Doors

My earliest Christmas memory is from 1984, I was 3. After opening all the presents there was one remaining, the infamous “to the family” present. These were always a mixed bag as a kid usually it was a bigger present but at the same time it usually involved sharing. As the youngest of 3 brothers sharing wasn’t something that always went so well for me.

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(We’ll let you know when it’s your turn little brother)

What we opened was an Atari, I loved it and spent a lot of time during my childhood playing video games. I was pretty good at figuring out what I needed to do next. I would usually be able to get to the end of games and found it to be rewarding. Of course there are always hiccups along the way. Every person who ever played a video game knows that moment when you fall in a pit or the turtle monster eats you and you look at your controller and say “you it’s your fault”. Yes every one know the frustration that erupts when you can’t quite make a jump and your convinced that the fault lies in that small rectangular piece of plastic. The other pinnacle of frustration is the dead end. When you have no early idea what you are supposed to do next. This is where my greatest enemy in all of video gamedom comes in… the door. Yes the mighty door . When I would get to a door, certain that my next task was behind it, there were few words more terrifying than “Key is required”. Nothing was more heartbreaking than those moments where you need a key and have no clue where it is and you know the only option is to backtrack endlessly until you find it. It was so confusing to me, I could be a giant mountain of a man able to break rocks in two but a flimsy wooden door which I could kick down in my sleep blocked my path like a great colossus. There was no easy way past that mighty door. Luke had Darth Vader, Sherlock had Moriarty, and I have a simple flimsy wooden door.

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(This barbarian turn away from the camera, so you would’t see he was crying)

The Church seems to be in the midst of a similar feud with doors.

 

Matthew 28:16-20

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

Jesus gave an order to his followers. They were to spread his message and to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They listened well, spreading this community of people following Christ across the globe. From these humble beginnings Christianity was born and Billions of people followed Jesus. At some point this following became so big that the followers didn’t even have to go anywhere to find people to share this message with, people came to them looking to be a part of God’s activity in the world. Buildings were built as centers of worship and for centuries they were filled. Beautiful buildings, an emblem of the beauty of God standing high above the skyline as a symbol to the community of the power of God. The buildings of course had strong, sturdy doors

 

Things changed, it seemed sudden, many people stopped coming to those Churches. For a bunch of reasons this model of a huge building to draw people in like a lighthouse stopped working. The solution seems simple, go out and engage people again like the first followers did all those years ago. But there is a problem, those doors. It can be so hard to take what we’ve known and carry it outside those doors. On the other side of those Church doors, in the community, in the world there are people who need to hear the message of hope in Christ. They may think they know who Jesus is and what Jesus stands for but so often the picture they see is distorted, or missing pieces, the world need the message we have to share, they need the whole picture.

 

Back in those game the only solution was to backtrack hoping to find what I had missed the first time through. We as followers of Christ need to look back at our early Church leaders see how they engaged with those around them and continue living the mission that Jesus laid out for us.

 

Peace

Jamie

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(Doors are known to operate in both an open and closed position)

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Catchphrase

Catchphrases are awesome. Little memorable quips repeatedly thrown out by a character that tells you all you need to know about the character. For instance in Happy Days the Fonz has his iconic AYYYYY, Rerun in Whats Happening had Dy-no-mite and Arnold Schwarzenegger had I’ll be back long before his catchphrase became an odd mispronunciation of the state he governed.

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(Mr. Governor it’s pronounced California not Cullifornaya)

Those catchphrases tell you all yo need to know about the characters, The Fonz was cool, Rerun was a happy goofball and Arnold would, no matter the odds, kick butt and come back to defeat the bad guy. I always thought it was funny to imagine if characters had a different catchphrase. I thought it was funny to think of how that would change the character. For instance replace Arnold’s I’ll be back with a diminutive “I give up” and all of a sudden you have a much different ending to all his movies.

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“Cry Havoc and let slip the dogs of war!”

“Sorry Henry lets try another catchphrase”

 

I’ve often wondered what the catchphrase of the Church is, or at least what should it be. It seems that all to often people outside of the Church think about today’s reading when they think about the message that Christianity is sending to them.

 

Romans 1:18-25 (NRSV)
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. 

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 

Not the rosiest of pictures is it. God’s existence is so clear that everyone can see it. Anyone who doesn’t believe in God must be actively avoiding him, and now the wrath of God is coming for all those who don’t believe in him. Yikes. The truth is a lot of people, outside the Church, hear this sort of message and feel strong armed and condemned. They feel like they are being told that their lack of belief, or lack of church association mean that they are bad people who idle away their time on trivial, Godless pursuits. Whats more they feel they are being told that God’s wrath is all that awaits them unless they make a change ASAP. In other words the catchphrase they are hearing is “Follow us, or else”. What a sad state of affairs, there are lots of messages that the Church has to spread, we call those messages the Good News or Gospel but to be clear the Gospel is not a threat.

 

Through out Roman’s Paul, who wrote it as a letter about 2000 years ago, spins a persuasive web luring readers into the inescapable conclusion that we all need God’s grace. He starts by indicting those who follow pagan worship, which would make those who believe in the God of Israel nod their head in Judgmental approval. Paul then turns that argument around in such a way that those who are nodding their heads in judgmental approval would realize they too fall short and should aim that judgment at themselves too. The clincher is that Paul drops Gods grace into the middle of those failings, into the middle of that judgment and shows us that Gods grace is for everyone. The point is that we all fall short and screw up but we are made right by God, who forgives all those failings not by what we have or haven’t done but because of his gracious love. We all need God’s grace and fortunately it’s there for us all. Or else makes a terrible and in accurate statement of the church, there has got to be a grace centered catchphrase to be found somewhere, I’m sure someone more clever than I could find it.

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“Graaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!”

“Still pretty bad Henry”

Peace

Jamie