Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What I don't like, I ridicule!

Recently I wrote a skit for a dinner theater collaboration with two other churches in the Indianapolis area. At some point in the writing process I found myself focusing on all the negative stereotypes around churches this season and found it therapeutic to exaggerate some traits (some are more exaggerated than others) that I find particularly interesting.

Here is the draft of "A Church Radio Christmas"

A Church Radio Christmas

Welcome back to WJCL radio where we move into our Power Hour for this Christmas season. All of us here at WJCL radio wish you and your family the happiest, merriest of Christmas seasons this year. Remember WJCL, Where Jesus Christ is Lord, for all your festive Christmas music and entertainment. Right now we have several invitations to extend to you, our loyal listeners from churches around this area that would like to share with you the Spirit of this season. Please note that these invitations were written, produced, and paid for by these sponsoring churches and do not reflect the opinions, values, or tenets of the faith of WJCL radio, its staff, or its other subsidiaries.

The Walt Disney Church
It’s a small church after all! We would like to invite all of you out there listening to come and join us this Sunday for our very special Christmas celebration! It promises to be one of most spectacular ever! Live on stage all of our Disney Princesses will share a wonderful rendition of a Very Mickey Christmas as Mickey and Minnie Mouse discover the magic and wonder of giving during this special season. Children under 4 are welcome free of charge, please call in your reservations as space is limited. We hope you will be able to join us on Christmas Eve for the Donald and Goofy Shepherds and Angels Fireworks Extravaganza! The fee for this event can be added into any Walt Disney Church package. And remember that the more Sundays you visit with us, the lower the price per visit will be, with your maximum savings beginning with your 5th visit.

Host 1: You know, I’ve been to that church before and their service is just magical!

Host 2: Yes it is, I know our family is saving up for another visit soon too! But we have another church reaching out to our listeners, this one is from St Comfy Seat Cathedral:

St Comfy Seats Cathedral
We’d like to invite all our friends and neighbors to join us for a day of worship at St. Comfy Seats Cathedral. A recent renovation has given us what the readers of Worship Monthly Indianapolis call the most comfortable seats in the city! Our state of the art pew chairs feature memory foam cushions and adjustable air supported back rests. Chances are you’ll find the seats in our cathedral more comfortable than the bed in your own home. The baby Jesus was rested himself in a manger but you don’t have to! What better way to welcome our Savior in 2011 than from your own self adjusted high end pew chair? Our services will run on Christmas morning at 9:00, 10:30, and 11:45. Please be courteous to those following you in the service and return the reclining option to its full upright position before exiting the service.

Host 2: Those seats really are fantastic!

Host 1: There is a place for the non-traditional would be church- goer as well. If you consider yourself one of these, then the Butterfly Community has these words for you:

(Hippie) Butterfly Community
Hi and welcome. My name is Starshine and I am here to share with you about the Butterfly Community. It’s an exploration of communal living based upon hope, peace, and love here in the city and we welcome all who would share these ideas with us. We don’t really have regular meeting times or services as we’ve found the American views on time too restrictive, so we invite anyone who’d like to stop by and join us for some communion. We’re always making fresh whole wheat organic bread to share….

We respect the tradition that some people celebrate this time of year, but at the Butterfly Community we embrace all beliefs at all times. We believe that everyone has their own personal Savior, Redeemer, Buddha, or Light Guide if that is helpful to them and want to be a place where we can all explore this desire for meaning and salvation in a nurturing, loving environment.

Host 2: That’s such a free and enjoyable group of people. I love it when I get to visit at the Butterfly Community.

Host 1: Yes it is wonderful, but I understand that you have a non-traditional church invitation as well, don’t you? Isn’t this the church that is taking Hollywood by storm?

