Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Last Week's Highlights

I showed up at Able printing with a box of ice cream cones. I should have brought Kleenex; tears poured down Connie's cheeks. The computer was acting up. If not the computer, something else. The weight of running your own business is heavy. I stayed for a couple of hours, folding brochures and engaging in conversation. Later I received a text message from Connie's husband Wayne: "Connie said when a person is having bad day they should have ice cream!! Thanks again." I'm glad I didn't bring tissues.

My father-in-law grilled steaks for us Thursday night. Corn, salad, and potatoes complemented the meal. As we prepared to sit for our feast, Liz moved to help her mother. Marcy's legs were rather weak. Half way across the room, her legs became heavy. Mel rushed over to lend another hand. Marcy continued to slip to the floor. Her body was laden, drooping. Liz suddenly burst out laughing. Mel chuckled, too. If you cannot laugh about it, you might cry.

My arthritic cat, Zelda, who fights seizures all day and prowls the neighborhood all night, caught a blue jay. She killed the blue jay. Not inconsequential is the fact that Zelda does not have front claws. My wife and daughters dined on our back porch as the scene unfolded. Then our triumphant cat presented her bounty to the family. Immediately, an army of blue jays screamed from the tree in our backyard. Their war cries resounded for days. Who knew birds could get so angry?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Holy Matrimony

I heard President Obama’s endorsement of homosexuality this week from a hotel situated across the street from Focus on the Family’s headquarters. Since 2006, leaders at Focus have transitioned the organization. Jim Daly replaced James Dobson, and they began to distance themselves from the political scene. “Helping families Thrive” became the mantra. They rebranded, cut staff, and lost supporters.

Many of Focus’ loyal followers ceased giving because they considered the shift from politics to family an irresponsible one. The battles of abortion, marriage, and extramarital sex raged, they argued. They predicted the collapse of our society without political action. To such people, President Obama’s agenda for same-sex marriage spells collapse. Thus, I was intrigued to see how Jim Daly would respond when he addressed my group attending a conference at Focus on the Family this week.

Jim Daly commanded our attention. He is gregarious, witty, and controlled. His casual delivery hides a breath of wisdom. His crooked smile gives no hint of cynicism.

In response to the initial question about same-sex marriage, Jim Daly stepped out from the podium. “We like to rate sins. Homosexuality—bad. Adultery—bad. Gossip...” He scanned the audience. “Lying,” he paused. “Have you ever done that?” Daly made reference to Paul’s vice list: “The Apostle spreads a large net for “’those who will not enter the kingdom of God’” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Then, without apology or defeat, the figurehead of Focus declared, “Same-sex marriage will happen in our country. Instead of trying to stop or decry it, we must figure out in advance how we will respond. We do not want to be reactive.”

His statement shocked me. Republicans and journalists called the President’s comment a “political ploy.” Jim Daly called it a foregone conclusion. But the spokesman for family values is not a politician. Nor am I.

Truth be told, I am less interested in signing petitions and effecting policy than in preparing ourselves for a godless culture spiraling into further godless. (See Romans 1 for a full description. Moreover, see Romans 2:4 for God’s response to our wicked choices. “His kindness leads to repentance,” Daly quoted.)

So how do we prepare for Future America, where marriage no longer reflects God’s ideal (Holy Matrimony), but political ideology (Anything Goes…except for Absolute Standards)?

1.       Let Go of the Idealized Past: Christian America (i.e., Moral America) is dead and gone
2.       Acknowledge the Dismal Present: Divorce rates stink; marriage is optional to the majority
3.       Advocate for Marriage: Talk about sex; celebrate marriage; help parents at all stages; clearly define marriage for your church as “lifelong covenant between man and woman” (Gn. 2; Mt 19)
4.       Publish your Position: Due to religious convictions our staff will not counsel for/officiate a same-sex marriage; we will not use our building for a same-sex marriage. (see FGBC/Social Concerns)
5.       Support the ‘Struggling’: For those who admit homosexuality as a “spiritual struggle” (i.e., something from which they seek release), our church will bear their burdens in love (Gal. 6:1-2).

(Originally published for my church on Sunday, May 13th)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Stripping My Sermons

The sound guys have been stripping my sermons. They pull phrases out of context and save them as audio files. Some have been converted to ringtones. The good news that I know they are listening. The bad news is that they are not listening for application. They listen to strip and mix and mashup my message.

Last week Curtis said, "Some Sundays you make it too easy." The evidence was in the Dropbox file:
  • breaking out in the chorus of "Days of Elijah"; I sing flat
  • declaring myself an idiot
  • "admitting" that homosexuality is okay
  • accusing the Holy Spirit of being too loud
  • an apology for spitting on someone while I preached
Then tonight I received an email that Sheldon had remastered my sermon into a rap. "I hope this isn't sacrilegious," he typed (click here for sample).

When I explained the trend to another person this week, she said, "You must know what it feels like to be a politician." Media and sound technicians are masters of manipulation. They can turn any phrase into a political firestorm. They can make any homily into heresy, if they strip it from its context. Meaning grows out of context.

But as much as this sounds like an indictment against the sound guys, I'm happy they've found a trade in exploiting my preaching for their entertainment. I'm guilty of the inverse on a regular basis: I exploit their entertainment for my preaching (and blog). Some Sundays they make it too easy.