The Theology of Groups

“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”
 – Seth Godin
“Nothing truly valuable can be achieved except by the unselfish cooperation of many individuals.”
 ― Albert Einstein
We are creatures of clans.
We love to organize.
We have a gravity in us that pulls us together.
We are the Roberts family.
We are Aggies.
We are Cowboy fans. (well…not my wife)
We are _______ (insert political party, geographic location, nationality, ethnicity, vocation, religious affiliation, etc.)
Although there are many negative attributes of grouping together because of our fallenness, that doesn’t mean we should have a Theology that a group is secular.  I actually believe it’s the opposite.  Because of the history of the mob mentality, I need to really have a Theology of who I run with and why I’m with them.
This isn’t a “separate thyself” posture.  I just need to understand where God is working in the connections that I have with other people.  If we are a running group, where’s God?  If we are family, where’s God?  If we are a church, where’s God?
I don’t have to disassociate with people that are different than me.  I just have to look harder as to how God is connecting us.  “Why can I have atheist friends?”, because God is in all things and even people that don’t believe the same doctrines.
God is above all our similarities and differences alike.  Seeing this is easier in some groups and harder in others.  If I can’t ultimately make the connection with God as I’m connecting with others, I usually know there a True disconnection all around.

 

And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecc. 4v12

Theology of Family

“The best inheritance a parent can give to his children is a few minutes of their time each day.”

- M. Grundler

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”

- Desmond Tutu

I really didn’t “get” a lot of things in life until two things happened:  I got married and I had my first child.

I thought I knew a lot about the world and who God was, but I forgot one major piece… I didn’t know who I was.  I knew stuff about me (giftings, passions, etc.), but I didn’t really understand myself in the eyes of others.  I could be a figment of my imagination with others, but I saw the true me when I saw my bride and my boy.

My family, including my siblings, father, and extended family, have been a gift to me as well.  I see what God meant to create when he created a people.  Our families are suppose to be foundational for our understanding of community.  True community means a group of people, blood related or not, that: 1) Care for you. 2) Fight for you. 3) See the hope for your future. 4) Forgive you. 5) Help you see and understand your faults, for your growth.

Family has been one of the closest reflections of biblical community and has taught me how to live in community outside of my family.  The roles I have had in my family have taught me how to live in the Kingdom.  As a son, I’ve learned how to be a son to God.  As a father, I understand why God wants good things for His children and why discipline is needed at times.  As a brother, I understand that it’s okay to fight because at the end of the day, were both striving to know more and be more.  As a cousin, I’ve learned how to help and how to be an advocate. And as a distant relative, I’ve learned how to love those well that are away from me.

I have actually yelled at my children “HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU STOP _____ BEFORE YOU’LL LISTEN?”, and immediately heard God go “it’s annoying, right?”  I love those moments.  I realize how to be a father like God.  I also can empathize with my child in that moment because I see my stubbornness with God.

Family is a beautiful gift for me.  It always gives me awareness of my God, my family, and myself.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.

Psalm 128v3

Theology of Eating (part deux)

“One should eat to live, not live to eat”
– Benjamin Franklin

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.”
– Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

I remember the first time that I saw the Lion King movie. All the animals “chillin'” together near “Pride Rock”. Remember all the predators and prey just “hanging out”. Mufasa explains the Circle of Life. It’s this beautiful explanation of the food cycle, and your heart thinks “that sounds right”.

Well it is right.
Life has to be taken so that you and I can have it.
Daily. Weekly. Constantly.

There is something sacred and Holy about eating because a plant or animal had to give it’s life for me to survive. I can try and detach myself from the process, but I can’t detach myself from the Truth. A #1 isn’t a combo meal, it’s an animal. When I have forgotten that, I’m missing out on something.

When I’m really aware of this, it changes my posture towards what I eat. More importantly, it alters how much I eat. We are called to be people that only desire our “daily bread”, and there is a richness to this. However, there is also the Truth that whatever I consume has a cost.

When I understand what I’m eating, I understand why I eat and how to eat.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12v11

Theology of Eating (part one)

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

 

“The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from the mere animal biology to an act of culture.”

- Michael Pollen

 

I love food, so I have to possess a theology that encompasses it.

 

We live in a culture where food (cooking, preparing, eating, etc) is glorified.  We have a tv channel dedicated to it.  We spend more and more money every year on it.  It is a common passion and function.  It’s a routine in my life and it can be a centerpiece of conversation with complete strangers.

 

Seriously, you can walk into a room with complete strangers and yell “tacos or pizza?!”, and watch how everyone has an opinion.

 

Food’s universalism is one of the things that makes food Holy.  It may be the only experience that Warren Buffet and a homeless man can share.  Food isn’t bias or prejudice.  Eating isn’t reserved for the wealthy, educated, and affluent.  The meal is an arena where all can sit and enjoy.

