Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Whether Church or State, Disputes Usually Get Personal

Remember when the plan was 15 days to flatten the curve? John MacArthur does. The statement on his church's website is too long to read, but from skimming it you get the gist. God established three institutions: family, church, and state. When the state tells the church when and how to worship, that's jumping jurisdictions.

MacArthur says the church answers not to Caesar, but to Christ. I'm sure many would affirm that truth without condoning Grace Community's mass gatherings. The statement's addendum says the church initially suspended services to do their part in flattening the curve. But, because we now see that earlier "horrific projections of death . . . were wrong and the virus is nowhere near as dangerous as originally feared," the church should resume meeting needs that it can only meet by meeting in person.

In other words (my words), MacArthur was ok with flattening the curve, but because the virus underperformed, he's not interested in trying to flatline the curve, which pushes its presence into perpetuity.

I don't have the answers on all this. I will say we're being naïve if we think anyone is being strictly objective right now. That's not how humans work.

Disputes usually get personal. When you challenge Caesar's authority, he always takes it personally. Granted, human church leaders are human as well. Who is more so playing by the rules, and who is mainly threatening to take their ball and go home? To really make that distinction, you often have to be on the playground yourself.

California is not my playground. I'm not saying we shouldn't care whether California churches answer to Caesar or Christ. I'm only saying we have a greater responsibility to do what we can here. In that regard, I read some useful thoughts from Will Willimon.

Willimon looks to Barth's responses to German nationalism for coronacoping ideas. Will finds Barth emphasizing the church's mission to preach “Jesus Christ is Lord."

He describes Barth as "refusing to be jerked around by what the world regarded as momentous, earth-shaking events." Instead, he encouraged believers to "deal with the shock that God has, in Jesus Christ, made our history God’s." That shock raises the question, "How then shall we live now that we know the truth?"

My hope for John MacArthur is the same as for my own church's leadership—that we navigate this situation in light of God making our history his own in Jesus. 


Monday, August 10, 2020

A Cup Of Cold Water (And Cash?)

And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water
because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you,
he will by no means lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42

Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison captures a real moment from a time and place that—thankfully—seems so unreal to me. Part of the magic comes from Cash’s comments between songs. He admits that he cannot truly relate to the prisoners, and yet, he sounds like he can.

Before one song, Cash asks for a glass of water. He takes a swig and says, “Ah, that’s water,” as in, It tastes horrible, but you can’t deny it’s water—it wouldn’t pass for anything else! Taste aside, Cash continues the performance. The cup of water was enough to keep him going.

We all sometimes need a drink of water to carry on. When you’re hot, tired, cranky, dry—just a small, cool drink of water can refresh your spirit. You press on, longing for the taller glass of water at the end.

Jesus sent out his disciples to proclaim the kingdom-nearness. He put them on roads that would be hot and dry. Jesus declares a blessing for anyone who will give a cup of cold water to these little ones—that is, those who are poor in spirit, who are otherwise overlooked.

The greater ones—the rich in spirit—will be noticed by those able to give them food and wine. The little ones, however, depend on their fellow littles, who can offer them only water. Wine is for celebration. It’s the water that keeps us going when there’s a job to do.

Who in your life can you bless today with a cup of cold water?