Subway Prophet

…and the words of the prophets were written on the subway walls…


3 Comments

For All the Saints.

I remember distinctly the day I fell in love with tradition and liturgy. It was All Saints day, 2007 at Trinity UMC in Gainesville, FL. For as long as I can remember my church has had the tradition where the last Sunday in October we remember all those who died the following year by showing their picture and ringing a bell. If you knew the person, as the bell is rung, you silently stand in honor of them and their connection to your life. In 2007 I had only stood up a couple of times, and almost stood up a few others, but in general had not thought very much of it.

In 2007, our church lost a young man named Chris Neiberger. He was about my age, we had been in the same Boy Scout troop for a few years, and I had seen his family a bit around church. We had never hung out, and would not have put his name on a list of friends. Chris was an Infantryman in Iraq and died after an IED explosion in Baghdad. His death struck me in a very strange way. It is the first time  I personally knew someone who had died in war, and brought the US war efforts home to me. I had not been able to make his service because of school, however, on that All Saints Sunday as his name was called, I stood. In that little action, standing next to my parents, we honored his memory, a life well lived, and a deep and generous faith. I realized in that moment the power of liturgy and tradition which allow us to make sense of the world around us. What was for many people just a yearly tradition became for me the language I needed to articulate something deep within myself that I could not have otherwise.

As I thought about All Saints Sunday today, I remembered my grandmother who died last December. Yesterday at my church, her picture was shown and a bell was rung, but I could not stand. As much as I wish I could have been there to participate with my family and my church family, the liturgy and tradition which gave me comfort in honoring Chris’ death also gives me the comfort for Granny’s as well. That is the other power in traditions, they are consistent. It does not need me to be there for it to happen because those things are not for me in the first place. The bells are rung whether anyone stands or not because as Christians we stop belonging just to our families and friends; we join a family of believers most of whom we will never meet. Most of my church never met my grandmother. But yesterday they saw her picture, heard her bell, and remembered her for me. That gives me comfort.

Today I attended the funeral of a woman named Mildred. She died right before I began working with North Road and so I never got the chance to meet her though I had met her daughter, a church member, several times. She told me that her mom, who was the child of a methodist minister, would have wanted me there–that is just who she was. It is an odd thing to attend a funeral for a stranger. But, at the same time, there is something very affirming and Christian about it. Since the beginnings of the Church, we have been a people who remembered our dead and the eternal hope which Christ offers to us, so that even though we die, will be given a new life in Him. Christian funerals (and Christian lives) proclaim this hope and celebrate it. It was an honor to be there for Mildred’s service and I was encouraged by the testimony given about her life.

As we enter into the end of the Church’s calendar and prepare to celebrate All Saints’ Day, let us remember those people we have lost who are closest to us, and those we lost and yet never knew:

For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Advertisements


1 Comment

On Mark Driscoll, Sex, and the Church

I want to say first that I have no read the book Real Marriage, nor do I intend to (there is to much other reading to do in Divinity School), therefore, I do not intend to write a review of the book. What I do want to do is to comment on Mark Driscoll in general.

Ever since I first saw the controversial soundbites on youtube, and the scathing remarks on Facebook about him, I have been intrigued by his ministry. I have been both deeply offended by some of the things he has said, and at other times inspired. His ministry reaches millions of people, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, often to people who would otherwise not give it any thought, and for that, I think he should be respected and given more thought than many of his harshest critics allow. After reading many news stories, blog posts and reviews of Real Marriage, I have come to the working thesis that Mark Driscoll’s true gift to the Church is to force us to talk about social issues we otherwise try to ignore.

Now I am not saying that he gets is right, or that his theological responses are helpful (he comes from a much more Reformed tradition than I do), however, if nothing else, when the church is silent, Driscoll’s voice screams out. Take domestic violence. When was the last time a pastor or church leader talked about the statistic that 1/4 women has experience domestic violence in their lifetime? Or admitted that domestic abuse is a problem in our pews? Driscoll does. Now one can call his biblical interpretation sexist, or criticize him for over-emphasizing masculinity, and that wives should be subordinate to their husbands (and in all of those cases I agree), however, if the true test of theology is how it is worked out in worship and in the lives of the people, then who is really close to the Gospel?

In Real Marriage, the Driscolls (they co-wrote the book) offer their own story of faith and sex, detailing (for some too much), their journey from pre-marital sex, to refraining from sex, to dealing with sex within marriage. Next they go through what does Christian sex look like? That is a good question. So often, the Church is too embarrassed to talk about something so scandalous as sex. As a result, there is a theological-vacuum which gets filled with the theology of prime time TV and movies.

For the past 4 months, on CNN’s belief blog (one of my favorite sources for religion news), there has been a story on “Why young Christians aren’t waiting anymore”. It describes a report which says that 80% of young evangelical Christians have sex before they are married (88% is the national average). It then makes the interesting remark that  because so many people in our generation are waiting until they are older to get married, they have to wait longer than any other generation to have sex. That is more years of temptation and struggle than ever before. This is something which our generation is answering without the help of the Gospel, or the Church. And that is unacceptable.

I admit, that ever since that article was published, I have been doing a lot of thinking about it, but have been too afraid to publish anything. I was embarrassed, afraid, worried that what I might say would be misunderstood, rejected, or deemed heretical. Well, thanks to Mark Driscoll’s bravery, I don’t think I can stay silent. I commit to you and myself that I am going to work out my thoughts this week, and publish them for your review. So, please feel free to comment below, or e-mail me with your thoughts. This is an issue we all need to deal with in prayer, study, and community. Why not now?