Friday, April 29, 2011

fairytale marriages

I hope the best for the new royal couple, for sure.  I whispered a quick prayer that this ceremony is not something they view as an "arrival", but rather a beginning.  (I think that was actually in the message from Diana's wedding.)  But looking through the transcripts of what was to be said, I realize how "traditional" the ceremony seemed.  The name "Jesus" spoken many times, and credit given to God as creator, asking God to bless their marriage, and that they would live "through Jesus", etc.  I suppose the main "non-traditional" element echoes the last royal wedding, in Princess Kate not wanting to promise to "obey" the Prince.  All the religious talk is a bit surprising for a European "trendy wedding", unless you consider the throne is also the head of the Church of England.

But what we see in the royal couple is, unfortunately, a microcosm (10 points if you can use that word this week) of what weddings and marriages often become these days.  As seen in a quick confirmation of Kate last month, and the fact that neither she nor her parent were actively involved in a church previously, it seems the role as head of the Church of England may hopefully be the catalyst that moves this marriage toward a foundation in Christ.

It seems like many of our weddings (and marriage relationships, for us already-weds) are a fancy/fairytale way of making the statement: "God, please bless this thing we've been doing, and we're going to do with or without you."  Instead of saying:  "God, please show up and move, because we cannot make two become one without you."

Prince William and Princess Kate had been living together since mid-2010.  Minus the obligational references to God, this ceremony seems to simply be the beginning of their official economic and royal partnership.  Many of us, similarly, go days, weeks, and sometimes longer in our marriage relationships without acknowledging the need for Jesus to be regularly present if this thing is going to be more than just two people making a family together.

It's no mistake that the relationship between husband and wife connects so deeply with the picture of Christ and the Church.  God desires to reveal Himself to and through us.  But just as the Church without the Holy Spirit can easily become simply an optimistic Jesus-club...a marriage without an active foundation in Christ can easily become two people who live together.

And so, as we high-five our friends across the seas and talk about how beautiful the ceremony was....we are at the same time challenged to invite Christ to be actively involved in our courtships, engagements, weddings, and marriages.  May His presence bring transformation and new life in ways we could never accomplish on our own...

Monday, April 25, 2011

how do you look?

This past week for Easter, we heard from John chapter 20. Mary has returned to find the tomb empty. She brings Peter and John back with her, and they leave after seeing what she has described. She remains, weeping.

She sees two angels, who ask her why she is weeping. She tells them, she doesn't know where "they" have taken the body of her Lord. As she continues to weep, Jesus enters the scene, and asks her why she weeps.

The scripture tells us she "turns" and sees Jesus, but doesn't realize it's him. She gives the same response as with the angels. We can imagine, knowing how someone sobbing with tears would respond to a curious onlooker behind her. A casual glance of acknowledgement, and she continues to weep. After all, what solace could this person offer?

But everything changes, when Jesus speaks her name. "Mary." No doubt spoken gently. Spoken in a way that communicates things like "I'm right here." in a loving, joy-filled, and gently spoken way. A way Jesus has spoken to her before, and called her by name. Immediately as her name is spoken, she knows this is no gardener. No random cemetery caretaker. No traveler wandering through. This is Jesus. Rabbi. Lord.

How often do we give Jesus the precursory "glance" over the shoulder? Assuming He can offer nothing to our current situation. Assuming this "Christianity", "Church", "Bible", "Worship", or whatever is just another thing going on in the background of a life that really matters. A life where genuine existence is painful. Where we experience loss. Mourning. Grief. Frustration. A world that too often, we don't actually bring before God expecting anything other than what we'd hope for from the gardener.  Glancing at Jesus from the corner of our eyes, while we remain fixed on whatever pain, challenge, or even blessing and joy we've found ourselves in the midst of.

But to us, this week and beyond, Jesus remains present. Not silent. He calls out our name, waiting for us to turn completely to him, realizing just who this is beside us.  For us to recognize and look to Him as Lord, Teacher, Savior, and receive all that the resurrection offers us and our world.

It seems to ask us the question - how are we looking at Jesus?   It could radically transform what happens next...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Would you read this? (Pass it on)

Trying to collect a few comments, or a few thousand, to twist the arm of a publisher to take notice of a book worth putting out there. Spread it to your friends like a toddler spreads snot.....:)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

paradise.

Luke 23:43 "Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

In our Good Friday service later this week, different people have been asked to give a 3 or 4 minute thought on the 7 last words of Jesus Christ.  The verse here is what I've been asked to speak on.  I'd love to do a fuller fleshing out of so much that is packed in here, but for time/worship purposes, will probably end up reading a poem-thing I'm writing from it.

I've posted on the topic before, mainly copying from an interview where NT Wright spoke on the difference between "heaven" as we think of it, and where we believe God is ultimately taking/directing all things toward.  As seen in the above verse, we do not believe that "paradise" is the final resting place for either Jesus or the man hanging on the cross next to him. 

1 Thessalonians 4:16 reminds us that "the dead in Christ will rise", which means even those who have already passed from life as we know it, await further happenings.  But the verse mentioned from Luke assures us they are not simply stored away somewhere, frozen in time.  We believe, and scriptures point to an existence for those who have passed away, that is fully present with Christ, described as "paradise", and yet still waiting for God to complete His work fully.  That is, the work of bringing a New Heaven and a New Earth together, married in a way that all things have become new.  Those who have died, and those living, will receive new "resurrection" bodies (similar to the existence we see in the resurrected Christ).

