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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Let’s Take a Break

Etymology was a bad idea, today.  Yet here I sit, wondering how it is that words and phrases are fluid and not having enough self-control to avoid writing about it…

I guess this is #MinistryMonday on Tuesday, because it’s going to be that kind of week.

Webster defines “take a break,” as, “
to stop doing something for a short period of time: to rest.”  If you want to use it in a sentence, you might say, “I'm tired. Let's take a break.”

Oh goodness, am I ever tired…

Growing up, taking a break sounded something like that moment when you walked outside for a breath of fresh air or decided to listen to one more song between math problems.  As I got older, it was more like the fifteen minute reprieve in the middle of a work day.  I never really wanted to take a full “lunch,” because then I just got home later.  But somehow, these four little words morphed into a declaration of mammoth relational proportions in the past decade.  Taking a break sounds a little more like breaking up now, except maybe unilateral…

I could be over thinking it, but to “take” is to
get into one's hands or into one's possession, power, or control: such as to seize or capture physicallyto get possession of.”

That doesn’t seem very relational.

There are a lot of definitions for break, which include, “
to separate into parts with suddenness or violence… to cause an open wound… to rupture… to render inoperable… violate… disrupt the order… crush the spirit… cause a sudden and significant decrease in value…”

Um… also not relational.

Hey, let’s take a break!  Let me control how very deeply I damage you.  But don’t worry.  It’s just temporary.  

Something is not right about this.

Now, before anybody really freaks out about this post, I have to tell you that the whole thing began when I simply said to myself, “I really need to take a break from social media, but I can’t figure out how.”

I admit that sounds at least mildly pitiful, but my problem is that all of my ministry related social media feeds are linked to my personal stuff, so if I take a break from all the drama and debate and crap, I also have to take a break from the blogging and podcasting and editing and vocational interaction, so it legitimately doesn’t work for me… unless I assume a pseudonym or something.  I think this might be the part where even though I preach transparency (or at least translucency), I encourage every person in ministry to create a fake ID, set up a Swiss bank account, and buy a believable mask…

OK, tempting, but not really.

I wonder, though, if taking a break from people also causes us to neglect all of the good, important, life giving pieces we should be embracing.  Ah… there’s the application.

Living uncompartmentalized and holistically is so much harder than I thought it would be…


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Creeds: The Beginning

Apostles Creed: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

Nicene Creed: We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

It seems that all theology begins with… well… the beginning.  We believe in God.  We believe in one God.  We believe in one, particular God who is Father, and who is Almighty, and who is Creator.

Being “Father” designates God as parent.  Surely as we dig deeper into the first few verses of Scripture, we also begin to notice that both male and female were created Imago Dei, so God as Father might also be God as Mother…  Both paternal and maternal instincts and attributes abound in the character of God, and both are important. 

Being “Almighty” indicates a structure of complete omnipotence… unbridled power… and less than a dozen words into the orthodox, foundational essentials of Christian faith; I cringed.  Do we have to believe in the omni-god to be fully Christian?  As a vocational theologian, I am afraid to say no, but I am also afraid to say yes.  This was supposed to be “an easy one.”  I have no doubt that God is very powerful.  I have no doubt that God is most powerful.  I have no doubt that God is capable of doing even things that are impossible.  But I do have doubts about whether or not God can do anything.  I think I am safe in saying so, because Scripture precedes the Creeds (much as I do love them), and Scripture is certainly clear that there are things God cannot do (sin, be tempted by evil, tempt anyone), but I guess we have to ask ourselves whether it is powerful, at all, to do these things.  I’m fairly certain, for example, that no one who professes to be a Christian wants to argue that God has the power to sin.  This argument doesn’t fit the ethos of Christianity.  Admittedly, it gets trickier when we see terrible things happening in the world and wonder why God does not prevent them.  Theodicy can be unbearably difficult to navigate.  I do not, however, want to get so stuck here, today, that we can’t move on.  It is a conversation for another time… or many times… perhaps forever…

Being “Creator” is, rather interestingly, the lynchpin of many current lines of theological thought.  Of course, to proclaim, “God created,” is a universal deal breaker for Christianity, but to attempt to decipher exactly how… and when… and with what tools… leaves much room for interpretation.  Like so many other issues in theology, I wonder if we could agree to a big tent here, allowing for multiple understandings of the creation story so long as we agree that God creates. 

One of the beautiful things about the creeds is that they seem to hammer out essentials while leaving a great deal of room for non-essentials.  How very Wesleyan…


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Introduction to the Creeds

Our world and culture can be volatile.  I’m not a pessimist by nature, but it’s also not difficult to allow cynicism to creep in when people who profess the same faith turn on one another in some sort of attempt to show that they are the ‘most’ Christian.  I have some pretty strong feelings about what our communities of faith should look like in the midst of suffering, pain, and disaster; but I want to take a step back, for a moment, to consider the words of (maybe) John Wesley:

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

I’ll be blunt: I think we do a lousy job with all of this, but I am at a loss (in this moment) for what to do about the last two-thirds.  I think part of the problem is that we do not have well defined essentials.  Perhaps we need to return to basic principles on which we all can agree.  I’d like to begin with the creeds.  Over the next several weeks, I will be taking some time to consider the importance of finding a place of unity and how we might move forward from that, in love, even if nothing else lines up.  For this post, the creeds, themselves:

The Apostles Creed:
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried:
He descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
The holy Catholic Church;
The Communion of Saints;
The Forgiveness of sins;
The Resurrection of the body,
And the Life everlasting.

The Nicene Creed:
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.