Your Blog Steward

My photo
Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Let's imagine a creative future with God and each other together. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fast cars and faster times

One of the more unique things about aging is that time seems to speed by exponentially. I have heard 22 years olds recently exclaim to me that time seems to "fly by" when what they are considering seems to me to be just seconds ago...

St. Augustine famously noted that he knew what time was except when someone asked him to explain it, and Western philosophy has been on an eternal search it seems to somehow explain "time and eternity." My answer to this problem of time, and especially of its speeding up the older we get? I bought a fast car.

My reasoning is such...the faster I drive between two points means I save some "time." This time is therefore spent doing other things than driving between two points (and since I do a lot of driving this is quite a "time-saver.")Slow cars=less time to do other things: fast cars=just plain fun!!

Because as even these 22 year olds know, time is the ultimate chimera. It only has value if you are living the life you love or the life you were called to live by God. A five minute life in the care of God seems much more interesting to me than an 85 year old life lived amidst the confusion of this world...(I am not advocating a shorter or a longer life, but rather that every life--short AND long--should be measured by its God relationship in the world)

So time literally rolls along and takes us with the mighty Missouri that is ravaging homes and banks along my town, time has few cares for those who ride it. You can use fast cars, vacuum cleaners, microwave food to save all the time you want...but it's how the saved time is used that matters to the world...and it would seem, to God. It's not the length of time of Jesus' life that matters, but rather how he used that time to show us how to be human and not try to be God that brings his time to us.

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I heard there was a secret chord...

Somewhere deep in the recesses of my soul lies a "God spark." I am not sure what it is, not even sure if it's important, but over the years when it has appeared to my consciousness I have heeded its illuminations.

I don't get these crazy, "END OF THE WORLD IS COMING!" type illuminations; rather, mine are more mundane. "Oh, that is what my wife meant!" Or, "maybe this is what is bothering my daughter?" Sometimes I get a vision of a person, someone I know, and within minutes, if not hours, they are calling me...sometimes after years of non-contact.

When I take the Myers-Briggs personality test they call me "Intuitive." My doctoral advisor, also of the intuitive bent, once remarked that "Scott, no one ever accuses us of actually seeing trees in the forest." True that.

I first realized this eschatology (a deep, Pannenbergian theological joke there) back when I was a kid. When playing sports it was like the whole field or diamond was laid out on graph paper, and I knew where each person was going to be. I played defensive tackle for a awhile in Jr. High football, and I was the slowest runner on the team...but I made a lot of tackles. My coach once asked me how I ever made a tackle since I was so slow? "I know where he's going," I said. My coach benched me for being a wiseass...but it was true...since I knew where he was going, I just got there before he did and made the tackle.

As a professional theologian, and coming out a a tradition where such Spirit-driven ideas like "God spark" are received skeptically--Luther once said of a group of Spiritualists they had swallowed the Holy Spirit "feathers and all"--I never use these divine illuminations in my theological work. My ministry, yes; but theology, no.

But if you've heard the secret chord of which Leonard Cohen sings...well, I don't have to tell you how that goes do I? If you haven't heard it...well, that's why there's stories from the Bible, sermons from me, and songs from Leonard Cohen.

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Flood of Biblical Proportions

They tell me the Missouri River hasn't been like this since the Garrison Dam was finished in 1952 (or was it 1953?). There is a lot of water. Which got me to thinking about Noah...

Now more than a few of you probably know the story of Noah. He was a man whom God entrusted to save creatures from the devastation of a flood God was going to send to end humanity as we know it. There are a few variations of this story, but the result from the Jewish tradition is that God sent a rainbow after the flood was over as a way to promise God's love to the survivors...and--ostensibly--not send another flood. There aren't many rainbows around here Kermit!

The flood and all the work that goes into battling water is now approaching its third week, and people are saying that it will be like this until August. Some people are wondering if the river will ever return to what it was a month ago. People are tired, and even now a few are wondering if some lifetyle changes are in order...there are a few who haven't left the flood zone, and probably will return the minute the National Guard lets them!

What to say about all this? How about something like the God that creates the river is the same God that redeems the people whose homes are washing away? How about that we live in a world where our relationship with God is not dependent upon the good and bad that happens (or even that we may or may not do), but rather is dependent upon the love we share with God, ourselves, and with each other? Jesus Christ is not a judge of good and evil--he is beyond good and evil--he is a judge of love, of character, or compassion, a judge of hope, a judge of peace, a judge of sharing...

Natural "disasters" are never about good and evil, right and wrong, or other such moral and ethical dichotomies--they are about love...which is why we help sandbag, move furniture and pictures to higher ground, and sell our trailers to friends in need at 25 cents on the dollar...there is the love even in a flood of biblical proportions.

May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.