Chapel, September 1st 2014

Ironically, you need other people to help you discover who you are. We are all part of community. Acts 2:42-47 talks about what the first Christian community looks like and we are using it to inform how we build a community worth building.  You can find the sermon below, here, or on iTunes (Search for BSC Religious Life).

Pastor as Father (3 of plenty)

God loves me.  In my best moments this belief enables me to overcome every obstacle.  In my worst moments I forget and become filled with fear, despair, or hate.  Here are two reminders for me so that I forget this less:

In the picture below is a piece of artwork and a book.
The art was drawn by my wife and it sits on my nightstand.  In the picture you can see the world, the moon (a wee baby moon as my Mom would say), the stars (all of God's creation), and me.  Yes, those two people are me.  One is Cheryl, but she completes me.  Also, when she drew it she wasn't pregnant but she is pregnant now in the picture (that's how this works!).  So at the bottom right it says, "God loves me."  This truth works in many ways.  First, I'm reminded of the amazing love of God through my wife.  Second, I'm reminded of the incredible joy and purpose I find in loving her like Christ would.  It is my favorite piece of art in the world and it's worth can't be measured.

The book below it was given to us by my parents recently.  You'll notice similarities.  The world... the moon (a wee baby one!)... the stars...  This book, however, has a third person.  I don't have to say more, do I?

It's minor and silly and cliche and way too existential for a children's book - but I don't know if I can read this book to our child without pouring my whole soul into my greatest desire for her.  I want her to know she is loved.  How do parents not lose their whole reality into this endeavor?  Where do we lose track and forget the very love that weaves our reality together?  When I see these pictures I remember that God loves me and I hope ever book we read, every place we go, every conversation, hug, and day we share reminds her the same thing.

There are too many people who have forgotten how loved they are.  I may not have the artistic ability of Cheryl but I'd bet I can paint similar pictures for my daughter and everyone I meet.  Remember, friend - God loves you.

The previous "Pastor as Father" post is here.  This is part of an ongoing "Pastor as..." Series.  Being a pastor is always about the intersection between you, me, and God.  At least for my reality.

(also, I highly recommend the book)

Pastor as Father (2 of plenty)

The prospect of being a dad really makes you think about things.  Like names.  Names matter.  Somewhere I heard that your name is the most beautiful sound you know.  And why not?  We are the center of our own universe, right?  God knows our name... one of the deepest labels we have.

I'd love to hear how you got YOUR name (leave a comment) but I figured I could tell you how I got my names.

First, Jack is not short for anything.  It is really just Jack.  My Dad used to say that I was named after C.S. Lewis but I'm pretty sure my Mom's account is more meaningful: I was named after my Granddad (her father).  Jack Snow was a pretty awesome guy, as Godly Christian men go.  He won some kind of lifetime achievement award and the US Fish and Wildlife Department interviewed him.  You can find the transcript here.

Second, Marshall comes from my great-grandfather, Marshall Sylvanis Snow.  Also, my mom is Marsha so you can't tell me that is an accident.  I met him once that I can remember.  I think he died in 1989.

Third, since my Dad and his parents literally came over on a boat to the US from the Netherlands, I can count the number of people with the last name, Hinnen, that I'm closely related to.  It makes me unique and I love it.

Giving someone a name is no small feat.  I don't think it should be taken lightly although choosing a name for our daughter is giving me a false sense of control.  Should we use a family name?  Will she have to spell it for everyone?  Is it cool enough?  Classic enough?  Smart enough?

I try as a pastor to remember people's names.  It provides a window into their world and, whether they like it or not, tells me something about them.  I especially try to pronounce it like the person says it instead of projecting my own stuff onto people ("Har har har!  You got a funny name!").  But what if a person doesn't have a name yet?

There aren't people who don't have names.  There are just people whose names I haven't learned yet.  I'm looking forward to learning my daughter's name as well.

The previous "Pastor as Father" post is here.  This is part of an ongoing "Pastor as..." Series.  Being a pastor is always about the intersection between you, me, and God.  At least for my reality.

I may have to love them, but I sure don't like them.

I've heard Christians say (when talking about justice, grace, or being Christian) that you have to love someone but you don't have to like them. I can't pin down why this saying bothers me so I want to talk about it a bit. Don't get me wrong... I've used it before and certainly thought it before. But is it sound theological advice?

The short answer is no.

Imagine Jesus and some disciples sitting around watching the people coming in and out of the temple. Without a doubt they would have done what I do when passing people in the Atlanta airport. "Hey, look at that guy over there. You think he loves hair gel or what?"

If a disciple watched a Pharisee walk into the temple I bet one of the disciples would lean over to Jesus and say... "Hey Jesus... Look at that pompous jerk. I bet he spends more on his phylacteries than he has given to widows."  I bet Jesus would respond with the same fiery love he is known for. His response would affirm the disciple but challenge whether that attitude was loving. Imagine Jesus saying, "well you've spent more on casting lots so I'd be careful about judging anyone. Besides, he tries. Love him like I do, okay?" To which the disciple would probably have said the Aramaic equivalent of...

I may have to love them, but I don't have to like them (there is some variance between individuals - who we sometimes know - and groups, where we are often stereotyping).

Today I think this fundamentally undercuts Christians in their mission to love the world. It is saying you are willing to go only so far.  Could you imagine if that was God's attitude with us?  Could you imagine telling someone you really do love... I love you, but I don't have to like you. What!? It calls into question what you think love really is AND practically guarantees that you don't think favorably of you refer. It is the backhanded compliment that is more of a threat than affirmation of Gods mission. Its like saying, "you better be glad God is holding me back because I don't like you." It is filled with a lot of "you aren't good enough" which is then precise opposite of the live we learn and experience in Jesus Christ.

What is love?  Just ignoring someone or giving them the stink-eye across the room?  If so, then forget I ever said anything - apparently you do love them without liking them.  But I'm right - that isn't love.  Is love tolerating someone?  No.  People you really love - you like them.  I can guarantee that you can find redeemable qualities about anyone you love.  They are often what you back up that love with!  

Instead of threatening those we struggle with let's be honest about things. We use that phrase (I may have to love them, but I don't have to like them) to accept, defiantly, that we choose not to move any closer to them.  It is self-condemning as telling God no.  Trade out that phrase for this one:

I'm still learning how to love them.

or, if referring to a person,

I don't love them like I should, yet.  

At least this way the phrase places the reality of the situation firmly on the one speaking.  You not liking them is YOUR problem, not theirs.

People who often feel justified in how they feel (not liking) have some great reasons, I'm sure. But the truth is your inability to like someone is your problem and probably why you think God is somehow forcing you to love the person in the first place. Which comes first? Liking them or loving them? Pretty sure for us the lesser precedes the greater.  I hope we can do both.