Saturday, April 30, 2011

Will My Son Be a Christian?

Sometimes I read something that completely nails how I feel about something.  This is one of those times: from Miroslav Volf, the first paragraph of his article entitled Will My Son Be a Christian?
The statistics are clearly in my favor.  An overwhelming majority of children adopt the religion of their parents. So I shouldn't worry. It is highly probably that my son Nathanael - and his younger brother, Aaron - will grow up in some sense a Christian.  But I still worry, mainly because I am not satisfied with his being a Christian "in some sense."  Mindful of Kierkegaard's critique of Christendom, I'd almost rather that he be no Christian than an indifferent Christian, or, even worse, a zealous Christian manipulating faith to promote his own selfish ends. But I want him to embrace Christianity as a faith by which to live and for which to die.


It reminds me of these words from Stanley Hauerwas in the below video:
"One of the most heart-breaking aspects of our lives today are young people, desperate to have something to die for, and we're afraid to give it to them."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Good Friday is always such a weird day.  It's difficult to wrap our minds around: Why's it "good"? What was really going on? How can God die? Why didn't Jesus do something? Was it really a transaction? Did the Father forsake the Son? Did the Trinity lose a member for three days? Why did Jesus have to die?

And so on.

I've come to appreciate that these tensions are better left taut than exhaustively figured out.  It better typifies actual life.  Words so often fall short.  But other forms of expression might speak better in these times.  I've found the following songs and visuals to be great focal points for a day like today.

Oh My God
A Portrait of Jesus
Why We Call It That

Any others?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lenten Journey 2011

I haven't posted in a while, but it doesn't mean I haven't been writing. I'm again writing with a group of others for a season of the Church.  We wrote together during Advent, and are now in Lent.  Two of my short reflections are out as of the moment, and I thought I'd post them here as well.  I'll post the rest as they come out.

March 9, 2011 - Decisions & Directives
March 18, 2011 - Solidarity in Christ
March 28, 2011 - The King's Face
April 6, 2011 - Spirit & Clay
April 15, 2011 - ...that we may die with him.
April 25, 2011

...that we may die with him.

(This post is a copy from the Lenten Journey website.  I wrote with a number of other pastors during the season of Lent, 2011.  Each day, we reflected on one passage from the Daily Office.  It's best to read the passage before the reflection.)

April 15, 2011 - ...that we might die with him.
Jeremy D. Scott

My list of biblical personalities that “get-a-bad-rap-but-maybe-shouldn’t” is growing. Thomas has been on there for a while. The fact that his best known moniker includes “Doubting” is usually seen as a detriment to his faith and character. We’ll leave the debate over that sentiment for another day, but for today’s passage, Thomas’ input is one of the most powerful and challenging statements in scripture:
Let us also go, that we may die with him.

This is a wonderful summary-statement for the whole of the season of Lent. We might do well to quote it every day during Lent:
Let us also go, that we may die with him.

We can quickly point out Thomas’ misunderstanding about what was happening in this moment. The disciples believed that if Jesus headed to Bethany, and thus, Judea, he would surely be killed by the people there who were feeling challenged by what he was saying and doing. Jesus, undeterred by the notion, determined to go nonetheless. And it’s then that Thomas gives what we might see as a William Wallace-like rally cry:
Let us also go, that we may die with him.

Turns out he was right. His timing was off, but Thomas was right. Jesus would die. But not yet, and better yet...not finally. Though the path in both situations went through death - whether Lazarus’ or Jesus’ - God’s glory was going to come about in a surprising clash of celebration, victory, and life.

Many have a difficult time accepting the season of Lent. This is understandable as for we who follow and worship the one who has won victory over death, it might seem odd to revisit the things of death. But this is part of Jesus’ story. And we find in life, that it is still yet a part of our story. We can’t ignore it.  There is no resurrection without death. And while we may not experience the nails of the cross, we indeed are called to its cruciformity: a pattern by which we come to see the heart of the nature of God and better yet...the victorious glory of God.

So Thomas was right. But he was only partly right.

Let us also go, that we may die with him...
...and thus know him and the power of his resurrection.

Make these words of Paul your prayer for this day:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Amen.
- Philippians 3:10-11

Monday, April 11, 2011

Do you sit in the dark with your children?

I'm still being challenged by yesterday's Word from John 11.  At the moment, what's chewing on me is what did/didn't happen when Jesus showed up in the midst of a mourning crowd (those who loved the now-dead Lazarus).

It's notable what Jesus didn't say: "There, there, now don't cry.  [God just needed another angel in his heavenly choir.]"

And it's notable what Jesus did: Jesus wept with them.

This situation, like others, serves as a microcosm of the whole Incarnation: Jesus entering into the situation of humanity, not simply as an emergency helicopter out (though he does do that sometimes, at least from the trials of the lives of some who needed healing).  Rather, Jesus showed up.

