Looking Back on 2012: April-May

In March, I fasted from blogging for Lent. April and May of 2012 were dominated by thoughts about our United Methodist General Conference. There was also a series of violent tornadoes that John Piper decided to interpret as God’s wrath against America for homosexuality or abortion (I can’t remember which one). Since homosexuality dominated the conversation around General Conference, I wrote a few pieces about it, striving to be both faithful to scripture and faithful to people I love who are gay. I also preached a sermon comparing and contrasting the uniformity and top-down vision of the Tower of Babel with the chaos of Pentecost. So here are the 10 from April and May. Continue reading

Worship not performance

In contemporary Christian worship, a distinction is often made between worship that is “really worship” versus “just a performance.” For example, does the music invite authentic congregational participation or is it filled with guitar solos, pyrotechnics, and fog machines that make the service a concert that gives people goose bumps for cheap manufactured reasons? I want to look at a different contrast between worship and performance that I see at the heart of the gospel. I believe we were created to worship every moment of every day. The purpose of gathering to sing and pray and learn each weekend is merely to retune ourselves for a week of worship. The problem is that we misunderstand what worship means: we think it’s performing for God, putting on a show to prove to Him that we really believe in Him so that He won’t throw us in hell. But performance is actually the greatest obstacle to true worship, the definition of which is summarized in a single verse — Psalm 37:4: “Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” It’s not hard to learn how to worship; my three year old son knows perfectly how. The impossible challenge that Jesus died on the cross to make possible is unlearning performance. Continue reading

The witness of the sons of hell

The 23rd chapter of Matthew is probably the harshest speech that Jesus ever gave. We don’t hear many sermons about it because Jesus was skewering the celebrity pastors of his day. Verse 15 is particularly poignant and troubling: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over sea and land to make a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice the son of hell that you are.” Son of hell. I thought of this verse when I saw this photo that has circulated facebook about 9-year old Josef Akrouche’s counterprotest against the notorious Phelps family. It’s hard to read his tiny sign which says “God hates no one.” My heart hurts for the kid on the left who stands back turned and face down with his “God Hates Fags” sign. He didn’t choose to be born into the sons of hell. But his family’s witness has become a critical tool God has used to show what His kingdom is not about. And Josef ‘s act exemplifies the response that the sons of hell are supposed to invoke as part of God’s process of establishing a world free of hate. Continue reading