Posted tagged ‘Corinthians’

The Church That Mutually Submits

September 12, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          September 12, 2016

                               

Churches can be incredible places of grace…and churches can be intolerable places of ungodly treatment. I’ve seen both. We dream of the first and too often experience the latter. It’s been that way since….ohhh, say the first century!

The Corinthians could be a reality TV show. Lawsuits, disorder, self-centeredness, strong personalities, dysfunctional church life…they could make a ten year run on Bravo! And most of the seven churches in the early chapters of Revelation…talk about issues!

Churches are comprised of people with issues, otherwise known as imperfect people, who are incapable of perfection. Every church has problems! Every church has warts!

The difference is when a church recognizes that and brings grace into the midst of the fellowship. Grace paves the way for dialogue, forgiveness, and reconciliation. A church that is committed to grace values the principle of mutual submission. That is, each person in the Body of Believers desires to be serve the others. Personal agendas get thrown into the trunk as people in the Body value one another more than they value their own wants.

Here’s the thing! People don’t trust mutual submission. They are afraid of being burned, and afraid that wrong decisions will be made if everyone is treated with equal regard. They are afraid of pushy people pushing their wants, and loud people drowning out those with soft voices. It is easier to be suspicious rather than servant-minded.

The dynamics of the Kingdom of God are written in a different book than the one most of us are living by. Mutual submission means that we recognize that we need each other, we have a deep love and respect for each other, and that we value each other. When “a wart” surfaces in the life of the church the members of the fellowship respond with words of commitment like “We will work it out together!” Judgment and demeaning decisions get thrown into the trunk with the personal agendas and everyone gets a firmer grasp of the hands of others as a storm of conflict is faced. There is a bond that will not let go. People say things like “What’s it going to take to bring our relationships back to the trusting level? Let’s work on it together.”

The dilemma for the church is that she puts up with people that no other organization would tolerate. Our commitment to grace shows in how we love those who believe in grace but never practice it. That takes us back to the reality of the truth that depresses us, that we all have issues and we all need the grace of God. Woe is we!

The reality of our fallen nature, of being people with issues, will not, however, deter me from  believing the church is to be that place of mutual submission and grace! Even though some of the behavior I see or hear about makes me grind my teeth I haven’t given up on the fellowship of Christ-followers yet!

 

Church Selfies

January 20, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       January 19, 2015

                                                     

        “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

Selfies are the new self-expression! What did we do before photo-taking cell phones! Not many people back in those old days…ten years ago…were into the habit of taking their instamatics and snapping themselves in multiple places and numerous facial expressions.

In case you’ve been a cave for a while, “selfies” are snapshots someone takes with their cell phone…of himself/herself. Usually they end up on the person’s Facebook page for people to admire. They aren’t bad, but there are some people who are a little bit overly focused on themselves.

I’ve noticed recently, however, that there are a growing number of churches that are a little bit stuck on themselves. They turn the camera toward themselves and fill up space and time with “selfies” of how awesome they are.

Don’t get me wrong! There are multitudes of churches that are seeking the face of God instead of the click of their own faces. It’s these churches that still give me hope. They are congregations that understand that it’s not all about themselves, and are committed to being agents of mercy, listeners of heartaches, and doers of the Word.

In terms of “church selfies” I’m not talking about advertising and publicity. I’ve got no problem with congregations advertising about themselves on Facebook, in the newspaper, on radio, and even mass mailings. I’m talking about a kind of religious arrogance that conveys visions of churches that are a step above everybody else.

Recently I heard of a congregation that conveyed to their denominational reps that they had it all together…that the representative could focus on all those other churches that weren’t on that first name basis with Jesus like they were. When Paul wrote to the church at Philippi he says “put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.” (Philippians 2:3, The Message paraphrase; Eugene Peterson) It’s hard to put yourself aside when you’ve got the camera turned towards yourself.

There are a number of churches that are more concerned with how they look than how people are seeing Jesus in them. They are more obsessed with primping than proclaiming, posing rather than praying. Modern-day Corinthians…obsessed with themselves at the expense of others. (Read 1 Corinthians 11)

As a rapidly aging pastor I would much rather have someone in front of me that I can be authentic with. They don’t have to have their hair all in perfected placement. They don’t even have to have hair! The older I get the more I need people who have a little mud on their clothes and crap on their shoes. When I feel like my life is falling apart I need to know the person sitting beside me has experienced some “Woe is me” moments. Someone who can be selfless instead of ready for the next selfie; a church that isn’t afraid of repentance and forgiveness that are primers for praising and celebration.

But that’s just me! I’m admittedly ancient and have a hard time taking selfies of myself…not because I’m so humble, but rather because I’m not as smart as my phone!

One last burning question! When you’re about to take a selfie of yourself do you utter those words “Say cheese!”

Getting Too Cozy With God

June 4, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      June 4, 2013

Working on the staff of Young Life when I was in seminary, and then also being the Youth Minister at a couple of churches, I was trained to “earn the right to be heard’ by the students I worked with. Youth ministry was, and still is, very relational. A young guy struggling with questions about faith needs to know that there is someone he can meet at Starbucks for a chai latte and conversational counseling.

