A Call to Love

16 04 2013

With the bombing at the Boston Marathon yesterday we are reminded of the pain, suffering, and brokenness in the world.

I cannot begin to grasp or wrap my head around what type of person would do such a thing or what would drive an individual to commit such an evil act.  We must call a thing what it is…and the death, suffering, and pain that was dealt to those people cheering on their family, friends, and loved ones during an incredible, uplifting event, can be called nothing other than evil.

Seeing the pain and suffering plastered on the news…the wailing…the fear…the tears… the sorrow,

breaks my heart…

makes my stomach turn…

and makes me deeply angry.

Sisters and Brothers, these emotions are normal, I am sure of it.  And the emotion that usually takes control, at least for me, and consumes everything else is anger.  Which leads to seeking revenge…A clear sign that, indeed, violence simply begets more violence.

There must be another way…

A different way than this cycle of pain and suffering and death and negativity.

Amazingly there is another way.

The way of love.

The way that God wants us to choose… the way that God calls us to live.

We are called to love one another… to love all of creation regardless of race, class, sex, or species.

We are specifically called to love our enemies.  A difficult task indeed…a task that you can probably count on one hand ever actually seeing practiced.  And yet we must take Jesus and his words seriously.  As Shane Claiborne says, “When Jesus calls us to love our enemies, he doesn’t mean to kill them.”  And I’ll add, “Or hurt them, or degrade them, or seek revenge through them.”  We are called to love them.  A difficult, radical, seemingly impossible task, and yet it is our task.

My question is…

What if we did more loving and less judging?

What if individuals who commit these horrendously evil acts felt loved and a part of something greater than the hurt, individualism, pain, and separation that can be found on a daily basis?  Would they still feel moved to commit such acts if they saw love and grace daily?

What if instead of focusing on ‘Terror’ and ‘Fear’ we focused on Love and Relationships?

Maybe I’m being a bit idealistic…Maybe I don’t understand…Maybe I’m being a bit unrealistic…

Quite frankly though, I don’t care.

I’m tired of the way that our society and culture gives us; the way of separation, brokenness, and hate.

If God calls us to be unrealistic and idealistic then maybe we should give it a go, because our way clearly doesn’t work.

So, Brothers and Sisters, will we take the Call to Love seriously?  Or only when it benefits us and is easy to do?  Will we dwell in God’s promise of life even amidst death? Or will we dwell in the darkness of anger and revenge? Will we find our security in a God that forgives and loves unconditionally?  Or will we let ‘Terror’ and ‘Fear’ control our lives?

I pray that we can love.

Book Review: Shane Claiborne “The Irresistible Revolution”

15 04 2013
"The Irresistible Revolution" By: Shane Claiborne

“The Irresistible Revolution” By: Shane Claiborne

What a truly moving, inspiring, spirit lifting, fire starting work this is.  Whew!  Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?! Well, it is!

Claiborne’s book, The Irresistible Revolution, is somewhat of a biography/memoir/theological discourse/prophetic literature that will move the reader to action if they have a pulse.  Shane is as humble a servant of Christ as I have seen and truly lives by what he preaches.  In this book you will journey with Shane to India where he spends the summer working with Mother Teresa  in Calcutta, among the poorest of the poor, living in a leper colony.  You will join him in his struggle with the church and its many faults and how he comes to grips with it.  You will join him on a years internship at one of the biggest Mega-churches in the world, Willow Creek.  Claiborne then tries to discern where God is calling him next and how he can best follow Jesus and his teachings.  He decides with several other friends to open The Simple Way,  a house in downtown Philadelphia where they live among the hungry, the poor, and the homeless.  He shares of times that he slept on the sidewalks or in the parks in solidarity with the homeless.  He shares of many marches and protests that he has been a part of fighting for the poor and the hungry. He shares of being arrested for sleeping with and feeding the poor in a park in Philadelphia.  You will join him on a trip to Bagdad, Iraq just before the bombings of the Second Gulf War, in which he is peacefully protesting the use of violence.  He tells about hearing the bombs dropping around them and then visiting the hospitals and seeing the wounded children and innocent who were “collateral damage” and apologizing to them for his country’s actions.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of what Shane shares.

Even if you disagree with his stance on particular issues, it is very difficult not to take Shane and his faith seriously.  He is authentic and genuine.  He is also humble and does not present a ‘Holier than thou’ persona.  He is simply trying to live his life how Jesus lived his and how Jesus calls each of us to live.  Shane’s stories are simply him trying his hardest to love his neighbor, stand with the poor, the oppressed, the impoverished, and to love his enemies.

