process.
Read his whole post.