Which Jesus are we talking about?

jesusThe other day I was involved in a thread discussion in a United Methodist Clergy group. The subject of that discussion is irrelevant for my present purposes. If you really feel the need to know, ask me.

In this discussion, a friend – no, an acquaintance – no, a colleague – maybe – a fellow UM clergyperson wrote this: “If you do not follow the rules, then you have lost all integrity.”

Whoa, I thought. I am, apparently, and have always been, low on integrity.

This won’t surprise those of you who know me, but I push at rules.  Over the years I have come to respect the need for rules, and the benefits.

I still have within me, though, a desire, an urge, to push against the rules, the norms, the status quo.

Which is one of the reasons I read as someone who, according to my colleague, has lost an integrity.

In my reading of the Gospels, Jesus is almost constantly breaking rules. When I was younger and more of a mind to break rules just because they were rules, I read Jesus this way, too.

And it is possible to read the gospels this way.

I have grown up. I know longer believe that all rules were made to be broken.  I understand the benefit, even the need, of rules and standards.

As a matter of fact, I now tend to read Jesus as having this same kind of attitude toward rules.

I will probably always tend to read Jesus favorably to the way I understand and work in the world.

If Jesus matters to you, I expect you do this, too.

You may suggest that we ought to interpret our own lives in terms of Jesus rather than the other way around.  I would agree that this is an admirable goal. In fact, it may be a good way of identifying true disciples.

But I am pretty sure that before we proclaim too loudly that we are more like Jesus than someone else is, we do well to investigate which Jesus we are comparing ourselves to. More often than not, I fear, we will find that we will find ourselves looking down on others by comparing them to the Jesus that we have made look an awful lot like the ideal version of ourselves.

Which Jesus are we talking about?

Make Yourself

I knew this day would come.  In fact, in an odd way, I hoped this day would come.

When I took on blogging daily for Lent, I knew I wouldn’t have something worth writing about everyday.  So far I’ve done pretty well. Some days I’ve written ahead.

I’ve started observing the world around me, and the thoughts in my head, keeping in mind that I need my next topic.

It’s gotten so bad that I thought I had a topic or two from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse this morning.  And that from seeing mere bits of it as I passed through the room.

But, I’ve got nothing.

So, I suppose, like any episode of Seinfeld, this post is about nothing.

Or, more to the point, this post is about following through.  I have committed to blogging each day.  I have not committed to having something worth blogging each day.  I have not committed to making this worth your reading.

The promise I made was to do something.  I didn’t promise quality.

Yet I am reminded of that art class where the teacher divided the class into 2 groups.  One would be graded on the quantity of pieces they produced, the other one only their best piece.

Those from the first group not only produced more pieces of art (obviously), they also produced better work.

Sometimes you just have to do it.  Go through the motions.  Make yourself do something you know you should do, even when you don’t feel like it.

Who knows: this simple thing might be all it takes to keep you honest in that moment.  And it might actually make a difference for someone else.

Make Yourself

Thinking without thinking

We had a fascinating discussion yesterday at our Lenten Wednesday Lunch Study.  As you might expect, the discussion really got me thinking.

We were talking about being righteous. Specifically about whether or not we are. Righteous, that is; whether or not we are righteous.

Of course, the talk quickly moved toward our being righteous “in God’s eyes.”  This, many Christians understand, is the work and gift of Jesus.

God sees us as righteous thanks to Jesus’ life and sacrificial death on the cross.

Good news, right?

Yes, except that thinking of ourselves as righteous tends to get us into trouble.  (See “self-righteous”)

On the other hand, refusing to recognize that Jesus actually opens this opportunity to us, leaves us as miserable sinners, condemned always to fail.

How do we carve out space in the middle – acknowledging AND accepting this good gift from God – to understand that, thanks to Jesus, we are (first) seen as righteous by God and (second) actually grow in righteousness as we follow Jesus?

I’ve got a few ideas, and invite yours as well.

  1. We must keep in mind that the righteousness that indeed becomes ours is given – offered freely - to us.
  2. In would likely help if we focused more on recognizing everyone else as someone who has been offered this gift even more than remembering that we (ourselves) have been offered the gift.  In other words, practice this: every person you see, think to yourself “God sees that person as righteous through Jesus’ gift.”
  3. Take some time each day to reflect on the ways God has worked in your life that day.
Thinking without thinking

How to beat a cold in 3 days

This 2-step method is guaranteed to work.

