Warm, sticky, and breezy. High temperature of 87°. Humidity 64%. Intervals of clouds and sun; chance of rain 10%.
Yesterday, I got an early start on my summer of leading worship in our home church. Our pastor and his family had a family need they had to attend to, so he called me Friday evening and asked if I could officiate and preach on Sunday. In addition, it was Music Sunday, the annual conclusion of the official choir season. My wife Gail is the substitute pianist, and so she was asked to play for the services and the choral anthems without having had much opportunity to practice. (I would rather be asked to do what I did than what she had to do.)
It was also the weekend of our Open House to celebrate our son’s graduation, and so we were involved in activities from Thursday to Saturday, getting things ready, welcoming family who came into town, and holding the gathering. Needless to say, it was a packed weekend, and our heads are still reeling from all the activity.
Despite a few frustrations natural to the last minute situation, we had a wonderfully encouraging morning with the congregation. It was Pentecost Sunday, and I preached on the Gospel text: John 14:8-17, 25-27. The two points I saw from Jesus’ words that I applied to our lives were:
- Because of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is closer to us than he ever has been.
- Because of the Holy Spirit, we get to participate in God’s work in a new and greater fashion.
The text focuses on God’s work — and Jesus’ promise that it will not cease or be hindered by his “going away,” but will, in fact be enhanced because of his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the Father’s right hand. This permits the outpouring of the Spirit and the prospect of working under the auspices of the inaugurated Kingdom, with Jesus on the throne.
It also emphasizes Jesus’ presence — though he is departing physically, the Helper that they have known because he has been with them, filling and empowering Jesus, will come to dwell within them. Jesus will be closer to his friends than ever before. This is the peace he gives us.
I illustrated this by outlining what it is like to live each day in the good works that “God has prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). I told the story of what happened last weekend, when God went before us and helped in the midst of our car troubles. We felt as though the Spirit had carried us. It certainly didn’t have anything to do with our planning or wisdom.
Pentecost means that Jesus is with us on every “ordinary day” and we have the privilege of participating in the works of God that he prepares for us.
I read a good analysis of the current “radical” and “missional” emphasis by Anthony Bradley at the Acton Institute Power Blog, which focuses on what this is doing to many in the so-called “Millennial” generation.
For too many Millennials their greatest fear in this life is being an ordinary person with a non-glamorous job, living in the suburbs, and having nothing spectacular to boast about.
I found one of his observations most helpful. Bradley notes how the push for “missional” Christians and churches came to the fore at the same time that culture was experiencing what some have called the “narcissism epidemic.”
A few decades ago, an entire generation of Baby Boomers walked away from traditional churches to escape the legalistic moralism of “being good” but what their Millennial children received in exchange, in an individualistic American Christian culture, was shame-driven pressure to be awesome and extraordinary young adults expected to tangibly make a difference in the world immediately.
If Anthony Bradley is correct, it appears that we may have turned the truly “radical” and “missional” nature of Jesus’ Kingdom message on its head. Rather than losing our lives in the Gospel, we have found yet another (religious) way to try and save them.
If you see someone with his head stuck inside a book, it’s probably me…
A couple of Christmases ago, I received a copy of Laura Hillenbrand’s book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Every time I’ve started reading it, something interrupted and I reluctantly set it aside, hoping to pick up again soon.
The last week I finally decided to make a serious effort. The little I had read was so intriguing and such a compelling story that I knew once I had reached a certain point I would be sucked in and unable to stop reading. And so it has come to pass.
Watch for a review some time soon.
I had a conversation with Jeff, my illustrious blog partner, last week. This followed several conversations I have had lately with my wife and others about the crazy schedule we’ve been keeping — you know, the one that is about to get a lot crazier. These were the result of lots of conversations I’ve had within my own head and with my heavenly Father.
And so it has been decided.
I, Chaplain Mike, will take a break from the everyday duty of writing here on Internet Monk, at least for a few months while I fulfill some additional pastoral responsibilities. I won’t be completely absent — you folks are not going to get off that easy — but will contribute posts on Mondays and Thursdays. This will allow some other folks to participate, and I will add a bit of needed space and time to my life.
The new schedule will begin in June, and you will hear more about it in days to come.