"when you love something, you give it away."
But that humility came under attack in the ensuing decades. Self-effacement became identified with conformity and self-repression. A different ethos came to the fore, which the sociologists call “expressive individualism.” Instead of being humble before God and history, moral salvation could be found through intimate contact with oneself and by exposing the beauty, the power and the divinity within.
Everything that starts out as a cultural revolution ends up as capitalist routine. Before long, self-exposure and self-love became ways to win shares in the competition for attention. Muhammad Ali would tell all cameras that he was the greatest of all time. Norman Mailer wrote a book called “Advertisements for Myself.”
Brooks ends the article with a line that caught my attention and continues to scream out to me:
It’s funny how the nation’s mood was at its most humble when its actual achievements were at their most extraordinary.what about us? as followers of Christ, are we humble? are we willing to celebrate adversity and an opportunity to grow? are we pursuing Christ's vision and Christ's Kingdom goals, or are we after wealth, fame, and self-grandeur?
i ask these questions as a fellow traveler. i ask these questions as a 21st Century American Christian struggling to find the answers and make some sense of it all...
join me on the journey!
The market for prescription drugs and medical devices to manage Type 2 diabetes, which the Centers for Disease Control estimates will afflict one in three Americans born after 2000, is one of the brighter spots in the American economy. As things stand, the health care industry finds it more profitable to treat chronic diseases than to prevent them. There’s more money in amputating the limbs of diabetics than in counseling them on diet and exercise.
To Father Kabat, the nuclear issue — and his protests — remain essential. The building of weapons continues to drain money that could be used to fight poverty and hunger, he says, adding, as if caught in a time warp, “There’s still a real threat these things could go to the U.S.S.R.”
“A lot of the expansion we experienced as an industry was people choosing to store,” Litton told me. A Self Storage Association study showed that, by 2007, the once-quintessential client — the family in the middle of a move, using storage to solve a short-term, logistical problem — had lost its majority. Fifty percent of renters were now simply storing what wouldn’t fit in their homes — even though the size of the average American house had almost doubled in the previous 50 years, to 2,300 square feet.
Consider our national furniture habit. In an unpublished paper, Schor writes that “anecdotal evidence suggests an ‘Ikea effect.’ ” We’ve spent more on furniture even as prices have dropped, thereby amassing more of it. The amount entering the United States from overseas doubled between 1998 and 2005, reaching some 650 million pieces a year. Comparing Schor’s data with E.P.A. data on municipal solid waste shows that the rate at which we threw out old furniture rose about one-thirteenth as fast during roughly the same period. In other words, most of that new stuff — and any older furniture it displaced — is presumably still knocking around somewhere. In fact, some seven million American households now have at least one piece of furniture in their storage units. Furniture is the most commonly stored thing in America.
The marketing consultant Derek Naylor told me that people stockpile furniture while saving for bigger or second homes but then, in some cases, “they don’t want to clutter up their new home with all the things they have in storage.” So they buy new, nicer things and keep paying to store the old ones anyway. Clem Tang, a spokesman for Public Storage, explains: “You say, ‘I paid $1,000 for this table a couple of years ago. I’m not getting rid of it, or selling it for 10 bucks at a garage sale. That’s like throwing away $1,000.’ ” It’s not a surprising response in a society replacing things at such an accelerated rate — this inability to see our last table as suddenly worthless, even though we’ve just been out shopping for a new one as though it were.
“My parents were Depression babies,” Litton told me, “and what they taught me was, it’s the accumulation of things that defines you as an American, and to throw anything away was being wasteful.” The self-storage industry reconciles these opposing values: paying for storage is, paradoxically, thrifty. “That propensity toward consumption is what fueled the world’s economy,” Litton said.
do you have a storage unit? why? are you defined by your stuff and how much you have?
do you have Ikea stuff [i do!]?
That being said some of our arguments make no sense for us as Christians. For instance, (1) We need to look for other means or look to other institutions to provide health care reform or assistance for those who need it. Why are we discussing this only now that the government is seeking to solve the problem? The bottom line is that most Christians don't want the government telling them they need to be righteous - forcing them to be righteous. I figure, if you ain't already righteous, someone's gotta help you. And if you already is, shouldn't be a problem for you to be giving the money to those who need it (if you got it). Catholic social teaching couples subsidiarity with solidarity. And a good central government's subsidiary function is to step in and assist when other institutions or local governments are insufficient. And the American health care system is insufficient.
