More Than Just Peanuts

This week had a handful of quality Peanuts comics strips.  They are definitely artifacts from a  different era, nestled in a place that childhood today probably skips . . . or trips . . . over.  Consider this classic from early in the week.

February Peanuts 1I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t be much of a position to take today.  And yet something weirdly rings true about Sally’s apathy and conclusion.  And then there’s this from the middle of the week:

February Peanuts 2No apathy on Lucy’s part there.  And one can’t help but wonder what Linus was thinking (sincere? innocent?  subversive?).  Maybe there’s something to be said for acknowledging the way things are without vitriol (only to have vitriol thrown back on you)?

And then there’s what’s almost a kind of “planes, trains, and automobiles” moment with good ole Chuck.

February Peanuts 3Such a sad and sobering thing for some when your story just doesn’t quite fit the narrative.

(images from gocomics.com)

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Calendar, Man

Yesterday I posted some reflections on the first Sunday of Lent and how even my own mental picture the Christian season of preparation before Easter might have to change . . . or not.

At the heart of this, as I’ve mentioned in this space before, is the church, the Christian church, calendar.  This “calendar” (also called the liturgical calendar) is made up of two major cycles: the Christmas cycle (which includes Advent and Epiphany) and the Easter cycle (which includes Lent and concludes with Pentecost).  And while pretty much every Protestant church worth its salt acknowledges “the big two” of Christmas and Easter, many of those same churches have done little to nothing with the remainder of the cycles.  From a recent Barna Group survey about the liturgical calendar:

Barna poll on Liturgy

There are reasons for that, of course, many of them (right or wrong) rooted in church history and lived experience.  And yet the older I get, the longer I’m around, the more I am drawn to at least some version of the practice.  Part of that, I have learned, is a personality thing: something about the need for structure and common language/practice.  And while most Baptists are far from “liturgical,” we definitely have our favorite forms of worship.

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I recently came across an organization called the Center for Baptist Renewal, a group “of conservative, evangelical Baptists committed to a retrieval of the Great Tradition of the historic church for the renewal of Baptist faith and practice.”  The organization recently posted an article about the benefit of the liturgical calendar for Christian community and practice.  It’s a nice summary of the issue.  I particularly like this excerpt from the second  point, that “everyone has an organizing principle”:

In fact, everyone organizes their worship, and usually in large calendric chunks. Even those who are adamantly opposed to the calendar but also insist (rightly, in my view) on expositional preaching through books of the Bible take time to organize their preaching schedule. Every pastor I’ve ever had, and many of the ones I know personally (but not as a congregant), take annual or semi-annual retreats to pray about and solidify their preaching schedule each year. Sometimes this is simply organizing how one will continue to preach through the same book as the year before; other times it includes deciding which new book or books to preach through in a given season. The point is that everyone has an organizing principle for how they preach, even expositional, book-by-book preachers and teachers. The calendar is not antithetical to this, but is merely one way of providing an organizing schema. The calendar is not used because it is commanded in Scripture; it is used because it helps the church throughout space and time organize its exposition of God’s Word to his people.

So if I seemed a little crotchety in my reflection yesterday, it’s because I’m aiming for something in my own life and practice, trying to put some things in place that can help me as I press on (and particularly as I try to push back on the individualism that seems to have infected so many Christian churches and organizations).

I’ll return to this topic a few times over the next few weeks, I hope.  It’s a journey that I’m definitely hoping to learn from.

(image from the Barna Group)

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The Many Deaths of Lent

ancient-future timeTurns out the first casualty of Lent 2018 was Jesus.

Let me explain.

I heard two high quality sermons on the first Sunday on Lent.  On Sunday morning, I heard a great sermon rooted in the prophet’s vision in Isaiah 6.  Well-rendered, thoughtful, and an eye on sin and forgiveness (“for I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips”).  That night I heard a sermon on the deadly sin of envy (after an Ash Wednesday sermon on pride).  Great stuff about a topic rarely spoken about (the Gospel reading, which involved laborers working differing amounts of time for the same wage was worth any price of admission).  But it wasn’t quite about Jesus.

Bear with me.

According to Robert E. Webber in Ancient-Future Time, the season of Lent is “a time to travel the road with Jesus toward his death.”  This plays out over the five Sunday’s before Palm Sunday with different emphasis (much like each week of Advent focuses on a particular disposition or connection to preparing for the first and second comings of Jesus).  “The first Sunday after Ash Wednesday asks us to mark our spirituality by the temptation of Christ,” Webber asserts.  Building off of the images of the first and second Adam, Webber continues:

The church fathers saw the temptation as a turning point in the process of reversing the human situation.  For here, the fathers tell us, is the exact counterpart to Adam.  Adam yielded to the temptation.  Christ overcame the temptation . . .

