Monday, April 10, 2006

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) The battle against the location of a tribal casino here in Lima rages on. If you haven't done so already, follow this like to and voice your concern. And if you aren't convinced that a casino in the community would be detrimental to our economy, peruse the "facts" and "links" page to find out more about the true economic and human cost of legalized casino gambling.

This blogger too challenges the Eastern Shawnee Tribe and Mayor David Berger's office to offer evidence of the promises that they are making regarding jobs and economic development in this community. Evidence that can be confirmed by an impartial third party. When terms like "a couple thousand new jobs" and "upscale shopping plaza" are bandied about, it gets the rank and file's knickers up in a wad. While the Tribe, the Mayor, and certain proponents of this plan have called opponents of the plan "unreasonable" and "misinformed", the failure of those who are supposed to protect the good of the public to move beyond wild, unsubstantiated statements of economic plenty should take a good look in the mirror. Otherwise, the impression is that the only concern is to get this plan passed, and construction underway, while nagging details regarding concrete figures are left for later negotiation (and, I'd assume, litigation).

Let's quit putting the cart before the horse, and really investigate whether or not this would be good for our community. I am convinced, not just for moral, but economic reasons, that the numbers would not come out in the favor of Allen County's citizens.

2) On a lighter note, a big "thank you" to Stan Weller, a member of the church who took the Bucher boys (minus Eli... more on that later) fishing today. Now, as a fisherman, I'm pretty inept, but the weather (just a beautiful day in Northwest Ohio!), the boys' enthusiasm (in only a short time, Max picked up the art of casting), and the good company (Stan is hoot) even got me in the mood to throw a line into the water for a catfish or a bass. Just a great way to spend one of Max's days off from school (it's Spring Break).

3) The day got even better when, after a trip to the cardiologist, we discovered that a heart murmur discovered by our family doc (the incomparable Eric Stallkamp) is not life-threatening for our little Elijah. Needless to say, Mom and Dad have been on pins and needles since this small hole was discovered ten days ago. Fortunately, yours truly suffered from the same malady as a child, and grew out of if by the time he was 16, so we knew that genetically, this was a possibility for all the boys. Tonight, in light of the doctor telling us that we don't need to bring Elijah back, we feel very blessed.

4) Itching to rent a movie that's a little off of the beaten path? Then next time you are at the local video store, pick up a copy of "Enron: The Smartest Guys In Room". This documentary (don't let your eyes glaze over just yet..... it's a documentary, but it moves at a swift pace) details the rise and fall of Enron, a small natural gas company from Texas that grew into the biggest, and most colossal ponzi scheme in the history of the Western world. Investors and rank-and-file employees lost $60 BILLION when Enron collapsed, and if you believe the filmmakers, plenty of blame for this can be spread around.

The most fascinating part of the movie, though, is the long look taken at the moral fabric and underpinning of Enron.... even in the early days. It's clear, in retrospect, that the environment that executives like Ken Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, and Andrew Fastow nurtured was more akin to that of a pirate ship than a legit business. And given the money involved, banks, attorneys, accountants, and politicians (yep..... a couple of Bushes are mentioned in this investigation) were more than willing to look the other way....

until the company bankrupted the State of California and the stock price went through the floor.

"Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room". It's definitely worth your time.

5) A letter from Joseph Bishman to our congregation was sent today, informing everyone that in the coming year I'll be working on a doctorate in a program so intensive that it normally requires the candidate to move on-campus with his or her family. While the letter was a good one (you can email if you'd like a copy), there are a couple of things I'd like to add.

First, I want to make it clear that the idea of this doctorate was not mine. In fact, it was suggested by the Bishop and a District superintendent, in conversation with our Staff-Parish Committee and Senior Pastor, that I pursue this as a means of self-improvement (particularly as a pastoral leader) and as a way to help the conference (which is experimenting with me right now.... more on that in a later post). While I am more than agreeable to enter an elite program on the Beeson Institute's dime, this was not done at my request. I just consider it an act, and blessing of God.

Second, the people who will pay the biggest price in this coming year (as alluded to in Joseph's letter), is our family.... particularly Aimee and the boys. There will be stretches of multiple weeks where I will not be able to come home, and while I do work a rather large number of hours now, that's nothing compared to not being around at all. With three boys (the youngest being the aforementioned Elijah at 9 months), I know that Aimee will be facing many long nights with sick children on her own. And given the fact that my own father lived apart from my mother and I for an extended period of time (due to a job change) when I was not much older than Max, I understand the toll this will take on my children. It's them, quite frankly, who will need prayer and support.

6) Well, my Fantasy NBA Team fell apart down the stretch, and I ended up getting knocked out of the first round of the playoffs for the second year in a row. You can't lose two of your marquis players (Chris Bosh and Tracy McGrady) in the last month of the season and expect to compete. I wouldn't be so bitter, but my brother, a pipsqueak 12-years younger than I whose diapers I used to change, is poised to win it all. While I'm glad the championship didn't end up with one of his bonehead fraternity buddies (they keep me around for entertainment value.... let's just say I make the trash talking more colorful), I still don't like getting bested by someone who once begged me, nightly, to read him "The Pokey Little Puppy".