(2) Some people do not deserve care because of bad personal choices. This line of thinking turns away from the essence of God's mercy. Compassion is not merely for the innocent - indeed, mercy and compassion are divine when they are directed toward those who don't deserve it. This Theology of Desert is typical in conservative circles, but it's the theology of the unmerciful servant and not of Christ. Showing mercy and compassion ought not to hinge on the good decision-making history of the recipients. The man shown mercy by the King (in Christ's parable of the unmerciful servant) was in debt because of his choices. We are debtors because of our choices and are continually shown mercy, but we cannot show mercy to an overweight person who continues to overeat? Or a smoker who is slowly, consciously killing himself? This is disheartening. So what if the system is abused by some. Isn't it better to be used than to be unmerciful?
(3) People from all over the world come to America for top-notch health care. This only tells us that we have top-notch health care for those who can afford it.
As to the secondary question about raising taxes or not to pay for it. This is the crux of the argument for many of us, I suppose. Not, What is the right thing for me to do? But, What is it going to cost me? I am not suggesting that money and taxation are unimportant. But it shouldn't be a counter-argument to the provision of health care for those who need it, especially when we can "afford" unjust wars and trillion dollar bail-outs.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? IS HEALTH CARE A RIGHT, OR A PRIVILEGE?
"'God and guns were part of the foundation of this country,' Mr. Pagano, 49, said Wednesday in the small brick Assembly of God church, where a large wooden cross hung over the altar and two American flags jutted from side walls."he continued, “I don’t see any contradiction in this. Not every Christian denomination is pacifist.”
“When someone from within the church tells me that being a Christian and having firearms are contradictions, that they’re incompatible with the Gospel — baloney,” he said. “As soon as you start saying that it’s not something that Christians do, well, guns are just the foil. The issue now is the Gospel. So in a sense, it does become a crusade. Now the Gospel is at stake.”
Peace and Power
I looked at the text today and two words stuck out: Peace and power. If you like points to follow get ready because I only have one: the Peace of Christ is Power. The Peace of Christ is Power for those who believe. In reflecting on these words, my first thought was that they are opposites. So I created a research team out of my high school Sunday school class to see if my observation was correct. We formed two groups to write all adjectives, images, people, etc. they associated with their group’s word. Here’s a sample of some of their findings.
You can see there are exact opposites represented in these lists. What I found is that for some reason in our culture we associate peace with weakness. It’s unfortunate, but we need to be aware that when we talk about turning the other cheek, admitting our weaknesses, confessing our sins, we might be perceived as weak. Some people consider faith a crutch. Some say faith itself is for weak-minded people. Turning the other cheek, admitting your faults, that’s weak.
Let’s look at how peace is used in our text. Jesus’ followers are in a room; it’s possible they are hiding; it’s probable that they are scared, depressed, angry, confused. The Messiah, or at least he One they hoped was the Messiah, the one who they left everything to follow, has just been killed. The ride is over and it was too short. The excitement; the anticipation; the thrill of it all is done.
But some say he is alive. Some say they’ve seen him! The tomb is empty. Then news comes that others have seen Jesus. Peter has seen him. The two on the road to Emmaus have seen him. Could it be? Is Jesus really risen? As they are discussing these things Jesus appears. “Peace be with you.” What! Is that all you have to say for yourself? “Peace.” I’ve always pictured Jesus saying something more like, “Yeah, that’s right! Who defeated death? Take that!” Then the party would start, right? Instead, he says, “Peace be with you.” And instead of a party breaking out, the text says that the whole group thought they saw a ghost and became terrified. Even though Jesus told them he was going to do this, they never really expected a real bodily resurrection – a flesh and blood resurrection. This is a new thing! When God raised Christ from the dead, the whole game has changed. The resurrection is peace and power. Ephesians 2:14 says, “He himself is our peace, who has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” With the resurrection, God’s power breaks into the world, busts in and a new day begins. Now there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ Jesus. Jesus’ sacrifice, his willingness to suffer and complete the task for us and for the salvation of the world, brings peace. But that peace is power.
What can we say about Jesus’ offer of peace? Why is his peace powerful? Look at Jesus’ next move. He allows them to touch his wounds. Jesus offers a peace that is tangible. “Here, touch my hands and my feet. Go ahead, see that I’m real. The peace I give you is real.” The peace of Christ isn’t fluffy clouds; it isn’t a feeling or emotion; it is for real. The early church practiced the passing of the peace. In his letters, Paul instructed people to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” To kiss someone you need to be right with that person. You don’t kiss your enemies. Today we more often give holy handshakes or something like that, but do you seek to make peace?
