October 19, 2017

Random Thoughts on the 1st Monday of a New Season

Spring Rhythm, D. Shortt

Spring Rhythm, D. Shortt

New Season
It is a new season in my life today.

Yesterday I began an internship of leading worship, preaching, and providing pastoral care in my home church. Our pastor and his family left for Spain on his sabbatical last week. I spent my first day in the office last Friday. I preached on the Gospel passage, Luke 7:1-10, yesterday, and after the service took communion to a parishioner who recently had surgery.

I continue to serve in hospice as my primary job.

As I announced last week, this new season will involve you hearing less from me each week. Mondays and Thursdays will be my days, and Jeff will be coordinating the other posts.

It will probably take me a few days to wean myself from checking my iPhone every few minutes to follow the conversations.

Starting with Starbucks
I will be having a Starbucks coffee today, despite the dire warnings of David Barton.

“Starbucks is pouring all this money into destroying traditional marriage,” Barton said in a recent sermon at Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama.

“The question is, can a Christian give money to a group he knows will use it to attack what God supports. If you know that when you buy a cup of Starbucks, 5, 10, 15 cents is going to be used to defeat marriage, can you do that? The answer is no.

“Biblically, there’s no way a Christian can help support what is attacking God. I’m sorry, you’ve got to find some other coffee to drink. You can’t drink Starbucks and be Biblically correct on this thing. It’s just a real simple principle.”

We all want to start new seasons of our life by being “biblical,” don’t we? Tell you what, let’s go get a Starbucks and talk about it.

That’s “Biblical” reference number one.

Best Recent “Biblical” Headline
From the reliably hilarious Christian Post, here is today’s “Biblical” reference number two.

“Is Online Dating Biblical?”

No, I guess not, because…why?…because it would have ruined the Isaac and Rebekah story?

Oh my, I think two “biblical” references is all I can take in one day.

What I’m Listening to These Days
We haven’t done a “Listening Report” in quite awhile. Here is one of the new albums on my iPod that I’ve been enjoying in the first half of 2013:

harris-crowell-old-yellow-moonOld Yellow Moon, by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell

Long time collaborators Harris and Crowell had a conversation back in the 1970’s about doing a record together, but it didn’t happen until now. It was worth waiting for.

This immensely satisfying, mature album of country duets and harmony singing has been a wonderful companion these past few months. It includes some of their classic work, such as “Bluebird Wine,” and “Dreaming My Dreams.” “Bluebird Wine” was the first song of Crowell’s that Emmylou Harris heard, and she used it as the opening song on her first album in 1975. On this new record, Crowell contributes such gems as “Open Season on My Heart,” and Harris has never been more vulnerable than on tunes such as “Spanish Dancer,” and “Back When We Were Beautiful.”

In conjunction with these songs, I recommend a wonderful conversation on NPR’s “Fresh Air” program with the duo about harmony singing and their long relationship. When asked why they waited nearly forty years to record this collection of songs, Emmylou Harris said:

I think we decided almost as soon as we started our friendship in 1974 that we were going to do a record, by golly. But, you know, it just – that time passes, and you’re busy doing your own careers, and it, you know, just all of a sudden it seemed – it occurred to me that if we were going to do this record, which I knew we both wanted to do, that we were going to have to just get our schedules, you know, concurrent and do it.

And that’s really all it took, but I think Rodney and I agree that we feel that we’re really glad that we waited. I think this particular collaboration of a long friendship, the longer the friendship, kind of the more there was to bring to the record.

Highly recommended.

A Hope that Does Not Disappoint
A few of our recent commenters have made reference to Bruce Cockburn and some of the lines from his songs that have proven meaningful to them. One of the best sermons I read last week cited him too.

Here is an excerpt from Nadia Bolz-Weber’s message, “Why Hope and Vapid Optimism Are Not The Same Thing.”

