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THEOLOGICAL WORDS REMIX

(Note–I resisted the urge to write a Valentine Day blog.  Maybe next year)

My current sermon series is titled Missing Links and it is about the first three chapters of Genesis.  I had fun yesterday launching it.  Last year when I was formulating the idea, my original desire was to build the series around the unique nomenclature surrounding the origins of humanity.

  • ex nihilo
  • sabbath
  • imago dei
  • original sin

Ex nihilo is the doctrine that God made everything that is from nothing, using no pre-existing materials.  This classic doctrine is attributed to St. Augustine.  Sabbath is the Hebrew word describing the seventh day.  This is the day God rested.  The image of God, imago dei, is a specific doctrine about the composition of human beings—that which sets us apart form the rest of creation.  Original sin describes Adam and Eve’s fall from the ideal condition of creation.

Eventually I moved away from using these words as my over-arching theme, I still love them and will work them into the sermon.  As I looked at these words on the page, I wondered what alternate definitions might exist for these words.  It’s a funny word game I play sometimes with lots of words.

Warning, the following paragraphs are preposterous and not edifying at all

1.   ex nihilo—A former member of an underground group of people who worship the bottled carbonated beverage Nehi Grape.

I’ve heard that the most difficult part of being ex nihilo is when you start missing the 12 ounce glass bottles and craving the cheap fizz.

2.  sabbath—Slang.  Pronounced “Say Bath.”  A cleansing ritual in Arkansas involving hot water, soap, and shampoo.

Coot, do you know what time its gittin’ to be?

Nah?

Can you sabbath?

3.   imago dei—The latest fuel efficient car from Honda.

My new imago dei from Honda gets 48 miles per gallon.

4.  original sin—An award given to actors and actresses for the best original portrayal of evil on the big screen.

And the original sin goes to . . . Ralph Fiennes.

RADIO STOP SIGNS

This morning on the way to work I was flipping through the radio.  I landed on a song that made me stop and listen.  I’d never heard the song before, so it must be new.  Once I got to the office I checked the playlist of the station and discovered the singer.  I sadly discovered the lyrics were rather blasphemous on the playlist widget, but the female singer was so strong it made me stop and listen.

This made me think about what other singers make me stop and listen, regardless of whatever else I’m doing.  So I made a list.  Of course, the list excludes both my wife—the best singer ever, and U2’s Bono.  Everyone knows that U2 is my all-time fave, so it is wrong to put them on the list.

So, here is the list of 5 who come to mind, but it is not a complete list.  Everything is fluid.

  • Natalie Merchant—There is just something ethereal about her voice.  Maybe I’m just showing my Gen-X street cred, but I think her voice is one of the iconic sounds of the last 20 years, whether she’s with the Maniacs or not.

 

  • Jim Morrison—Yeah, I know he was demon possessed but his voice is just odd.  Whenever I hear a Jim Morrison song I have to stop and listen.  Listening to him sing is like rubber-necking at a car crash on the freeway.

 

  • ZZ Top—Not only do these men have the best Texas-Rock and Roll sound ever, but their beards are legendary.  La Grange still gets a lot of airtime, and I have to listen.  I have to listen because I’ve driven through La Grange, Texas more times than I can remember.  I know that the song is about ill repute, but I still have to listen.

 

  • Mick Jagger—I list Jagger, and not the Rolling Stones because to me, Jagger is the power behind that thing.  Keith Richards, I think, actually died in 1987.  Today he is only a digital reanimation brought to us by Dreamworks.  Jagger’s voice, with its arrogant britishness says, “Stop what you’re doing and listen.”  Gimme Shelter  is not the greatest song ever, but it has to be in the top 10.

 

  • Frank Sinatra—Old Blue Eyes has the purest vocals, rivaled only by Nat King Cole.  But Frank is better because he did more.  I think I have every single song he ever sung.  Not only is his voice amazing, he was the king of cool.  I’d like to be the Frank Sinatra of preachers, so now I have to find a way to do all my ministry from Vegas.  Okay, maybe not.

 

Some of you will notice some missing personas.  Led Zeppelin, for one.  I love Led, but Robert Plant on vocals was always a negative, not a positive.  The guitar riffs are what made them.  John Fogerty almost made the list, but I decided that I can skip him over on the radio dial.  What interested me was how these distinctive singers all seem so much more amazing in the backdrop of what passes for music right now.  We are in a music drought with all the vanilla copy-cats.

GRACE AND TRUTH

Yesterday I did not preach.  That is hard for me.  I am, by nature, a preacher—that is my main vocation and so not preaching is like asking the starting quarterback to not play.  It’s just hard.  But, I was blessed in it because we had Mark Bradley from Golden Gate Seminary up to preach.  He preached about “Grace and Truth,” a sermon which jumped off from John 1:14.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

The passage says Jesus was full of grace and truth and Mark made the case that we, as Christ-followers, ought likewise to be full of grace and truth.  He went on to describe that some of us are more “grace” oriented and others are more “truth” oriented.  As he taught this, I discovered that I can go both ways; but it depends on my mood.  What I don’t do very often is strike the perfect balance of grace and truth.  So this morning I’m thinking about the kind of scenarios where I might do better.

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Scenario 1—A woman walks into a room where I am, perhaps at church or someone’s home and I notice immediately that her dress is hideous.  The cut is wrong, the colors are giving me headaches and her shoes do not match.  How do I respond?

