Where is the bottom?

I’ve heard people ask the question – where is the bottom? They ask this in relation to things going on in the world. It’s usually a question that is asked after something shocks us and goes beyonds the boundaries of what has been considered normal at the time. There are many things that we could point to in relation to this – senseless violence (When is violence actually sensible anyway?), corruption, boldface lying, destruction of the earth, exploitation, oppression, etc.

So, where is the bottom? My answer is that there isn’t one. And it shouldn’t surprise us. Scripture is actually pretty helpful in this regard. I think it helps to think about all these things happening a bit differently. Thinking there is a bottom is a mistake. Scripture doesn’t talk about it this way.

In Genesis 1:1-2, it states: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while the wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” (NRSV). That translation is ok, but it misses several things, of which I am not going to touch here. The main reason I bring this up is that the word for “the face of the deep” can also be translated as the abyss. Without context, we miss some of the “deeper” meaning of the term, no pun intended.

Here’s something to understand about this term:

“Darkness – in Hebrew chòsheq – is not the light’s absence, as when I’m inside a room and someone turns off the lights before leaving. In the Bible, darkness is a mysteririous presence, a reality and not just a symbol. In fact, darkness doesn’t represent evil, because darkness is evil, being almost its substance.”

(Source: https://www.simoneventurini.com/en/abyss-and-darkness-genesis-chap-1-verse-2/).

The Hebrew word we are talking about is – תְה֑וֹם

Everett Fox, in his work “The Five Books of Moses,” translates verses 1 and 2 as such:

“At the beginning of God’s creating of the heavens and the earth, when the earth was wild and waste, darkness over the face of Ocean, rushing-spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters…”

Here you get more of the sense of what the darkness, or abyss, or the deep really means. It has to do with chaos. In essence, creation is about bringing order out of chaos. Or, pertinent to our discussion, putting a bottom where none existed before.

The Hebrew word תְה֑וֹם shows up multiple times throughout the Old Testament. Each time it is usually translated as “the deep.” Some examples include Genesis 7:11 and 8:2 (pertaining to the story of the flood in which the fountains of the deep open and cause the flood), Job 28:14 (where the deep declares that wisdom does not originate from itself), and Proverbs 8:28-29 (“when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command…”).

In the Proverbs passage we hear how God creates limits and creates order out of chaos.

As we proceed to the New Testament, the idea of the abyss changes a bit. While I’m not a big fan of Wikipedia, it does offer a nice summary paragraph which I’ll refer to here:

“In a later extended sense in intertestamental Jewish literature, the abyss was the underworld, either the abode of the dead (sheol) or eventually the realm of the rebellious spirits (Hell). In the latter sense, specifically, the abyss was often seen as a prison for demons. This usage was picked up in the New Testament.  Jesus sent the Gadarene swine into the abyss (Luke 8:31) and the antichrist will rise out of the abyss (Revelation 11:7). Paul uses the term in Romans 10:7 when quoting Psalm 71:20, referring to the abode of the dead.”

(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abyss_(religion).). One correction, it is the Gerasene, not Gadarene. Hence, you see why I’m not an overall fan of Wikipedia. However, don’t let that mistake cause you to lose sight of the point.

So what does all this have to do with the question – Where’s the bottom? Quite a bit.

At their core, what are violence, corruption, boldface lying, destruction of the earth, exploitation, oppression, etc.? They are chaos being unleashed in the midst of order. They are out of order, if you will. They are what the abyss, or the deep, are made of. The flood was the opening of the fountains of the deep into the world and unleashing chaos. One could argues that these are further expressions of chaos. They cause the same destruction as the flood. They come from the deep or the abyss. And in the abyss, there is no bottom. To have a bottom means to have order and to have boundaries. Chaos doesn’t have boundaries, which is why it is chaotic. There is no predictability with chaos – that is the essence of chaos.

The entirety of the creation stories is essentially God reigning in chaos within the bounds of order. Revelation is the same story – chaos is on the loose, doing what chaos does – exploit, oppress, kill, and destroy. And by the end of Revelation, God conquers chaos and establishes a new heaven and a new earth – a new order in creation.

