Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lessons From The Man Who Ate New Orleans Part 3

This is the third post in the series. In the first two posts, I wrote about the cardinal virtues of community, generosity, and resiliency. Today, I want to consider the virtues of diversity and openness to outsiders. New Orleans is a very diverse city. You will find folks from all different walks of life and from all corners of the globe. You can find any kind of food you can imagine, listen to whatever music strikes your fancy, and hear any of a multitude of languages, dialects, and accents. There are many styles of worship, from high church liturgical to storefront.

The body of Christ is similar. People from all over the world follow Jesus. In Revelation we read of people from every tribe and nation gathered around the throne. Christianity is not the possession of any single nation, ethnic group, or language. There are a multitude of ways in which people worship God. A local gathering of the church may be very diverse as well. There may be rich and poor, professional and blue collar.There may be folks who are quiet and reflective alongside those who are more boisterous and outgoing. Young singles may be next to married couples with children, who are next to older empty nesters. Ideally, the church is a body where different sorts of people are accepted and loved. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

One of the reasons for the diversity of New Orleans is the openness of the people to outsiders. New Orleans is a welcoming city to tourists, and to those who choose to stay. Diversity is encouraged and celebrated. No one is told they must be a certain way to visit or live there. This openness brings a unity within the diversity. When Katrina devastated the city, the people there banded together to rebuild it. They see themselves as one and have a mutual love for their city. While there is still much to be done in the rebuilding effort, the unity of the people has brought New Orleans back to vibrancy.

Those of us who follow Jesus should be the most welcoming and open of all people. We are commanded to love others, to do good to others, to show hospitality, to accept others because we have been been accepted. Too many times, that acceptance is not there. Local gatherings of the church tend to be fairly uniform. The natural tendency is to gather with folks who look like us, think like us, worship like us, and are in the same social class as we are. While that may be the natural tendency, the church is a supernatural body. We are the children of a God who has called folks from all walks of life and every nation. Along with the differences, we have some major thing in common. Each of us has been redeemed by the work of Christ, adopted by God, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We are not only fellow believers, we are family!

The early church turned the world upside down because they loved each other and those around them. They were one in their diversity. They were open to their neighbors. They lived the Gospel out in their day-to-day and showed the world the truth of the Kingdom of God. The church in America has largely become impotent because we have become more concerned with proving we are more correct than our brothers and sisters, and by waging "war" on those outside who don't come up to our standards. While there is diversity, there is very little unity and very little openness to outsiders.

May we accept and love our fellow Christians, and be open and hospitable to those in our communities in order to show them the grace of the One who accepts us and who gave his very life for us.  

Part 1
Part 2

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

World Vision Wednesday

During Lent, the Women of Vision are sharing devotionals with the theme, "Beauty From Ashes." The first in the series can be found here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Repost: Reflections on Lent

This was first posted on February 21, 2010 and has been edited to bring it up to date.

Wednesday, February 13 was the first day of Lent. Ash Wednesday is celebrated by Christians around the world with a service that includes the placing of ashes on the forehead of the worshippers. The ashes are to remind that we are made from dust, and to dust we will return. That is one part of the Lenten observance that I have not yet participated in, as I have only been observing Lent for the last three years. In the tradition in which I grew up, Lent (like most of the church calendar) was not even on our radar. We celebrated Christmas, Palm Sunday, and Easter. I had a vague notion that other days were observed in other traditions, but we were taught that those days were not important. So, I'm a bit late to the keeping of the church calendar, and still learning.


As I go through the Lenten period, I am struck by the fact that our bodies are formed from the dust of the ground, and to that dust they will return. Because of the brokenness of Creation, we face the inevitable decay of our physical selves. As a middle-aged man who has tried to compete in sports at the same level he did when he was in his twenties, I can attest to that. At some point our bodies will wear out and no longer be useful to us. When they are then placed in the ground, they will return to the dust from which they came. As we look around us, we see that decay in every part of our world. Ash Wednesday and Lent are good reminders that we are broken and in need of a savior.

Thankfully, that is not the end of the story. During this time, we take a good hard look at our humanity and our brokenness, but we also look ahead to the time when our Savior will return and will restore Creation. We look forward to the resurrection and the Kingdom of God coming in all its fullness. When I think about Ash Wednesday, and the symbolism of the ashes on the forehead, I think of the song, "Beauty Will Rise." In that song Steven Curtis Chapman sings,

"Out of these ashes... beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of these ashes...beauty will rise
For we know, joy is coming in the morning...
in the morning
...This is our hope.
This is the promise.
That it would take our breath away
to see the beauty that's been made
out of the ashes..."

As we go through this season of Lent, contemplating our sinfulness and our need of a redeemer, let us remember that we do have a Savior who has made us a new creation, and who will one day make all things new.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

Here in the sunny South, we saw the sun today for the first time in a few days. We seem to be in a pattern of rain for a couple days, then a couple dry days, then rain again. It is getting a bit warmer, and spring will be here before we know it. Last night, we went to hear Ruthie Foster perform. If you ever get a chance to see her in concert, go. You'll thank me.

Here are the links:

In case you were wondering.
Magic books, grocery lists and silent messiahs.
The most sobering verse in the Bible.
More good news about coffee.
Defining the Jesus Way.

Keith Giles on distance.
Kansas Bob on failure.
Arthur Sido on powerlessness.
Matt Appling on modesty.
Alan Knox on beginning a relationship.