So what is it like in paradise?

The word used here, denotes a place of rest and refreshing.  A garden-like place.  But we read this verse from a different vantage point than the man hanging next to Christ.  He knew what "paradise" meant, but may not have known who Jesus was.  We lack a first-hand knowledge of what Jesus means by "paradise", but we know who Jesus is.  It is enough for us, to know what where we rest between death and resurrection, is in the full presence of Jesus Christ.  Whether we play hockey and drink coffee, tend a garden, or float around in orbs of light - obviously I have opinions and preferences....but I'm not too worried...

It's kinda neat to know that whatever he's up to....great great great grandpa and I are both anxiously awaiting the full arrival of God's complete renewal of all things. (great great great grandma too, for that matter)

Monday, April 18, 2011

moved.

Rewind the clock about 7 months.  We've got a flat tire, and I'm looking around at options to see how much it'd cost to simply make the van "drivable".  In the midst of this, my wife calls me to say a house she really loved has come down in price recently, and she wants to know if we could go look at it together.  I will pause here to tell you - looking at houses is definitely NOT a hobby of mine.  But I love my wife.  She bears with me during playoff season, and I walk through a house once in a great while.  I mustered up as much cynical love as possible to say, "Sure hun, let's find out how much we owe to get new tires, and if it's not too depressing, we'll go walk through a house with no expectations." :)  I figured I was off the hook. 

Through the kindness of a church friend, we had 2 used but good condition tires installed free of charge.  His actual words - "Go take your family out for lunch."  Yes sir.  But little did he know the wheels he was used to set in motion.

We looked at the house.  I'll admit, it was pretty sweet.  Almost twice as much room.  A dining room.  Sidewalks for the girls.  Neighbors that were extra neighborly.  Closets as big as small rooms.  A fireplace.  But to try and sell our house in this market?   To try and increase our mortgage even slightly on our fixed one-income budget?  Again, with cynicism, I agreed we would put our house on the market, and see if this house might be work-out-able. 

Time passed.  Our contingency offer expired, and they wouldn't sign a second one.  Someone else made an offer and they accepted.  They were working toward closing.

That closing never happened, and the house was back on the market.  Sarah was leaving for the Philippines.  Maybe when she got back to the States, we'd figure out some way to put fliers up around town, you know, really ramp up our sales techniques.  But while she was gone, someone wanted to walk through.  Decided we may as well show even though it's probably another "no thanks".  Then an offer came. 

Picture taken in early Fall 2010
We began working it all out on paper, and honestly didn't know exactly where the dust would settle.  But here we are, paying $10 less each month for our mortgage, for soooo much more house.  (Interest rates CAN be your friend.)  Still a lot of unpacking to do.  Still quite a few things on our lists to make it "home".  Definitely some projects around the house.  But we still can't believe how it has all come together. 

I hear stories like this, and people say "But we prayed, and then..."  I will not claim to bend the heart of God that He should act in our favor.  But I also cannot deny that we gave every step of this, including our financial frustrations from the very beginning, in His hands.  If anything, maybe he's a bit taken by our kids.  They are pretty stinkin' cute.  Thanks God. 

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

the end is not the end.

This past week we heard from Romans 6:15-23, and Pastor brought a message focused on "Living in all that God has for us: Holiness". It was a great reminder that there are basically two paths ahead of us:

1. Living for ourselves (either selfishly (which includes the "who cares/whatever" realm), or even un-selfish humanism), which allows us to be free from "righteousness", but also leads ultimately to death. Obviously, whether due to selfish desires being unbalanced, or due to human efforts ultimately only being able to accomplish a limited amount. 

2. Living obediently in Christ. This leads to righteousness (things being put right, and happening the way God designed), which leads to holiness (being set apart for God's use/purposes). Obviously we cannot expect for "all things" to be put right in our own time/effort, but as Christians we live toward the expectation that we join God in what He is actively doing and will bring to completion.

Ancient Greek philosophy isn't too far removed from what goes on in many hearts and minds today. The word "telos" means "goal, purpose, result/outcome". Many of ancient times, through today are giving thought to the goal, purpose, or intended result of our actions and lives.

So what is the "telos" of choice number one here?  Death (Rom. 6:21).  Not something simple, like being dead.  Not the time-bound activity of dying.  But death itself.  Misery, brokenness, and separation from God.  We mourn that many will actually choose this, either out of selfish desire for pleasure, or a chosen desire to deny any need for the existence of God as loving "other".

What of the "telos" for choice number two?  Eternal Life.  (Rom. 6:22).  Not something simple, like life that becomes invincible.  Not the time-bound activity of living forever from now on.  But life itself.  Stretching in more dimensions than linear time, and more powerful simply by definition than any walls or boundaries.  We not only hope toward this, but are already being transformed by this life that is breaking through our world today. 

So how does that impact our lives today?

We make decisions on a daily basis, both for what we will be about, and for what our families will be about.  May we make choices obedient to the Truths revealed in the Word and the Living Word of Jesus Christ.  It may not always be received well to a world built on choosing "death"...in fact, it may very well lead to our death (both literal and symbolic).  But even if it ends in such a death, we believe in the promise that we share in the Resurrected Life of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23).

May our end be His end in the end...:)