I can’t believe I didn’t think of this earlier.  Because I am not a selfish person, I share this information with you here, free of charge.

As we loaded up the car to leave for a brief Spring Break trip last Friday, I realized I was coming down with a cold. It was about time!  Every other person in the house had had a cold, or two, over the past month. I had avoided it each and every time.

Now, this time, it was my turn.

By Sunday, though, I was almost sure it was clearing out.  My cold only lasted 3 days!

With the right care and medication and exercise, you, too, can beat a cold in only 3 days.

Here is my method.  Help yourself.

1. Maintain good health.

No matter what else you do, when a cold virus meets your body, if you are in pretty good health, you will be better able to fight off the symptoms.  Sleep as well as you can, drink plenty of water, you know the drill.

2. Catch a virus that lasts 3 days.

Most colds I have had have lasted more than three days no matter what I did.  I think, honestly, that’s the way it works.

There is no trick, no secret, to making a cold last three days.  A cold is going to last as long as a cold is going to last.

Deal with it. Face it. Get over it (eventually).

There are a lot of people out there offering sure-fire ways (Just 3 easy steps!) to anything and everything.  While some of them may actually work, many of them are marketing schemes primarily designed to separate you  from your money.

That’s why this one is free.  You should pay what its worth.

How to beat a cold in 3 days

US Christians Demand Religious Freedom…

for everyone!

I have long said that Christian are at our best when we are advocating for the rights, liberties, fair treatment of others.  I suppose I am willing to allege that this is true for everyone, not only for Christians.  But I especially want Christians to own it.

I think it represents Jesus far better than getting all whiney about our own rights, liberties, or fair treatment.

To be fair, people can advocate for their own rights, etc., without being whiney.  This is just my opinion: but US Christians seem to go whiney awfully quickly if we feel our rights, etc. threatened.

Just look at all the fuss we’ve been making over the persecution of Christians around the world lately.  I believe we would make a better case AGAINST persecution of Christians and FOR following Jesus if we opposed all religious persecution.

Speaking of which, I don’t know if you noticed, but a case of religious freedom was argued before the US Supreme Court yesterday. Samantha Elauf was 17 when she applied to work at an Abercrombie and Fitch store.  She was rated as a very good candidate.  Her rating dropped when management found out she wore a hajib – a traditional headcovering worn by some Muslims.  This dropped her rating enough that she wasn’t hired.

I don’t know how the case will come out.  The report I heard indicated that most of the Justices, in oral arguments, sounded like they leaned in her favor.

I have heard Christians lament about not being allowed to wear cross necklaces to work; shouldn’t we be just as concerned for the religious liberty of others?

US Christians Demand Religious Freedom…

Hard Is Hard

Today reminds me of my first winter in Texas. It was 1977-78.  We had moved to Houston the previous August from Maryland.

It snowed once in Houston that winter.  Let me clarify: almost 1/4 inch of snow fell.  It wasn’t cold enough for it to accumulate except on cars, fences, and a little bit on the grass.

We, of course, got a day off from school.  Who could be expected to dare the roads under such conditions?

Still accustomed to Maryland’s winters, my brother and I played in the ‘snow’ in wind-breakers, laughing at calling that winter.

So here we are, “iced-in” in DFW.  It is barely below freezing, but everything is shut down.

I’ve learned, over the years, though, shutting down in Texas for ice and barely-freezing makes sense.  In Texas.

You see, it doesn’t take nearly as much ice as snow to make roads dangerous.  It also doesn’t make fiscal sense for Texas to invest in the amount of machinery and chemicals to face ice and snow that other places spend.

I’ve found this same principle is true in lives: hard is hard.

Each of us have different lives and face different challenges.  What someone else faces might seem like nothing to you though it burdens them terribly.  What seems insurmountable to you may be just about speedbump for another person.

May we all grow in our sensitivity to the challenges of others.  May we approach them with a sense of shared responsibility for the world rather than judgmentalism.

Hard Is Hard