Thursday, October 28, 2010

here we go again

As the Democrats and Republicans (our mainstays of modern politics) get ready for the election, we see a new party that is not quite so Green Tea-ing off to make a splash. Of course with election drawing near we see the increase of civil debates, thoughtful dialogue, and honest proposals (I almost finished that sentence without laughing).

To be honest the main influencer of how many of us vote is the mudslinging going on in campaigns ads, funded by who knows who. Our politics has been degraded to nothing more than playground squabble, and the winner is the one who can tell the most and the best “Yo mamma jokes.” Essentially we are being told that we should vote for such and such candidate not because he is the best, but because the other candidate is the worst. In the response to the insanity we have people like John Stewart having a rally in D.C. to “Restore Sanity.” There are people pointing figures, money that is being thrown away, and voices rising to the top of their lungs calling America to raise their voice and vote.

If apathy can ever be a good quality it certainly is during election time. It is not that many people do not want to use their God given voice that many have died to protect to choose a leader, it is that there has been no leader to choose for quite some time.

I have followed politics more closely than the average American. I feel that as a pastor it is important to take note of the “leaders” that are being present in our world. I can say that there are some good leaders out there who try to do their best. However, there are many who have lost the essence of what it is to lead.

Jesus told his disciples

24When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, - Matthew 20:24-26.

Too often our leaders and politicians want to win not so they can serve the people, but so the people can serve them. As followers of Christ it is our calling to show true leadership by serving others in love. I think that is why our politics have become so disappointing because it does not matter enough if you have the strongest party, the best idea, or the least amount of scandal, what matters is if you are willing to serve.

On Nov. 2nd there will be another election with winners, and losers. However, this world was not left in the hands of whoever gets the most votes, but Christ left the hands of the world into his disciples and his church. It is our job than, despite the outcome of the election to lead this world through service and love and sharing the message of Jesus Christ. It is the job of the church to serve, to lead, to love, to be the hands and the feet of Jesus.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pure as Coal

After being buried for nearly 70 days the Chilean miners were told that a sufficient tunnel had been drilled to begin taking the miners up above the surface of the earth. For the first time in over two months they would see their families, the sun, breath fresh air, and enjoy a cooked meal. Therefore, when the news of the rescue reached the miners they began fighting about the order of being brought out of the miry dark tomb that had housed them. However, their jockeying for position was not what you may have expected. Instead of arguing who would be the first to taste clean air and enjoy the sights and embrace of loved ones, they fought to be the last one. Now the difference between the first and the last was not a matter of minutes but of hours. What would cause 30 plus who had lived by the light of the miner’s helmet to put others before themselves? We are told that in survival situations humans become instinctual like animals, and it becomes survival of the fittest, yet here we see something different happening.

Such a reversal of expected behavior has led many reporters, commentators, and bloggers scrounging for answers. Some have humorously suggested that if you lived in Chile, a residency in a buried coal cavern is a better option than the political and economic chaos of their country. Some have suggested that there was some questionable behavior happening among the miners and that is why they wanted to stay to enjoy the crude behavior they were indulging in the cave.

I do not know the miners, I do not know their theology or faith, but what if their fight to be last was rooted in something deeper than fear of going back to every day Chilean life, or improper behavior? What if their desire to let others go first was based nothing other than in humility and in love?

Jesus’ disciples were caught more than on one occasion trying to win a favorable position with their rabbi. They had their own power rankings for who they that was #1 on Jesus’ list among the disciples. Jesus made it clear in Matthew 20:25-28 when he said that the great must be a servant and the first must be a slave. Perhaps the Chilean miners simply understood 1 John 3:16:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

Whether that verse was known to them or not, we see the foreman especially showing true leadership and love, by not being first, but by being last. The foreman who kept the miners alive by rationing their food supply, the foreman who kept their spirits alive with his courage, made the decision that he was going to have the most noblest of positions by being the last one brought up. By making himself last he made himself first in our hearts and in the hearts of Jesus.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Is Westboro Church Southbound?

