satisfied suffering servant

Bloged in worship by rod Sunday February 29, 2004

Ok, I don’t plan to keep this up, but I’ve got to finish a Sunday that was hard to prepare for and exhausting to experience. Of course it started in preparation for the weekend after the congregation had seen the movie. Sermon: “Why did Jesus have to die?” The perception that the movie was out-of-context sparked a quick explanatory book from John Piper and apparently many sermons across the country to bring it all into perspective and fill in the missing information. Knowing the context and the end of the story, I had planned a worship time that reflected on Jesus’ sacrifice and culminated in the celebratory embracing of new hope, life and forgiveness. As the week went on, I struggled with fitting this sequence together in the service without getting in the way of the atmosphere of the sermon, but still presenting a picture of the context and its fruition. I couldn’t make it happen. I was stubborn, but after seeing the movie, it was clear to me that this wasn’t the appropriate approach. Driving home from the movie, I kept thinking about the scourging and brutality. Though it had affected me completely differently than I might have expected, I still dealt with feelings that visually, it had been too much for the movie. The gospels, after all, seem to only reference it. As I was pondering these thoughts, I began to hear words in my head. “See my servant, He shall prosper and be raised high, greatly exalted. So were many greatly amazed that He was marred beyond all mortals.” Isaiah said He was marred beyond recognition, so that He no longer looked like a man.
But wasn’t it His death that paid for our sins? Why all the beating in the movie? “With His suffering, He shall justify.” “He was wounded for our transgressions.” “By His stripes we are healed.”
So yesterday morning, the deadline for the service details having passed. I set about changing this morning’s service to match my new convictions. DanD was patient, gracious and understanding. I learned a song yesterday afternoon and sang it this morning with guitar, keyboard and percussion. We read Isaiah 52 and 53 as a congregation. We sang. I prayed a deeply heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving. I think God blessed these last minute adjustments. The service was tightly knit and focused and the sermon was strong and poignant. I came home utterly spent. I received phone calls.
Tonight, I took Jack to the church early so he could go to West Columbia with his amazing and deepening community of twelve-year-old brothers led by Pastor Ted to go about the Kingdom with love and a paint brush. Jack and Jason, Ben and Ben, Victor, et. al. These guys might get it before we do. “Hey dad, next week we’re going back over there where we painted to play with little kids.” Ministering to Jesus. What better way to show gratefulness for His sacrifice?

After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life and be satisfied.

minister to Jesus?

Bloged in apprenticeship, worship by rod Saturday February 28, 2004

Despite all my reactions to all the pre-release responses and agendas to the movie, I think my response to the movie is quite different. Even now, I don’t want to talk too much about it, but some things just won’t leave me alone. I tried unsuccessfully to go to the movie twice before I followed through and actually went. In the car, down the road, turn around and drive home. A hundred voices in my head. I had nearly decided to just not go until everyone had stopped talking about it. But I can’t avoid the discussions, and I can’t discuss something I’ve not seen. So I went. I spent a couple hours trying to empty myself of all the commentary and bias and agenda that was pervading my thought. I think I succeeded in getting to the point that I could allow the movie to do what it was going to do. I didn’t know how I would react to the graphic violence inflicted on Jesus. Would I be reduced to a slobbering mass of snot and tears? I experienced a vivid understanding of a strange paradox that I am sure I can’t talk about. Furthermore I am leery of the language I’ll need to say this. I don’t want it to sound like I think highly of myself or that I think salvation ends at this point. Ok, you don’t know what I’m talking about, so here:
I am a forgiven man. Here is the paradox. It was my guilt that caused all that physical and spiritual suffering Jesus endured; but because He endured it, I am not guilty of it. No man can get his mind around this one. It is not for me to understand, it is for me to accept and believe. At the brutality, I winced. I felt thankful. I expected to be crushed with feelings of guilt. But instead, I felt forgiven. It is not lightly that I make that statement. I still sin, but He died once for all. I repent, He forgives.
So having been forgiven, what now? Simon of Cyrene symbolized that to me in the movie. I’m sorry if you’re bothered that his role was embellished beyond the biblical account. I believe that if he had done no more than obey orders and carry the cross, I still would have derived this feeling. Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow him. That is obvious to me in Simon’s role. No doubt we’re supposed to ponder his involvement. His name is given – we know where he is from. Either he was already a disciple, or he later became familiar to the disciples. So how do we take up our cross? The embellishment here had Simon ministering to Jesus. He bore Jesus’ weight, he encouraged Him, he literally shared His burden as Jesus carried ours. I too can minister to Jesus. He explained this throughout his teaching career painting a picture of Kingdom living for us. We are all complaining that the movie nearly completely ignored Jesus teaching, but Simon’s embellished role embodied the whole of it on the road to crucifixion. Jesus said,

“ Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of 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 drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”

So having been forgiven begins the process. Living in the Kingdom and obeying Jesus teaching continues the process. Much is expected of those to whom the gospel speaks. This depiction of Christ’s passion is a kick in the pants for me.

random access, non-linear, glob

Bloged in family, friends, life by rod Thursday February 26, 2004

It’s winter again. Snowing. This has been a very wintry winter. If I live here for another 30 years, there’s this thing I’ll forget every year. I’ll never remember that we actually have winter. Sure it’s no Maple Leaf winter, but y’all don’t have to deal with 15 consecutive 105º days in July. 91º at midnight. Probably feels cooler to y’all any way because you’ve got fewer degrees up there. It’s a lot different down here. You have 0º, down here it’s a balmy 32º and we’re still freezing just like you. Every year in December, I think, man its great here – 60º Christmas. Then January blows in and I might as well be up north.
So it snowed this morning, early. Patches of snow stayed on the ground all day, about a half inch deep. That in its self is an accomplishment ‘round here. A couple years ago we got about 8 inches in less than an hour but it took it less time than that to melt away. This evening, Allison decided a fire would be nice. We finally got our fireplace inspected, so I dashed off to Lowe’s through frigid temps and spitting snow, sleet and ice, to get a grate for this evening’s cuddly warmth. Fireplace grate? We put those away already. If we had any, they’d be over there with the tiki torches, bug zappers and patio furniture. Home Depot. No honey, those are seasonal. How about snow tires then, ‘cause I’ve got to drive seasonally back to my house in this weather.
When I got home, Bing and the kids were going nuts. “Dad, Bing has never seen snow fall.” What? I guess winter in Honolulu is even better than Columbia. So it seems that she’s seen snow on the ground, even been sledding; but has never seen it fall. She called her parents to tell them about it. “What’s it look like? Take a picture.” Guess winter in Manila is pretty good too.
So we turned on the lights outside and sat in the warmth behind the glass and watched it fall. Watched it try to decide between tiny, hard crystals, and big fluffy flakes. Finally, it gave up. A sixteenth of an inch all over the yard.
I sat and practiced a while and thought about sledding without ever having seen snow fall. Because I’m so weird, lots of metaphors came to mind. Enjoy freedom, never fought for it. Reap the harvest that someone else has sown. Aftermath of revival, without having seen the spirit move. I want to be in on the stuff. How does one get to see the flakes fall? Ya gotta put yourself where it is happening. Kinda like getting rebounds. Gotta know where the ball is going to be and get there.
So I’m sitting here with a rifle and a basketball, eating sunflower seeds, looking out the window at the white lawn. Just kidding.
I’m going to go slide under the warm covers. Supposed to be 70º by Saturday.

