As is now becoming a typical preface to the American twenty-something story, I was raised in an Evangelical family. It wasn’t until high school though that these ideas began affecting my soul. But, being in my watered-down southern Baptist experience, the spiritual appetites this “awakening” had produced were never satiated. I longed for the deeper things of God that I had only then, 16 years or so down this journey, realized were even there: a God that cared about far more than “consistent quiet times” and “witnessing to my friends”. A God whose call for me was not first and foremost to fight the modern-day vicars of Darwin (my public school science teachers), but a God whose call for me was a call for me – a deity far more interested in my enjoyment in Him rather than my service to Him – who sovereignly and independently called out for me through the fog of my emotionally turbulent, perpetually “emo” high school existence into a new, vibrant, and abundant emotionally turbulent, perpetually “emo” high school existence. Me and my crew of fellow impassioned “youth groupies” who met at the JAM House (Jesus And Me) every Wednesday night longed for growing miles deep when the church seemed far more interested in growing miles wide.
One of my dearest friends, Andrew Vogel, got married two weeks ago (p.s. He has an amazing blog). He had originally asked me to do this Scripture Reading at the wedding. But unfortunately, the drive from Philly to Newark, Ohio is a long one, and many variables can make for much delay, and indeed, this is what happened. (Amy and I went on to the rest of our plans: a wonderful visit to God’s country, Pittsburgh). Anyway, to add to the pain of this loss, this particular set of Scriptures that I was going to have the honor of reading just happens to be the best set of Scripture readings I’ve ever encountered for a wedding. No Song of Solomon or 1 Corinthians 13 here; just a proper and exegetically sound exploration of the sweeping story of God’s relationship with his own Bride. Therefore, I felt compelled to share these verses with you today. May they stir and woo you for Bridegroom for Whom your soul was made.
Andrew and Laura, I pray that this feeble attempt at publicly participating in the celebration of your union communicates the love and grace of our Lord to your hearts. May it bless you.
Every year, change.org sponsors its Blog Action Day, where they take an issue of world importance and try to get as many bloggers writing posts about as possible, hoping for a viral effect that can influence larger political structures. This year’s topic is global access to clean water. I had known this was an issue, and an issue of importance, but it wasn’t until I signed on to write this post and started researching it that I realized what all it entailed.
“Social Justice-y” issues are in style right now. As globalization and social media collide, our global neighbors are feeling ever and ever closer, and our awareness to global issues is rising. What’s your little pet issue? Women’s rights? Children’s rights? Animal right? Poverty? The Environment? Global conflict and wars? As the change.org website points out in its suggested post ideas page, this clean water access issue is a primary factor in all of the above areas. Unclean and unsafe water is the primary cause of 80% of all disease and it kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. 90% of all of these deaths happen to children (source). Many global wars, including the conflict in Darfur can find their root in water access (source). The hours spent finding, carrying, and distributing water–and not going to school or working–are so numerous that it is a major source of poverty in the world (source). Indeed, there are even more implications for this most basic of issues, and they are well-catalogued on that “suggested post ideas” page, but these were the issues that struck me most.
Finally, this is done. This is the last post in a three-part series that’s been walking through my development as a thinker and feeler in this world. The first part, at its core, was about the culture and world around me as I grew up that helped cultivate the arrogance I still war against inside me. The second part was about the things that have humbled me and showed me my finitude. So where does that leave me now; and why does it warrant this little series?
The confluence of all of these forces (of arrogance and humbling) has made a very interesting creature out of me as of late. A recent trip back home to visit my parents found me getting into several vehement fights with them over (of all things) politics. It’s not even that I disagree with them very much! It was mainly a frustration over just how unwavering and (I felt) naively arrogant their commitment to these ideas were. In short, I was getting mad that they seemed to allow no room for disagreement or for them to be wrong. A couple of times my Dad asked me, well what do you think? And I realized I had no answer. All I knew was that no one could know so surely what was right. Why? Because God had showed me in the past several years that I couldn’t. And if I (of all people) couldn’t know with certainty, then surely no one else out there could, right? (P.S.- that was sarcasm) It all culminated in a moment where my dad pretty much said that my writing had been steadily losing it’s quality ever since the “pinnacle of my writing”: a post I wrote called “On Holy Week, Suicidal Ideations, & My Heart“.