I found myself often saying, “YES! YES! Exactly!! Why doesn’t anybody else get this?!” And then the next page I’d be screaming, “NO!!!” because  I would feel the guilt and condemnation in my own heart of just picking and choosing to follow Jesus in ways that are easy or beneficial to me.

You will find yourself rejoicing in Claiborne’s work.

You will also feel very uncomfortable and convicted by Claiborne’s work.

Above all, Shane has a vision for the church and its role in the world today that is true to the Gospel and what Jesus has called us to do as his followers.  His vision is about as far away from what society and American culture tell us is our purpose in life, but so far, I’ve been extremely disappointed in what Society has taught and told us… and think maybe, just maybe, God’s way is the better way…

I fully recommend this book!!  Prepare for your heart to be opened and for your life to be changed if you read this book.

A link to buy the book if you wish: http://www.amazon.com/Irresistible-Revolution-Living-Ordinary-Radical/dp/0310266300/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366045631&sr=1-3&keywords=shane+claiborne

Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer

9 04 2013

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian, died 1945

Today, the church commemorates one of the most influencial theologians, pastors, martyrs in my life, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Bonhoeffer was a pastor, a teacher, and one the leaders of the Confessing Church in Germany.  The Confessing Church was a church body that broke away from the National German Lutheran Church when the Nazis Regime took control.  They would not allow Hitler to dictate how the Gospel would be preached nor would they pledge allegiance to anyone other than God.  Later, Bonhoeffer was arrested for his involvement in an assassination attempt on Hitler.  He spent over 2 years in prison and concentration camps and was hanged April 9, 1945.

His most common works are The Cost of Discipleship, Life Together, Ethics, and Letters and Papers From Prison.  I took a religious ethics course on Dietrich Bonhoeffer in college and it had a profound impact on my faith.  His book, Life Together, should be required reading for every church council and his book, The Cost of Discipleship, should be required reading for every professed follower of Christ.

I would like to leave you with my favorite written work of Bonhoeffer’s.  It is a poem that he wrote while in prison towards the end of his life.  He is questioning his identity, his personhood, his authenticity.  People call him incredible, and amazing, and inspirational, and the light of Christ, but he feels in his heart that he is somebody different.

I think that, while he wrote this in such an extreme condition and his context is not ours, we can still relate to these words.  We still feel this pull of being both Saint and Sinner.  We still feel in our hearts the brokenness, loneliness, fear, and terror of life and death.  And yet we can trust in the promise that we are God’s.  That our identity is in God.  No matter what we think or what others tell us, we are children of God and God loves us.


Who am I?  They often tell me
I would step from my cell’s confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I?  They often tell me
I would talk to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.

Who am I?  They also tell me
I would bear the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I know of myself,
restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness,
trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I?  This or the other?
Am I on person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I?  They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer Letters and Papers From Prison


8 04 2013
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio

In light of the Gospel reading yesterday, the text that has been dubbed throughout history as “The Doubting Thomas” text, I decided to lay out a few of my own thoughts on the topic of doubt.  For the most part these are my thoughts and my opinions, but they have been shaped, of course, by my education, my study of scripture, and my own relationship and experience  with God.  A special shout out goes to Paul Tillich and his book, Dynamics of Faith.  Without reading this book, I probably would not have been able to reconcile my personal thoughts and beliefs with my calling to be a pastor.

You see, I had many questions.  I had many doubts.  About God.  About Faith.  About organized religion.  About Jesus.  About creation. About life.  About death.  About evil.  About suffering and pain.  Just to name a few…

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Book Review: “What We Talk About When We Talk About God” Rob Bell

3 04 2013

imagesI anxiously waited for Rob Bell’s new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, to be released and was excited when I had finally ordered it from Amazon.  Of course, it arrived Holy Week, which means not a lot got read until after Easter Sunday.  I must say it was worth the wait, worth the anxiety, worth the excitement, and the anticipation.

If the reader can get passed Bell’s fragmented, irregular writing style, if the reader can get passed some of the cheesiness when Bell seems to be cracking a joke to himself as an aside, and if the reader can look beyond the seemingly disjointedness of the writing (all of which actually appeals to many readers) and make it to the end of the book, I believe they will be enriched and fed.