Host 2: Yes it is, we’d like to share with you now an invitation from the Scien-terrific Church of Indianapolis

Scienterrific Church
Your past lives weigh heavily upon you. The accumulated scars from these past lives make it difficult for you to find the hidden power and glory of your own soul. That’s why we at the First Scien-terrific Church of Jesus Christ want to invite you to our special service this Sunday afternoon where you’ll hear the real and true story about Jesus Christ. We’ll share how Jesus boarded the 747 jet plane with rocket engines bringing along his cosmic net of salvation whereby he was able to rescue and restore millions of lost souls floating in the cosmos. Through the use of meditation and clearing your soul of these scars, you’ll find the hidden power inside yourself to become another Jesus in the world. So come and join us this Sunday to hear the truth about yourself, about Jesus, and about the Christmas season aboard our luxury cruise liner, The Sonorran Wanderer.

Host 1: Cosmic net of salvation. Wow! We also have a special word from the:

Jesus Christ Church

We appreciate all of the other communities that are here this evening doing their best and we refuse to judge them for their misguided understanding of Scripture, but they are just wrong. If you REALLY want to come to church for a Christmas celebration then it is important for you to come to the only church that meets in Indianapolis. We are the only true community of believers that are founded by Jesus, led by Jesus, and focused on Jesus. We’re not here to judge these other misguided attempts at church, we’re just here to tell you the truth about Jesus as revealed by Jesus himself in the only Bible there is: Our Bible! If you really want to know what this Bible says then you have to come to our service to hear what we think, because everyone is wrong, though we refuse to judge them. God will do that soon enough!

Host 2: Here’s an exciting offer from a church that is having a Sonrise service on Christmas day!

Hunters Hollow Gun Club and Christian Community

We’d like to invite the public out to our very special Christmas Day service at 4:30 a.m. We’re going to meet out in the meadow of Old Man Johnson’s farm for a special prayer time before we celebrate Christmas the Hunters Hollow Community Way—by shooting, gutting, and eating a real animal. None of this namby pamby turkey raised in some inhumane turkey farm…we eat real meat that we catch and kill ourselves. After all, what says Merry Christmas better than blowing a hole in a wild animal, throwing it into the back of your pick up, then driving down the road as its head lolls out the tailgate?

Host 1: And here is an invitation to turn your Christmas a little greener. We have an invitation from the Dr. Rev Right Bishop of the Living Nativity Online Fellowship

(Televangelist Church)
Recently, the Lord told me we needed 1000 visitors in our sanctuary this Christmas eve, and to help you get here we are going to give away $1000 to one of those visitors! That’s right we are a church that has been blessed and we want to pass that blessing along to you, our loyal visitors, by gifting one special visitor with $1000. You know, the Lord laid on my heart that I was responsible for the people living in this city. I have been appointed the caretaker of this town and this Divine appointment is important to me and to our church members. So come on out and join me, Dr. Rev Right Bishop of the Living Nativity Online Fellowship. There’s a prize waiting here for you!

Host 2: Who would have ever thought you could get paid to go to church?

Host 1: Well not me before this…

Host 2: Here is a more traditional church service for those of you who might be interested:

King James Church
We’d like to invite thee to Christmas services at the King James Church of Indianapolis. Here at the King James church we actively teach and promote King James English. Thou willst learn how modern scholarship shows that Jesus and the Apostles spoke ONLY King James English! These words were recorded in King James English which were then translated by well meaning but deluded believers into Greek and Hebrew. Thou canst learnst the proper recitations for addressing our Holy Lord in the appropriate manner. Of course, Thy Lord hearest all thine prayers…but if thou prayest with King James English, then thou willst utilize a direct line to Thy Lord’s ear!

Host 2: You know, this is still one of the most accurate English translations of the Bible available.

Host 1: I agree with you! Finally, and they paid extra to make sure they were the last invitation you would hear, is an invitation from one of the fastest growing churches in the city!

The Contemporvant Church
We’re contemporary. We’re relevant. It’s why we call our worship contemporvant! Our worship only uses songs you’ve heard on local Christian radio stations within the last 2 months! Our pastor is young, hip, and cool. And he has all the answers for your family this Christmas season. We hope you will join us this Christmas for our special combined worship service at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. Why Lucas Oil? Because it was the largest indoor space we could find that was still cool! So come and join us for the Contemporvant Worship service…all your friends are probably already planning on coming, why not join us too? People love being winners and here at the Contemporvant Church we, along with Jesus, make a winning team!

