Tears as Prayers

My latest in the Christian Courier. (October 11th edition.)

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Have you cried lately? If so, do you know the meaning of your tears?

It’s a complicated question. We humans are not fully transparent to ourselves—we are not fully aware of the experiences or realities that shape our emotional lives. Our tears in any situation may result from past experiences, diverse sensitivities, hormonal realities, and even how much sleep we’ve been getting. We may know there are tears running down our cheeks, but never fully know why.

This is to say nothing of the deeper biological and evolutionary bases of our tears. Perhaps human tears have been selected for because they invite sympathy and promote community well-being. Or perhaps our tears are a way of moderating anger in those who perceive them. Or maybe our tears relieve tension and allow us to function well in daily lives defined by stress.

There is so much going on when we cry. This means it is always a question of interpreting our tears, in the same way that we interpret scripture or other texts. We can do our best to explain our tears, but we likely will never fully understand them or have a definitive answer for their meaning.

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Congregational Aesthetics – beyONd our walls (3/3)

In this short blog series I’ve been exploring this question: What is the aesthetic profile of your congregation. Otherwise put: What do the artwork and architecture and liturgical accoutrements of your congregation reveal about its faith and identity? And how do they shape your faith and discipleship?

In my first post I explored how we might respond to the artistic heritage passed down to us from earlier generations. In the second post I considered the importance of contemporary, artistic expressions of faith in our IMG_2868worship and community spaces. Now in this final post I want to push us out of the church building, into the wider community.

Too often the church has thought of itself in terms of a fairly strict separation from the world. The church has failed to identify with the world – it has failed to live for the world, in the world.

While we have to think about these issues carefully (theologically speaking), I’m of the view that we can and must conceive a much more porous boundary between church and world. This doesn’t mean watering down faith convictions, but it will require transforming mindsets and structures and programs – and in ways we may not yet be able to imagine. Such transformations must be defined precisely by our life for the world and in the world, since this is the only life that we can possibly embody in faithfulness to the one who is our life – Jesus Christ.

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full and free

Let me begin this morning with something a little unusual, perhaps – let me begin by asking about the difference between a thief and a robber. An unusual place to begin, yes, but as good a place as any, as we’ll soon see. As we think about the thief and the robber, we realize pretty quickly there’s a significant overlap between these two words – the thief and the robber are similar in that both take something that doesn’t belong to them – the thief and the robber both take money or property from the person to whom it rightly belongs.

So on the one hand these two words or concepts overlap. On the other hand however, we can distinguish these two words from each other. Specifically, the thief and the robber can be distinguished based on the method of their crime. A thief is someone who steals in a way that is sly or subtle – the thief tries very hard not to be noticed. If you are the victim of a thief, very often it’s not until well after the fact that you realize your wallet or a piece of jewelry has gone missing. It was taken in a stealthy manner. You didn’t even notice.

With a robber, it is much different – by definition a robber is someone who uses force or violence to take what is not his or hers. If a robber takes your wallet, you won’t have to wait a few hours to discover that your wallet is gone – you’ll know immediately that your wallet is gone because you will have been pushed to the ground or hit with something in the process of it begin taken. Continue reading