Sinner – Quote from Bonhoeffer’s Life Together

“Confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16) Those who remain alone with their evil are left utterly alone.  It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness.  The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. For the pious community permits no one to be a sinner. Hence all have to conceal their sins from themselves and from the community. We are not allowed to be sinners. Many Christians would be unimaginably horrified if a real sinner were suddenly to turn up among the pious. So we remain alone with our sin, trapped in lies and hypocrisy, for we are in fact sinners.

However, the grace of the gospel, which is so hard for the pious to comprehend, confronts us with the truth. It says to us, you are a sinner, a great, unholy sinner. Now come, as the sinner that you are, to your God who loves you. For God wants you as you are, not desiring anything from you – a sacrifice, a good deed – but rather desiring you alone. God has come to you to make the sinner blessed. Rejoice! This message is liberation through truth. You cannot hide from God. The mask you wear in the presence of other people won’t get you anywhere in the presence of God. God wants to see you as you are, wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to go on lying to yourself and to other Christians as if you were without sin. You are allowed to be a sinner. Thank God for that; God loves the sinner but hates the sin.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 93.

I’m about to head out to do some work but was just re-reading a passage from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic “Life Together” and loved this passage. I love the way Bonhoeffer writes and I love this passage. He has more trust in the grace of God than he does anything else. That’s a good thing to trust in. I believe our sins are destructive to us and God wants to save us from that, and from ourselves, but at the end of the day it is all about God’s grace and not our effort.

Martin Luther puts it more succinctly. “Sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be bolder.

Gilead Quote on Predestination

At Pam’s suggestion I have begun reading Marilynne Robinson’s book “Gilead”, which is written from the perspective of a dying pastor. It is good thus far and according to Pam it gets amazing at the end. Her suggestions a usually spot on so i look forward to the end of the book.

Just read the portion and really liked it.

I was sitting there listening to old Boughton ramble along (he uses the expression himself) about a trip he and his wife made once to Minneapolis, when Jack broke in and said to me, “So, Reverend, I would like to hear your views on the doctrine of predestination.”

Now, that is probably my least favorite topic of conversation in the entire world. I have spent a great part of my life hearing that doctrine talked up and down, and no one’s understanding ever advanced one iota. I’ve seen grown men, God-fearing men, come to blows over that doctrine.

I like the passage because I understand the feeling. Predestination is an oft spoke about doctrine that very rarely seems to help either the speaker or the listener follow God. I believe it can help the follower of Christ but I just haven’t experienced many conversations where that has been the end result.

Quote on Being Alone

Alone. Yes, that’s the key word, the most awful word in the English tongue. Murder doesn’t hold a candle to it and hell is only a poor synonym.

Stephen King, Salem’s Lot.

Mr. Beaver Quote

I feel like this is super good advice for today.

But, in general, take my advice, when you meet anything that’s going to be human and isn’t yet, or used to be human once and isn’t now, or ought to be human and isn’t, you keep your eyes on it and feel for your hatchet.

Mr. Beaver, Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, p. 147

Pastoral Ministry & Neo-Calvinism and Mega-Churches

I’m sitting here beside Pam as she watches the Academy Awards (I can’t really say that I am watching it because I am really just here because I like her and she likes the Oscars) and I am wondering if New-Calvinism and megachurch mindsets are killing pastoral ministry. Both seem to put all the focus of importance on a pastor’s preaching to the exclusion of pastors actually being involved in the lives and needs of their parishioners. I am wonder if Neo-Calvinism does this because of a mindset that right belief is all that matters (possibly a little Gnosticism here) and therefore preaching becomes the best thing a minister can do for his/her people, and in the megachurch because there isn’t enough time for the preacher to be involved in people’s lives. I believe this is why I run into pastors who brag about spending 30 hours a week in sermon preparation and not having any time to really spend with the people of the church. I’m not sure if this is really true or not, it is just something I am considering while I also wonder how many awards Mad Max: Fury Road is going to win.

