Monday, April 15, 2019

Letting This Week Be What It Is

In my sermon yesterday, I mentioned an idea that I hadn’t done much thinking about, wasn’t in my notes, and I hadn’t planned to talk about. In discussing the week-from-hell that Jesus was embarking upon as he sauntered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, I mentioned that it would be a week of evil. And it truly was an Evil Week—despite the fact we call it Holy. The same is true when it comes to the ‘goodness’ of that Friday. It truly was a Bad Friday—despite the fact we call it Good.

We only call these events ‘Holy’ and ‘Good’ out of hindsight. We know the ending of the story is Holy and Good, so we have retrospectively tagged the week as ‘holy’ and the Friday as ‘good.’ But for Jesus, the week was nasty and the Friday was torturous. And even for the first disciples, the week would have been confusing, dangerous, and maddening to witness, while that Friday would have been sad, excruciating, and disorienting. They have just watched their friend be killed and now this movement they have dedicated three years of their life to has come to a grinding and unfortunate halt.

There was nothing ‘holy’ and ‘good’ about that week and that Friday.

So, for us 2,000 years later, with the privilege of hindsight, we must be cautious to not-too-quickly move past the evil, bad, painful, and torturous elements of what we now know as Holy Week and Good Friday. Yes, we know that Sunday is coming and the hope of resurrection is just around the corner, but let’s patiently wait for Sunday while we faithfully dwell in the ambivalence of this week.

Let’s allow the evil of the week to remind us of how much evil we still see in the world today. Let’s allow the treachery of Judas to remind us of how easily we turn our backs on God and others. Let’s allow the mockery and violence of Friday to remind us of how often we scapegoat others and resort to violence in solving perceived problems. Let’s allow the loneliness and confusion of that Saturday to remind us of how often we feel forsaken and sense God as absent, even though he’s generally preparing his next miraculous intervention in our lives.

Let’s not too quickly race ahead to Sunday, while neglecting all that God might reveal to us and teach us through the pain of ‘Evil Week,’ the horror of ‘Bad Friday,’ and the desolation of ‘Lonely Saturday.’ And I trust that if we will do so—if we will allow each day of this week to be what it is and to sit in the emotions that the original Holy Week elicits—then the joy of Easter morning will be that much more ecstatic and the clarity of Jesus’ resurrection will be that much more illuminating.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Always Room for Growth

This Sunday I preached about the line in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Thy Will Be Done.’ I began by mentioning that I’ve been saying the Lord’s Prayer since I was a boy, so I’ve literally uttered those four words—thy will be done—thousands of times in my life. But I’m not sure I’d ever actually meditated on their significance. For years, I had spoken that phrase without giving much thought to how those four words might impact my life. I could recite the Lord’s Prayer in my sleep—and because of this, I most often recite the Lord’s Prayer mindlessly. I say it without thinking. I say it without meaning.

With that in mind, what I’m aware of today is how often we can fall into a rut of thinking and behaving the same way we always have, even if those thoughts and behaviors are no longer helpful or good. I can so easily assume that there is nothing left for me to learn about a certain topic or from a certain person, when there is always more for me to understand and room for me to grow.

We can always strengthen our understanding of God’s will, there is always more for us to learn about the way of Jesus, and we can always do better at following the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

So, let’s commit to never settling. Let’s commit to always stretching ourselves and growing deeper in our faith. Let’s never assume we have life mastered. Let’s always strive to know better, believe better, and live better—more attuned to the good, pleasing, and perfect will of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Insanity Illuminators

“A rabbi is hired by a community to point out their insanity.”
~ Lawrence Kushner ~

I ran across this quote from famed Jewish rabbi Lawrence Kushner a few months ago…and I love it! It’s funny and provocative, but I also think it’s insightful, wise, and true—and not just about rabbis, but about pastors as well.

When you hired me as your pastor three and a half years ago, you hired me to do a lot of things. I’m part worship leader, event planner, teacher, and lecturer. I do my fair share of administrative work, graphic design, lawn mowing, and taking out the recycling.

But, as Kushner illuminates, for some reason you also hired me to speak into your lives. You hired me to know who you are and ask questions about your lives and spend time with your families and be present during significant events like baptisms, weddings, and funerals. You hired me not just to preach broad sermons about generic passages, but to specifically preach into your lives and offer relevant help, advice, and wisdom. And you even hired me to provide you with spiritual counseling.

So, as Kushner points out, you hired me to point out your insanity—the ways in which your lives (and mine) don’t perfectly align with Jesus—and help you (and me) get back in sync with the ways of God’s Kingdom.

Why would you do that?! Why would you hire someone who’s role is to poke and prod at your personal lives and invite you to grow and change?! You’re insane!

But I love that this is one function of church. I love that we get to be in one another’s lives in vulnerable, intimate ways. I love that we are encouraged to know each other and be known. I’m grateful I get to play this role in your lives and I’m even more grateful that you play the same role for me. Thank you for helping to point out my insanity. Thank you for helping me to grow and mature as a man, husband, father, and Christ-follower. And thank you for allowing me into your spheres of insanity.

This is an important role we play for one another—the insanity illuminators.

So, let’s commit to always allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and open with one another. Let’s commit to always holding each other accountable. Let’s commit to graciously calling each other out when we aren’t living the way we should. Let’s commit to always spurring one another on toward love and good deeds. And let’s commit to always helping one another live more and more into our God-given calling to live like Jesus.