Every resurrection story in the New Testament is taking death (chaos) and creating order in its midst. Death unleashes unpredictability, sorrow, brokenness, pain, etc. Resurrection restores order to the world, and to life.

When the abnormal happens, we can recognize that there is no bottom to it. There is no restraint that is self-imposed from chaos. Order and boundaries come from God. Scripture points it out clearly, over and over again. And in the midst of such chaos in our own world and lives, we can rest assure that chaos does not have the final say. It never has. It is too chaotic. It collapses on itself.

Chaos is like cancer. Cancer cells have lost their boundaries. And they grow without order. And they go until they kill the entire organism, which also kills themselves.

Doesn’t sound very hopeful though does it? We don’t want to go to death. We forget what God has promised. Too often, we look at the evil chaos that is happening and think that it reigns supreme and has the final say. But that’s not true. God promises resurrection after death. Story after story in Scripture shows us this. And it is still true for us today.

So there is no bottom for the evil chaos that exists in our world. That’s why it is evil. It will lead to death. And after death comes resurrection. A fresh start. A newness. And God dwelling with creation. Just as God always does. God walked in the garden. God showed up in the wilderness. God became incarnate in Jesus and dwelt with humanity and creation. And God will come down out of heaven to dwell with us again at the end. Thanks be to God for this.

When evil chaos is unleashed on us, be aware – we are ever closer to the death of chaos, to the systems the are in place to support chaos, to the powers that desire chaos. They will end. They will collapse. And resurrection will take place. A new order. God dwelling with us.

Why are we attracted to empires?

Why is humanity attracted to empires? For some reason we are fascinated by them. When we study history, we often look at the empires of the past. We tell time based on the empires that existed in certain geographical areas. We look at the emperors and kings in charge of these empires with a varying level of esteem – even when they have been evil.

What is it about empires that we are drawn to? Why do we seem to always want to move towards empires, as if they are the height of human existence.

They aren’t. Empires embody evil ultimately. Empires are the antithesis of the Kingdom of God. All empires. Whether we are talking about national empires, or other types of empires. They could be financial, sports, military, political, business, religious, cultural, etc.

Empires are all the same. Sure, a different name, a different tyrant in charge. But there are four things they all share in common – they exploit, oppress, kill, and destroy. Every single one of them do this.

Empires are narcissistic. Empires are idols seeing themselves in the place of God. Empires are evil. In this sense, empires are like cults. Cults demand unwavering loyalty. Cults have their own version of truth. Cults have messiahs that offer some promise of salvation to the adherents. Empires are just cults on a larger scale.

And thankfully, all empires fall. It’s only a matter of how much destruction they leave behind.

If you think I’m being over the top, I challenge you to show me an example from history in which an empire was Christ-like in nature, that took care of people – especially the poor, that didn’t exploit or oppress people, what wasn’t responsible for many deaths, and didn’t destroy many things.

Cheering crowds

When a crowd cheers, beware. Crowds are not rational. When a crowd gathers, the mob rules. And raw emotion is the fuel that moves a crowd and unleashes it in destructive ways.

When a crowd gathers as a rally, listen. Listen to what the crowd is fed. Listen to what the crowd chants. Is the crowd fed with good fruit, or rotten fruit. Is it bearing good fruit or rotten fruit. Or Matthew 12:35 has Jesus saying the following, “The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure.”

Crowds have cheered about a variety of things throughout time. Some for good things, and some for not so good things.

When crowds cheer dehumanizing language, look out. When crowds cheer language that scapegoats people, watch out. Anyone who stands in the way of a crowd is in danger.

Crowds cheered as gladiators killed each other. Crowds cheer when there is an enemy to hate. Crowds cheered when Christians were fed to the lions. Crowds cheered at public hangings. Crowds cheered when Jesus was sentenced to death. Crowds cheer when hatred is used to fuel base emotions. Crowds cheer when death is proclaimed – specifically someone else’s death. Crowds cheer when people can be scapegoated and blamed. Crowds cheer when ignorance is proclaimed as truth. Crowds cheer when prejudices are upheld and strengthened by shear numbers of followers. Crowds cheer when they hear what they want to hear. Crowds cheer when what they believe to be true is constantly reinforced as true, rather than exposed for the lies that they are.

