Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mom says, “Don’t Play with the Toys; Just Watch Me.”

I’ve never watched Breaking Bad, a series about a drug-dealing chemistry teacher, so I didn’t know what the fuss was about when Toys R Us started selling Breaking Bad figurines complete with fake drugs. Once I learned what the show was about it seemed straight forward that a store catering to children is no place to promote drugs. (Even as I write this I realize that Toys R Us probably sells video games with content not fit for humans – be they children or adults).

Then I read an article about the mother who launched the online petition requesting that the store pull the items from its shelves – which it did, at least temporarily. Toys R Us said in a statement, “Let’s just say the action figures have taken an ‘indefinite sabbatical’.”

The mother, it turns out, is a fan of the show. She told television station WFTX of Fort Meyers, FL that she likes Breaking Bad, but seeing the action figures in Toys R Us was just too much. She is quoted as saying, “Kids mimic their action figures, if you will…do you want your child in an orange jumpsuit?”

Doesn’t the woman think that kids mimic their parents too? What are they going to think when they see their mother or other trusted adult watching a teacher dealing drugs?


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ebola and Service – III

One of the challenging elements of the Ebola crisis has been the sacrificial service of caregivers – it is challenging in that it prompts the question, “Would I go and serve in Ebola affected areas if asked to do so? Would I go if I had medical qualifications to serve?”

One American caregiver was asked prior to leaving for Africa why she was putting her life at risk; in fact her family was opposed to her going. Her reply was that she had been raised to serve others and she had been medically trained to serve others – how could she not go? To not go would be to betray her life.

Whether it is the Ebola outbreak in Africa or health care workers in Asia administering polio vaccine at great risk to their lives from terrorists, the sacrificial nature of these men and women should challenge all of us – especially those of us who profess to be followers of Jesus – what we consider “risk” and what these brave women and men consider “risk” are often worlds apart. We think it risky to get to know our neighbors; we consider it a risk to extend ourselves to those less fortunate who live within a thirty-minute drive of our homes; we think it risky to share the Good News of Jesus with a coworker. Sad to say, but we often think it risky when we try to get to know someone within our own church.

The early Christians were known for serving those with plague and disease when they were abandoned by others…at great risk to their own lives. But isn’t that at the heart of the Gospel, isn’t that at the heart of a life lived in Christ? There is no greater love than that a man lay down his life for his friend…or for his enemy. After all, when we were enemies of God Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-11).

If we will follow Jesus then we must know that we are called to serve others holistically – spirit, soul, heart, mind, and body. To eliminate the body from this equation is to make ourselves more spiritual than God for it is to spiritualize away the many Biblical commands to serve others with healing, with deliverance from demons, and with food and shelter. If we will follow Jesus then we must acknowledge that we are called to lay our lives down and that not to do so is to betray the life of Christ within us. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ebola and Sin - II

Despite the best efforts of well-meaning people in the areas of protection, Ebola has spread. Perhaps some of those so confident that the virus would not spread trusted uncritically in protocol; maybe there was even the occasional smug person in the group that assured us that Ebola would not spread in the United States. Maybe some of our medical leaders told us what they thought they needed to tell us to calm us – or even to preserve their own positions.

In my own life, whenever I’m become smug and complacent toward sin I’ve been taken aback by the force of sin. Whenever I’ve thought that I was impervious to sin I’ve been laid low by sin. No pastor or brother in Christ has ever done me a favor by ignoring or downplaying the reality of sin. And yet I’ve been in Christian churches where I seldom heard about sin, instead the focus has been on making me feel good. That is like care givers telling an Ebola patient that all he needs to do is eat ice cream and pizza and then he’ll feel better and because he feels better all will be well. An accurate diagnosis, no matter how terrible it may be, sure beats a panacea. Sugar pills, whether dispensed by doctors or preachers, constitute malpractice.

I note that the “buddy system” has been implemented among health care workers dealing with Ebola. They help each other suit up, disinfect, and remove their protective gear – it’s a team effort. They look out for one another. Isn’t that the way it ought to be among God’s people? We need one another for encouragement, for grace, and for diagnostics. We are to confess our faults to one another, we are to pray for one another, and we are to forgive one another. We are to make sure that our brother or sister isn’t exposed to spiritual toxins, and if we see that they are in danger we are to graciously serve them – not browbeat them, but protect them.

To be continued…

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ebola and Sin - I

I’m sure many are making comparisons between Ebola and sin; not that those who have Ebola have it because they have engaged in a particular sin or are the particular focus of some divine judgment, but rather that our responses to Ebola and sin have much in common.

There is the “that is them and they aren’t us” attitude. West African isn’t North America and we aren’t going to get involved…at least we’re aren’t getting involved until Ebola becomes a threat to us. How often do we see others mired in sin and hopelessness and think, “They deserve it,” or “There’s nothing I can do to help,” or “I have nothing in common with them”? Our sin is respectable sin and the sin of others is coarse – they might at least have the common sense to engage in socially acceptable sin.

It appears that our government has known about Ebola in West Africa since March, it’s now October; it is only when it has become a threat to us that we’ve responded. Now we’re told that we need to go to war against Ebola. Would that the church would go to war against sin in its midst, against sin and uncleanness in our hearts and minds and checkbooks and economics and entertainment and language. Would that the church would go to war against the sin of self-preservation and selfishness and shoddy self-centered theology and cold heartedness toward our neighbors.

To be continued…

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Two Seasons

Two seasons are drawing to a close. One is gardening and the other is baseball. We are still harvesting from the garden, there are still green beans and squash and peppers and even a couple green tomatoes. I say "still" because it's mid-October and this is all a bonus from God.

There is something about working the soil, preparing it, planting, nurturing the plants, keeping a watchful eye out for disease and harmful bugs; and then there is the firstfruit - it is an event - that first tomato or bean or eggplant. I can see how ancient Israel was encouraged to offer its firstfruits to God as an acknowledgement that it all comes from Him and that He is able to provide for us throughout the seasons of life. 

On the baseball season...well it was nice to see both the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles in the playoffs. Having grown up in the D.C. area I continue to keep an eye on the forlorn hope that a Washington baseball team will win the World Series in my lifetime. In the 1960s it was cruel to see the Senators move to Minnesota and then shortly thereafter play in the Word Series; even though they lost to the Dodgers it would have been sweet to see the Senators in the World Series; the Minnesota Twins would later win the Series in 1987 and 1991. Alas this year neither the O's or the Nats could make it happen much beyond the regular season - but they did have very good seasons. I guess just like continuing to harvest tomatoes and beans and peppers in mid-October is a bonus, so it's a bonus to continue to win baseball games well into October. In both instances it's good to still be in the game as the leaves are changing color.