"Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever." -Paul

05 September 2008

live it.

Colossians 2:6-23
"My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you've been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You're deeply rooted in him. You're well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you've been taught. School's out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving."

After a few temper tantrums & a bit of false starts, I really loved college. At first, in my youthful zeal, I wanted to have no part of it. "Why sit in a classroom and process when you can be out in the world practicing" was my early mantra. Several of my professors (wisely) sought to re-channel my impatience into a more vigorous embracing of my school work as something to be done "for the glory of God." And they were right. They also pushed me into internships so that I could immediately put into practice what I was learning.

I came to love the college experience. I loved learning & theorizing & philosophizing. I loved coffee shops & late nights & questions without answers. And so when graduation came around, while I was ready to go "live it," I was actually starting to think about grad school, something I'd mostly only swore I'd never do early on in college.

I haven't made it to grad school yet, though I hope to some day. But as I read Colossians 2 over the past couple days (I read it once a couple days ago & again today so I could blog about it) I was struck by, even without formalized "schooling," how easy it is to settle into talking about practices rather than actually practicing them.

Churches are one of the most guilty parties in this. Bring people into our doors where we can teach and instruct and equip and grow them and...and...and when do they actually live it out? Well, hopefully in their lives somewhere...in their vocation, in their neighborhoods, in their families. But is the church meant to be a place only of instruction or also a place of practice? Do we keep people at spiritual infancy by continually spoon feeding but rarely letting people handle the spoon themselves while still in the "safe" community of the church?

As I wade through re-designing the youth ministry at First Friends, these thought are ringing in the back of my head...

04 September 2008

Finally, Some Hellfire

By Matt

I Listened to: Mark 9-10

I thought today would be another day of writing about something else but today we get to the famous cutting off hands/feet and gouging out eyes section where Jesus declares it is better to go maimed to heaven than whole to hell. He also says that if you give someone a believer a hard time, it's better for you to be dropped in a lake with a millstone around your neck.

I think there is a distinction here between the condemnation we see in Matthew and what we see here. In Matthew Jesus is solely concerned with condemning those who know what they should do and don't do it, mainly along the lines of helping out those who can't help themselves (the credit for that thought goes to Michael who summarized the parable of the sheep and goats that way during his meditation at Youth Sunday last week).

Here in Mark, we see Jesus condemning those who sin on purpose, not by omission. They take advantage of the weak or use their hands or eyes or feet to sin. Kinda lays it out right there for you and definitely a different tact than Matthew used. Interesting. I'm going to reserve comment a bit to see if this shows up in Mark again. It is consistent with Mark's theme of power, using your power to do wrong type thing where Matthew is aimed at the Jews who should know to do those things but don't. Hmmm.

02 September 2008

A Story

By Matt

I read: Mark 6:30 - 9:3

Again, none of the stuff I was looking for showed up in today's reading but I did find this little nugget: "None of this had yet penetrated their hearts." This is Mark/Eugene's commentary on what happens when the disciples are quick to be afraid after seeing what they imagine is a ghost on the water. So true.

But what I want to talk about is a bizarre little story that I read in The Day of Battle by Rick Atkinson. It's a rather large book all about the American Army in WWII. Big surprise there. Anyways, Atkinson tells the story of how the Allies were beginning to suspect that the Germans were going to start using poisonous gas in the runup to the Allied advance on Rome. This never happened, of course, but the Allies decided they should probably prepare for it. So, they loaded up a ship with mustard gas and sent it out to the port city of Bari in Italy. It sat in the ship's hold in the harbor with only a few people knowing the contents of the cargo while other priority ships were unloaded first.

Anyways, no one really thought much about the mustard gas until the night that the Germans launched a devastating air raid on Bari and decimated the docks. Many of the boats still waiting to be unloaded took direct hits, including boats with ammunition and gas. Hundreds of sailors were knocked overboard and into the burning sea and thankfully a good number of them were able to swim ashore or were rescued by other boats. Unfortunately the boat carrying the mustard gas was also hit and the mustard was leaking into the water and contaminating it. And that's in addition to the gas that hit atmo and drifted into the town of Bari.

So, all of these sailors and dock workers are piling into the overcrowded hospitals and are starting to have their eyes seize shut and are complaining of burning on their skin that isn't consistent with being in oily water. But the doctors don't know about the mustard gas so they can't treat the men properly by removing the contaminated clothing so they aren't breathing it in for hours. Some of the doctors had their suspicions but nothing to base it on other than similar symptoms. In the end hundreds of American servicemen and Italian civilans died of mustard gas poisoning and didn't even know it.

However, there's a postscript. In the confusion and speculation, many of the bodies were autopsied. Doctors performing the autopsies noticed the damage to white blood cells and lymph tissue. After the war some of those doctors found out that it was mustard gas but were intrigued by the destruction of the white cells and lymph. That discovery was the opening of a new field of medicine: oncology. And the mustard gas was the ancestor of the oncologist's first weapon: chemotherapy.

It's kind of a strange time for me to hear this story as exactly 8 years ago I would be in my last week of my life before chemotherapy started. In some, strange connected way, my life is the legacy of the Luftwaffe's raid on Bari, and by extension the introduction of chemical warfare to the European battlefields of WWI. It's a strange and disgusting thought to think that my existence is balanced on the horrible toll in lives that preceeded it. I suppose that's true for all of us somehow or another, but it's not a thought that surfaces very often. I don't know what to make of it, really. Is all this serendipity? Is it God's "plan"? I guess if there's anyone who can redeem the horrors of mustard gas, it's God, but are his fingerprints on this mess?

I guess the best thing to say for today's ramble is that I will come away with no answers. So often my reading and journaling is directed at discovery of a truth or principle that will help me understand God, faith, life, etc. in some new light. Today there is no new light, just more questions. And, strangely, I'm at peace with that.