A friend sent me a link to an article today. His email subject heading said, "memory is more than a theological virtue." A subject line like that reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Memory of Old Jack, by Wendell Berry in which you might expect a theological lesson. However, if you clicked the first link, you might be wondering what an article about Michael Jordan's birthday has to do with theology or virtues, but the author (Michael Wilbon) demonstrates a wonderful point about our tendency to forget the past in favor of the most recent. Especially for those of us here in Milwaukee, I appreciated Wilbon's reference to Oscar Robertson's season when he averaged a triple-double.
A different friend and I were recently devising our own list of the best 10 NBA players. When he didn't want to include Oscar Robertson, I accused him of having no sense of history. Certainly, we shouldn't allow our history to enslave us to flawed understanding and approaches in the church, but a lot of times, it takes a sense of history to truly understand the opportunities and challenges that are before us.
Memory helps us to hold things in perspective. It can serve to provide us with hope in the midst of despair (because we remember a similar challenge that we, a friend, or our congregation overcame). Memory is also a source of wisdom, oftentimes enabling us to see a situation in such a way that the benefits and dangers are on the table when a community decides how to proceed. Memory can also help us to appreciate what is happening in the present. If there is nothing to which we are comparing the present, it is hard to really know if things are going well or not. So, just like Wilbon said--let's be careful or a lack of memory might just lead to a situation that reaches out and reminds us, "just how dumb it is to forget."
I recently read an interesting book by Tim Suttle, a pastor and frontman of Satellite Soul. This book brings the work of Walter Rauschenbusch to bear on the Evangelical tradition. An Evangelical Social Gospel?: Finding God's Story in the Midst of Extremes raised several interesting issues that face the church today. One of the biggest issues that he challenges is the three-fold problem that he sees getting in the way of the church actually living out its true mission. Individualism, Nationalism, and Consumerism undermine the full gospel life. But the image I wanted to share here was one that I found really helpful for communicating our calling to witness to Christ with our lives.
He invokes the images that were so prevalent during Saddam's Iraq--pictures of Saddam holding bread in the market, and holding books in school, and holding a gun outside the government buildings--all images to remind the people that whatever they are participating in, Saddam was behind it as provider of the food, knowledge, and safety. In other words, these images serve to point to a deeper meaning. Suttle then turns to our creation in the image of God. This sets up the framing of the Christian Mission as being to Image God wherever we are. I like that idea. What if we took seriously the reality that our lives do point to the deeper truth that inspires them. If our lives reflect the values of individualism or consumerism, then our lives will present icons to them. On the other hand, our lives should flow from our understanding of the gospel. Obviously, many people are rightly frustrated when the church does not imitate Christ and live in a way that points to God (hear hypocrisy).
A while back, I used the phrase--Windex for our Witness--to think about cleaning up the reflection of Christ that we are bearing to the world. I don't really think that the guy behind the counter at Alterra will look at me as an icon. But shouldn't we approach life in such a way that when people do look at the way we live (you know: treat our families, approach our work, spend our money, and respond to neighbors), they can see that something stands behind our lives and there is a deeper truth behind it.
Maybe this Lent, you can focus upon some way that your life as icon can better point to the reality behind it.
The Live Nativity set is up! We had great weather for it so there were fewer frozen fingers putting on all those bolts. Along the way, the roof just wasn't sitting right until we corrected the way the back piece was sitting into the framing post on the southeast corner. Framing matters.
Today as I was doing some dissertation research, I came across this statement by Ephraim Radner in Leviticus: A Brazos Theological Commentary. He wrote that instead of the title in our Christian bibles, Leviticus, which brings the idea that we are about to read an instruction manual for the Levites, “the Hebrew title Vayikra [“and he called” i.e., the Lord called Moses] is a far more accurate way of naming the purpose of the book.”
The title in one sense does serve to establish our expectations. In Genesis, we expect to read about the beginnings of the world and God's people. In Exodus we expect to read of Israel's exodus from Pharaoh. So if we see the title, Leviticus and expect to read about the priests, that is probably what we will spend our time emphasizing as we read. I think the book of Leviticus becomes more appropriately situated with the Hebrew name that invites readers to think in terms of being called by God to live in a particular manner instead of expecting an instruction manual for the Levites. Now I'm not out to change the names of Bible books--but I'll gladly go on record to say, we can change our expectations for what we'll read in Leviticus to "and then God called..."
It's November and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. One of the things we'll be doing at Crossroads this year is taking time to prayerfully consider our partnerships with our ministry partners. For 2013, our partners will be:
I invite you to check out their websites before they come and present their ministries to us on 11/18 and 11/25.