Posts

In Search of Life's Meaning

In some ways we get off track looking for "the" meaning of life. Instead, we need to look for ways to make life meaningful. That can be done in more than one way. Yes, I find meaning in God, but not the way some proclaim it. Far too often I hear Christians shouting praises to God, lifting up the name of Jesus, and so forth, but I don't get the sense they really understand what worshipping and praising God really is, much less what it means to be a believer in Jesus Christ. God does not fill our lives with meaning simply because we profess to trust Jesus or claim that God is powerful and exists. Rather than some magical or emotional infusion of a sense of discovery, God offers us a sense of purpose in the process of living according to God's will and priorities for our lives. This is not because God has some arbitrary list of commandments, but because God grants us a way to discover a better way of living through loving our fellow human beings, serving the needs of o…

Unclean Foreigner

I lived near Charlottesville, Virginia for several years. In the midst of a very conservative rural portion of the state, Charlottesville stood out as a beacon of higher education and a town with a very cosmopolitan flavor. We encountered Ethiopian cuisine, Indian cuisine, a Brasilian pizzeria, and a host of people that gave it a feeling of having a place in the global economy. To find it the center of a rallying place for a demonstration to unite the alternative right groups of white supremacy is quite a shock to the identity of Charlottesville as a gathering place for people from all walks of life, races, cultures, and backgrounds. To hear claims of white supremacy in Charlottesville linked to avowals of Christian faith forces me back to the struggles of my own heritage with issues of race in opposition to the teachings of Christ Jesus. In Matthew 15, we find Jesus leaving Israel after talking with others about issues over ritual impurity and what defiles someone before God. The stan…

September Musings

September is an interesting month. It is a time of transition between summer and fall. It is still summer, but the school calendar does not know that. It is the transition to fall, but the weather does not normally grasp that concept. While September is a month in which we step into a new season, it is also a time when we get back into established routines. Our lives are often just as complicated. They are filled with new beginnings which are not always as new as we might project them to be. What is new is often a known routine. What is an established routine is somehow different as we enter into a new experience and gain a new perspective. The expectations we bring from one year of experience often does not match up to the realities we confront in the next one. So life continues to offer us challenges and opportunities to grow, learn, and adapt to new realities. My latest stint in the hospital has brought a new context for my life. I am not used to struggling for the energy I need t…

Transitioning Toward Grace

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted an account of her child's struggles. She and I were friends growing up in Brazil. An older sister lived in our home for a while. I have journeyed with her from afar over several months as she has struggled with how to support her child in an environment that has been anything but supportive.
As is true for a couple of other friends of mine, all of them steeped in Baptist church life from the cradle, sometimes the life of a parent pulls you into a context which is anything but familiar, anything but what your culture, society, and faith tradition has prepared you to experience with grace. Often as not, those to whom you would normally turn for support have not traveled the same road and do not have the background to respond to challenges that are wholly new.
The easy response to uncomfortable challenges is to seek the pat answers of our heritage and tradition. The question is which answers do we select and prioritize when confronted with wh…

After Pentecost Devotional - Day 70

“I feel sorry for these people. They have been with me for three days, and they don’t have anything to eat. Some of them live a long way from here. If I send them away hungry, they might faint on their way home.” Mark 8:2-3
By what definitions were Jesus and the disciples responsible for feeding the crowds who had run out of food? Had the people not made the choice to follow Jesus to hear him teach? Had they not failed to prepare to stay three days with Jesus by not bringing enough food? Should the onus not have been upon the crowds to provide for their own needs?
This was not the 21st Century with laws governing the gathering of large crowds, health inspections of kitchens, toileting facilities, and the like. Jesus had not invited the people to come out to hear and follow him. He had not sent out flyers announcing his presence or charged admission for the crowds who wished to hear him teach. Why would he feel responsible for those who had come on their own volition and with an obvious…

After Pentecost Devotional - Day 69

Then the Israelites got rid of the idols of the foreign gods, and they began worshiping only the LORD. Finally, there came a time when the LORD could no longer stand to see them suffer.” Judges 10:16
So often we relate to prayer and God along the lines of the jinn of Arab mythology as we know them from the stories of Arabian Nights. We consider that prayer functions as the rubbing of a lamp which somehow grants us control of an all-powerful being. We wield that lamp in order to gain power, control, and enforce our will upon those around us. We seek to manipulate our circumstances in a manner as to advance our personal needs, desires, and whims above those of others.
In our competition over resources, security, and personal advancement, we dis-consider that a proper relationship with God is rather different from such an approach. Here in the midst of Judges, we find a passage that shouts aloud a reminder that Yahweh is no jinn to be controlled and abused for our pleasure and satisfactio…

After Pentecost Devotional - Day 68

'Isn’t he the laborer, the son of Mary? Aren’t James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon his brothers? Don’t his sisters still live here in our town?' The people were very unhappy because of what he was doing.” Mark 6:3
The term we find translated as “carpenter” would be better-translated as day-laborer. Jesus was not the son of a skilled tradesman. Instead, he was the son of a tekton, one who works with his hands. As such, Joseph would have built walls, gathered grain, or done whatever job was needed by whoever would pay for a day's work. He would have been a simple man by economic standards of his day.
What that means in this passage is that Jesus was of the lower working class of Jewish society. He would not have had access to the kind of education that would allow one to become a rabbi. Jesus would have grown up doing the same kind of work as his father, learning from an early age the ins and outs of working in accordance with the needs of the day. He would not have lived in the …