 

Jesus knew this.  The Pharisees knew this.  I’m starting to understand this.  I can share a meal with anyone, and I mean anyone.  I can’t share all my experiences with everyone because there are things that can get in the way, but not food.  I could eat with a blind man that only speaks Cantonese.  I’m not saying it would be easy, but it could be done.

 

As this starts to permeate into my Theologies, I start to see that the meal is sacred and a gift.  It’s powerful because it can allow me to see people as the same.  It allows me to bridge differences with others and it fortifies my home with the four I share the majority of meals with.

 

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common.

Acts 2v42-44

Theology of Drinking

“In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is Freedom, in water there is bacteria.”

― Benjamin Franklin

“Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable.”

― G.K. Chesterton

I hope I didn’t just lose you.

We are partying people. We celebrate life a lot. We are not necessarily “commercial” holiday people. We aren’t always looking to participate, but rather we are looking for what to celebrate. We just like to invite people into our lives, enjoy their stories, and share ours.

And alcohol helps. It just does.

Can you enjoy life without? Of course.

Are there some that abuse it? Absolutely.

I’m not going to act like this is a necessity to life. I will, however, claim that it’s a part of ours, and I think God is okay with that. It is something that we share with guests in our home around conversations, watching football games, and hanging out by the fire pit.

Some of the richest, and most honest, conversations have occurred over a bottle of pinot or merlot. Why would I assume that the connection isn’t there? Why would I deny the relationship between wine and festivals in Scripture.

It’s a gift from God for us to enjoy and not abuse. Like sex and other “vices”, the absence in seeking to understand how God is in the drink, or the lack of a theology, simply invites corruption and manipulation.

So as I give thanks and drink from the cup (which was wine when Jesus did it), I find Holiness in that Cup.

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.
Ecc. 9v7

Theology of Creating

“I get satisfaction of three kinds. One is creating something, one is being paid for it and one is the feeling that I haven’t just been sitting on my ass all afternoon.”

– William F. Buckley

“It is better to create than to be learned, creating is the true essence of life”

– Barthold Georg Niebuhr

Maybe for you it’s drawing, sculpting a masterpiece, planting a garden or building a compost. Maybe it’s creating something new or taking apart the remote to put it back together.

To be honest, I’m probably the most fulfilled when I’m doing this. There is something in us that has this instinct to conquer space and mold it into something beautiful, useful, or entertaining.

So what do I create?

-environments (one of my favorites is beside a fire pits with CCR radio playing in the background)

-photographs (a medium to capture time and a story)

-ideas (my whiteboard artists unite!!!)

-dialogue (sparking conversations with strangers)

-sermons (I’m a little “preachy”)

I tell you this, because some people have very obvious building and creating skills. My friend Kevin, can fix and build anything and everything. My brother-in-law Jon, can create some of the best beer I’ve ever tasted. My pseudo cousin Macy, as a senior in high school, can create masterpieces with charcoal pencils. The truth is that we all have this ability and we all know the Holiness of the Art and the Art of this Holiness.

Something deep is engaged.

It’s natural. It’s hard. It’s the Imago Dei (image of God) breaking through in the world through us.

Our God is THE CREATOR but He is also a creator. The nature of God is to make something new (see Genesis 1 and 2 & Revelations 21 and 22). He is always creating, whether it’s a people, a nation, a church, a meal, or a Way.

God can’t help but create, and I think we feel that same urge. When we give into that urge, we give into God.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men
Col.3v23

Theology of Basketball

Basketball Court_Landscape

“The game of basketball has been everything to me. My place of refuge, place I’ve always gone where I needed comfort and peace. It’s been the site of intense pain and the most intense feelings of joy and satisfaction. It’s a relationship that has evolved over time, given me the greatest respect and love for the game.”

- Michael Jordan

(I realize the specific nature of this, but maybe there is some connective activity in your life that is similar.)

There are parts of my childhood that were good.  I have memories of playing, silliness, and innocence.  They were moments of naive ecstasy.

However, there was a lot of heartaches too.  Death, including my mother’s, was somewhat normative.  We were always stressed about money and in the latter years of living at home, things like alcohol and some other questionable activity plagued our home.

In college, there was that natural liminality.  You know, that “who am I?”  and “what an I here for?” questions that leads to changing your major multiple times and taking twice as long to graduate.

Eventually, I got married, children were created, houses were bought, jobs were accepted and then quit….

My point in telling you all this is that there were two constants that I was engaged with through all of that: God and basketball. I know it sounds silly to make basketball Holy, but it has been that for me.  It has been something I played before the fallenness of the world hit me.  A basketball court was the equivalent of a therapist’s couch from ages 16-25.  In my late 20’s and early 30’s, the game became an avenue for me to reach out to others.

