And the Award Goes To:…Chris Rock

OscarsDid you see the Oscars last night?

How about that Alejandro G. Inarritu winning back to back Best Director Oscars. Mary Michael and I have very different beliefs on Birdman. It’s in my all time top 5 while it’s probably in her all time bottom 5.

What about Leo finally winning his Oscar? A momentous occasion for all of us who remember him as the kid the Seaver family took in on Growing Pains. You’ve come a long way Leo!

In most years, the above would be the big stories coming out of the Academy Awards. But not this year. This year, the real story is Chris Rock and his comedic take on not only the lack of African-American nominees, but race and racism in America.

One of the gifts about comedy is that it allows us to hear the truth about some things that we otherwise would not hear. It had the be one of the easiest monologues to write because it was by and large, the truth.

Truth is tricky because truth is subjective. My truth may not be your truth and vice-versa. This is partly because truth emerges from experience. Our experiences shape our truths. Chris Rock spoke his truth which is shaped by his experience and the experiences of countless others. We all would be well served to stop and consider his words rather than quickly dismiss them because we either disagree or they hit us a little too hard in our comfort zone  For my money, he sounded like one of the prophets of old crying out in the wilderness.

The award goes to Chris Rock. An award for his honesty, his perspective, and for making us think a little. Sometimes the words we need the most are the one we least want to hear.



An Open Table

Mission TableIs your congregation liberal or conservative? 
The man asked me the dreaded question right there in the middle of the coffee shop. This conversation got serious fast. We had only been chatting for a bit after I told him I was a pastor. I know he was trying to get a feel for the church and my brand of theology. I told him we were an open table church. So, is your church liberal or conservative?

Brian McLaren writes that we “have intelligence on ice and ignorance on fire” in today’s religious landscape and by and large he is correct. It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly we begin defining ourselves and more importantly God with neat lines and definitions. We don’t dare venture outside those boxes we put ourselves into for fear of being labeled. You love and are passionate about Jesus,you must be an evangelical. You believe its okay to read the Bible with a critical eye towards context. You must be a progressive. Where is the line? I suspect that the terms that us “insiders” cling to like a life raft mean very little to those outside of our institutions, except to serve as a turn off.  Are we more in love with our theology than we are with God and God’s mission and call upon us?

It’s a futile act to try and reduce this beautiful, wonderful, life-giving and even terrifying mystery we call faith to a simple term or two. In doing so, we are closing off so many possibilities for ourselves and our communities. One of the roles of pastor is that of public theologian. For me, a large portion of this calling is helping people to do their own theology (God-talk) on a daily basis. Could it be that we do our best theological work while also doing our best to follow the way of Jesus? Why are we afraid to let God’s movement of love and grace in our lives and churches stand on its own? Why can’t justice for all, compassion, and working together towards God’s shalom speak for itself?

It’s what Jesus would do, I told him. Best I can tell, God welcomes us all. An open table means that all are welcomed and there are no litmus tests of faith or labels.  God meets us where we are on our journey and continues that journey with us. There is room enough for me and there is room enough for you. There is room for everyone. 


Peyton Manning, Cam Newton, Grace, and Lent

PeytonIn full disclosure, I watched none of the Super Bowl. I was tired, a bit under the weather, and didn’t want to watch a Vol and a War Eagle battle it out for NFL supremacy. 

I’ve read a lot today about Cam Newton’s actions during the Super Bowl. He didn’t pay proper respects during the National Anthem, showboats on the field, was a poor sport in defeat. Today, Peyton Manning is being heralded as the consummate professional who always wins with class and accepts defeat gracefully.

We have always been a culture that loves winners and had the ability to pile on others when they are down. It feels like its gotten worse, this practice slowly seeping into almost every life. Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that people were piling on Manning because of an accusation that he had taken HGH? It’s easy to dismiss this as social media’s fault because of the anonymity, but I think that’s just an easy excuse. Could it be that we are simply more critical of one another?

We are lacking grace towards one another and this lack of grace is finding its way into every corner of our lives. Cam Newton is only 24 years old and will probably learn as he goes what it means to be a professional. I’ve witnessed guys at college games yelling from the upper deck at 18 year old kids on the field that they are idiots. We simply do not leave anyone any room to fail or fall short before we pile on them and give them the proverbial kick to the curb. I’ve seen this in how we interact with one another and how we talk about others.

We too often lack the gift of grace towards another. We do not allow ourselves or others the room to fail, therefore we become fearful to try new things. The consequences of failure in the eyes of others has become too great. The greatest lessons we learn often come from failure, but we aren’t extended the grace to make mistakes from which to learn.

This week, many Christians are making decisions about what to give up for Lent. I wonder what would happen if we gave up being critical of one another for Lent? What if we instead embraced the gift of grace that has so richly been given to each of us and generously offered that to others?