You can’t reason with a crowd. There is no point. You can’t communicate with a crowd if your message is different than the common held belief of the crowd – no matter how true your message. You can’t change a crowd. You can only feed a crowd what it is already feasting on – good fruit or rotten fruit.

Crowds cheer and chant. And eventually they disperse. And a crowd becomes a bunch of people. People who turn their brains back on. People who have lives. People who are made in the Image of God. Crowds block our sight of the Image of God. But we must have eyes to see this image. As difficult as it is sometimes. Because if we don’t see the Image of God, even in a crowd, we are really just forming another crowd.

Open us to see the Image of God in all peoples. Let those who have eyes see. Amen.

Why do we support bad ideas?

Why do people support bad ideas? Do people know they are supporting bad ideas? I wonder what bad ideas I cling to that I don’t know about.

What is a “bad” idea anyway?

Here’s my shot at a definition – a bad idea is something that isn’t really helpful overall – it could be harmful. A bad idea doesn’t have a reason to exist on its own. It often needs some kind of excuse for its existence.

Why do people continue to support bad politics? The same question could be asked as to why people support bad theology.

Is it as simple as having faulty assumptions based on what a person wants to believe about the world in contrast to reality? How about this – do bad ideas persist because people base their self-worth and/or identity on them? And to question the bad idea would be to question one’s identity?

Do bad ideas persist because we care what others think about us who also hold those same ideas? Better to be in the company of like-minded fools, rather than alone and correct?  

Is one person’s bad idea, another person’s great idea? Is that possible, or are ideas more whole than that. What are we to judge the “goodness” of an idea on?

Is something a bad idea if the result turns out to be good or better than expected?

Is it better to resist a bad idea or to let the bad idea go through to failure? I guess that depends on how dangerous the bad idea is and if lives are at stake.

How do we determine if we are holding onto bad ideas and how do we let go of them? How do we examine why we are holding onto bad ideas? What is it about a bad idea that we want to cling to it regardless of what the evidence shows?

Two views of politics

There are two different views of politics. No, I’m not talking about political parties. I’m not talking about ideologies either. I’m not talking about right or wrong, left or right, or any other variation of these things. I’m not talking about a debate about the role and size of government either. I’m not talking about how much government involvement there should be in a person’s life, or community, or nation. None of that.

You might not even be aware that there are two different views of politics because it isn’t talked about much. Most people think there is only one view of politics – the type they see the most often.

But a second view of politics exists.

Often, people, especially church people, are afraid when a religious figure starts to speak in a political way. And with good reason. Many of the more vocal religious figures speak about politics in the same way that the rest of the world does.

I think people fear and dislike religious figures talking politics, or anything that sounds political, because what they think is “normal” politics is what will come out. And what is that? You know full well what “normal” politics is – rude, insulting, dehumanizing, divisive, angry, fear-filled, unjust, oppressive, exploitative, damaging, greedy, lying, short sighted, scapegoating, and power hungry. That’s what we’ve come to expect of our politics isn’t it? Be honest.

So, why do we expect this kind of politics? Why do expect this behavior from politicians? Why do we expect it from political party officials? Why do we expect it from the talking heads on TV? Why do we expect it from “news” organizations that cover politics? Why do we expect it from religious figures who talk politics? Why do we expect it from each other anytime politics is talked about?

Why do we just throw up our hands and expect this? Why have we resigned ourselves to sub-par politics and politicians that are self-serving at best, and destructive at worst? Why do we settle for crappy politics? Why do believe that this is the way it’s always been and always will be? Why do we willingly vote for politicians who wear their supposed faith on their sleeve yet advocate policies and act in opposition to everything Christ stands for? Frankly, it’s pathetic. And it doesn’t have to be. This view of politics is not the norm, the best we are capable of, the bar against which we measure anything else.

Why don’t we expect politicians to be more like what it means to be a follower of Jesus? Why isn’t that considered the norm?

