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TWITTER, JAPAN, AND TRAGEDY

(WARNING–WHAT FOLLOWS MIGHT BE MORE OF A RANT)

I’m trying to get into the Twitter action (you can follow me @jamiedgreening) and one of the most interesting aspects of it is following people who keep me informed of what other people are thinking.  This twitterfication came through this morning and I’ve been mulling over it all day.

Tony Jones@jonestony Tony Jones

Maybe the most offensive thing ever posted at Out of Ur (a Christianity Today blog): http://bit.ly/ekbdtX

Well, I’m not really that easily offended, so I had to take a peek at what on earth this man was so offended about so I hit the link and read the post.  What started as curiosity turned into shock.  You can read it too at Leadership magazine’s blog site.   What was shocking was two long quotations of Christian ministry leaders in Japan who were referring to the earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear uncertainty as an “opportunity” for the gospel. 

As I read the post it reminded me of a pastor’s meeting I sat in almost ten years ago, just days after 9-11 in which pastor after pastor kept talking about how this was God bringing real revival in our land by breaking our hearts and destroying our arrogance.  I remember how horrified that thought made me.  It is ridiculous and arrogant to presume that tragedy for someone else is God’s way of getting peope’s attention.  Jesus talks about this type of tragedy in Luke 13:1-5.  Towers fall, governments oppress, earthquakes come, tsunami’s surge, and all kinds of bad things happen to all kinds of people:  the just and the unjust.  Our role as believers is never to see someone else’s pain as an opportunity but instead incarnationally to hurt and intercede as much as possible for them.  Pray for Japan, give to help Japan, and weep with those who weep.

Might some people come to faith in the Lord through this terrible time?  Yes, in the same way that the death of a loved one might cause someone to start asking spiritual questions.  But no one in the right mind would ever see the death of a loved one as a spectacular opportunity for the gospel.  Instead, we realize tragedy makes us think about eternal things and it might also help us realize who truly cares about us.  But our care must not be so that we may reap spiritual gains.  Our care must be because these people are human beings like us and their tragedy is our tragedy.  No man is an island. 

For now we pray and give.  There are many different outlets for giving, but click here for one through our denomination.

WHAT I DO DURING AMERICAN IDOL

Two (or is it three?) times a week my wife and daughters sneak up very close to idol worship.  No, its not Baal or Molech or even Caesar that are problems for them.  It is the television show American Idol.  All three of them have some kind of addiction to the program.  I thought that might go away after Paula left the show.  I was wrong.  Although I must admit Paula Abdul did make the show very interesting.

But when they watch, I must find something else to do.  I just can’t watch it.  Its not that the show is awful.  It is just that I do not like amateurish music.  If I want music, I will listen to the iPod.  So, here is what I should do while they watch idolatry.

  • Take the trash out.  This is my daughters’ job but since they are busy watching television and the weather is so awful, I think I will just go ahead and do it.

(ouch, i can hear the tv in the other room and someone just hit an awful note.  Sounds like a Diana Ross song.)

  • Read.  I may spend some time reading my book.  It is a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and its amazing.  The problem is the book is a little intense and the last couple of days have already been intense.  I suppose I might do something else.
  • Work on Twitter Account.  I recently tried to reactivate my twitter account.  It had been dormant for a long while but ever since I saw Jack Dorsey at Catalyst I’ve been thinking it was time to get it going again.  If you’re interested you can follow me @jamiedgreening.  What really needs to be done is get my profile pic up.   My Facebook profile pic ought to do nicely.
  • Check out Beard web-pages.  One of the things which humor me is to surf the internet and look at web-pages dedicated to beard and beard growing.  The Beard Coach and All About Beards are two of the best.  Someday I hope to have a truly excellent beard.  I am not there, but I’m working on it.

(Ugh.  I can hear the television in the next room.  Someone tell JLo to be quiet.  She is repeating herself over and over and over.)

  • Work.  I am very far behind in work.  Traveling last week combined with the extra work of starting the Holy Season and various other interruptions in my regular work schedule have put me far behind.  I should be working on the John 7 sermon, writing something serious, or doing admin work.
  • Maybe I’ll just pop some popcorn and write this blog.

Yo Dog.

I ASH WEDNESDAY, DO YOU?

This is a post from last year that I am re-posting today because, obviously, it is Ash Wednesday (February 22, not March 9 like the post says–that was last year).

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This is the week that we Christians who follow a liturgical pattern of the year mark the journey through Lent and toward Easter.  It all begins on Ash Wednesday—March 9.  I consistently find that when I take the ash and observe Lent my experience of Easter is much richer and therefore more meaningful to me.  I did not grow up in a church which practiced Lent and Ash Wednesday, so when I learned about it as an adult I was skeptical.  However, as I dug around and realized that sin, prayer, confession and death with eternal judgment were all major themes, I knew I was all in.  What kind of Baptist doesn’t get excited about that!  But over the years as I have led my church to practice and observe Ash Wednesday and Lent I have encountered some objections to the practice.

