September 20, 2014 § Leave a comment
“The goal of human existence is that man should dwell at peace in all his relationships: with God, with himself, with his fellows, with nature, a peace which is not merely the absence of hostility, though certainly it is that, but a peace which at its highest is enjoyment.”
Nicholas Wolterstorff, REASON [within the Bounds of Religion]
If you haven’t seen the moving video entitled, Made in New York, produced recently by Gatorade honoring Derek Jeter, the retiring New York Yankee shortstop, then sit back and enjoy – it is a worthy watch.
If anything has distinguished Jeter’s career it is that he is a team player. While he is unquestionably an exceptional athlete, it is his commitment to the wellbeing of the team that separates him and others like him.
Hey, I’m no Yankees fan! But those who play for the team – those who care primarily for people other than themselves, they are the ones that transcend the lines of demarcation that normally separate people. I think this is because they tap into what we were created to enjoy with one another, and all creation, before the fall cursed the world with isolation. They embody the selfless expression that community demands in order for it to flourish. In a year filled with painful sports scandals, both on the professional and collegiate athletic levels, it is refreshing to say farewell to a pro that ‘got it.’
This is partly why I believe the Baltimore Orioles’ season has been special (other than winning the AL East Division Title!). They have survived disappointment and injury – as a team. Last Tuesday evening in Camden Yards (picture below) was magic, because team and city converged in joy. It is always about the team, and the people/city the team plays for.
I often don’t get this. In a culture and society that is so individualized, it is easy to get lost in doing my job: preparing my sermon, writing my blog, paying my bills, fixing my house, etc, that I forget the grander, sweeter communal life of love, friendship, fellowship and faith I have been called into.
We weren’t created to live for ourselves. And we are miserable when we do. In spite of the fact that our selfish instincts often prevail against the messy, inconvenience of relationship and sacrifice and self-abandonment, it is when our darkest wishes come true, and everything is in its perfect order just as we wanted it, and we are left to ourselves, that we are at our most miserable.
So God gives us simple expressions of self-abandonment in order that we may catch fresh glimpses of Jesus, who exchanged glory for shame, and honor for love, that we may rediscover that the Father’s great delight is most beautifully enjoyed when shared together… with the team.
What good news…
May 24, 2014 § Leave a comment
If you have never traveled to Washington DC and visited the Arlington National Cemetery, then I hope you will one day get the opportunity to do so. Like Gettysburg, Arlington is breathtaking, and the entire Washington Mall experience is unlike any other, where one is uniquely placed in the center of history.
Two weeks ago we laid our Mom to rest at Arlington where Dad was placed six years ago, and we were freshly struck by the magnitude of sacrifice that has accompanied our Nation through the generations. It is simultaneously sobering and awe-inspiring to walk among the hundreds of rows of grave markers that bear the names of men and women on a pristine lawn that is dedicated to preserving their memory.
Memorial Day was officially declared a holiday in 1971 by an act of Congress, though its roots go all the way back to the first Decoration Day in 1868. Interestingly, May was chosen to be the month for the observance because it was believed that flowers would be in bloom throughout the entire Nation.
Jesus spoke to the profound nature of sacrifice when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), and then He demonstrated His words when He offered His own life.
This weekend I am thankful for our fallen heroes, and our living Veterans, young and old, and people just like us, but who served, and many others who entered into harm’s way for the sake of those they knew and many more they would never know. As Jesus taught, there is no greater expression of love (and therefore no greater example of God’s love) than when people sacrifice themselves for the sake of others.
“I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3)
August 10, 2013 § Leave a comment
Our mall is remodeling and expanding, and among the new shops is a designer jeans retailer called True Religion (being a Levis man, I’ll pass). While on vacation one of our daughters informed me that TR jeans are nice but too expensive. The irony was not lost on me.
Religion is a word we hear thrown around inside and outside of the Church. For many it refers to the whole faith thing. Many use it to lump all kinds of negative experiences and observations together from what they have seen in the Church and in the lives of people who call themselves Christ-followers: dogmatic, rigid, hypocritical, close-minded, naive, you name it, much of it deserved. As a pastor, I try to pay attention. Whenever we (I) get away from who and what we are, and what we believe, we get lost in un to lose generations – and should.
James makes it clear that there is only one true religious expression, and it flows from what Jesus consistently modeled during His earthly ministry. Rather than find importance in externals, He turned conventional wisdom on its head. He is Almighty, yet chose servanthood, resisted fame, refused self-protection and walked the path of suffering, while exchanging glory for shame. He was attracted to the weak, friends with the the discarded and tender to the broken.
On the surface it all seems so convoluted, until you consider this: Lowliness is where we actually live. The route Jesus chose to travel reveals that He knows us, and feels no need for proving Himself greater, though He is infinitely so. And it means that your deep, and often hidden needs and sorrows are never lost on the Father. Which means that the ultimate religious expression happened, not in a church, but on the Cross.
Nothing short of love can explain.
So when it comes to the people of God – you – me – yes, the Church – unfinished though we may be, religion happens when our spirituality translates into love in action, on the most humble and undetected of levels, and for the sake of those who could never repay our efforts.
I am reminded of those credit card ads that break everything down into dollars, until it comes to the most precious – relationships – those we love – time together. The tag on what is most precious… is priceless.
Jesus had that figured out.
And this is our good news.
grace & peace.