We have nothing to fear, except vending machines

Roller coasters are one of those things that seem to split people in to two camps people who love them and people who will never go on them. The split seems to be a result of the basic premise of a roller coaster, its scary. People ride on them to enjoy the thrill of being scarred, they should call them thrill rides! Although people do get hurt on roller coasters, like that time a bird flew into Fabio’s face, they are designed to be safe while presenting the illusion of danger. I know many of you failed to finish that last sentence because you were picturing a bird flying into Fabio’s flowing hair.

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( I can understand the bird’s confusion It took me hours to realize he didn’t have a bird’s nest on his head.)

The truth is you are more likely to be harmed driving to the amusement park than riding a roller coaster. But for those who love them the illusion of danger is quite a thrill. Our brains take in information and come to conclusions. They register a huge fall twists spins and high speed turns and start a fight or flight response because all of that sure seems dangerous. And while theme parks take advantage of that to provide a fun ride other things we are afraid of lead us to make poor decisions. We think something is a threat and spend time and money addressing the perceived threat, or avoid it or we simply live in fear of it. There are lots of things that we are afraid of sharks, spiders, flying, strangers and so much more. The odd thing is that most of those things are far safer than things we encounter without fear or things we actively chose to do.

 

Deer kill more people annually that bears (130 vs 5)

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(You can see it in their eyes, they have evil intentions!)

More people die from choking on a pen cap they were chewing than from lightning (about 100 vs 40-50)

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(The pens consider it justice for all the abuse they’ve suffered.)

Vending machines kill more people than roller coasters (13 vs 4)

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(Shown here: The earliest prototype of a terminator.)

More people from die falling out of bed than from tornadoes (450 vs 60)

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(It’s worth the risk to sleep in this piece of awesomeness.)

and more people die from texting and driving in the us than from all air travel in the world (6000 vs 1200)

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(Can I still play my Xbox while driving?)

In fact driving in general is the most dangerous thing we do in a day and yet most of us think of driving as a casual activity or pastime. I believe the entire country music industry would fall apart if there were no more songs about how cool it was to drive cars.

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(Country music may be out of luck but we sing about driving and surfing.)

The point of all this is that sometimes the most dangerous part about something is how the fear of it negatively impacts our lives. I started thinking of this after reading today’s scripture.

 

Colossians 1:15-23

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;16for in* him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in* him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled* in his fleshly body* through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—23provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

 

Lots of people read this and think the message is that if you shift away from the faith in the gospel then you are no longer holy and blameless. This leads to a bunch of other questions about how do I stay faithful to the gospel, is there a right way and a wrong way to do it, do I have to be faithful my whole life or just at the end, people have different understandings of which way to be faithful is right so how do I pick the right one, what about kids who are to young to understand matters of faith, what exactly is the punishment for not being faithful, is there a point in time where I run out of chances to be faithful, and many more questions. The sum total of all these questions is self doubt and if you believe you are outside of God’s grace, perhaps irredeemably so, in short it creates fear. In other words this becomes a verse that instills fear in people, fear of a God who’s grace is not for them. I think this is the exact opposite of what Paul is trying to tell us.

I think Paul is telling us that we don’t need to be afraid of what God has in store for us. There isn’t some divine check list on which we need to rack up enough gold stars to pass.

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We have, by God’s grace been saved. The result of this is we no longer need to be afraid. I think Paul stating that we need to remain faithful and not lose sight of hope is a warning to not backslide into a life of fear. Just like we are afraid of many things that we don’t need to be, we don’t need to be afraid that God’s grace isn’t for us, because it is for us. The faith and hope help us to be reminded of this and live accordingly, to live as people free from this ultimate fear.

Being afraid of things which we shouldn’t be afraid of leads to irrational choices and mistakes. So being afraid that we are outside of God’s grace leads us to avoid God, who we feel has already made a judgment against us. In fact the most dangerous part of God is the fear that leads us to avoid God, a danger we create in our own minds.

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(So your saying it’s safe to come out?)

Live knowing God’s grace is for you and that you don’t need to be afraid.

