You know I didn’t do this kind of a post for Mother’s Day… I hope you can forgive me. But I thought I would collect here some of my thoughts I am sharing with a class tomorrow morning, the Sunday which we celebrate as Father’s Day.
What does our Bible most often give us, as pertaining to God? My thoughts are running something like this:
The scriptures give us (not exclusively) images of God in a quest to help us know God and love God. I’m daring in my sense of over-simplification, but I think the idea rings true enough.
Not being divine oursleves, not divine in essence or personality, we’re not able to perceive God in a full, undiluted manner… so the images of scripture quite naturally flow from our own context and existence to be understandable and cogent.
And here’s a point of distinction… these images must be allowed to function in ways that help us know and love, but not allowed to funtion in ways that circumscribe God. It’s healthy to remember that scripures aid us in knowing God, not “figuring God out.”
So, let’s cruise some (just a few) images: father, mother, bridegroom, shepherd, potter… and later in a fuller way, son and spirit. To help enliven our images we have some amazing verbs that come along with the God of our scriptures… God loves, hates, marries, becomes jealous, divorces, forgives, molds and fashions, protects, calls, sends, speaks, listens, and remembers.
I was in an unexpected and interesting snatch of conversation this past week when a friend bemoaned the fact that some of the push towards inclusive language in church culture and vocabulary was actually excluding the masculine. So, in a rush to make God not exclusively masculine, we might try to make God not masculine. But God is masculine. And God is feminine.
And God is so far past those adjectives and realities that after they help us understand and love God a little more than we have previously, we have to remind ourselves that our being drawn to God is the point of this exercise, not divine sexuality. When the images wear a little thin or start to get too bossy, leave them aside for a few weeks and come back to them… let them breathe a little.
Fellas, there’s not a doubt that the father image, the masculine image, is the hands-down winner of which image pops up most through the scriptures. But I don’t think that really gives us much reason for self-congratulaion or high-fiving. If anything, we might uniquely have a bar set pretty high for the love of a bridegroom, the patience of a father, the sacrifice of a parent. *sigh*
So, let us do what honor to the Divine image that we may! Let us give someone something to celebrate in the way we love, are fathers, and are husbands.
So, I’m preaching tomorrow nite in Fort Worth at The Search. I’m sitting here on Saturday nite with a beautiful, brown ale (Chimay, Blue Label) and finally ready to collect all my thoughts… and I was thinking of sharing them here.
The Philippians passage pivots around the idea of Christ’s humility, and our call to live in such a way… a way I think might be very difficult for many of us to imagine much less actualize. In my sermon time I don’t want to lay out a set of rules or expectations for personal humility, but to explore the depth of Christ’s humble way, and the barriers in our own thinking and way of life.
The main barrier for us just might be the way that we, as Amerians of our day, tend to think of humility. I believe we tend to think of it as an atribute mostly for “winners.” I mean a pursuit of humility doesn’t impede our drive to win, simply how much we gloat the win over the losers. But, maybe humility calls us to lose… to lose like Christ lost. Note the humiliy of Christ in verse 8… humility came at a great loss to Jesus, the loss of life. Yes, there was a victory, or an exalting, but it was later, after the humbling.
Don’t wander from the idea just yet… you see if we keep humility as an expectation for winners, then we’re free to chase our own rights and entitlements without any impediments whatsoever. Oh, we’ll be humble… as soon as we get what we want.
An here’s the perfect example: I wish I could have taken a photo out on the highway the other day, because a “winner” of a Christian cut me off on his way to cutting off many others. He drove a huge green pickup and on his back window was the giant outline of a shark, complete with a dorsal fin and teeth, and inside of the outline was the word “ZEALOT” in gigantic letters. Below it in all capitals it also said, “AGGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY.” And below that was a quote from Psalm 69:9, “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up…”
The imagery and wording alone would have made me itch, but his offensive, crappy driving just made it all too clear. This “Aggressive Christian” was all about his own rights, driving where he wanted, screw the turn signals and get outta my way! He didn’t give a flying rip about any other driver on the road… we had just better make way. I guess my Christianity wasn’t aggressive enough.
Do a double-take on verse 4 of our passage… the emulation of the humility of Christ in our own lives is prefaced by this starting place, “…looking to the interests of others.” Sounds like a call to lose. Sounds like some humility before the finish line. So we don’t circle the Walmart parking lot for ten minutes trying to beat the next chump to a front row spot. We walk from further back like a “loser.” And when we leave we take our buggy to the little buggy corral… because as a “loser” we’re not entitled to saving that extra 30 seconds and leaving it in our parking space.
So far we’ve got a mildly entertaining idea… but what happens when we start expanding our list of rights and entitlements? We eventually get a list that doesn’t sound so funny… funny like death on a cross.
Oh, and by the way. The humility of Jesus did lead him to a cross. Ours probably won’t. We probably won’t die in our obedience, but don’t let that curb your enthusiasm. We’re still called to the path, wherever it leads. Paul doesn’t say the destination (results) had to be the same… he calls us to the same “mind.”
So, I’m not telling you what to put on that list of rights and entitlements to lose. Ask the Spirit to help you out… that’s what I’m doing.