Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bringing Heaven to Earth

Whenever I talk with my friends about heaven they typically describe it as a place away from here, as if it's a fairy tale kingdom up in the sky somewhere . These friends of mine assume that having faith in Christ translates into a ticket out of this world upon death. Now I'm no expert in what life is like after death, but if we take Jesus and his mission seriously, it appears that one of his primary goals was to bring the beauty, goodness, justice, and love of heaven to earth, so that those who gave their lives to follow him wouldn't just sit around waiting to escape from earth when they die but that they would seek to live the life of God here on earth. Essentially, Jesus' followers seek to bring heaven to earth.

As I mentioned above, I'm not attempting to answer any questions about what life is like after death, but what I think the church needs today is a better understanding of its mission for the here and now. The Scriptures are filled with stories about how the first followers of Jesus sought to love God and to love those around them as a way of demonstrating what heaven is like. And my prayer is that we too can learn to love God and others in the way of Jesus which will demonstrate just how much heaven is crashing into earth.

Richard Rohr. a Franciscan priest, wrote the following words and I pray that they inspire you to become the person of love God created you to be:

"What word of hope does the Church have to offer the world? The world is tired of our ideas and theologies. It's tired of our lazy church services. It's no longer going to believe ideas, but it will believe love. It will believe life that is given and received. We are afraid to touch the flesh of God, even to touch the flesh of one another and understand what God is calling us into. Thomas the apostle symbolizes our temptation toward heady faith, so Jesus asks him to touch the wounds (John 20:27). God is not calling us into our heads. Yet we've lived in our heads so long, the world no longer listens to us. I don't need your words, the world says to us. I don't need your sermons. I want life. And I want life more abundantly. What word of hope do we have to offer to the millions of workers in the world who see no meaning in their life? What word of hope do we have for all the women who bear children and, day after day, say, What is the meaning of this life? For most people in the world the question is not, Is there a life on the other side of death? It is, rather, Is there life on this side of death? Until us Christians give evidence that there is life on this side of death, the world does not need to believe our dogmas and giant churches. It doesn't need our words of hell. It needs our promise of heaven."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Chorus

I have to admit that I'm not very good at remembering, so I'm intentionally writing about Thanksgiving the day after we stuffed ourselves with food because Thanksgiving is a backward-looking celebration and I want us to take a moment to reflect back on the time we just shared with family and friends and to give thanks for all that God has done for us.

In the Scriptures, whenever the writers encourage their readers to give thanks, they always invite them to look backward. For example, the Psalmist in Psalm 107 sings about the many ways God redeemed his people: he rescued them from their enemies (v. 2); he fed them (v. 9, 36-37); he even saved those who rebelled against him (v. 10-15). And all throughout his song, the writer invites people to "give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for humankind" (v.8, 15, 21, 31-these verses seem to be the chorus of the song. Essentially the writer invites us all to remember God and everything he has done for us.

So take a moment today, even if you're still among family and friends, to give thanks to God for all he has done in the lives of your friends and family and in your life. For at the heart of being thankful is the process of remembering.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Caffeine anyone?

Just in case you were thinking I had forgotten about last month's Just for Fun drawing, I'm here to announce the winner of the $45 Starbucks gift card. But before I do that, I want to let you all know that the Just for Fun drawings will be put on hold for a while. I will, however, continue to post my thoughts on "becoming" the kinds of people God created us to be. Thanks for all the comments you have left in the past and I look forward to hearing more about the kind of person God is calling you to become in your particular context.

And now, without further ado, the winner of October's Just for Fun drawing is JANET, otherwise known as Janny K. Congratulations Janet! Please email me with your mailing address so I can send you the gift card.

Have a great week everyone!