And what would that look like? We read and hear what it means throughout Scripture. Psalm 146 presents what the politics of the Kingdom of God is like and who we are to put our trust in.

“Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul! 
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
   I will sing praises to my God all my life long. 

“Do not put your trust in princes,
   in mortals, in whom there is no help. 
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
   on that very day their plans perish. 

“Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
   whose hope is in the Lord their God, 
who made heaven and earth,
   the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith for ever; 
   who executes justice for the oppressed;
   who gives food to the hungry. 

“Lord sets the prisoners free; 
   the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
   the Lord loves the righteous. 
The Lord watches over the strangers;
   he upholds the orphan and the widow,
   but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 

“The Lord will reign for ever,
   your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!”

Or we can look at Isaiah 11:1-9 –

“A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
   and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
   the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
   the spirit of counsel and might,
   the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. 

“He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
   or decide by what his ears hear; 
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
   and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
   and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
   and faithfulness the belt around his loins. 

“The wolf shall live with the lamb,
   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
   and a little child shall lead them. 
The cow and the bear shall graze,
   their young shall lie down together;
   and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
   and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 
They will not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
   as the waters cover the sea.”

Or we can look at the New Testament. Let’s look at Matthew 25:31-46 –

“‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’”

The politics of God are far different than what we have come to accept as normal politics over the centuries. As we see throughout Scripture, God’s politics relate to the two great commands – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Carrying out God’s politics means caring for the poor, as numerous Scripture clearly tells us. God’s politics means feeding the hungry. God’s politics are about seeing the image of God in all peoples – friend and enemy. God’s politics is about being a good steward of the earth. God’s politics is about welcoming the stranger and treating the alien as you would a resident. God’s politics is about bringing about peace – living in shalom. God’s politics is about bringing healing – physical, mental, spiritual, emotional. God’s politics is about the Sabbath and rest instead of constant work. God’s politics is about empowering people, not lording over them. God’s politics is about turning implements of war into implements of peace and prosperity. God’s politics is about using money as a tool to bring about the Kingdom, not something that gets to determine how decisions are made.

God’s politics won’t be found in a political party platform. Sure, there are bits and pieces of God’s politics in our political parties platforms. We may even try to implement some of these from time to time. But too often, we would rather reject God’s politics and settle for what we expect.

I’m tired of settling for the politics that we have – especially when the politics we could have is so much better. Which do you want – the politics we have, or the politics of God? Now the real question – what are you going to do about it? If nothing, then why? Why are you settling? Why are you not willing to live into what we are called to? Why do you claim to be a follower of Jesus and yet settle for something that is in opposition to Jesus?

God is calling us to a better politics. Are we willing to die to self – to our current systems? Are we willing to begin to live into what God calls us to? What’s the hold up? Don’t give me the excuse that it’s too big and you don’t know where to start. Just start. Start with what you do know – what God calls us to. Start with what you post about online. Start with who you support for public office. Start with talking with others who recognize our calling. Start by imagining how things could be different. Just start. And don’t stop. Don’t look for perfect in this. Just better. We deserve better. We have a responsibility for better politics. And it won’t change until each one of us decide that settling isn’t good enough anymore.

The Kingdom of God vs. the empires of humanity

During this season of Advent, we hear Bible stories about a theme – the Kingdom of God vs. the empires of humanity. It comes out in the stories of John the Baptist. It comes through Isaiah. It comes through the Psalms. It comes through the Epistle readings. It’s the constant contrast between the Ideal Kingdom of God and the stark reality of the empires that seek to control and oppress people.

And, at it’s core it centers around one main idea – how we treat our neighbor.  The Kingdom of God is based on two commandments – Love the Lord you God with all your heart, mind, strength, and might, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  As we read in Luke 10, Jesus is approached by a teacher of the law and asks about these laws and then takes it a step further – he asks the critical question – Who is my neighbor?  As we are told in the Scripture, he does this to justify himself.  

Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The teacher doesn’t really like this parable. We can tell this at the very end when Jesus asks him the question about who was the neighbor to the man. The answer was “the one who showed him mercy.” Technically a correct answer, but also a dehumanized answer. The right answer, the one the teacher couldn’t bear to say was, the Samaritan. If he had answered that way, it would have meant that the Samaritan was humanized and had value. And he would have to love this type of person.

The Kingdom of God tells us to love our neighbor, regardless of who they are.  It’s not a matter of seeing the differences in another and determining how to keep those differences separate from us.  It’s about seeing the image of God in the other person. Too often, those who are looking for differences are really looking to see what kind of threat someone is.  And at an even deeper level, focusing on the differences through the lens of fear is really about being exposed to something that rocks many people – that we are not the full expression of creation or godliness.  If we truly embrace the Imago Dei, then we should be looking at the differences in others from ourselves through a different lens – a lens that is capable of seeing God more fully unveiled in our midst.  We aren’t the full expressions of God or God’s creativity.  We are only a small variation.  

It is in loving our neighbor that we fulfill the command to love God, the creator of our neighbor and all of creation.  Our neighbor carries the image of God.  So when we love our neighbor, we are loving God.  How we treat our neighbor is essentially how we are treating God. 

Do we push our neighbor away, build walls of separation, call our neighbors names, accuse our neighbor of bad things, etc.?  Then we are doing the same thing to God.  

The empires of humanity tell us to hate and fear our neighbor.  They tell us that they are not our neighbor at all – how could they be when they look, talk, speak, and worship differently.  The empires of humanity only want neighbors who are like us – part of our tribe. Those who aren’t part of our tribe are not to be trusted at best, and at worst, are dehumanized.

At the core of the empires of humanity is this belief – you are to love yourself above all else.  Empires see loving oneself as the top priority because empires are narcissistic at their core.  And the good news is this – all empires fall. They fall under their own weight. They fall because narcissism is not sustainable. They fall because they aren’t built on solid foundations. They fall, because throughout the course of human history, they are always the bearers of a false gospel. And they are out of alignment with God’s Kingdom.

How long, Oh Lord?


Some days that is all there is to do. By the end of the day yesterday, all I could do was lament.

Lamentation means “the passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping.”

It’s also a book of the Bible – “a book of the Bible telling of the desolation of Judah after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC.”

I took both of these descriptions from Google.

Over the course of the day I heard many things that made me lament. I heard about a study of people who struggle economically – making up a significant percentage of our American population.

I had a conversation with someone who had been spiritually abused by Evangelical/Fundamentalist theology and churches. And unfortunately, this story is not unique.

I listened to a women experiencing homelessness lament about her situation saying “every time I get a break, I get sucked back down. I’m at my wits end.”

I listened to another individual and the pain they experience and not knowing what to do.

I heard about a man who spent all his money on his bills and had nothing left for the remainder of the month. It’s only December 6.

I heard about a man who’s work hours keeps getting cut back. He’s already homeless and with this cut, he doesn’t know where he will get food.

I read an article about the next pick by this Administration of the person to “lead” effort to combat homelessness. It’s a person who thinks giving free food to people experiencing homelessness is enabling.

In all of these instances, all I could I do was listen. I can’t change any of these situations. I can’t fix any of them. I don’t have the power. I can just be with the people. I can listen. I can care. I can offer what limited assistance I have available. And I can lament.

How long, Oh Lord? How long will this BS go on?

Sometimes this work can feel frustrating.  It can feel lonely.  It can feel overwhelming.  It can be draining.  There is so much weight.  It is a heavy burden.  

And yet…

What else are we do to? If we are followers of Jesus, then there really is no choice in what we do – we move forward. We give what we have. We listen. We care. We offer grace – something that this world doesn’t understand and never will. Something that many who have crappy theology will never understand. Something apparently this Administration will never understand.

I’m tired of the idolatry the permeates our culture and our nation. Idolatry of success. Idolatry of money. Idolatry of individualism. Idolatry of blaming the victim. Idolatry of personalities. Idolatry of ideology and political party and politicians. Idolatry of so much.

