The Song

Jonathan was born unable to hear. He was unable to hear the words of love from his parents. The comfort that they spoke, the songs that they would sing. No matter how they shouted, how they wept for him, how they sang him lullabies, he would not hear.

His world was an ocean of silence.

But then…

The moment when his face lights up, and he hears the voice — the overture of love — from his parent, is a priceless moment of grace, love and beauty.

It also teaches.

So many of us have either never heard the song and voice of Love. Others of us have heard it, but then have allowed it to fade into the background of clanging traffic, of playlists, of work and the corporate ladder.

But guess what: The Voice is still speaking. It’s still singing. There’s a song out there, singing all of our names, waiting for that moment when our ears and eyes are opened up and we recognize the Voice for ourselves.

What song(s) are you missing? Do you still hear the Voice? Do you still light up with the soft light of grace when you hear it?

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The Disruptive Gospel

As the 20th century drew to a close, a German scientist named Karlheinz Brandenburg was working on a logarithm that would help reduce the size of certain types of computer files; specifically music files. Eventually, he landed on a formula that helped him shrink the size of a standard music composition by about a factor of 10.

Because the file format was designed for a group of scientists known as the Moving Picture Experts Group, it took on an abbreviated version of their name, “mp3.” Aided by the explosion of Napster and websites like mp3.com, the phenomenon of music-as-digital-files exploded.

Music would never be the same.

“Disruptive technology” is technology that enters a given market and, because of its price and or innovation, not only competes in that market, it actually redefines the market entirely. To be concise, it renders “competition” irrelevant, and redefines consumer behavior – it becomes the new standard, the new paradigm.

Whether you officially consider mp3 file compression disruptive technology or not, it’s difficult to argue that the innovation significantly changed the entire paradigm of music consumption. It changed forever our thinking about music (music should be portable, free, and easily shared), as well as our behavior (we either download our music illegally, or pay .99 for a single through iTunes, rather than buying a physical disc or tape from a store).

Mp3 technology had a major part in rendering irrelevant everything else in the “market” of music – CDs, cassette tapes, etc. – and eventually contributed to the entire dismantling of the record industry as we know it.

Now here’s the deal: The Gospel is disruptive technology.

Allow the Gospel to enter into your life, and it has the potential — if we let it — to  realign and redefine our values, thoughts, and behaviors. It renders our old ways of behaving — of our need to control, dominate, and/or manipulate — irrelevant. Hang around long enough, submit to it, and it becomes the new standard of our life, not just something that is an “add on” or a part.

Next…

So we finally reached Easter.

No, I mean… We finally reached Easter!!!!

So let me ask you: what’s gonna be different?

In my community, we walked through the 40 Days of Lent, carefully observing, contemplating, denying ourselves.

During Holy Week, we gathered each night to remember Jesus’ last days, and contemplated what it might mean for our lives, some 2,000 years later. Friday night we reflected through song, teaching, and then visually (through the Passion of the Christ) on his death. Friday night through Sunday we joined together in constant prayer, circling around the Stations of the Cross until, finally, we reached Sunday morning, with its empty tomb, the joyous release of energy from the community, and the celebration of the paradigm-shifting reality of the resurrection.

I think, now, we “get” (as much as possible) Lent a little better. We understand denial, understand a little of what it means to “take up our cross” and follow Jesus. This is a good thing.

But what happens next?

On the strength of some year-old conversations with some good friends, I’d like to suggest that in the same way that Lent helps us understand Jesus sacrifice on the cross, perhaps the Easter season could help us understand what it may mean to “live the resurrection,” and maybe the place to begin is through “engagement”.

If Lent is about denial, let’s let Easter be about engagement; where we ask ourself, “What do I need to deny myself?” Perhaps our question now becomes, “What resurrection activity do I need to engage in?”

To be brief, the resurrection has inaugurated, in some amazing, brilliant way, the reality of God’s kingdom now, on Earth. No need to wait on Revelation (oh but wait don’t get me started on that)! The empty tomb says that the best of what’s to come is possible now, and engagement says that we are (to borrow a phrase from NT Wright) “anticipating” this life-to-come now.