raising the bar

Bloged in apprenticeship by rod Wednesday February 25, 2004

I’ve been reading Greg’s convergence post over and over. I’ve read it from its written perspective and from my own perspective, inserting meaning as it applies to the goings on in my growth and process. Seems a lot of people are thinking lately about the ambient noise in our lives and its drowning and swallowing of the divine whisper. I attended a seminar with Matt Redman on this very topic. All around us, noise vying for our attention. We miss the still small voice.
I don’t think I suffer from that. I’m more likely to hear the voice and disobey it. Truth is, I’ve always been one of those Greeks who attribute all my thoughts to God. Well, most of my thoughts. Surely you know things go through my head that couldn’t possibly be mistaken for the thoughts of God. That’s probably why the Greeks had so many gods – so many conflicting thoughts – surely the gods must also have trouble getting along. Certainly makes a good case for the existence of Aphrodite. Apollo and Dionysus. Paul’s flesh and spirit. C.S. Lewis’ natural man vs. the Spirit of God, our little red man on one shoulder and the angel on the other.
But ideas, fleeting thoughts, I’ve always attributed them to God’s desire for me. And prayer – honestly even as a child, my prayers were usually responses to these “thoughts”. In high school, I was a regular Martin Luther, bowing my head over every little thing, riddled with guilt over stray thought and wandering eye. Confession. I’d consult silently for the most common decisions. In my heart of hearts, I don’t think I’ve often missed God’s whisper because of ambient noise. My problem rather is that having heard, pondered, even prayed over it, I’ve often disregarded it.
Greg’s blog speaks of prayer. One has to be very careful of prayer. If you don’t really want to know how God feels about something, you shouldn’t ask him. Of course that’s silliness, if you’re aware that God does have a will, then you’re just as responsible for seeking it as taking action upon knowing it. In the past week, I have felt strongly several times that God was asking me to do something, say something, take action - and I’ve not done it. Amidst the stuff of everyday, I still hear the voice, feel the tug and go on about my stuff.
In our little sphere, we’re asking the questions. How is this accomplished? How does one…? I’ve heard some of the answers. In many cases, its time to stop asking for direction that I’ve already been given, and start asking for guts to follow the direction. Boldness. Courage. You know what? Some of these things aren’t even the big deal you think they are. They are little things. Little everyday kingdom living things. Walking in the Way things. I’m just too selfish, too busy, too much a spiritual pansy to engage in the normal activity of a kingdom living, way walking, normal, Jesus follower.
Pierce my ear, paint my forehead, gird my loins. I’m praying for guts.

cyberdeck dialogue

Bloged in community, friends by rod Tuesday February 24, 2004

It was colder than I thought it was going to be. But, at least for the first few hours, no one wanted to go inside. We just kept huddling closer to the fire. The physical multi-blog. The cyberdeck unneeded because the physical deck is occupied.
I’ve got the best wife in the world. I’ve got the best friends in the world.
I’ve got all kinds of strange thoughts and emotions about this weekend. I feel proud that when Allison went down the list of perfect gifts for a 40th birthday, she arrived at “surrounded by friends”. I am humbled that I was deemed worthy of the sacrifice of an evening, let alone hours of travel and a whole weekend. Thank you Jolie and little C. Thank you Esther. Thank you Brenda. Thank you Jenny. Thank you Allison. Te amo.
It will take a long time for this to wear off. Even the communal fork and cake at 3:00am. So there will be no need to remember my birthday from now on. Savvy? I’m headed down the hill. Chris and Greg and Mitchy… take your time coming up, ok?

X

Bloged in family, parenting by rod Saturday February 21, 2004

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Somewhere a way off down the ribbon of time, He created you Will, and you’ve reflected His creativity everyday since. You waited until the very last minute, then decided to find a creative way to exit the birth canal. You spent the entire day on this, your 10th birthday creating. Stuff for everyone in the family. Handmade, personally dreamed up, individually meaningful.
I know you’re an artist, because you’re the only one who doesn’t realize it. Humility. Nothing you do is ever good enough, but only for you. I’ve learned from Dallas Willard’s commentary that you are “pure of heart”, perfectionist, always striving. You will see God. I see Him in you everyday.
You see the beauty in every little thing that God infused with beauty. You brim with the knowledge that king Solomon in all his glory was never clothed like one of these flowers. Everything takes on a deeper meaning for you. The damp smell of morning, fog on the river, bird songs, junk piles. You remember people and places with all your senses. You smell the cranberry river. You see Cherokee. You feel camping.
I’ve heard you many times wonder over another unknown sense. A sixth sense. What would it experience? You are prime “ears” for the whisper of God. Prime nostrils for the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. Eyes to see His glory. Taste the goodness of God. Touch the lives of everyone around you. You are the best hugger ever born. You make everyone feel like your favorite person.
You are a walking encyclopedia of scientific facts about God’s creation. You know every strange detail about every exotic creature that most of us have never heard of. Yet, you are one of the most unique, quirkiest, fascinating creatures that I’ve ever experienced. I am quite sure that some day, college students will study your unique visual perspective, vantage point, use of light and color, shape and form. Some generation of pre-schoolers will squeal with delight at the rhymes and lessons of “Uncle Willby”. Someone’s everyday will be made a little easier by some invention that I can’t even fathom. Someone’s spiritual insight will be deepened by your ability to tell a story.
All our lives are made richer because of you.
So… to a wordsmith.
You’re double digits, a face card, little Indians, a dime.
Perfect ten.
May God give you more than three score more.
Happy Birthday, most important reindeer

they named him “given by God”

