Friday, October 31, 2014

a Reformation post: why I think Martin was missional.

I’ve had an interesting relationship toward Martin Luther.  From being brought up in a family that is half Roman Catholic, to going to a university that seemed to over-elevate Martin at times, I’ve wrestled with how to healthily appreciate Luther as a contributor to our Church and also just another dude in need of saving.  Only in recent years has my affinity for Luther grown, as I’ve seen the richness of what he stood for and how I think it translates to where we are today.  Dare I say it…I think Luther would be considered missional (actively engaged in God’s mission of seeking and saving the lost) and here’s why.

  1. He rediscovered the Gospel in Scripture.  Luther rediscovered and refocused the eyes of the Church to the pure Gospel that we are saved by grace through faith, not by anything we could or could not do.  Congregations and movements that are run by and filled with humans can often unintentionally add practices or expectations to what it means to be saved or part of God’s Church.  Luther gets to the heart of things.  It’s not about anything we could or could not contribute.  The Gospel is Christ.  Salvation is a gift.  The rest falls into place from there.  It’s found in the Scriptures and he could not be moved from it.  Nor should we.
  2.  He started hard conversations with honest intentions.  I shared with our campus community this week that the Wittenberg Door was one of the original and most powerful forms of social media.  Luther had questions and insights and wanted to start a conversation, so he nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church.  It was not for the sake of stirring the pot, but for the sake of further understanding and correction.  Are we willing to ask questions even when we’re not sure how our audience will respond?  Are we willing to give ear to the hard questions of others and wrestle along with them as Philip did with the Ethiopian?  Are our intentions pure in the conversations we seek to have or is it motivated by pride or shaming someone else?
  3. He was about putting Scripture in the language of the people.  Luther saw the power of God’s Word.  He experienced the peace and confidence it brought in his own life.  He saw that it held the truth and wanted to be sure everyone had that gift.  Faith comes by hearing.  How do we hear (or read) the Good News if it’s in a different language?  Luther was passionate.  We can’t expect all of Germany, from princes to peasants, to suddenly know and read Latin.  We must give them God’s Word in their language.  We must ask ourselves, is our ministry more apt to organize Latin classes in our building or start translating German to take to the streets?

  4. He was about putting worship in the language of the people.  What a powerful statement and gift to our Church, that many would be able to hear God’s Word and worship with meaning in their own tongue.  This challenges me to think in a mighty way.  What’s the language of the people today?  It’s not the same everywhere, but we have the freedom and the challenge to put Scriptural worship in the language and context of the people we are among.  In the Epitome of the Formula of Concord, (X. Church Rites, Affirmative Thesis 2), our own doctrine gives and embraces huge freedom to bless our people with worship that is useful and edifying as we gather around Scripture, prayer, and Sacrament.

          We believe, teach, and confess that the congregation of God of every place and every time has the power, according to its circumstances, to change such ceremonies in such manner as may be most useful and edifying to the congregation of God.

    What does it mean for us to stand strong in the Word of God and faithful teaching, while putting worship in the language of the people?

  5.       He loved the Church enough to wrestle.  Luther could have easily left the ministry, left the Church, and said “forget it.”  He was not looking to start his own church, but loved her so much, he sought to work within her, realign her, and hold her accountable.  My generation is especially notorious for just tossing broken things aside, especially institutions.  I confess that I am guilty of that as well.  There are many times I have considered throwing in the towel because of the brokenness on display in the Church.  But then we see in Scripture, this incredible love Christ has for his broken Bride.  It’s the goofy relative, that we all would like to disown, but we love deeply because they’re family.  I am called to be part of this Bride--warts and all.  And it is because I, too, am among the broken, in need of a Savior.  We walk together justified, being sanctified, and sharpening one another by the truth of God's Word.
  6.       He accepted that there will be consequences to standing boldly.  I’ve always thought it to be incredible that Luther never intended to start a movement, split the Church, or start a new denomination.  He only wished to refocus the Church he loved so dearly.  It is a powerful reminder to us that as we stand boldly for God’s Word in a subjective culture, there will be push back.  As we ask hard questions of a church we love, there will be push back and possible consequences.  Luther is widely revered now, but lived a terribly difficult life.  There are consequences to stepping out of line, even when it comes to standing in the truth, both in a culture that attacks and a church that may not appreciate challenge.  We should not be shocked by this, but be willing to say “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for is the power of salvation for all who believe.” (Romans 1:16)  I love that Luther was open to rebuke, but demanded it be from Scripture.  May we be so open to being challenged, but confident in the foundation of God’s Word.  May we be slow to attack when others take a bold stance.
So much of what Luther was about in 1517 resonates so loudly for us in the world's culture and Church's experience of 2014.  We can point to Luther as we wrestle with being missional today, because he unapologetically points to Jesus.  May we rediscover what it means for us to say, for the sake of the Gospel of Christ, “Here we stand.  We can do no else.”

