Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday Links 3-29-12

My post this week was a reflection on a longer message I delivered to junior and senior high students at a retreat last weekend.  There are a great many things to enjoy about the Hunger Games and here are a few other theological reflections from the books I wish I would have known about last week.

This weeks "Points of Interest"
Ashley Smith provides a strong reflection of her learning to be vulnerable in Christ.  She writes about finding ways to fight against the need to be self-sufficient and spiritually perfect.

Christian Piatt's "Four Reasons I Returned to Church" is a follow up from a few weeks ago when he listed 7 reasons he left the church.  It's a good read to better understand Young Adults who want to be part of a Christian community but don't find what they are looking for in many churches.

A mother wrote a blog post titled "Hoodies, Skittles, and a Mother's Nightmare" a reflection on the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida last month.

Here is a conversation with Missional Church author/leader/speaker Alan Hirsch where he discusses many different topics relating to the Missional Church.

Here is a summary of a conversation President Jimmy Carter had with a Southern Baptist journalist regarding his views on the current state of Baptist life.

Brian McLaren offers a summary of some research done on the income growth from 2010.  "The top 1% gained 93% of the income growth in 2010. The rest of us shared in 7% of the income growth."

A Japanese "Ghost Ship" was spotted off the coast of Canada this week.  It was thought to be lost during the tragic tsunami from March 2011 that killed 19,000 people. An interesting read.

Just for Fun

James Cameron became on the  first person to ever successfully reach the deepest part of the ocean solo (and return safely to the surface).

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hunger Games and the Kingdom of Heaven

This past weekend I had opportunity to visit with many of our American Baptist Youth in Nebraska as they gathered together at our Moses Merrill Camp and Conference Center.  It was the perfect weekend; great weather, good friends, and a great theme to focus our attention.  The theme was "The Kingdom of God."

This weekend was also the much anticipated premier of The Hunger Games movie based on the best selling trilogy of the same name by Suzanne Collins.  Nearly two thirds of the students at this retreat had read The Hunger Games books.  During my time to speak I decided to walk the students through the Gospel of Matthew and see all the ways that the writer see's Jesus ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthews phrase for Kingdom of God) and use the Hunger Games trilogy to make comparisons of how different Kingdom living is from life in Panem.

As I currently understand it, the Kingdom of Heaven is the reality of what God intended things to be from the very beginning.  In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth, twin halves of God's created reality, designed to eventually be united (thank you NT Wright for this image).  Sin and death have kept these two realities apart, so the Creator God came as Christ to defeat death and allow Gods will to be done "on Earth as it is in Heaven."  Matthew is full of images of what this Kingdom living looks like...sick people are healed, hungry people are fed, the spiritually empty are filled, the blind see, the lame walk, broken relationships are mended, and the dead are brought to life.

The Hunger Games trilogy ends with an uprising that leads to the fall of an oppressive regime.  However, to accomplish their goals it cost the lives of many innocent people.  In the end people are still broken, lives are shattered, many are still hungry, and the dead remained buried.  Thanks be to God that in moments when we share in Resurrected living, when we are participating in the present Kingdom of Heaven by feeding, healing, clothing, sheltering, and mending others that we are in that moment living in the Kingdom.   See the Kingdom of Heaven is not some place we go when we die, the real Kingdom of Heaven is here, now among us like interlocking fingers.  And we have the hope that someday somehow, the two worlds will be one as seen in Revelation 21-22, without any separation.  That is the true Christian hope.  May it be so.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thursday Web Links

Thursday Web Links

A couple days ago I wrote about the reason's I have chosen to remain part of the church rather than leave it as many young adults have done. In fairness to a link I posted of her Rachel Held Evans posted on her site yesterday her 15 Reasons Why I Returned to Church.

In other news in the world of Christian conversation and young adult lives:

Debt problems:
Young Adults and Faith:
  • An article by Skye Jethani titled "Christianism Leads to Atheism" discusses the good and bad of mixing religion with politics and how that is different from an authentic Christian walk.
    • So, we are left with a narrow path. Veer too far to the cultural right and the young will dismiss the church as a puppet of Republican politics. Veer too far to the theological left and the power of the Gospel is lost amid cultural accommodation.The younger generations, and our culture as a whole, needs evidence of a third way to be Christian. It will require more than individual voices, but an organized and identifiable community of believers that reject Christianism and stands for Christ’s Good News, manifested in good lives, and evident in good works.

Missional Church
Women in Ministry
On the Lighter Side:
If you grew up in the 90's chances are you were a fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I often pretended to be Donatello running around my neighborhood with a stick that had tape in the middle.  Well it seems producer Michael Bay is making a live action movie of the Turtles to be released sometime this year but he is changing the back story of how the turtles came to be...shame on you Mr. Bay. If there is no ooze how can they be mutants???