I lament what “popular” American Christianity has become. I lament government policies and officials that hurt the poor, those experiencing homelessness, the stranger, the foreigner, the outcast. I lament those who call Jesus “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what he tells them to do. I lament people’s disregard for their fellow human being, let alone the health of the planet – we’re called to be stewards after all. I lament that money is worshipped during this season – how we celebrate how the economy is doing, and dismiss the rise in poverty and homelessness. I lament the excuses that are made for evil acts. I lament the effort to silence anyone who raises their voice in opposition to all of this as if those perpetrating these things are supposed to be immune from the consequences or responsibility.

I lament. Because some days that’s all there is to do. Lament is naming the evil that exists in the world. Naming it for what it is. And then going forward anyway. Because there isn’t an alternative. There isn’t anyone else who is going get up and do the work. There isn’t anyone else that we can wait for. We are called to do it. To stop waiting. To move forward regardless of the evil we encounter.

Jesus encounters us in our lament. Jesus wept too. And it is in this encounter that we can know that we are not alone. Jesus didn’t say, sit around and wait for someone else to go and proclaim the Good News. Jesus didn’t say wait for someone else to feed the hungry. Jesus didn’t say wait for someone else to welcome the stranger. He called on his disciples and followers to go and do it. And he continues to call on us to go and do it. The world needs to hear the Good News. The world often doesn’t want to hear the Good News. It will do what it can to silence the Good News. But so what. That’s not anything new.

And so I will continue to listen. I will continue to give away free food. I will continue to build community. I will not look away. I will see the humanity of the people I encounter. I will care. I will love. I will empower. I will work to change evil systems. I will continue to have thick skin. I will work to change who is elected to office, at every level of government. And no, it’s not about shifting from one political party to another. It’s about the type of people who get elected, not the R or D after their name. I will continue to have theological fights with those who have crappy and destructive theology. I will continue to name the idols of this world. I will not back down.

And I will lament. And that lament will motivate me even more. Those of us who lament are not alone. We lament together. We need to. Going it alone is not an option.

How long, Oh Lord? Make me an instrument of your peace, your kingdom, your Gospel. Empower the faithful to work together to bring about your kingdom.

When a Truck Becomes a Home…

A great article about our congregation’s truck stop ministry with those experiencing homelessness was published in The Burg, a publication centered around Harrisburg, PA.

You can check the article out here. Here’s just the first few paragraphs to get you started:

Ben* became homeless when his Carlisle landlord kicked the family out of their rental home. As a result, the family of seven—Ben, his wife and their five children—lived out of their minivan for six months.

“It’s hard to find a rental home with more than two bedrooms,” he said.

But they moved into another rental, and, within two months, the same thing happened. Once again, they were homeless for a period of six months.

It might surprise you to learn that, through it all, Ben worked full-time as a truck driver.

Read more at this link – https://theburgnews.com/in-the-burg/when-a-truck-becomes-a-home-one-church-takes-homeless-ministry-on-the-road-to-the-local-truck-stop?fbclid=IwAR3sNJK-33viB9ZHqJRqG4dxYnZXJmJbN9qQZGSvp_MEJ6PEOm7qq9R1tzE

Good News?

Do people really want to hear the Good News? I think people want to hear good news, but not necessarily the Good News. That’s a generalization of course.

There’s a difference between good news and the Good News. Good News shows up in your Facebook feed – someone did something nice. That’s great. I have no issue with good news. I wish there was more of it. We could certainly use more good news these days.

But I’m not sure the vast majority of people really want to hear the Good News. Even many Christians. That’s my observation based on how many Christians acts, talk, and what they support.

I think many Christians would rather hear that they have an essential role in this whole Good News thing. But here’s the thing – the Good News isn’t about us. We aren’t responsible for it. We only receive it. And then can go and share it.

I think there are many Christians who would rather hear how they are responsible for their own salvation, rather than it being a gift. If we each are responsible for our own salvation, then God owes us something for what we do. If we are responsible, then we get to determine who is a threat to our salvation and who is a friend.

The theology of glory is a popular theology these days. It shows up in messages like the Prosperity Gospel. And many buy into this fake gospel.

The theology of empire is also popular. It has been for centuries. It’s the idea that the empire (whatever form that takes – a nation, money, work, sports, politics, etc) will save us. The empire only demands your loyalty in exchange.