Next year sir..... just wait 'til next year!

7) Who'd have thunk that in the aftermath of our local sheriff's targeting Hispanic illegal aliens that people would take to the streets and the issue would become frontpage news? Just eerie timing. As Congress seeks to decide whether or not to alienate Hispanic voters (by declaring all illegal aliens felons) or middle class voters (by offering a form of amnesty to those hear illegally) fearful of losing their jobs, I can't tell one way or the other how this thing is going to turn out.

I will say this, though, if the law isn't really being enforced right now, barring the allocation of millions of dollars for additional Immigration Agents, what good will declaring 11 million people who aren't going to be sent home anyway, felons? The ICE agent who came to Lima to speak at a forum hosted by Mayor Berger basically said that given all the things his organization (which is responsible not only for border security, but internal security against terrorism) must do, that they weren't going to bother with people working illegally as gardeners or plant laborers or waitresses. That's a telling statement given all the hoopla around this issue. What's the point of putting another law on the books that won't be enforced?

And I'd assume the crush of people wanting to become a citizen would overwhelm the Bureau of Naturalization also. I guess we'll wait, and see what happens.

8) Sunday, I told the story (in my sermon) of the furor I caused as a pastor at Goshen First UMC the year that there were no palms for Palm Sunday. The mess was exacerbated by my sermon, which strayed from the more traditional Palm Sunday message that Jesus was being recognized as the King that he was, which, really, couldn't be further from the truth. Jesus, on Palm Sunday, was greeted like a revolutionary leader, bent on starting a war, which wasn't further from the truth. That's why as he descends into Jerusalem, he stops to weep over the city that has failed to choose the way of peace.

Kind of downer message on a Sunday, where, traditionally, the sermon is pretty upbeat.

Well, the sermon would have gone over OK if the kids of the church had waved palm branches in a processional that morning, which was actually scheduled to happen. But another staff person, who had the job of ordering the palms for distribution, discovered that very morning that the palms (because they were wet, I assume) were molding and falling apart. So, no palms for the kids on a Sunday where the young whippersnapper associate pastor decided to identify the palm branch as a symbol of war and rebellion, as opposed to peace, in Jesus' time.

It was "Ugly" with a capital U. Thankfully, all (or at least, most) was forgiven, but it's an experience that, while I count it as important to have lived through, one I hope that's never repeated.

9) I miss a lot of things about Goshen, but one of the things I miss most is it's selection of coffee houses and purveyors. How is it that a town of 35,000 can possess three or four first-rate coffee establishments (not to mention the wonderful job that Julie Weddle and her volunteers did at "Sacred Grounds", First UMC's very own coffee bar located at the West Campus..... her's, bar none, was the best coffee in town!), while Lima (who's metro area is three times bigger) only rates one (two, if you count the "Big Apple Bagel" place at one of our grocery stores)?

And the one we have, while nice, is more well known for its fu-fu coffees than dark blends that will wake you up, and get you on your way.

"Barnes and Noble", where are you!?!

10) And finally, I have been taking a fair number of questions about the Coptic scrolls discovered in Egypt that assert that Judas was ordered by Jesus to betray him. Is this, people ask, more evidence of a massive cover-up by the Roman Catholic church (as detailed in Dan Browns work of fiction "The DaVinci Code"?

Well, let's get a couple of things straight. The coptic scrolls that were discovered were written, to the best of our knowledge, about 200 years after Christ died, by a group of people who believed that he had never been human. This denial of Jesus' humanity was a very disruptive, and difficult issue for the early church to deal with. These believers, called Gnostics, believed that Jesus was entirely divine, to the point that he was not present on the cross for the crucifixion. The belief, it is believed, grew out of the influence that other cultic gods and practices in Egypt had on Christians who were struggling to explain how death on a cross was actually a victory. Unable to reconcile this, the cult of Gnosticism was born, and flourished.

The problem was that it was so far off of the course of what the Apostles had taught people, that ultimately church leaders had to call large meetings of leaders leading the faithful (called "councils") to determine how this belief started, and whether or not it could be substantiated from the time of Christ.

The ultimate decision was "no", but because the manuscripts still exist, many people, like Dan Brown, have exploited them to create doubt about whether or not the church has covered up various aspects of Jesus' life (in particular, did he marry, have kids, roam the earth after the resurrection in places not accounted for in the Gospels... just to name a few) to prop up some of its own core beliefs.

Archeological study and further scholarship points toward Jesus, and his followers, understanding his person and mission in an orthodox form (a point that is hammered home by N.T. Wright, one of the most influential scholars of the day, and called into question by other scholars like John Dominic Crossan and the late Robert Funk... feel free to read them all, and listen to their arguments for what "orthodox" Christianity truly is). But the coptic writings are important in that they help give insight into a little-known culture struggling to understand the meaning of Jesus in the world. Their existence is a boon for scholarship.... it's just too bad that opportunists will use them as a way to get rich (and that about sums up my thoughts on Dan Brown.... you dig?)

If you've more questions in light of this simplistic argument, feel free to email me at . Don't worry, I've been grilled so many times my backside looks like a Whopper. Bring it on!

No comments: