If you missed it, I wrote two posts over the weekend. One was reaction to a praise song written by Brian McLaren (who is a noted author and pastor, but doesn't have much of a track record as a songwriter... read and listen here to decide if that will change. An added note.. if you have McLaren's song stuck in your head, the only memorable line is "I Am An Atheist" which is problematic if you are absentmindedly singing them at church on Sunday morning... trust me) and the other was an impromptu reaction to A State's upset of Michigan at the Big House (which actually leaves me with mixed feelings).
1) There has to be a pall over the entire state of Michigan this Labor Day. What a horrible, horrible year for that "state up north". Recent Department of Labor stats detail the rapid decline of Michigan's industrial sector as over the last couple of years jobs have continued to dry up (will note here also that downtown casinos haven't seemed to turn Detroit's economy around, as it's still listed as one of the five most impoverished cities in the country, a list which includes both Cleveland and Cincinnati). Now, the state's premier football program gets it's head handed to them by Appalachian State, a school of 14,000 students nestled in Boone, North Carolina.
Don't think the two things are related? Then you don't live in the Midwest right now. There's a palpable fear in these parts that muscle and brain power in our communities are slowly be drained off to places largely south and west (sometimes very far west). Strange things like sporting defeats are reminders that the place of economic security and industrial strength our communities once held in the world are quickly eroding. Can't tell you many letters to the editor of the Lima News over this summer have detailed people's pessimism about this community and it's future. People have always considered Lima a great place to be from, but the negative self-image people are holding in regards to this community seems to be growing at an alarming rate. Even as more encouraging economic signs like the new ethanol plant, the new Tower at St. Rita's, the commitment of P&G and Husky Oil to the proposed Global Energy electric plan, and new jobs rolling into both the Tank Plant and Dana are reported, the overall opinion here that someday Lima will shrivel up and blow away continues to grow. It is disturbing, and an issue for us as pastors, here and across the Midwest right now as we contemplate our role in the spiritual and emotional health of those who we serve and serve with.
Of course, that won't keep me from poking fun a Lloyd's folly... I am still a Buckeye fan after all.
2) One of the benefits of subscribing to a music service is that you end up hearing a lot of music you'd normally not give a listen. For example, Today's offering: 80's mainstays The Scorpions new album, "Humanity: Hour 1". Pretty much, 20 years have passed, but it's still the same ol' Scorpions. Lots of power chords and English lyrics that sound they were written by someone speaking English as a second language. Lyrics which include dandies like:
Humanity, al vieda zane
it's time to say goodbye
the party's over
as the laughter dies
and the angel cries
At least it all rhymes.
Anyhow, it takes me back to being a shaggy haired kid playing air guitar to "Rock Me Like a Hurricane". Good times
3) Not sure where yesterday's sermon came from. I was obviously still ruminating on the revelation of Mother Teresa's 45 years long spiritual dry spell, but somewhere in there you could also hear my growing frustration with the growing influence of "Health and Wealth" preaching and theology in various quarters of the Christian community. Watched a fascinating discussion last night on BET's "Meet the Faith", (click here, and then click on "Retail Religion" to see the episode) where a pastor from New York, an author, and a comic discussed the growing corporate influence and "health and wealth" theology on the black church. The pastor, Bishop Bernard Jordan openly argued for pastors making ridiculous sums of money and living out posh lifestyles as a means of showing the flock that this kind of affluence is attainable for everyone. The program then concluded with a short interview with Joel Osteen, who in typical Osteen-ese, said nothing offensive while defending his continued preaching of the twin messages that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and that until we are called to that home that God wants to bless you with everything you want right now.
This latest incarnation of Norman Vincent Peale's "Power of Positive Thinking" is taking Christianity to a strange new place. A place where a preacher's ability to fly on private G-4's, live in gated communities, and drive a $350,000 automobiles is being held up as a skill equal with their abilities to preach, teach, evangelize, and lead the faithful. A place where living well is considered a spiritual discipline. A place where the collective voice of large denominations is now being replaced by the voices of high profile stand alone preachers (remember Ted Haggard?) whose power base is derived largely by their own fame.
4) And all of this in the face of unrelenting criticism both inside and outside of the Christian community that organized religion has lost its way because it has failed to keep straight its priorities. Criticism that our community is collectively spending more and more of its resources on itself, while it's overall influence on the nation, and world, continues to diminish.
