Monthly Archives: October 2018

Pittsburgh

On my wall is a picture of a rabbi preaching from his pulpit.  Beside it is a brass plate with a map of ancient Israel encircled by the names and symbols of the 12 tribes.  Beside that is a framed Star of David.  To me these represent my heritage.  My soul’s allegiance is to a Jewish carpenter, a construction worker who lived some 2000 years ago.
When I was in college I was introduced to the writings of Abraham Joshua Heschel.  I had been taught that anyone who didn’t say the magic words, “Jesus is my Lord and Savior” couldn’t get into heaven.  But my professor said we were required to read this book by this Rabbi.  So, I read it.
One evening, as I was reading words that drew me in deeply, I began to cry.  Sitting in the reference room, alone at a table, with this book in my hands, I got overwhelmed.  I was reading about the grace of God, how God deals with human beings in ways of mercy, of gentleness, with the fulness of life that God possesses.  I was being told that God understood our frailty, our limitation, our moments or years of despair. I cried because I knew how much I wanted that grace, the peace it afforded.  I wanted that grace that comes after salvation, the peace of knowing God as a friend. And I cried because I did not understand how a man, who could not get into heaven, could understand God’s grace so well.  Much better than I did.
And with my tears, I began to pray.
“I don’t understand how this works.  Judgment.  I don’t get it.  I can’t do it.  I don’t see how anyone can do it.  How do you do it?  So, I’m giving it up. It’s yours. However it works is up to you.”  As a young man, wandering around big ideas, I occasionally found the trap door that allowed me to get into one before it snapped shut behind me. That night the trap was set keenly and as I came down the steps below the door, walking into the cool depth of truth, I felt the door slam shut above me and then I heard the voice of the carpenter say,
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you            will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

And I was free.  Somehow the trap deposited me out into life.
I was free in the reality that I never needed to judge, to decide who gets in and who is kept out.  That’s not my call. My call is just to make friends and to welcome anyone to my table.
There is a voice shouting over our heads today that is saying that we must judge, we must decide, we must because we should be afraid.  That fear is used to win elections.  It’s also the fear that loads assault rifles.  Like any big idea, the idea inhabiting that fear has a trap door that will snap shut locking us inside.  But there is a burning, flame, bursting around inside this idea that scorches the conscience, sears the heart and burns away compassion.  It leaves us thinking we are in touch with truth, but it only deposits us in pain.  That pain is so severe it motivates us to bring it onto others, confusing our pain with truth.  This is hate.  It captures enemies, those who believe they can make the world better without the other. The trap of this fear/idea doesn’t care which side you’re on.  It’s burns regardless.
As I mourn tonight, I stand looking down into the opening of this big idea, to the fire below the trap-door, and I think, I must vote well this year.

Blessings,
Geoff

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Again

I thought I was developing an ease with you
But then it was taken away
Which means it did develop
And now I wonder, can we ever find it again

It is that flickering candle flame blown out
The way back is kindling
With dry brush as our ancestors did
We must strike flint, make spark, start again

Before we ever approach another candle
It requires a new candle
We must learn to make fire as of old
All the way back to trying and trying again

Wishing, like pretending, doesn’t make it so
So, we invite each other to scavenge
I’m glad you also seek outings for brush and twigs
That will base the flame, warmth, light again

GSKohler

The Choice to Be Vulnerable

I was talking with a small group today about the resurrection of Jesus and I mentioned how I’d been to a seminar where the guide shared a picture of Jesus meeting Mary Magdalene outside the tomb.  She showed us how Mary’s neck was extended, her jaw up, baring her throat.  It was an act of vulnerable submission.

When we act with vulnerability we demonstrate submission to another.  Christ-followers are called to take that position with each other.  We are called, each one, to make ourselves vulnerable to the other followers around us.  “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21 says at the top of one of Scripture passages that is a great challenge to many in our culture as it outlines a relationship between a wife and husband.  This works if that first admonition is adhered to well. The wife in the passage following is simply told to make herself vulnerable to her husband, but the husband is given explicit instructions to make himself vulnerable to the wife in the manner of a body servant – one intimately knowledgeable, caring and helpful to another in bathing or dressing.  Husbands are to be vulnerable to the wife as if they were caring for their own body.  A radical statement in the culture of the time… if not our own.

But, how frightening to consider living in such a manner generally with other Christians.  Yet, each time I get into the pulpit, I am called to submit myself to every other person in that room.  That can mean that my vulnerability is just providing ammunition to those who are looking for weakness.  Each time we admit to the truth, expose our neck, we leave ourselves open to utter destruction.  Why act in such a manner?
vulnerableThe reason I believe this must be part of my preaching is because we preachers must live out our “fear of the Lord.”  It can’t be just talk.  The reverence we have for Christ demands that we not be afraid of how people will use our words, use our stories of limitations or frailty or faults… not above our trust in the Lord.  Our fears must be mixed into our trust because that is the formula of courage.

If we’re trying to hold onto a job or trying not to offend or trying to not reveal so much that we make others uncomfortable, we’ll miss the opportunity to speak into the ears of those who are angry or sad to the point of despair or just broken.  Those who wonder if there is hope in the world are the ones for whom we bare our throats.Round yellow flower with torn petals

I’ve learned that in doing this, personally and out of the pulpit, with those I think may be friends, I can seem confusing or challenging, as if I’ve said too much.  But, I’ve learned that those folks intended to be colleagues.  And sometimes it is best to be colleagues or acquaintances.  But, when I find the one who bares their neck back to me in response to my own… I credit that as a marvel… and as the body of Christ.

Blessings,
Geoff