Saturday, November 26, 2011

Keeping Christ in Christmas

*I’ll finish my thoughts on the Apostles Creed tomorrow. Tonight, I have something more important on my mind that I needed to get out there.*

‘Tis the season for one of my biggest pet-peeves. I really hate when people say to keep Christ in Christmas. Not only do they say that, they feel the need to emphasize their point by writing CHRISTmas. Really? Is that entirely necessary?

Now, before I have people jump down my throat (or start praying for my salvation) let me explain myself. I have no problem with people writing Xmas or Christmas. In fact, I do both. In reality, the x is not removing Christ, but denoting him in another way. X is the Greek letter chi, which early Christians used to signify Christ back in the day. By saying Merry Xmas, I am saying the same thing. However people don’t take the time to learn about the history of our church or the abbreviations that are used. Where do they think Xmas came from? It wasn’t an arbitrary decision to use x instead of Christ.

That is part of why I dislike this religious movement. The thing that really gets me going about this mentality is that people get so fired up about the way we write or say Christmas however they don’t even consider how absurd our celebration of the holiday is. We forget we are celebrating Christ’s birthday. Instead we have turned it into some hugely consumerist event where we spend way more than we should on stuff we will use a few times then set it on a shelf to collect dust.

The message of Christ has never been about amassing more stuff. Nowhere in the gospels does it say that the person who dies with the most crap wins. In fact, it says the opposite of that. When a rich man asked Jesus what he needed to do, other than keeping the commandments, to enter heaven Christ answered by telling him to sell ALL of his possessions and give the money to the poor. It is in this story that we have the verse, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)

When we give people birthday presents we try to get them something they would want. If your friend is a vegetarian, are you going to give them a membership to ‘Meat Monthly’? I don’t think so. It seems to me that if we really thought of Christmas as Jesus’ birthday we would want to give him something that he would like.

There is movement that has been around for the last couple years that I really admire. It is called the Advent Conspiracy. The premise here is to not spend so much on useless presents, but to make meaningful gifts and give some of the money to the people who needed. It’s about letting your heart break for what breaks God’s heart. It’s about giving real presents that people will find meaning in, rather than giving something that they may or may not want. Here is a video explaining this all better than I am able to:

Consider what the video is saying.  What really matters; they way people write Christmas, or the way they think about the holiday?  Maybe it’s time for a wake up call and a redefining of how we think of Christmas.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of Sins

Both of these aren’t really things I disagree with. I’ve already gone over the forgiveness of sins earlier. It goes hand in hand with the death and resurrection. I really don’t feel the need to rehash that here. As for communion we could look at it in so many different ways. I could pick apart the different views of the actual substance of communion. I could go into if I think the “body and blood” is literal or symbolic. Quite frankly, I don’t want to do that.

A couple years ago I had a revelation about communion and the reason behind it. You can read that here. I went back and read it. I still think this is the most important part of communion is the memory that it inspires. In that other post, I wrote:
I never really understood the reason for Communion. I mean, I understood it intellectually; I knew we did it because we were told to do so. I didn't understand why it mattered though. I never knew the emotional value of this simple meal. Now I understand, even as trivial as this analogy may seem, it really has opened my eyes to the beauty of this act of worship. People come together over food. Jesus understood that and used it to our benefit. We remember who we belong too and who's family we are in. It's almost as if He was implementing a family dinner where we share more than food with one another. We share life and we celebrate life together with this simple act of taking Communion. This fact is truly beautiful to me and I am so grateful to understand it on a new level. I hope someday you also can understand this as I do today.

 Honestly, I think that is all I can say on the subject.

The Holy Catholic Church

I believe in… the holy catholic church.  Seems simple enough, right?  That’s what I thought too.  Then I really started to think about what that means.  Do I believe in the church?  I think I agree with that, but I’m not sure. 

On the one hand, the church has done so much wrong in the past.  I don’t have to think hard to come up with a list of the church’s sins.  Just ask a “non believer” about the church and they are sure to site the crusades or the way the current church seems to judge anyone and everyone who isn’t part of their group.  As an insider, I see other things that are not right.  There is so much in-fighting and bickering among believers and it tears the church apart.  These are serious issues that make it hard to trust and believe the church.

One the other hand, however, the church does so much right.  I look around at what my church and the churches around do for their neighbors.  I look at What Kim Emch and her crew is doing with SON Ministries.  They feed lunch in the summer to Hilliard area students who are on a free or reduced lunch.  So many kids are fed because of them.  I look at Operation Christmas Child and how they give presents to those who wouldn’t get them otherwise.  They get kids and their parents excited about giving to people who will never be able to say thank you.

