twin towers: what to remember?

 

Let me briefly tell you about two friends of mine from years gone by.

The first was in many ways a tall tower of a good man. He was a very hard worker. He was honest and trustworthy. He was often a man with great self-control. He was very good to his wife.

But, he hated and despised anyone who even remotely looked like they could have been from somewhere in Asia. Deeply so. As in the deepest bitterness I’ve ever seen in a man.

Why? He was a Navy veteran of WWII. He had served aboard a ship that was docked in Pearl Harbor when it was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941. His ship was one of the few that was able to get underway and make it out of the harbor during the attack. Following, he helped collect the bodies, and parts of bodies, burned and blown to bits, out of the water, off the deck, and off of his clothes.

He became an atheist that day. And forty years later, whenever we happened to be together and saw someone of Oriental descent or it was getting close to December, it was easy to see the anger, rage, and resentment that made his blood boil all day long. Some of his rants felt like fire; they seemed to melt all good away.

The second man was also a tall tower. In fact, he was one of the finest men I’ve ever known in life. Far more than hard-working, honest, trustworthy, self-controlled, and good to his wife, he was an obvious embodiment of the all that is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I saw him in a great many settings across the years, but never saw him express even a hint of anything less than genuine care and love for every person he ever met. Not once.

It wasn’t because he was an Army veteran of WWII. Since he had served in an elite special ops unit known as Merrill’s Marauders (aka: Unit Gallahad) he had seen and experienced, in ways far beyond what words can describe, some of the worst that war can bring to combatants and civilians. The horror of it all was so complete that he very rarely spoke of his experiences at all and when he did, he always did so briefly … trailing off in a broken voice with tear-filled eyes.

He had been a Christian before he became a soldier. And he would tell you, thanks be to God, that the horror and terror he endured, and inflicted, didn’t destroy his faith in God. But, it radically changed it. Anger and bitterness, hate and resentment: he was done with for good. He simply had no room for such in life anymore. He had experienced enough taking of life; he was determined now to give it and share it with all, no matter who you were.

Now I ask you: what made these men different?

Who, what, and how they chose to remember.

Period.

One remembered inhumanity and evil, and so, grew cold and hard, remembering only that. He sailed the rest of his life through in darkness. Another remembered savagery and suffering, but did not stop there, choosing rather to remember it all in light of a still present, ever good, holy, and generous God. He marched through the rest of his life in the army of God.

One, due to memory, chose a path of unforgiveness and so, chose a life of living dead. Another chose, due to memory, the way of forgiveness and so, chose life with, and of, God, here and now.

Neither of these two towers stand anymore in this world. But, their lives still stand in my mind as witnesses of, and monuments to, the choice we each make every day: to move on to love, forgive, and hope, or to cuddle up with anger, hate, and despair.

May God help us all to choose well. To choose God, to choose his ways, and to make him our tower, and strength, and shield. Daily. And nothing less. Lest more innocent and guilty alike die daily, a thousand deaths.

“… if you were raised with Christ, look for the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right side. Think about the things above and not things on earth. You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. … put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth … set aside … anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. … Take off the old human nature with its practices and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it. In this image there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all things and in all people. … as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. … forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. The peace of Christ must control your hearts …” (Colossians 3.1-3,5,8-15)

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anger, culture, morality, outrage & thinking: Addicted to Outrage

“I fear that outrage has become an addiction for many people of faith. I’m caused to wonder if certain endorphins are released when we feel anger over a just cause; an emotional, pseudo-spiritual ‘rush’ that just keeps us coming back for more. In order for us to feel ‘righteous,’ has it become essential that ‘indignation’ be an inseparable companion? ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers… twerkers.’ Reread the context of Luke 18:9-14 to be reminded of why Jesus told this parable.” The more I am consumed by moral outrage, the less time I have to dwell on those things that are ‘true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute; things that are excellent and worthy of praise,’ (Philippians 4:8).”

Community, generosity, greed, poverty, stinginess & wealth: As We Become Richer, Do We Become Stingier?

“…  the effects that wealth has on people: ‘We become more individualistic, less family and community oriented.’ … Greenfield’s findings and theories dovetail with a variety of other studies and research projects, including Robert Putnam’s 2000 book, Bowling Alone, which explores the decline in community relationships in the U.S.”