I have long awaited a book that could talk about the complexities of the Universe, from a large scale perspective to the smallest aspects of this creation that God has made, in a language that the non-physicists, the non-chemists, the person without a single ‘scientific’ bone in their body can read and understand.  I believe Bell has done this in this work and specifically in the chapter “Open.”  Long have we needed someone to tell the multitudes that no longer do science and God have to be mortal enemies, that in fact, science compliments God’s work incredibly well and that in fact science can be a means of proclamation that, frankly, has never been tapped, at least until I read this work, and I believe Bell has just scratched the surface here.  I remember sitting in, what I thought would be an easy class, Astronomy at college and hearing about the complexities and intricacies and the mysteries that still abound in the Universe and thinking, “My faith has not been shattered in the least, but in fact, my faith has been strengthened!”  God’s creation is incredible and I am just amazed by the number of Christ followers who are against science and evolution and Big Bang Theory because they think that the God might be disproved or denounced by science, when in fact I found the exact opposite as have many other scientists, by the way.  I think God can handle science and its questions just fine.  But I digress…My apologies to Rob for going off on a tangent in his book review🙂

Regardless of your preconceived notions of Rob Bell, his theology, whether he is a heretic or not, whether Love Wins or not, this is a book that will cause you to question how we speak about God, how we think about God, and maybe how we should be pulled forward by God into a new way of thinking.  Bell’s story telling, intriguing questions, and open approach make What We Talk About When We Talk About God a book that both non-pastors and pastors can read, that both scientists and non-scientists can read, that Christians and non-Christians can read, and still put pushed and pulled into a new way of thinking about God.

That, by the way, is growing in faith.

You can purchase Rob Bell’s book here:  http://www.amazon.com/What-Talk-About-When-God/dp/0062049666/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365005186&sr=1-1&keywords=rob+bell

Back for another go…

1 04 2013

Well, here I tried…

And as with so many other things that I find healthy and life-giving, I ended up getting too busy, too consumed, too lazy, too scattered, or whatever other excuses I might use to justify my lack of focusing on self-health and healthy spiritual practices.

What am I talking about?

I am talking about the fact that I started this blog to be an outlet, a spiritual practice to let out my thoughts and feelings and perhaps receive some feedback. I enjoyed it…all 5 posts that I created…Indeed it has been almost a year since I last wrote and posted.

Oh, I know exactly what happened. It happens far too often. And, I’m sure, I am not the only one this happens too. I get all fired up to start something that I know will be healthy for me… that I know will be good… that I know will be life-giving:

Morning and Evening Prayer
Intentional Daily Scripture Reading For Me

These are just a few of the practices that have been tried multiple times.  Each time I begin excited and ready to take on the world…Each time I begin knowing that this time will be different, that this time I will follow through, that this time I will choose to continue what is healthy for me.

And this works for a week…maybe more if I’m lucky.  Each time it’s a different reason that I end up stopping, but what happens with each practice, without fail, is I let myself down once.  I might get over that one and pick myself back up, but then I fail again.  And maybe a week after failing the practice I think, “Maybe I should start back up again…I enjoyed it when I did it.”  And my response to myself?

“Why bother?  You will only fail again…you will only let yourself down one more time…you will only be right back here…So, why bother?”

And of course I listen to myself…which is a problem…you’d think I’d have learned to stop doing that by now.

So, this process happened with my blog.  I was going to post at least once a week, if not every other day.  I placed stupid, silly expectations on myself that I knew weren’t realistic.  When I failed those unrealistic expectations I asked myself, “Why bother?”

Well, I’m going to bother.  I’m going to try to not place unrealistic expectations on myself and to just write when I feel moved to write…to just write when I need to write.

You see, one thing I have found, especially in the almost two years now of being a pastor, is that it is difficult to practice what I preach.  To put into practice the fact that I am not the one in control.  To put into practice the fact that in Christ I am able to let my failures, sins, and blemishes go time after time after time after time.  To put into practice letting go of my guilt, self disappointment, and fear, knowing that God loves me know matter what, that God even loves me in my brokenness and failures and struggles and pain.

Yes…it is difficult to practice what I preach.

But I figure….if Christ can suffer and die on a cross for me and for you and for all of creation…if Christ can conquer death, not just for himself but for all, and rise from that tomb…Then maybe, just maybe, in Christ, I can let go of my failures, rise from my self-given disappointments, and give it another go…

Patience…the ‘Holy Grail’

11 06 2012

The fruit of patience

I have always prided myself as a patient person.  When asked what some of my strengths are as a person, I almost always think of patience first.  I’m more of a laid-back individual, and for the most part am able to ‘go with the flow.’

Yet two things have made me realize that I’m not as patient of a person as I think I am and that I am a part of a society and culture that needs immediate gratification, immediate results, and immediate fulfillment.  This is what we have become isn’t it?  With social media, 24 hour news, fast food, among thousands of other conveniences that we have been given, immediate results and response to our questions and needs are expected…demanded really because if our needs are not met in a timely fashion then, well…just think about the last time that your patience ran out when your food took too long, or you didn’t get the news that you wanted at the soonest possible time, or you had to wait in the doctor’s office for an hour and a half or two.

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