Keep It Simple Stupid…

I like to think about things.  Truth be told, I like to over think things.  It fascinates me that theologians really still don’t have an answer to the question, “How does Jesus death and resurrection bring about atonement for the people of God?”  We have what we call atonement theories, but all of these theories have holes in them.  There is no cut and dried answer to the question.  There will always be some mystery to it.  (I won’t give a detailed understanding of atonement theories here, that has been done elsewhere by lots of different people who are a lot smarter than me!)

But sometimes all this thinking about the things of God leaves my head swimming and I need to be reminded to get back to the basics.  I need someone to remind me to “Keep It Simple Stupid!”

Jesus had this unique way of taking very deep and profound theological thoughts and weaving them into stories about sheep and goats, farmers, banquets, etc…  Jesus had a way of making things simple.

Like when he said that the first commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus summed up the whole life of faith in two statements.

I have often said I think Jesus could have summed the whole of the gospel in the first statement.  I think it is hard to love God with your heart, soul, mind and strength and then NOT love your neighbor as yourself.  Loving God always seems to lead to loving other people.

Of course maybe Jesus just knew some of us would run away from the rest of the world trying to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength.  He didn’t want a bunch of God-loving hermits.

Today, I had one of my Keep It Simple Stupid moments.  It was as if God gave me a question to filter the events of my life through.  One simple question.

How can I love Jesus doing this?

So no matter what “this” is, I ask myself, “How can I love Jesus doing this?”

How can I love Jesus preparing my sermon for the week?  How can I love Jesus on my lunch hour?  How can I love Jesus in the 2 hour meeting I sat through today? How can I love Jesus in the time I will spend with my family tonight?  How can I love Jesus on the basketball court in the morning? 

All of those scenarios will have different answers.  I should probably study diligently for my sermon.  Maybe on my lunch hour I eat leftovers instead of spending money at a restaurant.  At my meeting, I actually listen instead of texting and checking my phone every two minutes.  Maybe I make sure I am actually present with my family instead of just co-existing.  Maybe the toughest place for me to love Jesus is on the basketball court, but that may be the subject of another blog someday!

I thought maybe this simple question might help someone else out.  As you go through your day, just ask yourself the question, “How can I love Jesus doing this?”  It might change the way you do some things in your daily routine, and change the way you look at life altogether!

Just a thought,

n8

Exegeting Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

The other day our family was driving down the road in the car listening to Christmas music.  Thanks to Paula, we are that family that starts listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving.  (Truth be known, I love Christmas music too so I don’t mind…)  While we were  headed home, the song “Do they know it’s Christmas?” came on the radio for the 5th time that day.

I had finally had enough…

I started screaming at the radio.  Really?? Have you listened to the words of this song?

“At Christmastime
It’s hard, but when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears”

Really?  It’s hard, but while you are having fun and stuffing your face with Christmas goodies, just take a moment to think about someone other than yourself.  I know that will be difficult.  Really?  Paula, can you believe the words to this song.  I mean, the whole tone of this song is so USA centered.  It’s the most horrible way to do charity.  Really,” It’s hard, but when you’re having fun?”  Really?

By this point my family thinks I have lost it.  And then came the most awful line of all…

“Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you”

Now I am worked up into a good self-righteous lather.  

Can you believe this stuff?  This is what happens when Rock and Rollers try to do charity.  I really, really hope this line is sarcastic Paula.  If it’s not sarcasm this is one of the worst lines in a song of ALL TIME!  And it’s Bono!  One of my heroes.  It surely has to be sarcastic.

At this point I think my family has gone from being amazed at my rant to tuning me out.  This is just one more example of dad over-thinking things…

But then the other day it dawned on me how much the world has changed in the last 30 years.  When the original song was written, our world was much smaller than it is now.  There was no public internet.  Not many people carried around cell phones.  (The people who did were called doctors)  Cable television was not a necessity.  News channels like CNN and Fox news were just becoming a thing and weren’t staples of everyday life.  There was no DVR.  No twitter feeds or Facebook posts.  No bloggers everywhere writing about current events.

In 1984, the main way people knew about the events of the world was through the newspaper or the national news media at 6PM.  Most of us 80’s children never wanted to read a newspaper, we were too busy playing Atari.  The 6 O’clock world news always seemed pretty boring as well, because it was about a lot of places we’d never heard of, seen, or visited.

