This week I wanted to give a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at my heart for our current sermon series as well as a few thoughts on a concert I attended recently. "Aha! “ — That’s What I Was Missing!
I remember where I was when the light bulb came on. I was in my first semester of seminary in Dr. Ken Mathews’ Biblical Interpretation class.
We had just finished general instruction on the canon and were moving into the basics of biblical theology. When the meta-narrative description of creation, fall, redemption, recapitulation (re-creation) took root in my heart it was as if a bomb exploded in my intellect and my soul. For the first time, I could see how all the pieces fit together. No longer was the Bible a loose collection of non-related stories. It became a masterful tapestry of God’s story.
The biblical-theological threads of Genesis to Revelation arrested me. It was the “Aha!” moment and it transformed how I thought about God’s story and my place in it. There were times when I was arrogant to believe that I knew all there was to know about God’s word and Christian life (There is a conversation to be had about Christian humility, but I’ll save that for when I have it figured out!). In my hubris, I assumed that I knew what I needed. Yet so often I grew frustrated that I could not put the pieces together. The gaps in my understanding, mixed with my arrogance, created an atmosphere for useless overconfidence.
What I was missing wasn’t more knowledge, per se. I was missing the right knowledge. I was missing Biblical Theology — a way of tracing themes and motifs throughout the Bible that conserve God’s story. It was this theology combined with the practice it necessitated that continued to help me run from legalism and antinomianism into the merciful arms of a Father who is patient and gracious.
One reason why I chose to preach through these Old Testament narratives this summer is in hopes that some might experience the “Aha!” moment. When something so simple, and yet profound, takes root in your heart it begins to change the way we see God, ourselves, and others. My hope is that the genius and creativity of God would continue to stop you in your tracks.
Further, that what we know and come to discover would make us more humble, curious, and loving.
The Power of Collective Joy — A Musing on “Home”
How does a fish know that water is wet? It doesn’t. The reason being it cannot comprehend such phenomena and because fish rarely spend time outside of the water.
Should a fish spend time outside of water, perhaps then it would begin to realize that water is wet. Humans, in a similar way, understand culture like water — you don’t often realize you have a culture until you get outside of it. And when you do, you realize that there is an “other”; a culture that is not your home.
I’ve spent a large portion of my life living in between multiple cultures. One joy of my earthly life is wrestling with the discomfort of dissecting and understanding different cultures so as to both be a good friend and win someone from that culture to Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:22). By God’s grace, I’ve seen this over the years.
In fact, I’ve banked my entire life on the intercultural realities of the church militant and victorious. My concept of what “home” is, culturally speaking, has changed through the years. But when I think of home, I think of a place where I can speak, think, and act in my cultural heart language without the fear of reprisal or malignment. But I often get lonely swimming in waters that are not my home. Enter Maverick City and Kirk Franklin.
Courtney and I sang until we couldn’t sing anymore with 13,000 brothers and sisters. For 3 hours that evening, I felt at home. We moved in similar rhythms, spoke the same language, and sang a common hymn book. Each song caused us to look around and remember what the tune meant to us and be slightly astonished that others knew it. C.S. Lewis famously writes that friendship happens when one person says to another, “You too? I thought I was the only one”. What marked the evening was Joy. Collective Joy arising from common worship.
That night I wasn’t the only one. And I’m thinking and praying that the reality of friendship would continue to mark our church. In an intercultural church, there should be moments in time when you do not feel at home. When you feel uncomfortable. When you aren’t sure of the rhythm, when you don’t know the words to the songs, when we aren’t speaking the same language. And when we are here, we grow to realize that while this isn’t home for me, it is for one of my siblings.
And for that reason, I won’t simply tolerate it but I’ll learn the tune, adopt the movements, and speak the language. Here, in that place, where we make concessions for one another, practice discomfort for the sake of others, and learn to yield to one another, will be experienced a collective joy born of the Spirit for the glory of God.
Because each Sunday is a dress rehearsal for what’s ahead of us: Home.