Host 1: Thanks to all of our sponsoring churches for these invitations. Who knew we had so many options for worship this Christmas season.

Host 2: We’re going to bring you back to some Christmas cheer right now folks, but we want to leave you with this thought. If you don’t invite people to come hear the Christmas message at your church, these people will!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Migration and Immigration

Note: I just spent 10 days in the Tucson, AZ area learning about and experiencing issues along the Mexico/US border. Several of these next entries will be related to these experiences.

The increased security on the US/Mexico border has contributed to some long term issues inside America in terms of undocumented Mexican workers. For many years now there has been a pattern of Mexican migrant workers entering the United States illegally to look for work. Their intent is to come to the US for a job to earn enough money to send/take home to provide for a better life for their families. Most of the work that can be found are in areas that many Americans can not or will not work. Often these migrant workers take jobs picking crops, working in meat packing plants, or in housekeeping related activities. These jobs offer a better wage than can be earned in Mexico, but at a cost to American employers which is deemed favorable as often these positions include very little in the way of benefits. The American demand for cheap unskilled labor leaves a place for a Mexican migrant to become employed.

While many of these workers enter the country illegally, they plan to stay for only a short time. Their goal is to earn enough to return home and care for their families. Yet with the tightening of the security along the border and a more aggressive pursuit of these undocumented workers by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a curios side affect is taking place. Many of these workers who originally intended to stay for a short while are deciding to remain in the country rather than risk crossing and re-crossing the border.

This crossing is an ordeal in itself. Because of this tightening security along the border many would be migrants are moving further west to cross the border in places where border patrols are thin or in areas too rugged for immediate access. Near Tucson, AZ many migrants will cross through desert territory in their quest for the American dream. This usually means a 3-7 day journey on foot across treacherous territory. Temperatures rise to up to 115 degrees during the day. Sources for water are scarce. Coyotes, rattle snakes, scorpions, and other wildlife add to the danger of such crossings. And border patrol agents search actively for undocumented workers. Being apprehended means at best a return to the Mexican border and at worst a time in an American jail before being returned to Mexico but with a American criminal record.

As difficult as these crossing become, many undocumented workers now are opting to remain in this country rather than risk the dangers of crossing into Mexico and back. Being established in a community helps them set roots and the guarantee of future work compels them to remain. Rather than split their families up permanently, many are now seeking re-unification in America and often at the expense of further undocumented countries.

Following this line, it reveals that our attempt to secure our border with Mexico may not be accomplishing the task of limiting migration and immigration from Mexico. In some ways this enforcement is actually contributing to increased numbers of undocumented immigrants in our nation.

I recognize that this view does not provide a solution to the issue of migration/immigration/and the desire for cheap unskilled labor in America. In our conversation with leaders of humanitarian and government agencies, we heard very few proposed solutions to this dilemma. What is important is for those groups in this area to begin addressing the unforseen problems raised by increased border security so that a full informed viewpoint can be developed.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Patience is a Virtue...

Recently I joined my family on a week long vacation to central Florida for a visit to Disney World. We had been planning this trip for some time with some dear friends and were very excited about this week of fun (though I hesitate to use relaxation). It was not our first trip to the World of the Mouse and so we felt like we had a good handle on what to do/where to eat/what rides to hit first, etc...

What we did discover quickly is that there is a hidden perk at Disney! Patience. Now, I love Disney. This was my third trip ever and I have kind of decided that once every 2 years is not often enough to visit. It truly is a magical place! However, and Disney does not promote this too much, it is also a great place to teach families patience.

