"For now we see as if through a flawed pane of glass..." (I Corinthians 13:12)

Friday, July 21, 2017



Earlier this month, Jo Lynn and I were blessed and inspired by our brief time at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). We were in Indianapolis, in the gigantic convention center, which also was hosting a PopCon event. Hundreds of youth and young adults milled about the convention center, dressed as their favorite comic book or movie character. The contrast between the two events was notable. 
The Assembly theme was “One”, based upon Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-21, that his disciples might be one, as he and the Father are one. It opened on Saturday night with a worship service that removed any stereotype of Disciples as totally cerebral. The pageantry and spectacle was not typical of Disciple congregational worship; although it was typical of General Assembly worship, when thousands of people, representing widely diverse Christian cultures and ethnicities and styles blend into a unity of expression. There was a Praise Band, a chamber orchestra, a large choir, liturgical dance and, of course, preaching and communion. We sang praise songs, spirituals and traditional hymns. It was emotional, uplifting and energizing.

The speaker for the evening, Rev. Jose Morales, Jr, preached from the Assembly text. Morales spoke of “safe unity”, which is really uniformity, and is no unity at all. The worst kind of unity is divisiveness masquerading as unity.
Then he noted that the text was sandwiched between the story of Jesus’ washing his disciples’ feet, and the crucifixion. True unity, he said, is dangerous unity—radical unity. True unity is bracketed between humility (washing his disciples’ feet) and sacrifice (the crucifixion).
Sunday morning, we worshiped at Central Christian Church in Indianapolis. From the spontaneous group singing of choruses and camp songs as the people gathered (around 600 by my estimation) to the communion service that climaxed the experience, it will long be remembered. I sang in the choir, which added to my inspiration.
Dr. William Barber (photo by Jo Lynn Robinson)
The preacher for the morning was Dr. William Barber, Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Dr. Barber has gained national attention in recent months, and is being compared by some to Martin Luther King, Jr.
He preached from Daniel—the story of the three Hebrew men who would not bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden idle. The sermon title was, “When Bowing Down is Not an Option.” He built his message around the phrase, “Stand your ground; because bowing down is not an option.”
At first, I was troubled by his affirmation of the phrase, “stand your ground,” especially considering recent violence and controversy surrounding so-called “stand your ground” laws. But it soon became clear that Dr., Barber’s application had nothing to do with defending oneself or using violence in any way. His application of the phrase had to do with morality and faith.
He built momentum through a litany of examples in which people of faith have stood their ground when bowing down was not an option. They stood their ground in face of injustice and abuses of power, and he grounded his examples in Gospel stories in which Jesus made similar stances.
His powerful ending was almost a chant—another litany filled with images of God’s victory over evil: “When the wolf lies down with the lamb, then we will bow down; when the lion eats straw with the ox, then we will bow down; etc. But until then… until then… until then… we will stand our ground, because bowing down is not an option!”
In those all-too-brief moments, I caught a glimpse of the Kingdom.
That’s the way it looks through the Flawed Glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,

Jim

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Two Pleasant Surprises


I had two pleasant surprises this morning. First, when I stepped outside for my morning walk/jog, it was raining. I checked the radar app on my phone, and the band of showers was very large; so, there would be no walk/jog this morning!

Now, I’m well aware of the benefits that accrue from my morning ritual. It’s generally good for my cardio/vascular health, physical stamina and flexibility. And at my age, all of those benefits are crucial.

The benefits especially will be appreciated in about two-and-a-half weeks, when I hoist a 35-pound backpack and start up Windsor Trail toward the peak of Santa Fe Baldy in New Mexico’s Pecos Wilderness. It will be my first backpacking trip since 1987; but, I hope it won’t be my last. I’ve missed those adventures.  

Even with walking, jogging and lots of regular stretching, I deal with daily aches and soreness resulting from the yard work I enjoy. I can only imagine what my aging body would feel like if I weren’t doing some kind of regular conditioning routine.

Still, benefits notwithstanding, the walking/jogging is an effort I’d just as soon forego; so, the rain was a welcome surprise this morning.

I picked up the newspaper and stepped back inside. After shedding my hiking boots, I settled into my recliner with my newspaper. On the front page was not a single story about a shooting, murder, rape, robbery… not even an arrest for dui! I haven’t kept records; however, that may be a first. Usually there are three or more stories about such acts of violence.

I think of our community, Conway Arkansas, as a safe place to live, and I guess it is, all things being considered. It’s a university and college town with three significant institutions of higher learning. Some major industries bolster the tax base, which the progressive city government puts to good use. The old downtown area is well known in the area for its well-maintained early twentieth century charm. Even with new upscale shopping centers going up, there are very few vacant buildings downtown.

All-in-all, it’s a good place to live. But violence sells newspapers, I’m told; so, the front page of the local newspaper usually is loaded with what sells.

Today, the lead headline was about a gourmet popcorn shop going into the newest shopping center in town. I guess that’s important to somebody. There also was a story about a project to clean up and spruce up a street connecting downtown to one of the college campuses. The artist’s rendering looks really nice. The “more pedestrian friendly environment” will have wide sidewalks and bike lanes, with “portions of the project (being) designed for the arts.”

A local collision repair service is offering free child passenger safety seat checkups, and the University of Central Arkansas Archives is home to 360 unique collections.

A nice alternative to the usual litany of violence.

That’s the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,

Jim