Monthly Archives: September 2016
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Don Armentrout stood tall enough to ride the big rollercoasters at Disney World and Six Flags. His balding head formed a kind of natural tonsure, and he peered through eyewear that resembled twin magnifying glasses.
When I was a seminarian at Sewanee, Don delivered his Church History lectures at a torrid clip, frequently hiking his sagging khakis back up to his waist as he said, “You know what I mean?” We all struggled to keep pace with him in our notes and breathed a sigh of relief whenever he started in on one of his brief asides.
One day, he said something like this:
When you get out there in your churches, people are going to come looking for Jesus. And all they’re going to get is you. You better think about that.
I’m still thinking about that. And now I’m asking you to think about that. All sorts of people are looking for God. God took up flesh and moved into the neighborhood. God comes to meet us in Jesus.
And here’s the catch. Since the Ascension and the descent of the Spirit, we are the only Body that Jesus has. People will come looking for Jesus, and they’re only going to get us. And that’s exactly how God designed it.
To borrow from Sting, every move we make, every breath we take represents Jesus to the world. God expects us to represent Jesus in the way he deserves. God’s mission of reconciliation and restoration hinges on it. Continue reading
Musical chairs is one of those children’s games that teaches a wretched lesson.
You probably remember how to play. Somebody arranges chairs in a circle, making sure to have one less chair than there are players.
While a tune plays the participants walk in a circle around the chairs. As soon as the music stops, everyone scrambles for a seat. The person left standing is out. One chair is removed, and the game resumes. The game reaches its final round with two players and one chair. There is only one winner.
The lesson about human community is bleak. To have a place, you have to take it from somebody else. And only a very few are going to get the place that everybody is struggling to get.
I’ll bet nobody ever considered calling this the Kingdom of Heaven game. But musical chairs does bear a dismal resemblance to how our world too frequently works. And Jesus makes it abundantly clear that he has come to do something about that. Continue reading
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When Ezra Tull was still a child, his father Beck picked up and left. Beck’s departure maimed and scarred Ezra, as well as his mother Rose, his brother Cody, and his sister Jennifer. Each in their own way.
Reeling from the feelings and the economic fallout of abandonment, the remaining Tulls grew distant from one another. The weight of loss and the sting of rejection frayed the fragile threads that bound mother to child, sister to brothers, brother to brother.
In Anne Tyler’s novel Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Ezra tries to weave all of these scattered, fractured individuals back together. He repeatedly plans a dinner for them at the eating establishment he manages and eventually owns: The Homesick Restaurant.
Ezra believes in the power of a shared meal to mend his family. His restaurant provides a homey setting and offers a menu of comfort food designed to nurture and heal the homesick soul. Continue reading
Lots of television ads sell products by associating them with images and music that stir tender emotions.
Take for instance this Subaru commercial:
A young man pulls his Subaru to a stop in the woods, opens the door, and a chocolate lab puppy bounces out.
Time passes. The same Subaru rolls up to a cabin in the woods. Looking into the front seat we see a slightly older version of the man kissing his spouse. The young adult brown lab looks over their shoulder from the back seat.
More time passes. The same Subaru—luggage carrier now mounted on the top—delivers the couple and their toddler to their familiar wooded retreat. The same, yet more mature man opens the back hatch and out jumps the chocolate lab, his face now white with age.
With sentimental music playing in the background, a narrator says, “It’s not every day you find a companion as loyal as a Subaru. Love. It’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru.”
The idea is that we’ll buy a life that we wish we had or that we want others to think that we have. The advertisers never mention the sticker price, to say nothing of the operating costs, the maintenance costs, or the cost of insurance coverage.
A Subaru might be a terrific bargain on all these counts. But the automaker’s executives figure that talk about the cost of the car won’t sell people on their product.
And even when car commercials push cost to attract buyers, they’re telling you how much money you’ll save. They want to make any price look so low that it’s almost a steal.
Apparently Jesus missed that day in Yeshiva when the rabbi discussed marketing. Jesus not only talks about the cost of following him, he does so in the starkest possible terms. Continue reading