I have been meditating on the story of the man with a withered hand in Mark 3:1-6 in preparation for an upcoming men’s retreat. This passage is a wonderful account of Jesus’ compassion on social outcasts. Jesus is willing to challenge the oppressive religious authorities of his day in order to heal this man and restore him in the eyes of the surrounding community.
But this beautiful story has a dark ending. Verse 6 reads:
The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
Since it is common for us to read the Pharisees as the villains in the gospel stories, it is quite easy for us to read over a verse like this without giving it a second thought. Continue Reading
It is common in matters of Reformation Church History to primarily speak of these great figures and martyrs of its time: Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bullinger, Beza, Cranmer, Knox, Cromwell, Bunyan, etc. Do you notice one thing in common with all of these names? It is not that they’re all White Europeans or that they had epic beards; no, the trait all of these names have in common are that they all belong to men.
Did you know that there are also great heroines of the Reformation? While perhaps fewer in number their heart, bold speech and mighty actions equal, rival and often tower over the men of their time. There is one woman in particular whose actions warm my heart, stir my affections for Jesus and stand out as a mighty figure in church history.
But before we can address this great heroine of the Reformation, we must first take a step back in time to tell the soap opera tale of a certain English king and his ill-suited Queens – all seven of them. Continue Reading
Bishop William Temple once said, “The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.” It’s a nice sentiment, isn’t it? Perhaps attempting to echo the teachings of Jesus from places like Mark 2:17 (“I came not to call the righteous, but sinners”) and his many parables about the Kingdom of God (like that of The Great Banquet – Luke 14:12-24), this quote reminds us that the mission of the Church is to go out into the world to make disciples. In so doing, more and more people will have peace with God and be made whole.
So why does it seem like becoming a part of a church can often be so, well – difficult? In his recent book The Second Mountain, author David Brooks describes what some might call a conversion to Christianity, or what others (myself included) would call a spiritual journey toward embracing Christianity. When it came to actually interacting with Christian people and Christian institutions, Brooks describes his journey in this way:
“I was on a journey toward God, and I found out pretty quickly along the way that religious people and institutions sometimes built ramps that made it easier to continue my journey, or they built walls, making the journey harder. I found that many of the walls in the Christian world were caused by the combination of an intellectual inferiority complex combined with a spiritual superiority complex. I found that Christians, especially of the Protestant evangelical variety, are plagued by the sensation that they are not quite as intellectually rigorous or as cool as the secular world. At the same time, many of them are inflated by the notion that they are a quantum leap or two more moral.”
Yikes! In a future post I will explore some of the ramps he found that made it easier to interact with Christians and their churches. In this post, I want to explore the four walls – or barriers – that Brooks discovered in his experience and discuss some of the applications it might have for our churches. Continue Reading
In college I worked as waiter for the four-star restaurant chain known as Ruby Tuesdays. Our particular restaurant was located in a movie theater, which meant we often had groups of teenagers come in for dinner prior to seeing their movie together. One night I was sat with a large table of teens who proceeded to talk very loudly about their plans for the evening. Each of them began to compare how much money their parents had given them, and they began to evaluate how much money each of them had for food, tickets, and snacks.
It was clear to me as this conversation went along that one very important factor had been left out of the equation: tip. Sure enough when I went over to collect the bill, pennies were left on the table for me. They had used their resources to maximize pleasure for self without giving any thought to others.
Isn’t this how many of us tend to view our time, resources, and energy? In our hyper-individualistic age, we maximize what we have for ourselves, leaving little of behind to give to others. As a result, the communities all around us – even in our churches – are fracturing and collapsing.
If we are going to be those who receive the church community as a gift and properly devote ourselves to its care and growth, then we are also going to need to remember the purposes of the community that God has called us into. Continue Reading