Sunday, April 20, 2014

Christ the Lord is Risen Today. But What About Next Week?

Many of us today are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus today.  Churches are full to overflowing, choirs sing songs with extra gusto, new dresses and shoes are worn, people shy away from wearing black.  It is a celebration of an incredible event.

But what about next week?  What about tomorrow?  Will we proclaim the resurrection today and forget about it until this time next year?  We put so much time and effort into Easter Sunday, but really, shouldn't every Sunday be a resurrection day?  Shouldn't every day of our life be a resurrection day?  

This video says it better than I can, so take a few minutes to watch.

I Deny the Resurrection from Peter Rollins on Vimeo.

Don't make the resurrection only about today..  Make it about every day.  In John 11:25 Jesus tells Martha that he is the resurrection and the life.  This is before he has died and been resurrected.  He wants people to experience that type of resurrection-new life now, not just at a later unknown point in time.

If the resurrection of Jesus is the most important even in our faith, and, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14 "if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain."

Don't make your faith be worth nothing.  Let it come alive, be resurrected if it needs to be, and not be about just one day out of a year, but about every day.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Light and Hope in the Darkness

'Full Moon over Margarita' photo (c) 2011, bill mulder - license: we finished up rehearsing our Easter Cantata at church tonight (no, I do not sing; I have a part as a reader), my mind started to drift a little, and instead of thinking forward to Easter in a few days, my thoughts went backward many thousands of years, to another Nisan 15, when Israel hurriedly left Egypt and Pharoah behind them, following Moses and his assurances that God had heard their suffering and was rescuing them.  

It's a full moon tonight, as it was then, and when I left church, I looked for it.  Due to its location and my location, I couldn't see it as I drove towards my home, and that was a little disturbing to me; I had anticipated looking up at it, thinking back and wondering what it must have been like for the Israelites.  I knew, though, that it was there somewhere, even if I could not see it.  After I pulled into my driveway and parked and stepped out into the cold night, I saw it, in the East, shining bright and full.  With one hand in my pocket and the other holding my chametz-laden cookie, thoughts popped in and out of my head one after another.  Israel, with the blood on their doorposts, saving them.  Israel, hurrying to leave, not knowing what lay ahead, but knowing God was there. My Jewish friends celebrating tonight with a Seder, recounting that very story, and living it themselves.  Part of the Seder is to put oneself in the place of Israel at the time, experiencing that slavery and that freedom of deliverance.

There is much about the future that we do not know. We may plan and have our own ideas, but ultimately, it is all in God's hands, even when it seems as, like the moon tonight, He isn't there.  But whatever we walk through, He will be there with us, guiding us, and waiting for us in the unknown future.  

In Genesis 1:14-19, we read this:

14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,  15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth." And it was so.  16 God made the two great lights-- the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night-- and the stars.  17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth,  18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.  19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

The moon that was present during creation, was present during Israel's flight from Egypt, is still present with us today, looking down at us, separating the light from the darkness.  Sometimes, like tonight, it is full, and other times, only a tiny sliver.  But it is there, a promise of light and hope in times of darkness.

May your week be filled with that light and hope, no matter how dark it seems.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Out of Chaos and Darkness

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I've started learning Biblical Hebrew through an online program called Mango Languages, offered through my local library.  I've slowly been making my way through Genesis 1:1-5, and last night was working on verses 4-5.  During that learning time, I tweeted the following:

"There is often a criticism that people have head knowledge but not heart knowledge, which has often made me sad, because I love to learn. It has made me question and second-guess myself so many times. But as I am going through @MangoLanguages Biblical Hebrew --which is an academic endeavor and is head knowledge, learning these first few words of Genesis is also speaking to my heart in ways I can't articulate."

Part of what has affected me has been when Mango has explained the literal meaning of the words (our translations are not literal; they are a mix of literal and intended meaning, which means any translation is open to interpretation) read like this:

"In beginning God created the skies and earth. And the earth was chaos and darkness upon the face of a deep. And God will say will be light and will be light. And God will see the light that is good and God will separate between the light and the darkness. and God will call to the light day and to the darkness called night and will be evening and morning one day."

