I had no idea.

So my Spanish is a little rusty, but even I like a good challenge. I opened the web page to my second favorite country’s version of PBS and suddenly the kids cartoon switched to a live broadcast of their president as he and at least a dozen or so reporters were being taken to various sites in the Amazon Rain forest. They held onto ropes and climbed up and down steep hillsides as park rangers explained that they were looking at small pools of water contaminated with petroleum. There were probably hundreds of them throughout the area – some of them very deep.

Now all my life I’ve heard “save the rain forest! Don’t cut down trees!” but I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard about this oil spill. Turns out, a few months ago a landslide near the volcano El Reventador damaged pipelines and much of it was spilled into the waterways. But it sounds like there was already an existing problem with oil – one that had been going on longer than I’ve been alive. One thing that’s pretty easy for those of us really far away to forget is that waterways are like the blood vessels of the rain forest – everything there depends on them to live well. Contamination has major consequences for plants, animals, and people.

I know, I live so far away, it doesn’t really affect me. But I believe that we certainly won’t win any friends in my second favorite country by turning our backs on them. We have the technology, the know-how, and lots of practice cleaning up from our own disasters, why not lend a hand and help them out?

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Out of Place

I wonder if there is something wrong with the message of Christianity – not the one about Jesus’ death and Resurrection – the one about the rapture and the end times. The Left Behind series sort of shows a grim picture of what could happen. It’s no walk in the park.

A few Halloweens ago, I helped my church (at the time – not the church I now attend.) put together what they called a Hell House – it was meant to be a depiction of what Scripture says comes next for both believers and unbelievers. At the time, I just played my part – but now I think back on … I wonder about it’s message as well.

It’s just, when the power goes longer than expected out or somebody isn’t where I expect them to be I start to ask the question: Is it the big one? I feel like Will walking into the Smithy and realizing that the hammer wasn’t where I left it … something’s wrong and I’m not sure what. Is this fear from my lack of certainty? Is it from being too certain?

Singing New Songs

Doxology – 1674

Christ the Lord is Risen Today – 1739

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name, Amazing Grace – 1779

Battle Hymn of the Republic – 1861

How Great Thou Art – 1885

Great is Thy Faithfulness – 1923

I’ll Fly Away – 1932

Sometimes it amazes me, Christians don’t always realized that we’ve been singing the same old songs, some of them just  for a few decades, and others, centuries. Truth is, the oldest hymns a terribly frustrating to me (and this is only a small list – were I to find the most popular hymns of all time, organize them by year to show you what year most contributed to our favorite hymnals – it would look much different.) I’d imagine that none of them ever thought of the concept of electric guitars and synthesizer keyboards … let alone all the other really cool things musicians can do. I wonder, what modern song might be ‘classic’ enough to become a hymn fifty, sixty years from now? My vote – ‘I Can Only Imagine’, and here’s why: It’s one of the few songs that I know of that was popular on both christian and secular radio stations – it’s still somewhat well known. When was the last time you heard a teenager walk down the sidewalk singing ‘Jesus Lover of my Soul (1740’s version)?’

 

Immunity

“..But the years of peace and plenty was not to last. Slowly the days turned sour and the watchful nights closed in. Thrór’s love of gold grown too fierce and sickness had begun to grow within him. It was a sickness of the mind. And where sickness thrives, bad things will follow…..” – Part of the introductory monologue to ‘The Hobbit’

Perfectly healthy people have no need for hospitals. Only the injured, the ill, or those who might need to use one for a short while, the recovering and the expecting. Doctors, nurses, and specialists work together to identify and treat anything that has gone wrong so that people back to their healthy selves as quickly as possible.

It amazes me that the body’s immune system works in much the same way – certain cells are programmed to search out and destroy anything that doesn’t belong, they can also remember how they found and destroyed old illnesses to stop them before the start the next time they show up. The body’s natural messengers can say “Help us fight! Heat up to destroy this germ or that virus.” or “You’re about to toss those cookies you ate for dessert.” Just before that queasy feeling strikes and what you thought might happen actually does.

Which is why Scriptures comparison about the Church being like one body is so interesting – back in the day they wouldn’t have known about viruses or germs or genes or cells. But the way the immune system deals with sicknesses should be considered when the Church deals with sin-sicknesses. Like all forms of abuse or poor stewardship of money – that doesn’t belong. So the church should be able to detect it’s presence and send out cells to deal with it and remember what it was like so they can deal with it in the future. If a church can’t detect that it’s sick, it can’t fight it off and become healthy. If it can’t fight of sickness, things go from bad to worse. Really, when you think about it – a church is like a spiritual hospital – it’s a collection of people suffering from sin that needs to be diagnosed and treated so that they can return to a spiritually healthy state. After all, people who are spiritually healthy have no need for a church.