WiFi discovery

Screenshot_2016-02-25-11-13-33Today I discovered that I was within 30 feet of an acquaintance that I haven’t seen in several years, and it was all because of WiFi.  I needed to check my email while I was out today and saw that my phone was telling me that there was an open (i.e. unsecured) WiFi hotspot around me. I don’t use a lot of mobile data but instead use free WiFi the vast majority of time. So I pulled up the WiFi connections list on my phone to look for the open connection. When I was looking at the list I saw the name “Caleb Azure’s iPhone”. I knew a guy named Caleb Azure who was an associate pastor in Green Bay years ago. He moved out to California a few years ago and I haven’t seen him since then. So I was a little surprised when I saw his name associated with a iPhone signal that was around me.

So I looked around and saw a guy sitting in a car across from me that looked pretty much like Caleb. Of course, it isn’t really very cool to knock on a stranger’s car window so I thought I would reach out to Caleb via the only contact I have with him anymore … Twitter.

And then I waited. I checked my email, looked around, twiddled my thumbs, and waited for him to look up or respond. He didn’t. I decided to just get out and knock on his car window. So I got out of my van, started to walk towards his car, and then stopped and turned around when I saw him start talking on his phone. After all it isn’t nice to interrupt someone’s phone call. I tweeted him again.

So I got back into my minivan and waited. I checked Twitter, looked at the steps I had walked during the day, and listened to a podcast about the history of Christianity. I waited till it became awkward. I kept looking to see if he looked up. He didn’t. I finally decided that I should go. So I tweeted that if it were him that I just barely missed him.

And as you can see from his tweet above he responded back 12 minutes later that it had actually been him. Small world and a weird way to discover that an acquaintance has moved back to Wisconsin.

Lost & Found

In January I wrote about my possible and included in that post that the Leatherman that resides in my possible is thanks to my brother. Today I have a different Leatherman in my possible and it is thanks to my brother again. Here’s the story.

YEARS ago I bought my first Leatherman multitool and loved it. It was wonderful. I also bought a cheapo multitool which was okay but not great. Everything was usable on the cheapo multitool but it didn’t fit and feel near as good as the Leatherman. Of course, that didn’t matter much because I carried my Leatherman with me and just left the cheapo one in my vehicle’s glovebox.

Then one day I was at my parent’s house and pulled out my Leatherman to work on something with my dad. He immediately loved it and said he had been wondering how good they were. I told him no problem I have a cheapo one that I don’t use very much at all and he was welcome to it. Yeah if I were a good son I would have just handed him my Leatherman but I am my father’s son and therefore I have a strong cheap gene in my DNA. I reached into my glovebox, pulled out the cheapo multitool, and gave it to my dad. Dad was thrilled.

Well at least I thought I gave it to my dad. What I actually did was give him the Leatherman by mistake. Dad was happy and I drove the hours back home (I can’t remember if we were in Missouri or had just moved to Louisiana at the time). When I got home dad called up and asked if I had really meant to give him that multitool. When I said yep he responded with “I thought you were going to give me your cheap one, not the Leatherman. Thanks!”

I wish I could say that I purposefully gave him the Leatherman, but I can’t. I was really planning on giving him the cheap one. Yet my pride was such that I wasn’t going to tell my dad that I had meant to give him the cheap one. Nope as far as he was concerned I was going to make sure that he thought I gave him the Leatherman. And that is what he thought. So I stayed quite for years. At least a decade, possibly two.

When dad died back in October mom asked if there were any specific things that Ken and I wanted to take with us and that we would figure out everything else later. I told her I wanted one of dad’s knives for Adam, Noah, and me and that I wanted my Leatherman back. I told mom the story of how dad ended up with it originally. I don’t believe she had ever heard that story, not unless dad had figured out that I hadn’t actually meant to give him the Leatherman. So My mom, brother, and I looked everywhere we could for that stupid multitool. Every time we straighten something out or looked for something else we had the Leatherman in the back of our minds. None of us found it and our speculation was that he had possibly given it to someone else (not out of character for him) or dropped it in a river while fishing (not out of character either). I figured it was gone.