Peace

Jamie

 

Author’s note: In case vending machines have taken over the world by the time I post this, I for one welcome our new robotic over lords… oh and you owe me like 330$ for all those times you failed to dispense the food I paid for.

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Styles

Well The 2013 movie season is officially over. With the Oscars in the books we can stick a fork in 2013. It’s the first year in a long time where I can say I didn’t see too many of the movies talked about at the Oscars and I didn’t see many movies in general. When I looked at the top money making movies of 2013 I noticed a trend, an almost complete lack of original ideas. Here is the list of movies that made over 200,000,000$

1) Sequel based on a book

2)Sequel based on a comic

3)Loosely based on a fairy tale

4)Sequel

5) Comic book reboot

6)Original Story!!!!!!

7)Sequel

8)Sequel based on a book

9)Sequel

10)Sequel based on a book\

11)Sequel based on a TV Show

12)Sequel based on a comic book

13)Based on a Book

In case you didn’t notice a pattern there were a lot of sequels, adaptations from books and comics and combinations of those two things. In the top 13 there was only one original story, Gravity. This could be a sign that film writers are lazy and figure the best bet to make money is to stick with established stories an characters.

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(“The only thing that makes me happier than all this money is people paying to see a movie just so they can complain that the book was better”)

OK So it is partially that. But That doesn’t explain why so many people go to see these movies. If you add up all the income these movies made you end up with approximately a money bin full.

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(Pictured: My accountant who gave me the calculated movie income)

So Why is it that so many people are going to see remakes, reboots sequels and rehashes. Seriously how many Dracula, Great Gatsby, Romeo and Juliet, and A Christmas carol movies do we need because if you add up all the remakes of those movies you end up with an absolute ton. These movies wouldn’t keep being made if they didn’t have an audience and they clearly still have an audience. People are willing to put down 10-20$ on a movie ticket and watch a story that they already know or at least characters they already know. I think the reason may be that people sometimes want to hear and see things presented in a new way. Sure they’ve seen the story before but not like this. That’s why people will read books, watch movies, watch the TV show adaptation and heck maybe even go to the Broadway musical

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(How could this possibly be bad)

Sometimes people just want to hear the same message in a different way, when it comes to understanding something sometimes we need that information presented in a new way.

 

1 Kings 19

 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

 

Yes God came to Elijah in the silence. What makes this interesting is that Elijah was looking for God in the big flashy spectacles. Burning Bushes, booming voices, Plagues, Miracles, wonders, fiery doves, Strangers, Angels are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to listing the ways God has communicated with his people. Elijah was familiar with the Big actions of God but Found God’s voice in the still silence. The point is often made that we need to slow down some times, so that we have a chance to find God in the still silence too, its a good and valid point. What I think is often missed however is that God keeps on communicating in a multitude of ways from the beginning of the bible to the end. The point is God seems to know that we need to hear is message in new ways, that sometimes the same message needs to be spreed in a variety of ways.

 

Yet so often Churches seem to have the idea that their way to spread the Gospel is the best. Contemporary, traditional loud music, soft music, indoors out doors, traditional Church building, non traditional church building, guitar, organ, and so many more distinctions begin to arise. The answer to which is best is yes. Just like some people like chocolate, and some like vanilla we need different varieties because people have different tastes and sometimes tastes change.

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(I prefer Scotchy scotch scotch ice cr… wait does that say limited batch, I need to go out and stock pile a dozen or so pints)

The power of our ability to spread the Gospel sometimes lies in the variety of ways we have to spread it. So instead of focusing on which is best we should start focusing on what is the best way we can use our contexts, our strengths, our gifts and our traditions. Don’t tear someone else’s way down, build your own way up!

Peace

Jamie

Superhero

I’m a big superhero fan. I’ve always loved the tales of over coming huge odds to save the day. It turns out though that the hardest battle the superheroes ever faced happened off the page.

