Friday, December 19, 2014

A Thaw in Relationships with Cuba

I was excited to hear President Obama's speech in which he outlined a new policy toward relationships with Cuba.  I was asked to comment on the new policy by Bob Allen of Baptist News Global in light of my recent visit in October to Cuba along with a delegation of eleven other Baptists.  I responded with a three or four paragraph email to him about my thoughts on these developments.  An article appeared today in Baptist News Global and I'm quoted a couple of times in it.  Also quoted is my Churchnet colleague, Brian Kaylor, who handles communications for our organization as well as writing for other entities including Ethics Daily.  Coincidentally, Brian's newest book entitled Sacramental Politics is also reviewed in a separate article in Baptist News Global today.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Jesus the African Refugee

Today on Ethics Daily, Elijah Brown had an interesting article about Jesus' early life as an African refugee.  I had the opportunity to meet Elijah in April of this year in Philadelphia at the meeting of the North American Baptist Fellowship.  He's an associate professor of missions at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, TX and is a very sharp young man and a gifted communicator.

Elijah challenges all of us to consider the plight of the millions in our world who have been forced to abandon their country of origin due to a variety of factors--war, persecution, natural disasters, hunger, etc.  While in our Christmas reflections and celebrations we seldom include mention of the flight of Jesus' family to Egypt to escape the horrific infanticide carried out by Herod in Bethlehem, the fact remains that Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus were refugees.  The good news of Jesus' birth offers hope even for those who've lost everything and have fled to what often seems a strange and foreign setting because Jesus began His own life as an African refugee.  He understands what it means to be without a home, without wealth, or even without a country.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jesus: Meek and Mild?

I always enjoy reading the daily devotionals entitled "A Slice of Infinity" that I receive from the Ravi Zacharias organization.  Google it if you're interested in subscribing to their daily devotionals which can be emailed to your inbox.  Their managing editor, Jill Carattini, had a great piece this morning about our failure to recognize just how unsettling and upsetting was Jesus' entrance into the world.  It's well worth the read.

In the devotional, Carattini quotes the following from Dorothy Sayers' The Whimsical Christian:

"The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore--on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe.  It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium.  We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him 'meek and mild,' and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies."

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Just a Moment

This past Monday in our weekly staff meeting, Karen Sherman, one of our administrative assistants, shared the following excerpt from Max Lucado's book God Came Near.  It is a powerful reminder of how far God stooped to take on humanity in the person of Jesus Christ.

"It all happened in a moment, a most remarkable moment.

As moments go, that one appeared no different than any other.  If you could somehow pick it up off the timeline and examine it, it would look exactly like the ones that have passed while you have read these words.  It came and it went.  It was preceded and succeeded by others just like it.  It was one of the countless moments that have marked time since eternity became measurable.

But in reality, that particular moment was like none other.  For through that segment of time a spectacular thing occurred.  God became a man.  While the creatures of earth walked unaware, Divinity arrived.  Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb.

The Omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable.  He who had been spirit became pierceable.  He who was larger than the universe became an embryo.  And he who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl.

God as a fetus.  Holiness sleeping in a womb.  The creator of life being created.

God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys, and a spleen.  He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother.

God had come near.

He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter.  The hands that first held him were unmanicured, calloused, and dirty.

No silk.  No ivory.  No hype.  No party.  No hoopla.

Were it not for the shepherds, there would have been no reception.  And were it not for a group of stargazers, there would have been no gifts.

Joseph watched as Mary changed God's diaper.  The universe watched with wonder as The Almighty learned to walk.  Children played in the street with him.  And had the synagogue leader in Nazareth known was was listening to his sermons ....

Jesus may have had pimples.  He may have been tone-deaf.  Perhaps a girl down the street had a crush on him or vice versa.  It could be that his knees were bony.  One thing's for sure: He was, while completely divine, completely human.

For thirty-three years he would feel everything you and I have ever felt.  He felt weak.  He grew weary.  He was afraid of failure.  He was susceptible to wooing women.  He got colds, burped, and had body odor.  His feelings got hurt.  His feet got tired.  And his head ached.

To think of Jesus in such a light is--well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn't it?  It's not something we like to do; it's uncomfortable.  It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation.  Clean the manure from around the manger.  Wipe the sweat out of his eyes.  Pretend he never snored or blew his nose or hit his thumb with a hammer.

He's easier to stomach that way.  There is something about keeping him divine that keeps him distant, packaged, predictable.

But don't do it.  For heaven's sake, don't.  Let him be as human as he intended to be.  Let him into the mire and muck of our world.  For only if we let him in can he pull us out."