Jan
27

Over matched Wrestling.

sumo-and-kid-198x300But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property
unless he first ties up the strong man.

-Mark 3:27

When I was in middle school I signed up for wrestling.  My neighbor was the head coach.  He was quite the motivational presence in my life so despite the fact that I was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 80 pounds I felt I was destined for greatness.

I was horrible.

Everything was practiced with partners and mine was always brutal. It seemed like everybody was stronger than me and everybody was faster.  Bloody noses and skinned knees is all I really remember from my wrestling career.  But, I am thankful for the experience and the invitation to compete.  I am thankful for the interaction and the seeds of some friendships which last still today.

Ahhhhhhhh middle school pubescence…what a joy.

I am reminded of this memory when I read today’s gospel.  Mark 3 is a brilliant social commentary on some pretty wild healing going on in the Jesus narrative.  Demons are leaving people and healing is abound.  And then Jesus drops the line mentioned above.  So classic.

Here is the deal.  What strong man are you engaging?  What obstacle is clearly in your way to becoming a servant of the Holy Spirit?  Everything you do and think is a gift and every time you mess up you can be forgiven, but are you really engaging the activity or are you just standing on the sideline and critiquing the game?

This is what I am getting at…the passage ends with, “Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies
that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”  You go Jesus…tell it like it is!

This means we don’t get to doubt his methods.  We don’t get to sit back and expect an equal share in the glory of God’s plan.  The Holy Spirit is unpredictable.  It is water and fire.  It is wind and silence. We are invited.  We respond.  We engage.  Or, we don’t.

There is a strong man, so to speak, in everybody’s life that limits their confidence and willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to truly dominate their actions.  Christ’s advice is to tie him up, shut him down, and get after what is really the Lord’s to begin with.  Oh, and trust that the outcome is driven by the force of creation and the breath of the God of the universe.

Nobody likes wrestling their demons.  Very few people enjoy spiritual humility and complete surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit.  Yet, over and over again, Christ reveals the advocate as his most precious gift.

Try praying, “…come Holy Spirit…,” and then try not to manage what happens next.  May you find peace in the Lord and a call to action on his behalf.  And may to drop the strong man with a sweeping leg kick and get after the work of the kingdom.

Jan
24

Reconciliation is like voodoo…wait…what?

Voodoo dollReconciliation is a fun topic.  By now every one should know the wonderful roots of the word…how it contains the term “cilia” which mean eyelash and how God wants to be eyelash to eyelash with you.  Personally, I find this imagery terrifying.  If God’s eyelash were up against mine I would scream.  This would be like the butterfly kiss from hell only it is not hell it is God…oh dear…mind blown.

Reconciliation is a deep and rich.  This Saturday my daughter Joelle is celebrating her first reconciliation.  For Catholics this is an amazing sacrament.  It is her first opportunity to really examine her conscience and confess her sins to a priest who acting on behalf of our parish community and the Lord grants absolution and healing.  That is a lot for a 7year old to grasp.

Or is it?

My daughter has asked some great questions. Why can’t I just confess my sins to my friends?  You can.  Why can’t I just confess my sins to God?  You should.  Why do I confess my sins to a priest?  Because, we take faith community seriously and it is awesome.

Reconciliation isn’t voodoo or some magic spell.  We are not little dolls with pins sticking out of us placed there by the devil in need of a priest to pull them out. It is not a meaningless ritual.  It is not to be ignored. I am not going to dig into a bunch of doctrine or scripture here.  I am simply going to point out the obvious.

Sin hurts everyone.  I literally pulls is away from the face of God (his eyelash, remember?). It scars us. Our community and the relationship we seek with our creator is strained by our sin.  In faith community, we seek the healing of reconciliation in order that the community and our Lord draw us more in touch with holiness.  This journey by ourselves is limited.  This journey simply among our friends is plagued with a whole lot of humanity.  This journey with God, community and self is a pure alignment.  Thrown thick in the mix, is a recipe for healing and prolific discipleship.  This is the reason why strong faith community is so important.

My daughter gets to begin the life long investment of recognizing how much sin can vex her surroundings.  She gets to grow a bit.  She gets to willingly expose her heart to community and Christ and ask for healing.  She gets to encounter a visible sign of God’s grace and swim in his Mercy.  She gets to be reconciled.

So when is the next time you will encounter a good healthy confession?

Jan
22

Magic wands and bow and arrows and awesomeness.

Harry-Potter-Katniss-Hunger-GamesIf you told it to me like it was, I pretty much took your word for it.  If you said, “When you grow up, you will understand,”  I might scoff at your patronizing tone, but I pretty much would bow to your authority.  I am a Generation X guy with a keen sense of 80’s movies, a history of skateboarding and a wide eyed ignorant approach to modern technology.

So, um, what about kids these days?

The Generation Xer in me was caught in a modern-meets-post-modern world.  I was at peace with universal truths, but I loved experiences.  I could be taught abstract ideas but I really sunk my teeth into interactive learning.

My generation is unique in this way.  The young adult (Millenials) of today and the newer unnamed generation of young adolescents…not so much.

