Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New Thoughts on an Old Practice

During this season of Lent, my boss Gary and I have taken it upon ourselves to read all four gospels during the 40 days and blog about what we are learning. We have invited our faith community and the students at the youth center where I work to join us on the journey. One section from our readings a few days ago is one of the more popular passages in all of the gospels. Matthew 18:15-20 has long been used by the church as a model for church discipline. The way the passage is typically read, understood, and practiced is that if someone is in sin, you go to them individually to try to correct their behavior. If they do not listen, you then go to them with two or three people. If they still will not listen to your advice and correction, you take their story before the whole church. And finally, if they still will not modify their sinful ways, they are to be expelled from your community, a practice traditionally known as excommunication.

But this is not how the actual biblical passage reads and is a grave misunderstanding of Jesus' words. Jesus says, "...if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector." While the church has often interpreted this passage as the license and liberty to excommunicate the unrepentant sinner, this is actually the EXACT OPPOSITE of Jesus' words. Jesus is not asking us to break communion with pagans and tax collectors, because these are the very people with whom Jesus frequently communed. He constantly befriended and loved those who the world loved to hate. He constantly communed with all the 'wrong' people. He constantly loved the unlovable.

"Treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector"

With these challenging and engaging words, Jesus is inviting his followers to actively engage and commune with people who are resisting the way of Jesus. He's not asking us to break these relationships and solely commune with those that are like us. He is inviting us to push further into community and fellowship with those who badly need the good news of Jesus. May we have the courage to not resist and avoid relationships with the other, those different than us, and our enemies.

P.S.  To add one more thought - I don't think it is just random coincidence that the section of text following this passage on church discipline is the story of Jesus telling Peter he must forgive others 70 x 7 times. What do you do when someone has wronged you? Sure doesn't look like Jesus wants you to kick them out of church.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Awaiting the Weekend

It seems like most people live for the weekend, and I can't really blame them. I do too. The week of work can become a monotonous grind and the weekends become a chance for refreshment of soul. But I wouldn't say that I'm usually just DYING to get to the weekend...

...except this week!

When Mandy, Zoe, and I moved to Montana a few months ago, one of the perks we were anticipating was the chance to see our families more often. So far, however, we haven't had much opportunity to take advantage of our new-found proximity. But that is changing. We are spending the weekend in Billings with my family so that we can celebrate my niece's 5th birthday. We are really excited!

This is the sort of event that we always missed when we lived so far away in Seattle. Moving to Montana has meant leaving a lot of incredible friends behind and moving to a place where we knew no one, so friendships are pretty rare at this point. But at least we are finally starting to reap the benefits of living near family.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Embracing Failure

After a long hiatus from crafting cartoons, The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus is back to its prophetic and thought-provoking ways. The newest cartoon is really good:

Not that I hope to fail at everything I do, but I at least want to be someone who is okay with failure. Too often people in ministry and life, myself included, choose to not dream and try new things because they are afraid of failure. I am on an active quest to not be this way. I want to take risks. I want to be daring. And if the project or experiment totally flops, I want to have the courage to try again.

HT: ASBO Jesus

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A New Online Address

While this blog has never been popular or achieved an avid readership (and probably never will), it is still really important to me. I've been blogging here since 2006 and, as of today, I have written 457 posts. As I say on the sidebar of my the site, I'm trying to figure out how to love God and neighbor well, and the process of blogging has been helpful along the journey. At times I have blogged almost daily, while in other seasons I have been more of a weekly writer.

For quite some time I have thought about acquiring a new domain name for my site. There is just something a little tacky about having to say and type the .blogspot.com name. So today I finally pulled the trigger and bought the domain name jasonbowker.com. It will be better and more succinct to be able to tell people about my website with this new name. I realize this changes nothing for you, and really is probably not interesting to you, but I was excited to finally make this change so I thought I would share the news with you.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Needed Change of Pace

I've now been back in Montana for about 2 months and my life is really different. I've gone from being a stay-at-home dad to a full-time, working parent overnight. I've gone from volunteer ministry to full-time ministry. And I've gone from having lots of great friends to basically having none.

But one of the greatest changes I am experiencing is a dramatic change in my pace of life. Over the past few months I have been rudely reminded of two truths: 1) people in Montana move at a slower pace than other places in the country and 2) I've developed a rather hurried, rude, and impatient posture toward life.

In regard to the first, we Montanans just seem to move and act at a slightly slower pace than other places (especially big cities like Seattle). This is a not negative thing and I actually really appreciate the slower and more thoughtful rhythm of life that I am once again experiencing. But I'm just having to adjust to this slower pace.

I've become rushed. I'm impatient with other drivers. My fast food just doesn't come fast enough. That slow person in front of me in line at the grocery store just needs to hurry up. It's sick! I need to make an adjustment and learn to slow down, enjoy life, and avoid getting frustrated with others. As it is with the 12-step programs, I'm hopeful that admitting I have a problem is the first step toward recovery.

Hello. My name is Jason and I'm an impatient jerk!

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Different Blog for Lent

Of late I have not exactly been a consistent blogger here on this site, but I will most likely be especially absent from here over the next 40 days. I have started a new blog, with my friend and co-worker Gary, to document our journey through Lent. Gary and I will be reading through all four gospels throughout the 40 days of Lent and will be journaling about our thoughts and questions. Here is the blog:

I invite you to frequently visit that site during the next few months as we journey through Lent and await the death and resurrection of Jesus. You can also find a reading guide on that site so that you can join is in this adventure.