  • Grace:  “That dress is curious.  Where did you get it?”
  • Truth:   “Your dress makes me vomit.  One of us must leave.”
  • Both:    “Your dress is interesting and commands my attention, but I don’t know if it works for me.”

 

Scenario 2—A man from my church posts on Facebook that my sermon on a particular Sunday was boring and he did not get anything out of it.  How do I respond to their internet insult?

  • Grace:  Comment, “Thank you for the constructive criticism.  I will attempt to do better next time.  Please pray for me.”
  • Truth:  Comment, “I may preach better next time, but you’ll always be ugly and stupid.” 
  • Both:   Don’t reply at all.

 

Scenario 3—A pastor comes to me seeking my advice on his/her church.  After a long drawn-out conversation in which he gives me the blow by blow of the problems I decide that the real problem is him. 

  • Grace:  Say, “Maybe the denomination can help you put the pieces together and figure out where to go from here and how to put things back together.”
  • Truth:  Ask, “Have you ever thought about a career selling insurance?”
  • Both:   Say, “Perhaps you might want to ask the Lord to reveal how this might all be your fault.”

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The thing I like most about Mark’s emphasis on “grace and truth” is that it affirms what I’ve always believed; I cannot control what other people do or say, I can only control how I respond.  Being a Christ-follower demands that I respond in ways that are honoring to him, regardless of how I might feel about it.  At the same time, I must respect people and not inflict undue harm.

LNI SAFETY PLAN

This afternoon I will meet with yet another ‘agent’ from the omnipresent Labor and Industries (LNI) of the State of Washington.  I am certain that LNI does great work, but they are getting on my nerves.  For starters, we are a church with only five employees.  They recently audited us and found our books in good shape—no problems because we always do try and get everything done right—but they said we needed to have a “safety plan.”  When we asked them what that was, they just said, “You need one.”  I called a different branch of LNI and they are sending this person out to talk to me this afternoon.  On the phone said, “We can’t write it for you, but we will tell you what it has to say.”  When he said that, I laughed.  Then I laughingly said, “Our safety plan is to put a band-aid on it or call 911.”  He then said, “That is not sufficient.”  It is going to be a long afternoon.

I thought I would put together a temporary safety plan that seems to fit our environment.  I might show it to him and see what he thinks.  I bet he will not like it.

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1.  Push pins and thumb tacks:  If an employee is punched, gouged or otherwise injured by a push pin or thumb tack he or she should follow the following procedure. 

            A.  Pray.

            B.  Say Ouch.

            C.  Put finger or part of body that was pricked in mouth.  If body part will not fit in mouth, run under cold water.  DO NOT PUT YOUR PRICKED BODY PART IN SOMEONE ELSE’S MOUTH.

            D.  If necessary, apply a band-aid.

 

An alternate plan for the push pin and thumb tack scenario could be as follows (Note, this alternate plan could be implemented in lieu of any of these protocol or in addition to them.)

            A.  Say a prayer of thanksgiving for the ability to suffer in the work of Jesus.

            B.  Rebuke the push pin/thumb tack as an enemy of the Kingdom.

            C.  Bind the push pin/thumb tack in Jesus’ name.

            D.  Sing, “If the Devil doesn’t like it, he can sit on a tack.” 

            E.  Show all your friends your stigmata.

            F.  Write a book about how you overcame the Devil’s ‘snare.’

 

2.  A Stapled finger:  In the event you staple your own finger with the stapler follow this procedure.

            A.  Pray

            B.  Go to your office; close the door.

            C.  Clean out your workspace.

            D.  Never come back again.  You’re fired.

3.  Paper cut:  In the event an employee receives a paper cut, follow the above procedure regarding push pins and thumb tacks.  In addition, be certain to disinfect the paper from any hazardous genetic material which might have been left behind.

4.  Computer fatigue:  If an employee becomes fatigued from looking at a computer terminal too long, encounters back pain or hand spasms then the proper procedure is to:

            A.  Pray.

            B.  Take a Tylenol.

            C.  Walk outside for 10 or 15 minutes to reduce the stress.

            D.  Get back to work!  While you were complaining about your fingers, people are dying and going to Hell!

5.  Crazy people:  In the very likely event that crackpots and loons come into the church where an employee is working, observe the following procedure.

            A.  Pray.

            B.  Do not make any sudden movements.

            C.  Speak as little as possible and use calm soothing words with only one or two syllables.

            D.  If you feel the person is threatening or dangerous, use the intercom on the phone to alert the other staff (especially Pastor Jamie) to escape through their office windows.  Distract the crackpot or loon so others may reach safety and live to minister another day.  Your sacrifice will be noted and appreciated.  We’ll make sure LNI is aware of your workplace injury/death.   

6.  Paper cutter injury:  If you loose a finger, arm, ear, hair, toe or any other body part while operating the paper cutting tool, please observe the following safety plan.  (Note it is no longer church policy to use the paper cutter to demonstrate Old Testament circumcision.)

            A.  Pray.  Do this quickly before you faint.

            B.  If you regain consciousness, clean up the blood from the countertop and the papers while trying not to bleed on the church equipment or property.  We will need to keep costs down as much as possible to pay for and train your replacement.

            C.  If you are still awake and conscious, try 911.