Archive for May, 2011

Gospel of John-patience for rebels.

May 20, 2011

I have been,  reading the Gospel of John for devotional reading.  Through the first ten chapters, I struggled.  I would read the conversations between the pharisees and Jesus thinking “I would want to kill Jesus, too.  He is being a smart ass.”  Really was having problems sympathizing with Jesus.  I have read John before, but this time through this is where I am at.

Today as I was reading, I was thinking…I like the synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).  Synoptic means, “see the same thing.”  They roughly do.  They tell the story of Jesus with different nuances, but for the most part they are similar.  John is the rebel.  Perhaps, I need to think and read John as the rebellious gospel.  He has a different point of view and perhaps if I embrace that different point of view I could celebrate his eccentricities.

The Bible challenges me and sometimes I read it…it does not sit well.   I push through something, because I trust in the wisdom of the Bible to teach me some deep truth.  So, John is the rebel…I can appreciate that.  It took me half the book before my spirit settled down to quit fighting it.  That is a good lesson for me when I am bit rebellious.  I may have some truth, but people are not familiar with it.  Takes a while for people to grasp what I am saying.  Patience is what rebellious folks need to make changes.

Slavery and Radical Christianity

May 17, 2011

“Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference.” (I Peter 2:18)

This is a scandalous statement.  As 21st century folk, the notion that the Bible says slaves need to accept their lot in life seems wrong-headed.  But, I want to put this in context and then explode it to the 21st century.

  1. Peter says in 2:9 he calls the members of the church a “royal priest hood, a chosen race, God’s own people.”  Then he says, “live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a pretext for evil.”  The church is a royal priesthood, God’s own, a chosen race and imagine who was hearing this…slaves.  He then says, “you are free people, but use that freedom for good.”  That is the precursor to “slaves accept the authority of your masters.”  When somebody is disrespected they may say, “You can’t treat me that way, I am a grown ass man.”  I think Jesus would say, use your maturity for building up not tearing apart.  Use the wisdom of manhood to bring goodness into the world and don’t rely upon the strength to prop oneself up. 
  2. Peter begins this section of his letter to the church with slaves.  This section is called a “household code.”  The rules for the house.  This was a common piece of writing in the ancient world.  Most of the time it was written to men, free men.  It was a way to keep the house in order.  Everybody had to be obedient to the men.  But, this code was written for and to slaves.  It meant in the house/oikos of the church, slaves were members.  They were not property but they were people.  They were a chosen race, God’s own.  Slaves had value in the life of the early church and were equal to the leadership of the church.  There was still patriarchy, but 50 to 70 years into the life of the church they are dismantling the human institutions including patriarchy. 

If we are to live out this notion that even slaves are welcome as equals into the church what does that mean for the 21st century.

  • People with homes and property are God’s own and welcome to the church.
  • Children have a place of value in the church and need to be heard.
  • Women can have leadership as joint heirs.
  • Sexual Orientation does not revoke a person’s being a child of God.
  • Nationality and ethnicity are not factors to being in the chosen race.
  • Disabilities and Special Needs do not limit one being God’s own.

In our world, where one is born and their gender matters a great deal.  In China, people want male children.  In some places in the world being LGBTQ is a sign of shame upon the family and God does not preclude grace from anybody.  For Peter, the role of slaves and wives was important because the suffering they felt at being less than was what Jesus felt upon the earth.  Jesus was not recognized as God.  Slaves were not recognized as humans.  Women as equals to men. 

This gospel of Jesus Christ affirms the humanity of all people.  Imagine if we had such a high view of humanity.  If we viewed people as creations of God not as competitors who are trying to get ours, how might we change our relationships.  Jesus broke through a wall of heaven to get to us on earth.  He risked everything to connect with you and me.  How much are you willing to risk to be like Jesus and connect with those around you. 

  • That neighbor whose dog craps in your lawn. 
  • That crotchety teacher at school.
  • The brother who offended you several Thanksgivings ago.
  • The daughter who made a wrong choice of spouses.
  • The kids with the baggy pants.

All are human and worthy of your love, because Christ died for them.  Am I embarrassed by what the Bible says about slavery?  No!  It tells me that even the one’s who are merely property are children of God.

Pastoral roles

May 16, 2011

Today I have spent a few hours working on getting a new laptop up and going. Hitting a huge snag with establishing new e-mail accounts on outlook. It has been an excrutiating day where I have let a few curse words go as I continue to hit the same problem over and over again.

I have been thinking as a pastor in a small community of faith, I need to have some level of IT skills, because we do not have the resources to solve some of our issues. I need to do that. Issues regarding risk management, finances, financial planning, technology, archietecture, accessiblity, and the list could go on of the knowledge of skills a pastor in a small church needs to possess to function with some efficiency and effectiveness. These are one’s that are before knowledge of scriptures, spiritual development, leadership, preaching, worship, pastoral care, ethics, volunteer management, and those skills a pastor receives training.

I am not complaining, but realize that the skillset is probably beyond the capacity of one person. If it is, then it must rest on a larger staff, lay people committed to the growth of the congregation, or partners outside the community.

The process of discernment lies in the pastor realizing what to pick up and put down. I think, congregations need to be in dialogue with the pastor about that as well.

Spiritual Growth

May 11, 2011

One of the challenges of spiritual growth is to keep it central to life.

To be honest, kids, work, and exercise can creep into the time and space of spiritual growth.  Especially for pastors, our task is to pray but the rest of the world is doing.  We are praying or studying, luxurious things to do.  However, that is what keeps a pastor sharp and in tune with the Spirit.

As a pastor who offices out of the house that is made more complicated, because the busyness of the house intrudes.  When I had an office at a church building, I could use that time and space to pray.  My books were accessible and I would close my door putting up a sign.  “Pastor in prayer or study.”   The task is to find that place and to reclaim that reality that a pastor who studies is doing the work of the church.  A pastor who prays strengthens the church. 

James Landes, a professor at Brite Divinity School, taught a class before he died for first year seminary students.  He drilled into our heads, “You are a human being not a human doer.  Who you are is more important than what you do to the church.”  I try to remember his wisdom, but the  demands of growing a church impinge.  My task is to pray, to read the Bible, shepherd the flock, and listen to where God is leading us on the mission of God.