I guess the frustration I'm starting to feel is that there is no sensible voice in the mainstream with a widespread following within the Christian tradition that is rising up to take on the growing influence of materialism on the institution of the church. Marginally well known pastors like Mike Slaughter (who's a superstar in our own Methodist tradition, but largely unknown in the culture) I think have embraced this message, and are doing what they can to get it across. Authors like David Goetz and Eric Sandras (the author of "Plastic Jesus" who graciously made a comment on an earlier post... here's a link to his website) are addressing the issue with a growing sense of alarm. But what kind of dialog is being opened between the Bishop TD Jakes and Joel Osteens of the country, and those who are growing alarmed at the "corporatization" of the megachurch? That this kind of theology, while fostering huge growth in various specific locations, is making a mockery of us all among the growing numbers of people who see the church as an insular institution?
And what can a punk like me, sitting here in the Midwest, largely untested and unproven as a church leader, do about this?
A friend of mine from the Beeson program last year would just tell me to ask God to bless it all - all the various ministries doing their own thing in their own way - and leave the rest to Him. But I fear that this kind of grace extended by those of us bothered by this is being mistaken by those really thinking about these issues as either cowardliness, or worse, indifference.
I mean, did the prophets of the Old Testament just ask God to bless all the prophets, good or bad, and then let God shake it all out? Where is the prophetic witness that somehow calls people preaching a health and wealth gospel to account, without sounding like an angry activist who is a refugee from the 1960's?
Right now, I have no idea.
5) Couldn't sleep last night, so I must have also (in addition to "Meet the Faith") about six episodes of "Flip That House". If you've never seen it, here's a summary of pretty much every single episode ever produced:
- Flipper buys dilapidate home.
- Flipper walks through the house with contractor discussing what they want to do.
- Most of the focus on the part of the flipper is on the kitchen, bathrooms, and master bedroom.
- Flipper has problems with contractor OR goes over budget OR falls behind on schedule as they face unexpected difficulties.
- Flipper buys stainless steel appliances for the kitchen and installs elaborate shower/jacuzzi tub in bathroom at the Home Depot (and always at the Home Depot)
- Flipper and Realtor walk through the house, so that Realtor can give the Flipper a great assessed value, and the Flipper can tell those watching that if they want to do this for a living they need to do a lot of research on the market before they commit to a home.
- Flipper unexpectedly eaten by flying carnivorous bird.
Ok, I made that last one up. But if I ever flip a house, I'm going to research the market before I commit and make sure the colors in the kitchen go with stainless steel appliances. That seems to be the key.
6) Well the season hasn't even started yet, and already I've had to drop three members of my fantasy team. The biggest surprise was Byron Leftwich (my token MAC quarterback) who, in the face most the prognosticators who thought he was up for a pretty good comeback year, was unexpectedly released by the Jags (I picked up their newly named starter, David Garrard, as his replacement). Priest Holmes apparently hasn't even carried a ball all pre-season and has been put on the "physically unable to perform" list by the Chiefs (should have checked that one out.. picked up Edge James' backup, Marcel Shipp as another RB). And Rod Smith apparently has like a shattered ankle or something, so I had to grab another receiver (which ended up being some guy whose name escapes me from Minnesota). I also let my D (Jacksonville) go in favor of Oakland for no good reason. Not good omens for the upcoming season, and just another reason why I'll never get the call to be a GM in the NFL.
7) Both Max and Xavier like their teachers, as school is now finally in full swing at the Bucher house. Interestingly enough, both teachers are young women just starting their teaching careers. They both look really young to me, but maybe I'm just getting old. In any case, I see a good year on the horizon (or at least that's the prayer).
8) Just in case you missed it, Miss Teen South Carolina:
A classic moment for Social Studies teachers everywhere. And really, when you think about it, when does the person who finishes fourth for Miss Teen America ever get to appear on the Today show? She'll be fine.
9) Just so you know, even when the weather is cold, cold, cold, Appalachian is hot, hot, hot:
Just remember Michigan fans, you're 0-1 against this hot, hot, hot school. Michigan Football... it's fannnnnnnntastic!
10) And finally, this just in from my friend Aaron Wymer's blog:
Somebody ate Mr. Peanut.... classic. Did I mention how much I miss my Beeson buddies?