And to think it all began with The Church Without Pants

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saved from What?

We heard from a few people not too long ago that a woman who had recently left our church for another was proclaiming that at her new church they really preach the message of salvation and that she was finally hearing the "truth" and that she was glad she had moved on.

I thought about giving her a call to ask if we could meet for coffee so I could hear for myself what this truth was.

But I didn't. Maybe because deep down I believed that if this truth she was now hearing was important enough, she would be compelled to come back and share it with us. She could not possibly want those she had had fellowship with for so many years to continue on in their ignorance. She would want us to be enlightened.

We never heard back from her.

Now I can only imagine what our conversation would've been like and I've seriously wondered what this important truth is that is so missing at the Big Old Church. My guess would be that it has something to do with the big questions of life and death, heaven and hell, and sin and salvation. Being listed among the saved is probably a hot preaching topic at her new church and their worship services are most likely focused on offering a conversion experience for those who they would classify as "unsaved."

But I'm also troubled that she found something missing at Big Old Church. And she's hardly the only one. Based on our attendance, clearly there are at least a few other people who don't mind not being part of what we're doing.

I think Big Old needs to take a hard look at ourselves. Maybe a good place to start is by asking, Are we Saved?

As in many parts of the Bible, the letter to the Ephesians talks about salvation and being saved. Chapter 2 (click here to read Chapter 2) begins something like this: "And you were dead in your sins ... in which you used to live ..." The chapter also includes remarks to the effect that some of the Ephesians lived "without hope and without God in the world" (v. 12) but that they had been made alive, even when they were dead (v. 5)

Zombie fans would go nuts if they ever read the Bible. But there it is, right in the Letter to the Ephesians - "... made alive, even though we were dead ..."

Are Christians really these brain sucking fiends, animated deadness, who prey on anything that moves just to satisfy our own bottomless emptiness? Do we enter our houses of worship mindlessly, with little or no passion, feed ourselves on whatever is offered, and leave in just the same manner as we came - mindless, passionless, and empty? Is that how we are perceived at Big Old?

Are we zombies?

Probably not, but it's never a bad idea to take a look at oneself and, as the prophet Haggai writes, "Consider your ways."

Some of us from Big Old meet together with some friends for this "not church" thing we playfully call "Showtime." The name is totally tongue-in-cheek because while it's a worshipful gathering there's nothing showy about it at all. There's no sermon, no professionals entertaining us, and none of us are there looking for what we're going to get out of it because we all come bringing something to add.

Anyway, during one of our last meetings we looked at this Ephesians 2 passage about the hard questions of life and death and salvation. We concluded that, at least here in chapter 2, Paul seemed very concerned about what salvation could look like today, in the here and now. Not to discount the importance of a future after we're done on this earth, but he seems to also be addressing the importance of a present tense salvation and that when God moves us from the realm of the dead to the realm of the living by saving us from our own sin, God has more in store for us than a series of platitudes and a yearning to escape to another realm. When we live as if we're saved from our own sin we can really be alive right now.

It's a very non-zombie lifestyle and kind of what we'd expect from Jesus.

Imagine, if I'm saved from my sin then I'm no longer the most important person in the world.

You are.

So when Jesus saves me, I'm saved from myself and you're saved from me, too.
As one from among us stated that night, "I'm here, God. Use me in any way you want."

That sounds like real worship.

It also sounds like that kind of life would be a hopeful life, maybe even a life that Paul might describe as "a life with hope and with God in the world."

Wouldn't a group of people who live this way be incredibly attractive?

And we don't have to wait to die and go to heaven for this life because we've already been dead.

We've been there. Now it's time to "choose life" just as God urged the Hebrews in the days after Egypt (Deut 30:15-20). Being saved means we have been brought to life and as Paul sums up his teaching on life and death with the Ephesians, he tells them, "We're God's handiwork, created [brought to life?] in Christ to do the good works that God has prepared for us to do."

Not later. Now.

But if we really like being dead and existing without hope and without God in the world, we can always go back.

Anytime we want.

I hope the woman who left Big Old has finally heard enough of the truth so that she can be confident that she's numbered among the saved. I also hope that she'll not need to hear those sermons too many more times before she's ready to move on to other important scriptural lessons.

As for me, I guess it's always a good idea to ask, "Am I being alive or dead?

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Give me the grace to choose life and please save me from myself. Again and again. Amen and Amen.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Smell Theory - It's kinda like String Theory, only a little closer to home

Long before pheromones were household topics and Josh Harris gave up dating to advocate a thinly camouflaged form of aristocratic European courtship rituals, I was talking with friends about “Smell Determined Behavior” and throwing out dating and courtship altogether. Since everyone in college was (and still is) interested in relationships and most are interested in being in relationships - especially the kind that lead to something more - I simply wondered about the nature of the commitments we were making with each other that set us apart as a “couple” and the effects these commitments had on our other relationships. I concluded that whether we call it “dating”, "going together," or being an “item” or a “couple” (what we now know on Facebook as being "in a relationship") is not only unnecessary, but that it runs counter to developing true intimacy and reduces both genders to mere sexual objects. (I’ll write more about this in another post.)

As for Smell Determined Behaviors, or my “smell theory of relationships” as it was known then, the concept came about simply by extrapolating what I knew of animal behaviors and our own vestigial sense of smell, and melding that information with a little personal experience. Smell Determined Behavior, or SDB, is quite primitive in its origin and can be thought of as a variant on the more [in]famous SBD (Silent But Deadly) phenomenon that also induces us to behave in a predictable manner. You’re beginning to understand, aren’t you … Simply put, we all know that animals often make behavioral decisions based on what they smell. In most cases the odor originates from another living creature. For example, scents are used as territorial markers (Who’s place is this and do I dare go there?), to issue challenges (I think I can take that), or as calls to mate (I want to bear your children!). These scents are now known as pheromones. They are powerful and in some cases irresistible.

Moving up the food chain half a link or so we come to humankind and our puny noses. Our sense of smell is poorly developed compared to that of most other mammals and our noses are relatively small and far from the ground where most odors settle. And yet we’ve all met someone who reeks from last night’s dinner. We don’t even need to ask what they ate. So, our noses do function, but can they detect the scents emitted from glands and pores that we usually keep hidden from view and well masked with other scents?

I think they can and even though most of us go through life happily oblivious to most of the scents or odors around us, there will be occasions where even our lousy noses catch a hint of something we really like (or don’t). And if that happens, how many of these scents might we process to the point that they will influence our decisions?

Which brings me back to relationships and long-term commitments.

I can’t help but wonder, whether we are consciously aware of these scents or not, how many of our long term relationship choices simply come down to the fact that I just can’t (consciously or subconsciously) imagine myself sleeping next to, or waking up to that smell.

Every day.

For the rest of my life.

Think about it.