Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Happy as a Pig in Slop

The thing about precious stones and metals is that they are buried deep within rocky places. Miles beneath the dirt, where most people go about their days, lay treasures untold. The same is true of eternal treasures. Sometimes you need to look beneath the surface of things to search out the treasure underneath.

There is a verse in the gospel of Matthew that has always been difficult for me to figure out. "Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you." At surface value, it makes sense in that if you argue with a fool, you are wasting your time. The fool will not listen and you will only get frustrated and look stupid doing it. I agree with this and it makes both good theological sense as well as logical sense. The setting for this verse, however, makes no sense at all.

Jesus has been riffing on selflessness. Telling his followers to no longer worry about their earthly life. Not to hold onto their rights (legal, social, emotional) instead to sacrifice self in showing love to others. Even to individuals that would steal our last piece of clothing, and insult us to our very core. To those individuals we should not hold back from. If there is anyone who deserves to be labeled a pig or a dog, it is certainly someone who has such malicious intent.

Jesus doesn't even allow us the self-righteous pleasure of judging that person for the evil they perpetrated on us. "Judge not, lest you be judged." We are not allowed to withhold grace and mercy from the nefarious characters described above. It is immediately following this instruction that Jesus warns us against giving what is holy to dogs, or throwing away our pearls to pigs. This would seem to be a caution flag saying "hey, be nice to people and I do mean every body. unless they're jerks." what exactly do you do with that?

Because my selfish heart, quickly runs and seeks out every opportunity to escape from having to be truly selfless. If this is what this verse means "Don't waste your time on people that aren't going to appreciate what you do for them." then, I've seen my share of pigs and dogs and the number of people I need to be nice to, just shrunk incredibly. like, exponentially

What I am wrestling with is maybe this verse is not a modifier or an exception to the previous verses but instead an explanation for why you should not pick up the weapons of hatred and judgement. In judging others, we step away from the new covenant of grace and ask for the law to reign in this world. We desire not for God's mercy to be shown in someone's life, but want them to suffer God's wrath. Not to bring about their repentance, but for retribution or punishment and maybe just to make ourselves feel better.

In doing this, are we not "scooping hot coals into our laps" that will have little effect on the object of our hatred but proceed to burn ourselves? I believe when we judge others, we are throwing aside the beautiful treasure we have of God's grace and mercy and we do this for the sake of people we consider pigs and dogs. As C.S. Lewis said "we drink poison hoping that another person will fall ill."

In the previous chapter, Jesus taught us to pray "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us". How can we enjoy the forgiveness of our sins and hope for others to suffer judgement instead? You cannot serve two masters, you will hate one and love the other.

Those people that you hate, the people that have wronged you, are they worth throwing away your holiness and your treasure? Is your right to vengeance or moral superiority more important than living in the freedom and forgiveness of Jesus?

Jesus continues to put convention on it's ear and tells us that if you are afraid of the evil people out there stealing everything from you, then you should love them. Afford them the same grace and mercy you have received. In doing so, you will ensure that you will not cast off our righteousness, instead, you will uncover an even greater treasure stored for you where thieves cannot break in and steal and moth and rust cannot destroy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

always check your blind spot

* the situations and characters in the below scenario are purely fictional and in no way represent me... errr.. i mean actual persons

A certain person sits alone at a table in the church commons, working on his laptop. Everyone has cleared out and left him alone with his work. Suddenly, the Mexican food from lunch creates an intense pressure. a pressure that CANNOT be ignored. He does a mental review of everyone who has come in and out of the building and the man is pretty sure he's all alone. A quick glance around just to make sure...

AAAAAHHHHHHH!!! Relief! The earth shakes and a tremble reverberates through his chair, down the chair legs and melts into the carpet. The plants along the far wall gasp for air. A follow up glance around the large open room just to be sure. Safe and clear.

The man grins with guilty pleasure and goes back to work.

Beep, Bing, Beep. Beep, Bing, Beep. "Is that an alarm going off?" the man thinks to himself. Beep, Bing, Beep. Beep, Bing, Beep. "Someone must have left their cell phone." He mutters, still convinced of his isolation.

Beep, Bing, Beep, "Hello, this is Linda." The man freezes in time. Where was that woman hiding? How did he not see her? Knowing in the core of who he is, that the thunderous expulsion moments before was undoubtedly heard by this "Linda" sitting quietly in the corner, reading her Bible, preparing for the Women's Bible study.

I'm hoping she was reading Isaiah.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

our fishbowl

Palin is 2 years old. pretty impressive for a beta. Technically, she belongs to the girls but if ownership implies feeding and cleaning, I guess she belongs to me. I've heard from people who keep fish that betas are especially picky (read die easily) but Palin is anything but. We can't seem to kill this fish. And if you asked her, she would tell you that we try on a pretty regular basis.

Feedings take place on an ad hoc basis (read whenever I remember to). Bowl cleanings occur whenever 3/4 of the water has evaporated and the poor fish has been swimming in her own filth for a LONG TIME. gross? I know. cruel? I know. uncaring? probably. But maybe her greatest feats are that of fasting through our vacations. We meant to give the neighbors our house key on the week long trip to San Antonio. And that trip to Puerto Rico? we TOTALLY meant to drop her off at the Goetzman's. Weeks at a time with no food and somehow through all of that abuse and neglect, She just keeps swimming. (Insert Ellen Degenerese voice: Just keep swimming, Just keep swimming) Even Ghandi would eat one grain of rice. There have been times when we pull into the driveway, and somewhere in my selfish, cruel heart I'm thinking "I hope this is the day I clean the fishbowl for the last time". (Go ahead call the HSPCA on me for neglect. no really, call them and have them come take the fish)

Perhaps the saddest thing is that no one truly cares whether this fish lives or dies, swims in clean water or filth, has food or starves...except... except the fish. Palin is determined to live. I'm sure of it. I wonder if she knew about her owners' indifference... would that change? Granted, we care in a mild, it's our responsibility, we're stuck with this fish and the kids would cry if it died, kinda way. But really, truly cared about it? yeah right.

