Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's Maundy Thursday - Feeling "Maundy" Yet?

"Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos"

Yeah, I didn't know what that meant either. It's Latin. I looked it up. It's the Latin translation of the Greek text in John 13:34. Basically, in English it says something like this:

"I give you a new command: Love each other as I have loved you."

John puts those words in the mouth of Jesus on the day before his crucifixion. So today, in Holy Week, we remember that Jesus said this. Today is the last supper. The passover. The advent of the eucharistic tradition.

It seems that the first word of the phrase in Latin, "mandatum," evolved through the centuries to "Maundy." Maundy Thursday. (There are other theories on how today got its name, but this seems to most common.)

So today, we reflect on the living Jesus who is yet to die. The one who shares his life - his very body and blood - with his followers. The one who is with us, eating with us, drinking with us, teaching us, loving us. The one who calls us to obey his central command: Love each other as I have loved you.

N.T. Wright, in his sermon God in Private and Public says this about today:

That rhythm of private and public is what we find, sharply and starkly, in the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Today, Jesus takes the disciples into a private room, and the door is shut. Nobody else knows what’s going on. But the words he says there in private, and still more the small but earth-shattering actions he performs, will turn within twenty-four hours into the most ghastly and shocking display of God in public: God shamed and mocked, God beaten up and humiliated, God stripped naked and hung up to die. You can’t get more public than crucifixion by the main west road out of Jerusalem. And, as in fact you can observe throughout Jesus’ ministry, you need that rhythm of private and public at every stage. The private without the public becomes gnosticism, escapism, a safe and narcissistic spirituality. But the public without the private becomes political posturing, meaningless gestures, catching the eye without engaging the heart. We need both; and the events through which we live today enable us to inhabit both, and be strengthened thereby for the ministries both private and public to which we are called.

And the events of Good Friday tells us something we urgently need to know about doing God in public. If it is the true God we are talking about – the God we see and know in Jesus Christ and him crucified – then we should expect that following him, speaking for him, and living out the life of his spirit, will sometimes make the crowds shout ‘Hosanna!’ and sometimes make them shout ‘Crucify!’ We are not in this business to court either popularity or martyrdom. When they come, like Kipling’s triumph and disaster, we should treat them, imposters as they are, just the same. Speaking and living for God in the public world will sometimes dovetail exactly with what the world inarticulately knows it wants and needs; sometimes it will cut straight across what everyone else is saying. But those who have sat at table with their Lord, and have known him in the strange privacy of the breaking of the bread, will not waver the next day when they need to stand as a sign of contradiction in the market place, in the council chamber, or in the courtroom. This is a lesson, my friends, we are going to have to learn more and more in the days to come. Work hard, you who stand up to be counted as the Lord’s publicly recognised servants, work hard at the private disciplines, so that you will know where to stand and how to stand when everyone else thinks you’re blaspheming against the secular gods of the day.

We will reflect on the crucifixion tomorrow at 7pm at The Vineyard if you want to join us.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

38 Proverbs for 38 Years

Well, I'm calling it. I have now officially moved from my mid-thirties to my late-thirties. For what it is worth, here's a life lesson for each year I have muddled through. (I figure I'm old enough now to try to dish out a little wisdom.)

1. Real friends are people who know your middle name, biggest flaws and hidden talents.
2. Having a job is a good thing, but it is never really the ultimate thing.
3. You can't be happy if you aren't submitting to the right person.
4. Some people you know will never ask the big questions of life.
5. The key to a happy marriage is being a servant.
6. Being a parent of a toddler is exhausting...and you will miss it when it is over.
7. You can't be spiritually fit while being a glutton or a drunk.
8. You can be spiritually fit while enjoying a hamburger and a stiff drink now and again.
9. Some people know God really well but just haven't learned his name yet.
10. Embrace the geekiest and/or nerdiest things about you.
11. When you don't know what else to do, tell a story. If that doesn't work, be silent.
12. You will be embarrassed in ten years of some of the things you believe today.
13. Winter, for all its flaws, makes the other three seasons better.
14. God lives in the mountains and the beaches, but he is even more visible in the city.
15. Jesus is misrepresented about 90% of the time both inside and outside of the church.
16. If both your religious and irreligious friends think you are crazy, congratulations.
17. A loving dog is worth the pain of having a dog...but just barely.
18. If you want to be a Christian, study what Jesus meant by the "Kingdom of God."
19. It is ok to not have answers about God. You aren't his PR department.
20. A worthy life is about not giving up.
21. If you are going to waste money on something, let it be a family vacation.
22. Don't partner with anyone in business you wouldn't want your wife and kids to live with.
23. Unrestrained cynicism will make you and everyone you love miserable.
24. When you look back, your hobbies will have shaped your life. Pick good ones.
25. Every new friend will end up hurting you. Then they might become a great friend.
26. If you fancy yourself an artist and don't do art, you will never feel complete.
27. History is not boring. Some historians are. Know the difference.
28. Sometimes good ideas and organizations need to die. Euthanize and eulogize them.
29. If a friend loses a loved one, go and be in the same room with them.
30. Be alone with your husband or wife for at least one week every year.
31. Take a massive risk every five years.
32. If you can walk somewhere on a nice day instead of driving, do it.
33. Learn to love the things your kids love.
34. Sometimes a pen and paper is still the best option.
35. Floss.
36. Find an exciting author smarter than you and read everything they have ever written.
37. Re-read your favorite books from each decade of your life.
38. Learn to pray in a way that doesn't really feel like you are praying.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Endorsement: Love Wins by Rob Bell

I hesitate to write anything about the book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived because of the inside-evangelicalism controversy over it. Not to mention, two of my really smart friends beat me to it. If you want to read two well-written reviews check out Jim Zartman's and Steve Fuller's blogs.

I knew going in that I wanted to like the book because I felt that Bell was probably unfairly attacked by Piper and others before the book released. To be honest, I haven't read Bell before. I have used some of his Nooma Videos and listened to a few of his sermons. I have been profoundly shaped by CS Lewis, NT Wright, Dallas Willard and (of late) Timothy Keller. This book was influenced by those thinkers as well. There is nothing in the book that cannot be found in the writings of those men. So, this stuff wasn't new to me. It's filled with the kind of Kingdom thinking that kept me from abandoning Christianity in my twenties. What makes it different than the others is Bell's tone. His style is smart yet simple and modern. I have no doubt that I will recommend this book to dozens of people this year. And so...I recommend and endorse it here as well. Not because it is or isn't controversial. I'm a little past caring about that stuff. I recommend it because it contains the gospel as I understand it today. I agree with 90% of it. And, no. I won't tell you what the 10% is that I disagree with...because I haven't figured that out myself yet.