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On July 21, 2009

The Death of Death

One of the central things about the miracles of Jesus, the things that most New Testament writers try to point out, is that what Jesus was doing, was about something bigger than what Jesus was doing.

It was for this reasons that John calls Jesus’ miracles signs.

Signs that point away from what is currently happening to a larger reality. For example, when Jesus heals people in the gospels, the majority of the time they are people who were not just sick or hurting, they were suffering from a specific kind of sickness or hurt. One that would exclude them from being a part of the community i.e. leprosy, or bleeding diseases, or even blindness or paralysis.

But what about death? Did you ever wonder why the gospels (every one of them) make sure and tell us that Jesus raised people from the dead?

It would seem, according to popular Christian theology that raising someone from the dead is the last thing that God would want to do. If what God is really up to is about escaping this current reality to a place with pearly gates manned by a picky St. Peter, than why would Jesus care at all about bringing people back to this place?

In John 11, Jesus is a bit too late to heal his good friend Lazarus. A tardiness that he explains later as a God-ordained opportunity to show these people something about what God is up to. Lazarus has passed away and has been wrapped and buried for four days. Jesus, the consummate funeral-wrecker, pays no attention to the etiquette of burial and requests that the stone of his tomb be rolled away.

Now I don’t care how popular of a preacher/minister you are, try going up to a hurting family days after their loved one is gone and asking for him to be unburied…it’s not going to end well. And Martha, ever the pragmatist, points out to Jesus that her brother Lazarus by this point will stink.

But Jesus insists. The stone is rolled away. Lazarus is called forth, and he comes out grave clothes and all. But what is missing from the end of this story?

The very thing that they were worried about no one mentions.

Lazarus doesn’t smell.

I think Jesus not only has the power over death, but over the effects of death. The sign is pointing us toward the truth that death and it’s symptoms have to bow to the voice of God. The decomposition of Lazarus was stayed, or reversed, but however it happened it was eliminated.

When we talk about the hope that the New Testament holds out, for us to talk about Heaven as the final place is to miss out on the beautiful truth of the power of God over the effects of death.

That every inch of the cosmos is still God’s.

That from the oak trees to Saturn’s rings, from Montana to Bombay every aspect of this Creation belongs to Him. And while she may groan for now, waiting to be set free, there is not a single part of this world that will not be liberated from her grave clothes.

The sign that Jesus points to isn’t away from this creation but toward a new and liberated version of it. One that has been emptied from the effects of death.

That’s why I think the stories of Jesus raising people from the dead are so significant. If Jesus would have acted like what many Christians tend to think about death, he would have simply eulogized the dead, he might of had stood in front of the tomb and spoke about a “better place” or talked of a distant day when we rejoined Lazarus in the sweet by and by.

But he didn’t. He called him back to this place.

But, you may say, Lazarus still died. He eventually had to go through that whole process again, and maybe that’s why Jesus wept. Because for now it was just a sign. One that pointed beyond the current state of the world to another day.

A day where all things are set right.

A day where nothing stinks.

A day in which death itself, will die.

On July 19, 2009

Rich Where It Counts

Diversions #3 Rich Where It Counts John D. Rockefeller’s was asked once “How much is enough?” His answer was classic…”One more dollar.” We have this insatiable appetite for more. But what if more isn’t actually measured in dollars and cents? What if there was a wealth that didn’t involve accumulating but releasing?

On July 14, 2009

The Danger of Distance

I just finished writing a teaching about the Rich, Young Ruler for the weekend, probably one of my favorite and least favorite passages of the Bible. It’s my favorite when I’m talking about other people. But it’s getting harder and harder to make it about somebody else.

The same week that I was chewing on this story, we discovered that we have foundation problems on our house, our roof needs to be repaired, and our ceiling just started caving in.

We have some housing issues to say the least.

So I’m living in these two worlds for the last week. One is the word of Jesus to this man to sell what he has and be generous. And the other is the crumbling of my little empire. And then this week something interesting struck me. A roof problem is a rich person problem. Having bad foundation is a rich person problem.