[This was a liturgy I delivered at my church this past Sunday as we continued our series from Luke called "conversations with jesus". Here is the audio from the message that followed this opening liturgy. Much of this opening material I stole from the incredible book Unceasing Worship by Harold Best]
Greeting and Preparation
Leader: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Hello, my name is Paul, and I want to welcome you Liberti Church. Liberti is a community of individuals still trying to figure out this Christian faith we’ve found ourselves in. And if you’re around here long enough you’ll see that we all do this to varying degrees of imperfection, more often than not. So, whether this is your first time here, or you are firmly rooted in this community, I hope that your time here today is meaningful; that you feel warmly welcomed and that you are able to experience the God we love in a tangible, real way.
In a few moments we’re going to stand and do the whole traditional, super structured, church thing. We’re going to read things back and forth, say them together, sing some songs, stand up, sit down, stand up again, say hello to one another and listen to a sermon. It’s easy to look at all this and begin to think that all these trappings and movements are what it means to be a Christian; that this is the substance of our faith. It’s easy; after all, we can see, observe, and measure our participation of these things. But that’s not why we do this.
And… intensity at work, lack of sleep, church home group beginnings, Fall TV premieres, a trip with the lady to meet the parents, and two weeks later, I find myself here, computer atop my lap, typing these words over a bowl of stove-top-made oatmeal. I’m ready to pick this blog post up again after more facebook, blog comments, and text messages than usual asking when the next post would be. This sets up a pressure under which I don’t work well, but it’s a pressure I feel is appropriate to bring up considering the content to follow.
In my last post, I unpacked a bit of my own story which has led me to often be perceived as an arrogant overly-sure man–and indeed I see this in myself often. But I went on to point out how this arrogance is not necessarily at its root sprung from pride or over-confidence, but rather a deep fear and insecurity that at the end of all things I wouldn’t be found pleasing to the God I know I love.
For all those in Philly that either do attend liberti: center city, have attended, or are interested in getting involved: this week marks the beginning of our new season of home meetings. I don’t know why, but I am so excited about this particular round of meetings. Yes, I lead one, but more than that, I feel that the season in which the church currently finds itself is one where a lot of growth (both painful and joyful) is imminent; and I think that these Liberti Home Meetings will be a primary catalyst for this growth. [Click here for a complete list and map of our groups if you are interested in checking any of them out.]
In the past year and some change, throughout my involvement at Liberti, home meetings have been a constant source of amazing discussion, deep personal analysis, and action mobilization. I really can’t commend these things enough. My deepest relationships, and even where I moved into the city, were all fruits borne from my time in my home meetings.
Two of my favorite people–Jospeh Yasso and Tara Molthen–got engaged this past Friday. It was amazing. Joseph had planned this thing for a long time and it went off perfectly. And, just as is the case with most all of our lives nowadays, it was all caught on tape. Actually, like 5 or 6 of them. And I have one. As I was writing this post, I found Joseph’s “official” tape” on YouTube and thought that it offered some things that my video lacked. My video gives the “crowd” perspective from outside the restaurant to when we enter. His is good for the perspective form inside the restaurant from the beginning of the entire thing. His is posted first after the break and mine is below it, followed by the lyrics of his song he wrote. Like I said, it’s amazing. One last note: so sorry for the crazy audio feedback at the end of my video. It’s pretty unbearable, but worth it, I feel. Enjoy.
Joseph and Tara: Congratulations. I love you two, and can’t wait to watch you get married.
Greeting and Preparation
Leader: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Hello, my name is Paul, and welcome to Liberti Church. Liberti Church is a group of people trying to figure out what it means to be a community of believers in Jesus Christ both in and for this city. This may be your first time here–you may have randomly wandered in here or a friend brought you; or, you may be a regular attender here. Either way, we hope you feel welcome to fully participate in this time and space set aside to worship our God.
Monday I showed how someone could take some bad Christian culture and redeem it to truly honor God. Well, thanks to Andrew Vogel, a good friend and former classmate, whose comment showed me another video that really needs to be redeemed, remixed, or just removed. Here’s the video. If anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears. Big. Floppy. Ears. Somebody get some GaGa in this thing.