Sunday, April 26, 2009

Too Many Choices, Shopping, and "We Walk"

What is the relationship between a seminary student from Denmark, a day at a desert indie rock concert, and the American church?

Asking a Question
Something sobering, sad and rather haunting happened to me recently.
I asked a simple question, and received an answer I never anticipated.

We are friends with a young woman who is getting her masters at Fuller Seminary, who grew up in Denmark, and now, in her mid twenties, is studying here in Pasadena. As it turns out, being a Jesus follower in Norway can be quite strange. Norway has a state church, and 91% of the populous is listed as Christian. But, being an earnest Christian in Norway today can get one labeled as a cult member, or more likely just a religious wing-nut. The state church in Norway is essentially dead (read: six old ladies and a worn-out vicar). Our friend has earnestly sought to follow Jesus since she was 15. It has not been easy, and often lonely.

And so, my question. During a lunch meeting of about 20 folks, learning about the graduate programs at Fuller, our Norwegian friend mentioned, almost as an aside, "It has been interesting, getting used to the American church". This caught my attention, and I wanted to know what that comment meant. So I asked "What do you think of the American church? You can be candid, you are among friends." I really wanted to know the honest opinion of someone who is genuinely "outside of our system".

Her answer caught me completely unaware, and changed the mood of the entire awkward silence and reflection...if only for a moment. Our Norwegian friend seemed somewhat surprised by the question, and had to pause for a moment, as tears suddenly welled up in her eyes. Obviously moved, she replied:

"I meet so many people here who seem to be constantly looking for the perfect church, one that meets all their needs. You know, just the right worship, just the right preaching, all the right programs. They are never happy with what they have." She stopped for a moment, to catch her breath, and continued, her voice slightly breaking as she spoke. "I just want to tell them, you have so many churches in which you can serve - please, just pick ONE, and settle in, and serve people, and love them!"
The room was silenced. Here we were, a room full of Americans, likely all with too many choices. Used to a culture that somehow has made us all a bit too picky, and unwilling to "settle in". Dallas Willard has written about some of these ideas, and they have made me think.

So what is our problem, we Americans? We like to shop around, and not commit - its easier that way. And if it does not work out, in life, or church for that matter - we bail, we give up, we walk.

An Illustration - Under the Desert Sun
Last weekend, as I have posted below, I spent time at the Coachella Music Festival. I like to go, as this gives me the chance to see how "the rest of the world" is getting along, in terms of youth culture, and indie music, and things that my daily life life does not see. Basically, its a chance for the Old Dude to see and hear things new.

One of my favorite groups was a British duo called The Ting Tings. They do amazing things with fun lyrics and a great beat. During their hour long act in a tent in the desert, they played a song that had me thinking - I came home and looked up the words.

"We Walk" (song embedding disabled, follow the link) - is a song about disappointment, and making decisions. But really, its a song about bailing, giving up, and walking. We do that a lot here in America, don't we?
You see the changes
In things that come
It's how you deal with it
When switching off
Make a decision
A precondition
We got the choice if
it all goes wrong

We walk, we walk
We walk, we walk
I wonder, what it might be like, if we could just settle, and not just....walk?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Disney Hall

Franz Liszt and Joshua Bell at Disney Hall!
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sir Paul in the Desert

A year ago, I took my first trip to the desert with my oldest daughter and her friends, to experience the Coachella Music Festival for the first time.

This year, I took a trip to the desert again, (daughter in separate car - "Da-aaa-d, driving with you would be soooo uncool!") but I really ended taking a trip back in time, and experiencing perhaps the best rock concert I will ever see in my life.

Sir Paul McCartney was the headline act this past Friday night, and I will never forget the experience. Ever.

When Sir Paul came on the stage in a Nehru jacket and playing his Hofner bass, at about 10:20 PM, it was as if I had been strangely transported backwards by about 43 years. I suddenly and strangely remembered being at my friend Ebb Eskew's house in Arcadia, at about 7 years old, with Ebb playing for me his Beatles album. Ebb was crazy about the Beatles, it took me a little longer to get a clue. This was the British Invasion. Pop music would never be the same.

Sir Paul is now almost 67 years old, and except for some obviously slightly "color-assisted" hair, he looks great. The most moving moment of the show, captured in the amazing video below, was Sir Paul's reminding the audience that the evening's concert had fallen on the 11th anniversary of the death of his first wife, Linda, who passed away in Tucson, Arizona. From that moment on, Sir Paul had the audience entirely on his side. It was a magical experience, and I am thankful I was there.