I’m grumbling about the stuff that I have that is falling apart, skipping right over the recognition that I have this stuff. That’s the problem with being rich. We rich people don’t consider always know we’re rich, we compare ourselves to the person who has a little bit more than us, not the majority of the world who barely has a portion of what we have.

So last week I have this profound realization where I am mowing and preaching in my head, and it struck me. I’m probably as rich as the Rich, young ruler was.

He lived in a time, and place of oppressed people and deep poverty. So rich was a relative term for them. He probably had quite a bit of stuff, but I bet it’s not as much as we thought.

This is kind of indicative for us of how I/we read the Bible. It doesn’t matter how many times I hear a preacher say that the Rich man was probably a good guy, we would have liked him, made him an elder etc. I still try and demonize him in my head.

And the reason I think that I/we do this is profound.

It’s because we want distance.

If we can just separate ourselves from this guy, than Jesus isn’t talking to us.

If there is one thing I have learned from teaching and preaching, as well as just personally following Jesus it’s this: the implications of the gospel are dangerous, and not always popular.

So we develop these hermeneutical loop holes to prevent us from really listening.

Remember what the Israelites tell Moses when they first meet God on the mountain. They say, “Moses, you speak to us, but don’t make us get close to Him, or we will die.”

Keep us at a distance.

Which I think may just be the unspoken request of many pulpit committees. Keep us informed but don’t get us too close.

I like the way that Soren Kierkegaard says this:

“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obligated to act accordingly.Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.”

The truth is that I am the Rich, Young Ruler. And you might be too.

And maybe that recognizes that is the first step to hearing the words of Jesus again. Not just as something that was said thousands of years ago to someone else. But something that Jesus is saying, right now, to us.

I know that following Jesus can be dangerous. That has always been true.

But maybe the greater danger is in keeping a safe distance. We can fool ourselves into thinking that what it means to be a Christian involves only pew-sitting, and 10%. We can trick ourselves into thinking the abundant life happens just an hour a week and then wonder why God doesn’t seem very real.

But the person who never steps out in faith, never takes a step closer, might never learn the joy that comes from watching God squeeze a camel through the eye of a needle.

On July 6, 2009

The Heresy of Love

So Rick just finished up a series on the book of 1st John, and if you were going to summarize that book in one sentence it’s pretty easy…God is love, so love each other.

It’s not even a long sentence.

And John repeats this simple idea over and over again in different ways. For John, someone who spent some years with Jesus, you could boil down what it meant to follow Jesus into the simple call to love your brother because God is love. But he’s not the only one. Paul gives love an entire chapter, Jesus says all the law and the prophets (or the entire Hebrew Scriptures) hang or revolve around this simple idea to love God, and love others.

Scot Mcknight has a book called the Jesus Creed, in which he describes coming to this simple, but profound realization. That love really was what following Jesus was all about. And so he would just repeat this mantra everytime he thought of it. Love God, and love others.

He found himself doing it about 50 and 60 times a day. And he said something that I think is interesting, he said that he knows now why we tend to gravitate toward the rules of the Bible, because the commandments are easier to follow than that simple creed. They can keep a safe distance from you and God, or you and others. But if you are called to love God and others, that’s a whole different story.

During the whole Reformation period, the church was battling different points of doctrinal disagreements. Protestants had just broken with the Roman Catholic church and were trying to navigate what it meant to be a follower of Jesus without the structures of authority defining that for them.

And all kinds of different ideas were emerging that were slightly…out there.

One guy named Michael Servetus had this idea that Jesus as the Son of God, wasn’t eternal. It wasn’t an idea that was looked kindly upon by the emerging leaders of the Protestant faith, and so eventually John Calvin had Michael Servetus burned at the stake for heresy.

That’s John Calvin. The guy that Calvinism is named after (also Calvin and Hobbes…no joke).

So here’s a man who knows the Scriptures extremely well, brilliant thinker, deeply devoted to the Lord and to the church. And he had a man burned at the stake for heresy.