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pro Ecclessia

"Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana" "For Church, For Texas"

This phrase is the motto of Baylor University and is inscribed on the school's official seal.  I saw this seal many times on the campus of Baylor University while I was a seminary student at the George W. Truett Baptist Theological Seminary.  "For Church, For Texas."  I only ever lived in Texas long enough to attend seminary, so I don't know how "for Texas" I can possibly be.  However, I am very much, "for Church."

The past few years it has been popular in Christian literature to try and understand why young adults are not part of the Church.  Books like Soul Searching, Almost Christian, UnChristian, Next Christians, You Lost Me, and Sticky Faith have all been great reads with very good observations. I would recommend any or all of them to you.  Not only in traditional print/e-reader format but also in the "blogosphere" many are sharing why they think young adults are leaving the church.  Most recently Chris Piatt at Red Letter Christians (a blog site headed by American Baptist theologian/professor/author Toni Campolo) writes there are seven reasons in his opinion why young adults are leaving the church.  Commenting on Piatt's thoughts, popular blogger/writer/speaker Rachel Held Evans, has listed 15 reasons why she has left the local church but still feels part of the "big 'C' Church."

These books and blogs and others like them are usually full of statistics about how few young adults are in church these days.  It is true there are alarmingly few of us in the pews each week, so much so I think I have learned to better relate with people 20+ years older than myself than I do with my peers. See I am in the minority, I am a thirty year old who not only attends a church service every week, I work for a Society that works with churches in a Midwest Region. I work with a number of churches in a variety of settings.  Some are big, some are small.  Some are in urban areas, most are in rural areas. A few are affluent, most struggle financially. The churches I serve even speak eight different languages.  But the one thing they all have in common is what has been called elsewhere as the "graying of the church."

If you want to better understand why young adults are leaving the church, I encourage you to read one of the books or blogs above.  I would like to take a moment and simply list a few reasons why I have bucked the trend and have chosen to not only remain in church but work hard to make churches, pastors, and congregations healthier.

  1. Community:  Church for me is like a massive family reunion every week.  Eugene Peterson said it best, church is a place of, "broken, hobbled, crippled, sexually abused and spiritually abused, emotionally unstable, passive and passive-aggressive, neurotic men and women." (Practice Resurrection, 27)  It is a place where real people, come to a real place, to meet a real God, to have real needs met, and in turn to meet the very real needs of others both inside the building and outside.
  2. It is better to "reform" from within than to quit and cast judgement from afar:  Martin Luther probably never meant to start the Reformation.  At first he tried desperately to make change as a Catholic priest before being pushed out completely. While I don't plan on being a revolutionary of any status, I do plan on acting as my Old Testament prof once called, "the prophetic voice in the wilderness."  I have been called to these people, I don't get to choose them.  The church for all her faults is filled God's people and I am one of them.  I will walk in the way, the truth, and the life and encourage others to do the same.
  3. It is intellectually and spiritually challenging:  I have been more spiritually challenged, more theologically stretched, and more intellectually stimulated in the Church than anywhere else.  Authors like Peterson, McKnight, N.T. Wright, McLaren, Christopher Wright, Capon, Gil Baile, Pannenberg, Olson, Karl Barth, Roushenbush, Bonhoeffer, C.S. Lewis, Bartholomew, Merton, and a many, many others have all challenged me.  Old church ladies, little Sunday School kids, impulsive teens, widows, orphans, cranky lawyers, jaded doctors, retired military, and thousand other individuals have all had a hand in growing me.  I met them all in Church.
  4. Questions can be scary, but at least I can ask them: I share this one with a slight wink.  Many, many young adults feel their questions are unwelcome.  Questions that are most pressing in our demographic like homosexual equality, a decade old war, health care, creation care and evolution, Biblical "authority" and immigration issues shape our daily discussions with one another.  In many places these questions are dismissed as either misguided or just ignorant. "just read the bible like a textbook and believe what we tell you to believe" is the answer many have received as answers to their questions.  I know this happens and I hope to never give such a response because it's not only academically wrong it shows they are more worried about status quo than actual thought processes.  For the most part this has not been my experience.  I have been blessed with good pastors, good friends, and good fellow congregants who have allowed me to wonder through these questions.  So I acknowledge this as a struggle for many, I have been lucky to have been surrounded by fellow wanderers who are trying to be "Shaped by the Story" of Scripture.

"Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana" 

Texas can handle itself; I want to be for the Church.