Because a hope that does not disappoint looks less like being idealistic about ourselves and more like being idealistic about God’s redeeming work in the world. It’s a hope that comes not from naïve optimism, but from being wrong and falling short, and experiencing betrayal and being a betrayer and it comes from suffering and the grave and what feels like a night from which dawn could never emerge and then how God reaches into the graves we dig ourselves and each other and again loves us back to life.

The Easter hope we have, brothers and sisters, the hope that never disappoints has nothing to do with optimism or the avoidance of suffering, is a hope that can only come from a God who has experienced birth, and love and friendship and lepers and prostitutes and betrayal and suffering and death and burial and a decent into hell itself. Only a God who has born suffering himself can bring us any real hope of resurrection. And if ever given the choice of optimism or resurrection I’d go with resurrection any day of the week. This is the God of whom Paul speaks. And the Christian faith is one that does not pretend things aren’t bad. This is a faith that does not offer platitudes to those who lost children this week to suicide or a tornado. This is not a faith that produces optimism it is a faith that produces a defiant hope that God is still writing the story and that despite darkness a light shines and that God can redeem our crap and the beauty matters and that despite every disappointing thing we have ever done or that we have ever endured, that there is no hell from which resurrection is impossible. The Christian faith is one that kicks at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.*

*From Bruce Cockburn’s Lovers in a Dangerous Time

What MDiv Graduates Are Doing
The Washington Post reports that fewer seminary graduates who have earned a Master of Divinity degree — the traditional degree ministers receive — are going into congregational pastorates these days.

About 41 percent of master’s of divinity graduates expect to pursue full-time church ministry, down from 52 percent in 2001 and from 90-something percent a few decades ago, according to the Association of Theological Schools, the country’s largest such group.

The article highlights a pediatrician who went to seminary because she thought it would help her be a better doctor,and another who studied community organizing along with NT in seminary who will be going to Capitol Hill to do advocacy for the United Methodist Church. Examples like this reveal an expanded concept of “ministry” today, a tendency among young people to be less affiliated religiously and to distrust that religious institutions are capable of actually doing real good in the world. There are practical factors as well: fewer and less stable pastoral jobs, and higher levels of debt that make traditional ministry careers less attractive.

Seminaries are trying to adapt to new realities by offering more non-traditional options for students.

Eastern Conference Finals, Game 7
It has been a great spring for sports in Indianapolis, and tonight we are all holding our breath for the climactic game of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals between our Pacers and the Miami Heat. Talk about a schizophrenic series! This one has been quite a ride, and it all wraps up tonight.

I’m an Eastern Conference guy, and my history has led me to embrace and follow three teams: the Celtics, the Bulls, and the Pacers. I’m down to one last hope and it’s going to take something pretty important to rip me from my seat in front of the TV tonight.

And on a much more serious note —

Continued Prayers…for our Friends in Oklahoma

OK storm

* * *

Today’s Art by my friend, Donna Shortt

Comments

  1. Stop going to Starbucks? How on earth am I gonna lead pagans to Jesus when I’m not allowed to go to their hangouts anymore? What does Barton expect me to do, not imitate Jesus and eat with publicans and sinners? How is that “biblical”?

  2. Robert F says:

    I will continue to boycott Starbucks for Biblical reasons: I refuse to put a down payment on a cup of coffee by offering up my first-born!!!

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      Not very good coffee at that! I learned about good coffee long before Starbucks collaborated with the Borg to assimilate us all. I was–and am–bemused by the Starbucks phenomenon. The coffee is only OK, unless all you knew before Starbucks was Dennys.

  3. Trying to put working people out of work is as unChristian as it gets.

    • No one is talking about closing down Starbucks. Unless, that is, Christians make up the bulk of Starbucks’ business, which I truly doubt. A little self examination IS in order in this case.

  4. Congratulations and good luck with your new position, Chaplain Mike. And now that I’ve got the perfect excuse for a Tolkien quote, you surely can’t expect me to refrain 🙂

    From the “Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth” (“The Debate between Finrod and Andreth”, a discussion between , Finrod Felagund, an Elven King, and Andreth, a mortal woman ):

    ‘Have ye then no hope?’ said Finrod.

