Thursday, August 19, 2010


Karl Barth was a predominant theologian of the early and mid-twentieth century. He opened wide the doors for new thinking as we consider the concept of God and our relationship with him. One of his notions was that in order to respond to God’s word in this world of ours, we must hold the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. The application of our faith comes within the context of where, how, and what our living situation is all about.

When we read scripture, we can understand why Karl Barth said that. Just follow Jesus. His faith in God was unquestioned. However, Jesus’ faith was not demonstrated by high theological concepts, but how he lived his life during his ministry on this earth. He lived among the people. He taught among the people. His parable and responses to comments by those with whom he conversed were filled with the experiences such people faced during the time Jesus was there.

So, I grabbed today’s paper and I am listing below some of the topics, locally and nationally, that are addressed today. The question is, as followers of Jesus, how would we respond to these issues using our relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, as a catalyst for response?

Public Building Authority – Johnson City has a Public Building Authority (PBA) that has come under scrutiny lately because of potential land swap deals. The PBA controls the use of Millennium Centre. The Centre has experienced deficits in the past. It has land within its acreage that could be sold to offset the deficit. According to the article, the PBA faces a murky future. So, where is God in all this? Is this something we need to consider as followers of Christ? Is there a stewardship issue here that Christians need to take into consideration? Is the PBA a functioning organization that brings responsible leadership to the community that brings with it appropriate accountability?

A Muslim Center - The Johnson City Press’ front page story’s headline is “Good Neighbors.” The article presents the issue of a mosque built in 2008 for Muslim worshippers. While it talks about the success of open-minded people here in Johnson City, it is a referral to the difficulties in Murfreesboro as Muslims attempt to build a center there. Of course, the heated issue nationally is the Muslin center that is proposed to be built near Ground Zero where the World Trade Towers were destroyed. What would Jesus’ position be? First of all, scripture says that he came to minister to the lost people of Israel. He did realize that his ministry was also to the Gentiles, as suggested by his encounter with the Syro-Phoenician woman. In scripture we see that Jesus is compassionate to all people, except for those who are self-righteous. Two of Jesus’ basic tenets were that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Jesus also said that we are to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. However, are we demonstrating these principles to those who have been affected by the destruction of the towers by permitting the Muslim center to be built? Furthermore, what is our understanding of freedom of religion under the constitution? Where is God in all this, and are our thoughts and feelings in sync with Jesus call to discipleship?

BP Corporate Image – In the business section of the Johnson City Press, an article reports that the BP image is recovering from the oil spill, but it is still low. Again, where is God in all this? What do we think about it and where do we “land” with our thoughts and feelings. Is there a need for forgiveness and reconciliation to a corporate entity? Has there been a demonstration of repentance by the corporation, if such is required? We all realize that a major issue of the oil spill is the damage to the ecology and creation, which God has given to us to protect and of which we are called to be stewards. Is the corporation, along with the issue of the environment, so big that we cannot wrap ourselves around it and so all we can do is ignore it? Or, do we show continued disapproval by boycotting those places where we know BP products are sold?

These are just three issues that were presented in the Johnson City Press on August 19, 2010. What is our responsibility as Christians? What does God call us to think about, feel, and to do? This is what Karl Barth was talking about. This is what we are about as Christians. While in many situations, we are either helpless or it is beyond our capability to be responsive, we can discuss, consider, and pray about the issues of everyday life that affect us and our neighbor.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Who likes change? Change is dreaded by many people. There’s the familiar comment, “How many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer is: three. There is one to change the light bulb and two with shotguns to make sure there are no other changes.

However, we all experience change. It’s part of life. The seasons change. We’re all used to that. If we have children, they change. If we have spouses, they change. We can make a long list of the changes that occur all the time.

Yet, many of us don’t like change. So what does that have to do with our faith? What does change have to do with our relationship with God, through Jesus Christ?

There are two realities that we acknowledge. They are opposed to one another. We recognize that Jesus accepts us just the way we are. Yet, Jesus, out of love, desires to transform us. Spiritually this begins at baptism when, through the waters of baptism, we die a death like Christ and are raised to a new life in Christ. We are transformed because, through baptism, it is no longer we who live, but it is Christ who lives within us. Now, that is change at the highest level. It is a spiritual change. However, we are still human. When we are baptized we still have what is called the ego. We still have our human frailties and human imperfections. Although, spiritually we may desire to be transformed with the power of Christ within us, our humanness wants to remain the way we are. Our humanness knows what we can expect when we are in control of our lives. We don’t know what to expect otherwise.

Let’s look at another concept. One of Jesus’ imperatives is to “repent.” It comes from the Greek word, “metanoia.” That Greek word is a combination of “after” and “think.” Combining the two words into the word “metanoia,” means that we think differently.

Another way to look at it is that Jesus calls us to change our way of thinking about ninety degrees. Three of Jesus’ imperatives are very powerful for this way of changing. He says that we need to die in order to live. We need to pick up our cross and follow him. We need to lose our life for the sake of the gospel and for his sake. Those are transformational challenges that are virtually impossible to do without the power of the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us.

What Jesus is asking us to do is to think and focus on him, not on us. Jesus is asking us to realize that life is about God, not about us. Jesus is asking us to think outward rather than inward on ourselves. That’s what is involved in living the Christian life. That is what is involved when we commit ourselves to discipleship.

Now that’s change.