Your Blog Steward

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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. 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.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tough day

Yesterday was not a good day for many people in our world. We are finding more and more people dead from a terrifying earthquake in Nepal; the city of Baltimore, MD is in riot because--well, because it's Baltimore? No one seems to have a handle on that. Out here on the prairie we have teens seeming to make suicide pacts, and there's rumors of witchcraft. Other than possibly the witchcraft, there didn't seem to be a lot of positives for folks out there yesterday.

Even if you bring it "close in" there was a lot of unsavory news around the neighborhood. A young baby died of SIDS, a older gentleman had a heart attack and died smoking a cigar in his garage, and kids still have to be tested in school. IS there anything hopeful?

It was a beautiful day here, sunshine, a light breeze, and with the recent April showers Omaha is about as green as it can get. Warren Buffet is bringing all the shareholders to Omaha for the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, and this is always an interesting time. (Our downtown--where I live basically--is filled with 25,000 people here to listen to Warren Buffet talk about the economy, and to party like it's 1999--literally 1999.) Bars are filled with tourists, many from foreign countries, all trying to outspend each other on their American Express Black cards. Last year a bartender told me she processed so many Black Cards during this week that she thought of borrowing one and buying a car--just to see...So the bartenders, strippers, and restaurants of Omaha are gearing up for a big week, while the rest of us chill out on our balconies and in backyards, and wait for the traffic to die down. (Nothing better than following a tourist in rental car with a GPS that can't make up its mind whether to tell the driver to turn right or left at the next intersection--let's drive down the middle! No one uses that space anyhow.)

Then there''s sports. As many of you regular readers know I follow some sports pretty closely. Now, I really only follow professional football and all hockey, and soccer when TEAM USA plays. I can't stand basketball anymore as it is way less about sport and way more about personality. I gave up on baseball years ago, when it too ceased to be a sport, and instead became an excuse to waste time without the benefit of drama or suspense. Last time I watched a boxing match one of the fighters was "Sugar" Ray Leonard. Too silly for me. (This weekend there is a big boxing match between a drug addict and a serial domestic abuser. Really people? Are we that starved for entertainment that we have to drag a drug addict into a ring to fight a man who abuses woman on a regular basis? Is money really that important?) There's the Kentucky Derby too, where sartorial excess can now be found in people's haberdashery. The NFL conducts its annual "slave auction" for new talent (they call it a draft, but what choice do the kids have who are "drafted?" This is as close as you can come to indentured servitude.) Hockey and basketball are beginning their playoffs, and that should keep people entertained as well. Busy weekend. Lots of gambling. Throw in a little Cinco de Mayo next Tuesday, and we should be well inoculated from the toughness of yesterday. (And I didn't even mention Hollywood.)

Remember--- the earthquakes? The riots?  We won't remember, but God does...the earth itself does. The blood spilled and lost does not go unrequited. We may lose ourselves in our Black Cards, and movies, and sports, and all sorts of entertainments, but God does not lose us. Just as God has not lost those who perished in Nepal or suffered in Baltimore. The world is much bigger than we make it--mostly because we only make worlds we can manage. In our tradition of Christianity, this is why we believe in a concept like "heaven." We need one place, one time, one event, that exists outside of our control. We seek one place, one time, one event that makes striving, even just getting up and putting on shoes, worthwhile. Otherwise, we forget about yesterday as we amuse ourselves to death. Heaven is our way of remembering the tragedies of yesterday are not buried in the sandhills of time.

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Drink to me only with thine eyes

It's possible, if you have a real good memory (or are addicted to trivia) that you have heard the title of this blog post before. It is a line from a poem by Ben Jonson, and I missed it at a trivia game the other night. (I guessed John Donne.) Check out a reading here.

I haven't heard that line for 30 years. I read a lot of Jonson--he was a playwright who had some really funny stuff, and I could often while away an hour or so reading him. (Remember: this was before cable and Netflix.) In fact, I have a memory with this exact poem. It's actually a song, and there's a tune to it as well. Here is the version I imagine Ben Jonson himself would have approved of



Back in the day, without Ipods and the first Walkmans, I found an old cassette of this song in our college's music library. I went into one of the "listening rooms" and played this song as I wrote a paper on Mr, Jonson. I just kept replaying it. About 45 minutes later there is a knock on the door. It's a young woman who wants to know what this song is? How did you hear it, I asked? She pulled the cords from my headphones and said, "You forgot to plug them in. I've been listening to it for a half-hour."

As I was apologizing for being rude, she said, it was OK because you don't hear that kind of music much. (It was 1983.) I gave her the tape. She has since gone on to a singing career in opera, and I hope she still hums that tune every now and then.

This song gets at the heart of how God works in the world. It's all about relationships (even sexual ones), and relationships are how we discover our humanity, and in that our divinity. What God has done for us in Christ Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit is entwined us in way that if we could only drink with the eyes of a lover it would be enough. Our humanity rests on our living together as only those loved by the divine truly drink of. We drink not to dominate, abuse, or destroy, we drink to love.

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.