    ‘What is hope?’ she said. ‘An.expectation of good, which though uncertain, has some foundation in what is.known? Then we have none.’

    ‘That is one thing that Men call “hope”,’ said Finrod. ‘Amdir we call it, “looking up”. But there is another which is founded deeper. Estel we call it, that is “trust”. It is not defeated by the ways of the world, for it does not come from experience, but from our nature and first being. If we are indeed the Eruhin, the Children of the One, then He will not suffer Himself to be deprived of His own, not by any Enemy, not even by ourselves.

    This is the last foundation of Estel, which we keep even when we contemplate the End: of all His designs the issue must be for His Children’s joy. Amdir you have not, you say. Does no Estel at all abide?’

    ‘Maybe,’ she said. ‘But no! Do you not perceive that it is part of our wound that Estel should falter and its foundations be shaken? Are we the Children of the One? Are we not cast off finally? Or were we ever so? Is not the Nameless the Lord of the World?’

    ‘Say it not even in question!’ said Finrod.

    ‘It.cannot.be.unsaid,’ answered.Andreth, ‘if you would understand the despair in which we walk. Or in which most Men walk. Among the Atani, as you call us, or the Seekers as we say: those who left the lands of despair and the Men of darkness and journeyed west in vain hope: it is believed that healing may yet be found, or that there is some way of escape. But is this indeed Estel? Is it not Amdir rather; but without reason: mere flight in a dream from what waking they know: that there is no escape from darkness and death?’

    ‘Mere flight in a dream you say,’ answered Finrod. ‘In dream many desires are revealed; and desire may be the last flicker of Estel. But you do not mean dream, Andreth. You confound dream and waking with hope and belief, to make the one more doubtful and the other more sure. Are they asleep when they speak of escape and healing?’

    ‘Asleep or awake, they say nothing.clearly,’ answered Andreth.

    • Thank you, Martha. I know we can always count on you. I hope we’ll be reading much more of your writing in days to come.

    • Radagast says:

      Ah, the Simarillion…. the Old Testament of Middle Earth…..

      • I love the “Athrabeth” to bits and any excuse I can find to shoehorn it in, I will do so. I’m shameless 🙂

  5. Richard Hershberger says:

    “…higher levels of debt that make traditional ministry careers less attractive.”

    What is the source of this higher debt? Are we talking about undergraduate debt being carried over, or has seminary tuition skyrocketed as well?

    So far as I can tell, the price of higher education has gone up fundamentally because of easy debt, combined with young’uns who don’t understand the difference between debt and free money. Because of this, schools can charge whatever they want for whatever reason they want. Some of this goes into amenities: shiny new student centers with climbing walls and the like. This is the lure. Much of the rest goes into ballooning administrative bureaucracies, with massive compensation packages at the upper levels. Then there is the world of for-profit universities, which are difficult to distinguish from outright scams.

    Has this hit seminaries? Do they have climbing walls and presidents with million dollar salaries? I honestly don’t know.

    As an aside, I am waiting for some group of disgruntled academics to hook up with some philanthropist and found a new university with no climbing walls and a minimal bureaucracy, but which has classrooms with teachers and students and has reasonable tuition. The idea is bound to occur to somebody besides me eventually.

  6. Boycotting Starbucks? My church has Starbucks coffee served at our hospitality center every Sunday. All I can say about that is that at least it is better than the swill they USED to serve, and Starbucks coffee IS just so-so. It is over roasted and over priced. Its ubiquity makes it almost impossible to avoid.

    Long ago I decided to boycott Levi Strauss Co. when it stopped supporting the Boy Scouts over the gay issue. Wells Fargo Bank is another one but, unfortunately my place of employment has their account with them. Just have to choose your battles.

    • You don’t have to stay at that bank if you’d rather not. Open an account elsewhere and have your paycheck direct-deposited into it. Of if your employer insists on your money going into Wells Fargo, transfer it immediately to the other bank.

