Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
"Now when God fashioned human beings, he planted in them emotions and inclinations, but at the same time he enthroned the mind among the senses as a sacred governor over them all. To the mind he gave the law..." (2:21-22).The author(s) proceed to illustrate, through various athletic metaphors that bear resemblance to Pauline writings, the vitality of reason in the training of God's people for witness, mission, and life lived in the economy of God. This is especially pertinent as Maccabees builds towards the narration of seven brothers martyred by the evil Antiochus IV Epiphanes, whom some have labeled as the first Hitler. In other words, the essence of Maccabees is to goad God's people towards faith and reason found in the Law that may be quite unconventional and unnatural:
"Thus as one adopts a way of life in accordance with the law, even though a lover of money, one is forced to act contrary to natural ways and to lend without interest to the needy and to cancel debt when the seventh year arrives...It is evident that reason rules even the more violent emotions: lust for power, vain glory, boasting, arrogance, and malice" (2:8,15)....to act contrary to natural ways.
Yes, this is the mandate of God's people whose minds are governed by the reason of God.
This is the mind of God that governs the Messianic passions.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
|The cover photo is of Imago Dei and Honduran Youth.|
The article, "Partners in Mission: Youth Showing Us the Way," explores the process that lead the Imago Dei Youth of Westminster Presbyterian Church to partner with PCUSA World Mission and the Presbytery of Honduras. I have previously blogged about missional experiences as pilgrimage and partnership, see "Service Blitzes, Missional Pilgrims, and Jim Forest." However, this article underscores some of the nuts and bolts of what our pre-trip preparation looks like, a vital element of any youth ministry missional partnership.
Another great resource: "Short-term Missions: Paratrooper Incursion or 'Zaccheus Encounter'?" by Hunter Farrell, Director of PCUSA World Mission, and published in Journal of Latin American Theology: Christian Reflections from the Latino South (2007).
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
|Amber and I gifted this to Lily on her baptism.|
"Christians have children, in great part, in order to be able to tell our children the story. Fortunately for us, children love stories. It is our baptismal responsibility to tell this story to our young, to live it before them, to take time to be parents in a world that (though intent on blowing itself to bits) is God’s creation (a fact we would not know without this story). We have children as a witness that the future is not left up to us and that life, even in a threatening world, is worth living—and not because 'Children are the hope of the future,' but because God is the hope of the future." (Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, 60).
|Noah's baptismal gift :)|
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
"to repent is to 'go beyond the mind that you have'- to go beyond conventional understandings of what life with God is about" (Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary, 201)
"[Jesus] was, in fact, to this extent very like John the Baptist, only more so" (Jesus and the Victory of God, 163)."
Monday, November 14, 2011
This is more than an epitaph on the career of one of college football's greatest legends, it is an indictment on all of us.
I am not interested in writing too much about the Penn State scandal. In fact, I hesitate to write anything at all, as the emotions it generates within a youth pastor and new father are so raw that a blog post neither does justice nor brings appropriate healing. Moreover, the vileness of child sexual abuse should speak for itself. It should. But it doesn't. Instead, like most forms of injustice, abuse, violence, and oppression, the issues are engaged and the victims find advocacy only in hindsight.
I confess: I have been enamored over the past week with the constant streaming of interviews, anecdotes, updates, and press conferences that have regarded the Sandusky scandal, the Paterno firing, and the grand jury report that brought both to the forefront of all news stations (I cannot bring myself to actually read it). However, as I have contemplated the atrocity I have also found it ironic that at the same time our youth ministry continues to engage the prophetic and woeful visions of Habakkuk:
“Alas for you who get evil gain for your houses,
setting your nest on high
to be safe from the reach of harm!”
You have devised shame for your house
by cutting off many peoples;
you have forfeited your life.
The very stones will cry out from the wall,
and the plaster will respond from the woodwork.
This is what I wrote for the students as an introduction to a contemplative and prophetic exercise, which engaged the above passage:
Often we interpret sin as when we do the wrong thing. But is it possible that sin can be understood as not doing the right thing? We are exposed to so many forms of suffering, abuse, evil, and injustice, whether they are in our homes, neighborhoods, communities, or schools. Even when we turn on the news it hits us: we live in a world that cries out to be made right and eased of its pain. Yet, how many times do we distance ourselves from these cries in the attempt to save ourselves, our stuff, our reputation, and our image? We have set ourselves apart from others harm only for the stones and plaster of our security to cry out on behalf of the weak and wounded of this world.
So what does Habakkuk have to do with Joe Paterno and Penn State?
Again, "with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."
If we pause to consider the plethora of injustices and acts of violence that take place "on our watch," we would find that not only is Joe Paterno to be held accountable, but also each one of us. It is easy to demonize a fallen hero, much more difficult to listen to the cries of the stone and plaster walls we have constructed around our own reputations, families, goals, and lusts for security. We prefer to separate and ignore, isolate and overlook versus engage and advocate on behalf of a wide range of sufferings...and the list goes well beyond sexual abuse. How long must we cry never again and promise "not on our watch?"
Declarations of war.
The list could go on ad infinitum. Yet what will it take for us, for me, to respond and engage suffering and injustice before any one of us has to offer our own statement, "I wish I had done more."
There are many reasons that have been suggested for Joe Paterno's forced exit. Some have suggested that it was the Board of Trustees best opportunity to make a coaching change that has eluded them over the past 10 years. Others have demanded his resignation or termination with a level of hostility that would make one think that he was the actual perpetrator.
But I wonder, is Joe Paterno not only the scapegoat for a University and community that failed to respond to one of, if not the greatest manifestations of evil, but also one who now bears the guilt of all of us who have ever failed to do something. In other words, is our anger not only warranted, but also the projection of the shame each of us carries in light of our ignorance and silence in the face of so many forms of human suffering near and far.
If that is true, may this scandal no longer focus on a football program, a university, or legacies that have evaporated right before our eyes. Instead, may this be the opportunity for us to allow the stones and plaster of our communities to cry out on behalf of all those who suffer from whatever form of injustice, oppression, and marginalization. Still more, may we no longer ignore these cries but choose to echo and reverberate them.
May we prefer to act out of foresight versus hindsight.
 As a youth pastor, I encourage every person who works with children to challenge their ministries, organizations, and institutions to revisit their child protection policies. This must be done not just to protect and preserve institutions from legal threats and accusations, but primarily to educate and inform people how to interact with children safely and responsibly. This may be one of the most compassionate extensions of our missional vocation, i.e. protecting children from abuse. In Pennsylvania each county has a Children and Youth Service organization, e.g. Chester County: http://www.chesco.org/cyf/site/default.asp . On a national level, a great resource is: http://www.childwelfare.gov/index.cfm
 Also, a great sermon by good friend Tony Sundermeier: "Not So Happy Valley: Power, Abuse, Leadership, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ."