The Middle Child of Holy Week

This is my favorite day in Holy Week. The sheer loss and disorientation of Friday pours over into the most unrestful of Sabbaths. I guess I should clarify that “favorite” isn’t necessarily the best word. But it’s the most familiar to me. It’s the one I recognize and identify with the most. Holy Saturday is the dreadful chasm between the trauma of death’s reality and not-yet-fulfilled expectation of hope. So we sit. Traumatized by yesterday and hopeless for tomorrow. In this profound disorientation, we aren’t really even aware that tomorrow will come. So we wait.

In the chaos and disorientation of yesterday, there are a few things we can know. We know that Jesus is dead. That he was crucified, died and was buried. He came to tell the world that it was upside-down. He came to start a revolution to correct it. He preached a message against the Empire that love was greater than power. Power decided to test it, and power killed him. And on this Saturday, Jesus is dead.

If Jesus is dead then what do we believe in? Everything we’ve said has been a lie and has been for nothing. All the talk of the kingdom where our sins are wiped away isn’t here. And the God who was supposed to bring us into the kingdom was killed in front of our very eyes. In the trauma of Friday, there is no one left to pity but us.

These are Paul’s sentiments in 1 Corinthians 15 when he writes,

“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised…. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished.If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.”

But that’s a Sunday promise. The certainty of Sunday taunts those of us in the chaos of Saturday. On Saturday, we lean on nothing more than hope and belief. “Christ is Risen” is a certainty that is entirely foreign to those of us in perpetual Saturday.

Jesus told Peter to put away his sword when the guards came to arrest him. So all who follow love put away their swords. Those who follow power kept them out. And power won. In the continual Saturday, power always wins.

Unless Sunday comes. Unless what Jesus was saying comes true. Unless life is restored where death has taken it away. But that’s for Sunday.

If there ever is a Sunday.

This is why we live for the hope of Sunday. All we see is the death of the old while we await the creation of the new. Even though Saturday is all we’ve seen and known, we wait with awakened anticipation for Sunday. If Sunday ever comes.

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Bullying & the Church

So Apple released their contribution to the “It Gets Better” project last Friday and it really connected with me. I felt the need to share it and, in particular, one quote from it that spoke to me and really transcended the boundaries of sexuality and gender identity. So watch the video. The quote is underneath it.

“The bullies seem like the powerful people and the successful people, and the secret of the real world is they’re at the peak of their power at 15 and 16. And there will come a time when the bullies are not successful and the people they bullied are. And you just have to out-survive them.”

I dealt with bullying quite a bit when I was in elementary school and junior high. Not because of my sexuality, but because I was a chubby kid with weird glasses and a speech impediment. Some of those wounds take years to heal. I still need to hear this message and I’m 25. I guarantee there is someone in your life, maybe even you, who needs to hear this. It’s one of the reasons I’m going into ministry. The church has been so woefully silent, even so much to be perpetrators, in establishing who’s in and who’s out in society.

I want to be a pastor who says everyone’s in. Everyone’s welcome.

And I want to actually mean it.

Cheers,
Eric

Is God an Insurance Salesman?

NEWSFLASH! The Christian faith is being hijacked and packaged as life insurance. Take a closer look at this picture. You’ve probably never noticed it before, but doesn’t the middle logo in this State Farm sign resemble a Trinitarian symbol? Sadly, this isn’t too far removed from where our faith actually lies. The most popular form that Christianity has taken in the past decade or so has been about being Christian so we’ll go to Heaven (or more accurately, being Christian so we DON”T go to Hell).

This has been extremely prevalent in the ways that we have ministered to youth as well. It’s the rhetoric behind tons of youth services which end in altar calls, as if to say “Come up and ensure your place in Heaven. Do it now, before it’s too late!” This line of rhetoric is so damaging to fostering any sort of deep faith. And one could say, and because I’m here I will, it’s this kind of thought that breeds generations of legalists who follow every rule of the Bible tooth-and-nail to make sure they’re in. But it’s the “in or out” mentality in and of itself that’s so damaging.

Faith is not just about salvation.

If the only reason we believe is to get to Heaven, then God is nothing more than an insurance peddler (albeit a very successful one). Of course that’s not all of who God is. So that can’t be all of what our faith consists of. Being a Christian is a commitment to a way of life that was put forward and exhibited by Jesus Christ. This way calls us to enter into places of Godforsaken-ness for the sake of loving and being with our neighbor.

Bonhoeffer said that when Christ calls someone, he calls them to come and die. He does not call them to come and die for the sake of deciding which direction they’ll head in the afterlife. But he calls them to places of death so that through death, we can bear witness to the hope of the resurrection.

In what ways do we serve the God as cosmic life insurer model? What kind of practices do we have that perpetuates this? Does this speak to your experience at all?

And did you ever notice that about the State Farm logo before?

Cheers,
Eric

You’re Losing Us

So I’ve been working on my thesis for the Children, Youth and Family program at Luther these past few weeks. It’s getting to be crunch time (due on the 29th) but I can’t stop watching this video. It works into a lot of the issues surrounding ministry with youth and I wanted to share it for people who haven’t seen it yet. It’s pretty intense. Also I’ve been listening to a lot of Scala & Kolacny Brothers lately so that could have to do with my dark perceptions of it. But it’s definitely worth watching.

Check it out.

Any thoughts? What part stuck out to you the most?

Cheers,
Eric

So Here’s the Thing About Rob Bell

Last night I, along with 1,400 of my closest friends, saw Rob Bell speak at Wayzata Community Church on his new, and always controversial book, Love Wins. And now that I’ve had some time to reflect on the experience, there are two things that stick with me. And the purpose of this post is nothing more than sharing these things because I’m excited about them. So first, Rob Bell gets me excited to be a pastor. And while that may sound trivial to some, I assure you it is not. In fact, it’s seldom that I get downright giddy about the fact that I get to be pastor. But, for some reason, when I read his books, listen to his sermons, watch his videos, something inside of me gets excited that I get to do that for a living. So that’s the first thing.

There was another thing that became abundantly clear as I was listening to Bell speak last night. As he was answering questions, an anecdote I heard a few years ago crept in my head and I think it definitely plays into this whole controversy over Love Wins. So here it is. For starters, humans generally have three primary things that they believe about God and creation. 1) God is good. 2) God is in control. 3) Creation is good. When pressed, or when we start to question things, we drop one of the three. And it’s a different one for each person. But the crux of Rob Bell’s new book is that when it comes to Heaven and Hell… God is not in control. He drops the second one. That became clear through reading the book and hearing him speak tonight. Most mainline Protestants would do the same, but like I said, it’s different for everyone.

A lot of people who have a problem with what Bell is saying, refuse to give up that second proposition. And that’s entirely okay, it’s just a fundamentally different worldview. In turn, they choose to give up the third position. They believe that God is all good and that God is in control. But we, as creation, are terrible sinners who aren’t worthy of the glory of God. This is where it gets tricky because the key phrase in that sentence is “as creation”. Mainliners believe that we sin and fall short of the glory of God, but that isn’t how we were created. We were once good and obedient to God, but then we fell. And now we’re not… at least not without the whole cross and resurrection thing, but we’ll talk about that next week.

I just wanted to drop a post and share that. Because I do believe that all of the differences assumed in the Rob Bell controversy can be explained by digging deeper into those three core beliefs. Which one do you drop? When you’re stressed and when things keep piling up and just aren’t going your way, which one are you most willing to part with? It’s an interesting question when put in that context, but I think it speaks volumes about what we bring to the conversation.

Cheers,
Eric

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