      Where there’s a will, there’s a way. You may not be able to avoid Wells Fargo altogether, but you can take steps to minimize your participation in it.

  7. Richrd McNeeley says:

    I too will be going to Starbucks today, even at the risk of destroying traditional marriage. One of the baristas at my local Starbucks had a baby girl 11 weeks ago at the same time her husband was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, today is her first day back at work and nothing will keep my wife and from going to Starbucks to support her.

    • I am not boycotting Starbucks, but I have to say this kind of argument makes little sense to me as a former food service worker myself. If you are concerned for her and her family, direct donations and support in the form of babysitting, meals, and carpooling would be a true God-send. Paying $4 for coffee and putting a dollar in the tip jar is not making a meaningful impact on her, specifically, at all. I’m not saying don’t do it, but I am saying, it’s not exactly a mitzvah to spend money at a huge company that, while it pays somewhat better than other fast food joints, still pays peanuts and uses all kinds of dirty tricks to keep its workers from accessing benefits and seniority.

      • Richard McNeeley says:

        We already have offered, and will be helping with a fund raiser. We also believed it was important to be there when she returned to work.

  8. You guys should take it easy on Starbucks.

    Maybe all that they are doing is taking out insurance against ever being audited by the IRS.

  9. And Mr. Barton will be subsequently proposing a boycott of Walmart for their unbiblical treatment of immigrant workers, right?

    Right?

    Oh wait, we’re selective in what “unbiblical” behavior we get upset about? Hmm….

  10. I can give you a better reason why Christians should not be patronizing Starbucks: Its a waste of money. Their coffee is over priced, most of their drinks are merely coffee flavored sugar, and you can get far better product at 7-11 for much less. To somebody who doesn’t enjoy Starbucks anyways, Barton’s rant is as good as any to put the nail in the coffin. For all the “conversations” that supposedly happen between believers and unbelievers in Starbucks, in all my years of going I’ve never had one. The type of people who stumble into those type of profound dialogues with strangers are going to continue doing that anywhere and everywhere. You don’t need Starbucks.

    …and then there’s the “latte fund” idea, or whatever it’s called. Until I can get to a point where I’m saving money and planning for retirement, I personally just cannot enjoy a Starbucks without a heavy dose of white guilt for the starving children in impoverished third world nations my 5.99 could be helping feed if I had just bought a 1.19 coffee at the gas station instead.

    Chaplain Mike, I’d say you need to repent of your evil espresso, but I’d first have to confess to splurging on a venti iced Raspberry Mocha (for sentimental reasons only) about once every two years.

    • Phil M. says:

      If you enjoy the coffee from a place like 7/11 you may need deliverance, brother…

      I’m sorry, but there is a quantifiable difference between Starbucks coffee and the swill you find at those places. The one nice thing about Starbucks is that even though it’s not the best coffeeshop coffee, is that they are relatively consistent in quality. So at least if you’re traveling somewhere, and you find a Starbucks, you know you’ll most likely be getting a decent cup of coffee.

      • Is Dunkin Donuts okay?

      • I’m sorry, but there is a quantifiable difference between Starbucks coffee and the swill you find at those places.

        Agreed. The swill I find at those places is objectively superior to the coffee brewed at Starbucks. This has been demonstrated through national blindfolded taste tests: Dunkin came out first, 7-11 second, and Starbucks third. I think McDonalds was 5th, but I can’t remember who came in 4th. And Starbucks may be relatively consistent, but their brews are constantly changing. 711 is absolutely consistent, both in terms of the brews offered (all of them, every day) and the quality of the individual brews. Now I’m not a coffee snob, and Starbucks is certainly not beneath my dignity, but for my money, 711 works for me. When I brew at home, it’s Dunkin, or Vietnamese or Japanese if it’s instant coffee.

        I’ll give you this: 9 of 10 times I’m drinking Starbucks, it’s because I’m in an airport. They do have the travel thing going for them. Kind of like Fanta: it’s the same in every country (unlike Coke).

      • I lived in Miami for eight years.

        Real coffee does exist.

