Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Poem: Babies and our Joy

They wiggle their toes and we smile with glee,
A tiny little person that looks like me,
They stretch and they stir and all is aglow,
Little souls at work, new lives to grow.

All that pictured so life can be seen,
All that from an ultrasound screen,
My future so fragile, my pleasures at risk,
My hopes could be dashed, a bad choice tsk tsk.

They suggest I can end it,
That life I can kill,
Their body dismembered, my body free,
Sign here, they say, for life is for me.

Family planning it's called, but death is their plan,
Not parenthood, but 'freedom' on demand,
I want joy now; it has to be mine.
Sacrifice, pain, responsibility take too much time.

But grace is sufficient to cover my shame,
Grace comes through Jesus' name--
Grace to choose what is right,
Grace to protect those without might.


(Inspired by http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/william-wilberforce-and-the-pro-life-movement)

Problems with evangelical Christianity...

#1: They take the Bible as the Word of God, able to be read and understood in its original context and with ongoing significance, without error in the original writings, with the authority to speak to all aspects of life from the board room to the bedroom. The problem with this is I lose authority and control over life. I don't get to dictate right and wrong; I'm expected to learn and submit to right and wrong.

#2: They believe in the supernatural. They make the the universe God-haunted, demon-filled, and divinely-dependent. They think God hears prayers, responds to human choice, and invades human decision-making. The problem with this is God can override me and circumvent me.

#3: They believe in hell and judgment. They believe human thoughts, attitudes, and behavior are observed by an all-seeing eye who responds to my wrongdoing without favoritism. My life matters according to the cosmic scale of history. If I align myself with the universe and its divinely appointed author, then I am rewarded. If I go against the Maker and his ways, I experience the consequences of opposing the ordering of the universe. The problem with this is I cannot live any way I want and get whatever consequences I want.

#4: They believe Jesus was God and Human (John 1:1-3, 14). They think Jesus is not just a good moral teacher who I can carefully scrutinize picking and choosing what ideas I like. They think what Jesus says about marriage and adultery (Matthew 19) is as important as what he says about children (Matthew 18) and the poor (Matthew 25). They believe if I pick and choose what I like about Jesus, His teaching, and His apostles, then I'm really not a Christian but a part of a religion of my own making. The problem with this is Jesus' demands and expectations are out of this world; no one can do all this; it's simply impossible.

#5: They believe grace leads to life change. They think grace is not a license for immorality, but a pathway to transformation. They believe love has strings attached, jealous strings that demand affection and loyalty from those who claim to love God (John 14:21). They believe the costly grace of the Cross leads to costly obedience. The problem with this is I'm running out of excuses.

#6: They believe faith and repentance in Jesus Christ is the only pathway to hope. They do not think Jesus is a way to God but the way (John 14:6). The problem with this...wait, wait just a minute. That's amazing news. There is a way to God!! Who cares if it's only one way? There is a way. Glory, hallelujah. I'm going to give up my problems with evangelical Christianity because their solutions are way more sufficient and satisfying than my problems.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Faithful Worker - Sarah Smith of Golders Green

This past Sunday September 13, 2015, I preached a sermon from Genesis 1 and 2 entitled, "The Work and the Workers." I argued that God created and redeemed humanity for the purpose of doing good work. This work will be like God's work--bringing order out of chaos, light to dark places, and life where there is death.

In C.S. Lewis' beloved book The Great Divorce, we read of an example of one faithful worker. The scene before you takes place near the entrance of the High Country (heaven) where a conversation is happening between two departed souls. They are observing a glorious being that one nearly mistakes as the Virgin Mary...but the conversation reveals the identity of the person in this conversation:

Then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. . . . Between them went musicians: and after these a lady in whose honour all this was being done. . . . Only partly do I remember the unbearable beauty of her face.

"Is it? ... is it?" I whispered to my guide.
“Not at all,” said he. “It's someone ye'll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith  and she lived at Golders Green.”
“She seems to be...well, a person of particular importance?”
“Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things….
 “And who are all these young men and women on each side?”
“They are her sons and daughters.”
“She must have had a very large family, Sir.”
“              Every young man or boy that met her became her son – even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.”
 “Isn't that a bit hard on their own parents?”
“No. There are those that steal other people's children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives.”
“And how...but hullo! What are all these animals? A cat-two cats-dozens of cats. And all those dogs...why, I can't count them. And the birds. And the horses.”
“They are her beasts.”
“Did she keep a sort of zoo? I mean, this is a bit too much.”
“Every beast and bird that came near her had its place in her love. In her they became themselves. And now the abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them.”
I looked at my Teacher in amazement.

“Yes,” he said. “It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end? Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life.”

Saturday, September 12, 2015

10 Reasons to Avoid Church

1) You do not want anyone to question your beliefs or your behavior.

2) You do not want anyone to ask you for time or money for causes that don't benefit yourself.

3) You think you have arrived morally and ethically; churches will most likely preach ideas that seem old fashioned or out of date culturally and cut against your own desires.

4) You "find God" in various past-times and environments better than the gatherings millions of Christians have pursued in the first 2,000 years of Christianity.

5) You do not want to learn to love difficult people.

6) You won't feel compelled to sing songs that you do not like. You can just stay home and listen to what you like.

7) You won't have to have spiritual leaders trying to get to know you and help you become more like Jesus.

8) You can live your life and write your own story, rather, than be challenged to give up your life and join God's story.

9) You won't have to hear about what humans deserve: death, hell, and judgment.

10) You won't have to hear about what God offers in light of Jesus' life, death and resurrection: forgiveness, heaven, grace, and love.