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(A battle even bigger than this.  But still take a moment to fully appreciate this cover, if museams had pictures like the I would be there everyday)

In the 1950’s folks started to feel that comic books were contributing to “delinquency”. Just like every generation has found something that “causes” kids to be bad the folks of the 50’s picked comic books. It was decided that they were too graphic and too violent and that they needed to be censored. I find it a bit humorous that this happened right after WWII and during the Korean war, both of which were fought by plenty of 18 year old kids and were, its safe to say, more violent and graphic than comic books. The comic book industry, faced with government censorship decided to self police and started a group called the Comics code authority and agreed that no book would be published without it’s seal of approval. This meant that Superheroes had to undergo some changes, they could no longer be vigilantes and instead had to work closely with the police. They moved away from fighting crime because that could become too violent. They all had to have steady girlfriends and boyfriends so they wouldn’t look promiscuous. The CCA even removed all slang from comic books so kids would learn to speak proper, or is it properly, so kids would speak good, (that has to be grammatically correct right?) Comics became more kid friendly and superheroes became more one dimensional. Superheroes ended up in much stranger situations during this time…

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(The flash faces Glandular problems)

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(Head Fat is always the hardest to get rid of)

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(Who knew Orville Redenbacher was Superman’s Dad)

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(Batman faces off against umm…ahh.. the debt ceiling?)

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(OK why did the writers hate auctions so much?  Did they get an advanced screening of Storage Wars?)

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(I guess Batman’s auction was just clearing room in his closet for these fancy new duds!)

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(OK Now I’m just confused, and sad, and a little curious, but mostly confused)

In the 1960 Stan Lee and Jack Kirby decided they would take a new approach they would give their characters more realistic problems, like self doubt, struggle with identity and not being accepted in society. It worked and these ale hallmarks of superheroes to this day. In many ways the most compelling part of the story isn’t their powers its how they struggle with the realities of the world they live in. It is through these struggles that they become truly heroic not because they are without flaw but because they are trying to be heroic in spite of them. They are struggling to be the best version of themselves that they can be. It connects with us so well because that is a version of heroism which we can all strive towards.

Psalm 119:105-112

 Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
    to observe your righteous ordinances.
 I am severely afflicted;
    give me life, O Lord, according to your word.
 Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord,
    and teach me your ordinances.
 I hold my life in my hand continually,
    but I do not forget your law.
 The wicked have laid a snare for me,
    but I do not stray from your precepts.
 Your decrees are my heritage forever;
    they are the joy of my heart.
 I incline my heart to perform your statutes
    forever, to the end.

The writer of this Psalm could be writing an inner monologue for a superhero. He knows that he is surrounded by challenges and that the road ahead won’t be easy. Yet in the midst of his reality he is looking to God. His promise is to work towards knowing God better to follow in God’s ways as well as possible to be a better version of himself. The truth is it sounds very heroic. It’s heroic not because he is going to face everything alone like an action hero but because he is looking for help he is looking for God.

Often People think of Christians like those silver age comics above. A bit goofy, a bit odd and a lot naive. That we walk around like everything is fine and OK like God is a blinder for us. I don’t think that is how we are called to act. God call us to see the brokenness around us and within us and to aim for better. God calls us to be heroes not the kind who do everything alone, not the kind of hero Baby Batman was (seriously that was a thing?) but the kind who recognizes that aiming for better despite the struggle is where true heroism lies. Be a Hero

Peace

Jamie

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(Told you it was a thing)

Set up to Fail

My neighbor growing up owned the hardware store in town. To this day he has stayed open despite all the big box hardware stores moving into town. His father had opened the store years before, and it would seem my neighbor grew up learning to operate a businessmen because he seems to have done a good job of doing so.

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(Alot better than when I opened a lemonade stand)

I remember when I was about ten or so he had an addition built on the back of his house and after he was done there was a lot of dirt that needed to be filled back in around the new foundation. I was hanging out with his son and a few other friends and he told us that if we could move half of the remaining dirt pile to where it needed to be, around the foundation, he would give us 100$ to split. 100$ was a huge reward, even if it had to be split four or five ways so we were in. The pile didn’t seem so big and my neighbor even gave us tips on how to shovel more efficiently. He gave us a few hours to complete the task and we were on our way. It went poorly. The pile was way bigger than it seemed and we were terribly inefficient with our shovels.