Greg Boyd makes a great point on this issue. He asks, “If we are thinking Biblically, how can we not conclude that Calvin was the greater heretic? Burning someone alive is not loving them, doing good to them or blessing them (Lk 6:27-28, 35). And without love, whatever other truth Calvin may have been defending becomes worthless. If we’re thinking biblically, how can we avoid concluding that Calvin was not only a worse heretic than Servetus, but that he committed the greatest heresy imaginable?”

Which is a bit of a touchy question.

Augustine was the first Christian to justify persecution in the name of Jesus, and since then millions of people were tortured or killed for their heretical beliefs, whether it was their beliefs on communion, baptism, or the nature of Jesus. But not one person in church history was persecuted because they lacked love.

I think that the Church that carried out these acts in the name of Jesus was much more heretical than all the heretics it persecuted. They bought into the lie that as long as you don’t mess with what we put our faith and hope in, then we don’t care about the heresy of not loving.

There are all kinds of heresy’s that are out there right now. Some people believe that Jesus is going to build a spaceship and take us to another galaxy (which is a relatively new heresy) some say that Jesus is their homeboy, or that you can earn forgiveness. The world is filled with heresy.

But the greatest of these is love.

On June 30, 2009

The Hole In Our Gospel

Richard Stearns was the C.E.O. of a major fine dining silverware company called Lenox. He went to church, gave toward missions, lived in a ten bedroom mansion on several acres, and drove a Porsche XS-T. He was the successful Christian business man.

And then one day he got a call from World Vision, a Christian non-profit organization, and everything changed.

World Vision works to eliminate the most desperate poverty from the world. And they were asking for Richard to come be their President. As you might imagine the job would pay considerably less, their family would have to relocate, and he would be forced to travel the world spending time with the “least of these.”

The irony of going from selling fine dinner ware to working for people who couldn’t even eat was not lost on Richard. And he bills himself as anything but a saint. He told the people at World Vision no several times but eventually the question that won him over was “what if there are hungry children who would be able to live because you accept this job?”

The Hole in Our Gospel is one of the most convicting books I have ever read. It’s written with us in mind. Americans who are rich, but don’t think they are. It’s not a manifesto of guilt. Repeatedly Stearns points out that guilt isn’t productive. He refers to a modern phenomenon called, compassion fatigue. So instead he paints a picture of what the world could look like if the people of God started to recognize the implications of their own gospel.

The book is filled with great stories of the power of the gospel juxtaposed against some pretty prophetic stuff about the danger of riches being used only for the wealthy. For Example:

“The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not,
as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of
a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the
rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied…but
written off as trash.” -John Berger

“We can be the generation that no longer accepts that an
accident of latitude determines whether a child lives or
dies–But will we be that generation? Fifteen thousand
people dying needlessly every day from AIDS, TB, and
malaria. Mother, father, teachers, nurses, mechanics,
children. This is Africa’s crisis. That it’s not on the nightly
news, that we do not treat this as an emergency–that’s
our crisis.” -Bono

I am thankful to be at a church that 60% of her income goes to outside of herself. That is to serve the community. I think it’s why I love RHCC so much. But Stearns has a pretty great point in this book about the typical American church. Pastors bellyache that the average parishioner only gives 2.5% of their income to tithes. But did you know that the average church only gives 2-5% of her income to outside of herself? That is that 2% of 2% of American Christians wealth goes to the people who need it! That’s less that 6 pennies a day from the average American Christian.

We can do better than that.

We have to do better than that.

And this, Stearns points out, is the hole in our gospel.

The gospel isn’t about just getting people into Heaven, it is, and always has been about God’s reign coming here on earth. And any gospel that misses that, has a gaping hole in it.

So Richard Stearns takes the job. And in the first couple of months he’s climbing up a tiny mountain in Argentina, where a lone house in built. As soon as he enters the house a woman starts hysterically crying and smiling. She begins to speak to him in a language he doesn’t understand. After the translator catches up, Richard realizes that this woman just lost her husband. She has five kids and their husband, just before his death, had incurred $300 of debt to buy some sheep.

Now $300 is a lot of money for this woman. And to make matters worse a mysterious livestock illness has started taking her sheep, her only income, one at a time.

And with every sheep this woman buries, she knows she is also burying her little family.

