Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Holy Week?

Today is the middle of what the Church calls Holy Week, an odd name if you give it much thought; so many of the events are so very unholy.

On Sunday Jesus entered Jerusalem to worshiping crowds shouting “our king has come at last,” “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” By Friday the same crowds that cheered him as a king will be jeering him as criminal flinging curses at him, spitting on him, and demanding that he be tortured and executed, and then he was.

Holy week.

“Good” Friday, we mark the death, the tearing, the darkness. How morbid. Really, it seems almost twisted, to intentionally sit in, to think about, to even try to relate to the evil that was poured out on someone – especially someone so undeserving of punishment as the one who came to bring life and light to a world that chose darkness instead. And it would be twisted; it would be morbid, except for one very important thing. The story did not end there, not by a long shot.

The story did not end on Friday, the story continued, began again, exploded in life and power on Sunday, Easter. As we come to the close of Lent, the completion of our journey with Jesus to Jerusalem, to the cross and then to the empty tomb, there is no more fitting way to do so than to enter into Good Friday, to sit and ponder the evil of a broken world, of broken systems of a broken you and a broken me; to try to comprehend the miracle and the mystery of the love that drove Jesus to take all of that brokenness and sin upon himself, to suffer, to be separated from God and then to die in disgrace. To enter into that reality and then to celebrate with even greater enthusiasm the even greater reality that Sunday is coming, that the story is not over, that it is not too late, because he has risen.

Friday, April 15, 2011

What God Hates -- April 15 Edition (Year Two)

Warning: This Post Is Not Intended To Be Political.

So, I was at the gym today and the TV was showing some tea party folks protesting at the Capital. One protester's sign caught my attention and prompted this post. It read: "God Hates Taxes."


I always get nervous when I see signs, blogs, articles and the like which start with the words "God hates." (do you see the irony of the title of today's post? Nice, huh?) Anyway, those words make me a bit uncomfortable; those words make me a lot uncomfortable. Blogs, and signs that tell us what God hates paint a picture of God that I do not find in scripture. If you want to get depressed, google "God hates," you will find that God hates an awful lot (which is ironic since God is love, and therefore gets me asking questions like; where does love store all that hate?) What's even more depressing if you google the phrase is that you will find that God hates you. Yes, God hates you (which he doesn't and so disproves the whole "God hates" categories, but let us not confuse truth making our point).

So, back to today's tax day edition of What God Hates -- God Hates Taxes. On one level, yes, God hates taxes, in that taxes are needed in large part because of the brokenness of the world. If we did not have crime, if we did not have poverty and injustice, if we did not have systemic evil, if we all were just, if we all truly sought first His Kingdom, we would need no taxes because the world would be as God intended it to be -- and the way it one day will be. But, it is not, and we do not (though wouldn't it be a beautiful thing if all of the tea party folks and all of the rest of us did; started giving stuff away and seeking justice, mercy and humility in such a way that we did not need as many taxes because we were acting like the Kingdom agents we were supposed to be?) But, I don't think that is what the guy with the sign meant.

God hates taxes? No, God hates that we do not seek to give more away and thus make taxes irrelevant. In the meantime, we have the words of Jesus (who by the way is God and who paid taxes and spoke specifically to this issue and thus laid all doubt to rest) Give to Caesar what is Caesar's (taxes and respect) and give to God what is Gods (everything).

Happy tax day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Leaving Dispair for the Hope of a Seemingly Impossible Future

I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’” Ezekiel 37:2–6

That, my friends, is one crazy, amazing story. The prophet Ezekiel paints a picture of a macabre, genocidally decorated desert restored to fields teaming with life; bones, dead dry bones encountering the word of the LORD, rattling and moving, each one finding its complimentary part – along with connective tissues, flesh, skin and finally the very breath of God, and with that life.

For you and for me, it might seem just a colorful scene or an odd Biblical passage that we do not know what to do with. But for oppressed people the world over Ezekiel’s picture is a very real reminder that no matter how bad things are, no matter how much death seems to reigns, hope does not die. When American slaves were brutalized, ripped from family, beaten, raped and killed, hope came to them like the flickering light of a candle as they sang:

Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk around;
Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk around;
Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk around;
Now hear the word of the Lord.

The words of Ezekiel are the cry and the hope of oppressed people everywhere. The reality (though we might try to convince ourselves otherwise) is that there is nowhere you can flee where you will not be able to see the dry bones of oppression. The bones are everywhere; if you look you will see them; God calls you to look and to see and to heal. As followers of Jesus, we are called to simultaneously be broken by a world filled with despair, yet believe in and become agents of hope for a seemingly impossible future.

Where are the dry bones that God wants you to see?

Maybe they are in your neighborhood, maybe they are across town, maybe they are in your house, maybe they are your own bones.

Do you see the valley of dry bones? Do you believe these bones can live? How does God want you and those around you to be agents of hope to make a seemingly impossible future move from a possibility to a reality?

I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.