Archive for April 2010


April 30, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. April 29, 2010

I’m into the progressive phase of my life . . . progressive lens in the eyeglasses. With the tilt of my head, I can do two things at once—I see clear enough to read what I was taking my glasses off to read before (because of my near-sightedness). I also look like an old man while I’m doing it. Some would say that the second thing is true regardless of my glasses. (You know you’re getting old when you decide on which restaurant to go to on the basis of whether or not they have a “senior menu.”)
Despite the improvement in eyesight I’m still flawed sometimes in being able to tell what is what. Eyeglasses don’t correct color blindness. When different shades of certain colors are close together I can mistake a green sign for a red placard. The fall colors aren’t that big a deal for me!
So I see what I see, helped or hindered by the lens I look through, sometimes confidently moving forward only to be fooled by what I thought was there but isn’t. To be sure, wearing my own glasses is not nearly as likely to cause me to fall off the side of a cliff as wearing someone else’s lens, but it does sometimes fool me into thinking my eyesight is 20-20.
Let me try this idea on for size! A dangerous principle to live by is reading God through our lens. Our eyesight, with or without corrected eyeware, is flawed and distorted. I sometimes see what I desire to see, and block out the contradictions.
“Why let the truth interfere with my vision?”
It goes against our thirst for control. It’s like that saying: “Hire a teenager…while they still know everything!” Most of us still think we know everything, we’re just more refined in how we share that fact with others. We give it different sounding names like “self-determined”, “street smart”, “wise beyond his years”, “self-confident”, “taking the bull by the horns”…resume’ sounding language like that.
Part of the spiritual unrest and whining today is related to “the lens” we confine our view to. The value of the people of God is in understanding that each person sees some of the picture, but not the whole scene. Most of the struggles that are a part of the church, and dare I say each person’s spiritual journey, involve too much confidence in my own sight and not enough confidence in what others are seeing. Suddenly the path is splotched with the blood of those who didn’t want to heed the warnings of a stone on the trail, or a lower tree branch that causes a “face plant.” I may not have seen the pitfalls through my lens, or didn’t want to see them.
Reading God through our own lens is a little like a 6 year old looking at the dinner buffet table that he can choose from. The vegetables are safe from being chosen, while French fries, tater tots, corn dogs, fried chicken legs, and everyone of the desserts do not escape his vision. He sees what he wants to see. (It’s one reason my wife won’t take me to buffets any more.)
Just to clarify! This does not mean that I’m not correct in my decisions. I’m just not correct all the time like I think I am.


April 21, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. April 21, 2010

One of my flaws is that I enjoy watching the TV drama series “24”. If you’re not familiar with “24”, as Jack Bauer would say, “I’ll give you five seconds to find it!” Just kidding…maybe!
“24” is a series of events that happen in one 24 hour period. Each season has evolved out of a terrorist threat, or crazed revolutionary leader seeking to destroy a good sized chunk of the United States. Every ten minutes or so a digital clock comes on the screen to remind the viewer what time of this fictitious day it is.
It’s one of those action-packed shows that have more twists and turns than the Olympic snowboarding competition.
But this season has been a little too much for me! I still watch it, mind you, but it’s just a little…fruity! (I’m working on expanding my vocabulary.)
For example one of the President’s advisors suffers a heart attack, is held in an office for a while without any medical treatment, discovered, rushed by ambulance to the hospital, hooked up to monitors and fluids in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, and now about 8 hours later (or 8 episodes) is back at the President’s side looking like he went to Palm Springs for the weekend. It’s like he just took two aspirin and changed suits.
Let me put it this way. If the story of creation was the basis for a season of “24”, It would have God creating everything, a rotten apple emerging, Adam and Eve having to take a bite of it at gunpoint, hiding in their nakedness from Noah’s ark that appears on the horizon, that is carrying the baby Jesus, that religious fanatics are trying to kidnap and fulfill a prophecy that would bring the end of the age of man to pass. In other words, God’s story from the beginning to the end of time could be covered in one season. I’m not sure where Season 2 would go from there.
A wee bit unrealistic.
I realize it’s TV, but…
…but, I’ve noticed there is a bit of a “24” mentality in many people’s lives. Problems need to be solved immediately, if not sooner. And Christians often make God the main character in their own “24” life series. “God, take care of it right now! I know the problem is the result of a long period of neglect, failures, and self-centered actions, but if you could bring some closure to this unfortunate situation it would confirm in my mind that you are the one and only all-powerful God. Five seconds!”
I’ve been noticing in scripture that “in God’s timing” often encompasses a long period of time. We talk about the Israelites wandering for forty years in the desert, but there are many other examples of God working…slowly! Abraham received the promise of a son when he was 86 and welcomed a new bouncing baby boy at 99. Either Sarah had a very, very long pregnancy or the timing was what God had in mind to punctuate the promise with his signature.
A couple of weeks ago I was reading about doubting Thomas. He had to see and experience the risen Christ for him to believe. The story, as told in the gospel of John, could have easily (In other words, it would have fit better in the “24” time frame!) had Thomas voicing his doubts, turning around and encountering Jesus right then and there. After he voices his unbelief, however, the next words say “A week later…” (John 20:26a) God allowed Thomas to wrestle with his questions and grief for a week, instead of bringing the Promised into his company right away.
How often do we reach for the instant blessing mix because we’re spiritually impatient people? Our lack of patience uncovers our lack of maturity.
“But…but God knows I need an answer right now!”
And sometimes God answers “Not yet!”
Most of the time that’s not the answer we’re looking for!


