“There was a dynamic missing, so the pastor did a pretty brave thing,” he recalls. “He decided to get rid of the sound system and band for a season, and we gathered together with just our voices. His point was that we’d lost our way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.”Reminding his church family to be producers in worship, not just consumers, the pastor, Mike Pilavachi, asked, “When you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?”Matt says the question initially led to some embarrassing silence, but eventually people broke into a cappella songs and heartfelt prayers, encountering God in a fresh way.
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|Photo Credit: David Schell|
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish — you know!
How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one’s name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
Also, feel free to add more examples of Nobodies in the comments!
- KJV Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
- NIV Isaiah 45:7 I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.
- NRS Isaiah 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the LORD do all these things
I was thinking recently about the story in John 8 about the woman caught in adultery.
Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” –John 8:2-11
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.–Matthew 1:18-19
In condemning this woman, would Jesus have also been passing judgment on his own mother? What did he know of the circumstances of his birth? Had growing up with questionable origins made him more sensitive to the plight of others? Had the rumors of his parentage been known to the people who brought him this woman? Were they testing him, not only to see what he would do regarding punishment, but also regarding the commandment to honor his mother and father?I also wondered, “what happened next?” Even though Jesus refused to condemn her, and everyone else had walked away, how was she treated by them after this? Jesus told her to go and to not sin again. Let’s assume that’s what happened. Let’s assume she repented and became a new person. Did everyone forget about it? Or was she branded “that woman”, ignored, shamed, and treated badly because of one bad decision in her life? What happened to her husband? Did he forgive her or did he divorce her?
Was she able to move on with her life, somehow? Or did this incident rear its ugly head again, maybe even years later? Was it distorted and exaggerated, made out to be more than it was?
I know my latest post in my series about loving God should be posted today, but it’s not going to happen. Sorry. It’s not finished yet, even though the one scheduled for next week is actually almost complete. Such is life, right?
Anyway. Today is April 17, 2013. It’s supposedly been spring for almost one month now, yet this morning I packed my son’s snow pants in his backpack to take to school with him, because it is snowing. I’ve heard we could get an accumulation of 5-8 inches. And last week, we had an ice storm one day and snow the next, which caused all kinds of destruction around town–driving around and seeing all of the downed branches made it almost seem as if a tornado had come through.
I’ve seen comments about it being “always winter and never Christmas” and people looking for something positive about this strange cold weather in spring.
Even though I dislike being cold, and I dislike winter the most of all the seasons, I have found myself not minding it. It is peaceful and pretty. It makes me feel as if time is standing still or slowing down, even as we have our regular daily activities. It is, perhaps, a little bit of food for this introvert’s soul.
And, if the snow makes us even mention Christmas, maybe that is good. While we take a little time to think about the incarnation at the official time of Christmas, most often it is overshadowed by cookies, presents, parties, and Santa Claus. Maybe, without all of those distractions, this unseasonable snow gives us a good reason to think about the incarnation now.
“Why the Incarnation” was a blog challenge Tony Jones issued last year during Advent. I never managed to get my post done for it, unfortunately (it was turning out to be way too long, and I didn’t know how and what to edit). But now, with the snow and the thoughts of Christmas, perhaps I’ll think some more on it, because if the incarnation matters, then it doesn’t matter just at Christmas, but all year long.
What does it mean to us in April, just weeks after we have celebrated the resurrection, that God became incarnate? What does it mean to us on the days we aren’t forced to think about it, those ordinary, non-celebratory days of life, that God chose to dwell among us in the person of Jesus? Maybe, it is on these ordinary days that the incarnation should matter the most, because we can celebrate that with which we most relate: the humanity of God.
We can read the words from Paul’s letter to the Philippians in which he explains how we too can experience the incarnation:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross. –Philippians 2:3-8
We can experience it by having the same mind as Jesus. The mind that puts our power and privilege aside in order to help others. The kind that first looks to the interests of others. The kind that helps us to kill our selfishness and love others.
