Our awesome ministry intern, Douglass Anne Cartwright, has a great guest post up on Whiskey Preacher, our good buddy Phil Shepherd’s site. You’ll want to read it, especially if you have any love for theatre. Here’s a snippet as she reflects on one of her favorite musicals – Les Miserables:
So often I see the Church having similar characteristics to Javert — convinced of its “right-ness” and willing to go to any lengths to preserve the earthly justice over which it wants to have control. If you list out the sins of the Church throughout history, for each one of them, there’s a person (or several persons or a great many persons) who believed that what they were doing was right, no matter what the cost. Not far from that is the belief that only one entity (the Church) can be right, while everything else must be wrong. And, good intentions abound where ostracism, condemnation, and hell-fire are thrown about, and it gets harder and harder to see “right” and “wrong” in the midst of the smoke. Is the Church heroic? Is it villainous? Is it somewhere in the middle in a more-difficult-to-describe-category?
Read the rest to start your day. Is the church purely good or purely bad? Or are we just like the image of the banquet table I preached from last Sunday, good and bad mixed together, receiving the gifts of God? Or something else?
I’ve been enjoying this album since discovering it on NoiseTrade a few days back. It’s a complete interpretation, musically, of Song of Songs, one of the most uncomfortable books of the Bible to read in front of your parents. Romantic, sexy, poetic, and amazing. Some theologians think it is a love song about God’s love for God’s people or the church. I think it is about how awesome sex and love can be. I’m grateful it is in the Bible, since it counteracts some of the misunderstandings and judgmentalism we hear from loud Christian voices about sexuality.
Anyway, download it and enjoy. It’s free.
Heads up – the vocals on track 2 do sound a bit dorky. Just ignore those as best as you can and get on with the rest of the album. It simply gets better and more beautiful.
It’s good to be home.
I am back from Nashville, where a whole bunch of Christians gathered for worship, business, thinking, praying, fun, and work. It was a bit of a recharge for me, even though such big events tend to be somewhat exhausting for me, especially when I am volunteered to do stuff. This year, I did just a single workshop on young adult networking around anti-racism work. Otherwise, I was able to float a little.
Highlights for me include getting to catch up with a bunch of old friends, meeting some new friends who are excited about the Table, hearing great speakers like Brian McLaren, Marian Wright Edelman, Fred Craddock, and Soong-Chan Rah, participating in some cool conversations about loving neighbors, and being in downtown Nashville.
Tuesday night of GA was especially unique because of a simple immigration vigil young, attended by a group of young and old. You can see me in the first picture below (on the right), praying with our General Minister & President as we began our journey along a short walk downtown. We gathered in a larger crowd then to pray for justice in our nation, yearning for compassion and hope. It was a nice way to take ourselves from structured business sessions to the real world for a time.
Enjoy the pictures – can’t wait to share more with you!
Good Friday is the darkest day of the church year. On this day, we recognize that Jesus was tortured and finally nailed to a cross, where he died a miserable, lonely death. Even according to the Gospel accounts, there were not many people gathered there to witness this painful, excruciating form of execution – maybe a few guards, some curious onlookers, and a handful of family and friends.
Jesus was abandoned.
Think about the despair he must have felt. Abandoned by his disciples. Abandoned by the crowds who had once supported him. Abandoned even by God, leading him to cry out in those final moments – “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
Perhaps fittingly, Good Friday is not the most popular day on our church calendar. It’s depressing. It’s dark. There are no hallelujahs. There are no praise songs. We often cover the table and the cross in black cloth. We sit in silence, in the emptiness of our lives, and wait with Jesus as he struggles to even take breath.
Theologians suggest, over and over, that God presents to the people in the Bible choices between life and death. Do you choose the things of this world that bring death, or do you choose to find the new life even in the midst of the darkness? (I love this video by Walter Brueggemann that lays this out rather clearly.) In other words, how can we have Easter without Good Friday? How can we celebrate and praise God unless we have gone through the pit, the fire, and the darkness that comes as part of life?
Take a moment today to reflect on that question, and be with Jesus on the cross.
Maybe Easter will feel a little different on Sunday in return.
Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.com