Faith, grace, law, OT, NT & works: Law and Grace, Faith and Works

“When we think that what Jesus did was substitute one written code for another, we fall into the trap that Paul condemned in the Galatian letter. When we depend on law, any kind of law, then we are no longer depending on grace.”

Fasting, peace, prayer this Saturday & Syria: A Fast for Peace September 7th [count me in, too; how about you?]

“… a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.”

Food stamps, poverty & the poor: On the Edge of Poverty, at the Center of a Debate on Food Stamps [required reading]

“No matter what Congress decides, benefits will be reduced in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires. Yet as lawmakers cast the fight in terms of spending, nonpartisan budget analysts and hunger relief advocates warn of a spike in ‘food insecurity’ among Americans who … ‘look like we are fine,’ but live on the edge of poverty, skipping meals and rationing food.”

Jesus, sin & sinners: * He Looked Like a Sinner; * Jesus is Not Mr. Rogers

* “Jesus didn’t look like a saint. Jesus didn’t look holy. He hung out with prostitutes and drank too much wine. He was a convicted criminal. He was given the death penalty. And he died under God’s curse. Jesus looked like a sinner.”

* “Jesus wasn’t always the nicest guy.”

Leadership, momentum & morale: 16 Practices that Reignite Momentum

“Working on positives more than negatives. Avoid taking the wind out of people’s sails.”

Singing: Love the Lord with All Your Voice

“Singing is a forgotten—but essential—spiritual discipline. … We might ask … why we could not simply speak the words of Scripture as if they were our own. What is gained by singing them? Just this: In song, we learn not just the content of the spiritual life, but something of its posture, inflection, and emotional disposition.”

Restoration Heritage & the Stone-Campbell Movement: Christian History Magazine Puts a Focus on Stone-Campbell Movement

“Restoration scholars Richard Hughes and Doug Foster served as advisers on the project and ‘provided a fair amount of content, along with other well-known authors/scholars in the movement’ … Download the full issue for free.”

this went thru my mind

 

Bible literacy & reading: What People Quote vs. What They Read

“… people read the Bible primarily as a loosely organized collection of inspiring quotes surrounded by confusing babble … this way of reading the Bible is a rejection of the flow and structure of the canon.”

Children, parenting & technology: Resisting the Siren Call of the Screen [required reading]

“The message we communicate to our kids, she writes, is: ‘Everybody else matters more than you.’ Children, she declares, ‘are tired of being the ‘call waiting’ in their parents’ lives.’”

Church, community, discipleship, faith & fellowship: Passing on the Faith in a Makeshift Choir Stall

“It’s hard to pass on the faith … when people of different age groups don’t engage each other intimately.”

Faith & youth: On Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as U.S. Teenagers’ Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith [essential reading]

“Here we summarize our observations in venturing a general thesis about teenage religion and spirituality in the United States. … The creed of this religion, as codified from what emerged from our interviews with U.S. teenagers, sounds something like this …”

Tradition: Breaking Tradition [essential reading]

“… every tradition, at one point, was a break with the status quo. Every tradition started off with trying to do something new and fresh and compelling. And over time, what was once revolutionary becomes static and codified. We stop paying attention to what the tradition was trying to do, and only focus on what it did.”

Jaffa: Statue of Faith

 

Jaffa-Joppa-Yafo-Statue-of-Faith

Near the top of Tel Jaffa (Joppa; Yafo) in Abrasha Park there is a modern sculpture known as the Statue of Faith. Beautiful carvings adorn it, but it’s location and shape are meant to convey as much as the engraving.

In OT times, Jaffa was Israel’s only port of any size. Consequently, it was the way for many people and products into, and from, the rest of Israel by means of the sea. On land, ancient cities were often walled and the city gate, this statue assuming the shape of the frame for such a gate, was the entry and exit point for such.

The huge, solid pillars, each being four meters in length, speak of strength. And the carvings depict the strength of faith in the mighty, acting God of Israel. The carvings in the pillar on the right in this photo represent Abraham and his binding Isaac for sacrifice (Genesis 22; notice the ram at the base of the pillar). The engravings on the pillar on the left portrays Jacob’s dream of the ladder to heaven (Genesis 28). And the cross-piece on top, the lintel, depicts the conquering of Jericho by Joshua and the Israelites (Joshua 6). God’s promise first made to Abraham flowed through Isaac, and Jacob, and began to be realized through Joshua.

