Saturday, April 24, 2010
Let's start with its appearance and move on from there.
If you'll remember, the classic Amazo looked like a giant elf with an attitude. The Super-Adaptoid is a blank slate whose appearance alters as he absorbs and utilizes powers. When it comes to creating visual interest, that's just cool, although I woul have liked to have seen the clashing colors of all the costumes rather than just that green, but cool nonetheless.
Then there is the origin story, the product of the evil A.I.M., created with a shard of the only-from-the-mind-of-Kirby "Cosmic Cube," you just expect this guy to be one bad mother-("shut your mouth") - but I'm talking about the Super-Adaptoid! If you are unfamiliar with the Cosmic Cube, read up a little. For a long time it was Marvel bad-guys Holy Grail - but you never knew quite what it was all about - it was just "cosmic" and you knew that spelled trouble in the wrong hands. (Stuff like that, you just have to love Kirby.)
But back to the look of this guy. A.I.M. was run by MODOK of the big head, another wisually stunning character. When the SA and MODOK hit the panel together, that was a picture you could look at for hours.
When it comes to power duplicating androids - I'll take the Super Adaptoid every time!
Friday, April 23, 2010
Things That Do Matter
"Nowadays, people like to be different from their parents, [who] wanted to be members and belong to things," said the center's Rabbi Gedaliah Lowenstein. "Young people want to plug in and plug out."And it struck me - when church bets on anything other that the truth and love of Christ, things like tradition, culture, or politics, it risks going through the same life and death cycles those things do.
But here is the thing, Jesus came precisely to break the cycle of life and death. Our job, as Christians and as the church is to find the eternal and to pass it on. I know, I occasionally rail here against "contemporary worship" but I try very hard not to do so on matters of taste, but on matters of what elevates, what reveals, and what aims at the eternal. Not emotion, not intellect, but spirit - not what inspires, but what elevates. "Contemporary worship" will fail because it is too culture bound just as assuredly as this Orthodox liturgy has.
Three quick points...
When we talk about what to do in church we should not ask what will people relate to - we should ask what points to the eternal.
What is eternal is us, not what we do. That means, in part the church must focus not on the seeker, but on the believer for it is the believer in which the Holy Spirit resides. Lift them up and they lift the world.
I'll take the old liturgy versus the new whatever you call it any day - maybe not in Russian, but the forms and signs were designed specifically to preserve faith and to point to God, not to attract. They have indeed failed in many ways, but only becasue we have failed them, not they us.
Can I get an "Amen?"
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Where Your Trust?
I regularly ponder the value of Christian advice. The church so quickly and glibly offers prescriptions and formulas for abundant living or a successful marriage. Most of us either can’t meet the standards or can’t make it work. Churches bring the AA adage “fake it till you make it” to a whole new level. I attribute the long seepage of cultural capital from Christendom to the failure of Christian advice. That isn’t to say that the advice hasn’t often been good, but the pace of change has made it too inaccessible or not applicable.Interesting approach, he seems to be emphasizing the friendship over the "quality of advice." Hmmmmm....
Christian advice rightly sees God as our help, which is obviously needed, but makes him out to be an impersonal utility dependent upon the application of the advice. This is the heart of every other religious tradition. John 15, the great passage of vine, fruit and abiding turns into a discussion on friendship. Jesus no longer calls his disciples (and via them, us) slaves, but friends. Jesus entrusts the very treacherous journey of his disciples (and via them, us) to friendship.
Sometimes he is right - absolutely. Sometimes we need a friend more than we need advice and it is forever to the shame of the the church that we offer advice,or worse, "professional counseling" when what we need to offer is genuine friendship. The kind of friendship that does not merely reflect yourself back to you, but actually suffers with you, helps you carry your burden and loves you regardless. The kind of friendship that cannot be built in a short period of time, that comes from living together through thick and thin, good and bad, ugly and pretty.
But to me the bottom line on all this is a slightly different. He points out that ultimately we must rely on or friendship with Jesus. Indeed, but we are the instruments and agents of Christ. His reasoning is, of course, as fallen creatures we an never offer the kind of friendship that is truly needed. Fair enough, but the reason we cannot is because we likewise, do not rest on our friendship with Christ sufficiently. We offer advice instead of friendship becasue it is "safer" for us. I also think that if we were sufficiently tuned into Christ, we would know when to advise, when to befriend, and when to say, "I'm not the expert, you need to talk to...."