Once we landed in Orlando, we were excited to be in such an exciting place. What we forgot was that the trip from the airport to the hotel was a long 45 minute drive. Disney does their best to entertain you en route, but its a long drive. Our luggage, which was conveniently checked for us and whisked away without us having to touch it, took an extra 3 hours to arrive (which was tough on a family who really wanted to get into pajamas and go to bed, as we arrived late in the evening). Our first morning we remembered that the wait for the bus to take us to our first park was going to be a while. Once we boarded the bus, there was another wait as we were herded to Epcot. All of this was, of course, preparation for the lines we would stand in for each ride. There were also long lines at the restaurants where we chose to eat, in the shops where we tried to buy merchandise, and even at the bathrooms. Disney has mastered the theme of waiting and has done everything possible to make these waits palatable, and I think its part of the curse of Disney-- being good at making people wait makes more people attracted, thus compounding their wait time. Eventually a saturation level is reached and no matter how attractive you package the wait, it still gets tedious.

We had a great time on our trip. Truth be told, the park was not as crowded in October as it might be in March-April or even the summer. So I guess we got lucky when it comes to wait times and crowd sizes. But I think that our 10 year old son and 7 year old daughter learned a valuable lesson from this vacation- good things come to those who wait.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


People have asked me before if I believe in miracles. I can, and without any hesitation, state that I most certainly do. The kind of miracles that defy our rational ability to understand. The kind of miracles that blow away our conception of reality. Miracles to inspire us and to remind us that there is ALWAYS hope.

The problem to most people, I am afraid, is that we have turned a blind eye to the miracles that surround us. In fact, miracles are so prevalent in our life that we often turn a blind eye to them. Take for instance breathing. Doctors and scientists have come a long way in explaining the process of respiration and the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide that takes place in our lungs. We have an incredible understanding of the need for oxygen on a cellular level to support the basic and complex functions of life.

And yet this miraculous process, breathing, is so often taken for granted that we miss the importance of the miracles taking place right within our own body.

On Sunday morning, right before I was to get up and begin this message, my wife came over to me and explained that she had just gotten a message from a family member that another loved family member who has been on dialysis for several years now just got the message that a donor kidney was now ready for him. Watching this person struggle with health issues (caused by a mutated gene) for the past several years has been difficult. It can easily lead to questions of justice, mercy, and compassion as we see loved ones hurt and struggle. I make no excuses here-- I believe God has a lot to answer for in the moment that I get to have that direct conversation (To help understand this, I believe God does hold a lot of responsibility for the horrible events that take place in this world, and to hold that responsibility accountable we were sent Jesus).

It has been less than 24 hours since the surgery took place and there are still a lot of questions to answer and a long road of recovery, but so far everything seems to be going well. I can not fully re-count the spirit of joy that was present as the doctor (who must witness these kinds of miracles all too often to be visibly overcome by them) announced that the procedure was a success and everything was all right. You could feel as the father of this young man broke down in tears of joy. God was present in a mighty way this day.

Today I got to visit with the recipient of this new fully functioning kidney. We talked of the sorrow of the loss of life for the donor and the grief their family members must be experiencing with this loss. And we talked of the joy and excitement that comes with the promise of a whole new life re-opening up! We comment that God specializes in resurrection, and that the choice of new life is one that is made available to us every day. Today this young man has a whole new understanding of the choices now made available through sacrifice and redemption.

Fear and anxiety still abound as much still needs to take place in this young man's body. The difficult road to recovery will be full of challenges. Too much can still go wrong in this process to say he is now out of the woods. But for today it reminds us of the chances God provides us to choose. And that this choice can lead to life in abundance.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jesus and the Undead

For October I plan to offer a sermon series based on Jesus and the undead. I will also be exploring the kinds of "monsters" that live and operate right within the local church. The church zombie- seeking brains. The Vampire- with a simple touch able to drain the life right out of other church members as well as unchurched visitors. Of course we also have the church ghosts- who only appear to be present in spirit, they have no corporeal existence in the body of the church.

I will admit that at one point I sought to incorporate the Jimmy Buffett song, "Vampires, Mummies, and the Holy Ghost" These are the things that terrify him the most (Jimmy remembers his fears as an altar boy), as well as some references to the Twilight series where that author tries to remove the stigma of monster from vampires.