And then Richard Stearns, the former C.E.O. of a silverware company shows up. Once the woman has caught him up to speed on her story, she tells him something interesting. She says that for the past year she has been praying for God to send her someone. Someone who can help her family not to die.

And in that moment, God speaks to Richard Stearns. He tells him this is why I brought you to World Vision. You could have said no, but you didn’t.

And now you are the answer to this woman’s prayers.

Doesn’t that sound like a gospel you could live for?

On June 25, 2009

The Day The Music Died

I still remember the day that the doors opened of the back of the church building, Leslie walked down in a white dress with her father, our friends and family stood beside me watching her draw toward me.

And she did it all to a Michael Jackson song.

Seriously. The song was Speechless, the cello came in at just the right moment, Jackson’s voice ran the spectrum, and the whole moment was…thrilling.

I’ve spent the last few hours writing a funeral for Saturday, a very good man passed away this last week, and his funeral seemed to write itself. So it’s personally ironic on a day that I am very focused on death both Farrah Fawcett and the king of pop have passed away. I’m watching CNN’s take on this whole thing and listening to how different fans are reacting. Some seem hysterical, some of them are nostalgic, and some are moonwalking.

Death, no matter how natural it’s causes, always feels unnatural.

The very moment I heard about Michael Jackson’s death I was reading this quote by N.T. Wright, and since it’s so appropriate I’ll pass it on in it’s entirety here.

“1 Corinthians 15:58 says, ‘What you do in the Lord is not in vain.’ You are not
oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not
restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are
not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site. You
are- strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection
itself–accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new
world. Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music
inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every
minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or walk; every act
of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and
for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer,
all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church,
embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of
Jesus honored in all the world—all of this will find its way, through the
resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make.
That is the logic of the mission of God.”

Or in other words, whatever is beautiful, creative, in line with the way that God intended for the world to be that stuff is going to last forever.

Now I am not saying that everything that MJ did will last forever (just the stuff from the 80’s) but I think this is really central to understanding how big what God did through Jesus actually is. That there is not a single particle of creation that God is going to allow to be lost. And the things that we do while we are here that is inline with His New Creation project goes on forever.

That the songs that we sing that are in harmony with what God is up to last forever.

This has to change the way not just the way we think about death, but how we think about life. What we spend our days on, the work that we busy ourselves with, the relationships that we cultivate, and the songs that we sing.

Michael Jackson made a difference in this world. I grew up listening to his music as did most of my peers. And yeah, he did some weird stuff, and yeah he had some shady moments, but maybe, hopefully, some of his stuff will last forever.

Because I really like Beat It.

On June 24, 2009

The Middle of Marriage

So about a year ago, Leslie started watching that show, “John and Kate plus 8.” She doesn’t like to watch T.V. that much, but that show became like crack for her. Now, I am assuming that the less estrogen-prone among us probably don’t watch the show, but whether you watch the show or not, chances are you’ve probably heard about the drama surrounding that family.

Last night they announced their pending divorce, and the fans of the nation felt a sense of collective disappointment. At least the ones I am Facebook friends with did. Maybe it was because they had fallen in love with that little family, maybe it was because it brought back memories from their own family history, or maybe it was because there is a sense that divorce, no matter who is to blame, is always a tragedy.

I was trying to count the other day how many weddings I have done in my five years of ministry. I couldn’t recall, but a couple dozens times I have stood in front of a couple and led them through vows they said to each other, to God, and to their friends and family. I couldn’t remember the number of weddings, but I had no problem remembering how many were divorced.

I always wonder, where did I fail them, what counseling did we miss, how could I have equipped them for the bumps of sharing life with someone better. It’s made my pre-marital counseling more intense. I am now the Nazi version of Dr. Phil.

I was listening to NPR last week, when a guy came on who had just written a book on marriage in America. He said that a child who is raised by two non-married parents in Sweden is more likely to be raised by those same parents through adulthood than a baby born to married parents in the U.S.

Disturbing, I know.

