This is why the Internet was born. There's even a cameo sermon by Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). It's magic.
(h/t Prof. McGrath "Exploring Our Matrix")
Faithful readers will remember the discussion of the church in Florida that is hosting a Qur'an-burning day in a few weeks. We talked about their lack of hospitality or understanding of the issue (What Would Jesus Burn?).
Well....it got better. Or worse.
They accepted the help of a Christian Militia group called "Right Wing Extreme" to help with security for the event. The Militia was going to send anywhere from 500-2000 gun-toting members to its defense. Violence to the Qur'an begats violent calls to arms it seems.
But then today, the group decided to cut ties with the event:
“Right Wing Extreme has pulled support for the International Burning of the Koran day and will not attend the event,” the group announced in a 1:50 a.m. press release on its website. “After much thought and prayer the organization’s leadership determined this event does not glorify GOD in way that leads the lost to Jesus Christ.”Here's the lesson for today, and I think it is a true one. I'll put it in big caps.
The group, which bills itself in the release as an “armed Christian conservative group,” says they got started in April 2009 after a department of Homeland Security report called “Right Wing Extremism,” which highlighted the radical far right’s revitalization since President Barack Obama took office.
The group considers Islam a “cult” and blasts the President for his support of the Park51 Islamic center which a Muslim group plans to build near Ground Zero in New York. But they do not think burning Islam’s holy scripture will solve any problems.
“Dove World Outreach are our brothers and sisters in Christ,” the release says. “However we ask that they not hold this event for the reason that it may diminish the work of the Holy Spirit to witness to Muslims.”
The release also quoted James 1:19: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”
If a militia decides you are too radical, then you might be on the wrong path.
I suspect we've got a Pharaoh situation where the pastor and church have hardened their hearts beyond the point of backing down. But I'm certainly in prayer that their violent act will not escalate to the injury of anyone else, and I'm thankful for the militia group deciding to not participate in the escalation.
Oklahoma clergy have been assigned to read "Restoring Methodism" by Drs. Molly & James Scott in preparation for a retreat with them in late September. Given that I was previously from a different area of the country, I happen to have attended the Scotts' seminar before and am familiar with their arguments and recommendations.
In re-reading the book during some idle moments today, I noted one argument that I'm unsure is valid.
On page 31, the Scotts write about why it is important to restore Methodism to its roots and originating practices:
Restoration is the answer because it is unthinkable that God would abandon the institutionalized churches in America, as they compromise the vast majority - up to 90% - of the Christians in this country.I am unsure this as "unthinkable." God has done this before. God had abandoned the Chosen People to decades of attrition (the 40 years post-Exodus), disowned the stubborn nations (Jeremiah 3:8), and allowed its assimilation into other cultures (Pharisaic Judaism v. Roman Hellenism). God also allowed the destruction of the Temple and the Jews found much meaning and refocus in the Diaspora that they wouldn't likely have found otherwise.
God has done this before, taken away what we thought was "too big to fail." Can we really dismiss the horrifying thought that the Church as an institution has a time limit as well?
Perhaps the Scotts meant that numerical decline is not in God's plan for the Church. That's a valid interpretation, I think. But Jesus had multitudes following him, was an icon for church growth...but after his hard sermons, he was left with 12. Failure, right?
Further, the Scotts counter their own argument themselves on page 53:
It was not unusual for Mr. Wesley to examine a Society with 800 members and leave them with 400 members.So it is OK for the institutional church to shrink but not be destroyed? But isn't restoring Methodism about reversing the shrinking trend? Huh.
To be clear, I'm not advocating a burn-it-down-and-start-over reform...this blog would be called "Reformatting Christianity" if I did. I'm as committed to righting the institutional church as the next pastor.
But I do have to assume that it could be God's plan that the church burn to the ground and be risen from the ashes in a fiery Phoenix. And I have to wonder how best I could be an instrument of grace in the interim.
God is sovereign. Let's not place anything (even the unthinkable) beyond God's possibilities, and seek instead to be instruments of God's grace no matter what may come next.
(h/t Ruach mailing list)
You know the ones. Those people who when you ask to pray, you get a whole lot more in return: reams of churchy-talk and runs of "we just want to thank you for ____." It has a name, apparently, as seen in the video below. I know this makes light of Tourette's syndrome but it has an interesting point: does dipping into hyper-religious speak distract from your goal of embodying Christ? Check it out:
(h/t Chad Holtz's facebook)
|Glass is one of the slowest forms of liquid (h/t)|
Here's his poem for yours (and my) benefit (h/t Steve Bogner):
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We would like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet, it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability -
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually - let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don't try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time,
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming in you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
It's a rough week to be a Methodist.
First, Jesus Needs New PR snarked at Methodists, saying they would be left behind (#6). Now yesterday Jon Stewart took some potshots at the characterization of Methodists as "not standing for anything" followers of Christ. Start out at 4:20 then watch for at least 30 seconds:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Wedding of the Decade of the Century of the Millennium|
Stewart: Being a Methodist is easy. It's like the University of Phoenix of religions: you just send them 50 bucks and click "I agree" and you are saved.Ha! Then again, you look at John Wesley's requirements for membership and compare them with today's and he may not be far off the mark.
This video merited 34 comments in an hour on facebook from a dozen different churchworkers (clergy and laity). Lemme know what you think:
Key gut-check moments for me were the completely unexpected 0:38, and I was open-mouthed at 3:44 (though it did look like someone saw Carrie too much...h/t JAA). The Rockettes at 3:06 almost made up for it though.
Personally, I think videos like this are good in that they depict the viscerally disturbing aspects of blood atonement and are good conversation starters on atonement theories. It's like Mel Gibson's The Passion...I think that movie did more for discussion of alternate atonement theories than it probably intended! No understanding of atonement is complete or perfect and I think discussion of them is at once challenging but helpful in the long run.
Thoughts on the video?