More interesting to me though, is the existence of such monsters right within the bounds of local churches. Those people who, in the name of Christ Jesus, terrorize others. Some of them, like Frankenstein, never intend to terrify others: the gentleman who waits by the donuts between Sunday and church to police the children as they take 2 donut holes (and not more than 2, other people want them as well). The vampires who pessimistically fight every chance at new life in the church: I'm all for helping others with outreach, but we have to take care of ourselves first! And of course, the church zombies who appear sometimes to be shifting aimlessly around the building looking for something to consume in the tragic yet unattainable hope of finding something that will fill their empty and voided life.

With such monsters lurking inside the church, is it any wonder that the outside world view our building more as a haunted house than a place for new life?

Yet Jesus came to give us life, and in great abundance. What should this new life look like? How can we find, develop, and share the joy of being present with the living God within the context of Christian community? What do we need to do to resurrect our own faith?

I can't wait for October.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Propagating Hate

I have spent the past couple of days watching way too many You Tube video tributes to 9/11. In many of these there is disturbing video of the second plane striking the tower, of people falling from the buildings, and from the collapse of both towers as they fell. The horror and shock of that day returned to me and I felt the drain on my spirit that these memories stirred.

I know that others are planning special services or gatherings for this Sunday, the 10th anniversary of these attacks, and in our own worship we will have a brief time for remembering and re-committing ourselves to finding peaceful solutions to our differences.

And its why I feel compelled to list again the desire to seek out more peaceful solutions to our problems than violence. Those men that used those planes as weapons were driven by hatred. It has been sown in their very being to the point where they were willing to sacrifice their own lives to hurt as many people as possible.

More so than the actual actions of those days, I am overwhelmed at the power of their hatred. At the depth of their anger that would lead to such a desperate act. Our country has responded to these attacks and much of these reported responses have been of a military nature.

It leads me to ask the question of what we can do to break the cycle of hatred and violence? Of escalated responses that inflict harm upon others. I have had too many experiences with our American soldiers who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan who come home different men, permanently affected by the life or death decisions they had to make while serving our nation. It makes me wonder if our veterans of other conflicts have been equally affected.

I do not want to take away from our military men and women who serve. I am grateful for their service and for what they are able to do for me personally. I hope I NEVER find myself in a position where, as one young man put it, "It was either me or him and I had to decide it was him."

Yet I also wonder what can be done to eliminate the need for such violence. How can we use the power of love, which we profess has transformed the world, to eliminate the need for such violence? How can we intervene in these places and among these people where hatred is sown and reveal to them a nation that is more capable of loving and caring than it is of dropping bombs and engaging commandos? And I am shocked and alarmed that this conversation does not seem to be happening anywhere, ESPECIALLY in the church!

Where is the voice of the Christian church in this mix? Do we feel its enough to simply say, "God Bless America" as if we are the only nation God cares about? Where is the command to love as God loves; to love our neighbor? This conversation needs to take place and it needs to happen now, or else we as a community of believers simply continue to propagate the old system of hatred, violence, more violent response.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How can we really help?

Recently we started a food program at our church which we call Manna. One Saturday morning a month we have several dedicated volunteers arrive who prepare a free breakfast that we serve to anyone in the community who joins us. We also spend the month collecting canned goods and non-perishable food that we set out on a table for our visitors, telling them that our goal is to send home enough food with them to last them through the day. We are able to put flyers in the take home folders of children at our local elementary school and word is getting around the community when these breakfasts take place. We are also in a conversation with some other local churches to possibly offer these meals more than once a month...

There remains a part of me that continues to wonder how much help this is really giving the families that join us. I am involved with the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program and in this we read a great book, "The Practice of Adaptive Leadership" by Heifetz, Grashow, and Linsky which help differentiate between technical and adaptive practices. A technical issue is being addressed with our Manna program: What can we do to help the hungry people in our community. Answer: Feed them. But there are some adaptive issues that are also raised: Why are people hungry? What is happening in their life that prevents them from providing for their own well being? What is the story behind their hunger? Addressing the adaptive issues behind the hunger is a more complicated, involved task.

So complicated that on one level I believe the church DOES NOT WANT to address. We feel overwhelmed by the question and by the lack of information available to respond to the seeming long term needs of the people who visit us. And yet, to not address them simply insures that our Manna program is nothing other than a way of continuing these people lives who struggle to find enough food for their families on a weekly or monthly basis.