The serpent in the Garden of Eden and the tempter in the wilderness represent the enticement to sin that lies in the very structure of the world itself . . .

Lent is a time to intentionally confront all the ways the first Adam continues to control our lives, to carry these ways to the cross, to let them be crucified with Jesus, and to bury them in the tomb never to rise again.

In light of this, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the approaches to the two sermons I heard on the first Sunday of Lent.  The challenge of the two cycles of the Christian calendar, though, is to learn to live in the rhythms of the stories of Jesus.  Travel as far back in the Old Testament and as far ahead in the New as we may, we must always come back to the life and love of Jesus.  One Sunday, much like one Lenten season, does not make or break anything.  But as I’ll explain in tomorrow’s post, there’s something about the Christian calendar that really appeals to me (and to my great hope for a life long in Christian belief and practice.

That or maybe even my own expectations about the Christian life and the Christian calendar have to die a kind of death, too.

(image from goodreads.com)

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Lewis and the “Nasty People”

Mere ChristianityA few days ago I was reflecting on the place of the (Christian) seeker in the midst of other Christians who may no longer really be seeking much of anything (at least in some existential way). This is not to question orthodoxy and orthopraxy; it is simply to assert that event amongst believers, dispositions differ in significant but often easily-ignored ways.

I finally finished my “Advent” rereading of Lewis’s Mere Christianity (before Ash Wednesday, so I don’t feel too bad). It held up much better than the last time I read it, particularly the ending. And I found something there that could also speak to that disposition all difference. It comes in a passage about “the nasty people,” which is such an odd descriptor. These “nasty people” are juxtaposed to the “nice people,” who all too easily fit well into the church because of simple and natural social And yet . . . From the chapter titled “Nice People or New Men “:

It is very different for the nasty people— the little, low, timid, warped, thin-blooded, lonely people, or the passionate, sensual, unbalanced people. If they make any attempt at goodness at all, they learn, in double quick time, that they need help. It is Christ or nothing for them. It is taking up the cross and following— or else despair. They are the lost sheep; He came specially to find them. They are (in one very real and terrible sense) the ‘poor’: He blessed them. They are the ‘awful set’ He goes about with— and of course the Pharisees say still, as they have said from the first, “If there was anything in Christianity those people would not be Christians.

I think most of us, at least those who view themselves as relatively well-adjusted, would reluctantly qualify themselves as Christians of the “nice” kind.  Faith might be a big step, but once that leap is made, the life of the “parish” is an easy one, a real kind of fraternity. But for others, for reasons various and sundry, a number of us might feel on the outside, even if only for finite chunks of time or during particular stages in life.  We’re a little “warped,” a little lonely, uneasy in our own skin, a little too far out to ever feel on the “inside.”  For some of us, that can be as much about culture as it is about disposition.  Lewis goes on about “nice” people.

. . . But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world— and might even be more difficult to save.

For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man.

It is perhaps a small leap, but it’s one that makes all of the difference.  “Nasty,” of course, isn’t something to aim for, just like “nice” isn’t the final word you want said about yourselves and your faith (all too “Church Lady,” I think).  And while “nasty” may not completely line up with my previous posts about life in the church, I think it’s a step in a good and right direction.

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I’m hoping to get back to some more thoughts from Walker Percy before week’s end.  I also hope to take a quick detour to Lent and the liturgical calendar.

(image from amazon.com)

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Darryl’s (Mighty) Adventure Continues

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Darryl, the former roommate of the mighty Thor.  Here’s a clip tied to this week’s release of Thor: Ragnarok.

Darryl as Topaz?  That would be hilarious.

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Sunday’s Best: The Best-Layered Plans

An odd mix of Sunday comics today, which puts this classic Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson on top.  Turns out that the “best-layered plans” on snow days are nothing compared to the call of the bathroom.

best layered plans(image from gocomics.com)

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Imagination Under Fire?

After the fourth grade-level camp of the year, I made my way to the theater to catch a showing of (the very well-made) Black Panther.  Lots of good trailers beforehand.  One that wasn’t there, though, was the March-dropping Ready Player One (which I’ve mentioned here before).  Here’s a recent trailer that definitely brings in more of the “stakes” of the story without giving away some of the greater specifics of the book.  I’m very hopeful that Spielberg does the story justice.  I’m also glad that the movie is just over one month away.

Saw the Solo trailer on the big screen for the first time, too.  The big screen moment is always good (because as good as they are, laptop screens just can’t do what the big screen can).  I’m hopeful with this, too.  But I also think my expectations have sobered up some.

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