Friday, March 25, 2005

Coffee and Good Friday

Today finds me with a cup of coffee checking email in Frankfurt. It's Good Friday. I'm contemplative and eager to return home. Christ is so much at the center of living that I find it important to consider the very first Friday before the resurrection.

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
(Luke 23:50-56, NIV)

Christ has certainly changed life as we know it and, lest we lose the plot, we should not drift away from the reality of " For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life."

Yesterday, whilst on the train from Koeln to Frankfurt, I saw a glimpse of the change sparked by the first Good Friday and the Easter to follow. The train was quite crowded and we struggled to find seats. I was able to help an elderly Korean lady to her seat and a gentlemen from the Congo took the seat next to me. The three of us could converse very little because of language; however, we shared a common reality. We were all believers in Christ- and visibly so.

You could see kindness -even patience and deference- in the interaction with others, some of whom were a little stressed with the seating dilema. Yet, once underway, the gentleman from the Congo sat and read a book on spiritual warfare - in French. The elderly Korean lady was reading - in German no less- a book by the martyred German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I sat with my english New Testament and a small booklet by John Piper reading silently but singing in my heart a praise to Christ for He has truly changed and is continuing to change the world and drawing together a people from every tribe and tounge and nation.

So today, this Good Friday, I sit happy to know him and excited for the Easter that is coming.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Desperate People & Heaven's Door

"Desperate people don't do well in churches. They don't fit, and they don't cooperate in the furthering of their starvation. 'Church people' often label 'desperate people' as strange and unbalanced. But when desperate people get a taste of God, they can't stay away from him, no matter what everyone around him thinks.' " Michael Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality

I came across the above quote today whilst taking my lunchtime coffee instead of restaurant queue break. (Truth be known it’s a “get away from the office/mental health break” with a good cup o' joe and a spirit refreshing music infusion –right now there’s a pretty decent Dylan cover in the background). Anyway, the idea merits further development but, for now, let's just put the thought on the table. It’s worth a ponder.

Knock, knock, knocking on heaven's door....... Bob Dylan

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Friday, March 11, 2005

Pedro and Woody meet the King?

“Vote for me, and all your wildest dreams will come true.” (Pedro, Napoleon Dynamite)

Oh, really?

"It's hard for me to enjoy anything because I'm aware how transient things are. Yes, there are strategies of surviving… There are times when you think, 'My God, life is sweet, it's nice,' and thoughts of mortality are in abeyance. You know, watching the Marx Brothers or a Knicks game or listening to great jazz, you get a great feeling of ecstasy… But then it passes, and the dark reality of life starts to creep back in." Woody Allen

It’s jarring when one notes in his experience what God has told us centuries ago. Why are we so slow to learn?

Hear a bit of King Solomon’s ancient musings for he was a wise king indeed:

Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That's what the Quester says.] There's nothing to anything--it's all smoke. What's there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone? One generation goes its way, the next one arrives, but nothing changes--it's business as usual for old planet earth.The sun comes up and the sun goes down, then does it again, and again--the same old round. The wind blows south, the wind blows north. Around and around and around it blows, blowing this way, then that--the whirling, erratic wind. All the rivers flow into the sea, but the sea never fills up. The rivers keep flowing to the same old place, and then start all over and do it again. Everything's boring, utterly boring-- no one can find any meaning in it. Boring to the eye, boring to the ear. What was will be again, what happened will happen again. There's nothing new on this earth. Year after year it's the same old thing. Does someone call out, "Hey, this is new"? Don't get excited--it's the same old story. (Ecclesiastes The Message)

Yet, into this “same old song” sings a hopeful cantor, “ I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of”. (Jesus Christ, The Book of John, The Message)

A new song - a hopeful one at that – and yet we seem as if we don’t want to hear. In the midst of perceived futility, we often fight his beckoning rather than dance to his lead.

Dance to his lead, now that’s a thought. I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to yearn for a bit of “canned heat in my heals tonight.” Hey Napoleon – move over and let the music begin.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Cultivated Fields or Shopping Malls

“Why do pastors so often treat congregations with the impatience and violence of developers building a shopping mall instead of the patient devotion of a farmer cultivating a field? The shopping mall will be abandoned in disrepair in 50 years; the field will be healthy and productive for another thousand if its mysteries are respected by a skilled farmer.

“Pastors are assigned by the church to care for congregations, not exploit them, to gently cultivate parishes that are plantings of the Lord, not brashly develop religious shopping malls. No, the congregation is topsoil—seething with energy and organisms that have incredible capacities for assimilating death and participating in resurrection.” Eugene Peterson

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Saturday, March 05, 2005

Living Threads No Steeple

A building with a steeple, stained glass windows, and pews is not a church. An organization and programs is not a church. God-followers devoted together as a community around Jesus’ love and the calling of delighting in Him, yielding to His rule, following His lead, and growing into healthy people who value and serve others whilst extending Christ’s love to people might be a reasonable first step towards defining church.

Believing in and following Christ is a wholly credible decision that brings life changing results and an intensity of purpose. In this context, a church is a community that has begun to realize God's great love, passion, and rich kindness towards mankind. Seeing this passion, love and kindness and knowing that God offers it to all who inhabit this “common pond” in which we live, we respond to God’s initiative by showing the good news of Jesus Christ and His message, character, love and life to individuals, our community, and the world.

In part, God's love is evident in the devotion and work of His people who, believing God, invest or have invested their lives in us and in earlier generations. Consequently, our lives and service, as we grow in practical matters of Christian community and worship, should offer evidence of a handiwork begun by God long before our collective existence as a local church.

This handiwork, which we can liken to a tapestry, precedes us and will pass to future generations. In fact, in history we see that God, through His plan, the work of His Spirit and His people, is continually weaving a tapestry of living threads. The origin of which precedes our generation and which will supersede, without interruption, every generation until Christ's return.

As a fellowship, a local church is part of this tapestry, which may be marred and sometimes unsightly; but it is a tapestry of God's choosing nonetheless. Each of us is among the living threads- a continuing part of the ongoing handiwork of God. Thus, sparked by the reality of His life and a motivating love for others, we enjoy a context for living and the hope of a legacy that will outlive us and glorify Christ now and throughout eternity.

Being threads in God’s handiwork, and aiming to demonstrate at least a glimpse of Christ to others leads us to grow away from self-centeredness. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” These are Christ’s words and His example. Can we love Christ and act out contempt towards others? Can we follow Him and turn a “blind eye” to the needs of our families, friends, community, and world? Can we show favoritism towards some and speak disparagingly toward others?

To be amongst the threads leads us, at least to some degree, to sacrifice. Yet, it also leads to reward for there is significance in aligning our lives with God’s plan and purpose. In the end, I am convinced that we will find that the price we pay to follow Jesus’ example and serve others is a price worth paying.

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Words of Wisdom

.......from the Wisdom Book of Proverbs

Dear friend, listen well to my words; tune your ears to my voice.

Keep my message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart! Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they're bursting with health.

Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that's where life starts. Don't talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip.

Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.

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