XBox 360 and a Fasting 180

Fasting has been a part of Christian worship from the beginning. Yet, fasting is an oft neglected discipline at least for much North American Protestantism especially those with an aversion to liturgical calendars.

In Christian circles, we often put those who engage in spiritual disciplines on a pedestal. And yes, we are right to point to those teachers and mentors who worthy of emulation. Yet, in doing so, the “ordinary” Christian can use this lionizing of fellow saints often serves an excuse for our inability to do likewise. Moreover, I think sometimes it causes us to misunderstand the very men and women we are exalting.

This thought occurred to me during a Sunday School class when the topic of fasting came up. As we spoke, I became aware that our common assumption was that great men and women in the history of the Church engaged in fasting in order to pray and commune with God. And there is ample evidence in the texts we have in the tradition to validate and confirm that this assumption that fasting can enhance and lead to deeper prayer. Yet, as I facilitated this discussion, I experienced one of those wonderful paradigm shifts. Continue reading “XBox 360 and a Fasting 180”

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Star Wars: The Spirit Awakens — A Letter to Preachers and Apologists

Rest assured, this post contains no¬†Force Awakens spoilers. I haven’t seen it yet. It does contain spoilers for episodes I-III. So, if you are Amish, you may not want to read this post.

The Star Wars films shaped my childhood imagination. They nurtured in me a sense of right and wrong. They gave me a meaningful vocabulary for good and evil. Lucas’s images of the light side and the dark side opened my eyes to a battle being waged daily in the world that I could see on the evening news, in the playground, and even in my own heart and mind. This imaginative world gave me a sense of responsiblity and the hope that I could overcome the darkness within in me, that I could choose. Eventually, these films gave me my first glimpse of grace and redemption.

Yet, the Christians in my life missed this opportunity to speak to me and who knows how many others. They failed to speak to me in my language. They failed to translate the Gospel, to use my vocabulary. They did not see the Spirit of Christ already at work. The Spirit went before them like the pillar of fire in the darkness. But all they could say to me was “The Spirit of God is not like the force in Star Wars.

My family did not attend church regularly. Nevertheless, it seems like every time I entered a church for the next decade or so. I was told that God was not like the force in Star Wars. In the instant they got my attention, they lost it. If your god, is not like the force in Star Wars, then that’s too bad for your god. The force is awesome! Continue reading “Star Wars: The Spirit Awakens — A Letter to Preachers and Apologists”

Seminary = Cemetery

Having spent many years studying and working in Christian Graduate School setting I have heard the Seminary/Cemetery play on words many times from students, professors, and churchgoers.
“Oh, my son is off to cemetary to study the Bible.”

While, for the most part, in my experience, the reference to Seminary as Cemetery was made as a friendly jest with no ill intent. That is, my fellow Christians respect those who dedicate their time and energy to the hard work of studying Scripture and Theology. (Yes, it is hard work. Have you ever learned a foreign language?)

Nevertheless, usually in less overt forms, I too have experienced resistance and suspicion with respect to my “expertise” in theology and biblical studies. I suspect one question spoken or unspoken to be something like, “Why does anyone need to study and go to school to understand Christianity? After all, Christianity is a simple faith that is available to all.” Now, I think this question is a good question. When asked, I have an answer. So did the second century theologian, Irenaeus. Continue reading “Seminary = Cemetery”

Beyond the Veil: Keeping God Safe in His Box

God’s Empowering Presence

When Gordon Fee, retired Professor of New Testament at Regent College, reached the tearing of the Temple curtain that coincided with Jesus death on the cross, he described this as the Spirit of God rending the this thick curtain and shouting, “Get me out of here.” Fee’s book on the Spirit in Paul’s writings is fittingly titled God’s Empowering Presence. The Temple was a symbol of God’s presence in the midst of God’s people. Yet, the New Testament authors and I believe Jesus himself saw the Temple as a barrier to what was truly important to the Creator God, that is God desires to be with his people.

Although many Christian readers miss it, a key theme in both the Old and the New Testaments is the Creator God being present with God’s people. While some might see the climax of the Exodus in the parting of the Red Sea or the receiving of the ten commandments, it seems clear that for Moses and the author of Exodus the construction of the Tabernacle and the descent of the glory of God into their midst is the true climax of this narrative. Continue reading “Beyond the Veil: Keeping God Safe in His Box”