The truth is, in 1984 it wasn’t easy to see the “world outside your window” that the song talks about.  You had to make an effort.  The lyric had it right, It was hard.  Maybe the Band Aid song was the only way that young people in America were going to be informed that people in Africa were starving.

I think all this has a lot to do with our problem with scripture.  The Band Aid song is 30 years old.  Scripture is thousands.  We read it as Americans living in a technology driven age and sometimes, like the Band Aid song, it leaves us scratching our heads.  We see the violence in the Old Testament and fail to recognize the violence in the world of the writers.  Maybe people writing in violent times write more violent stories?  At times we miss the nuances of the genres in scripture.  We treat proverbs like promises when maybe they are more like fortune cookies.  We miss the sarcasm in the text, and it hits us like the lyric “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you…”

One of the things we preachers are taught to do is exegesis.  Exegesis is an uncovering.  It is like peeling back the layers of an onion.  Have you ever noticed that the more you look into scripture, the more layers you find.  Maybe my problem with the Band Aid song was that I wasn’t doing proper exegesis.  I took the “text” and separated it from the culture in which it was written.

If I were to look at the song in light of the prevailing 1980’s culture, it stings a little more.  Because the truth is that the church in the 80s seemed to be more concerned about souls than bodies.  We wanted to save everyones souls and weren’t as worried about feeding people.  And here is the secular music industry raising money for people to eat.

Reminds me of a story Jesus tell about sheep and goats.  At the end of all things, the master is going to divide people up as sheep and goats.  The sheep are the good guys, the goats not so much.  He will welcome the sheep into his kingdom because they fed him, clothed him, visited him when he was sick and in prison, etc… They did stuff.  The goats didn’t feed him, clothe him, visit him, etc…

Both groups ask the master, When did we see you hungry, thirsty, sick, imprisoned, etc… The master replies, Whatever you did (or did not do) for the least of these you did for me. 

After taking the song in context, I am a little embarrassed by my self-righteous rant.  The truth is, while we were singing hymns in church, the rock and roll world was feeding Jesus.

Excuse me while I take this plank out of my eye…

  

If I’m Adding to the Noise…

It’s been a while since I wrote anything on this blog.  Part of that was probably life just catching up with me, but I also stopped blogging intentionally…

I just got tired of all the words.  One of the things about the information society we live in is that we are bombarded by words.  And social media isn’t helping.  It used to be that we tended to get our words from people that were somewhat educated on the topic they were writing about.  Now we get words from everybody, all day long, every day…

I’m sure we’ve all read status updates and thought, “I am glad I wasted 30 seconds of my life reading that!”

Add to that the fact that tons of wanna be writers like myself have blogs, and at times it is overwhelming.  It feels like so much white noise.  I guess I just felt like I was adding to the noise.

I think I noticed all this because I was trying to return to the practices of silence and solitude.  I had gotten a little lax in those practices.  To make a long story short, I was trying to learn to speak less and listen more.  I was reminded that many of our words are used to bring attention to ourselves, as defense mechanisms, or to manipulate others.  I wanted to hear the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ.

So I stopped blogging for a bit.

Then I ran into my friend Brenda.  Her sister was tragically killed in a car accident on Thanksgiving, and I was able to be at the funeral. She said, “you haven’t written a blog in a while”, and I let her know that I was spending time listening instead of talking.  But our conversation reminded me why I got into blogging years ago.

First, I like to write… But more than that, I felt like the internet was a great opportunity to minister to people all over the world literally.  John Wesley used to say “All the world is my parish…”  That was my motto when I started my first myspace note.  You see, we preachers expend a tremendous amount of energy preparing sermons, studying scripture, and spending time seeking God’s guidance in prayer.  My sermon might be delivered to 100 people on a Sunday.  But I see my responsibility as a minister to encompass more than just my local church.  In other words, “all the world in my parish”.  In the age we live in, I have the opportunity and the responsibility to minister to people who I may never even meet.

So I hope to start blogging again.  However, in the spirit of the old Switchfoot song, if I am adding to the noise of words in your life, feel free to not follow this blog.  For the rest of you, I hope to get back to blogging.  I hope that somehow a word that is written will be a word that ministers to you in a time of need.