Calling Jesus Names

Have you ever heard a racial slur come out of a child’s mouth? I haven’t heard one recently, but when you do, trust me, the event will stick in your mind. You’ll ask, “Where did they learn that? Do their parents talk that way? Do they know what that means?”

I’m not really sure where to start with this post. I had a really great weekend. I celebrated my Scottish heritage up at Maryville College for the Smoky Mountain Highland Games. I watched burly men toss rocks. I watched burly men toss huge telephone poles. I had a plate of haggis and mashed potatoes washed down with an Irn-Bru, which is still the weirdest drink I have ever thrown down my goozle. (If I had to describe the flavor it would be orange rind and bubblegum.) I listened to some old Irish and Scots folk songs and was blasted by a combined Pipe and Drum Corps playing Amazing Grace. I was happy, and full, and very, very warm. The warmth was from the dear sounds of ancestry… or maybe the 88 degree heat, not sure. I enjoyed celebrating a culture, but I know that not everyone can with as much open pride.

God created us in His image, which gets called the Imago Dei (Latin) in the pop Christian lingo right now. I have to hand Gen X and Millennials one big high five for bringing back early church fathers and mothers and incorporating more Latin and Greek into teaching and popular theology. As God’s images, we are designed to reflect God’s glory, authority, and love into the world around us and reflect Creation’s praise back to God. (I’ve tread this path before on this blog.) God encourages culture. In fact, read through the Hebrew Bible and New Testament and you’ll rarely find God or His prophets and apostles calling out the culture (food, clothing, artwork, language, etc.) Instead, you’ll see God calling His people and others to a right attitude of justice, mercy, care for the poor, proper worship of God, to repent and seek forgiveness while offering it to others.

So it pains me greatly when I hear God’s people who are supposed to praise God with their mouth and not slander their neighbor talk about “those people.” “Those people” often come tied to some pretty nasty assumptions, and are usually poor or have little power to affect the kind of change they need. “Those people” are listed in Matthew 25 as appearances of Jesus. See, “those people” need a cup of water, need a decent meal, need clothing and security, need a safe place to sleep, need a visitor in their prison cell or their hospital bed. When we as God’s people begin to dehumanize and speak about “those people” with anger derision, refusing to help or speak out, or allow the powerful to continually take advantage of them, we may just be speaking the words, “But, Lord, when did we see you thirsty, or hungry, or naked, or in prison?” And our own reckless words will condemn us.

I beg you to come with me on a nuanced journey. Let’s work this out. If you get uncomfortable, you can stop at any time… but you’ll have to face this at some point.

You are made in God’s image.

Your most hated co-worker is made in God’s image.

Your in-law that drives you nuts is made in God’s image.

Prisoners are made in God’s image.

Death-row inmates are made in God’s image.

Your pastor is made in God’s image.

The pastor you disagree with is made in God’s image.

The President is made in God’s image.

Immigrants are made in God’s image.

Migrants are made in God’s image.

The Ayatollah is made in God’s image.

Kim Jong Un is made in God’s image.

Police officers are made in God’s image.

Black Lives Matter members are made in God’s image.

Every person you fear might shake up your comfortable life and status quo is made in God’s image.

Are you uncomfortable? Do you see what God’s image does? It places us in an uncomfortable place where we share the exact same foundation with every single other human being who has ever lived and who ever will live. We are all made in God’s image.

The Benedictine monks had a practice of bowing to guests to their monasteries. They bowed in reverence to the presence of Christ in their guest. They recognized that welcoming someone and showing hospitality was welcoming the presence of Jesus into their midst.

We seem rather quick to draw lines that Jesus didn’t draw. Jesus, who defined his primary ministry as to His people, the Jews, still served the Roman Official, the Syro-Phoenician woman, the Samaritan woman, and chastised his disciples when they threatened Samaria in their anger.

If we can look at another human being and see anything less than a human being, loved by the God who longs to show them mercy and love, maybe our eyes haven’t been made complete in Jesus’ image, yet. If we can hate and denigrate and name call and demean and ignore, maybe our hearts still need work until we’re made complete in Jesus. If we can look at the image of God and speak hate over it, aren’t we really speaking hate to the One who made them in the first place? Aren’t we throwing our voices in with the crowd shouting and mocking Him as He hung on the cross?

Who do you need to rethink? What groups have you denigrated? What kind of language do your kids hear when it comes to minorities, immigrants, or those that look or think differently than you? Do your children know anyone different than them?

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Keeping Off the Evil Eye, or Why I Haven’t Published a Blog in a While

Here I am!

I am still alive!

Not without some struggle and pain along the way. Short story to suffice, I’ve been struggling with some eye issues the past three weeks, which are now under control. Eye pain is one of those things that is hard to explain its severity if you have never experienced it firsthand. It truly is a thought-crushingly oppressive ache and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. After seeing five, yes five, doctors we finally have an answer(?) and things should start seeming normal again.

Something I have been challenged about through reading Scripture and a book called “Subversive Sabbath” by A.J. Swoboda is that Christianity has truly lost the concept of Sabbath. Swoboda points out that we hit hard 9 out of 10 Commandments, but tend to skip right over the idea of keeping a Sabbath holy. Notice, the Sabbath is holy to begin with, the issue is whether not we’re obedient enough to keep it that way.

Much like my oppressive eye pain, we’re all working under a system that requires us to put out much more than we get. Our American mindset scoffs at the idea of a day off, really. I’ve said it before, but I have heard so many people brag (including myself) about how many days we’ve worked at a stretch without a real rest. We’re bragging about living in Egypt, really. “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest,” says Jesus to the working men and women of his day. He welcomed them, and welcomes us, into a Sabbath rest of our own.

I know well the hectic schedule, the tyranny of the urgent. But even Jesus rested. We have clear indications in the Gospel accounts that Jesus took time to rest with friends – Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Jesus took time to head back to base, like when he returns to Capernaum. It’s really a kind of idolatry and arrogance to even consider that we could function longer, stronger, more determinedly than Jesus.

I could tell you why Sabbath is important all day, but if we are a people who can accept, “Be baptized,” and “Take, eat and remember me,” resting should be one of those things we do to signal to the world that we are different, that God’s order has come at last.

Some Sabbath suggestions:

Pick a day. As a minister, Sunday’s not really a choice for Sabbath. So my baby girl and I take ours on Thursday. We keep the TV off. We listen to stories and play. We go for a walk. It’s a day for me to turn off work world and simply be. Now, I’m not perfect and usually end up trying to do chores and what not, but each week I get a little better.

Say no. This is a dangerous one to say as a leader of volunteers. Say no if you need a Sabbath. Protect it as much as you can. People won’t understand at first if you say, “Hey, it’s my Sabbath and I have to say ‘no.'” They won’t understand until they try it themselves.

Invite your kids to Sabbath with you. Kids’ schedules are so busy. Parties, gymnastics, cheerleading, baseball, wrestling, you name it, your family probably has it on the schedule. What are you teaching your kids about good balance in life if your family never takes a day off? How do your kids begin to develop expectations of how life works if rest is never included?

Start small. Can’t turn off everything? Start with the TV, or the tablet, or maybe just your phone. Get outside for a few minutes. Whatever you decide, just start. Whatever intentional time you can devote to rest God will honor. Remember, Sabbath is holy because God made it, but it’s our choice to keep it or not.

No shame. Sabbath isn’t about guilt or shame. It’s about rest. Do what you can and let God transform your life.

The real question is: are you willing to trust God enough to let Him be God, or will you put yourself in His position and try to continue on pretending to be limitless? Which would you choose for your children?