Sunday, May 22, 2005

What Do We Have To Offer?

I remember as a child trying to ponder the question of why, if you needed to have Jesus in your heart to be good, other families seemed to look good on the outside. I concluded that they must just be putting up a facade - that really, when nobody was looking, perhaps the parents beat their children.

The question remains a bugger, though. I believe that Jesus-God incarnate-provides the only way to God. That mankind is fundamentally flawed, rebellious, evil. That we "all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God." And yet I wonder - some people look pretty good, pretty solid. How, then do I reconcile belief in the fundamental errors in people that are worthy of eternal damnation with a world that seems pretty okay?

Perhaps it is because the examples touted as evil in the world, while they are everyday people, are taken from their ordinariness by endless hype, and the rest of us are able to sit back and condemn those that do such things, those evil people, without pausing to reflect on the same evil within us.

Perhaps it is because church is often reduced to pragmatism - how to have a successful marriage, as I heard about last week. Because we lose sight of the eternal for the temporal, albeit with heavenly goals in mind - holiness, love, purity. But to set up laws to make it easier to attain holiness is a very dangerous path. For example - hearing as I did for so long that prnography is bad because it can spoil your (future) relationship with your wife now drives me in the opposite direction as it did before. In our eagerness to explain sexuality as a wonderful thing that needs to be expressed in the proper context, since I have given up hope of finding a wife I have trouble finding good reasons not to surf the Internet to find other ways of meeting my needs.

It is worthwhile to go back and see the standard, to be reminded of God's standards. To look at a woman with lust, to be angry with your brother, these are offenses that populate hell itself. Not just those who rape children, or those who engage in genocide. "I tell you the truth, if you look at a woman to lust for her, you have already committed adultery with her in your heart... therefore if your right eye offends you, pluck it out, for it is better to enter paradise maimed than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." Hyperbolic overstatement? Sure. But do not back down from realizing the truth coming through - that these small offenses are evil, offenses against a holy God with no room for error.

We are all broken. We are all weak. Every man, woman, and child alive imperfect and unworthy of God. This is what the church has to offer. We should not forget that everyone has fallen and no man among us can stand up alone. When you enter a church you should look around and see broken people, needy people, those who come to God for forgiveness. Anything more is a facade.

What I missed as a child was that the thing tha makes us difference is not substantively about the face we present to the world. Anyone can serve the poor, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless. In fact, we have the opposite. We have those who have seen the vilest evils in the world within their own hearts, who agree with God that we all stand condemned.

What we have to offer first is not our wholeness, but our lack. Not our composure but our brokenness. Not our piety but our vileness. That we come, filthy, broken, unworthy enemies of a holy God. And receive forgiveness. Anything else, everything else, must come from that point. "While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though perhaps for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more than that, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God's wrath. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his son, how much more, since we have been reconciled will we be saved by his life?"

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Sunday Afternoon Recovery

Once again, Sunday afternoon has come. I hate Sundays. Sunday morning is, week in and week out the hardest time of the week for me, and I require the afternoon to quell the storms of lonliness and frustration before I enter the relatively soothing work week.

Sunday mornings represent an ever-present reminder of the things I struggle with most, including feeling out of place, alone, and unwelcome. This Sunday, I had planned to bein Great America with some people from church ever since I was invited 3 weeks or so ago. "I'd love to come," I said. "Just let me know how much I owe you and when we need to meet." That was the last I heard on the topic. I had assumed that perhaps the trip had been called, off, but I was mistaken. I felt either forgotten or unwanted, possibly both.

The speaker today was our church's "district superintendent." He was evidently asked to speak about marriage, both at the Men's retreat this weekend and on Sunday morning. I skipped the Men's retreat. I love Tahoe, and would love to have some time to talk to other men in an environment where I don't feel like the only unmarried person there. But half of the time was devoted to... how to be a better husband and build a godly family, or something like that. No thank you - I'd rather not pay $70 to be reminded of how desperately lonely I am.

The sermon today was about how to have a happy marriage. To describe how I felt would require quite an array of inventive cursing, and this is a public forum, so I will not treat you to this. But before we got to the sermon, we got to sing a classic hymn: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty. GenerallyI like hymns, and I like this one, but not only can I not honestly sing "Hast thou not see how thy desires all have been granted..." Because, no. I have not. In fact, church sometimes seems to exist for the sole purpose of using my noticeably ungranted desires to kick me in the teeth. This is, of course, not true (I think), but suffice to say that I think that line is a piece of horseshit. In fact, in typing the lyrics for the powerpoint, I had to take a few minutes before I could compose myself enough to write out those words, and I was affected enough to sing not a word the whole day.

Come the sermon, I could not take any more, so I retreated to the lobby (foyer; narthax) to read a copy of The Wall Street Journal from my car. I noticed an older single lady leaving the service. "Not very applicable, is it?" "No," I said. Not at all. I did force myself to sit through it during the second hour, and it contained obligatory mentions of how this can be applied in other relationships, but I doubt anyone there really believed it. The only thing I came away from the sermon with was that people have needs, and spouses need to understand this in order to communicate well. Unfortunately, the needs I have must not count, because I have the same emotional needs, but I have no hope of them ever being met, so I have devestating despair on top of all the others.

Some singles are able to draw from such lessons tools for the marriages they think might still happen. Some do not want to be married, and so are not distracted by the overwhelming theme of the message to draw out useful points. I managed not to swear out loud during the sermon. I was proud that I managed that, becuase I was miserable, angry, hurt, frustrated and lonely. If he had preached a sermon about single people being an abomination in the sight of the Lord, I might have felt better, because at least then I would not be someone who slipped through the cracks. At least then I'm on the radar.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Online Photography Archive

Interested in photography? In need of stock images for creative use, free of charge without citation requirements? Visit the Morgue File, one of the more interesting sites I have come across. And while you're there, check for pictures by renowiggum, and let me know what you think.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Happiness is...

Sometimes we all need reminders of the little things.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Diet Sodas

I will get back to the Young Adult Ministry theme in a bit, but I've been tired, and even less capable than normal when it comes to holding a consistent thought. So, in the meantime, my favorite diet sodas in order:

Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper
A&W Root Beer
Vanilla Pepsi

I have noticed that vanilla flavors tend to help with the diet aftertaste. The Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper was released as a diet soda, and becaome a "regular" flavor when it caught on almost overnight.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


Borrowing from Phillip Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace? "Grace can be dissected, like a frog, but the thing dies in the process." He asks if we who have a good theology of grace risk becoming graceless?