Friday, September 28, 2012

Why the Trinity matters...

I have been working on a discussion topic for a group of young adults this week. The topic that was chosen by the group is on understanding the Trinity. Great. A nice easy one to explain (can you sense sarcasm in a blog?).  So after figuring out why I should never explain the Trinity using the classic water-ice-vapour analogy again, I found myself drawn towards what God's three-in-oneness teaches us about love. 

As Christians, we believe that 'God is love', meaning that he is the definition and source of love. We also believe that God is eternal and is unchanging in his nature. On this philosophical level, C.S. Lewis points out that the Trinity is necessary, for without it  God cannot be love. "All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that "God is love." But they seem not to notice the words 'God is love' have no real meaning unless God contains at least two persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God were a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love." (C.S. Lewis, Beyond Personality, 1948). So our Christian understanding of who God is and that he is the very source of love in the world, must include that God is three-in-one. 

On another level, the Trinity tells us something about God's relationship with us. Because God is three-in-one, God is not lonely and in need of creation, us, for his fulfilment. God is fulfilled in himself. In other words, God does not need us. Rather God chooses to create, love and redeem us because he wants to. This ought to speak powerfully to our hearts, knowing that God's love is genuine and not under any compulsion by unmet desires. 

Lastly, I was struck by how the Trinity can help us understand that we were made to be in meaningful relationships with other people. Again I will point you to a quote that I believe captures this thought rather well. "...the Bible tells us we were built for coventantial relationships. We want and need to have other persons unconditionally, unselfishly committed to us, and we to them. Christian theology tells us we were made in the image of God, and that God is a Trinity. Jesus said he never did anything, said anything, or accomplished anything without his Father. The persons of the Trinity are absolutely one - each person does everything with the others. We are meant to live like that." (Tim Keller, Indeed in our yearning to be deeply connected to other people, we are echoing the nature of the Creator who created us to be like him.

All this to say that this week has helped me to see that the understanding the Trinity can help me understand much more that my doctrinal statement, but can help me nuance my understanding of God, my relationship with him and with others. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Getting called out...

My personal reading these days is Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship. This is my first time reading this classic and is really challenging me in a number of ways. This morning as I sat in my favorite coffee shop I read the words below and was moved to posted them on Facebook.

‎"Since the ascension, Christ's place on earth has been taken by his Body, the Church. The Church is the real presence of Christ. Once we have realized this truth we are well on the way to recovering an aspect of the Church's being which has been sadly neglected in the past. We should think of the Church not as an institution but as a person, though a person in a unique sense."

I am used to getting a  token amount of "likes" when I post stuff like this. But this time I got called my mother. She wrote, "OK pastor son, now speak to your people about specific ways to do this. Seldom is this fleshed out when we talk about it." 

Indeed one of the things that I appreciate about my mother is that while she has the ability to think deeply, what is important to her is that thoughts don't stay so deep that they don't ever result in action. Theology cannot stay on the mountain, it must be worked out by the people - a quote like this needs to be unpacked and reflected on if it is to truly be profound and life-changing. 

What you will find below are just a few thoughts that I have about what this quote might look like in real life. I know that my thoughts are not exhaustive in anyway, and will be limited to only a few ideas, so I invite you as the reader to add your own by leaving a comment. Let's think this through together! 

  • Recognizing that the Church is "the real presence of Christ" should wake us up to the reality that we are Christ to our whomever we have relationships with. This should move us to reject the temptation to withdraw from our society, but instead become more involved with it. And...we may need to do some reconciliation work for any sins we have committed in the past. 
  • We should be looking for opportunities to embody the love of Christ in tangible ways and looking for opportunities to invite them to know Christ for themselves. We will look to the example of Christ and realize that this is not something you can do from a distance, but will be personal, and sometimes messy. Jesus' ministry wasn't neat and tidy and neither should ours. 
  • When we realize that the Church is not an institution, we will stop thinking in terms of who is in and who is out as if we were a club.  Rather we will think in terms in terms of relationships and desire that we be helping people move closer to Christ.
  • We will realize that there is way more to the Church than meeting on a Sunday. Being a part of the Church, the Body of Christ, is a way of life that requires all of who we are. 

Late Night Reflections...

It is late. I am tired...but a little wired at the same time. This could be due to the rather large "medium" coffee I drank earlier this evening or the copious amount of sweets that I ate at our young adult gathering sometime after the coffee. Either way, I am awake when ordinarily I should be sleeping. 

But this "awake" time is allowing me to rehash some of what has happened over the past week. Indeed as I sit here I am acutely aware of the fact that I have seen God at work this week in some cool ways, and even cooler, I feel as though I have been allowed to participate in some of what God is doing in some real ways. That being said, I am not sure that this forum is the venue that I want to go into detail sharing what is all going on - let's face it, these are stories best shared over a cup of coffee. 

So what am I saying? I guess I am saying that these moments have me excited and are propelling me with a new energy to move forward. I want to continue to see God's hand at work...and I desire to participate in what he is doing. I am also wanting to encourage my readers (whoever you are) to be looking out for the ways that you see God at work wherever you are. May these be stories that inspire you to draw closer to Jesus and energized you to be involved in his mission. 

Good night!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cracked Pots and Flourishing Flowers

My wife and I try to make a habit of going for walks. During our walk last night she enthusiastically shared with me a story that she had heard on a podcast during her commute. As she shared we both found ourselves reflecting on the profoundness of this short story. It is simple, and yet very deep.

Back in the days when pots and pans could talk, which indeed they still do, there lived a man. And in order to have water, every day he had to walk down the hill and fill two pots and walk them home. One day, it was discovered one of the pots had a crack, and as time went on, the crack widened. Finally, the pot turned to the man and said, "You know, every day you take me to the river, and by the time you get home, half of the water's leaked out. Please replace me with a better pot." And the man said, "You don't understand. As you spill, you water the wild flowers by the side of the path." And sure enough, on the side of the path where the cracked pot was carried, beautiful flowers grew, while other side was barren. "I think I'll keep you," said the man.
~ By Kevin Kling (accessed on September 14, 2012 from On Being with Krista Tippett

For me this story has illustrated a recent reality that I have found myself living - that my brokenness can be used to bring life to others. Indeed, as I share myself, being honest about fear, hurt and my questions, I find myself with opportunities to be with people in similar situations and to also share with them my experience of God in these times. In fact I wonder...well maybe I know... that if I had it all together (or pretended to be flawless), that some of these opportunities for life to spring up may not happen. 

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Speaking from Experience...

It has been a while since I last wrote on here, so I am going to ease back into things with this reflection from my quiet-time this morning...

I was reading the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed man (see Luke 8:26-39) and was struck by the last few verses. Jesus has just totally changed this man's life and it seems logical to me that the man would want to go with Jesus...I would! But instead of taking the man with him, Jesus instructs the man to go home and "tell how much God has done for you." 

As I have been thinking about this I am impressed by the reality that the healing of this man was not just for this man. Sure Jesus has great compassion on this oppressed and afflicted individual, but I can't help but think that this miracle is also for the sake of the others who are in the area. Jesus intentionally leaves this man behind to be a lasting reminder that the old ways of spiritual oppression were being dismantled, that God is doing something new. Just by his presence in town, this man was to be a testimony to the power and compassion of Christ. In addition, this man was charged with the task to speak about what God had done for him. To simply share what has happened and who is responsible for his radical transformation.

I can't help but think that this story has a lot in it for those of us who call ourselves Christians today. Sometimes after big God-experiences we are tempted to pull ourselves out of our culture, we can hide in Christian bubbles, we can disengage from relationships, we can function in our society just enough to get by but really have no vested interest in it. But I think that this story points out that pulling away is not necessarily why we have been "saved". Indeed what God has done in our lives should be there for others to see too. We need to be present and active. We need to find ways to live out our faith in vibrant, and culturally appropriate, ways that point people to Jesus. Not only this, but I believe we too are charged to be able to speak to the very real difference that God has made in our lives. Remember, this man is not asked to spout knowledge about God, he is not asked to learn a specific evangelistic methodology, he is asked to share from his experience of God. 

So today I am pondering what this all means in practical terms. How can I best live out, and testify to, my experience with Jesus that help others see him in real ways too. Thoughts?