Friday, February 27, 2004

It Takes Faith To Attend A Lectureship
I went to Texas last Sunday afternoon, and stayed a couple of days to participate in a "lectureship" at a Christian University. I taught a class and got to attend a few others, but mainly hung out with some friends. I also made some new friends.

The whole trip was ostensibly about the "lectureship" but it was really about relationships. I think that "lectureships" in general, as modern mindfests, will be going the way of the dinosaurs unless something is done quickly - not to update them, but to totally rethink them. Having a lecture-fest is not even remotely appealing to many people. It sounds like what it is - lots of lectures. If we haven't noticed, lectures are not what many people are seeking. They are looking for something where there is more dialogue than for speeches full of answers. They want to participate, not just listen. They want to experience, more than become better informed intellectually.

Of course, true to the form, my class offered better answers than I really have. Well, I 'm sure it sounded that way even though I didn't mean to convey that. Classes are supposed to offer answers, that's why people go to classes. My confidence was not in the act of teaching, but in the Holy Spirit who can lay a message on our hearts.

It takes faith to go to a lectureship.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

As usual, certain elements of our American Christian subculture seem to be "gospelizing" something that shouldn't be. In other words, making some thing a test of orthodoxy, an matter of conscience, treating it as if it were the Gospel itself, and then portraying anyone who disagrees as a persecutor of Christianity. For sure, there are persecutors, but not everyone who has a different take on some matter is necessarily anti-Christian.

No, I'm not talking about Judge Moore and his granite monument which one must endorse or be labeled anti-God. It is my impression, just me talking here, that a little of this is taking place over Mel Gibson's movie The Passion. Mel Gibson isn't inspired and doesn't claim to be. Neither was the movie script, camera angles, cinematography, the actors, or anything else. It is great that he wanted to make the movie. But this is not a holy struggle between light and darkness to have the movie released, how the movie is reviewed, or what people think of it. I'm sure that the movie will be very impactful. I also think of several matters to remember.

The inspired writers of the New Testament said little about the gore, violence, and physical suffering of Jesus. The Gospel writers do not dramatize the events for us, but speak rather sparsely of the crucifixion. No preacher worth his salt today would pass up the opportunity to wring more out of the story than they do. But still they don't.

The writers of the epistles say little of the agonies of Christ's death, giving only brief allusions and certainly not graphic portrayals. Our examples of the early kerugma, or preaching of the apostles, clearly centers on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ - but not on the actual violence of Christ's death. Of course, one could say, they knew what crucifixion meant. Yes they did, and it would have been ridiculous for the apostles to argue that the manner of death was significant, because it was a common form of execution. The rebel slave Spartacus was crucified but that meant nothing for me.

The meaning of Christ's death is not in the physical manner of it, nor the cruelties associated with it. Thousands of others died in the same manner, many suffering more prolonged and painful deaths than Jesus - take the two thieves who died that same day, for instance. The meaning is not the torturous manner of death, which is why I think the inspired writers did not dramatize that for us. If Jesus had been beheaded, electrocuted, strangled, poisoned, thrown to lions, or anything else, he would still be my Savior. We just wouldn't wear crosses. Interestingly enough, the early Christians didn't use a cross as a symbol for their faith - they used a fish.

See the movie. Jesus suffered greatly in his death. The extremity of his suffering is not what saves, but the atoning life of a righteous man paying the death-penalty for sin. May God use the movie to His glory.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

I've been getting over a disappointment with God. No, it's got nothing to do with yesterday's blog - as if you follow my blog that closely. We've not been talking too much lately. It's been my problem, not His. But His faithfulness is getting through my selfishness, and that's good. It has been like two good friends who've had a fight and don't know how to start talking again. Of course, it's been me who hasn't known how to start talking again. I've been very aware of God's presence, and his patience, but now I guess I'm giving in and letting go of my stubbornness.

In fact God has been speaking to me, which is what I just realized. No, I didn't just realize it, because I've known that all along. I guess I've just been moved by that kindness to repentance (Rom 2:4). I also want to learn from my disappointment. There is a lesson in there somewhere that will reshape me.

BTW- why does the spellcheck on this blog website not know the word "blog"???? Duh!

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

There is a disappointment that comes when we long to help those who do not desire help. When we realize the limits of what can be done with the unwilling and self-defeating, even self-contradicting actions of those who say they want peace, hope, joy and love, but stoutly refuse it. God is God. Jesus is the Savior. In our arrogance we postulate what we would do if we were God . . . but to let God work in the lives of others - that takes faith.

I good friend sent me the following quote from Nicholas Wolterstorff, which I've been keeping on my desk and which continues to speak to me:

God is love. That is why he suffers. To love our suffering sinful world is to suffer. God so suffered for the world that he gave up his only Son to suffering. The one who does not see God's suffering does not see his love. God is suffering love.

So suffering is down at the center of things, deep down where the meaning is. Suffering is the meaning of our world. For Love is the meaning. And Love suffers. The tears of God are the meaning of history.
But mystery remains. Why isn't Love-without-suffering the meaning of things? Why is suffering-Love the meaning? Why does God endure his suffering? Why does he not at once relieve his agony by relieving ours?