Friday, September 30, 2011

Art and Worship

Part 1: “Art-Full Worship”  (Exodus 31:1-11 and John 6:47-58)
    “In the beginning, God created...”  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  And what a wonderful, resplendent, beautiful world God created. 
From fish to flowers ...
From atoms to Alps ...
From galaxies to germs ...
Our God has created an infinitely complex world.  From its smallest to largest dimensions, the beauty and complexity of our world staggers our minds and enraptures our hearts.  Our God creates.  Our God creates flowers that no one will ever see and stars that no one will ever reach.  Our God creates bacteria and electrons and magnetic waves and thermonuclear reactions and sea currents and black holes and nebula and more species of animals than we have even discovered.  Our God creates.  Beauty and complexity, simplicity and profundity, majesty and glory ooze from God’s very Being.  God is Creator, and creation bears God’s glory.
    From the beginning of time, people have worshiped God through creation.  Adam and Eve joined the creative process by naming the animals, caring for the garden, and creating more human beings.  Noah joined the Creator’s mission by creating an ark as an instrument of salvation and then building an altar as a sign of worship.   Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all worshiped God by building altars to hold their sacrifices. 
    Creation and beauty have always been part of worship of the Creator.  Worship has always been art-full (full of art).  As people made like the Creator, we cannot help but to create when we express our worship of the Creator.  Our creation - our mutual display of beauty - draws us closer to the heart of the Creator. 

"The Plan" - by Alex Gray

This poem is by mystic artist Alex Gray, who tries to paint in a way that allows God's Spirit to work more in our world.  It is a little humanistic and New-Age-ish; I don't believe humans working together will heal our world.  However, I do believe that God heals our world partly by working through us humans.  What I really love about this poem is that it catches the essence of our role as co-creators with God.

  1. God Creates the Cosmos with Love.
  2. When we create with Love we align ourselves with the God Force.
  3. The Cosmos and our world is God’s evolving creation, an unfinished masterpiece we each co-create.
  4. Love will go to any length to fulfill its creation.
  5. We are each a finite mirror of God’s infinite creation.
  6. To see through appearances to God’s transcendent presence beatifies and transfigures our experience of God’s immanent creation.
  7. Creating sacred space mirrors God’s creation.
  8. Our challenge as co-creators is to mirror God’s love and beauty in all our creations.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pieces of Peace

Blue skies in my heart
Deep currents in my soul
Whirlwind in my chest
- My fragmentary whole

Performance, achievement
Anxiety, depression
Laughter, love, and joy
- My loose compression

Believing and doubting
Following and turning away
Resting and Wrestling
- My drunken stumbling way

His love endures forever
His mercies know no end
His death atones for me
- My unfailing Friend

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sacraments: Channels of God's Grace

    Roughly one sixth of the world does not have a reliable supply of clean drinking water.  More than 3.5 million people die every year because of water related illness.

    Scientists and community organizers have tried to solve this problem in a variety of ways, but one of the most creative is atmospheric water generators.   AWG’s take water from the air around us.  In most environments, there is enough water in the air to provide clean drinking water for several families with a single AWG machine.  This is an amazing technology.  The water is already there.  We just have to tap into it.

    However, we also have to recognize that this is not the normal way people get water.  Normally, people go to one of three sources for their water: rivers, lakes, or wells.  For many thousands of years, most people in most places have gotten most of their water from these reliable sources - rivers, lakes, and wells.  This water is much easier to reach.

    That’s kind of how grace works.  God’s grace is all around us.  We can experience God laying in our beds or walking on a mountain or riding a subway.  Grace is in the air we breathe.  We just have to tap into it.

    This is beautiful and profound, but we are also wise to recognize that there are some “normal” ways to experience God’s grace.  There are some normal channels of grace that have proved effective means of grace, and our spiritual ancestors have been coming back to these basic channels of grace for thousands of years.

    Theologians call these “means of grace.”  Down through the years, the Church has recognized two means of grace as being especially deep and meaningful for Christians: baptism and communion.  These are often called the sacraments. 

    A sacrament is a living drama of God’s gracious action.  It is a sign pointing to grace.  In a sacrament, we remember what God has done for us through Jesus.  But in this remembering and re-enacting, we are also opening ourselves to God’s gracious action again.  It seems that we humans need to experience these very physical things - water, bread, and wine - to help us experience the fullness of God’s grace.  The physical is somehow connected to the spiritual.  The sign pointing us to grace also becomes a channel bringing grace to us.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

MIB - Missing in Baby-land

If you follow this blog, you know I haven't been posting much lately.  Here are a few of the happy reasons why.

-- Just before we left for the hospital --

 -- Just before I entered the operating room.  They took Sarah in 20 minutes before me, so I had a long time of nervous pacing and strained Korean dialog with the staff.  --

 -- This is the normal way for parents to view their new babies in Korea.  One of our church members just had a baby and still hasn't held him after 3 days (because she had a C-section and they don't expect C-section moms to nurse until 5-6 days after).  However, our hospital was more flexible, and though we had to push, Sarah was able to nurse about an hour after delivery.  Also, we could get our baby pretty much any time. --

 -- I'm one proud papa.  He even opened his eyes for the camera. --

 -- Sarah's first time seeing him outside the operation room --

 -- My mom and Emma visiting the hospital on Day 1. Sarah's mom is also here, and her dad is coming tomorrow, but I don't have any other good family pics on my computer yet. --

 -- Emma's first time holding John David --

-- He started fussing a little, and happy changed to: "Uh oh, now what?" --

As I get adjusted to life in Baby-Land, I'll try to get back to more regular posts, but this will have to do for now.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Scripture and Preaching

2 Questions for Discussion
When have you really felt God speaking to you through a sermon? 
What were the main points of the last 5 sermons you heard?

    Raise your hand if you could remember at least one of the last five sermon topics?  Keep your hand up if you could remember two?  Three?  Four?  Five? 
    But I expect that almost all of us could point to at least one sermon that was a powerful spiritual event for us.  Somehow, sometimes, sermons become miracles.  Reading the Bible and talking about it becomes a transcendent event when the words on the page become the Word of God for us in our hearts. 
    This is our topic today - the role of scripture and preaching in the worship service.  You can read the Bible at home.  You can listen to sermon podcasts or read them online, but something special happens when we gather to hear from God together.  What is that?  How does that work?  How can we have more of those special, supernatural, God-filled moments when we gather on Sundays? 

    Our primary text for today is in 2 Timothy.  Timothy is Paul’s ministry student.  Paul has been training Timothy for years.  In our series on 1 Thessalonians, we saw part of this training period with Timothy serving as Paul’s assistant.  Timothy is out on his own now, in Ephesus.  Timothy is the Christian leader of the island, kind of like a bishop or lead pastor for a network of house churches.  Paul is giving his final advice to Timothy, charging him with his most important tasks as a minister.  Again and again, Paul comes back to one fundamental task: “Preach the Word of God.”  Let’s read part of Paul’s advice starting in 3:14.

Chapter 3: 14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.  ...

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

God Is Not a White Man

Check out this awesome, quirky, theologically astute music video by the band Gungor: