Wednesday, October 21, 2009

the Real World

A few afternoons ago I went for a walk. After being in class all morning and in the library for most of the afternoon, I really needed to get outside for a little bit. Since I normally run, and run with an ipod, I thought it would be a good change-of-pace to slow down and walk, without the ipod. I tried to count how many different animals I saw and how many different varieties of plants that I passed, but I gave up after about 20 minutes. It hit me pretty hard: I pass by so much detail and so much variety and rarely, if ever, stop to recognize and take pleasure in it.

I've been reading a book by Eugene Peterson for one of my classes. It's called The Wisdom of Each Other, and it's a series of based-on-reality fictional letters between Peterson and a distant friend who has just converted to the Christian faith. Sprinkled throughout the letters are numerous one-liners that catch you off guard and make you want to put the book down and stop and think. And since most of the letters are fairly short in nature, Peterson really has to pack-in what he wants to say. I think he does a fine job.

One of the key themes he talks about in the book is church--what it is, what it does, and some of its pitfalls. In describing these elements of the church, I found myself really resonating with one particular description of the act of church, ie worshipping God with other believers. Peterson says, "every call to worship is a call into the Real World". Maybe that doesn't strike you as that astounding of a quote, but let me unpack it a little bit.

What he is referring to with regards to waking up to the Real World is what I experienced in my walk the other day. Our daily realities more often than not resemble the worldly conception of reality rather than the Godly conception of reality. The world's conceptions of truth, beauty, community, family, self-worth, freedom, etc., are like fractions compared to whole numbers. They work up to a certain point, but inevitably falter because they are too shallow.

The truth is, our conception of reality (which is most often just like the world's) is too shallow. We fail to see the invisible mysteries of God at work all around us or witness the tiny miracles of daily living, mostly because we are either too self-absorbed to notice anything other than ourselves (this describes me accurately) or we are running too fast on the treadmill of life. Church, then, or rather the act of worshipping together, reminds us of the Real World. It brings us back to the truth that God is big and God is in control and God is at work all around us. That is the story we enter in when we worship together on Sundays.

I need that wake-up call every day, especially in those days that feel like re-runs, like nothing new is happening, that all that is really going on is something that has happened before. It's in those times, more often than not, that the tiny miracles of God are embedded, waiting for me to notice. Waking up to the reality of God every day is difficult, but it is to discipleship what brushing our teeth in the morning before we walk out the door is to the rest of the day.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ten Thousand Words

Great song by the Avett Brothers that gives a lot to think about.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Peace Prizes

So if you haven't seen the news, President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Regardless of where you stand politically, there are a few things going on with this story that I think are noteworthy and should help us think more about what actual peace-making entails.

People tend to either get nominally excited over news like this, irrationally fired up (in a negative way) or just feel totally ambivalent to the whole idea. Why is this so? How can something produce such far-reaching emotions and draw so many different responses from people?

To arrive at the answers to those questions, I want to borrow a tactic that my pastor has recently been using in his re-framing of the health-care debate. He has been preaching about what true health is really all about (see andy's recent post for more info) and highlighting that we don't have a big enough view of health as we debate the issue of health-care.

Similarly, what are our ideas of peace? If nothing else, I hope that by such a controversial figure (by controversial i mean someone who elicits far-reaching opinions) being awarded the nobel peace prize people will start asking questions about what peace is really all about. Because we desperately need to think about this issue, especially in our Churches and Bible studies and personal lives as well.

And when we engage the question of what peace is really all about, there is really only one figure in all of history who stands out above all the rest: Jesus Christ. He is the starting place in our discussion of peace, and from Him we can derive the true meaning of peace.

Peace isn't simply about peace with each other, you know (although that's a huge part). It's also peace with the rest of creation. Since Genesis 3, we human's have been at odds both with ourselves and the rest of creation, and the Biblical narrative spends the rest of the Old Testament telling the story of God's work to redeem the whole of creation.

And then it happened! In Jesus. He brought true peace to the earth, the answer Israel had been waiting for for so long. Peace towards God, peace towards men, and peace that renews the whole of creation.

We are privileged people in the West, having so much knowledge and resources at our fingertips. But aren't we equally impoverished, like a thirsty man trying to get a drink from a fire hydrant with so much information around us and so little connection between information and life-transformation?

Peace. We desperately need peace. In our planet, in our relationships with one another, even with ourselves. And Jesus Christ should be the starting point for our discussion, because in Christ (like it says so beautifully in Colossians 1) all things hold together. It's time for a different conception of peace, one grounded in Christ.

Here is the best example of peace I can point you to, namely Jesus Christ. What a beautiful picture this is:

15 i He is the image of j the invisible God, k the firstborn of all creation.16 For by [6] him all things were created, l in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether m thrones or n dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created o through him and for him. 17 And p he is before all things, and in him all things q hold together. 18 And r he is the head of the body, the church. He is s the beginning, t the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For u in him all the v fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and w through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, x making peace y by the blood of his cross.

(Colossians 1, ESV translation)