Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dream Boat Afloat

"Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet..."

So went the all-American jingle of radio commercials for Chevrolets perhaps 15 years ago. Even then, nobody cared to say how many of the parts in a Chevy were actually made here.

But the baseball metaphor hit home during the dog days of summer.

Metaphors are a tool for us to understand and describe things by their similarity to other things we know.

A popular one trotted out a few years ago by the politics-of-scarcity machine was this one:

"A rising tide lifts all boats."

It's another way of saying that if the economy gives rich people (big boats) a lift (more money, more stuff), it will surely do the same for poor people (little boats). Hey, they all "float", right?

Yeah, but what if you don't have a boat? What if you are about exhausted and treading water?

What if you are standing on the muddy bottom right now on tippytoes and just barely able to point your nostrils above the waves and ripples?

A rising tide may indeed lift the boats. But if you have NO boat, buddy, you just might drown. Oh, well...

He let the H2O get above his ears, ya know? Or....?

Our human nature is corrupt, sinful. Unless modified by God's grace, our default position is too often that of blaming the poor.

It reminds me of the cartoon I saw many years ago in a humor magazine published in the Soviet Union. Even the Commies sometimes hoped to distract people's attention from their grim existence by poking a little fun. And criticism. And blame.

The cartoon went like this. A man with a beer gut and a red nose (clearly a vodka addict) is standing in his baggy trunks on a lake shore. Just offshore there is a sign that reads:

"Depth 20 meters. Persons unable to swim should not permit the water to come past their necks."

People with no boats should not permit the rising tide to come past their necks. OK. That's the "hope" of people who have had their measly little leaky tubs taken out from under them so that the materials can be used to build bigger yachts for the boat owners?

Good luck with that, non-swimmers.

The Bible is all over the policy of having boats so big that we can't see over the side to notice the people drowning for lack of flotation. Unequivocally so. It ain't God-like. Not according to Amos, not according to Isaiah, not according to Leviticus, not according to Paul, or Jesus or James.

The Bible takes the upside down view of things. Everyone first needs a boat. Then, the same tide that lifts the small ones will in turn lift the larger ones. It has to. By definition. The God of Creation who invented physics, gravity, specific gravity and flotation by displacement made it so. In the beginning.

Our task is to get everybody into a boat: ours, their own, or someone else's. Whatever it takes. Then, the tides won't matter so much. God doesn't think much of drowning, wants the water to come no higher than anyone's armpits. Ever.

Ain't much praise in a drowning victim. Ain't much glory there either.

But a new boat owner might just sing for joy. And folks might even hear the pleasant music of that aboard the adjacent yacht with the champgne, caviar and white table cloths up there on the sundeck. Might be the sweetest music they (we) ever heard.

Dream boat afloat.

Whatever it takes....

The baseball metaphor has us looking for the home run most days. Only the home run. Seems like unless we're absolutely sure we can hit that grand slam homer, we're afraid to swing at anything. Maybe we need a thousand singles instead. Millions of 'em. Maybe...

Just get on base. Drive in one run at a time. Nobody left in the dugout. Nobody struck out. Nobody called out. Safe at home. With a boat.

Time to think outside the batter's box, outside the boat, outside the metaphor.

So that the boatless among us get in on the flotation.

Dreamboat. Afloat.

"Someone's singing, Lord, kum ba yah..."


Friday, January 6, 2012

An Epiphany and a Sign of the Times

Maybe it's a sign of the times. Churches have all kinds of signs, many they don't recognize as such. Often the ones most in need of repair and renewal aren't the ones with paint, lights and materials.

They are the ones with legs and a voice. Or none.

Pastor Rob Bell founded a church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It's called Mars Hill Church.

Same name except no relation to the multiple campi in Washington and now in Portland. No relation except that both proclaim Christ.
Albeit quite a bit differently at times. Yeah, quite differently.

Funny thing about the church in MI. It never had a sign. Skeptics of Jesus asked for signs to know who he was.
Jesus appeared on earth with no man-made signs. Signs in the heavens, for sure; but they became very sparse right away. But the most ubiquitous and out-of-his-control signs Jesus depended on were the simple signs on a few people's lips:
"Come and see."

Rob Bell's church never had a sign out front. When people asked why not, he always replied, "You found it, didn't you?"

? !

In announcing his decision to leave so that his church could trust its beginnings and its identity by trusting God, Bell answers quite succinctly for all time what the church is. Who the church is. How to find it.

It's in a very short paragraph on page 8 of his letter to Mars Hill. http://marshill.org/teaching/files/2011/12/dear-mars-hill.pdf
It's his anwer to that nagging question about why the church has no sign. His more direct answer here begs that we pay attention to it.

Has the church ever needed any other kind of sign?
I don't think so. But read Bell's little essay and see what you think.
Could be a sign of the times.
Could be an Epiphany, our celebration of God's appearing on earth.
In US, for God's sake!
Yes, in us. For God's sake.

Pastor Roger