Bloged in family, parenting by rod Wednesday February 18, 2004

I’m amazed at how your personality has developed. I’m amazed at your deep understanding of difficult concepts. I’m amazed at your solid beliefs. I’m humbled at your genuine sense of compassion. I’m encouraged to witness you struggle with normal pre-teen emotions and conflicts and come to the end of the day with your “stuff” intact. Teetering on the brink of attitude, you reach inside, find the truth and claim it as your choice of the stuff of which you will continue to be made. You are truly a gift.
Last night as Mom and I mused at your turning twelve, Mom said, “remember that tiny baby that you used to roll up in the blanket and put him in your lap and lean on him while you rocked him?” Sounds like a “Mom” thing to say, doesn’t it? She asked if I thought you remembered that. After Mom went to bed, I started thinking about some comments I heard about teaching and speaking yesterday. I was made to think again about the notion that in order to be judged successful, the listener must be able to verbalize back to you what you had just said. My thoughts are of course that this does not indicate internalization, assimilation, or any kind of concept understanding or changed behavior. I’ve discussed this issue on this blog recently. Then I went out and read some Willard. Lo and behold, he’s talking about the same thing. How Jesus’ teaching caused learning that could only be assessed by watching the lives of those who heard it. This is much greater than information dump. I’ve said before that teaching can change someone’s life regardless of whether they can verbalize it or regurgitate the information that has changed them. I thought about Mom’s question again and how my answer illustrates this belief.
I answered, of course you don’t remember – you are only months old. But you were shaped by it. Only minutes before our conversation, you got ready for bed and then came back downstairs and climbed up in my lap and just sat there with your head on my chest like you did last week when we read the “blesseds” from Matthew. This lap time before retiring is a need that you don’t even know where it came from. But I do. I taught you this without even realizing I was teaching you anything. I calmed your screaming six-month-old fears and frustrations in this very same way. Now all these years later, we still find peace and comfort in the lap moments. Please don’t ever stop this. In no time, you’ll probably be overwhelming to my lap, but sit down beside me. My chest will still accommodate your head. Things will change quickly now. Let this stay the same. I’m man enough to feel comfortable with this. I pray that I can teach you to be man enough to be comfortable as well. Someday, when I’m gone, I hope you’ve been made to know that there’s still a Daddy on whose chest you can lay your head.

beyond thunderdome

Bloged in church, culture by rod Wednesday February 18, 2004

‘round here I’m intrigued by a totally different observation on Mel and the movie. Not only are we striving to make the movie something it was not intended to be. We’ve put our T-shirt on someone who hasn’t claimed to be one us, and are shocked when something comes out of his mouth that is different than what might come out of our mouths. I’m still impressed with what he’s got to say because I think I’ve had him in decent perspective. I’ve known Mad Max for 24 years. I read an article in the New Yorker (“Mel’s Passion” Sept. 15, 2003) about this movie. The article made known some of Mel’s motivation, history, and theology. The movie was huge news out there in the secular and “religious” world a very long time before it entered the evangelical radar screen. Now the movie is on the radar screen, has been stamped by evangelicals and we’ve dunked Mel and put his picture on the new members board. Pretty quick huh? To have your newest member in the global spotlight speaking theology to millions of people. Evangelicals are confused. What did he just say?
We thought that only we could portray an accurate picture of the historicity of the Gospels. Therefore this movie must be made by one of us. The world has now seen us renting the theatres. Putting up the posters. Listening to Mel address us via DVD on Sunday morning. It all goes beyond the movie. Out there (and it seems, in here) Mel is equated with the movie. Now we are linked to him via the movie. He is the spokesperson for the machine we’ve adopted. I have seen fear and trembling result from hearing voiced some aspects of his theology. Wait a minute, I thought…
Our surprise at some of the theology betrays our thought that exposure to gospel leads one to believe as I do. We are awakened by the realization that some of Mel’s theology is different from our own. I wonder if some of our own might be broadened by this experience? How can someone who doesn’t sound like an evangelical make a resource that evangelicals tout as one of the most important evangelical tools to come along? Maybe we haven’t got it all figured out after all.
So again, I pray that we are open to what God intends to happen in hearts when the gospel is known. I pray that we realize that these twelve hours are what make the gospel available to us. Does salvation begin and end there? In some ways are we asking too much of this movie? In others, too little? Will it cause them to pray the prayer? Will it change our lives? What did the crucifixion and resurrection accomplish? Does the scope of significance that we’ve given Jesus’ death match the scope of His teaching?

