All the easy problems have pretty much been solved. What’s left is complexity that requires more than a narrow lens. I pity the politicians who are asked to resolve complex issues in a 90-second time frame during a debate. The list is long: hunger, infectious disease, refugees, undocumented immigrants, climate change, transnational crime, human trafficking, gender identification, religious freedom, terrorism, widening income disparity, Wall Street, lobbying, purchasing the presidency.
I am fascinated by something going on in Mason, Ohio. The Arington family and Prasco Laboratories is in the early stages of printing medicine. Their son, Ryan, is our shortstop at Trevecca. I went to a speech class recently and heard his presentation on 3D printed medicine. It’s cliché to say this is the neatest thing since sliced bread, but it really is.
Listening to Phil Arington talk about the process and potential outcomes, I found myself seeing higher education, cutting-edge technology, and Christian faith merging. Let me explain.
Some pastors bring me great joy. Erik Gernand is one of them.
He may be the smartest man I know (because he married my daughter), but he is also my pastor.
Today’s guest blog post is longer than usual but well worth the read. It is a parable.
A few Sundays ago, I shared a parable with our church as the message. To begin, I explained that I had been thinking a lot lately about culture, community, and the state of the church in America, which had led me to a particular passage of Scripture.
“After I read the Scripture, I’d like to share a parable with you,” I said. “Then, we’ll receive communion.”
I read Galatians 6:1-5,9-10 aloud from The Message:
Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.
Then, I began the parable.
Before heading to Palm Sunday service this past Sunday, I was listening to George Stephanopoulos interview the Governor of Indiana on “This Week” on ABC. Their discussion was centered on the heated reaction to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A pin-the-tail-on-the-governor game was underway. The goal of the game was to affix to the State of Indiana the culturally detestable label “DISCRIMINATION.” Of all the sins out there, this seems to be the unpardonable one.
So let’s look it up in the online dictionary.
In my last post, I began looking at the role of women in the church. I closed that post by introducing Paul’s writings that have bothered Christians when it comes to women in the church. Let’s look more closely now at these troublesome texts.
Christianity in Corinth
The issue in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 (which speaks of women wearing veils and having long hair) is not male control of women but how a woman’s hair or uncovered head affected the understanding of Christianity in Corinth. Apparently, some of the women were bucking culture and letting their hair hang loose, just like the pagan priestesses who went into a prophetic frenzy at the local pagan temple. And they were also shaving their heads, reminiscent of the hairstyle of the city prostitutes. Whether pagan or prostitute, the hairstyles of these women sent a damaging signal to the people of Corinth about the nature of Christianity.
Is it a man’s world? If you surveyed the leadership level of this country’s institutions—school boards, colleges, political parties, businesses, banks, executive boards, churches—men would dominate. Does this say something about male superiority or about culture or about God’s created order or about the curse of sin?
Women’s issues in America have a long history—education, the right to vote, equal pay, protection under the law from domestic violence, double standards in sexual behavior, economic exploitation, Title IX sports issues, political office, glass ceilings in corporate businesses, sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, priesthood, ministry, and military. Lots of issues. And if you travel to other places in the world, the list gets longer: the right to go out in public, to show her face, to speak to a man, to learn to read, sterilization, the murder of female babies, rape, slavery, and forced prostitution. The way of women in this world has not been easy.
On this day, we remember the great leader Martin Luther King, Jr. I share one of his most famous quotations along with the Scripture passage upon which it is based:
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. —Martin Luther King, Jr.
A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
—Isaiah 40:3-5 (NRSV)
I have to admit, this one has troubled me deeply. I feel a little schizophrenic:
Part of me says, What kind of parent sends a child across a guarded border into the arms of law enforcement and strangers? And the other part of me says, A parent who is poor, living under threat, and hopeless.
Part of me says, Should not a government the size of Mexico be responsible for its children? And the other part of me says, With all that is wrong with American government, isn’t it amazing that people assume we will be compassionate to children?
Part of me says, Why would we be so compassionate, merciful, and helpful to these children who are a burden to our society? And the other part of me says, Isn’t it interesting that we take no concern for burdensome children in the womb?
Part of me says, Why do we need $52,000 per child to care for them? And the other part of me says, I bet there are plenty childless couples who would open their lives to adopt these children.
Part of me says, I wish we would cancel the purchase of a few bombers to pay for this, rather than adding to the deficit. And the other part of me says, That’s a very good idea.
Part of me says, Politics aside, these are children. And the other part of me says, Jesus would care for the children first, then challenge adults to be, well, adults.
Clay doesn’t protest to the potter. A flower vase doesn’t instruct its maker to give it some handles or to widen the mouth or to paint it teal. Nor does an unborn child tell its parents to make it tall, blond, and handsome. The Maker has both power and freedom to do as he or she pleases.
It is interesting that Isaiah 40-55 is thick and rich with creation accounts. Our most profound texts about God as Maker and Creator are found, not in Genesis 1-2, but here, in an address to God’s people who are living in Exile.
Could it be that the Exiles are being bombarded by a competing story of creation, The Gilgamesh Epic? This ancient narrative credits the Babylonian gods, Tiamat and Bel-Marduk, with the creation of the heavens and earth. These gods, made by hands and enshrined in the Babylonian temples, are hoisted on shoulders and paraded up and down the royal highway. The people gather to celebrate them as the creators of the universe. This narrative of creation is believed by the Babylonians and is now being overheard by the captives in Exile.
I suppose Hallmark has a card for this one. I am convinced that all the holidays on our calendars are the hard work of greeting card companies. April 7 happens to be marked as World Health Day (which actually is the day the World Health Organization was founded in 1948).