Below find the best current available video clips of the concert, shot from the very front row...make sure to mash the little "HQ" button to get a better picture.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ting Tings

This people, is/am/are the Ting Tings @ Coachella!
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Coachella Arrival

Coachella 2009 people. On stage now - Airborne Toxic Event. Yes, its a band.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday.

A day of remembering an event which often feels so
immense that it seems the world can scarcely bear it. I know I hardly can. It is too hard, and painful, and deep and wide. It seems too much.

Tonight our family attended a Good Friday service of worship that is taken from an early Christian service called "Tenebrae". The name Tenebrae is the Latin word for "darkness" or "shadows." Through this service we experienced only a small portion of Christ’s pain and suffering the day of His crucifixion.

One of the most conspicuous features of the service is the gradual extinguishing of candles until only a single candle, considered a symbol of our Lord, remains. As it gets darker and darker we reflect on the great emotional and physical pain that was very real for Jesus that evening. Toward the end of the service, the Christ candle is removed from the sanctuary, typifying the apparent victory of the forces of evil over good. And at the end, we file out quietly into the night.

Tonight, right in the middle of this service, I was reduced to tears by something I completely did not expect. "Gabriel's Oboe" from Ennio Morricone, the composer of the film "The Mission" stole my heart, and lead me on several moments reflections of the impact of the one solitary life of Christ. A life that has changed the face of the planet, and a life that has changed my life. Forever. I sat and listened to this haunting piece, and reflected on all centuries of followers of Jesus, who for both good and bad intentions, have changed the face of this planet.

How could one life so permanently affect so much of humanity? How could this be so? How could one man, who died as an obscure radical - reach into history, and continue to touch and transform lives today? How could this be?

Take a few moments, and listen, and wonder. From Ennio Morricone's performance at the UN in 2007:

Thursday, April 09, 2009


This video of John Wooden is about eight years old, but really, it is timeless.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Missile, Schmissile

And they say North Korea wants to launch a missile. I have something for your missile, Dear Leader!

Twittering the Gospel

Rob Bell was asked how he could present the gospel on Twitter. Although not 140 characters, this was his answer:

“I would say that history is headed somewhere. The thousands of little ways in which you are tempted to believe that hope might actually be a legitimate response to the insanity of the world actually can be trusted. And the Christian story is that a tomb is empty, and a movement has actually begun that has been present in a sense all along in creation. And all those times when your cynicism was at odds with an impulse within you that said that this little thing might be about something bigger – those tiny slivers may in fact be connected to something really, really big."

Also, this:

“And there is this group of people who say that whoever that being is came up among us and took on flesh and blood – Andrew Sullivan talks about this immense occasion the world could not bear. So a church would be this odd blend of swagger – and open tomb, come on – and humility and mystery. The Resurrection accounts are jumbled and don’t really line up with each other – I really relate to that. Yet something momentous has burst forth in the middle of history. You just have to have faith, and you get caught up in something.

I like to say that I practice militant mysticism. I’m really absolutely sure of some things that I don’t quite know.”

Very good. And honest. Me too.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Evacuation Theology

Recently Rob Bell was interviewed in CT – and shared a theology to which I wholly subscribe, although I am not a theologian. One comment in the article is that Mr. Bell is reframing the gospel in North America for the last couple of hundred years, with many of his comments contained within his new book Jesus Wants to Save Christians. I might just have to buy this book.

“The story (of the Scripture) is about God’s intentions to bring about a new heaven and a new earth, and the story begins here with shalom – shalom between each other and with our Maker and with the earth. The story line is that God intends to bring about a new creation, this place, this new heaven and earth here. And that Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning, essentially, of the future; this great Resurrection has rushed into the present.

The evacuation theology that says, “figure out the ticket, say the right prayer, get the right formula, and then we’ll go somewhere else” is lethal to Jesus, who endlessly speaks of the renewal of all things.”

Evacuation! I like this A LOT.

First, Mr. Bell is echoing N.T. Wright in many of his recent books in terms of “the Kingdom being at hand”. Second, I have to confess that I have been a subtle victim of this “evacuation theology” that has turned the church into a sometimes strange fortress against, rather than for, and involved with the world.

And finally, I am touched by Mr. Bell’s use of the present tense to describe Jesus’ words – note above that it is “endlessly speaks” that is used, rather than something like “spoke”. Imagine that, a resurrected Christ, one who still speaks.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...