Friday, October 27, 2017

Bearing Burdens. Sharing Burdens

During our recent Burden Bearing adult institute class it was noted that fixing a problem is not always possible. Sometimes the best that we can do is sit with our friends in the middle of their challenge. As we sit, we identify with them in the difficulties of the moment, and to use scriptural language “weep with those who weep” (Rm. 12:15). This Sunday evening we have our Service of Lament, a service that we have invited the community to join us in through distribution of a mailer. It is a service that has touched deeply the lives of some in our Christ Church community over the last couple of years. In keeping with the idea of weeping with those who weep, it occurred to me that maybe a way to bear one another burdens is to share our own.

During the service we will have three distinct prayer times. A time when we will lament the brokenness of the world; wars, hate, refugees, mass killings, terrorist bombings, corporate greed, environmental disregard, etc… A second movement will lament the brokenness in our personal relationships; divorce, wandering children, work relationships, cancer, death of a loved one, etc… A third prayer time will lament our own personal struggles; doubt, frustration w/ life, anger, sadness, depression, etc… Each of these is an opportunity to join with the Savior who wept over the world (Lk. 19:41), wept over a lost friend (Jn. 11:35), and cried out in his own dereliction (Mt. 22:46). We realize that there is an element of vulnerability here, but we trust that as together we open these wounds to the balm of the Gospel and the care of the community, there is healing to be found or at least begun.

Our prayer is that this service would be a time of hope in the darkness for those feeling the weight of brokenness. There are certainly burdens to be bourn, sometimes they need to be surfaced. Will you join us in prayers for this evening?

Friday, October 20, 2017


This week, as I navigated the days and came to the point of writing, so many things are swirling in my head. For instance, I am always thinking about our broken political landscape and the polarization of our country along with the struggle of churches (Christ Church included) to respond well. I was thinking of the #metoo campaign and the pain many of my sisters in Christ who have experienced degradation at the hands of men. I was thinking of the racial issues that smolder in our country and in our churches. I was thinking about shootings in Las Vegas that are sensationalized, but quickly forgotten. I was thinking about bombings in Mogadishu that are equally deadly, but barely make a blip in our comfortable Western lives. As I think about these events (and many others) maybe my most honest response is with the Psalmist “How long O Lord?” “Will you forget us forever?” (cf. Psalm 13).

The truth is I don’t know how to respond to (or comment on) each of these issues, at least not wholly. Yes, I can identify Scriptural principles and prisms to examine them by. I can pray, which is no small thing. I can turn off Netflix, discontinue Facebook, go out and love my neighbor, get involved in my community, listen, share, serve. But really, in order to do any of it well, I need a heart that is humbled in the truths of the Gospel.

Peter puts it this way, "Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:5-7) It is interesting how Peter groups anxiety with humility. Part of our struggle when we face the complexities of the world is the feeling that we need to have THE answer, when what God invites us to in the Gospel is to clothe ourselves with humility. What is humility? It is a posture that listens, walks alongside, doesn’t have all the answers (or feel the need to post them on social media), lies prone, prays. It is the belief that though I am more broken than I ever could have imagined, I am more loved in Christ than I ever could dare hope. It is the freedom to confesses shortcomings and wrongdoings, to believe the best about people, to forgive. Humility is not just one in a pantheon of virtues, but as Augustine once said, “If you plan to build a tall house of virtues, you must first lay deep foundations of humility.”

However, humility is not something we achieve by deciding to be humble. Humility is achieved by looking at Christ; immersing ourselves in the Gospel; practicing repentance and engaging faith. Humility is born in the prayer closet, but practiced in community. Humility is a worthy endeavor.

Friday, October 13, 2017

In the Grip of Weariness

In his book, The World Beyond Your Head, author Matthew Crawford muses that “Once upon a time, our problem was guilt: the feeling that you have made a mistake, with reference to something forbidden. This was felt as a stain on one’s character. [More recently it has been suggested that] the dichotomy of the forbidden and the allowed has been replaced with an axis of the possible and the impossible. The question that hovers over your character is no longer that of how good you are, but of how capable you are … With this shift comes a new pathology. The affliction of guilt has given way to weariness—weariness with the vague and unending project of having to become one’s fullest self. We call this depression.”

Crawford is not arguing against clinical depression, nor does one need to be clinically depressed to know something of the reality ​he identifies. It can seem, for the old, the young and those of us who fall somewhere in between, that we are trapped on a treadmill of accomplishing with little relief in sight. Fellow PCA pastor Todd Gwennap gets at this feeling with what he calls the Anti-Psalm 23:
The approbation of others is my shepherd;
I shall always be in want.
There is no nourishment, never enough.
Anxiety and performance are my lot.
My soul is exhausted.
I must constantly be my best self for my name’s sake.
When I walk through difficulty, I must be better.
There is only fear of being found out, for I am utterly alone;
your approval and applause last as long as our eye contact.
The need for approval prepares me as a feast for my enemies;
I have no security, no abundance.
I am left to chase a moving target all the days of my life,
and I shall seek to justify my existence until I die and am forgotten.
While penetrating, these haunting words help us to see that we cannot find rest in our accomplishments. Ultimately it is only the Gospel truths of who God is, our adoption as daughters and sons, the forgiveness and freedom we have in Christ ​which ​are truly the answer to our fatigue!

Here are the words of Psalm 23. May they be balm to your soul as we navigate these weary days ...
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.