dear diary,

Bloged in life by rod Tuesday February 17, 2004

these are the goings on and how they keep other goings on from going on.
Never since I started blogging have I had so much I wanted to say, and absolutely no time to sit down and write it. This week is killer. I did set aside a bit of time tonight to finish Willard chapter 4. I sat down at the kitchen table across from Allison with a cup of coffee and got carried away telling her about chapter 3. I ended up re-reading that chapter, mostly aloud to her, rather than finishing chapter 4.
I spent MOST of the night last night preparing for Chapel this morning. I lead worship in a wonderfully integrated service. Of course, there is always going to be more or less response according to preferred style and presentation (sometimes more than content and quality), but I much enjoyed being a part of something that was thought through, prayed over and planned start to finish. This morning’s chapel popped up in conversation all day simply because it was obviously intentional.
After chapel, quick lunch and then continuous teaching until 5:30. Home, supper, kitchen cleanup, kiss the kids, read Willard to Allison, up the stairs to work on this weekend’s church stuff and tomorrow night’s rehearsal. Oh yeah, I’ve got a stack of papers to grade. It’s late and I’ve heard the clock strike 3:00a two nights in a row.
It sounds like I’m complaining, but really I’m not. Just voicing life as of late.
No day is different. Tomorrow straight from work to church. I’ve got a job and a church that matter to me. Give thanks with a grateful heart. Remind me.
I’m going to go lie down in bed and feel God in the atmosphere all around me.
Goodnight people everywhere. Goodnight moon.

desire of the childish

Bloged in church, parenting by rod Sunday February 15, 2004

On the guitar listserv, to which I belong, the most recent thread deals with teaching children guitar technique. A simple request for advice on choosing a published curriculum, elicits infinite conflicting posts on teaching philosophies. An amazing observation is that many of the ideas that are submitted are backed up by decades of teaching children and observing what brings about the desired results. Of course the next round of posts invariably are an argument that you are mistaken, because I do it quite differently and my way brings about the desired results. What very few ever seem to recognize is that the reason differing teaching techniques are preferred to by different teachers is that differing results are desired.
Does one start a child with rest-stroke or free stroke? Of course you start with rest-stroke because it is easier to produce a good sound and a good sound provides positive feedback for the child and he will be more motivated to continue. Of course you start a child with free-stroke because it is more versatile and a student can be quite successful with it if it’s introduced in the context of diads and triads. But children aren’t interested in harmony, they are essentially melodic. And it goes on and on.
Of course if you’ve stayed with me this far, you’re saying, “c’mon Rod this is non-sense and I’m not the least bit interested in this stuff.” Of course, that’s my point exactly. Are we trying to teach a child to play rest and free strokes? Or guitar? Or to make music? What child comes to the guitar to learn free-stroke and rest-stroke? What child deserves to be data collected for some teacher’s argument in an on-line forum? It is my experience that children respond to music and are drawn to an instrument to learn to make music. All that stroke stuff is just something that’s got to be done to get the music made. Or maybe it’s that once the child begins to make music, he will gladly embrace the practice of the details that make the music more beautiful.
What causes us grown-ups to get hung up on something short of the goal? What should be a means becomes an end. The end is ignored or forgotten about. Those under our tutelage or influence lose interest and we set about finding a new approach to the means that will recapture their attention.
This must be a basic human quirk. But how can we feel so passionately about something that we eventually lose sight of it? How can we be so caught up in technique and methods and procedures that we forget what end they serve. Often we so completely lose sight of our purpose that we institute procedures that have nothing whatever to do with the purpose. Then we judge the outcome based on performance of the procedures rather than the desired results.
Of course, I’m not talking about guitar teaching here. I so rarely rant about guitar playing on this blog.

Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom

Matthew 18:4 the message

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