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Archive for November, 2008

I was just thinking…

I was just thinking what it would be like to have a counseling session with Jesus today?!  Would he have a swanky sofa for His clients to lay on as they shared their deepest thoughts?  Would Jesus analyze the unconscious id and draw from the latest psychoanalytic theories to diagnose the existential plight of His client(s).  Probably not!  I do think He might say something rude, offensive, humorous, deep, subversive, repulsive, profound, crazy, bewildering, facile, cryptic, and life changing.  If I was in a session with Jesus, I would whip out my favorite sharpie fine point pen, take some notes, and let Him do the talking.  (that’s my attempt at humor). Fortunately, the Gospel story does chronicle for us the nuanced personality of Jesus in a startling fashion.  I’m always perplexed and captivated whenever I read the baffling ways Jesus deals with evil, hurt, pain, sickness, despair, and fear.  Jesus is so downright unconventional and scandalous; not like the modern vision of Jesus who is more like a wandering zen rabbi who meticulously straight irons his hair, has a breathtaking faux tan, and throws out timeless aphorisms to a spellbound and eccentric group of followers.  Remember Peter, poor little guy, Jesus called him “the Satan”.  What if Peter was just having a bad day?  Perhaps, the ministry was the reason for his psychological breakdown?  Think about the stress of trying to figure out a messiah who intends to die on a Roman cross, on purpose!?  Huhhhh?  The messiah, according to Jewish prophetic writings, would not only usher in a new creation but would vanquish the pagan enemies of Israel.  How is Jesus, the most brilliant rabbi and prophet in Israel’s history, going to do all that the prophets foretold by dying on a cross!?  I can only imagine the intense headache that Peter was suffering.  Aspirin anyone? ( another lame joke, I know)  Jesus is so unlike what we would expect.  This is the tragic reason of his rejection and suffering.  The religious leaders couldn’t fit Him into their nice theological categories and so they refused to follow the fresh and prophetic vision that this young prophet from Nazareth announced.  So, what would Jesus be like today?  First, I think we need to beware of finding a Jesus that is entirely congenial to us, a Jesus that somehow fits into our limited theological presuppositions.  If Jesus is not a threat to your safety or comfort, if your convenience is never disturbed by him, I’m afraid you have a distorted and wrong picture of Jesus. So, to answer the question from the top: What would Jesus be like as a counselor?  Well, I can say for sure He wouldn’t have a swanky couch for you to lay on! Why would you want one anyways?!  Couches are for therapy, for talking about ourselves and, well, it’s Jesus. Anyways, I think Jesus would be far too interesting of a diversion.  Sitting on a lazy-boy rehashing my unconscious self doesn’t sound like a compelling alternative.  Don’t you think?

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“Do”

We have been going through a series on our weekend’s called “Do” and have been using the book of Acts. The series implicitly draws from Mother Teresa’s philosophy: Think less; love more.  Our a challenge which evolves out of Acts has been to focus more on mission and less on knowledge!  It’s a rather provocative statement and challenge for all of the “interlectuals” in the church. I am not saying that thinking less and doing more is a summons to give up on thinking.  I think I would fall into depression! However, it is a warning against a detached and abstract theological orientation that leaves no room for obedient action.    I want to briefly add that Luke’s literary emphasis in Acts is striking: the results of the events chronicled are as equally important then the events themselves.  In other words, only three verses focus on the ascension in the first chapter, while four verses are devoted to the upper room on the day of Pentecost in the second. The rest of the second chapter; in fact, the rest of Acts, is a narrative that describes the profound transformation that took place in this small Jewish movement. But for me, and finally back to the point, the question that shouts from this story is: How did this young Jesus movement get so far?  How did these early disciples ignite a religious and social revolution in 1st century urban centers?  Why were they such a threat to the Roman empire?  How did they influence so many demographic groups and spread so quickly throughout so many geographical regions?  Well, it’s clear that it wasn’t just knowledge that won people over to this Jesus revolution.  Nor was it exegetical brilliance that transformed the world as we know it.  It was simply the result of being empowered by the Holy Spirit.  This movement was birthed in an upper room where Jewish disciples were praying, not just thinking; Waiting, not just strategizing… That’s a hard pill to swallow for some of us…

Luke, also implicitly weaves a pattern throughout his prologue(1:1-11) that yields insight into the secret of this movement.  Jesus was having a fascinating conversation about the Kingdom with his disciples, until the disciples asked the wrong question.  What Jesus does is give shape to a paradigm that is essential for our churches today. He shifted the conversation from knowledge to mission and then to empowerment.  The disciples were clearly focused on knowledge; Jesus was focused on mission. They wanted to talk about eschatology; Jesus wanted to talk about empowerment (He commanded them to go to Jerusalem to receive power from the Holy Spirit). I think Luke is hinting at a pattern/model for ministry.  It is a model that dynamically upsets the socially and religiously entrenched ideas that are threatened by the Gospel.  It is powerfully missional. It is not sedentary. The focus is more on praying, waiting, obeying, and doing then just thinking, believing, managing, and commercializing.  The result is a model that is remarkably supernatural.

This narrative is subversively “apropos” for today’s church.  What would happen if we could reconnect ourselves to this pattern?  What if discipleship was transformed into a waiting and praying model; instead of, a knowledge based and overly gimmick commercial model?  I believe that considerable changes would occur in our lives.  In fact, I believe we would be better thinkers, doers, scholars, pastors, teachers, poets, and writers, if we were more faithful to this pattern.  And musicians, I forgot to add that one…

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