Saturday, March 31, 2012
Sometimes you think to yourself, "You can't write this stuff," and the you realize that someone did in fact write this stuff and you just roll your eyes, which in this case makes the whole think truly unfortunate. Today's villain is none other than THE TEN-EYED MAN. (Get it - roll your eyes - ten eyes - really bad joke.)
Anyway, here's the story:
Philip Reardon served as a soldier in the U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam until he was honorably discharged after a grenade fragment hit him between the eyes. He returned to civilian life as a warehouse guard. One night, he was knocked out by thieves who had planted a bomb to blow up the warehouse. When Batman arrived at the scene, Reardon had recovered, but his vision was blurred. He mistook Batman for one of the thieves, and attempted to battle him. By the time he did recognize Batman, the warehouse exploded and Reardon's retinas were burned, which impacted his war injury and blinded him permanently in both eyes.I'm sorry, but in the history of lame origin stories, connecting ones optic nerves to one's fingers is amongst the lamest. Really, without radioactivity or hazardous waste, any serious scientist knows it could not possibly work!
A brilliant doctor named "Dr. Engstrom" reconnected his optic nerves to his fingertips, enabling him to see through them. Reardon blamed Batman for what had happened to him, and under the identity of "The Ten-Eyed Man" tried to take his revenge on him.
There's another problem:
The Ten-Eyed Man is often easily defeated simply by injuring his sensitive eyes/fingers; i.e., by tricking him into catching or touching something. Or theoretically giving him a high-five.And what happens when he eats fried chicken? (finger lickin' good - get it.) Can he fire a gun? Throw a punch?
Wait, I know, hook him up with some kryptonian DNA and give him heat vision - now we got something.
Friday, March 30, 2012
Worship for me happens during the tending of my terrariums or while doing a water change in an aquarium, or snorkeling down in the river or at the lake. And as I do so, the lines blur between the micro and the macro…the “inside” and the “outside.” In that way these glass boxes of plants and fish and water serve as icons of prayer for me, leaping pads into the wider world and an awareness about ecosystems and our understanding/tending of them.Hmmm, I really like the demphasis of music - I mean I really like that, but then its all about "what worship is 'to me.'" Something wrong with that formulation. Worship is not about ME. Worship is about God. Moreover, it is not about bringing God to us so much as it is about bringing us to God.
Worship for me is rarely accompanied by music, save the notes and melodies of pure awe, wonder and mystery that accompany such experiences. It is a form of prayer without words, a form of prayer that focuses on being in God’s presence and saturated with the sacredness of such a resplendent creation.
Maybe the next age of worship leaders won’t be musicians or performance majors…or even be found on a stage. Maybe they’ll be elbow-deep in a compost pile or hundreds of feet above the ground exploring canopy ecosystems or have a sweaty brow as they prepare jar upon jar of preserves to give purely as a gift to those in the neighborhood.
That would perhaps be a more true liturgy (“work of the people”) than many of us currently experience during a Sunday morning service.
I come back to three things over and over and over when it comes to worship. One, it should remove us from our comfort zone, and not just for the sake of removal, but it must move us in a specific direction. Which brings me to my second thought. Worship must be uplifting. It must remove us from our comfort zone in a manner that takes us somehow higher. In other words, it must somehow be the opposite of much of what passes for entertainment in this day and age.
Finally, and most importantly, worship must be HOLY. That will mean a certain lack of accessibility for we are not holy, we are profane, but we must aspire to holiness.
Holiness means a lot of things, and chief among them is those leading and those participating in worship need to prepare themselves in a fashion that they can come near to holiness. Hence there must be an order of worship designed to move people from the world into the Holy of Holys.
Additionally, holiness is timeless, it is not subject to fashion. Therefore worship cannot seek the latest artistic trend. That does not mean it must be stuck in a book of worship prepared 500 years ago, but it does mean one cannot simply say, "People will like this!' and go for it. It is not about what people like.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
I Could Not Possibly Pass This Up
For years I’ve been trying to help people see that popular consumer culture is a form of religion. It offers us a sense of value, identity, and context that traditional religions once provided. Similarly, pop culture has sacred symbols. How do I know this? Because when one of these symbols is altered the faithful will rise to protest the act of irreverence.Now I want to stop down here for a second becasue I can here all sorts of church changer types going "yeah!" When it comes to comics, I understand. I have been quizzed endlessly by many who want to know if the recent spate of comic book movies are "real?" By which they generally mean "true to the comic." I always respond, "They are fictional characters! There is no 'real' here." In the comics most of the characters have morphed and changed over the decades.
The latest victim of pop-culture blasphemy: Superman. Photographs have leaked from the production of Warner Brothers’ new film Man of Steel showing actor Henry Cavill wearing a blue Superman suit without red trunks. When the film debuts in 2013 it will be the first time the character is depicted on screen without the red under(over)pants. Nerds are enraged.
The strong reaction to Superman’s costume change is coming from a community that is highly invested in the character. To many of them he represents something iconic, good, pure, and nostalgic. Some hold Superman to be a patriotic symbol in the same category as the Stars and Stripes and George Washington. He stands for “truth, justice, and the American way.” For others, and I must put myself in this category, he is a symbol of childhood that triggers positive memories of backyard action figure battles and treks to 7-11 to buy comic books.
When we invest symbols, like Superman, with this kind of meaning and significance, we expect them to remain timeless and unchanging. They serve as vessels that hold something precious–our nation, our childhood, our memories. And the permanence of these symbols only increases in weight as cultural changes accelerate. So when the symbol itself changes–by having his underwear removed, for example–the values and memories we associate with it suddenly feel insecure or worse, attacked. One of the fixed points of reference in our universe unexpectedly shifts, and we lash out at the person who moved it.