Jesus tells the disciples, when the crowds have gathered and they have urged him to send the crowd away, to give them something to eat. This story, on one level, is easy to understand. People are hungry, so we should feed them. But there is another level to this story as well. The hunger that many in that crowd must have felt was a spiritual one. Jesus' teaching was about more than filling empty stomachs, it was about filling ailing spirits.

How can we provide for the spiritual hunger that plagues our Manna visitors? How can we adaptively address the issues behind their physical and spiritual hunger? If we fail to ask these questions, then in some ways we also fail to help.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Creation vs. Evolution: Does it HAVE to be this way?

Recently a well meaning pastor from another church in town asked if our church would be willing to attend and promote an upcoming event his church was sponsoring on creationism. He patiently explained to me that, in his opinion, the schools were teaching our children to NOT believe the creation story as recounted in Genesis and were instead substituting the theory of evolution as scientific fact. It reminded me of a friend of ours who has a son nearly the same age as my own who made a comment to me one day about this saying that he could not understand how anyone could ever try to blend creation with evolution once they knew the facts of the situation.

Now I guess I am more of a middle of the road kind of pastor and theological thinker, but I have issues with this whole debate. Why does it have to be one or the other? Why not appreciate the valuable contributions both sides of this discussion offer?

First- creation. I find it hard to remove God's interest and participation from the process of creation. The arguments of how long a day is to God and how literal we should take the creation story are not as important to me as the concept that God is intimately involved with the process of creation. That God uses the spoken Word to bring this creation into being and that every aspect of God's creation is good. The connection between different species makes sense when one realizes the hand of the artist behind their creation. Why would God create such beauty and then limit its ability to adapt and evolve in accordance with God's grace? There is a part of that desperately clings to the necessity of God's involvement with creation, since I find myself needing to believe that God is actively involved in my own life.

Second- evolution. All of creation is connected to the rest of creation. When one living organism as a species suffers or thrives it affects others in that ecosystem either positively or negatively. What is so troubling about being distantly related to other animals as a part of God's creation? What is so anti-Godly about humans and animals adapting to the environment in which we find ourselves. It makes a lot of sense that those most successful at adapting would have the best chance to pass along their genes to the next generation.

Notice here that I have left out discussions about dinosaurs, carbon dating, Biblical literalism, etc... These distract from the main point of this thought process- that even though there are issues with each point of view there is wisdom and experience that serves to validate both the theory of evolution and the creation story.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Post Church Camp thoughts...

As a person raised in the local church I had my fair share of church camp visits over summers. Recently I spent a week with elementary aged children at Indian Creek Baptist Camp near Bedford, IN. First I have to commend both the camp manager and his wife for setting the stage for a successful week. The food was good-mostly kid food, but it made sense. I was pleased by all the healthy offerings (even if the kids often skipped the celery sticks and carrot chips with no parents around) on the week.

Second, our camp director was a pro. She had the schedule filled with enough "work" in Bible studies, team building activities, worship to set the stage for camp but also allowed enough time for the kids to enjoy being at camp with swimming, hiking, fishing, etc.

There is nothing as powerful as beginning a worship service and finding your congregation so excited for worship that they come running into the sanctuary! The opening music played was loud, and it inspired the children to come up front and dance ans sing along with the music. It made me want to bring the whole group back to my local church to "energize" our worship service. Their energy and enthusiasm was inspiring and I believe it reveals an aspect of worship that is sometimes overlooked in meditative based worship services (not that I am against this, each have their place). These kids were full of joy- a joy that was infectious in all of the good ways possible. And this joy set the stage for so much of the week.

I wonder how local churches would respond to this marginally controlled joy in their worship services. Would they see it as joy, or would they see it as threatening?

I believe my church could use an extra dose of this joy. I think lots of church could.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Rejoicing at the death of an Evil Man

This morning while working out on the elliptical at the gym, I noticed the news story in which Osama bin Laden was reported to have been killed in a raid in Pakistan. It was interesting to remember my first thoughts on this report.