I recently read a reflection on this text that suggested when we offer the peace of Christ we imitate Jesus. Jesus offers his peace, recognizes the situation of doubt, fear, and disbelief, and immediately allows them to touch him and see that he was broken for them. He doesn’t cover up his wounds. He allows them to see that he is real, and he is present. What if we did the same? What if, in passing the peace, we showed people that we are present for them? What if we were willing to show our wounds to one another and accept the peace of Christ that has the ability to heal our wounds? Financial troubles, family troubles, sin, brokenness, self-doubt, emotional distress, disease, addictions. Christ offers us a peace that is real – a peace that overcomes the world – a peace that overcomes our sin and broken relationships – Christ’s peace is power because Christ’s peace heals. Christ’s peace restores our relationship with God and our relationships with one another. Christ’s peace is tangible, real, and it is power. The peace of Christ – Christ’s presence; his sacrifice; the showing of his wounds – helps the disciples move out of their despair. He moves them and gives them a new task. Sometimes that’s what we need when we’re in a tough place. What else, but Christ’s peace, can help us move beyond the pain and troubles of our world? When loved one’s die; when people we love make bad choices; when finances get crazy; when nothing makes sense, when injustice goes unchallenged, allow the peace of Christ to wash over you because the peace of Christ is power for those who believe. How does peace move to power? What is the new task?
How many of you want a faith that is more than a feeling; a faith that moves and transforms lives; a faith like dynamite? The Greek word for power is “dunamis.” Sound familiar? Dynamite. When Jesus says, “Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high,” I get excited. Jesus says, “You are my witnesses. Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power.” The new task is to be Christ’s witnesses to the world; to be witnesses that proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in the power of the Holy Spirit. The image of the Holy Spirit coming on these people, clothing them in power is unbelievable. The peace of Christ is power. And we know that they believed it and it happened. So when the Holy Spirit came and clothed them with power, the disciples couldn’t stop talking about Jesus. They aren’t content with a faith that only looks to the life to come - to a heavenly home - they want to change the world now. According to Acts 2, the immediate result of this power in action was that there were people being saved daily.
Then in Acts 3, Peter and John are walking into the temple and they see a crippled man begging at the gate. This guy had been this way since birth. Peter looks intently at the guy and says, “Look at us.” Now that he has his attention, he says, “I don’t have money, but I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ get up and walk.” Bam! The man is healed. That’s power. Of course the Pharisees don’t like this display, so they haul Peter and John in. Look at what they ask them in Acts 4:7, “By what POWER or what name did you do this?” They recognize that there is a power at work here, but where did it come from?
Have you ever been asked that question? “By what power or what name did you do this?” I’ll be honest, I haven’t been asked that question. I don’t generally do things that elicit that question being asked. “Why not?,” I asked myself. Do you believe the same power available to Peter is available to you and me? I believe that God is still at work and still active today. Do you rely on, and call on, the power of God living in you?
I was reading Ephesians and I came across some verses in chapter one, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Now listen as he describes this incomparable power available. He says, “That power is the same as the mighty strength which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…” The power that raised Christ from the dead is available to us. We are clothed with the incomparable power of God. We wear the power of God!
I came across another that spoke of God’s power that shook me. Go with me to 2 Timothy 3:1-5…Read. Listen to that phrase in verse 5 again, “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” Is that not a message for us today? If I allow myself to be honest, that’s how I feel most of the time. I became really good at this from an early age. Allow me to explain. In 8th grade, I was taught and told that being a Christian wasn’t cool; rather, swearing was cool and talking about what you did with girls or at parties was cool. I learned that and quickly adapted to my environment, and I still fall into this trap at times. I still find myself trying to be someone I’m not at the baseball or football field. I have to remind myself that I need to live differently, set a different example, behave as Christ would. But sometimes it’s easier to blend in so we can “earn the trust” of others. Sometimes I would rather blend in. Putting yourself out there and talking openly about Jesus makes some uncomfortable. But we need to get uncomfortable.