The Joys of Nonlinear Existence

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (ST:DS9) fans probably remember the scene where Captain Sisko meets the aliens that live in the wormhole’s subspace layer, whom the Bajorans refer to as the Prophets. He gets to explain to them the concept of linear existence – how us mortals have a point in time where we’re born, then we grow up, live as adults, and eventually die. We see this in pretty much everything around us. A pet, or a plant – they experience the same sort of time-line. What is – we call that the present. What happened before the present is called the past. What will happen next is the future. Past, present, future.

So I’ve noticed that sometimes people will think about God do so in human terms. Like last week’s sermon on grieving the Holy Spirit – could his perfect grief over our sin be comparable to our ‘Five Stages of Grief’: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally Acceptance? Which brings me to today’s thought, like us, does God have a past, present, and future?

Growing up, I was taught that He was omnipotent. (All powerful, could part the Red Sea, sent the Ten Plagues to Egypt, that sort of thing.) I also learned that He was omniscient. (All knowing, he knew Joseph’s and Moses’ part to play long before they were ever born.) And that he was omnipresent. (At all places, everywhere.)

Now I wonder about God’s omnitemporality – being present at all times. Does he exist in the ‘now’ of Moses leading his people through the Wilderness? Does he exist in the ‘now’ of us at our computers going about our day-to-day lives? Is he ‘now’ in our future … keeping us company in our twilight days? Or with our great-great-grandchildren … whispering to them about the mystery of Himself? 

What is freedom?

I listen to a lot of National Public Radio – usually an hour a day while I walk. It’s interesting to hear reporters say “and while we were talking, the police came up to us and asked to see our credentials.” “She was afraid to say anything further because of the cameras.” “He was at the political rally that was broken up by the police and he hasn’t been seen since.”

I’ve always lived in a country where I could say “Yo, President.” or “That crooked governor deserves prison time if you ask me.” and never had to worry about being imprisoned over what I said. I never had to worry about being watched. (Though eavesdropped is normal, there’s really nothing I’d have to answer for / be afraid to say.) My freedoms extend beyond that, I can go to any group meeting, read anything from anywhere online, have my say at elections and town hall meetings on important matters, and live where-ever I chose, do what work I want to do, and not be afraid.

But this concept of freedom doesn’t line up with scripture –

“13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” – Gal 5:13

The more passages you read on freedom, you’ll see that it’s an unselfishness that scripture is teaching, like in 1st Corinthians 10:23-33.

I’m so used to having the freedom to be selfish, that I never noticed that I wasn’t supposed to when it comes to faith. I’m supposed to be using my freedom to serve my sisters and brothers in the faith, to build them up and not tear them down.

Afterwards

When it comes to church history, you could memorize dates and events and places like this:  (~ means about or around the year of)

~ 0 Jesus is born of Mary in Bethlehem

~30 Jesus’ public ministry begins, ends a few years later with his trial, execution, and resurrection.

~50 Council of Jerusalem considers the question of circumcision

~64 Great fire in Rome, blamed on Christians– lead to expulsion and increased persecution

~70 The Second Temple is destroyed in Jerusalem

~ 100 John Dies – here on out, the leadership of Christianity no longer has first-hand access to the instruction of people who learned from Jesus, only the disciples of the apostles or other appointed leaders.

~310-315 Emperor Constantine I created the Edict of Milan which accepts Christianity as a religion and largely puts the last of the persecution to an end.

~325 Emperor Constantine calls together the First Council of Nicea to resolve old problems and reorganize as the official religion of the empire. Among the issues brought up were how to treat Christians that renounced the faith because of persecution who wanted to return to the faith as well as the question of the Holy Spirit and the various teachings there-of. Among the many people who attended – the man we would all come to know as Santa Claus.

(Over many years –numerous Councils were called to resolve old problems and deal with new ones – not always being very successful – but they further clarified what was acceptable teachings and argued over heresies.)

~1050 Not long after Christianity celebrates a milestone – lasting a millennium, changing political powers and thoughts on religion lead to the East / West Schism, which separates the One Church into the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church – the Great Schism, as we know it today .

~1500s Protestant Reformation begins – we all know how that one turned out.

~1730-1745 The Great Awakening, a well-known revival takes place, interestingly, there was a large number of schisms that also took place in Protestant America.

 

Or you could realize that in roughly 2,013 years of the existence in Christianity, a small faith that was once too obscure to be talked about came to rule over the Roman Empire, Europe’s religious and political history, had something to do with America’s founding, and is still alive and kicking mostly because of the countless and anonymous men and women who lived according to what they believed and did what they thought best no matter what was going on in their day and age. They didn’t give up when the going got tough, but they celebrated in the years of peace and plenty. Their names, birthdays, and deaths are forgotten – but they are still our brothers and sisters who will welcome us home one day with open arms and big smile. Their kids did what their parents taught them and followed mostly in their shoes. The church isn’t the pastor, reverend, elder that stands up and has something to say on Sundays – it’s the men and women, the sons and daughters, the aunts the uncles, the cousins, the friends, the neighbors, the guys that work at the plant and the ladies from the factory – it’s all the people that live for God.