Examples? How about for these next 40 days, you…

  • Engage in service by finding a place to serve the “least of these”
  • Engage in slowing down by eliminating techno-clutter from your life at specific times
  • Engage in prayer by setting an alarm and praying a simple prayer (maybe the one Jesus taught us) four times a day
  • Engage in relational health by reaching out to a good friend for regular meals together

Don’t make it overwhelming; keep it simple. Just ask yourself, “What will life in the Kingdom look like?” and begin “practicing that life now.”

… Because, you know, the Resurrection isn’t only an event…

… It’s a lifestyle.

Morning Pages: Mark 5 and “Ho-Hum Jesus”

I need to write more I need to write more I need to write more.

What can happen in ten minutes? What can transfer from soul to screen? From brain to keyboard?

Let’s see.

I’m teaching in 5 days. Forty minutes on the 5th chapter of Mark’s gospel. (I write it this way, because I think language should shock us out or our spiritual sleep — all language; “Mark 5″ just sets us up to blow by what is really going on — what is “Mark’s gospel”? What is “gospel”? Who was Mark? … but I digress).

Here’s where I want to start: Jesus exorcises a demon. Jesus heals a woman. Jesus raises a child from the dead. Our first instinct is take a step back and say, “Woah!” and then point to these scriptures (to ourselves and the rest of the world), saying, “You see?!!? You see?!!? You see how awesome this guy is? He wants to heal folks! He wants to set us free! He wants to make you ‘all better’!” And he does, mostly (see the parts about “taking up your cross”)…

But guess what?

<whisper> Other folks healed, exorcised, even raised people…

Peter did it, Paul did it, Elijah and Elisha did it, and that’s just the beginning. Ancient histories are pretty full of people — Jewish, Christian, and pagans — who could heal, exorcise demons and even occasionally resurrect people.

So what do we do with this? Is Jesus actually not that special? Is he just “Ho-Hum Jesus”? “Been-There-Done-That-Blogged-About-It Jesus?”

… Or maybe the healings aren’t the point?

Maybe Jesus’ healings (and by implications, Mark’s stories of the healings) aren’t meant to be just spiritual hocus-pocus (or the plural hocii-pocii?). Maybe Mark wants us to understand something deeper.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I think there is an under-current to the story, something that may be simultaneously more revolutionary and insidious than we ever imagined, and more normal and “every day” than we could ever have dreamed of…

… Because isn’t that who YHWH is, after all? And isn’t that what life with Him is, as well? More revolutionary + subversive, but also more gritty, and “Monday-morning-I-need-my-coffee?” (yes, I’m inventing new words, but it’s my blog, so deal with it lol.)

I’m still processing through, so you’ll have to check the tape in order to hear how deep the rabbit hole goes, but the invitation is there. Stay tuned, and “listen, if you have ears to hear…”

Convince Me

I feel like I’m on the verge of becoming a “grumpy old man” (well, let’s face it, I already am one), but I feel like I am watching the Church continue to dabble in error.

I have yet to be convinced in any form or fashion that the “multi-site” movement in the church is profitable in the long run.

Descending quickly to the bottom line, and unflinchingly showing my cards, I’ll declare that any movement to restrain the growth and development of the incarnational church is suspicious to me. Any object or paradigm that comes between the God’s children in need and the pastors who are to shepherd them is problematic, and the reason that the multi-site approach is nefarious is that — at least in part — it is predicated on the idea that the “church” exists in one community, while the “sheep” in another community.

How can this be good?

“But there are pastors who would be located in that community.” Okay, that’s good. What will they be doing? This is where the debate gets really murky, because in some cases they appear to be shepherds who take care of people, in others they will teach.

If they will teach, why not just declare the “site” a plant, and be done with it? Allow it to grow up with its own ethos, its own roots and style, its own giftedness.

Why not allow it to be free?

If the teaching will be “on screen”, then that brings a whole host of other questions. While employing the tools of culture to reach folks, “screen teaching” seems to unnecessarily cater to “passive learning” that some theologians and cultural commentators find so troubling.

In my opinion, it returns me to a similar thought I had a year ago: this is reflective of the church’s priorities. What does it say about us? Does it say we are interested in developing creative leaders and teachers, in allowing the Church to grow and flourish in localized and individual expressions? Or does it say that we are interested in control, in technology over gifts, in haste over patience.

Couldn’t the long-term health of the church be served as well by waiting another 12 – 18 months to develop the right leader for a localized, incarnational expression of the church, rather than pressing play on a DVD or a web stream?