When I weigh the difference between what is wrong with the church, and what we are doing right I am surprised by what conclusion I come to.  I really think that the good can outweigh the bad in this case.  I know the church has and is doing plenty of things wrong, but there is a strong contingency out there that wants to do good no matter what.  I can honestly say that I believe in that part of the church.  I would fight for those who are trying to accomplish what God has asked.  I can back those who are acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God.  And I want to help show those who aren’t the way they can change.  This gets me pumped to help the further the church as Christ saw it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I Believe in the Holy Spirit

I would be lying if I didn’t say that this part of the creed pisses me off.  I think the Holy Spirit is grossly underestimated and ignored.  One of my absolute favorite church Holidays and stories in the Bible has to be Pentecost.  I mean, seriously… not only did Peter give the sermon of his life and tongues of fire land on the heads of the apostles, but they were all able to speak in the languages of the people in the city.  Think about it, these guys are former fishermen and what not.  What is the likelihood of them knowing various languages and dialects that were represented in the city filled with outsiders?  Very slim. 

The reason I think the Holy Spirit is underestimated is because of the way we talk about him.  It’s like the only thing we believe he is capable of is giving us nudges and feelings about what God wants us to do.  I’m sorry, but the story of Pentecost suggests something a little more intense than a nudge or feeling.  For real, he does the work.

There have been times where I have been worshiping and the air feels thick and electric, but not oppressive in any way.  Sometimes, that happens even when I am alone in my car or on my bed journaling.  It is the unmistakable presence of the Holy Ghost.  I love those moments of connection; they help me get through the times I don’t feel connected. 

There have been some times when I have had the unmistakable feeling that a friend I am around needs prayer.  Or, sometimes when I stand up to give a talk or even just answer questions from friends the words have just come out of my mouth.  There is a certain truth that is communicated in those instances that I can’t conjure up on my own.  These are clearly instances of the Holy Spirit moving. 

The reason this part of the creed pisses me off is because God the Father and Jesus both get whole sections in the creed and the Holy Spirit seems to be an afterthought.  I suppose that could be because it is so hard to really understand the Holy Spirit.  We are not really wired to understand the way he works.  Maybe the lack of explanation comes from the Church Fathers not really knowing what the heck to even say about the Holy Spirit.  Even if that is the case, it is too bad.  I feel we interact on a daily basis with him, I wish we didn’t take that for granted. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ascent and Judgment

He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father.  He will come again to judge the living and the dead.  

This part of the creed is so much easier for me to understand.  I almost don’t even feel like talking about it, since it seems so basic to me.  But that would be taking the easy way out, which is something I try not to do.  So here we go; ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God wait the day he comes to judge all of humanity.

Something interesting about the “seated at the right hand” imagery is that it is one of the most common ways Jesus is seen after he heads home to Heaven.  There is one time, though, when he isn’t seen sitting but rather standing at the right hand of the Father.  The only time (that I know of) is when the stoning of Stephen is recorded in Acts.  It’s like Jesus stood up in support of the poor dude who was being pelted by rocks.  If I die a horrific death like that, I hope he stands for me too.  Lol

I find it interesting how so many of the major world religions have a concept of judgment.  A lot even match the end of the world judgment pattern we Christians believe in.  I love how even the religions without a specific deity has one.  I mean, karma is rough and a form of judgment.  It’s like the universe passing a verdict and sentencing, however you literally can blame no one but yourself. 

Anyways, yeah.  I don’t really have much else to say.  So, I think I’m going to finish this episode of Pretty Little Liars then go to bed.  Tomorrow is going to prove to be a busy day. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

He Descended Into Hell

Sorry it’s taken me so long to write anymore.  I’ve been fighting strep throat for the last week.  Well that and I have no bloody idea of how to deal with this part of the Apostles Creed. 

This is the phrase that has always bugged me.  I have gone over the gospels time and time again, but I have found nothing.  I had no idea of what this phrase meant in terms the Bible.  Like, where did it come from, and why does it matter?  Being stuck, I decided to email one of the pastors at my church. 

Pastor Eric replied saying,
The main Bible passage is 1 Pet 3:18-4:6, where the descent into hell is mentioned twice. The first time seems to speak of the descent as a triumphal march, as if Christ descended in order to demonstrate his victory over sin and his Lordship as Judge. The second time seems to speak of the descent as a missional journey, as if Christ descended "to preach the gospel even to those who are dead" so that none will be excluded from God simply because they were born at the wrong time or in the wrong place. Those are the two main interpretations of what "he descended into hell" means.
This makes sense to a certain extent.  I mean, I have heard about the idea that he kicked down the gate of Hell and rescued the faithful who had no way into heaven without him.  I have heard the idea that he went to hell to show his power over sin.  Neither of these understandings really satisfies me though.

I was talking about this with Tyler, the other intern, and my friend Rachel last night after the middle school youth group.  Tyler presented a very interesting idea about it.  He was saying that the way he has understood Jesus’ decent into Hell as part of the atonement for our sins.  It’s like the cross was a microcosm for what was really going on.  His suffering on the cross wasn’t enough, so he had to be punished in Hell as well.  I think this makes the most sense to me.  We liken Jesus to a lamb lead to the slaughter.  Well, think of the cross as the original killing of the lamb, and the decent into Hell is like when the good parts of the lamb are burned in honor of God.  Just killing the Lamb isn’t enough.  There is another step that needs to be taken to complete the atonement. 

I’m still not totally comfortable with this part of the creed, but it makes more sense now.  I’m sure over time it will be fine.