As a parent, I'm still learning.  And Meghan and I wrestle with the tension of protecting our children and allowing them to experience life.  Some people didn't like some of the implications of my reflections on letting Brayden go to school on the bus (and public school at that...oh the horror!).  The people who didn't like it were current parents of young children.  But many more people resonated with what I was feeling and encouraged me.  These were generally parents whose children had grown up and moved on.

In this video-interview, Brene Brown (who I'm becoming a huge fan of), talks about sitting with our kids in the dark (as opposed to always choosing to turn the lights on).

Funny thing: as I'm sitting here typing this, I'm outside while the kids play.  A friend from my six-year-old son's kindergarten class walks by with her mother (who's also pushing a little boy in the stroller).  They ask if he wants to come along for some ice cream.  Now I know this mother.  I know her husband - they seem to be great people.  We've met them several times at school events and as we each walk through the neighborhood.  My son has been over their house for a playdate before.  I have no reason not to trust them.

But as I sit here, watching them walk away with him, I still have a feeling in the pit of my stomach.  And what's crazy is that I live in an incredibly safe neighborhood, in an incredibly well-established town.  If anyone has nothing to worry about in this's me.

Yet I know that for my son, it's good for him.  Not just to have fun and eat ice cream, but to experience the realm of "the other."  There are certainly boundary-lines for six-year-olds.  And there will be boundary-lines for ten-year-olds.  And the same for sixteen-year-olds.  But at some point, the leash has to be slowly released.  Otherwise, it may end up choking them and/or breaking free at the wrong point.

Anyway, the above may or may not relate to what I'm talking about for you.  But it does for me.  I could have come up with a good reason to not allow him to go (we're about to eat dinner, we have to go somewhere).  We can do all sorts of things in an attempt to protect those we love.

Jesus could have gone and healed Lazarus.
God could have skipped the whole wilderness thing and sent them directly to Canaan.
God could have chopped down the tree of the knowledge of good & evil.
God could have killed Hitler in 1920.*
God could...

It's less clear, although rather so to me, that God does not send his children to difficult situations (just as I wouldn't take an infant to sit in the bleachers at Fenway for a Sox-Yankees game).  But when they arise, we might understand how those situations can be used for the better.

God didn't do the above list.  But what God did do in Christ was come to be alongside us in these things.  In the overall picture of life, is there a more loving thing to do?  It's not an easy question.

*Whether or not God's action such as this would challenge his loving nature is a debate for another time.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Each Other

Having seen Jars of Clay in concert this past Sunday night for the first time in over a decade, I am listening quite a bit to them lately (and Derek Webb as well).  I bought their newest album when it came out and loved it, but it's poking me again these days.  I was doing something I've not done in years (actually reading the booklet that comes with it - this one an "e-booklet", of course), and came across this quote from David Dark:

"The idea that any of us can have meaning alone or be the authors of our own significance or have joy for which we only have ourselves to thank is a death-dealing delusion, a psycho covenant that implies that a strong, successful few of us might somehow gain our lives without losing them."

That's all.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Spirit & Clay

(This post is a copy from the Lenten Journey website.  I wrote with a number of other pastors during the season of Lent, 2011.  Each day, we reflected on one passage from the Daily Office.  It's best to read the passage before the reflection.)

April 6, 2011 - Spirit & Clay
Jeremy D. Scott

The thing about fresh clay is that it’s workable, malleable, and generally open to being shaped into something new. A finished piece of pottery is something that’s turned hard. It might good for one thing: to hold water, prop flowers, contain food, or a number of other meaningful uses. But the finished earthen vessel will have a difficult time being formed into something new.

The thing about “spirit” is that it’s of unpredictable formation. The biblical images are all things that are hard to contain: wind, fire, water. You might be able to control these things in small amounts, but in any kind of mass bigger than us, they become as wild as can be: forces of unstoppable mission. Whether it’s a tank-like tornado, a consuming conflagration, or a sweeping tsunami, one thing is for sure in the wake of this kind of Spirit-storm: things will not be like they were before. The Spirit is ever moving to do something new.

The fruitful infusion of these two - clay and spirit - will only come about in an environment of shifting, openness, and a vulnerable humility to something outside itself. This Lenten season is an opportunity to be re-membered as Christ would have us to be (that is, to be put back together again). The brokenness that follows repentance is fertile ground for the pieces of our lives to be washed and worked into a fresh clay. With the victory and power of resurrection looming on the other side, it may not be too early to ask the question: Is the Potter seeking to re-work your functionality?

We could ask it otherwise in this season:
Have the weedy plants of last season’s garden been raked up to make room for new growth?
Are there messy and choking cobwebs that need some cleaning out so fresh air might come into the house?
Do we need a month or two of spring training to be ready for the marathon that is the regular season?

For Lent and the soon-coming Good Friday, we might even ask:
Does something need to die?

There is no resurrection without death.

Indeed: “He who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”

Lord, in this season, break me such that your crafting may make in me a vessel of usefulness, wherein your wonderful treasure can reside, move, and thrive.