1.  Lent is for Catholics.

There is a certain amount of truth to that claim.  Catholics do observe Lent and Ash Wednesday.  However, the counter is true as well.  Catholics also baptize and preach.  Does that mean I should not baptize and preach?  No, certainly not.  The best answer to this argument though, is that the roots of Lent and Ash Wednesday go way back to a time way before there were any distinctions such as Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists and Baptists.  Much of Catholic history and tradition is also my tradition—we have a shared origin in Christ and the early church.  Besides, some of the greatest Christians I’ve ever met, studied, read, or learned about have been Roman Catholics.  It is time we put such prejudices and biases away.

2.  Ash Wednesday and Lent are too negative.

Yes, I suppose that is the way it might seem.  The major themes of Ash Wednesday are death, dust, mortality, sin, confession, fasting and contrition.  Lent, if done correctly, will be very uncomfortable and sometimes a downer.  People from traditions which emphasize the “Jesus makes me happy all the time” might be a little put off by such ‘negativism.’  The thing, though, is that the Scriptures call us to contemplate such.  I should be painfully aware of my own mortality.  I must confront my sin and deal with it.  I should get my appetites under control and bring my body into discipline.  Ash Wednesday and Lent help us do that with a focus and the help of our community.

3.  We should always pray and fast and confess, not just one season a year.

I so agree.  I try and make prayer and confession a part of my daily routine.  Fasting is the kind of thing I’ve done in various ways throughout the year.  I especially encourage fasting before making big decisions.  It clears the mind.  But again, I bring the counter argument to this objection by saying if we should always be doing it, then how can it be wrong to be doing it now, at Lent, when millions, if not billions of people around the world are also engaged in it.  By fasting, praying, and confessing at the same time the Christian community is bound by a common experience which might have a powerful impact on the world.

Before I bring this to a close, I want folks to understand I am not trying to convince anyone they have to observe Ash Wednesday and Lent to be a good Christian or even for Easter to be significant.  Many good, wonderful, Jesus-loving Christ-followers never follow Lent and are great people whom I admire.  What I am arguing is that the practice of it is not inherently wrong or misguided, and that many people might actually be stirred by the practice in positive ways.  It can’t hurt and it just might change your perspective for the better.

CATALYST WEST AND THE ZEN OF ANDY STANLEY

I spent all day today—from about 8:30am until 9:00pm tonight—at Mariner’s Church here in California.  I skipped the labs yesterday because, well, I don’t do labs.  I’m sure they were wonderful, but, no.  It has been a great day.  Here are some highlights.

  1. Andy Stanley—Andy kicked off the conference with a wonderful sermon.  To be honest he started off a little shaky with some questionable historical references, but I’ll forgive that easily for what might be one of the most inspiring messages I’ve heard in a while.  He displayed some sweet Stanley Zen and said that there are three aspects of being courageous (the theme of the conference).  Number one is staying when it would be easier to leave.  Number two is leaving when it would be easier to stay.  Number three was about the need to bravely face your secrets and get help with them.  All three spoke to me.
  2. Dave Ramsey—Dave was good, but following Zen Meister Andy must have been tough.  Ramsey’s presentation was heavy on cliché’s and low on actual stuff that might help.  He told the story of the Tortoise and the Hare and reminded us that the Tortoise—slow and steady, always wins.  I did appreciate that reminder.
  3. Soledad O’Brien—She had a good batch of stories.  Honestly, the best part of her presentation was her just being there.  It was nice to hear stories about life and our world, a world in need, that were not from a heavily Christianized perspective. 
  4. John Perkins—The Civil Rights activist and author was highlighted in an ‘interview’ format.  I found myself enraptured by his testimony of fighting racial injustice and his hope in this current generation.  I believe he is onto something when he says this current generation—and he is not talking about my age but the 20 somethings—might be the first generation to fulfill the great American creed. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal.”  I hope he is right.
  5. Eugene Peterson—this may have been the professional high for me.  Peterson was formatted in the same interview style as Perkins and it was fantastic.  Peterson talked about his life as pastor and how he once exclaimed in a leadership meeting at his church that he didn’t have time to be a pastor because he was too busy “running the damn church.”  That made me laugh.  I bought his new book.  I wish he’d been signing today.  That is one signature I would have wanted.
  6. Judah Smith—I had never really heard of him before; which is odd because he ministers in Seattle.  I can only say that he brought it.  Judah’s sermon was a sermon—in the classic style of actually using the Bible as a text.  He was the only preacher who asked us to read the Bible and then deliver solid exegesis.  His message was accurate and moving.  He spoke eloquently about disappointment in God’s apparent unfulfilled promises from 2 Kings 4.  It was something every pastor in that audience of 3,500 people could identify with.  I hope to hear him again.

 

The music was really good as well, but I don’t come for the music.  The facilities were nice.  Mariner’s church has a beautiful campus.  The food was kind of lousy, I must say, but all the free coffee was nice.

I am looking forward to tomorrow and the flight home.