When he was asked why divorce was so prevalent in America, he gave an interesting answer. He said it’s because there are two philosophies of marriage that are bouncing around in the average citizens head. When someone is asked, “Should a couple ever be divorced for any reason, outside of infidelity, physical or sexual abuse?” The overwhelming majority of them said never.

But when that same person was asked, later on in the interview, using a different wording, “If a person was unhappy in a given marriage should they get a divorce?” They said yes.

So never, under any circumstances, get a divorce. Unless you are sad.

Now, I am not belittling the pain that comes with some marriages, or the hurt that comes with divorce.* I know the church has hurt a lot of people by their unwillingness to forgive divorced people, and I hope I don’t sound like I am adding my voice to that mix. If you are divorced and reading this, than I hope that you grasp just how forgiven you are, and I hope you do not sense a spirit of condemnation in this post. But the statistics of Christians divorcing more than non-Christians, all while following a man who says we shouldn’t divorce, says that something is badly wrong.

Leslie and I have our problems, mainly my problems that I give her to deal with. And Lord knows that there are times that she would like for the “death do us part” to come soon. But we have never thought that this was a temporary gig. Now I know we have a long way to go before we are a success story, but I think will get there.

And here’s why.

Movies always show us the beginning of love stories. The puppy love stage. You know, he meets her in an antique book store, they’re browsing for the same book and then “it” happens. They may let us see the initial stages of the relationship, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. And then the story fades to black.

And sometimes movies show us the end of the relationship. The elderly couple die in each other arms, or she cares for him as he passes on. And we cry and dream about how that’s going to be us one day with our significant other.

But what is absent from our mass-produced story telling is the middle of the relationship.

Because life isn’t made up of puppy love, and reality doesn’t end walking on a beach holding hands.

Life is made up of a series of Tuesday’s and Veteran’s days and March 12ths.

Life is made up of millions of opportunities to take out the trash, and wash the dishes, to not say that one clever thing you know will hurt her, or to wash his car because you know he’ll appreciate it.

Marriage is an agreement to live all those days together, to let someone matter to you, even if they don’t to anyone else, and to make those days count for each other.

That’s what’s behind those stories of the older couple dying together. It’s so powerful because we know the sacrifice that went into those years. These people for decades chose repeatedly to serve one another, and now when their story comes to an end it matters.

I think that’s what is missing in our collective idea of marriage. We have forgotten that the bedrock of marriage is habitual sacrifice. It’s not flashy, and you won’t always feel like doing it, so you go to counseling (which we have) when you need help, you work on your sharp edges (which I am doing), and you re-learn how to love each other year after year.

Because behind the end, is decades of the middle.

*Did you know that a person who is divorced is more likely to die of early age than a person who has smoked for 30 years? Did you know that surveys show that people who divorced, 5 years later are less happy than when they were married? I think it’s indicative about how deeply divorce affects us, it’s not just a simple legal proceeding. It’s in a very real sense more like an amputation.

On June 19, 2009

Abortion



I’ll talk about this video in a second, but first.

Last night on the daily show, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was on doing yet another interview. Here’s the link for that clip. This time he was given the opportunity to choose the topic and he went with something slightly less controversial.

Abortion.

Now his timing is pretty apt. Once more this has taken center stage in our country, as just last week, George Tiller, one of the nation’s only late term abortion doctors was shot dead while attending his church.

Now, I know this won’t be popular with my democrat friends, but I like Mike Huckabee. I always have, and not just because his stance on abortion. He’s always been able to disagree and talk about complex issues while being civil. A fact that I think is proved by his willingness to go on the Daily Show repeatedly. I also appreciated Jon Stewart’s side of this discussion. At the end he admitted being dead-certain about the rightness of most left-wing ideas, but as a father who’s seen his own kids ultra-sounds, this one bothers him too.

If you know me you know that I am pretty a-political. But I think this discussion is deeper than politics. It’s indicative of our collective sense of morality, and how humans look at life in general. And as anyone who lived before Roe vs. Wade can attest, abortion (while on a much smaller basis) was going on long before it was legalized.

