Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jesus Didn't Eat Peanut Butter!

Did you know that? I found out yesterday. As my kids were helping clean out one of the Sunday school rooms, Elias’ brain began to process. He recognized his own classroom where he learns, pouts, screams, plays, throws down, etc. His memory was triggered and zestily approached me. “Dad. You know Jesus? He no peanut butter!” Translation: Jesus didn’t eat peanut butter.

Where did that come from? What kind of theology is that? Do I believe that?

Ummmm. Yes. Er. No. Wait. Yes.

I don’t believe Jesus ate peanut butter because I don’t think there were peanuts in that culture. There were nuts, but peanuts? Not sure. Didn’t take that class in seminary. But I’m pretty sure that was not the lesson communicated in our preschool Sunday school last week.

But now I’m concerned. Does my three year old believe Jesus was too good to eat peanut butter? That he condemned anyone who did?

He wouldn’t have done that. Not gonna guarantee it, but from what I read about Jesus in Scripture, he was a man of the people. He spent most of his time with the poor, the lonely, the outcasts, the underdog. Those people hypothetically would have eaten peanut butter. Had it been available. Because it’s pretty cheap…and easy to make…and all that.

Those Pharisees probably would have only eaten kosher cold cuts and fancy foods for lunch. Because they had more money and laws and that kind of stuff. Did the Pharisees consider peanuts unclean?

Hey this is becoming a pretty interesting argument with myself. I need to go back and read Leviticus again.

Anyway, lots of people come up with crazy ideas about Jesus. They say things he didn’t and inaccurately label him. Sometimes they read the Bible, but usually they just develop their theology based on Hollywood movies or the selective, condemning reports of local news stations looking for viewership.

So today’s post is just a friendly public service announcement encouraging you to read the Bible. It’s God’s word in your own hands with incredible news for you. If you need help or translation, don’t ask a three year old. Ask me or another friend who has a bit more experience. We’d love to help you uncover the God of the Universe who made himself incarnate – choosing to live in a fallen world, choosing to suffer, and choosing to hypothetically eat peanut butter with the poor. Because he loves you!!

And for the record I think Elias was reiterating our no peanut allergy policy at church. Just a guess though. Those three year olds are tough to figure out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No Greater Fear

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8

Is there anything we fear worse than someone hurting our children? Last week the sports world collided with the real world when it was revealed that one of the assistant coaches for the football team at a prominent university had been inappropriately touching children.

I have a friend who a few years back attended a football game at Penn State University. He was fascinated how the community centered around football. The entire town, greatly isolated geographically, shuts down for games. The coach is (was) an icon. Joe Paterno is eighty four and until last week had been coaching for over sixty years at his institution – an institution centered around football. The proverbial tail wagging the dog.

As you may have noticed, sometimes people depart reality and cling to things of less import. We watch movies or listen to sports radio while much of the world struggles to find its next meal. At some point those things can become more significant. It dominates our time and consumes our thoughts. College presidents, corporate CEOs, musicians, athletes, and many others become consumed with pride, warping their worldviews and the rest of us go along for the ride.

Many details are still to come, but I can make a general speculation. At some point, the diversion (football, popularity, pride, money) became more important than humanity. Football players, fans, parents, and kids all became pawns to the alleged goal: winning. Who knows what all was ignored? The coach once hailed as one who “won with honor,” forgot his conviction and now has no honor.

A wise man once told me that we always need to operate from a place of humility. At no time should we believe our own press. We need to find people that will surround us and will lovingly rip off the bandages and expose anything we may be hiding. It goes against our inclinations, but it’s essential. Everything is at stake: our faith, our honor, our kids.

Pray for humility and bandage removers in your life. Pray for the millions of kids and adults suffering from current and past abuse.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Spoiled Rotten

So as I continue to wrestle with money and the implications of living in a community of wealth, I again found myself the beneficiary of tremendous generosity.

I spent last week in California at a wonderful orientation class to my denomination’s vibrant heart for the world. The Evangelical Covenant Church is planting churches in communities that don’t resemble mine. I witnessed incredible people serving the poor, the marginalized, and communities of refugees and immigrants. 25% of the Covenant’s churches are now labeled “ethnic.” Whether first generation or fifth generation Americans (the U.S. ones), race still divides our nation and our churches. Many of my colleagues are opening their arms to heal these fissures.

After four powerful days of developing friendships and awakening myself to the possibilities of the Church, I rented a car and enjoyed a quick 48 hour vacation. I soon visited my cousin Cecily and her two beautiful kids who live near San Francisco. I headed south to meet up with the ever-faithful Jeff who pulled a few strings and landed us a tee time at one of the Pebble Beach golf courses. Yes. The Pebble Beach. Perhaps the mecca of golf so to speak. I guess I should more accurately say the community that has developed golf courses on God’s wonderfully created California coast.

We played for free. That’s right, I said free. It would have otherwise cost $375 – per person! So being cheap and a mediocre golfer, you know I would have never spent that kind of money on a round of golf.

The course was incredible. The views beyond belief. The conditions immaculate. (Yes, I would be willing to eat off of the fairway.) The customer service beyond imagination.

The ocean was bluer. The fairways greener. The greens firmer. The sand traps steeper – and challenging. Painfully, frustratingly awful – I mean challenging. The rough was rougher.

Though I was in the sand more than a kindergartener in a sandbox at recess, I was in awe. I took more photos than a proud parent of a newborn. I was spoiled rotten: completely undeserving of the extravagance and opportunity to play one of the world’s elite golf courses – especially with my abilities. If my final score were the temperature of any city in the country…that city would be Phoenix…in July.

Though this may not have been a God-ordained round of golf, there are definitely a few lessons to exegete. I think heaven may be a bit like an outing on 17 Mile Drive: a group of people undeserving, yet spoiled rotten. People ecstatic and in awe. Perfect conditions. People being allowed to enter with no possible way to pay that price themselves.

My prayer is that the whole world may have the experience of being spoiled rotten. That they would be made aware that utter poverty and racial division may be their fate, but that knowing God yields acceptance, hope, undeserving grace, and invitation to be in awe of the God who made the oceans.

Thanks Jeff. Thanks God.