2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here!
My grandmother was the original owner of this table. It isn’t the fanciest table anyone has ever seen. In fact it is a very simple table, but it does its job masterfully. In my grandmother’s kitchen it was stained a dark brown and was really shiny. I remember eating her homemade bread at this table as a small child, and poking fun at my Mamo when she would hurry us along as we ate so we wouldn’t miss watching Walker: Texas Ranger.
This table didn’t stay at Grandma’s house for its whole life. I grew up around this table in my parent’s house. When it was in my parent’s house it was refinished in a cream color. I remember sharing family meals around this table. I remember doing homework at this table all through Junior High and High School. Now it is in my house and is in the middle of being refinished once again. This is an old thing that is constantly being made new.
As I look at this table I can’t help but reflect how hard it is for those of us who strive to follow Christ to be made new. I am not by nature a hellfire and brimstone style preacher, but repentance is a real thing. Many times the greatest struggles I have in my own faith boil down to the fact that I don’t always want to be made new as much as I want to hang on to my old sins and vices.
Today in our nation we are in desperate need of being made new. Hatred, violence, and evil abound and it seems like there is no end in sight. The mainline news media is saturated with pundits playing the blame game, while our political leaders are using this tragic loss of life and outpouring of evil as nothing more than another political tool. We need to be made new.
The events that transpired in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend were attrocious. On Sunday I was convicted to preach a sermon I hoped I never would have to. I felt that it was necessary to bluntly and defiantly decry and denounce white supremacy and neo-nazi ideologies. These are issues I have spoken about before, but never thought would have to be once again confirmed as evil. I was naive, and I was wrong.
This issue of racism is old, senseless, and in desperate need of being removed from our society. It is time for us to be made new, and I believe that it needs to start in our churches. It is time for us as Christians to embody the call to action that Jesus placed on us in the great commission. Jesus didn’t say go forth and make disciples of those who are just like us. Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28: 19-20). That wasn’t an exclusionary or segregated call to action. It was a call for us to love each other. We have failed to be an obedient church. It is time we were made new.
As I look at my kitchen table I am resolved to be better. This table gives me hope. It has seen generations of folks grow up, move out, move on, and here it still stands once again being made new again. It gives me hope that I can be made new, and that we as the church can be made new. I am willing to bet that I am not alone in this desire for renewal. I am willing to bet I am one of billions. It is time we were made new.
1 Corinthians 9:22-23 (NIV)
I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
A few weeks ago my wife and I had a new and terrifying parenthood experience. Our son decided that his grandmother’s room fragrance smelled so good that he needed to taste it. Poison control told us that we needed to take our precious and curious son to the emergency room to be sure that he did not aspirate any of the liquid which could cause respiratory issues. Our time at the ER was (thankfully) short and uneventful for our son, but we had an experience there that each of us deeply appreciated.
At the ER there was a man working there whose attitude and demeanor were incredible. He was a calm and hopeful presence amidst the chaos of what was going on around him. He dealt with the stress of the ER beautifully. He didn’t mind spending time with patients who were less than friendly, he took time to make sure his coworkers had what they needed, and he volunteered for every seemingly awful job they had. He wasn’t a doctor, or a nurse. I asked him what his job at the hospital was and he told me this: “I am an old chewed up Lego. I finish one job, get broken down, and then move on to doing another job. It’s great!” I immidiately liked him. In between the chaotic rushes of the ER he would come and high five our son, encourage my wife and I, and make sure we were ok. I don’t know if he was aware that his joyfullness in this stress filled moment was what we anxious parents needed, or if that is just who he was, but I learned that night that I wanted to be a Lego. I wanted to be a person who would do whatever task was before me with joy. I learned that I wanted to face the stresses and struggles of daily life with a sense of joy and hope that was so infectious even the most anxious of people around my might take comfort.
I wonder if this is what the apostle Paul was like. In his letter to the Corinthians the apostle Paul tells us that he became all things to all people so that he might help others to hear the good news of the gospel. He wanted people to share in the blessing of the knowledge that Jesus had come to the world to save us. He wanted people to know that there was hope, joy, peace, and goodness in this world. Paul was a Lego, and I want to be one too.
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it”
This morning my wife and I took my daughter to her first grade orientation. I remember going to school orientations as a child. It was all overwhelming and exciting back then. I remember looking for my desk and seeing if my friends were going to be sitting next to me. I remember looking at the art, diagrams, and instructions on the walls of the classrooms and wondering what they were all for. I remember meeting my teachers and wondering if they were going to be fun and exciting, or boring and draconian. Going back to school was exciting and scary all at the same moment. Today I watched my daughter walk through all of the emotions that come with meeting her new teacher and seeing her new classroom. Walking in she was shy and more concerned with seeing her old teacher and friends than meeting new ones. By the time we left she was ecstatic about the coming school year and all the new experiences she is going to have.
As a parent I reflect on this rite of passage that we call school orientation fondly. School and faith were always two sides of the same coin to me. Going to school and learning about math, science, history, reading, and the arts were exciting because they helped make my Christian faith come alive. I would learn in school about the history of the places that I heard about in sermons or described in Sunday school. I would gain appreciation for the classical music and beautiful artwork surrounding me in worship as I learned about the Renaissance and different architectural styles throughout history. I remember the moments when my spiritual and secular education would intertwine and I would have the “aha” moments that tied what felt like an ethereal faith to the tangible present.
Today as I contributed to the mountain of school supplies for a first grade class, and watched my daughter get excited again about school starting I prayed that school would be as joyful for her as it was for me. I prayed her teacher would have the patience and strength to lead and shape the young lives entering into her classroom to the best of her ability. I prayed that the whole class would have an incredible and wonderful year. Most of all I prayed that I would be the kind of parent that supported my daughter, her teachers, her classmates, and her school to the best of my ability. I pray that I play my part in starting my child off in the way she should go so that when she is older she will never turn from it.
As school starts back I encourage each of you whether you have children or not to pray for our schools and our teachers. The work that is done in these places is training our next generation up in the way that they will go. My hope is that they not only learn what is in the books, but that the learn the value of their education and put it to use to make the world better tomorrow than it is today.
Blessings and Peace,
Today I decided to start a blog mainly to keep myself focused on ministry. I find that not every thought I have about church life, church organization, or church growth is appropriate for the pulpit or for formal meetings. In many ways this blog will probably be selfish indulgence on topics that “won’t preach” in my current setting, or perhaps will be me seeking engagement on topics that I find are a struggle in my current ministry setting, or, hopefully, this blog will contain some thoughtful discourse on scripture and spirituality applicable to everyday life. I don’t really care about getting a book deal, or going viral. All I really care about is getting better at being a follower of Christ and helping others do the same.
If you come across this blog please know that I am not a ministry expert. I have a Masters of Divinity from Candler school of theology that I was lucky to get. I am not the best in my class. I am not the smartest, the best looking, the most ambitious, or the most successful pastor who ever lived. I am just a regular preacher trying to figure out ministry one day at a time. I hope for this blog to be a source of hope for those struggling, a source of help for those learning, and a place where God’s goodness and mercy can abound.
Blessings and Peace,