Saturday, February 19, 2005

Strangers in a Strange Land - Part 2

Recently I heard a series of messages given by Dr. Mark Labberton of First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. All credit here goes to Dr. Labberton. Below are my simple attempts to process the thoughts of this kind pastor. The series of talks was entitled, Strangers in a Strange Land.

The Scripture is from Daniel Chapter 1.

Daniel and his friends made the choice to practice their identity in all that they did. Even though they were offered education, housing, food, they chose to remember God. This was not done in the form of martyrdom, or in grand ritual, but every time they ate, they practiced "remembering" to whom they belonged. Yahweh.

We live in a strange way suspended between our physical world and our spiritual lives. The louder, repeating, resounding, more deafening voice is that of the surrounding secular world. It the midst of this cultural influence tidal wave, we Christian folk have.....Sunday worship, perhaps two hours a week, at most. Hundreds of hours immersed in the world versus a brief time on Sunday, if we can make it, the kids are not playing soccer, or we feel like it.

What a stark contrast. In the face of this, how do we practice our distinct Christian identity? Daniel and his friends chose to remember daily the One who appeared to be abscond, but was daily present in their lives. So what do we do? How is our identity derived? How do we live our lives in terms of hearing a Dominant Voice, that of God Himself? And what determines our identity and our worth? Is it our jobs, our education, our looks, our height, abundance of hair, the goods we own, our social standing, who likes us, how we fit into the social fabric of our community? We need a whole new identity. We need that from Christ....

More coming....

Stranger in a Strange Land - Part I

Strangers in a Strange Land by James B. Janknegt's

Recently I heard a series of messages given by Dr. Mark Labberton of First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. I was captivated by Mark's thoughts, derived from the Book of Daniel. What I would like to do here is share with you a brief overview and reaction to Mark's reflections on the Scripture, and its applications to our lives - in particular how this applies to some of the discussion I have been randomly touching on in terms of Church, Perfect Church, and Searching for Church. All credit to anything good here should be given directly to Dr. Labberton. The series of talks was entitled, Strangers in a Strange Land.

By way of reference, Stranger in a Strange Land is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, which was first published in 1961. It tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human raised by Martians on Mars, as he returns to Earth in early adulthood; the novel explores his interaction with -- and eventual transformation of -- Earth culture.

The Mars analogy works well for how I feel often. I sure like it here on earth, but I know at some level that this is not my home. There is a longing deep within me for something different, more than much of what I find here. Is it my own fear, or is it Heaven calling me? As I go to work each day, even as I spend meaningful and rewarding time with family, there is, what songwriter Sara Groves calls "the echo of a grand design" behind it all.

Can we agree together that there is very little that distinguishes the Christian Church from the broader culture? The divorce rate among Christian people is no different than the general population at large. The American church is often anemic, seemingly (in the words of Chuck Colson) 3,000 miles wide, and an inch deep. Sadly, we Christian folk mirror in large part, much of the folly of the rest of the world. We just try to look good doing it.

We often live as if in exile, "holding on" here on earth, until the Promised Land arrives. We are meant to be changed, and be agents of Devine Change. Perhaps we have surrendered practicing our real identity. Perhaps we need to learn new ways to tell our story of true identity.

The Scripture is from The Book of Daniel, Chapter 1. Read it first. Go ahead, feel free. We are called to be Strangers in a Strange Land. More in the next post.
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