God: The Grudge Bearer

"Why does God hold a grudge?" She asked after the class read a portion of Exodus 34. 

"What do you mean?" Asked another in the class. 

She replied, "We just read in Exodus 34, ‘the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’" 

The class was silent. Everyone wondering how it could be that Jesus commands us to forgive seventy time seven but God is allowed to hold a grudge for a few generations. 

"I guess that is the difference between God of the Old Testament and God of the New Testament. There is more grudge holding by God before Jesus." One of the voices stated with confidence while overlooking the supersessionism that often clouds our Christian responses. 

We often forget that the Bible is a product of the human experience and a response to evolving Hanuka consciousness. The Bible is a text in tension with itself because human consciousness is less like a light switch and more like a dimmer switch

I would submit that God is not holding a grudge but in fact this is a new understanding of God that is very good news to the people of the time. 

In the time of Moses, time was thought to be a circle. What happened in this life happened before and will happen again. History repeats itself and so if you messed up, then is was in part because your parents messed up, and your children will mess up because of your mistake. Therefore mistakes live forever.

It is in this world that understanding of God shifts and the consequences of a mistake are limited to a few generations. Perhaps not the most forgiving news to our ears, in the days of this original insight, this was liberating. There was end in sight for your mistakes and you were not haunted forever by your family's past. Understanding time shifts from a "circle" that repeats to a "line" that moves forward and progresses. 

As human consciousness has continued to move forward and our understanding of God has grown, it seems crazy today that God would hold a grudge for a few generations. But as dramatic as it is for us to move from holding a grudge for a few generations to forgiving seventy times seven, so too is it dramatic for us to move from mistakes haunting us forever to  only a few generations.

If you cannot forgive seventy times seven, then can you at least put a time limit your grudge or will you hold it forever? 

Source: http://www.bricktestament.com/exodus/the_f...

Worship: The Anti-Selfie

So it turns out so far in 2015, there have been 12 deaths resulting from selfie mishaps while there have only been 8 deaths resulting in shark attacks. 

We can roll our eyes at the selfie and think that those who take them are a narcissistic bunch. Maybe that is true, but the way I see it, the selfie is less an expression of narcissism and more an expression of how we in the Western part of the world value the individual.

In the U.S.A., the emphasis on the individual has entered into the mainstream debate almost every time you encounter the news.

  • Does an individual have the right to take a gun anywhere they want to, even in places where guns had historically been banned?

  • Does an individual have a right to privacy?

  • Does an individual have the right to refuse a public office if part of the public office violates the individual’s beliefs?

We see the rights of the individual taken to extreme examples when people walk up to celebrities and take selfies with them, without the permission of the celebrity.

In 2006 TIME Magazine declared that the person of the year was “You”.

The rise of the individual has also brought with it a great number of goods. Women’s suffrage, Voting Rights Act of 1965, freedom to choose where and how to worship, social integration, and personal responsibility are just a few ways we are indebted to individualism.

I am not saying that individualism is good or bad, but rather that if we think that the youngest generations are selfish, entitled or freeloaders because they are somehow inferior as a people we may be missing a critical point here. These expressions of the individual may not reflect a narcissistic generation but a generation that has only expanded on the values of individualism they inherited.

And perhaps because individualism is a dominant value of our time is why we worship.

At the core, worship is the anti-selfie. Corporate worship is one of the last places in the world that is designed to de-center us from our own lives

Everything in worship is a de-centering practice. For instance:

  • you follow a script that you did not write

  • you are invited to sing - in public - when you might not normally do so

  • you do not get to choose the words in the creeds

  • you do not get to choose who preaches

  • you do not get to choose where every dollar we give goes to

  • you don’t get to choose how God will speak to us or what God will say

And perhaps because worship is the “anti-selfie” we see a number of people of all ages who do not like worship. Even the very idea of liking worship still places the the emphasis on personal preferences and not on de-centering oneself.

The very act of corporate worship is counter-cultural in the days of individualism because corporate worship forces us to step down off our individual throne from an hour and de-center ourselves.

Why you may be falling asleep when you meditate

I am not a meditation expert by any definition. I do practice, but with two kids and a full church and a white knuckle grasp on a dream of being a professional soccer player/stand up comic, I do not take the time to meditate as much as I hope to. I have hear a number of Christians talk about their inability to meditate and I hope this little post will help you in your desire to meditate.

First of all, if you are a Christian remember that when it comes to meditation. Sometimes we forget that when we meditate and look to other sources to guide our meditation, many of which teach that meditation is about clearing your mind. While these sources have been helpful for many, if you embrace the Christian narrative then you may have a difficult time with this because the Christian narrative is first and foremost an embodied religion. It is a religion that states God constantly comes to us. We were given the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide and remind all the Christ taught. We are a people who believe that God became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth and will come again (whatever that looks like). 

If you believe God is constantly coming to us, then you might find it counter productive to try to be a blank slate and banish thoughts and feelings. Those thoughts you have are not necessarily bad or distractions. To the Christian thoughts and feelings are possible vessels of God's grace and guidance. The list of things to do that floats into your mind may be a distraction, but it also could be that God is using that list to remind you to slow down. The Christian meditation is one that engages those thoughts differently than just by banishing them.  The Christian might be best served by acknowledging the thoughts but then moving on. 

I invite you to try this form of meditation. Imagine that you are sitting on a rock in a river. As thoughts or feelings come to you treat them like leaves floating on the water's surface. You see them but they do not capture your attention - they float on by. There will be some that float right into you as you sit there and you may find that you are covered in a few leaves. That is okay. Pick each one up, examine it, see if there is any writing from God on that leaf. If not, put it back down on the water and let it float on downstream. If there is residue of the divine, then make note of it. There may be some leaves that are larger or more interesting to look at, take the time you need but know that when you stand up to walk out of the river of your meditation you are saturated with Living Water.

Source: http://www.boston.com/community/photos/raw...

*SPECIAL EDITION* Preacher of the Month - October

October is "Pastor Appreciation Month". I am not sure the history as to how or why this came to be but I also don't know why April is "National Welding Month" and the fourth week in August is "Be Kind to Humankind Week". 

In the spirit of this month and the spirit of Preacher of the Month, I thought it would be interesting to extend an invitation to you to highlight your own preacher this month. 

Here is how it works.

Get with your preacher and ask them if you could interview them. If you would like, feel free to use some of the same questions I have been asking other preachers:

  • What is one sermon you preach?
  • What is another sermon you preach?
  • What is another sermon you preach?
  • What is the oddest experience you have had while preaching?
  • Who are preachers that you listen to?

Of course you always can generate your own questions. Perhaps you want to know more about their style, so ask them if they are inductive or deductive preachers (then ask them what the difference is!). Perhaps you want to know where they get their stories or inspiration? Perhaps you would like to hear about their spiritual life, how they pray or what they read or how they practice the disciplines. 

At some point I would then suggest that you share with your preacher two or three specific things that you have found helpful or good about their preaching ministry. Avoid general comments like, "I just love your sermons" or 'You really make me think." Share things that you have found to be the most helpful and transformative for you. Trust me when I say that this sort of feedback is the most helpful form of feedback you can share with many preachers.

Be aware - Preachers feel uncomfortable talking about themselves. It is part of the reason we preach, so we can talk about God and not talk about ourselves. So when they try conversational judo on you to get you to talk, don't let them off the hook. Preachers often are more comfortable hearing criticism than praise, so just be patient with your preacher.

Take some time. Take the month. Share a word of Grace to those who try their best to share a word of Grace.