Wrinkled laundry.
What should we do?
Personal relationship.
Worship revision.
A good for nothing God.

The "Sunday thing."
Afraid of the Holy Spirit?
Time killers.

I hope you have a blessed week!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Lessons From The Man Who Ate New Orleans Part 2

Two of the seven cardinal virtues of New Orleans are generosity and resiliency. It may seem strange to put these two things together, but I hope to be able to relate them to each other. In Webster's dictionary, generosity is defined as freedom in spirit or act, especially readiness in giving. Resiliency is defined as the ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change. Both of these virtues are characteristic of New Orleans, and both should characterize those who follow Jesus.

Children of God should be the most resilient people. We should be able to adjust to change and recover from misfortune because we have resources to draw on. First, we have a Father who is sovereign over everything, who loves us with a perfect, everlasting love, and who always does good to us. We also have the Holy Spirit to comfort us and guide us. The third thing we have, or at least should have, is a family, a community of believers through whom God works. It is in relationship to others that we can be loved and comforted, and we can then love and comfort others who go through similar troubles. I don't believe any of us can become resilient outside of community and relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We tend to think of generosity in terms of giving money or material things. That is one aspect, but being generous involves much more, and it is in that much more that this virtue is related to resiliency.As we become more resilient through the stuff we go through, we are called to freely give to others what has been given to us. We may give money or other material things. We may give work of some sort. Our gift may be words of encouragement and comfort, or simply a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. Again, we must be in community. We cannot truly be generous with our resources unless we are in relationship. Without relationship, our words and actions can be empty or they can even cause further harm. The flip side of being generous in giving is being willing to be generous in our receiving. It takes humility to admit that we need help, to let others know what is going on in our lives, and to allow them the privilege of being generous in their giving to us. That is something that is hard for many of us, myself included. But it is a vital part of living in community.

Let us be generous to our brothers and sisters. Let us freely give and freely receive. As we serve one another, let us be strengthened so that we are resilient when tough times come.

Part 1 is here.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

It's been about three weeks since I've posted the links of the week. It's been a little more busy around here on the weekends than usual. Things have slowed down a bit, so hopefully I'll be posting on a more regular schedule. Here in the sunny South, we're waking up to a beautiful day with everything covered with snow. We had a quick moving storm some through Saturday evening, leaving about three inches on the ground. That's a fair amount of snow around here. We even had lightning and thunder. It should be all gone by the time school is back in session Tuesday.

Without further ado, here are the links:

What makes Jesus angry?
Busyness or gluttony?
Ash Wednesday with Pancho and Lefty.
Die before you die.
Fasting.

Len on love.
Good post from Keith Giles.
Arthur Sido on the strong and the weak.
Alan Knox on the "Sunday thing."
Stephen Watson on being uprooted.

Nice.
Values.
Vulnerability.
Faith.
Beards.

The jasmine filing cabinet.
In case you were wondering, evidently alligator is seafood.
Zealotry.
Here's an article about an interesting exhibit.
VIPs in the church.

Have a blessed week!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lessons From The Man Who Ate New Orleans

Back in January, Jan and I took part in A Place at the Table, a forum on food and togetherness. The first night of the event, we watched a film titled The Man Who Ate New Orleans, about a minister who ate at every restaurant in New Orleans to learn about the city and its people.The film discussed the seven cardinal virtues of New Orleans: community, generosity, openness to outsiders, celebration, resiliency, diversity, and tradition.

Most of you know how I feel about community. I believe community is one of the most important things in life. I would put it in the top three, after our relationship with God , and our families. In a sense, these three are intertwined. God calls us into community with the personal, communal Trinity, and we learn how to live in community in the family.

Eugene Peterson states, "There can be no maturity in the spiritual life, no obedience in following Jesus, no wholeness in the Christian life apart from an immersion and embrace of community." We are called into community and are given the power to live in community by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of the resurrection we are given the Spirit who fills us and enables us to live the Jesus life. Unfortunately, over the centuries, following Jesus has been reduced to a "me and my Savior" mentality that sees the Christian life as an individual thing that really doesn't concern anyone else. Multitudes of folks go from church to church in an attempt to find one that "feeds" them or that caters to their preferences. Others sit at home and watch a preacher on TV telling them what they want to hear.

Learning to live as a follower of Christ takes more than hearing a sermon, singing songs, or sitting in a class. It is not a private thing. It must be lived out in community with others, and that must go beyond what happens in a once-a-week gathering. The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus takes this further when he commands us to love as he loved us. That is a sacrificial love that can only be shown in relationship with others.

Living in community is messy, whether that community is a neighborhood in a city or a group of Christians. We're dealing with human beings here! If we seek to live in community with other believers, we will get dirty helping other believers, we will be frustrated by other believers, and we will be hurt by other believers. Look all through Scripture and other histories. You will not find a Utopian community. We will sin against one another. That is why we are called to be people of grace and forgiveness. When we have a true view of sin, we can forgive others and love them. Forgiveness is one of the things we must practice in order to live in community, along with being a friend who listens and understands compassionately.

Father, help us to live in resurrection community, loving one another by giving our lives, and extending grace and forgiveness to one another.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

World Vision Wednesday

There are many things you can take away from the film, Les Miserbles. The theme of grace runs through the entire movie. Cat-Dan Lai-Smith writes about lessons on Biblical justice from the film.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

Well, it's that time again. Seems to come around fairly quickly. It doesn't seem as if it's been a week. The second weekend of t...