Yesterday we reflected on 2007 (seemed like the right thing to do) and engaged in worship together through lament, praise, and thanksgiving. As we prepared for Sunday it struck all of us at how seldom we lament in our corporate gatherings. Somehow we have equated worship with the praise and thanksgiving psalm while over one third of the rest of OT psalms are laments. The reality, however, for many as they come to the end of 2007 is that this year as many other years is not only a year of joy but also one of great sorrow, one of gain and loss. Some sense great direction in their life others feel like they are stuck without any real movement towards the light at the end of the tunnel.
We have a hard time envisioning a group of people gathering together to sing laments to God. Or when we do lament we are quick to move to the anticipation of hope and praise found often in lament psalms instead of lingering in the awkwardness of expressing together our frustration with God. Lets face it no one likes a whiner. Worst yet who wants to go to church on Sunday and listen to a bunch of people unload all of their baggage on God?
And yet here are the lament psalms that call us in the midst of great hope and trust in God to express our frustration with God.
So yesterday in the midst of praise and thanksgiving we expressed lament. I see this as a sign of maturity. It might not be a great church growth strategy but it is a sign of church health.
I went back to Secondary School this week. I had the privilege of visiting the World Religions class and answer questions about Christianity. Most were of the standard fair, "why do bad things happen to good people?", "how can Jesus be totally divine and human?", etc. All good questions but one stood out to me not as much for the question but the assumption behind it.
One of the students asked me, "if there were irrefutable proof that Jesus was not who he said or we say he is would your belief system change?" As a matter of course we discussed how there have been new claims and theories about Jesus for the past 2,000 years and how that none of these have stood the test of time. We dialogued about the global uniqueness of Jesus and from my perspective his supremacy in our culture. I noted to the class that I don’t expect that my beliefs about Jesus will change all that much.
But still the question bothered me because behind the question is an assumption that even if there were irrefutable evidence people of faith would choose to continue to believe what they want to believe rather than be open to change. The student’s assessment of religious people as close minded is bothersome even if in some cases correct.
I do not like being placed in the same group with many who refuse to entertain the possibility that they could be wrong. It has been my privilege to learn from the Christian philosopher Arthur Holmes who has taught me much about the nature of knowing as a follower of Jesus. Believing that God is transcendent gives me confidence that Truth comes from him and that because he is personal the possibility of knowing Truth exists. This gives me great hope. Likewise I understand that God in his wisdom has chosen to allow humanity to use the image gifts he has given to us in the discovery of Truth. This leads me to humility. I have hope that I can know Truth but I also embrace humility to know that my conclusions in the discovery of Truth are fallible not infallible like God.
I hope this means that my mind and heart are open to consider the validity of competing truth claims. I trust this means that I treat faith as much as an issue of the mind as the heart.
I have recently been thinking about the nature of preaching and in particular the preaching of various scripture genres. I have been reading and listening to some who promote the theory that our philosophy and approach to preaching should be dictated by the literary genre of the biblical text. That when presenting biblical narrative we should present it as story and Paul’s epistles would necessarily have a different preaching style. This would mean that there are various right ways to present scripture as there are styles of biblical literature. Interesting that form criticism would have such far reaching impact.
If preaching, however, is primarily an act of taking the meaning, big idea of the text, and presenting this applicationally to the audience should not the listening needs of the audience be our primary concern in how we preach the meaning of the text?
If we live in a culture that best listens via story then perhaps we should be considering ways in which we can present all biblical genre as story. It is undertandable that in a culture that needs story that bibilcal narrative would be attractive. But instead of placing so much energy on how to present biblical narrative as story (which seems to almost be redundant now that I think of it) we should be "knocking our brains out" trying to figure out how to present the deep theology of Romans as story. If not we are destined to raise the next generation on biblical narrative and gospel literature and the epistles will fall by the wayside.
There is a movement among some churches to see Christmas as a time of compassion versus a time of consumption. You can read more about by clicking The Advent Conspiracy. Maybe you should read it before you hit the Mall.
A few weeks ago I asked some of the Seniors in our church to share words of wisdom to live by with me. Here are some of my favourite responses . . .
- Pray often and expect God to answer
- Always listen to what your children are telling you
- Read lots while your sight stays OK
- Don’t spend more than you have . . . God will provide
- Be patient with yourself, learn your limitations and act accordingly
- Seek with God’s help to live each day as if it were your last
- Every morning ask for direction and purpose for the day
- Don’t back up your car before you have looked behind
- First impressions are lasting but don’t judge too quickly
- Since each day is a day that God has made . . . celebrate His creation; go forward knowing God will never leave you; know that those we love are in His hand; trust that all that happens in some way works together for good to those who are called according to His purpose.
Saturday (December 1) we hosted an event for single moms at OBC. The purpose of the day was to be an encouragement to moms and their children. Mission accomplished!
There is something to be said about expressing God’s love through ordinary simple acts of generosity and hospitality. Little things do make a big difference. Jesus ate and drank with those who were lost from God. An expression of full acceptance in the simplest of ways. The love of God communicated . . . message received.
Highlights of the day for me:
Observing a disabled mom receive a manicure, kids huddled around tables making gingerbread houses, our home groups engaged in ministry together, exchange of phone numbers and emails among women. Announcing that we want to come to their homes in the spring to help with home repair.