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(Even this guy is better with a shovel than I was)

My neighbor got back, chuckled and sent us on our way with empty pockets and sore hands. Maybe he was trying to teach us a lesson about not taking jobs too big to finish. Maybe he wanted us to learn the value of a dollar.

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(Maybe he wanted me to look more like a Dickensian street urchin) 

Whatever his purpose I remember walking away discouraged. There was know way were going to meet the standards necessary to earn the rewards, a lesson we learned after it was too late. In other words we were set up to fail, an experience which feel pretty bad. I think some people believe God has set us up to fail.

1 Peter 3:8-12

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. For “Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit; let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Those standards are pretty high aren’t they. Always be humble, unified, sympathetic,, love everyone, and bless those who do evil to you or abuse you. In other words be perfect. This reading also makes it seem that the fruit of all that labor is God’s blessing and failure to meet those standards means God turns away from you. Many go on to interpret this to mean be perfect and go to heaven or else. Which to summarize means we are set up to fail because there is no way we can live up to those standards. Almost always when people believe this is God’s message for us they get discouraged and turn away from God, and the truth is I don’t blame them. I wished I had walked away from that shovel and dirt pile in my neighbors yard, I with I had done something more productive or fun with my time. Being set up to fail is discouraging, disheartening and something to be avoided.

 

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(No one wants to be Sisyphus) 

There is good news, that isn’t how God works. Were everyone to live the way that Bible reading was laid out the world would be a better place. I don’t think there is even an argument to make a world where everyone is kind to everyone else is a good world, one I wish I lived in. That obviously isn’t the world we live in though. We live in a broken world with animosity, hatred and abuse. Living the way 1 Peter describes above is a goal, one which we will always work for and never attain. We don’t do it so God will love us or bless us we do it because he already has. Jesus lived and died for all of us, God loves us, we will be OK. And so we work towards a goal not so God will let us into heaven we do it because it will make the world a better place, and a perfect world is another unattainable goal worth working towards. We aren’t set up to fail, because of Jesus we have already succeeded.

Peace

Jamie

Judgement Dread

I had an amazing encounter once. I was speaking with a man and after a few minutes of chit chat he said “I see you noticed my belly”, it did appear that the man was well fed and his Santa-esque physique was hard to miss. There are “two Babies in there” he went on. I asked him how that happened and he went on in detail about how scientists had put them there as part of an experiment. He told me he was happy that he was pregnant and looked forward to the babies being born. What made this more amazing was that he told me he had been pregnant for 14 years and no news outlet had ever picked up the story.

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(Yeah kinda like this)

Ok so you are probably thinking one of two things, the first is that I’m not on the level and the second possibility is that I’m incredibly gullible. The truth is I left some details out namely that I had this conversation with a man who was hospitalized when I was chaplain at an inpatient mental heath facility. In other words the man was suffering from a severe mental illness. I spoke with him and gave him space to share his story. In order to make that space I avoided contradicting his story even though I was of course fully aware it was more than a little inaccurate. The point of bringing this up is to illustrate judgment vs. evaluation. You often here people say something along the lines of don’t judge me. They usually mean that they don’t want you to draw any conclusions about them based on their appearance, behavior, circumstance or anything else. However they often ignore the fact that although it is unnecessary to judge someone, to draw conclusions based on subjective opinions, it is another thing entirely to draw conclusions based on objective facts. When it came to the pregnant man I made some evaluations based on the facts, for instance I concluded he was not in fact pregnant. I did my best however to avoid making subjective judgments such as judging the man to be bad or a liar or not worth talking to. The point is often people mix up judgment and evaluation one we should avoid and the other is good, here Jesus talks about how he feels about judging.

