"Unapologetic Theology: A Christian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation" is the title of a book by my beloved theology professor and friend, the late William C. Placher. It is also now the title of this blog, a place where I hope to add a Christian voice -- God knows, not "the" Christian voice, but "a" Christian voice and not just any old voice, but a distinctly Christian voice -- to the pluralistic conversation going on about just about everything.
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It's not just a Cause: it's a Person
Lately I've been thinking again
about something I'd read a few years ago:
Think for a moment of someone you
admire. It might be a political figure whose cause excites you. It might be a
prominent businessperson, or a doctor or lawyer whom you respect.
Think of some person whom you look
Have him or her in mind?
Now imagine that person calling
you up on the phone and asking you to get together for lunch someday. Just the
two of you. At that lunch, he or she invites you to be part of an important and
noble project that he or she wants to start.
He or she wants YOU to be part of
it, involved in it.
Begin to let that thought play
around in your mind, as a way of preparing you to think and respond to Jesus'
call to the fishermen.
Here's the point: It is not just a
cause that stirs us.
It is a person.
Years ago, I heard about a talk
given on stress at a management institute at Harvard Business School. It was
about how executives and other people should deal with stress.
When a person came in to begin the
series of talks, most people present were eager to hear what this person would
say: they were all in high-stress situations or careers.
But here's what this expert on
"I imagine that you think I
am going to talk to you about how you should relax. That you as executives need
to take time for vacation. That you need to exercise, and that you need to eat
properly...or that perhaps you should practice yoga.
"'But that's not what I am
going to talk to you about at all,'" he said, "'because that won't take care of
He said, "the reason that so
many of you are stressed...the reason you drink too much, eat too much, work
too hard, and feel frazzled and fragile is that you think what you are doing is
"You spend a lot of time
doing it. You work hard. You make a lot of sacrifices.
"But in the end, deep in your
hearts, you don't really think what you do is worthwhile."
Apparently you could have heard a
pin drop in that room.
The speaker said he'd given the
talk many times, sometimes to leading executives at major corporations, and
during the talk some executives would break down and cry. He added that one of
them came up once and asked him to make a recording of his talk so that he
could give it to his son, so he wouldn't make the same mistakes he had, right
up to his mid-50's.
As we gear up for the Fall...start
academic years and new program years...as summer winds down and we start into
this busier, oftentimes more "stressful" season, we need to remind
ourselves - at least sometimes I need to remind myself - that the sole reason
The Falls Church Episcopal (or any Christian church for that matter) exists is
to put people in touch with a person: the person of Jesus. That (or more accurately, he) is what makes the church unique.
So now think about that opening story
again: the person you look up to, who desires to have lunch with you, in order
to invite you, personally, to be part of an important project.
Jesus desires to have that meal
He wants YOU to be a part of, and involved in, the important and noble project that he wants to continue: being your unique part of the Body of Christ.
For Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that this year. What I'm fasting from this Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
(Let me be clear: that does not mean giving up news or otherwise burying my head in the sand: it means staying informed while finding ways not to get pulled into a downward spiral of feelings of numbness and helplessness; it means giving up unproductive feelings like hopelessness and resignation and taking on visible behaviors like giving encouragement and taking action.)
It means making visible -- here, on my blog, and even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories…
So for Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that.
Now one of the things I'm thinking about fasting from during Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
That would mean taking on encouragement: to make visible -- even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories" as being quaint -- they are tossed in at the end of the news as an inspiring story, or put in the style section. But stories of good things happening -- people coming together to do things, is not a touchy-feely, feel-good story, but something affecting real change.
So for starters: I'm inspired by the leadership example of…