Sunday, June 20, 2010

June 20 - Yahweh is Looking for a Faithful People

Living Water Community Church - Sunday Worship
1 Kings 17 - “Yahweh is Looking for a Faithful People”

Yahweh loves with a loyal love. Yahweh provides for our needs. Yahweh alone provides for our needs. Yahweh is true and reliable. Yahweh alone is reliable, dependable, worthy of our trust. When Yahweh says something will happen, it happens. Yahweh loves with a loyal and faithful love.

Israel and its king did not believe these things. One hundred years after David, Israel denied every one of these claims. They did not believe that Yahweh was loyal, faithful, true, reliable, dependable, loving. Israel did not believe Yahweh was sufficient. Ahab, Israel’s king, did not believe Yahweh was sufficient.

When I was growing up, I had a story book about Elijah. Elijah being fed by ravens, Elijah and the jar of oil, Elijah on Mount Carmel, Elijah and the fiery chariot. My mom would sit on the bed with me and let me turn the pages while she read. I had other Bible story books--they were in a series, thin and paperback: Samson and the Philistines, David and Goliath, Daniel and the Lions’ Den. These stories were simply told with matching simple, colorful illustrations. I would turn the pages and learn the moral or find an example to imitate in each story.

The moral of the stories we’ve  heard this morning is that God is the one who is control and the one who provides for us. Elijah and also the Sidonian widow are wonderful examples to imitate, heroes of faith. This is what my childhood storybook said.

But we can hear more in these stories when we listen to them in context. The storybook moral of David and Goliath, for instance, was that when we trust in God, no one (however big) can stand against us. When we read the story in the unfolding history of 1 Samuel, however, we find that the contest is less about David versus Goliath and more about the question of who will be God’s chosen shepherd-king-protector of the people--David who completely depends on Yahweh or Saul who is a tall and strong warrior. No one can stand against us when we trust in Yahweh, but the real threat is Saul, not some Philistine giant.

In the same way, we need to hear these Elijah stories as part of a larger story about how God’s people move from theocratic rule under Samuel to exile in the Assyrian and Babylonian empires. The moral of that bigger story is a theme that shows up over and over again in each of the intervening narratives: Yahweh’s people must depend on Yahweh alone.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review :: Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions :: Dan Brennan

Lately I've been thinking about love, beauty, and limits. We know that there is no limit to beauty (God is unendingly beautiful). But beauty, as always a manifestation of love, exists because of limits, within limits. My life is beautiful not when I can escape from my workaday schedule, not when I ignore the demands of friends and lovers, not only when I attempt the superhuman. In other days I might call the interplay of beauty and limits balance (that is, before the term was emptied of meaning by the abuse of pop psychology).

There's another theory of beauty: beauty as excess, beauty as transgression. Sometimes this aesthetics claims a corner on the market for beauty as transcendent, but I won't buy into this monopoly. Beauty is what we make of our limitations, not just our escape from them. Phrased differently, we see beauty when we see the truth of our limitations, see them in a different light, see them in light of the resurrection.

One way of describing Dan Brennan's Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship between Men and Women is to say it locates friendship (specifically cross-sex friendships) within these competing dynamics of beauty.  On the first page Brennan writes,
This book makes a simple claim: stories of paired cross-sex friendship love are journeys toward communion with God and our neighbor in the Christian story. In the new creation, men and women are not limited to stark contrasts where we must choose between romantic passion in marriage or inappropriate sex/infidelity. Chaste, but powerfully close friendships between the sexes stir our curiosity and resist formulaic gender roles in marriage, friendship, and society.
Beautiful cross-sex relationships, he argues, should not be bounded by the aesthetic ideology of excess. Relational beauty, it turns out, is a matter of balance, not sheerly of orgasm or roses and candy hearts.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The May 8s :: Blogs

The May 8s :: Blogs - The most thought-provoking and world-opening blog posts I've stumbled on in the month of May

Monday, June 7, 2010

Review :: Start Here :: Alex Harris & Brett Harris

I was twenty-one once. It seems like a long time ago, but it was only a handful (or two) of years ago. When I was twenty-one, I felt bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, befuddled by the responsibility of adulthood, that immense weight of making one's way in the world.

Alex and Brett Harris are twenty-one. (They are also, in fact, twin brothers and the younger siblings of Josh Harris--yes, that Josh Harris.) At twenty-one, they stand as my spiritual mentors of the moment. I find Start Here, their book, a challenge, the straight talk and the practical how-to suggestions to follow Jesus doing hard things in a big and often-overwhelming world.

Admittedly, I'm not their target audience. The Rebelution is about "a teenage rebellion against low expectations," not about guys pushing thirty finally owning up to Jesus' call to real world discipleship. Alex and Brett started when they were sixteen to inspire fellow teenagers to Do Hard Things (incidentally the title of their first book, published when they were nineteen).

In Start Here, Alex and Brett speak often of the "myth of adolescence," the lie that "the teen years are a time to goof off and have fun before 'real life' starts." It's this critical edge that catches me. They pick up on the insidious lies so big and institutionalized that most of us spend our teens and our twenties wandering around within their borders without even knowing these lies stretch out around us. Alex and Brett have seen something else, of Jesus and the kingdom life he brings, and up against it they can name the cardboard cutout substitutions we cling to.

Start Here takes up the practical and pastoral fall out of teens trying to Do Hard Things (a book I haven't read but hope to soon). Alex and Brett weave easygoing advice around stories, emails, and forum posts (from by real live teens doing hard things. They walk through the challenges of where to start, what to do when things get hard, what to do with success, and how to maintain healthy relationships (with friends, family, and God) while doing hard things. These are, in honesty, questions I ask a lot. Where do I even start? Okay, so what now? How can I keep up this pace without having my marriage [friendships, spiritual life, fill in the blank] fall apart? Alex and Brett offer good advice, advice that I'm personally taking to heart.

Start Here also tugs at the youth pastor parts of my heart (I generally try to keep those heart parts segregated off from the rest of my heart because jr. highers are rambunctious and tend to make a mess). Start Here is written for teenagers, and it's a book they would read. Plus, it has good group discussion questions in an appendix. I plan to use this (along with Do Hard Things) as youth curriculum in the coming years.

Alex and Brett write a practical, pastoral, spiritual, challenging book. But they do right from a particular cultural vantage point. They are keenly socially attuned, relating stories of teens crocheting hundreds of hats for orphans or raising money to drill wells for villages in Africa. But some of the stories bear a particular political and cultural bent (starting a petition to censor sexual art on display at a high school; holding an anti-abortion event; etc.; many of the stories take place in Texas). All in all, though, their cultural interpretations of what God wants done in the world does not overwhelm or even taint the strong and clear challenge they offer to those of us stuck in adolescence.
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