Tag Archives: theology

Jesus as Servant

Jesus Washes the Disciples Feet

The Republican National Convention is about to get started, and we will hear from some of our neighbors about the kind of leadership they yearn for in our country. The Democrats will do the same next week.

I’m actually intrigued as this could be a fruitful backdrop to our conversation on Sunday about servant leadership.

Regardless of where you stand in the political spectrum, leadership is a necessity for any organization or government. The best leaders tend to transcend partisanship and cast vision on a direction forward into an uncertain future. We definitely need that here in the USA. I know other nations are struggling with leadership vacuums, so it’s not just a local issue.

But there are different kinds of leaders.

From a Christian perspective, the most central to which we are called as people of faith is servant leadership. And boy, this is a tough one. Servant leadership is not necessarily intuitive in a culture that emphasizes individuality, ambition, and consumerism. Servant leadership is Jesus, taking a bowl of water and a linen towel, kneeling at his student’s feet and washing them one at a time, wordlessly. It is firm but quiet, strong but humble, empowering but vulnerable. It is Jesus saying that if you want to be first, you must be last.

I’m wrestling with the idea that servant leadership could be an antidote to a chaotic, me-first, divisive culture and world. Instead of drowning out our opponents or bringing the biggest stick to the fight, we’d bring different kinds of tools – towels, brooms, open ears, and gentle hands. That may seem soft, and yet it was the Jesus way.

Henry Nouwen once wrote in A Reflection of the Christian Life:

“Our God is a servant God. It is difficult for us to comprehend that we are liberated by someone who became powerless, that we are being strengthened by someone who became weak, that we find new hope in someone who divested himself of all distinctions, and that we find a leader in someone who became a servant.”

Would I like to see a servant leader as president? Sure. Will it likely happen? No. Do I meet servant leaders in my church and community everyday? Absolutely. In fact, I wonder if their work may be more impactful than any servant leader president could ever hope to be.

Dom Hélder Camara, late Brazilian Archbishop, put it this way, in another great quote:

“…Let no one be scandalized if I frequent
Those who are considered unworthy
Or sinful. Who is not a sinner?
Let no one be alarmed if I am seen
With compromised and dangerous people,
On the left or the right,
Let no one bind me to a group.
My door, my heart, must be open
To everyone, absolutely everyone.”

(Don’t be surprised if you find some of these quotes in my sermon on Sunday!)

To sum all of this up, Jesus as a servant leader is fascinating and mystifying. May such an image challenge us as followers to be servants to those we meet. May it shake us from seeing leadership as only about well-written speeches, perfect hair, well-groomed campaign positions, and youthful running mates. May it move us to align ourselves to the way of Jesus and the way of the cross.

See you Sunday!

Getting Jesus

Jesus Built Tables, Not Walls

There is an old Buddhist proverb that Christian Piatt shared with us at our big pub night a few months back – “If you ever meet Buddha along the road, kill him.” Then Christian, perhaps a little shockingly, suggested that we do the same for Jesus.

Granted, Christian wasn’t being literal – his point was that getting to know Jesus is a central and lifelong act of discipleship. The instant we think we have Jesus or God figured out is the same instant we probably need to start over. We won’t ever know all there is know to about the one we call Savior – there will always be something more to learn.

We can’t ever “get” Jesus completely, but we can keep getting closer to him.

It’s funny how we often do the opposite though in our spiritual walk. We put up walls as if we have gone far enough or figured everything out. This might allow us to justify our own behavior or habits as being okay, like how slave masters would use the Bible to justify owning slaves. It also could prevent us from really moving to a place where God wants us to be, being open to a mission project in our community, connecting with a neighbor who might be in need, or sharing our own grief and heartache with a community of support.

I’m grateful then that Jesus didn’t build walls. Even in our scripture that we talked about this past Sunday, Matthew 15:21-28, where Jesus at first throws up this wall to a Gentile woman who is in deep need, that wall eventually gets torn down and a table is put in its place. Jesus’ heart is opened and broken for this mother and God’s abundance is shared. Even if the text says they don’t share a literal meal, they sit at the same feast that the one at the center of all creation invites us to join.

That’s what the Table strives to be about – tearing down walls and sitting around tables – so together, we can figure out who Jesus is and what Jesus is calling us to do with our lives. That’s what I believe church should be about. That’s what I think the world needs more of. What do you think?


mega pub night!

Pub Night with Steve Knight - Feb. 7, Flying Saucer, Ft Worth, TX

I’m excited to share about our big pub night with the Search and the Euc on February 7, 8:30-10:30 PM, over in Ft Worth. We’ll hear from a friend and fellow missional church guy, Steve Knight, enjoy some great food and beverages, and have a fun time. Steve just did a whole series on Participatory church, using some of the lingo from social networking to wonder how our faith communities might change and adapt to use these kinds of ways of thinking in our worship and work. He’ll share some of that and then open up the conversation for questions and ideas from the crowd. As always, the event is going to be informal and open to people from all varieties of spirituality.

You can RSVP on Facebook today.

BTW, the Search will be hosting worship that evening as part of the Wells Lecture series, so you can head over for worship at 7 PM and then join us for the pub night at the Flying Saucer.

The Theology of In-N-Out Burgers

I have never had an In-N-Out Burger.

Inevitably, when I tell one of my friends who is from California, they go into this long-winded argument about how much I have missed and how this thing needs to be rectified immediately (or as soon as possible).

I love a good burger, so I just listened and wondered at this mythical, magical chain and their wondrous burgers that would turn so many of my good friends into burger evangelists.

Finally, my wait is over. Two In-N-Out locations opened up in the North Dallas area today. Someday soon, very soon, I will experience the greatness of the In-N-Out burger experience. Soon, I too may be converted.

Even as Americans in our culture grow less tolerant and interested in organized religion, there are many of us who are easily evangelized into becoming die-hard fans and advocates for products, companies, and sports teams whose fundamental bottom line is to make money off of us. It feels like we are sort of trading one religion for another. And on top of it all, the relationship is never very balanced. We are invited to become fanatics about a product that we have little or no control over and often have no recourse if our experience goes sour (minus a boycott).

Church, on the other hand, is supposed to exist for others. I read a quote somewhere that church really is the only organization that exists for the people outside of that organization. Not that we have done a good job in the past few decades of living up to that ideal. Like a bad business, we just expected that people would come in through our doors and accept our product, even if it was bland, disconnected, and preoccupied. Were we too focused on our cliques and not the people on the outside?

Even as people line up for the newest iPad or In-N-Out restaurant, it reminds me that Jesus must have had something figured out, since he had people following him into the wilderness to camp out and hear him speak. What was that message? What turned those first listeners from consumers to evangelists of the good news? Maybe it had something to do with his mission statement from Luke 4:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

Yeah, I’d probably line up to see that happen too.

If you want to help the church figure out how to speak that theology again, why not join us at one of our pub ministry nights or for Sunday worship?

Until then, keep camping.


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