April 13, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. April 13, 2010

The electrician is here at the church today. We’re upgrading our lighting. Well…upgrade might not be the most accurate term. It’s more like getting lighting in our library that will allow someone to actually be able to see the words of the book that they’re trying to read. It’s along the lines of saying my grandparents got upgraded when they put in indoor plumbing…which, by the way, I remember happening! I don’t know…I think going from generic to Kellogg’s Rice Krispies is more of an upgrade than that.
We’re replacing dimmer and diminishing lights that use more power with brighter lights that use less power. Would someone explain that one to me?
Plus, we’re replacing lights that are there, but don’t work anymore, with lights that will work. What a concept!
The entrance that most of our congregation uses is the darkest entry point into our building of any. It’s like visiting Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, except darker.
The entrance that most of our congregation uses is the darkest entry point into our building of any. It’s like visiting Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, except darker.
This didn’t happen all at once. It gradually got that way. One of the lights started flickering, then it was okay, then it was flickering, then it was out, back on, out again…you get the jest. After a while people get used to it. Kind of like your dog’s bad breath. You love him to death so you live with “breath that could kill a cow.” It just becomes part of the whole package.
But in our building several of the light fixtures have reached that “hospice point”. New lighting is about to shine new light on the matter.
Being the astute reader that you (obviously) are, you’ve probably already started to figure out the direction that this article is heading. Sometimes the light starts to dim in the church and no one notices until it’s too dark. And yet, scripturally “light” is one of the defining nouns of the Body of Christ. Jesus said “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.” (Matthew 5:14-15a) But what about light that isn’t intentionally hidden, but just gradually dims?
Perhaps the flickering or dimming of our passion for God is what we need to be conscience of. (I’m reading through the bible this year. About the time I reach Job there is some flickering that happens in my light.)
In terms of being the people of the God, the tendency is for those outside of the church (And I don’t mean the building!) to be able to sense, if not see, light-dimming taking place more often than people of the church sense it. It goes back to the principle of your dog’s bad breath. You’re used to it, but your new neighbor, who is sitting on your couch, might have a problem with it. On the other hand, if there is someone you want to make sure never “darkens” the door of your place again, you might intentionally put your dog in his face.
In our church a few light adjustments and changes are going to make a world of difference. One of the new lights is simply being re-positioned. The new outlook seems to be changing how most of the area around it looks. Perhaps if we get enough new light the whole place will be transformed. The church will be exposed for who we are…supposed to be, not who we’ve been when things come to light.
One last light bulb that just came on! Too much light is blinding. Like in the old days when the school photographer would come to take class pictures and everyone would walk around blinded for a few minutes afterwards. It’s no wonder we looked so “uncertain” in the photos! Likewise, the church has too often been a “flash in the pan.” Bright lights for a moment, and then hit the dimmer switch!
Abundant light is not blinding light. Abundant light is hope seen, and the possibilities illuminated. Abundant light draws not cause annoyed squinting.
Next week a guy comes to look at the garbage disposal. I’m curious what kind of insights God will bring into my fat head then.


April 7, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. April 6, 2010

It’s the Tuesday after Resurrection Sunday. Jesus has arisen just as he has said he would each year about this time. A few years ago Tony Campolo did a talk about “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”
For pastors we have to admit that there’s a sequel “It’s Sunday, but Tuesday’s coming!” It’s the pastoral equivalent to post-partum blues, except we call it “post-resurrection blues.” Jesus is out of the tomb…and we know half of the crowd will be back in church next Sunday! One of my Lutheran pastor friends…in jest, mind you…said “Jesus stuck his head out and then went back in. That means six more weeks of Lent.”
It’s an odd situation. We’ve walked the road to the cross, and then proclaimed the hope and celebration of the open tomb, and now we’re struggling to keep the energy of the moment of victory. Kind of like when a team (I flinch when I say Duke!) wins a championship, and the day after reaching the pinnacle people start talking about the challenges of next year’s team. No time to enjoy the moment. Got to move on to April 11th!
Don’t throw rocks at me! I feel bad enough. I wish every Sunday would be filled with chocolate and Peeps! My hope is that the congregation will give me a little “Amen nudge” this coming Sunday, a little motivation for a tired preacher.
I’m sure it’s just a coincidence- an ironic twisting of time sparked by the Spirit- that this week’s message is focused on Thomas- not my nephew, but the disciple, the doubter, the one who was having a hard time moving away from the image of the cross and a stone that was still in place.
There is some kind of parallel there. Thomas doubted because he hadn’t seen the risen Lord yet. Many Christians today doubt because they haven’t seen him either. Thomas doubted because he hadn’t moved from the past to the present. Many Christians struggle because the present is harder to live in than the past.
Thomas was cynically doubtful about real hands with nail marks. A lot of present-day believers are cynical about the place of faith, and the relevance of the church.
The days after Resurrection Sunday are about new birth, new beginnings, starting over when we thought it was all over. It’s the heading towards the next big event in the church calendar- not Mother’s Day, but rather Pentecost.
I’ll keep my eyes on that. I’ll still have to suck it up a little bit this week. It’s similar to our youngest daughter’s coming itinerary- the celebration and exhilaration of graduating from college…followed closely by the reality of now needing to find a job!
That’s a little different than post-resurrection blues. It’s called “post-graduation bank statement in the red!”