First: Finally, we got him. The man most responsible for the 9/11 attacks had been stopped from doing any more harm in the world. The fact that he could hide as he has for as long as he has was a constant challenge to our military and intelligence. Why could we not find one man as public as he had been? Well, for whatever success he had in eluding the U.S military, it was not permanent.

Second: Joy. In some way I believe that the world is a safer place. The fact that a man who propagated hatred and intolerance has been eliminated means that there is one less person to plan and encourage violence upon innocent human beings. Bin Laden's death is a victory for everyone who would live without fear.

But then another part of my brain surfaced with some troubling thoughts. People are celebrating the death of a man, albeit one we considered evil, but still the death of a man. Now I am not concerned that we are celebrating our version of justice for those attacks upon the innocent. But I am concerned that there might be a blurring of the lines here in our celebration.

I believe some of this comes out of my own personal faith that maintains the importance of every living human being under God. If God is love, then must not God also love Osama bin Laden? Did not Jesus die for the sins of bin Laden just as he did for myself? The fact that I believe I have accepted this fact and bin Laden probably has not does not take away from the fact that Jesus did die for him and his sins too. I find it hard to celebrate the death of someone whom Jesus loves. As I mourn for those whom I know both privately and publicly, I mourn for the death of an evil man.

I mourn for our state of being in which we believe the best way to stop hatred is with violence or that we must combat evil with deadly force. That some of the verbal attacks bin Laden has made upon the American public are seeded in accuracy. Spiritually, have we examined the cost of taking another human life? It is a price I am not happy to pay, nor am I happy to ask our military men and women pay it for me. I am grateful for their willingness to fight for me and protect this country, but I worry for the long term effects of such a will.

I believe that we were instructed not to commit murder to preserve order in society, but also to maintain our spiritual well being. When we kill, or sanction killing, it might be a part of us that dies as well. There is a price to such a victory that must be examined and even when we are willing to pay that price, that cost leads us to mourn what has been given up.

I also appreciate being able to live in a country where conversations like this are not only tolerated, but actively encouraged. This ability to be self reflective in light of one's own actions and the actions of our country, is a freedom that not everyone enjoys. Part of the victory today that I DO rejoice with is the continued freedom preserved in this country for us to determine our own faith and how that faith will impact the way we choose to live.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Remembering the Holocaust

This Sunday I will be preaching on the Holocaust and the tragedies of that time period. To prepare I re-read "Night" by Elie Wiesel and have been reading some accounts from Jews who were in German controlled areas during Kristalnacht. I do not recommend this kind of reading for people who desire something "light" in nature.

What struck me about Elie Wiesel's novel was his accounting of the young man who played the violin. He was an accomplished musician and when the Nazi's began their persecution he was told he was not allowed to play Beethoven because of his faith. Wiesel recounts one night, near the end of his ordeal, in which this young man squeezes out of a crowd of packed men and begins to play his violin, a selection from Beethoven. It is described as if his entire soul is poured out in this final concert, witnessed only by other Jewish men who are more than half dead from starvation and maltreatment. Wiesel comments that when he awakes the next day, he finds this violinist dead, next to the broken violin.

It is one thing to know that there is evil in the world. It is another to encounter this evil directly, or through a story as powerful as this. Being reminded of the basest forms of human existence is troubling and unsettling. But it is also necessary. I believe that as human beings we must be willing to search our own selves, deep down inside of us in those places that we often try to deny, to discover those aspects of ourselves from which we hide. Though it can be a troubling examination, it also gives us the opportunity to expose this part of our self to the healing power of God's love. Quite often we forget that this is why Christ dies and rose again. It was not for the good we do in the world, but for the evil we harbor in ourselves.

The Holocaust reminds us of the depths to which humanity can sink. And today is can serve as inspiration for us doing our best to survive. Never again can we turn a blind eye to actions such as these. Never again can we allow the systematic torture and genocide of any people. While I do not agree with all of our governments military interventions across the world, I do agree that we are called to respond to this evil in the world, wherever it may be.