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Cutting To The Heart Of It
All of them have been at it long enough to collect wounds, and many have not healed well. Some of the wounds came from the congregation. Some were self-inflicted. For too long many have been dancing on the borders of total burnout, trying to fulfill the contradictory expectations of the congregation and their own expectations about success. None of them wants to be remembered as the pastor who was there when the church closed its doors. So they are compelled to succeed, which means they have to do something to keep people coming in those doors. But here's the rub: Whenever they succeed in meeting the expectations of either the older parishioners or the desired visitors, pastors feel deep in their souls that they are simply con artists. They hate having to be whatever is necessary to keep the old guard reassured and the seekers enticed. They learn to be strong but sensitive, profound but playful, prophetic but consensus-building, always available with an open door but always in touch with the sacred -- whatever is necessary to engender approval, no matter how inherently inconsistent, all for the elusive prize of being liked.I cannot help but reflect that somewhere in there the math is wrong. I agree with the analysis, but see so many wrong assumptions:
- The church is not to be consumed by the "old-timers" or the seekers - it is to be joined by all.
- Church does not emanate from the pastor, the pastor leads a flock of priest/believers
- Churches that make disciples do not fail, even if the go broke and close the doors
These feelings so well described illustrate a false understanding of the church, the role of the pastor and most importantly, the role fo the congregation.
Here's how I analyze it. Every congregation is full of members, old and new, that do not pony up, which makes the pastor feel that he/she has to make all these difficult choices. But there are always a few that are truly committed. The problem is, most pastors view those few as a threat to authority rather than as the partners they should view them as. I wonder what would happen if a pastor truly and humbly partnered with those few and together they dreamed dreams and cast visions and did ministry? I wonder what would happen if rather than compete with those few, they set them free, even at the cost of the church looking radically different than their personal vision?
I wonder what would happen if rather than trying to organize the church, we set it free to reach every corner of creation?
I think God might change the world.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
“You know what I say then, Mark?” he asked me. “I tell them the same thing my father-in-law told me fifty years ago. ‘I’m not going to preach to you,’ he said. ‘But do this: Make it a point of worshiping six Sundays in a row and see if you even want to miss it on the seventh Sunday.’”There really is something to that. I have told the story before and it bears repeating. There was a time in my life when I resolved to be done with church, and yet every Sunday morning, despite my best intentions, I found my but in the pew. Eventually, the dryness left my walk with God and church again became a joy. I do not think I would have ever excaped the dryness had it not been for the habit of going to church every Sunday.
Louis told me that since he had taken his father-in-law’s challenge, he hadn’t missed a single Sunday. That holy habit had cultivated closeness to Christ and Christ became the center of his life.
I tend to "blame" the Holy Spirit for showing up when I didn't want to, but some, including pastors, have said, "Nah - just habit." How about this - The Holy Spirit is in and works through our habits. Yep - he's not always tongues of fire and miraculous healings. Sometimes He is just annoying habits.
In Screwtape Letters, Lewis talks about the fact that some times God leaves us standing on our own becasue what He really wants is our total devotion, not some devotion He fills us with. I don't think He leaves us though, He leaves us with ours habits.
Monday, April 19, 2010
A Role For Anger
Sometimes anger appropriately calls our attention to an injustice that needs to be addressed, and we are spurred to righteous action.AMEN! to that. Too often when people remind us to "control" our anger it is not because they are the source of the injustice that has given rise to it. I find this particularly abused in the church. I lost my temper once when the ushers kicked a homeless man out of service becasue he "smelled bad." All anybody could do was tell me it was "inappropriate" to be so angry. I was certainly guilty of bad messaging, but it's one of those cases....
There is a cautionary note:
Most of the time, however, our anger is selfishly ignited by the violation of our expectations, rights, and privileges.That magic word "discernment" matters a lot.
My question is what do we do with righteous anger, the underlying injustice of which simply cannot be resolved. The devotional reminds us of the scriptural mandate to "not let the sun go down on your anger," and yet some injustices simply cannot be resolved. Maybe they are too big for one person to handle, maybe they source of the injustice is dead, or simply refuses to engage. What does one do?
I have no doubt this is why many of the prophets were consigned to the wilderness. They could not leave alone the obvious problems they saw in front of them, and yet they could not resolve them - withdrawal was the only option left.
I know there are situations in my life from which I have withdrawn for these very reasons, but every now and then I catch a glimpse of the injustice and the fire begins to burn anew. What to do in such a setting?
Trust God to resolve the injustice, of course. Even when we are righteous God tests our reliance on Him.