I remember my mom when I was a kid, going to abortion clinics and “pretending” to be a woman needing an abortion, while really putting pro-life material in their magazines. And while I hope that saved some babies, I kind of doubt it did. But my parents were also foster parents for more kids than I can count, I also have an adopted sister, and one of the things I have noticed is that the foster kids they kept were not going out and getting abortions later in life.

That is to say that they saw that even with life not being ideal, it was still okay. There were still people out there who loved and fought for them. And it made all the difference.

This is just one more example of the unique mission of the church. We can cut past the political rhetoric of the day. We don’t wait on laws to be passed. Though I would love for abortion to be illegal (not because I think politics are the way to change things, but because I think that would be more in line with the collective conscience that dignifies everyone).

Mr. Huckabee brought out a point that I think is not talked about much in our culture. He mentioned that while he was a minister he dealt with dozens of cases of ladies who had an abortion early in life and then went through life with unresolved guilt because of it. Freud might say that’s religiously imposed guilt, but I have had conversations with several girls without a religious bone in their body, who still suffer from this.

I would argue that part of the problem with viewing life through the modern scientific reductionist lens is that we fail to pick up on the truth that everything is connected. Sure, you could call this a fetus or a embryonic termination but what if it’s more than that?

Now I know that this is a topic that is incredibly complex. I know that there are vicious cycles of poverty that some would argue are the reason that abortion is necessary. And I hope you hear me saying that those must be dealt with as well.

I know that talking about this is extremely touchy, but that’s mainly because the left and the right love to use issues to remain in or gain power. But this is not an issue, it’s about an ethic of life.

And I hope I’m not talking to people who are primarily Democrat’s or Republicans. I hope I’m talking to the church.

This wouldn’t be the first time that God used the church to stop a social wrong by helping to raise the social conscience. From infanticide to gladiator games, to slavery to civil rights, we have a history of speaking a word into a culture that can place pragmatism over hope.

The church, when she’s at her best, gently, creatively and sacrificially speaks a word of life into the world. And I think that this commercial done by Catholics earlier in the year is a great example of what it looks like for the church to call the culture that surrounds her to re-imagine this whole topic.

So Maybe it’s time to adopt some kids.

Maybe it’s time to take in a pregnant teenager.

Because Life really does have so much potential.

On June 16, 2009

The Challenger and Chernobyl

Nothing in the 80’s shook the modern world quite as much as these two events (with the possible exception of the Exxon spill). The space age born of a cold war was coming to an end and the nuclear arms race born of same cold war was starting to take a left turn.

In Genesis 11, the Tower of Babel is man’s attempt to build a tower to the heavens, to progress to the point of being divine, or at least equality with the divine. One moment they are well on their way, and the next they need to buy a copy of Rosetta Stone: Everything.

The story of the Tower of Babel reveals the myth of Progress (with a big P) thousands of years before we ever bought into the idea.

Now, I don’t think that God caused the Challenger to crash or the nuclear meltdown. But I do think that these moments effectively poked holes in the myth that we could just somehow evolve to a perfect utopia. These moments helped to pave the way for the science-fiction movies of the 90’s where technology goes bad…Total Recall, Jurassic Park, Terminator. Superman IV (my least favorite of the set) actually devotes the man of steel’s entire plot to ridding the world of nuclear warfare.

Still not convinced? Think of Spock. The ideal man of the 1960‘s Star Trek is a man who works off of logic, unbiased, and totally objective. The apex of humanity is to be, well, not human. It’s to operate purely off rational thinking. But now think of Star Trek’s Next Generation (I realize that this post is making me look like a huge dork, but just go with me for a second) Star Trek’s new Spock is a guy named Data. A robot, who wants nothing more than to feel, to have emotion.

This may seem like just a silly plot, but it’s indicative of a broader cultural change.

We no longer thought that reason and logic were what made us the best humans.

We were suddenly exposed to the realization that the very things that we were pursuing to advance us might actually be the end of us. Is it any wonder that kids that grew up around this time are more environmentally conscious than previous generations? We saw what might happen if our dreams turned into nightmares.