Just when you think the smoldering fires (fueled by Korans) of embarrassingly hateful churches have simmered down, Westboro Baptist Church based in Topeka Kansas has made headlines because of their hate mongering and their inappropriate and malicious protests.  They have decided that it would be a good idea to stand outside cemeteries whenever a dead soldier comes home to be buried and stage a protest against homosexuality.  While to the rational observer dead soldiers and judgment against homosexuality may not go together, but the members at Westboro are anything but rational.  They believe that God is punishing the country for our openness to homosexuality by killing soldiers (Which makes about as much sense as punishing your oldest child because the youngest one has bad grades).  They shout slogans, and hold signs that say “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “you are going to hell” and the even sing songs (and I shudder to think what songs they would see as appropriate for the occasion). 
Westboro Baptist seems to follow the wisdom “ they will know we are Christians by our hateful judgments that prevent you from grieving in the midst of tragedy.” However, I prefer the original adage by Jesus himself which says :

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Let us see if Westboro is following the main tenant of Jesus which is love. Does love mean praising God for dead young men and women…no. Does love mean preventing people to grieve at the loss of a child…no.

First of all Jesus gets more frustrated at people's self righteous judgment than he ever does at their sexual misconduct. While both are dangerous and problematic, Jesus saves his worse condemnation for the Pharisees whom have a knack for condemning...well everybody. Second it is extremely dangerous to say you are speaking for God “by saying God is killing soldiers because of homosexuality” when God has never given you those words to say. Third, we find out from 1 Corinthians 13 that we are nothing without love. Westboro church is nothing. I am not saying Westboro is going to Hell, it is not my decision, and that would make me guilty of their sin, I am just asking if we can act better than this? In Revelation 2:4 the church of Ephesus is chastised for being a loveless church. I think we need to ask Westboro “where is the love.”

You may think homosexuality is wrong, you may think the wars that are being fought are wrong (war is never good, and never won), you may think playing go fish with a deck of cards is straight from the pits of hell, however, if it is ethics and right behavior we are worried about it is time we stop worrying about the speck, and start concentrating of the logs in peoples eyes (funny expression but comes from the mouth of Jesus in Matthew 7:3-5).

We need to focus on the most important ethics which is love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40) because everything in our life is based on how we do with these two.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Locked Out

Imagine if you can, being locked out of acceptance. Imagine walking up to the doors of your church and having the entry blocked and even locked at your arrival. Upset and furious you decided you will worship somewhere else only to find out that all churches and houses of God refuse to allow your entry. How devastating, upsetting, furious would you be? How is the feeling of being rejected indefinitely from a place that worships the name of a gracious God? Would you blame yourself, would you blame others, the world, or would you blame God?

Imagine that you are also part of a society and nation that has locked you out. You have no rights. No voting booth, no representation, a corrupted justice system, and a hatred for your practices. You are promised no jobs, no help of unemployment, no constitution promising your right to happiness, no declaration of the exercise of freedom. You live in a nation where you simply obey, or are punished.

Locked out of your faith, and locked out of your country, this was the reality for early 1st century Christians. The choice was either to accept Christ and be denied everything else, or accept everything else, but deny Christ. For those who knew, followed, and chose Christ, they knew the risks involved. They counted up the cost and saw that everything was a loss considering the surpassing greatness of Jesus (Philippians 3:8). There was no compromise; Jesus had to be everything because they had nothing else left.

Today we can have Jesus and rights, and a voters card, representation, assistance, citizenship, justice, and acceptance. We live with this notion that Jesus does not demand us to give up anything and therefore we make the mistake of diminishing the value of Christ. Earlier followers had to trust and acknowledge that Jesus could take care of everything, today we can say we believe in Jesus but live with the delusional idea that we ourselves can take care of everything. We do not rely on Jesus because we are mistakenly convinced that we can rely on ourselves. We have effectively eliminated the sense of need for our creator; even Stephen Hawking articulated that there was no need for God the creator.

We must open our eyes and make the honest decision that Jesus is either our everything or he is nothing. Jesus must be the whole and complete truth, or an utter complete lie. Jesus must leave us completely fulfilled or we must say he fails to satisfy.

There is only Jesus. He is the bread of life and he does fulfill (John 6:35). Jesus is the complete truth, way and life, there is nothing else (John 14:6). He is everything the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). Try to toss everything else away, and you will find that you have so much more.

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ        - Philippians 3:8