And, maybe, that is an answer to “Why the Incarnation?” Without it, would we really and truly understand humility and selflessness? Would we know how to serve others?
So today, as I look at the unexpected, unanticipated, and unseasonable snow, I will think of Jesus, who came unexpectedly and in an unanticipated way to show us what love really is.
Maybe, today, we should think of it not as “always winter and never Christmas”, but simply “always Christmas”.
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” –Matthew 22:34-40
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” –John 13:34-35
He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! (or, the Minnesota version I learned on Sunday, He is Risen, You Betcha) filled my Facebook feed on Easter.
And on this most joyful day of the year, I struggled to find joy, and instead felt sadness. At church, I almost immediately burst into tears when someone innocently asked me “do you have any family around?” and the answer was no. And then, a few minutes later, the subject came up again, and I did start to cry.
I’ve never felt so sad and emotional on a holiday before, and I have celebrated many of them far away from family. Why was this Easter different? I really can’t answer that.
I remember one time thinking about all of my moves and a verse from the Bible about being a wanderer came to mind. I thought it would probably make a great part of a blog post until I looked it up and saw that the speaker was Cain. I mean, really, who wants to identify with the first murderer? So I used Abraham’s story instead, in “A Wandering Alien” (and also explored the idea of moving in “Reflections on My Past Year”). I still feel as though I am wandering, and I wonder if I ever will not be wandering. Living in the middle of the country even feels like a metaphor. We’re a 2-3 day drive from either of our families, and our church here is becoming our family. But still. When it comes to holidays, most people think first of their biological family, not their church family.
After church, we came home, I made breakfast, and after that started preparing our afternoon meal (roast chicken, potatoes, gravy, peas, rolls). Throughout the day, during the cooking, the cleaning up (both the house in general and the food prep), and I think I even started a load of laundry that night, I thought, “this seems like an ordinary day, but it’s supposed to be a special day.”
As I’ve mulled that over in the days since, I have thought about some of Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom.
- “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)
- He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” (Matthew 13:33)
- Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:4)
I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson as a part of their BookSneeze program. Also, I attempted to write this review while trying to watch my children at the local public library, so if you find it lacking and full of errors, you know why.
I’d been seeing a lot about Everything by Mary DeMuth around the time of its release, and so was glad to be able to select it to review. First, ignore the cover. The cutesy font used for the title in a heart gives the impression that it is kind of a “girly” book without much depth. Had I known nothing about the book and only seen the cover, I would have been less than impressed. However, the content goes so much deeper and is worthwhile to those who are looking for guidance in deepening their faith.
I was especially impressed by DeMuth’s scholarship with certain Biblical texts, explaining how they are often ripped out of context and giving the context for them (i.e. Jeremiah 29:11). She also explains how we tend to follow a popular version of a Christianity that tells us God won’t give us more than we can handle or that requires little commitment, or that it is all about our comfort and happiness when that is actually not representative of what Jesus asks of us.
Some of the great lessons DeMuth teaches in Everything:
- Let God convict people, not you
- Be yourself
- Give up control
- Allow the Spirit to work in us
18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us,(1 )so that the world may believe that you have sent me. –John 17:18-21
How does preaching specific political opinions add to Christian unity? In many churches, due to the makeup of the congregation, the location, the denomination, it’s often going to be fairly obvious which way people lean politically.
And what of the minority parties within that congregation? Will they feel welcomed as part of the body of Christ if they are being told their political views are wrong? Doesn’t this just become one more divisive way that inhibits our witness as loving to the world?
It seems to me that World Communion Sunday is a much better option. It is a way to be united despite differences, not a way to be divisive. Is it so important to feel right about one’s political position that we have to make other Christian brothers and sisters feel less than for not agreeing?
What did your church do yesterday? World Communion Sunday? Pulpit Freedom Sunday? Both? Neither? What would you liked your church to have done, had you had a chance to choose?