        Across from the place where I worked there was a dance hall/nightclub/burdel named La Covacha that closed at about 10 am. At 4:30, the dance hall girls [to be charitable] would push back the tables, take off their dresses and put on jeans and yellow t-shirts, and pull their hair into ponytails that they pulled through La Covacha baseballl caps. They pulled all the picadillo and ropa vieja off the stove and put on great steaming pots of café con canela.

        By the time I got there in the early AM. the place was jumping faster than it did earlier that night. And with good reason. The coffee was to die for, the girls were cute in their “uniforms”, and you could get a mug of the stuff with a slice of Cuban bread and guava jelly for $1.35, and eggs with chorizo for an extra $2.50

    • I mainly drink tall Cafe Americanos (black) or the bold if it’s a blend i like (rare), so stopping at Starbucks is not a budget or waistline issue. Some nice reader gave me a $25 gift card for my birthday so, in fact, it hasn’t cost me a thing recently.

      • Used to drink black. These days I use a bit of creme, just to help it go down faster. It’s like water in your whisky: not for the taste, but for ease of quicker consumption. But I don’t have a caffeine problem, really…

  11. I pretty much gave up trying to avoid companies that support things that are unbiblical years ago (unless they are blatantly so). I realized I would have to get rid of my car, my phone, my cable TV (which I did anyway – just ridiculously expensive), the internet (yes your paying for internet service allows people to sell bad stuff on the internet – see you are supporting it now, and so is David Barton!), stop eating at most chain restaurants, quit shopping at chain stores, etc. In other words, the only way to avoid it is to avoid doing business with just about anyone. I remember when church people wouldn’t eat at restaurants that served alcohol, but then all the grocery stores started selling alcohol so that conviction had to be compromised, at least if you wanted to buy food. (Almost sounds like the ‘mark of the beast’ doesn’t it?) And as Ryan M. points out, there are other unbiblical values to stand for as well (which makes it even harder to find somewhere to buy your stuff).

    I’m not against standing for conviction and boycotting products or merchants who support things I oppose (and I do avoid some companies for those reasons) but to be consistent on ‘family values’ you’d need to boycott just about every national store or restaurant these days. And I’m not sure the early Christians boycotted merchants who held unchristian values – they WOULD have starved to death! But the fact that Paul addresses eating meat sacrificed to idols indicates they wrestled with the issue too.

  12. Steve Newell says:

    Chaplin Mike, should we now call you “Pastor Mike”? I do like the sound of that since many of your writings are more from a pastor’s prescriptive, which I enjoy.

  13. Rick Ro. says:

    I wonder how many things in David Barton’s office or in his home are stamped “Made in China.” If he has any, he’s either being very hypocritical in his “Biblical” stance or being very selective. And again, here we have a Christian leader making it known to the world more what Christians are against rather than what we’re for. How about instead he begins Bible studies WITHIN Starbucks stores that might actually convey to their patrons the idea that maybe, just maybe, God loves them and sent His Son to die for them. But no…maybe it’s more “Biblical” to sit inside a church and do that.

  14. If we boycott SB , where are we going to have elder’s meetings ?

    My small community meets in a school ( maybe we should stop that too ) , one night not long ago I met some friends at SB to discuss our mission priorities , looked up and 2 others from our community were sharing a cup of SB , a few minutes later a couple more rolled in , ect … At one point that night about 25% of our community had been thru there , I guess that’s about the same percentage that have worked @ SB at some point.

    I am so weary of the boycott this / avoid that crowd

  15. Online dating is totally biblical. Provided you let the gal make the first move. Just like in the Book of Ruth.

    (backs away from lecturn and walks quickly towards the exit….)

  16. Mike,

    We desparately need a Christian version of Starbucks so we don’t have to support the heathen.

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  18. Dang. I was all fired up and ready to give up my Starbucks habit, and then I see this about David Barton.

    Now I’ve got to continue buying overpriced coffee products.

    Darn you, David Barton. You’ve screwed up my one attempt at better stewardship.