But when it comes to church I think we have should demand changelessness. True, the church is an imperfect reflection of a perfect God, but even so, after millenia, I would hope the basic structure of the image was reasonable, and wholesale change was not what was called for.
Jethani continues with some other lessons, but the last one I find really problematic:
Ultimately the people will decide what’s important and not the person with the microphone. President Obama, for example, has learned through plummeting poll numbers that while he wanted to talk about health care reform, the rest of country wanted to focus on unemployment. And Anthony Weiner may have wanted to talk about reforming the financial sector, but everyone else wanted to discuss his Twitter pics. Bill Hybels is fond of saying that the first job of leaders is to define reality. But doing that means taking the time to listen to the people and what they’re saying is important.Now that, I think depends on your church. Most churches are authoritarian and that is what he argues against, but I have also watched my church, which is supposed to be guided democratically turn increasingly dictatorial.
No person has exclusive access to God's will. I do believe that His will is best expressed through a democratic process, BUT, and it is a big but, submission is the key to healthy spirituality. The church is not pop culture and we do not merely give the people what they want.
OK, serious comic lesson ends.
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Character Is Not Always an Actor In a Novel
Most agree with Barna that spiritual fruit is grown through character change, lifestyle shifts, attitudinal transitions, and spiritual process and commitments. [emphasis added]But is was what else the Barna study revealed that I found interesting:
However, Barna’s evidence is quite clear that relatively few Christians are serious about abandoning the lure of sin and handing total control of their lives over to God.It dawns on me while reading that how such can happen. How many times have I heard people lament that church has to be "real" somehow? I have been among them. This is born of the materialistic viewpoint of the average American, but it is also born of the need for a church, based on marketing models, to have a "product" to "sell."
He notes that most churches in America encourage congregations to engage in religious activities, which is good, but they are not the only answer to spiritual growth. “While growth in worship, discipleship, stewardship, service, study and other activities is important, people often fail to realize the end game of spiritual development is godly character, not worldly accomplishments,” Barna said.
Research also indicates that sometimes people get so wrapped up in church programs or producing specific religious results they lose sight of the purpose of their faith, which is to have a life-changing relationship with Jesus.
Barna noted that it becomes easy to substitute laudable religious activity for intentional and simple engagement with God. American Christians, in particular, have become known for doing good works and religious exercises rather than simply being friends and imitators of Christ.
As I reflect, I ask how do we bring the church back into touch with it supernatural moorings? That is to say, material change born not of the material but of the supernatural.
Well, prayer certainly, but I have seen that transformed into some sort of spiritual grunt. I wonder about art, liturgy and music. Although I have been to many places full of those only to watch prototypical "ugly Americans" trample them into meaninglessness.
Of course, ultimately transformed people breed transformed people. I am coming to believe that church universal must enter a period of internal focus - A time when we focus not on outreach but on maturity. We need to stop being babies making babies. That will result in some ugly stats for a while, and the end of some denominations.
But the Holy Spirit cannot be stopped.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Yeah - What Is It?
I hosted a blog series over the summer on worshipping God in the real world. To be honest I was a little disappointed with the response Most of the posts were about traditional spiritual practices like praying and singing hymns in the midst of everyday life. Now don’t get me wrong, I think that these are very important, but what I was really hoping for were more contributions that unpacked the ways that we can worship God through ordinary everyday acts of life like taking a shower, walking in the park and even reading the newspaper.That's an excellent point - I have long thought about worship as obedience. If the idea is to acknowledge the kingship of God, He must be king at all times.
But then Christine take an interesting turn:
We must learn to take our worship outside the church box and do so we must continue to take church outside the boxes of tradition we have wanted to confine it in. To do so we must constantly encourage our worship leaders to become worship curators just like Mark suggests.Now here I think I must disagree a bit. Worship must happen in all times and places - but the specific worship service should be, I think, the place where I witness and experience the holy. Now, for sure and for certain, holiness is not about theology, but it is also not mundane and everyday. The worship service must be sacred, uplifting, enlightening - it must open the door just a bit more on seeing God.
Unfortunately this is never easy because it means we also need to take theology outside the boxes in which we have placed it. As Mark comments:And that for me is where worship and the real world connect. As we take worship outside its boxes we become more sensitive to the presence of God in every ordinary mundane act of life and eventually all of life becomes worship to God. Would love to hear your thoughts on this. How do you think we move our understanding of worship outside the church box and into the world?
A worship event should never be about theological purity. It should always be about ordinary people engaging their messy selves with the transformative person of the God who became flesh and lived in this messiness.
Bringing the mundane into the worship service will more likely bring it down to mundane levels, rather than urge us to bring the rest of our lives up to God's level.
Monday, March 26, 2012
This statement bothers me, but I believe that it's true: "Those who have a loss of character make a choice."Mark is here focusing on the willfulness of sin - a great point, but I want to focus on his correct and traditional use of the term "character."
I know that when I have lived "out of character," opting to do things I knew to be wrong, I was really acting "in character," willfully so. I can't claim that the sins I have willfully or knowingly committed were aberrations. They were expressions of my fallen human nature and so, consistent with my fallen character.
Most people thin that someone of good character follows the rules and vice versa. But note - it is not about the rules - our character is something different - it is, as Mark notes, fallen, but it is also redeemed by God's grace. Yes, sin is willful, but when our character is redeemed, our will falls in line with God's - the need for rules disappears and being someone that "follows the rules" is simply an expression of our redeemed nature.
This means that sometimes the best approach to sin is not to grin and bear the discipline of following the rules, but to focus on Christ and His redemption of us and allow Him to CHANGE OUR CHARACTER.
Prayer, meditation, reflection - these are all aspects of allowing God to work on who we are to the core. Until we allow God to alter our core, we will always make wrong choices.