The theology of consumerism is also popular. If we only buy more stuff, then we will be full and fulfilled. We’ll have enough and be happy.

Except these are all lies. Yet, for some reason, we seem to want to try them out again and again. Maybe we haven’t tried them the right way. Sure…That’s it.

Too many would rather not hear the Good News. But we need to hear it.

Sermons proclaim the Good News. Sermons can happen in many different forms too. A sermon that upsets the status quo, that causes the hearer to do self-examination, that opens our eyes to the truth about the world and our lives, that exposes injustice and sin for what they are – that’s a sermon that is opening the way for the Good News. It’s a sermon that has the authority to call the thing what it is, as Martin Luther once said. And from there, it can proclaim the Good News of God – that it is all God’s work. We can only receive.

A sermon that reinforces what we believe to be true, never causes discomfort, never upsets the hearer – well, that’s not a sermon at all. That’s a pep talk at best. Propaganda at worst.

Advent Analogy

I haven’t been writing as much the last three or so weeks. You can blame that on my computer mostly. And a week of vacation.

You see, about three weeks ago I uploaded the latest operating system update on my mac. I’ve done this many time before. Every single time without a hitch. This is the first time I regretted doing it. The main reason is that this has caused some problems with my mac. Web browsers don’t seem to be cooperating like they used to. And in many cases, I just sit there waiting for the browser to load simple web pages. Things have slowed down considerably.

I asked around to friend who know a thing or two about computers. And then we figured it out. I was asked how old my computer was. I didn’t remember. When I looked it up, it turns out that my computer is older than I thought. I purchased it before I started Seminary — in the fall of 2012. That’s just over 7 years ago now.

That’s the problem. Not a bad run really. I’ve gotten great use out of my faithful, hardworking mac. I really like my mac. But apparently, technology has advanced that my old sturdy mac can’t handle the software anymore.

So it was time to buy a new one. I found one that I wanted, and I ordered it. It was to arrive the middle of November – November 19 to be exact. Only November 19 came and went with no computer.

Then I changed the delivery option. I waited over a week to get confirmation that the delivery option was confirmed. I called and checked on the status. I didn’t get good solid answers. On several days it seemed as though no one knew where the package was at all. How does a delivery company not know where a package is?

Then I received notification that the package would be delivered on Saturday. And then Saturday came and went. No computer. I’m guessing that I’ll get an update stating the false hope that the package will arrive on Monday, today.

This entire saga reminds me of Advent. Advent is a season of waiting. Patiently. It is a season of frustration. A season in which we are filled with messages of expectation, but at the same time, no one seems to know what exactly to expect or what it will mean.

Advent is a season that is out of touch with out immediate society. As I’ve waited for my computer, I’ve been amazed how sucked into the immediacy I have fallen. The computer was supposed to come 2nd day air. Yet, here we are, two weeks later, not sure if the package is even in the same state.

Advent messes with us. It forces us to wait. It forces us to confront the brokenness of the world – broken promises, broken work, broken lives, broken health, broken relationships, broken politics, broken financial systems.

Advent forces us to look. It forces us to deal with our own impatience. It offers no false comfort or forced fun. I just deals with reality. Advent doesn’t care that the world is already celebrating Christmas – or the world’s version of Christmas anyway: consumerism, more stuff, debt, stress, etc.

Advent gives a message of hope for the future and quietly tells us to listen to the promise of God. No quick fix. No immediate delivery. No catering to each of our wants.

Advent instead forces us to hear our culture’s message of buy more stuff in order to make people happy. Advent puts our ears to this message and forces us to hear the reality of it – that it is a lie – if only we stop and listen for just a short while.

And so the delivery of my computer is like Advent. I wait. I am forced to wait without specific answers. I am forced to change my schedule. I am forced to examine myself and what I do. I am forced to hear the Good News – that there is nothing that I can do that will hurry this up. I have no power to. I don’t even have the power to know when the hour will be.

Advent is a season of waiting. I’m starting to really like this season. It offers something the world can never offer: less.