Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I Am A Rock...Not

I've never read anywhere if Paul Simon's I Am A Rock was specifically a response to John Donne's No Man Is An Island, but you couldn't blame a jury for ruling that way.

Exhibit Number One: John Donne's assertion that you're not the only clam in the chowder and that when you walk through a storm you can hold your head up high because you'll never walk alone.

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were.
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Exhibit Number Two: Paul Simon's declaration of the opposite.

However...it's lines like "If I never loved, I never would have cried" that make me think Simon is not so much saying he's separate from the world as he is wishing he had been. He strongly proclaims, "I am a rock. I AM an island," but it's got a bit of the old "methinks he protesteth too much" about it.

What starts as a declaration of independence ends up being a realization that independence isn't all it's cracked up to be. Like the following panels from Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes:

Truth is...we need each other, even though sometimes it hurts.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Taming of Jesus

Working at a Christian bookstore has been a good fit for me, what with my 14 years of experience in youth ministry, but I must admit to feeling a bit conflicted lately.

As with all brick-and-mortar booksellers, online retailers have been hurting us. There has been a need to expand the store's offerings beyond books and CDs. And so, an increasing amount of floor space is being given to gift items: mugs, jewelry, water bottles, monogrammed journals, wall hangings...

The result is that deeply-loved passages of Scripture have become slogans and catchphrases, instead of life-changing, soul-stirring truth. The cross has gone from being an "emblem of suffering and shame" to a color-coordinated piece of decor.

It all reminds me of this passage from Brennan Manning's The Signature of Jesus:

Organized religion has domesticated the crucified Lord of glory, turned him into a tame symbol. Viewed as a church relic, the cross does not disturb our comfortable religiosity. But when the crucified, risen Christ, instead of remaining an icon, comes to life and delivers us over to the fire he came to light, he creates more havoc than all the heretics, secular humanists, and self-serving preachers put together.

Truth is...Jesus never got along very well with The Establishment or did as was expected. As C. S. Lewis wrote about Aslan, the Christ-figure in The Chronicles of Narnia, "Safe?...Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bible Roulette

I don't know if you've ever played this game before. It goes something like this. You feel the need to get a message from God, so you close your eyes, flip open a Bible, put your finger on a page and read whatever verse you land on. Some folks are so gee-golly-willickers about their faith, they think God will guide this partially-random process so it results in deep wisdom and guidance.

Granted, there is deep wisdom on practically every page of your friendly neighborhood Bible, so you're bound to land upon something fairly useful...but to think it will be God's personal message for your particular situation?


"Why are you talking about this?' you ask.

I happen to be staring at a mostly-blank computer screen, wondering what to concoct as a post for this blog.

Let's see here...close my eyes...flip open a Bible...point and read.


And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (NIV)

Hmmm. I could ask for worse things.

Truth is...maybe you could do some praying, and maybe next week will be better.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Declaring Our Freedom

On July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, our fledgling Congress published the following bit of classic literature.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident,

- that all men are created equal,
- that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
- that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

And on this day, in this place, let me offer the following.

The unanimous Declaration of those who are answering the call of God:

When in the Course of cosmic events, it becomes necessary for the One True God to dissolve the spiritual bands which have enslaved His people to sin, and to confer upon them an imbued righteousness, the free and equal station to which the righteousness of Jesus Christ lifts them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that He should declare the causes which impels Him to the dissolution.

We hold these truths to be divinely evident,

- that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
- that the duly earned wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)
- that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)
- that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death (Romans 6:3)
- that if you confess with your mouth "Jesus is lord," and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9)
- that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4)
- that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)

Truth is...declaring one's independence and living out that independence are two different things.