Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Money, God, and Kids

I found this little comic strip in the New York Times this morning (an "op-art" piece) quite touching. It's an autobiographical look at how one family copes with the economic pressures of life. There is a lot here to comment on--the reality of suffering, the ways couples fight, playing the "religion card" in arguments, and the sheer terror of not having enough money. Overall, it's a picture of a cruciform life. Most people are fed a theology of glory--whether religious or secular. Work hard, play your cards right, and things will always get better. What the New Testament shows us (and life confirms) is that the real world is cross-shaped. In other words, do your best, and you will be slaughtered. Dark, I know. But the life of Christ and the teaching of the New Testament shows that life only comes through death. As St. Paul said, "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." In contrast to this, many Christians have a victory mentality. Theologically, this is called an over-realized eschatology. That is, they don't realize we're still in the in-between time--Christ has reconciled people to God, but the world is still very broken. Victory theology only works in times of plenty. Now, in the midst of this recession, I have a feeling God is turning many theologians of glory into theologians of the cross.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Jesus walks into a bar..."

So, part of my job is running Anchor, a community for people in their 20s and 30s at St. Stephen's Church. This week, we begin a three-week series called Theology on Tap at Pizza Roma. The idea is simple:
1. Meet great people.
2. Get dinner and grab a beer.
3. Hear a great speaker talk about issues of faith and life (this week: the Fabulous Vicar of Grace Anglican Church, Slippery Rock, the Rev. Ethan Magness).
4. Discuss.
5. Go home enlightened.

For those of you in the Pittsburgh area, check out the info here.
See you there!

That'll preach!

The radio show "This American Life" is one of my all-time faves. I subscribe to the free podcast and listen each week. (If you see me walking around, headphones in, laughing to myself, it's probably because I'm listening to the show.) Each week, the host, Ira Glass, picks a topic or theme and then explores it through amazing personal stories and interviews. A recent show, called "The Devil in Me," talked about people battling personal demons. The whole show is worth a listen, but Act Two, "Vox Diaboli," will knock your socks off. Talk about amazing insight into the brokenness of the human condition! As we say at the church where I work, "That'll preach!"
To listen, go here.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Reformation Day!

Oct 31 is not only Halloween, but also Reformation Day. Thanks to my friend Jacob for these awesome clips. The first is a cartoon that uses song to tell the story of the Reformation. It begins with the famous hymn written by Martin Luther, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." The second clip adds a so-bad-it's-awesome rap to clips from Luther, the biopic starring Joseph Fiennes.

Friday, August 08, 2008

David Brooks Nails It!

David Brooks has another insightful and right-on piece in the NYT about the ways pseudo-intellectuals have tried to make everyone feel inferior for the last 500 years. We've all known people who name-drop philosophers to show they know more than us. We've known snobs who parade their knowledge of art or literature to show how refined they are. Now, Brooks says, the new way to establish one's superiority is to be an early adopter of electronic media and media-delivery systems. That is, join the latest social networking site, get the new iPhone, etc.

Case in point: I am a member of about 5 social networking sites. A lot of these were actually job networking sites or contact management applications that I joined in the late 1990s/early 2000s when I was looking for a job. They have now all morphed into ever more exclusive social networking sites. They all tout how exclusive they are, and how special you are to be a member.

What Brooks is hitting on is, in theological terms, the power of the Law. The Law is a theological (and Biblical) way of talking about the conditional terms of any relationship. Follow these rules, and you will be accepted. The 10 Commandments are a perfect example. Of course, the Law exists in many forms. And we are all trying to follow various laws to some degree. There are tons of laws about physical appearance and social class. There are laws specifically for the evangelical Chrsitian subculture. And there are laws for the hipster-elite-Manhattan-tehcno-savvy subculture that Brooks references. And wherever we fall, we're all trying to follow the rules. Our identity and sense of well-being depends on it. That's why we join facebook, not MySpace. We wear plain front, not pleated, khakis. We use an iPod, not a Zune. We listen to "Christian" music, not "secular" music. We say "darn" and "shoot" instead of the words they are obviously designed to replace. We carry a baby in a sling, not a baby carrier. We go green. Or we join the country club. Or the NRA. We buy an SUV. We are all following the Law as it is defined in our little world.

Jesus Christ said he fulfilled the Law (Matt 5.17). St. Paul said Christ was the end of the Law (Rom 10.4). The implications are enormous.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Back in the office... and Hawaii Chair Hilarity

Well, after a long hiatus called seminary, I am now a full-time pastor (go here and scroll down). Which, actually, in some ways is less nuts than full-time school. For now, at least. Which means, dear reader, that I can now post things here again. For starters, from the Department Unbelievably Ridiculous Things on Infomercials (infomercials were a recent sermon topic of mine), here's a clip from Ellen. Regardless of what you think of Ellen (please do not construe this as an endorsement), this is pretty funny. I give you the Hawaii Chair.