Experience is everything.  Truth still exists outside the bounds of one’s own interpretation…for most.  But encountering deep seeded truth in someone is profound.  All young people are not relativistic idiots (contrary to modern advertising).  My experience in youth ministry has taught me to fall in love with the pursuit of truth most adolescents exhibit today.

In short, we simple do not see the depth of a person the way we may have once supposed.  The “moment” is more to a mind that hungers to know it origins, its relevance and its impact.  Where my adolescence might be best illustrated in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the modern teen celebrates the rugged independence of Katniss from Hunger Games or the underdog triumph of Harry Potter.

Young people are a deep treasure of more than meets the eye.  They long to be known because in the knowing is a relational process of growing.  The mantra of my generation might be, “I get it.”  Where a millennial might cry out, “…there is more.”

Seek more in our young people today.  Minister well to these incredible young hearts. Their treasure and true impact on our faith lives is really yet to come in its fullness.  The influence of the young disciple on community and worship is really only beginning to unfold.  Brace yourself for a healthy shakedown in the way we learn and experience the faith.

I am happy to be along for the ride.

Great illustration of the beauty of the modern teen!

Jan
21

Box office preaching.

Frozen_castposter“There is no other way to defeat evil and sin than with the love that moves one to give the gift of his life for others.”
– Pope Francis

The majority of the top grossing movies of 2013 have a similar theme.  Sacrifice.  Hmmm.  Glad we all agree this is a nice idea to draw attention to.  From Hunger Games to Frozen, sacrifice comes in the form of the will of others before our own.  It is a discipline.  It is a conscious decision.  It is unpopular?

Not so fast.  Sacrifice is extremely popular.  In our majestic self-serving world we still find a great deal of common ground in conversations about movies whereupon the hero lays down their life for the other.  Confused?  Me too.

Sacrifice as a verb gained its esteem in the 14th century and was taken to mean, surrender, give up, suffer to be lost.  The word, of course, is rooted in the term sacred.

Let’s get this straight…it is profitable right now to tell stories about giving up one’s life for others in a way that is self-denying and generally leads to personal suffering.  How is evangelization not exploding on the scene in the midst of this?  Is our personal spirituality seeing a boost?  Have I been to the movies in a while?

Friends, I hope this comes as a challenge to you.  I hope that the needed push to articulate THE story of THE man who sacrificed everything for us is in your heart.  You know what is great?  The narrative of sacrificial giving is so popular right now that it should actually be easy to engage a healthy conversation about our king.

This conversation may seem like a “Jesus Juke” (thank you John Acuff), but really it is nothing more than putting the valued logic of human culture to work for the spreading of the kingdom.

Ask yourself, “Do I get the connection between sacrifice and redemption?”  “Am I in awe of the giving of one’s own life for others?”  “How does this motivate my spirituality?”

I am glad that “sacrifice” gained over 8 Billion dollars this year.  Good for film.  I am happier that such an enormously challenging topic has found its way into the hearts of many.  It is the job of the disciple to seize the moment and stir the fire.

Jan
17

Rip the roof off.


HopeI sorta suck at inviting people to know Jesus.  Not gonna lie to you here.  I have always struggled with the actual physical discussion whereupon his name is used and an invitation is given.  Whether you are a stranger or a family member, I have traditionally been slow to a good hearty invitation to know the love of the Lord.  Feeling kinda guilty about it.

Only recently have I broken through with a pretty honest and carefree approach to evangelizing.  Today’s gospel helped me a ton with that.

I love Mark 2:1-12.  I love all the images of people coming and going.  Jesus sitting inside a house with a roof made of mud, straw and manure then having is crumble around him…then pays no mind to the mess.  I love the doubt and the miraculous.  I especially love the descriptions of people’s faces whether anger or awe.  Who knew forgiveness would cause such a raucous?

Jesus did.  Sound like a dumb answer? Fine.  Track with it for a minute.

At the heart of every great spiritual encounter and every great relationship is forgiveness.  Our baggage is what we carry around with us and it is want alienates us from each other.  Our own agenda and brokenness creates barriers and blind spots.  We blame our schedules and our business for our lack of relationships, but it really boils down to effort.

Effort comes from hope and hope comes from a sense of belonging to something bigger and better.  Hence, forgiveness finds its immense role.

We are hopeless when we have our lives completely figured out and secured.  We are hopeless when all of our needs are met and we long for nothing.  We are hopeless in our technological euphoria and self-actualization.

Hope creeps into a longing heart.  Longing comes when we prioritize and recognize true need. Not material need, but that unexplainable ache of the soul (St. Augustine) need.  We all have it.  Some of us are just better at disguising it.

In Mark 2 Jesus forgives.  No real news flash here.  He does it all the time.  The real boom comes from the fact that he forgives as a means of both spiritual and physical healing. Oh, and it really pisses off the Pharisees.

Who has the most to gain from Christ…the broken, wasted, hurting, empty, suffering, lost, etc.  Who has the least to gain…the perfect, the actualized, the self-proclaimed rich.

This isn’t a new idea by any means.  It is simply theeeeee idea.

Lead with forgiveness…your need for it and recognition of its awesome freeness in Christ.  Recognize the healing power of the king of king and his desire for hope in all of our lives.  You are forgiven.  Just like me.  Now let’s really get to know Christ. We will all be ripping the roof off of our buddy’s homes in no time.