Monday, June 30, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
The connection between this passage and "place" is not direct, so forgive me. But, I've constructed some thoughts about what led Jesus to make this invitation (namely: the pharisaical nature of the religious system that opposed his teachings). My analysis and conclusion is that selfish desires ruin "place," which is certainly not novel. But, I do think it important to point out the similarity between two prevailing pharisaisms in our own day and age.
Jesus invitation to discipleship in Matthew 11:28-30 is given as a counter-invitation, arising from his ongoing struggle he had with the religious institutions of his own day, namely the strict, consuming, legalistic moral code of the Pharisees which presented no less than 613 commandments to guide a person. Such propositions were promoted by officials as a way to secure peace of mind, and it also played upon the subconscious desire to maintain social acceptance.
Knowing that the Pharisee’s teachings, which in Hebrew tradition were known as “yokes” or “laws”, bound people to an addictive, consumptive fear built off the need to continuously be monitoring and improving oneself, Jesus sought to relieve them of their burdens. He said – in short – come to me; rest in me; follow my example; nothing else is needed. The image is one of having a number of chains and burdens lifted off of person, only to be replaced by a gentle hand supporting and a calm voice instructing someone on how to live. Jesus’ aim is to lead us into deep waters of peace, where we can be at rest within our own skin and with the world that surrounds us. It seems incredible that anyone could refuse this invitation. Yet, human experience, relational experience, tells us that this is one of the chief struggles we all face … letting go of our known burdens to step into the unknown, unknowable region of trusting and letting ourselves be defined by daily, practiced “existence” rather than our past achievements or future ambitions.
Today, I can perceive two sources of yokes in our culture that stand in opposition to Christ’s teaching. The first is the continual presence of pharisaism in religion, the ongoing suggestion that peace is obtained through morality and social custom. Such is the system that still supports much of American piety in the Bible belt and in other pockets of our culture. According to this system, peace comes through checking indulgences and chasing away excess. Wills are to be molded; minds and hearts are to be cleansed; sin is to be swept away.
However, for Presbyterians (or other mainline denominations) in larger, cultural centers, the temptation to fall into this type of pharisaical mindset is fairly rare. More often, people run to Presbyterianism or Lutheranism as a way to escape these rigid systems of their childhood. But, that does not mean that peace is easy to come by simply changing denominations. For, the threat facing many mainliners comes not from the religious sphere, but from the social, political, economic, and cultural sphere (to use pharisaical language, the “secular” sphere).
The yoke placed upon persons from the socio-economic-political realm is the suggestion and promotion that peace of mind comes through the acquisition of knowledge, experience, investments, possessions, the list goes on. At its base, this system is built upon the idea that our peace comes by self-fulfillment and building security through riches. (Jesus also had much to say about this matter). And rather than maintaining social custom, this system puts individuals in constant competition to climb social ladders. Furthermore, whereas religious pharisaism strengthens the walls of community into restrictive, toxic closeness, the secular pharisaism destroys any sense of community and creates boundless opportunities for pleasure, power and a great deal of ill.
What links the two systems is the constant focus it places upon “I” and “me.” Everything according to the pharisaical mind is dependent upon how “I” am doing, what “I” am doing, where “I” am. They are both selfish and thus – as a way of life – empty and shallow. Life’s mystery includes the wonder of “you” and “us”. Consequently, existential peace (shalom) can only come through right relationship, not through right identity alone.
It may help you to ponder: which system did I come from? And … which system am I more likely to succumb to now? And, finally, how is your ability to relate to your place (your community) restricted by your temptation to be pharisaical about your own identity?
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Saturday, June 14, 2008
I'll try to write more about the experience of driving to Louisville to fix our computer, including some dramatic moments of saving Elise's birth pictures off our old hard drive just in time!
For now ... it's a PC world for us. And the learning of lessons about storing important information on an external hard drive :)
Thursday, June 12, 2008
This won't mean much to many, but the Executive Inn Rivermont in
The "Big E" was an investment into what
A few days ago, the headline in the Messenger-Inquirer (local newspaper) read "Hotel Still Waiting for White-Knight." The hope was for Savior, Messiah. The assumption was that having a hotel, convention center and entertainment location was a good thing - yes - but that in order for the good to survive something outside of the people would have to make it so. But, even if a white knight rode into town, cleared the debts off the books and reopened the hotel, would that really be beneficial to this community? Probably not.
The larger issue at play here, and the very reason that people across
This is also precisely why this single event has gripped me. I am captured by the symbolism of the Executive Inn and by the meaning of its demise. I - being called to enter into this community to embrace these people, to find where God is active in this place and to invite people to lift up their eyes to see God at work and to join that work - have to ask the question: what does this say about this community?
I think - for one - it says that a community can only nourish and sustain something it believes. Not what
The Executive Inn’s closing also says – to me – that this community doesn’t quite know where it is headed, which isn’t either good or bad. It simply is. A crossroad is present. Built upon eras and generations of remaining true to its provincial heritage,
Approximately six years ago, First Presbyterian Church of Owensboro lost its head pastor after a tenuous season, conflicted season. It was a shock to the system – reverberating uncomfortably close to the sound of a death knell. After roughly 150 years of existence as a community, the church was faced with the dramatic reality that life is not a guarantee. The future seemed more like something that would have to be secured through prayer, hard work and commitment.
Since the departure of the pastor in 2002, the church has done much. But I am left to wonder if all that the church has done is change management. The church has called a new head pastor, myself as an associate, a new youth director and a new musician. But, for the most part, these additions have been additions from outside the traditional community (i.e. – not locally grown developments). A few new initiatives have grown from within the community, including a thriving fellowship group for the 50 plus crowd.
But, overall, the church seems at risk of hoping and letting other people create a new life for them. That may get them down the road a bit further, but it won’t save them. Efforts have been made to get conversations going amongst the people about its future, about its hopes. But, largely those deeper questions have been parlayed into talk of building or remodeling the church facility, which may or may not be necessary. Still, the main question is this: where do these people want to go? How are they discerning where God is and where God is leading them? What do they hope?
There is a season for everything. I season to pluck up and a season to plant. God knows which is which.