Basketball now is a “3rd Place” to me.  I can now use a court as a pulpit where I can preach the Good News with a crossover.   Where I use to use the game as an ego boost and a place to talk *#&@, now I use it to build community/connection and now my words are rooted in encouragement.  God was grooming me to reach a group of boys on a slab of concrete on High St. 20 years ago… I just didn’t know it.

My point is:  I see the Gospel in this game.  Playing basketball was there for me through “my creation, my fall, and my restoration”.  Playing basketball is where I’ve had interactions with the Holy Comforter.  When playing now, I can see how I’ve grown up.  I can see patience, gentleness, and self-control that’s now there but wasn’t before.

There are many areas of life where I struggle to see what God is doing, but when I’m playing ball, it’s no question for me.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 Cor. 9v25-27

The Theology of Animals.

Adv_Vet_Profess_FH_630x250

“I care not for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.”

– Abraham Lincoln

“No one in the world needs a mink coat but a mink.”

– Murray Banks

 

Before developing the Theology of Everything, I’ve never really thought about the meaning behind owning another species of animal.  Growing up in the household I grew up in, it was just something you did.  Whether it was a puppy with parvo, a cocker spaniel with hereditary mange, or any cat that was hungry, we took care of it.  My wife and I had two cats before we even thought of having kids.  Since then, we have added three children, a dog, and another cat into the family, bringing the total to nine living creature living under one roof.  And let me make this clear, these are not the type of animals that you seek out to buy from a breeder.  These are animals that, in one way or another, found us.  We are animal lovers, and to us it is second nature to care for animals that can’t take of themselves.

 

By why do some of us have this posture?

 

Well there is something Holy about our rule and reign over this world.  God has trusted us to take care of this planet.  This isn’t some liberal bent on Scripture, I just know that God trusts me to take care of my pets and my pets trust me that I will.  It’s a unique thing to really understand that this animal’s life is in your hands.

 

(I bet if I was a farmer, I’d have an even deeper/richer understanding of this relationship.)

 

There is something about caring for other animals that blesses me, maybe because deep down I know I don’t have to, and even deeper down I know that I do.

 

The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.
Proverbs 12v10

 

Balancing a Paradox

paradox

So I’m living through a corporate merger.

This means meetings, after meetings, after meetings.

I feel like I’m back working at the church…having meetings about meetings or having meetings to feel like we are moving.

 

The truth is: the work continues and some solutions won’t happen in an office (some will happen in the field).   My bosses get this, but understand the value of communicating and evaluating what is going on in trainings and meetings.  I even have to train people in a system where I have to explicitly explain that “you can’t understand this system until you start using it”

 

(honestly, that’s probably how we should be teaching about God…”you can’t understand Bible until you start to use it in the field”… “you can’t understand that God will catch you until you fall (or jump)”…)

 

I think that we have to live in this tension of balancing a paradox.

Control and Chaos

Organized and Organic

Structure and Movement

Script and Improv

 

Now I believe some of us are skilled to operate on the left, others on the right, and others in the middle.  The key is understand the Higher Purpose of those that can do something you can’t (or aren’t Called to).

 

As we take the Church into new territory (although God has already been there), we do so not to contradict, but to compliment. 

“Jerusalem” needs “the ends of the Earth” for imagination and for tilling up legalism.

“The ends of the Earth” needs “Jerusalem” for rest, for centering, and for unity in diversity.

Ice Water Church

Ice Bucket Challenge

So, like any good amateur anthropologist, I’ve been studying the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and it’s viral spread.  

I’m not necessarily jumping on board but at the same time completely appreciate the phenomenon.

  • The money raised!!!
  • The belief that we need to be more aware and be more in the fight against this awful disease.
  • The community, the fun, the “brotherhood” that is generated on social media that is (in a very rich way) connecting us. 

All of those things are good and I’m supportive of those supporting.  Just because I occasionally ask “why are you doing this?” does not mean I’m saying “don’t do it!”.  I would ask someone that is planning on getting baptized the same thing.

The whole experience excites me honestly, but maybe for a different reason.  I’ve preached and taught on the 3 entry points into a relationship with God: Believe, Belong and Bless.  I’ve taught that there isn’t a hierarchy to those 3 elements.  

 

Some come to God through believing (orthodoxy, theology, doctrine, dogma),

…some belonging (orthoempathy, community, connection)

…and some blessing (orthopraxy, mission, purpose, calling).

 

The Ice Water Church that we are see forming has elements of all 3 firing on all cylinders and I guess that gives me hope to know that the 3 are alive and well in all of us.

 

We are a people that know we should be fighting for more.

We are a people that are taught to be narcissistic but ultimately we seek community.

We are a people that know our $10 or $100 could be used to multiply the fruit that we wish to see more of.

 

We aren’t dead, we just sometimes need a little ice water to wake us up.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,692 other followers

%d bloggers like this: