Hope Springs Eternal II

Helton stays, the axis of the earth has not shifted. The Rockies may not be any better this year than last but just thinking about watching the sun set over the Rocky Mountains beyond left field next summer will make facing the frozen tundra that is outside my windows today will be just a little bit easier.

Peace like a river…

The river/stream/creek/rivulet has provided writers with a grand source of metaphor for centuries. It flows from the mystery of its source, passing out of our sight to vanish into the sands or to empty itself anonymously into a larger body of life. When hymnists borrowed the phrase from Isaiah they brought to the celebration a beautiful metaphor for the peace that humanity can enjoy through the Spirit. Peace does not inhabit a man or woman in whole all at once, but it flows from its divine source to wash over day to day life, constantly refreshing the soul with a never ending supply of tranquility. Our mission is to remember that we were not meant to be the basin into which the river of peace empties; it is meant to flow through and over us into the larger basin of the world carrying our contribution to others in desperate need of peace. Can your peace nourish someone today? 

Peace in the midst of conflict

Peace is most often thought of as the absence of conflict and the Bible includes this definition. When peace is referred to as a fruit of the spirit though, it has a different connotation. Here it references a lack of internal axiety which is replaced by a state of tranquility amidst the external chaos of the world. The red letters say it best in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” As we live in the middle of madness (to steal an old Earthquake song) the source of our calm is our connection to the Peacemaker. Can you help another know this same peace today?

Peace is the word, is the word, is the word…

My sermon today was on Peace, as we talk in our celebration gatherings about the fruit of the spirit. My text was from Philippians 4 but it dawned on me at about 22 minutes in that what I should have been talking about was the Beatitude in Matthew 5:9 where the red letters say Blessed are the peacemakers. I wondered on the way home what I had done this past week to contribute to someone else’s peace. Had my fruit been ready for harvest? Was I willing to give someone else the benefit of my fruit in order for them to gain a measure of tranquility or did I hoard it all for myself? My prayer for this week will be for my eyes to be opened to opportunities in peacemaking. How about you?

Having the Theologians Stoned

C. Peter Wagner has a rather controversial proposal for ridding the world of the unscriptural office of theologian in the Jan/Feb issue of Ministry Today (excerpt here). His argument is twofold: one, the office is not listed in the Ephesians 4:11 leadership list and two, declaring the position of theologian risks the further division of laity and leadership. While the article uses vignettes mainly drawn from his experience in academia, Wagner is not shy about calling for the Church as a whole to do away with this unecessary oracle/interpreter.

This would be fine if all members of the body were to devote themselves fully to the division of the Word, having a full understanding of the development and backgrounds of competing schools of interpretation and doctrine, but it seems unlikely. The pastor and teacher office are the most likely to take up the theologian mantle when the first stone flies but then, doesn’t this make them theologians? I’m not quite ready to give up the wisdom and research of those who have devoted themselves to the study of the intricacies of God’s Word as I would prefer to convert their work into application which can serve my congregation and our community.

Getting Stoned with Savages

How exactly doeSavagess one develop a taste for a gently singed piece of human flesh? Perhaps it tastes different when washed down with a shell of especially bitter kava. To discover the answer to this pressing question and others (how big can a human foot get when bitten by a centipede) you’ve got to throw your shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops into a backpack and venture to the South Pacific archipelagoes of Vanuatu or Fiji. If that jaunt is not in the cards for the foreseeable future, you can pick up J. Maarten Troost’s Getting Stoned with Savages for a recounting of his burgeoning family’s adventures as they resettle into island life.

While serving as a PSA warning against the obviously addictive qualities of kava, an island intoxicant with mysteriously hallucinatory effects, the humorous story is filled with extended vignettes of South Pacific life. Troost is no stranger to island life, having recounted a previous stay on Tarawa before moving back to city life in the United States in his book The Sex Lives of Cannibals. Even so, the transition from Washington D.C. to Vanuatu serves to deromanticize the island life. This is not a journey into the heart of darkness surrounded by hotel bars, nicely tiled swimming pools, and gently swaying palm trees. Rather, it is the reality of muddy roads, shark filled lagoons that slyly beckon the swimmer in, forays into the village kingdoms of various chiefs, and of course, kava enhanced sunset watching.

Troost has an O’Rourkean twist to his humor, bringing his encounters with people and events to life for the reader without the ugly cynicism of so many who long for the hipster travel-food-entertainment-writer label. He is as likely to befriend the locals as he is to find himself making cultural faux paus that build walls (apparently it is in poor taste to hoist your new baby aloft and claim him as your chief, go figure!) The island nations will not be distributing this book as a vacation advertisement but you and I can travel vicariously through it. Oh, and be discerning on Fiji when proposing a date…

Raising TULIPs II

I wonder if the monergism/synergism debate even needs to occur. In the long run, who really cares except those who engage for fun or profit in the theological underpinnings of the Christian faith? Pastors, professors, and prognosticators have a vested interest in taking a position on one theological system or the other but the effect on the young man who will sit in the front row this Sunday morning is what I’m most concerned about. Does he care? Should he care? 

Paul writes twice in his letter to the Philippians on the profitability of putting aside theological debate for the good of the Church. In 1:15 – 18 he muses about his imprisoned state and the free ability of others to preach Christ for their own personal gain. With sincerity in view, Paul raises his shackled arms wide and says, who cares who preaches the gospel, so long as it gets preached. The motivation behind the act is dismissed as long as Christ gets the glory. 

In 3:15 – 16 Paul moves the debate from the terrestrial to the heavenly by saying that theological discourse will eventually be resolved by God himself. Can we, in our ‘free will’, release the grace debate to God to be sorted out? If we place Christ and His Church above our need to self-identify the result might be an additional skip in our step as we labor in our portion of the Missio Dei. Just thinking…