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

V-for-violenceFaith & genocide: “God is Innocent” : Rwamasirabo on the Genocide in the Church at Nyange, Rwanda

“… bright hope in the face of grotesque betrayal.”

God & violence: The “Third Way”: Seeing God’s Beauty in the Depth of Scripture’s Violent Portraits of God [required reading]

“… if we assume that we must dismiss Scripture’s violent portraits of God to solve this problem, we are going to find that we will have to dismiss a great deal of the Bible! In fact, once you subtract divine acts of violence and divinely sanctioned violence from the biblical narrative, it is not clear that any coherent narrative remains! …

“I consider both the Synthesis and the Dismissal Solutions to be unviable for followers of Jesus. And for all who understand Jesus to reveal a non-violent God while also embracing all Scripture as God’s Word, this means we have no choice except to look for a third alternative. My claim is that this “third way” is present, at least in a seminal form, in the NT itself.”

Nuclear weapons: Hiroshima and the Transfiguration: A Meditation

“I believe that the continued existence of nuclear weapons will make their use inevitable. I believe that when this happens, the consequences will be uncontrollable and yield evil beyond our wildest imagination. I believe that the only way to prevent this occurrence is to abolish nuclear weapons multilaterally and verifiably. And I work toward that end because I believe that world-gaining and soul-saving are diametrically opposed.”

Sentencing & prison: With Holder In The Lead, Sentencing Reform Gains Momentum

“I think there are too many people in jail for too long, and for not necessarily good reasons.”

War: Father And Son Coaxed From Jungle 40 Years After Vietnam War

“Four decades ago, Ho Van Thanh fled the fighting in his native Vietnam, disappearing into the jungle with his infant son, Ho Van Lang. This week, father and son emerged for the first time — an enfeebled Thanh carried in a stretcher, and Lang wearing only a loincloth made of tree bark.”

LIFE group guide: make every effort

 

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow night (June 30). This guide will enable your follow-up in our LIFE groups of my sermon tomorrow morning from Luke 13.23-30. This sermon’s title is “Make Every Effort” and is another sermon in the Jesus Christ: Master & Commander series. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides. All Scripture texts reproduced below, unless otherwise noted,  are from the CEB.

Aim

To call our attention, and our conscience, to some of our Lord’s direct charges to us.

Word

Go in through the narrow gate. The gate that leads to destruction is broad and the road wide, so many people enter through it. But the gate that leads to life is narrow and the road difficult, so few people find it. (Matthew 7.13-14)

Jesus traveled through cities and villages, teaching and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”

Jesus said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow gate. Many, I tell you, will try to enter and won’t be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and shuts the door, then you will stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ He will respond, ‘I don’t know you or where you are from. Go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in God’s kingdom, but you yourselves will be thrown out. People will come from east and west, north and south, and sit down to eat in God’s kingdom. Look! Those who are last will be first and those who are first will be last. (Luke 13.22-30)

Open

Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. Are you easy to surprise or startle? What would those who truly know you well say?

2. Tell us about something you’ve made a real effort to work hard at for a long time.

Dig

These questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. Compare and contrast the text in Matthew (7.13-14) with that in Luke (13.23-30).

2. How does the context in Matthew (7.7-12,15-20) provide commentary on vs.13-14?

3. The question asked of Jesus in Luke concerned quantity (vs.23). How does Jesus’ reply vs.24-30 not answer that question?

4. God’s grace doesn’t rule out human effort. What other Scriptures stress our doing?

5. What specifically does Luke 13.29-30 teach as to who will reside in God’s kingdom?

6. Notice how personal Jesus makes things in Luke 13.25-28 with the repetitive use of the word “you.” Why do you suppose he worded it so and what does this do to you?

Reflect

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.

1. Does God decide who does and doesn’t enter his kingdom or (2) does God acknowledges who has entered his kingdom and who has refused? Why?

2. You either “make every effort” (Luke 13.24a) or you’re an “evildoer” (13.27b)? Fair?

3. How do you sometimes resemble those who don’t enter the narrow gate (13.24b-28)?

4. What does making every effort look like? Or, what sort of habits might you expect a person bent on entering by the narrow gate to have in their life?

5. What does God’s kingdom being portrayed as a banquet (Luke 13.29b) say to you?

6. It’s not enough to be around Jesus (Luke 13.26); you must be about Jesus. As a group, pray that this “aboutness” is a daily, ongoing reality in every group member’s life.