So my brother decided to surprise me for Christmas with a new Leatherman and a note. Christmas morning I opened up my present form my brother and read the note which said, “Merry Christmas. I probably stole the other one, so here is a new one.” It was a wonderful Christmas present and that Leatherman has been with me in my possible since Christmas morning. It has been used quite regularly.

You can see the Leatherman in the lower left corner
You can see the Leatherman in the lower left corner

Then Ken had to go and top his Christmas present to me by actually finding the lost Leatherman that I had accidentally given to my dad. Pam, the boys, and I sent mom flowers for her and dad’s anniversary. By way of letting us know that she liked them the devious woman (that’s right mom, I said you are devious) decided to post a photo on Facebook with a hidden surprise. The Leatherman is on the table beside the flowers. Mom didn’t say a word about it. She just posited the photo and hope I would see the Leatherman. Ken had been cleaning out mom & dad’s Airstream and had accidentally found the Leatherman behind a coffee can of tools. I know I had looked there. I am positive of it.

Anyhow I now have two Leatherman’s in my possible bag that I am emotionally attached too because of my dad … and my brother.

Maybe I’m Mentioning This Too Much

Maybe I should view it as a hint I’m saying this too much when a member of the Tapestry Leadership Team sends me a link to a comic strip decrying left lane drivers. You see, pretty much any time I search for examples of pure evil for a message I come back to one of two things: 1) Left lane drivers, or 2) Brett Favre in a Vikings jersey.

Here’s the comic strip that Pete sent to me.

Pearls Before Swine

Burnout and Parker J. Palmer

Pam has recently turned me on to the writing of Parker J. Palmer. Last week I read his book “Let Your Life Speak” on a Christian understanding of vocation. There are a lot of quotes from Palmer that I could share because it is an excellent book, but I thought I would share this one concerning burnout.

Palmer writes in his book:

Though usually regarded as the result of trying to give too much, burnout in my experience results from trying to give what I do not possess-the ultimate in giving too little! Burnout is a state of emptiness, to be sure, but it does not result from giving all I have: it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place.

This quote fits in nicely with one of my understandings of idolatry. Idolatry does not only lead to us worship a false god but it also destroys the very thing that we try to worship. The object that we are wrongly worshiping was never meant to have that much meaning placed upon it. The idol can’t handle that pressure and is thus destroyed by it. It is the irony of idolatry that it destroys the very thing worshiped.

Palmer’s description of burnout has a similar focus. We burnout not because we give too much but because we don’t actually have what we are trying to give. I can’t actually be someone’s messiah. I don’t have that ability in me. Therefore, when I try to be someone’s salvation all I do is let them down and burn myself up because it is too great task for me. When I recognize the abilities and strengths that God has given me and function within them I function well. When I step out of those abilities and strengths and don’t refer to others, or more importantly to Him, when the time is needed then I push myself into situations that I am not capable of handling.

I see ministers do this regularly. We want to help our parishioners and someone view referring them to someone else as a weakness. Then we start to take on things we never should. I am a trained pastoral counselor and pastoral theologian. To be honest I think God has gifted me as a pastoral counselor and thus I believe I am pretty good at it. Yet, that doesn’t mean that I have the same skill set as a trained counselor. They have experience and training that I do not and I have training and experience that they do not have. I have to recognize this and refer to them when a referral is needed.

When I was a youth minister one of the things I regularly needed to refer on was cutting. It was just something that I couldn’t wrap my mind around. The best thing I could do to help the teens that I dealt with was walk them, and their parents, through the process of finding someone who could help. I wasn’t leaving them to fend for themselves but I also wasn’t trying to give them something that I didn’t posses.

This is part of why for me counseling situations typically don’t last more than sixish sessions without me referring someone to other help. I don’t want to try and give someone in need something that I don’t posses. To do so wouldn’t be any good for them or for me.

The Fundamental Issue

I’m presently reading “Resident Aliens” by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon and just read the following quote which goes along well with my thoughts from yesterday.

… the fundamental issue, when it comes to Christian ethics, is not whether we shall be conservative or liberal, left or right, but whether we shall be faithful to the church’s peculiar vision of what it means to live and act as disciples. p. 69

Yep, that about sums it up.