Sunday, October 5, 2014

some things take time.

I’m a slow mover.  More and more I’m becoming aware of how long it takes me to do things.  I read slowly.  I write slowly.  I don’t like feeling rushed, especially in the morning.  Even though my life seems to be a flurry of activity, I am often slow to do and create.

My mom loves to tell the story of her long labor with me.  My sisters still bring up the fact that their evening bath was interrupted when my mom's water broke and they didn't even get to wash the shampoo out of their hair.  My family rushed to the hospital, and yet, I didn’t make my grand entrance until the next afternoon.  My mom smiles as she says, “you’ve been taking your time ever since.”

I used to get frustrated with myself about this, but am growing in the acceptance and embracing of my life’s pace.  Truly, I wouldn’t dare wish that away about my story.  Slow is not void of meaning or activity, but often allows space for a richness and breath.  Most days, I might even say I like the easy moving pace of slow.  I'm usually pretty okay with the fact that, for me especially, some things just take time.

Some of my favorite projects I’ve ever made – crafts, sewing, music, worship experiences—seemed like they would never be done.  Some came in danger of being tossed aside multiple times.  But I can look at them with joy, and delight in them even more so, because they not only hold beauty, but effort, process, redemption of mistakes, and persistence.

When you move like I did a few months ago, people love to ask “so, are you all settled in yet?”  I often laugh and mention the month delay on the arrival of my belongings and how much I’ve been traveling lately.  “These past few weekends have been too gorgeous to stay inside!” I exclaim.  All of those things are true.  But it’s also true that especially in things I care about—this being creating a homey, welcoming place that reflects me and is soaked in Jesus—I move slowly.  I realized that this week as I made some significant progress in my living space.  I soak up decorating each wall or corner and make sure everything looks and feels just right.  Look at the wall on the right.  Pieces from thrift stores or yard sales.  Craft projects and upcycling.  I love that it's really old wood frames and a well loved cutting board that bring beauty to my kitchen wall.  The rich character held in those pieces didn't come quickly.  The time it took to create this wall was great.  But the feeling that came when I stood back to look at its completion this morning, was awesome.  I became okay with the time it took, when I saw how it came together.  But yes, it took time.

I know that I was made in the image of the Creator to create.  He was way more efficient than me.  Creating the universe in 6 days?!  Shoot.  I've spent longer planning an outfit.

God is a big and mighty capable master Creator.  Not just a one time Artist in the beginning, but continuously.  His favorite medium is people.  We’re stubborn.  We make mistakes.  We’re impatient.  Sometimes he has to take us apart a bit to get us to be what He’s designed.  And that takes time.  I want to jump to hanging the finished piece on wall, but the Artist is says gently, “you haven’t seen the best part take shape yet.”  So for further unfolding in my story, I wait.

While acknowledging that many areas of my life are beyond my dreams and I couldn’t ask for more, today is just one of those days that I’m feeling the rub of what seems to be little or no movement in some areas of life.  God, I’m eager for the man you have in store for me, for ministry to be mature, for community to be rich and deepening, for bucket list items to be checked, but until then, help me dig into you and allow you to work and guide.

I tend to lean into being proactive and believe strongly in its value.  There is much God has given us to work with in the meantime.  Today, though, I’m simply reminded of the Artist at work and that I’m the medium.  Some things, and often the really great things, take time.