Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Thoughts on violence

So, this past Sunday was one of my weeks to preach. It was just that time in the rotation. It was when it worked out with my schedule and with David's schedule. I spent a better part of last Monday morning reading Acts 9:1-19 (Saul's blinding experience on the road to Damascus). For some reason, I left my e-mail alone and didn't really touch base with the outside world until I got a phone call about the killings at Virginia Tech. I had just spent two hours thinking about call narratives and suddenly I knew I would be spending the week re-imagining the sermon as my community and I faced the violence of 33 dead at Virginia Tech. As the week went on, I kept clinging to the call narrative, because, let's face it, preaching about violence isn't exactly easy. But, after a couple of great conversations with my friend Emily, I decided to tackle the violence of Cho Seung Hui and hold it up next to the violence of Saul and the violence in our own hearts. Tough subject matter. Anyway, after swimming around in that water for awhile, I've come up with the following conclusions (always tentative) and questions:
  • When we persecute anyone, we persecue Christ (Acts 9:4-5)
  • All of us are capable of doing violence to others, and sometimes we do it in the name of justice
  • Violence is never OK, even in the name of justice (sorry, no just wars for me)
  • We need to be more like Ananias who reached out in reconciliation and love to one who had done violence to people he loved and might have done violence to him (Acts 9:17)
  • Why is called a massacre when people die on a college campus but simply violence when it happens in a market in Baghdad?
  • Why do we change the channel when the media tells us how many people have died in Iraq, Palestine, Israel, Sudan, etc. but rush home to watch never ending coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting?
  • Why does the Virginia Tech shooting bother us more than those who die everyday in the war in Iraq?
  • Shouldn't Christians care equally and be equally outraged?
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg of my own dealing with the current issues of violence in our society and in the world. Comment as you choose. I welcome all viewpoints. I really do ask questions in seek of answers.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Welcome to 30

That's right, folks. I've come around the bend and have joined the ranks of those who have lived for at least 30 years. I'm 30 years old. How is that possible? I can't say that 30 feels any different than 29. Anyway, here are some pictures from my birthday celebration up in Media, PA.

Andy, Wes, Me, Laurie, Shelli, John

Me and Laurie

Me and Wes

Me, my three chins, Weicher, and Shelli at the top of the Rocky steps in Philadelphia.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Timeless books

Hey gang. I just finished a book called An Ethic for Christians & Other Aliens in a Strange Land by William Stringfellow. It was first published in 1973 and yet is so apropos of 2007. Basically, Stringfellow posits that America is living under the delusion that it represents Jerusalem/Israel in the vision of the apocalypse, when it actually embodies Babylon. He asserts that death is the true idol and ruler of principalities and super powers. Anyway, near the end, as he's concluding that there really isn't hope for America to ever overcome the rule of death, the calls for Christians to live as kingdom people. Here's what he says:

In the face of death, live humanly. In the middle of chaos, celebrate the Word. Amidst babel, I repeat, speak the truth. Confront the noise and verbiage and falsehood of death with the truth and potency and efficacy of the Word of God. Know the Word, teach the Word, nurture the Word, preach the Word, defend the Word, incarnate the Word, do the Word, live the Word. And more than that, in the Word of God, expose death and all death's works and wiles, rebuke lies, cast out demons, exorcise, cleanse the possessed, raise those who are dead in mind and conscience.

Wow! This is a book that could seriously have been written last week. Stringfellow raises thoughtful questions about the power of death in the military complex in the United States and how it pervades all parts of American culture.

On a note that I think is related, I attended a middle school motivational talk about bullying today. The school is planning to implement a big anti-bullying campaign next year. It sounds like a solid program with intentional times of community between students and teachers. I wonder, though, about the hypocrisy of the drivers of a parking lot full of SUVs with W stickers sitting around in a middle school library bemoaning the act of bullying as our President uses the tactics of a bully to impose his agenda on nations around the world. Doesn't our condescending rhetoric about Israel, Palestine, Iran, and Iraq sound like bullying? Bullying is bad...unless our government does it in the name of peace. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Palm Sunday Hymns

So, on Sunday (Palm Sunday), as I was singing All Glory Laud and Honor, I took special note of the refrain:
All glory, laud, and honor to Thee, Redeemer, King!
To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.
"Interesting" I thought. I never noticed that bit about the lips of children ringing out Hosannas. I mean, we always do the Palm Sunday parade with children, and this year, at Harpeth, we bordered on being Pentecostal with our shouts of Hosanna and Amen, but I never noticed that emphasis in that old classic hymn.

Then, later in the service, while we were singing Hosanna, Loud Hosanna, I noticed that the whole first verse was about little children singing Hosanna.

I stood there feeling like an idiot for never noticing that it was children who were standing along the route to Jerusalem. Did the gospels emphasize the throngs of children and I missed it. Pretty lame for a youth and families minister not to notice such a thing.

Well, upon further inspection of Scripture, it isn't until Jesus goes into the temple, after the triumphal entry that Jesus is confronted with children in the temple singing Hosanna. Of course, the Pharisees don't like it, and Jesus rephrases Psalm 8 by saying, "Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you ahve prepared praise for yourself."

So, while the time frame is a little bit out of sync, I'd like to give props to the 19th century hymn writers who sought to emphasize the importance of children in this narrative. In the midst of Palm Sunday parades, may our ears be specially tuned to the voices of the children who sing with joy and excitement...the children who sing out loud with no regard to whether it sounds pretty or whether it's "proper." Hosanna indeed!