A poet friend of mine once wrote about a poor fish stuck isolated in his bowl. Uncared for, unloved. Fed only when remembered. Had barely enough to survive and no knowledge of what the next day will bring. I think many people can relate. Of course, our bowl is much bigger and like the fish we can choose to recognize whether there is something beyond the fishbowl or pretend that reality stops at the boundaries of our glass bowl. Either way, there are times when our bowl feels very much like Palin's and we question if there is a god, why doesn't he care about what happens to me.

We can even accept and know that we live in a fallen world where sin reigns and that we face both the consequences of sin in the world (disease, death, human cruelty) and our own sin (punishment, broken relationships, guilt). We can believe that Jesus died for our sins and we have new life in him, but still wonder if maybe all of those actions are just out of compulsion. "Well, I created this world so now I better take care of it, you better go down there Jesus. It's the right thing to do." Because as we know ourselves, how can God feel otherwise. Looking down on us, swimming in our own filth, how can He not just be tired of it. tired of us.

Simple, His perspective. He doesn't look down on the fishbowl, he became a poor fish and climbed inside our nasty bowl so that we could know him and he could know us. From inside the bowl, Jesus pleads our case, understands our plight, forgives our sins. Dealing with the loss of a loved one, so has Jesus. Facing a prognosis of certain death, so has Jesus. Friends and family turn their back on you, so has Jesus. Felt the crushing weight of sin and guilt, so has Jesus. on the cross, taking our sin, our failure and shame and separating it from us forever. Jesus is our hope here in the fishbowl, that God will not and cannot forget us, cares for us regardless of what the circumstances would argue. Christ's death on the cross, his selfless and perfect sacrifice, cannot ever be ignored or marginalized, therefore God does not, cannot look at us as an impassionate observer, but as a Father. We are not a forgotten child's pet, but the pearl of great price that God risked everything to secure for eternity.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Angry God destroys all of humanity... just your average kid's story

Going to preach for the first time in big church. To adults and everything. I've been told not to say any fart jokes or say "crap" while praying. I say to leave room for the Holy Spirit's prompting. What am I talking about? The time God said "to hell with it!" and flushed humanity down the drain. Nice. Amazing how pastor Dan managed to be conveniently out of town for this one. Just a coincidence I'm sure...

As I read more and more of it, I am struck with how it is such a modern day story, a story for our time. A world that saw God as the source of their torment. People who indulged in every desire of their heart. A society that recognized no higher authority than themselves. We read that God sees what His creation has become and His heart breaks. His desire in the garden to have a perfect relationship with mankind, a relationship where God can pour out His love and man can respond freely in love; that desire is destroyed once again. We read the all too human words, that God's heart is pained.

As mankind hurtles itself towards destruction, through rebellion and selfishness; God watches as a husband would an unfaithful wife. But unlike the sagas that play out on the 24 hour news, God does not commit a crime of passion. He does not snuff out mankind in a fit of rage, in the blink of an eye. He starts with grace. "But Noah found favor in the eyes of God." Noah was a sinner like the rest, but grace enters into the picture and God chooses Noah to warn and to rescue.

For 120 years Noah preaches righteousness, through his words and through his life. He shows obedience to God and warns of the coming flood. Because of his faith in a merciful God, he obeys. he obeys unflinchingly, without question, without arguing. Because of his faith, his family is saved along with him. As Dad goes, so goes the family.

So many times when we are confronted with the flood, we run away. We see a blood thirsty God, who delights in punishment and will throw aside all of humanity just because He's having a bad day. What we don't see is the warning. Throughout the Bible, God is giving warnings and it points to His mercy. Jonah understood this all too well. He refused to tell Nineveh that God would destroy it because he knew that God desired not their destruction, but their repentance. When Clara, my two year-old redhead disobeys, she gets a warning. "stop or you will go to time-out. I'm counting to 3." If I wanted to punish her, I would go straight to it. Why wait?

God gives the people in Noah's time countless warnings for 120 years and then as the animals line up in the week leading up, they still have time. but no. Only 8 people on board a ship that could hold 52 locomotive cars. It makes you wonder, if Noah could do it over, would he try harder to reach the people around him. As they sat on the ark and listened to the destruction around them, the cries, the pleas, what regrets did Noah and his family have?

When God tells Noah to come out of the ark, he makes a promise. A promise to bring redemption instead of destruction. To rescue man from his sin instead of destroying him. A promise that we live under, that we cling to knowing that these words apply to us "every inclination from childhood on is towards sin". But we have the confidence of knowing how God's promise was fulfilled. We live in a world that has seen the how God took man's failure and took it upon himself in the person of Jesus and paid our penalty, breaking the curse of sin and defeating death in his resurrection.

Like Noah, we live with the same knowledge of both God's love and his holiness. That sin carries with it a penalty but that God desires all mankind to be saved from that penalty. And exactly like Noah, we are faced with a truth that God chooses to carry this message through us. That we are called to be "preachers of righteousness" through both our words and our actions.

So how's your ark coming along?

Monday, December 05, 2005

I don't care who ya are...

driving home from church yesterday
4 boys, about 11-12 years old
pull out in front of me on their skateboards.

These guys are looking pretty cool

The one in back goes over a pothole
skate board flies up in one direction
boy flies up in the other.
He lands squaw on his back
rolls around a bit
and starts to cry.

I don't care who ya are - that's funny