Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Beauty of Unknowing

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

“Our Real Work” by Wendell Berry

I stumbled upon this poem for the first time a few weeks ago. It speaks to me, and I’m not entirely sure why. I think I’ve come to know the true blessing of not-knowing. I think I’ve come to peace with the fact that we cannot know everything; or control everything; or have all of life dialed in. And in this unknowing, there’s true wisdom, guidance, and direction to be found.

(And especially when it comes to God, I find it strange that we think we can completely understand, and perfectly communicate our theology about, the One who created all this from nothing and holds all of life in the palm of His hand.)

We don’t know everything…and never will. We don’t always have a deep sense of our mission and purpose. We don’t always know which way our steps should lead. So, the sooner we can admit that, the sooner we can get on with the real work in store for us.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

When we come to the end of our knowing, we find ourselves trusting in the true source of all knowing. When we humble ourselves and admit our limitations, we can finally rest in the arms of the Unlimited One.

So, may we be okay with our restraints. May we simply acknowledge our lack, trust in God’s provision, search for God’s knowledge and wisdom, and be humbly guided into God’s work and will for our lives.

Monday, July 29, 2019

A Few Thoughts on Leviticus 4

A few weeks ago, in the process of writing a sermon on the fourth chapter of Leviticus, there were a few ideas I was processing that didn’t quite make the final draft of that week’s sermon. They were good thoughts, but didn’t quite fit and had to be axed. Instead of deleting these thoughts forever, though, I decided they would be good to share in this format. So here goes…

Leviticus 4 deals with the fourth sacrifice, the Sin Offering. It’s a ritual about what to do when you’ve done something wrong, but didn’t mean to. How do you respond when you’ve harmed someone, even if it was unintentional? What’s the godly way to handle our mistakes?

Well, Leviticus is pretty clear that when you realize you you’ve done wrong, hurt someone, upset the social order of the community, or violated the ways of God’s kingdom, you have to make it right…it can’t go unfixed. As the people of God—having been liberated from the metaphorical ‘Egypts’ of our lives—we must be people who are fixers and liberators when other injustices are perpetrated (and especially when we are the perpetrators). Everything we do matters, so when we err, we must make things right.

Now, this leads to a few important and practical thoughts. First, if everything matters and no sins are un-impactful, including our unintentional ones, then Leviticus 4 invites us, as the people of God, to be more aware of our influence on the world. We are to think about others’ feelings, notice how we affect the world around us, and be more aware of the harm we’re causing. The Sin Offering invites us to notice our impact—which is what Mandy and I are constantly trying to help our kids do: to be more aware of others, notice when they’ve done wrong, and then make amends—but it’s crazy how bad adults are at self-awareness as well.

Let’s be more aware of our effect on others, and be willing to make it right when we’ve done wrong. I, unfortunately, had this opportunity a few weeks ago. I had said something wrong—something that offended—and didn’t know it. But once I learned of my hurtful language, I knew I had to swallow my pride, say I was sorry, and make things right with this person. That’s what it means to be a part of God’s new community.

Then, secondly, Leviticus 4’s 'Sin Offering' reminds us that if we’ve been hurt, wronged, or offended, we should be honest and let the offender know they’ve hurt us. If they haven’t apologized yet, it might mean they’re just not a nice person. But it also might mean they don’t know they’ve offended us. If someone hurts us, let’s say something and try to make the relationship right again. Let’s not let our pain fester into an eventual blow-up. If there are conflicts in y(our) community, let’s name them, deal with them, and then get on with the work of being God’s liberated and liberating people of blessing for our world.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Why Leviticus?

This past Sunday I started a new sermon series on the book of Leviticus, but before I could get into much of the actual text, I had to do some setup to make sure we are all on the same page as we embark. For those of you who are a part of our congregation and were in worship on Sunday, this will be redundant. But for those of you who weren’t with us Sunday—or those who are just interested in a few thoughts on Leviticus—I thought it would be helpful to recap my introductory sermon.

I began my sermon on Sunday by declaring the irony that my main reason for preaching on Leviticus right now has very little to do with Leviticus itself. What I’m really interested in is developing a ‘Rule of Life’ for our church. A Rule of Life is a framework or structure that can help guide us in the way of God. It’s a set of practices and values that, if we strive for, will help us to live more closely like Jesus. There’s nothing legalistic or obligatory about these practices, but they serve as a guide for faithful living as the people of God.

Which is where the book of Leviticus comes in. I think Leviticus is essentially a Rule of Life for the people of Israel as they emerge from the captivity of Egypt. They’ve been slaves for 400 years and have no identity or practices of their own. As Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, they have no idea how to faithfully live as the free people of God. How should they connect with God? How should they practice their religion? What does an ethical and faithful life look like? They need help!

So, Leviticus becomes a framework for faithful living—a guide to help them live as the free people of God. It’s personal and practical and meant to be helpful for a specific group of people thousands of years ago in an entirely different world.

Which is why this book seems so archaic and barbaric—and largely gets ignored today. Of course it seems archaic…it is! Of course it seems outdated…it is! But that doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful and can’t be helpful for us today. If we will do the hard work of scraping off the top of layer of this text and mine it for the real meaning and purpose behind these ancient practices—this ancient Rule of Life—we will find immense value and wisdom in crafting a new way to be a community of faith.

I’m excited to embark on this new journey and am prayerfully hopeful that we will emerge as more devoted disciples of Jesus with a Rule of Life to guide us as the free people of God.


If you weren’t here on Sunday, it would be helpful to listen to the whole sermon. You can find it HERE.