Archive for November 2010

Pocket Jesus

November 16, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. November 16, 2010

In my lifetime I’ve had a few of the pocket New Testaments that the Gideon’s distribute. They were convenient. You could slide one of them into one of your Wrangler Jean’s back pockets and run lickety split out the front door. My brother-in-law is a Gideon, and I’m sure he could probably tell me how many of those pocket Bibles have been given out over the years.
Convenient. There are some pretty smart people in the Gideon’s organization that figured out a long time ago that handing out Bibles the size of your living room coffee table probably wouldn’t be very effective.
With the Gideons it makes sense. After all, the goal is to put scripture into people’s hands.
There’s a trend in the church, however, to “pocket” everything. That is, making everything convenient to the point that God is about serving our every whim and whine.
If we were in the Upper Room it means that we’d stick our feet out so Jesus could not only wash them, but also give our toes a pedicure.
The culture of Christianity has taken on a strong element of putting Jesus in our pocket. Pocket Jesus! Sounds like a new Ronco product that you can pick up at Walgreen’s, located in the same aisle as the Chia Pet and Snuggies.
In his book Transforming Church, Kevin Ford writes of the danger of creating a culture of consumerism in the church instead of an emphasis on “community.” He writes: “Consumerism is individualism on steroids. It is the logical end product of living for self. Consumerism paves the way for the worship of self, and self-worship leaves us alone with the object of our devotion.” (Transforming Church, page 59)
Consumerism whispers that Jesus is at my disposal. He’s right there in my pocket to pull out when I need a little assistance. He’s that cross that I pull out if I run into any vampires. He’s the ointment for inconvenience. If I’ve made a mess of a situation he’s the “spot remover” to make it all go away. He’s duct tape for a tear. He’s prayer tonic for a bad hair day.
All of those things take their origin from a mindset that says Jesus is under my control, Jesus is there when it suits me personally. But you see, the Lordship of Christ can’t fit into a “Pocket Jesus”. Our Savior took our sins upon him, but recognizing Jesus as Lord is an entirely different understanding of his purpose, his relationship with each one of us, and who answers to who.
“Pocket Jesus” indicates a temporary interest, a fad, a craze.
Our storage closets are filled with some of our past “crazes.” They were useful and interesting for a time, but they gradually worked themselves into “has-beens”.
“Lord Jesus” is what that pocket New Testament proclaims. “Pocket Jesus” is what we often relegate him to.

A Quiet Moment Before A Frantic Pace

November 1, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. November 1, 2010

This week begins a new experience for me. I’ve traditionally taken Monday as my day off, and gone back to the hyperness of another week Tuesday morning. In recent months I’ve found that Monday is not a slowing down day, but rather a day of hyperness that just happens to be around the house instead of at the church or hospital or wherever ministry is taking place. In other words, I’ve had difficulty slowing the engines. Finding quiet moments is more of a personal choice issue than a ministry or vocation issue. I too often choose to race by the slow zones of my day and come to the point of depletion by my own doing.
“Slowing down” is hard.
Last week I was in one of the big warehouse stores buying a 50 pound bag of popcorn seed (In case you’re wondering, it was for the church!). In front of me at a register was an elderly couple. After a few moments I knew this was going to be a time of “waiting”, but I stayed in the line. The elderly gentleman got his credit card out, but then realized it was his insurance card instead. He was confused, and I could tell he was a little embarrassed by his slowness in the transaction. He turned to me and said, “I’m sorry that I’m taking so long.” It was one of those God-moments that was pressing in on my spiritual oblivion. I had just been in a conversation the day before about slowing down with someone I mentor. I looked at the elderly gentleman and said, “No problem! Too many people in this world are in too much of a hurry.” (Myself included!) When he finished his transaction he turned to apologize to me again. I told him it was all right, and then said “I hope you have a great day.” He smiled at me in a way that said he needed to hear that.
Our weeks are often categorized as “A quiet moment before a frantic pace.” Soon the pace swallows the quiet moment and simply leaves us either restless or un-rested. My pace has invaded my writing time this past month. The repercussion of that is that my writing time is also a period of reflection for me. It gives me the opportunity to sit, ponder, meditate, write-delete-rewrite, think again, and come to that point where I sense a point of release and peace as I hit the “Send” button.
So tomorrow, as will be my Tuesdays for the coming weeks, the people that I serve as pastor are graciously allowing me to devote to writing, praying, and reflecting. It’s not that publishing companies will come clamoring to my door to discover the next Hemingway. I have no fantasies about ever publishing anything else. I simply am looking forward to pronounced quiet reflection with no deadlines. There are times that I sense there is something inside my being that needs to be verbalized on paper. It’s as if it is in me, but needs to be discovered. As a pastor, I look for the message that is within me each week. The Creator keeps creating in my spirit. I trust that he will now help me create some sense of some of the other life-stuff that roams around in my thoughts.