Friday, January 30, 2009

Pre-, Post-; Is There Another Option?

Don't panic! This is not about millennial theology. I continue to be of the school that believes that God knows all there is to know about that, and that we don't need to know much beyond "The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord of the Christ," although sometimes, like everybody else, I wish I knew more.
The pre- and post- things I'm thinking about today are of a different sort. Those are terms we use to set ourselves in some kind of history. I'm part of that big post-war, Baby-boomer generation that has caused our culture grief at every stage of our lives (and will continue to as we age and retire!). I grew up in a pre-cellphone, pre-internet world and wonder how we did it.
These days we talk about more post-things than pre- ones. Postmodernism has now morphed into post-Christian. What that means, I think, is that while we in the Church weren't paying attention, many people stopped paying much attention to us. The new administration in Washington tells us that we're living in post-racial and post-partisan times. I'm not holding my breath for either one of those.
My problem with all this is that we keep thinking about the present and the future in terms of what we've experienced. We measure what we can't know by what we think we do.
I don't know, of course, what the future holds anymore than anyone else does. As a new church pastor, I might think about that more than someone else. I'm looking forward to seeing what our new congregation develops into, but I caution our leaders all the time to be careful about bringing too many expectations from previous experiences to our work. I have my own ideas about what a church looks like, and everyone else has ideas about that, too. We all bring those expectations to this work. Some of them are helpful, and some of them are not. For the first time in my life, I'm part of a church without a Sunday School. But that doesn't mean that meaningful, purposeful Bible study doesn't happen here. Our Tuesday Kerygma groups have struggled with the Sermon on the Mount in ways that have challenged us all. Our PW group is serious about its study of Luke's Gospel this week. Our children gather with people who care about them during a portion of the worship service every week to work on the same ideas we're talking about on the other side of the wall. They also meet for special events occasionaly to play and sing and learn together. Now we have a group of young adults looking for a regular time and resource that will help them figure out what Scripture says to them and their world and a group of young adult women in particular who want to get together to talk about how their faith informs and enriches their roles and women, wives, moms, and all the other things they are. Who knows what else people are thinking about that they haven't shared with me yet? All of that adds us to Church that looks different than anything most of us have ever seen, but Church that comes from peoples' perceptions of God's call in their lives. If that makes us post-traditional or post-Sunday School, I guess that's OK.
What I think it really means, though, is that we are learning to trust God's vision for our lives and for our church. I'm not altogether sure what that vision is, but when some of us begin to see and hear the same things, we figure God might be leading us, and so we follow. I'm trying to be very careful to avoid the pre- and post- labels for what we're doing. I'm trying to tell myslef so I can assure others that what we're doing is trying to figure out where God is in our midst and trying to stay there until God calls us to be somewhere else. I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, January 9, 2009

College football season is finally over! I know that's a bigger deal form some of us than for others, but bear with me; I've got a point to make here. From Tim Tebow's emotional speech after the Ole Miss loss until the championship game last night, the season became more and more focused on him. That's OK, even for those of us who are not Florida fans. Tebow is an impressive young man, and I wish him well whether he comes back for his senior season in the Swamp or goes to the NFL. I don't know that I remember an athlete the media has touted the way they have Tebow. Let me hasten to say, I don't build my life around the values the media sets before us, but we're all influence by the media more than we want to grant. It has been impossible to watch football this season without hearing about him--not just his abilities on the field (which pretty much speak for themselves), but his Christian witness and his personal character, which are also pretty impressive. We've heard about mission trips, speaking engagements in prisons, and all kinds of other things he does in response to God's call in his life. I'd much rather hear about those things than the things we hear more often about college and professional athletes. It's refreshing to hear about a kid whose family has grounded him in Christian faith so that it is foundational to his understanding of himself. I wish I had done a better job of that with my own boys. What concerns me, though, is that the media talks about this as though it has never happened before. At one point in last night's championship game, one of the commentators, who had apparently recently met Tebow for the first time (I still haven't.) said on national television that he thought that anybody who spent as much as five minutes in Tebow's presence would experience a positive change in his or her life. I began to wonder if the Second Coming had occurred and found me in the wrong pew. One of the sports message boards I read every morning before I engage the world was abuzz today with the so-called man-crush the media has had with Tebow this season and the spiritual overtones it has taken. One poster asked if maybe Tebow had turned the water into Gatorade last night.
I'm for Tebow as a Christian witness (although I still wish Shula had recruited him to Alabama as he should have). I'm grateful for the opportunities he has that I'll never have to communicate about Christ with people. But I'm concerned about a society that is willing to elevate a college athete to near deity. (This from someone who lived in Alabama where everybody knows about football and God!)
Two important questions come to mind: 1.) are we so desperate for something to believe in that we'll expect a kid to be what we need when we know that sooner (sorry, Okies) or later he'll disappoint us. (I, for one, was thankful for the Gator chomp taunt that got him penalized, not for the penatlyl, but because it means he's still a kid!) and, more importantly, 2.) have all the rest of us mere mortals who claim faith in Christ as the foundation of our lives been so ineffective as witnesses of his presence in our lives that the world doesn't recognize him in us, or anywhere? That one stings.