The implications of this are profound. The seeds of post-modernism were sowed by modernism’s failed attempts at an ideal world. And while I don’t think that the 80’s were better or worse than other decades, it has probably been one of the more influential ones in shaping our philosophy, politics and theology. And I’ll talk more about that later, but for now…

How influential was the Challenger’s crash or Chernobyl’s meltdown on you?

Do you remember where you were when it happened? What you were doing?

In order not to be a totally depressing, sci-fi post I’ll leave you with a brilliant song that my friend Blake wrote about the 80’s on a comment of a previous post, set to the tune of “We didn’t start the fire.”

Breakfast Club; Top Gun; Carl Lewis on the run;
Gorbacev; Berlin Wall; Chicago Cub night-ball

Just say no; Axel F; Rubik’s Cube; Carter left;
Cabbage Patch; Big Hair; We are the world; Tiananmen Square;

Chorus… (Something like.. “We didn’t start the 90’s…”)

Moon Walk;  Acid Wash; Mall rats; Arcade Games;
Trapper Keeper; Members Only; Parachute Pants;

Challenger O-ring; America hosts olympic games;
Around the world in just one flight; Rocky wants one more fight

More chorus…

Oil Spill; Disco’s Dead; Van Halen, Mr. T’s Head
Ethiopia needs food, Boy George is a dude

Mt. St. Helens e-rupts; Mr. Fusion; Delorian;
Kadafi has to talk; Michael Jackson Moon walk,

and again…

Hacky Sack, Reagan shot, Chernobyl gets real hot
Bill Cosby, Ocean Pacific, Joe Montana is Terrific

Pac-Man, Vans Shoes, Falkland Islands in the news,
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On June 11, 2009

Youth

I’ve been listening to some lectures by a guy named Fred Grey. He was the attorney for Rosa Parks, Dr. King and countless cases in Alabama during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.

And he was a member of the churches of Christ.

Dr. Grey has lived a fascinating life, his stories are engaging, his observations are prophetic and he speaks with a mixture of charm and caution about current day issues. But what I found the most intriguing was a point he made toward the beginning of his lecture.

He pointed out that the civil rights movement, and many other movements of its ilk, would never have happened if it hadn’t been for the young people. While the civil rights movement had great leaders rise up among them that have become household names, Dr. Grey insists it was the young people who changed the country. They were the unsung heros who picketed, boycotted and sacrificed their bodies when necessary.

One of the recurring themes in studies about churches in the West is how we are losing our young people. The statistics show that when a young adult graduates from high school they are likely also graduating from our churches.

And I would imagine that when many churches start talking about that statistic their immediate concern might have something to do with waning church attendance. Now I get that, but I am concerned about something else.

Dr. Grey said that historically most societal changes are initiated and sustained by young people. Now these aren’t political changes, but grass-roots ones.

In 1st Timothy, Paul writes a young church planter named Timothy just giving him some advice. He tells him not to let anyone look down on him because he’s young, but to set an example in how he’s pure, how he talks, his faith, how he lives and how he loves.

Now I know that you have probably heard that verse quite a bit. And typically, I’ve heard that to mean don’t let people put you down just because your the B-team. But I think that the verse means something else.

I think Paul knows that while young people need the church, the church needs young people.

Not just as seat-fillers, waiting for their chance to be in charge, but to set an example to others right now. Now I don’t think that young people are just inherently good and older people are bad. If you know me, you know that I have a deep respect for my older mentors and value the people who have gone before me sharing their journey with those who have yet to experience life.

But It’s easy for the church to slip into “status-quo” thinking, to forget that things don’t have to be this way. And I think part of the beauty of the Scriptures is that they demand that the parents tell the story of God and His people to their children.

Because the gospel is reborn in each generation. Jesus comes again with all his implications for the world that exists in this time and this place. The danger comes when our youth are no longer told a story that seems world-changing, when they see the church as just a cold institution of indifference instead of the wild, Kingdom of God, revolution that she embodies.

Our young people are not just an investment in our future. They can be how God speaks a fresh word into the people of God now. They can hear the story of God with fresh ears, asking new questions for this world God is making new among us, and sometimes they may need to lead the way.

At least that’s what Paul thinks.