Even though I'm not completely understanding all the grammatical rules (it would help if I didn't skip over those slides so quickly, I'm sure), I am intrigued and fascinated by the literal meaning of tohu v'bohu (chaos or, as we usually see it, formless void) as well as the use of the future tense.  

In Walter Brueggemann's Interpretation Bible commentary on Genesis, he writes

"The text is likely dated to the sixth century B.C. and addressed to exiles.  It served as a refutation of Babylonian theological claims...Against such claims, it is here asserted that Yahweh is still God, one who watches over his creation and will bring it to well-being...To despairing exiles, it is declared that the God of Israel is the Lord of all of is a theological and pastoral statement addressed to a real historical problem.  The problem is to find a ground for faith in this God when the experience of sixth century Babylon seems to deny the rule of this God." (pages 24-25).

How beautiful is it to look at the opening verses of Genesis as words of hope?  In the midst of Israel's exile, as they are living in the chaos and darkness of the control of other nations, we can see the hope and joy that can be present in knowing the Creator can--and will--bring order and light out of chaos and darkness.  Creation is not a one-time past event, but is ongoing.  God will see the chaos and darkness in our lives, and will see the goodness in our lives, and will make a way for that light to shine.    

Too often, we read these words and insist on reading them in a flat, scientific way.  But when we do that, we lose so much.  If we read them in a more meaningful way, the text opens up to us in ways we may not imagine.  Instead of reading it as an account of how the earth was created, we see the background with real people.  We can look at when our own lives descend into chaos and darkness and know that God is still present, is still working, and will continue to be there.  

I never really got all of that until I started learning Hebrew--and so my "heart knowledge" was lacking.  It wasn't until I was able to get some "head knowledge" that it then made its way to my heart in a new way.  Reading and saying these words in Hebrew have made them come alive for me, and have brought tears to my eyes, even though they've always been some of my favorite verses. I wonder what else I have missed out on over the years as I have felt that "head knowledge" is often looked down upon in the Church--it's too "complex" or "nitpicky" or "deep".  Perhaps, with this new knowledge of these words, God is bringing some light and order to my own chaos.

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Thursday, April 03, 2014

Book Review: Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee

I received a free copy of Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee as a part of her Book Launch Team.  

When I first met Jennifer last spring or summer and she told me about Love Idol over lunch, and that it was about our need for approval, I said "I think I need to read that book".  There are a few statements that caught my attention early in the book:

"But no matter how much we get--or how good we are--there's someone always doing life better, writing her story more poetically, speaking her words more eloquently, living her days more gracefully, raising her children, being promoted more regularly (And she probably has better hair)." (xx)  We always compare ourselves to others, we feel as if we need to constantly be or do more and more in order to find our worth.  Jennifer teaches us that seeking this approval and acceptance as we do can make us become controlled by it: it becomes our Love Idol.  

I also appreciated that she wrote that she couldn't "pinpoint a trigger in [her] personal history to explain why [she has] sought human approval over these years" (5).  Even though her parents believed in hard work, they never made her feel as if she had to earn her love an approval.  Many people today will tell stories of trying hard to earn love, and, like Jennifer, I never felt that way.  Yet, like Jennifer, something in me craves approval.

Throughout the book, Jennifer weaves in stories from her life as a reporter, interviewing Al Gore and covering the death of Timothy McVeigh, as well as ways that her daughter is facing similar approval issues in her young life, using examples from 4H events and spelling bees.  She hopes to be able to break the hold that approval has on both of them, as well as any of us reading the book.  She writes of being able to try and fail instead of needing to be perfect.

Her main point is that God already loves us, and we do not need to prove our worth to him or find our worth in others.  I would recommend anyone who may be struggling with finding one's worth read this book--and assure yourself that you are preapproved.