That seemed to be the theme of the men’s retreat this year. We are too comfortable in our faith. In the 1800s, Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, “To proclaim Christianity is to make sacrifices, to be willing to suffer. If there is such a one or if there are several such, then Christianity will once again begin to become power.” But what does suffering and sacrifice look like for us? The obvious is money, but what about our time? What about safety? We have built our lives around being safe and secure. We avoid pain and suffering at all costs. I was reading an article recently where the author questioned the prayer life of the church. He says that Jesus specifically calls us to pray for enemies in his name, but “I’ve never heard a really good intercession for Osama bin Laden.” Martin Luther King, Jr. knew the power of God. He relied on the power of the peace of Christ to confront and topple an unjust system of racial oppression. And for his efforts, he came to know sacrifice and suffering as well. But what about us? What about you and me? What might happen? What would we be called to sacrifice? How might we be called to suffer? To be completely honest, I’m a little scared to think about those questions, but I’m convinced that to see the power of God at work - to see the power the disciples called on in Acts – Christians must be willing to make sacrifices and be willing to suffer. We must be willing to admit we need the power of God; we need God to be in control; we cannot do it on our own. Our own power is temporary, fleeting, and will fail us.
Go back with me to our friend Kierkegaard for a minute. Before we get too excited, and I hope you’re excited, he warns us of a trick the world likes to play. He knew that a life of suffering and sacrifice isn’t an easy calling. He warned that the world gets freaked out when the church gets powerful. He writes, “The world has also taken care to protect itself so that Christianity does not through proclamation become a power, a power with the right to engage a person’s life, and therefore, this world requires the trustworthy guarantee that the proclaimer’s life turns the proclamation into shadowboxing. The world wants to be deceived…” Isn’t that true? “The world has taken care to protect itself so that Christianity does not become a power, a power with the right to engage a person’s life.” This is where I sometimes buy into the world’s trick. I buy the lie that I don’t have the right to engage a person’s life. I fear many of us have. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to sacrifice anything and I know I don’t want to suffer. Besides, tolerance is easier to sell than Truth. My faith is turned into shadowboxing. That’s a fascinating metaphor he uses. There is no opponent. We have eliminated the opponents not by bringing them into the kingdom, but by ignoring them.
For me, I convince myself that I’m just a coach. I’m just supposed to do my job and make these kids better athletes. In the end, I have a form of godliness – I know the right things to say and do – but often I deny the power of God living in me. I rely on my own strength. I have too much pride. I’m selfish. I might ruin a relationship. The conversation might get awkward. I don’t have the time, the energy, the right words. If God wants this person to know him, he can make it happen. Yes, I have godly desires, but I deny the power. But I am called to be more than a baseball coach. We are called to be witnesses to truth. We are called to preach the gospel of peace with power. Jesus gives us the task of being his witnesses, of imitating him. We are called to live in and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. In order for God’s power to become transformative in our world, we need to sacrifice and be willing to suffer. You see, the world doesn’t care about our faith as long as we don’t live like it matters. They would rather be deceived.
What about you? What would it take for you to see the power of God at work in the world? One thing I’ve tried to do is pray, pray, and pray some more. Ask God to reveal his power in and through me. Another thing is to trust that God is putting people in my path for a reason. We all have a sphere of influence. We all have a “world” we can change. What impact are you making on your “world”? Are you trusting in God’s power? Do you believe God will answer when you call on Him? We claim allegiance to a Lord who plays by different rules. Our Lord is willing to lay down his life. Our Lord speaks truth because he is The Truth. Our Lord touches the untouchables and sits down for dinner with sinners. Our Lord searches and seeks that which is lost. Our Lord is the Great Physician, the Prince of Peace, the Provider, the Author of Life, and the Creator. Our Lord is powerful. He is seated at the right hand of the Father, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that can be invoked. God placed all things under his feet, and we have the awesome privilege of calling on that name. Let’s do it more often and see what happens!
We are witnesses. We are called to proclaim the good news of forgiveness of sins and reconciliation between God and humanity. We are called to shout to the ends of the earth that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. We are called to be Christ’s ambassadors, representatives of Christ to a world in great need of the powerful peace of Christ. May you be clothed with the power of Christ. May you come to know and experience the peace of Christ as it reigns in you. May the Holy Spirit empower you to transform your world through Christ’s message of peace and forgiveness. Amen.
"God did not give the Bible so we could master him or it; God gave the Bible so we could live it, so we could be mastered by it. The moment we think we've mastered it; we have failed to be readersof the Bible..."
amen! are we honest in how we approach the Bible and what baggage we bring? are we honest about our "picking and choosing"?
how can we develp a consistent hermeneutic? do we read to master the text or be mastered by God's Word?
next post. same book. everlasting man, G.K. Chesterton...
reading, the everlasting man, by G.K. Chesterton. the book is, some believe, a direct response to H.G. Wells', outline of history. Chesterton's writing and polemic is almost hilarious! it's refreshing. he says things that make you go, "yeah, i guess he's right!" he makes you think, and anymore, that's a really great thing. we need to think!