I confess! In those days there was a need to look cool and be cool. It was a part of earning the right to converse about God. Now in my final year of the fifties “cool” is a term I only use to indicate the last of heat in the house. We have more blankets folded and ready on our couch than Bed, bath, and Beyond has in the entire store. “Overheated” for our household now refers to laying on top of the electric blanket.

It seems that the emphasis with most evangelicals, myself included, is on having a personal relationship with our heavenly father who has his son be crucified on the cross out of love for us.

There is nothing incorrect about that. It’s scripturally right on. John 3:16 makes that intimately clear. The struggle is that we so often make the mystery of the holy absent from our faith. We like to snuggle up with God, like a comforter blanket. God-cozy is more to our liking than divine mystery.

One of my friends recently said that the only place we see veils anymore is on Arab women to hide their faces, and on surgeons to protect them from our germs. Veils hide, and we are people who are used to the Freedom of Information Act. We are accustomed to full disclosure.

Scripture includes a number of verses that tell us about the mystery being revealed…and the mystery that is. Paul talked about “the mystery made known to me by revelation” (Ephesians 3:3) and “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.” (Colossians 1:26)

But he also talked about the mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:4, Colossians 4:3)!

The contrast of the gospel is that we can now approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16), but the will not ever in this lifetime understand the ways of God. Revelation is partnered with mystery. The veil was torn away from the Holy of Holies, and yet are eyes do not fully see the moving of God.

And we shouldn’t! Mystery is what keeps drama in the story. If life was void of mystery our little ones would no longer ask the question “why?” Why questions lead them along the path of discovery.

Why do we have two ears and one nose?

I don’t know. Perhaps it has something to do with Mr. Potato Head. He would look weird with two noses and only one ear.

Why are some people scared of spiders?

Because they are…including me.

Why do women put make-up on, but men just put on deodorant?

Because men are in a hurry in the morning, and women…never mind, don’t tell Mommy I said anything about that!

Why does bacon taste so good?

Ahhhh….

The longer I walk with God the more comfortable I am with the Mystery. I also have a sense of peace knowing that I am always able to cry out to him, and he will embrace me. Perhaps that’s “cozy’, but I see it as evidence of the God who comes near.

“The Last Shall Be…Left Out!”

March 5, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                          March 4, 2013

The four servers returned to the front with the communion cup trays. My assistant and I prepared to receive them, proclaim the words of Jesus, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood! Whenever you drink of this cup you proclaim my death until I come again. Drink of it, each of you!”
But there was a problem. We looked down at the trays that the four servers were holding.

Empty. Empty. Empty. Empty.

Four sets of eyes looked up at us with a sense of “puppy-dogish-ness!” We had run out of communion before everyone was served. Or at least…six of us were served! It wasn’t because the sanctuary was so packed out that there simply wasn’t enough. For some reason our communion preparer has fixed less on this day than usual. In addition to that we had the celebration of communion as a part of the worship gathering in the midst of the service, as opposed to being at the end. Thus, the children who normally had been dismissed for “Children’s Church” were participating in communion with us.

The six of us at the front of the sanctuary, the last to be served, were now left out. Paul talked about the gluttonous Corinthians boozing up at the gatherings of the church in Corinth. Those who got there early were tipping back a few before late arrivers- those who had to work longer days- got there. The result would be a group that over-did and another group that did without.

But in our situation no one was tipping more than one of the tiny plastic communion cups.

And there was no “multiplying of the cups” miracle. We just did without.

Drink of it, most of you!”

The last shall be first, except on some communion Sundays where the last are just left out.

Perhaps some regular church attenders, rigid in ritual observance, committed to the faith while also being void of grace, would look at such an event and call for a congregational meeting. Some might have qualified it as sacrilegious. For us it just was…what it was! No one felt led to run down to the kitchen and see if there was any Baptist wine still in the frig (Welch’s Grape Juice). We just went on. In some ways there was a deeper bond that became a part of our gathering at that point. Our story together had just added another chapter.

It seemed fitting that those who served were the ones who didn’t have anything left for themselves. Serving the Lord is giving it up even when we realize there may not be anything left  for ourselves.

I’ve been to a few Baptist potlucks where the end of the line got fruit jello, and the front of the line had about five different layers of food smothering their plates. Communion, however, is a little different.

Maybe I should bring to our church leadership the idea of a “BYOB Communion Sunday.” Although it might be a little unnerving to look out at the congregation and suddenly seeing a bottle being passed back and forth in the back rows. Maybe we’ll have to do a “BYOGJ” instead- bring your own grape juice.

I think I’m going to inquire of my Lutheran friends to see if they have an extra chalice laying around some place. Would that be sacrilegious for a Baptist to use a Lutheran chalice…or vice-versa? I don’t know, but for at least one pastor this past Sunday’s communion was an intimate experience even though the cup was missing.