 

John 8:12-19

 Then Jesus spoke out again, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  So the Pharisees objected, “You testify about yourself; your testimony is not true!” Jesus answered, “Even if I testify about myself, my testimony is true, because I know where I came from and where I am going. But you people do not know where I came from or where I am going.  You people judge by outward appearances; I do not judge anyone.  But if I judge, my evaluation is accurate, because I am not alone when I judge, but I and the Father who sent me do so together.  It is written in your law that the testimony of two men is true I testify about myself and the Father who sent me testifies about me.”

Then they began asking him, “Who is your father?” Jesus answered, “You do not know either me or my Father. If you knew me you would know my Father too.”

Jesus points out he doesn’t Judge and to paraphrase he says if he did Judge his judgments would be evaluations. God isn’t in the business of forming opinions about us such as that we are bad, or liars or not worth Gods time. The truth is when Christians talk people often think we are judging them because they think our God is Judging them too. We aren’t judging and if we are we should follow in Jesus’ footsteps and stop. We don’t need to form negative opinions about people, God has already formed an opinion, we are all God’s children and God loves his children. When we are looking for an opinion about people maybe we would be well served to start there all the people we meet are children of God.

 

It doesn’t stop there however because we should evaluate. That is we should draw conclusions based on facts, God did after all give us the gift of thought and we would be well served to use it. Some people and their actions hurt us, we should stay away from those people and those actions, that’s not judgemental that is an evaluation of risk. God does not want us repeatedly walking into harmful situations in the name of not judging. Sometimes our actions hurt or separate us from others we should change those actions and find new ways of interacting with others, that’s not being hard on ourselves its evaluating who we are and who we want to be. And yes sometimes we need to be honest and share with people that their actions hurt us and that we wish that would change. We don’t need to judge but we should evaluate. Jesus says that those who follow him wont stumble, we should always be evaluating if we are following him and how we could do a better job of it.  We shouldn’t avoid sharing with others where they may have made a misstep in the name of not being Judgmental either.

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(I didn’t  want to seem Judgmental so I didn’t tell this man he was packing his parachute poorly)

 

So if someone shares an honest evaluation with you listen and if you find yourself judging someone stop.  We are all on this journey together  lets help each other along the way.

Peace

Jamie

 

And since the title is a Judge Dredd reference here you go

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvJiYrRcfQo

 

 

Gifted

One of my favorite jokes that revolve around the holidays is misunderstanding what the purpose of a gift is. I think Seinfeld did the joke best. Jerry gives his dad a Wizard pocket organizer. His dad is unaware off all the things the organizer can do and instead only uses it to calculate the proper tip at restaurants. Jerry spends the whole episode trying to convince his dad that he can do other things with the device to no avail. Pee Wee Herman (never thought I’d get to write about him) does the gag as well with an iPad.

http://youtu.be/BiDHUNiurqY

I’ve never tried using my iPad as a drink tray but I know there are much better uses. By the way this video came out about 20 years after Pee Wee’s show was canceled which really makes me wonder if the set was just waiting around collecting dust for this video. The point is we often seem to not realize the full potential of things especially when they are new and impressive.

 

Isaiah starts by reminding the reader that compared to God we are insignificant. He goes so far as to call Jacob a worm and Israel an insect. That piece of the reading is very small and Isaiah spends more time telling us about the amazing things God is doing. Filling us with his power and hope, caring for the poor and answering us when we call. God is doing amazing things for us and through us. Whats more is that we understand this action of God being spoken of as the life and ministry of Jesus. Isaiah is letting us know all about the coming messiah all about Jesus. The amazing thing about this is that we know these actions are for us as a gift of love and grace. This is the sort of thing that should fill us with vigor to go and do God’s work with our hands. Sadly it seems that too often people never get past the first few lines.

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(Ok so sometimes not getting past the first few lines is a good thing)

It can be easy to become hung up on our own insignificance when compared to God. And certainly God does not want us losing perspective and equating ourselves or anything else with him, that whole false idols commandment and all. But God does not want our humility to be an anchor that weight us down. We are called to enter into the world and with God bring glimpses of his kingdom to life. We have been given an amazing gift, the freedom and support to do God’s will may we use that gift to its fullest.

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)