Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.



Lorigo = Children of Immigrants Against Immigration



"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

Upton Sinclair


Upton Sinclair wrote one of the most influential works of literature in the history of the United States of America.  His novel The Jungle was catalytic in the passage of the Food and Drug Act.  Indeed, the act passed into law only four months after the book was published.  Sinclair was pushed into the spotlight as a national figure for his work.

The book detailed the lives of immigrants in America, many of whom worked in the meat processing industry; at the time, a horrifyingly disgusting and dangerous workplace environment.  Sinclair wrote the book as an intended expose on the plight of the poor and immigrant in our country, and the exploitive way the rich were treating them.  The American public responded to Sinclair's book with great uproar, but not in the way Sinclair had hoped…

He is quoted as saying, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."

One of the most gruesome episodes in the novel, (a worker falling into a lard-rendering vat, instantly dead, and unable to be removed), served not, as one might think, to provoke changes in worker safety, but to protect the purity of American lard by the immediate passage of federal legislation.


Safety and Danger in the Church

We baptized several people on Sunday.

One of them was my son.

It was glorious!

People shared briefly of their decision to follow Christ, to be washed clean in His death, and remade in His resurrection.  And then Pastor Cap and I plunged them into a feeding trough full of water!

At the baptism of the first adult, I saw gallons of water slosh over the side and onto the floor, water went everywhere.  I thought, "well, its too late to stop it now, people are here to get baptized, and we will just clean up the mess later."  …and then we kept right at it!


Afterwards I got to thinking about the mess of the baptism, and what that says about the church as a whole.

So often we expect the church to be safe in all of the wrong kinds of ways.  We don't want anyone to come in and bring any of the world in with them.  We don't want anyone to come in who doesn't fit, who isn't tidy, who doesn't play by our rules.  In short, we want our faith community to be comfortable for us.  May our church never be this safe.

But what that ends up producing is a church culture that promotes hypocrisy, secrecy, and emotional isolation.  If no messy people are allowed into the circle of christians, then we can't let anyone know about our own messiness.  We have created a club for perfect people, and that is a very dangerous thing for a church to become.  Dangerous in all of the wrong sorts of ways.  May our church never be this dangerous.

Instead the church is supposed to be a safe place for messy people to let their messiness get dealt with.  People are supposed to bring the world with them right into our community.  The church is supposed to be a safe place for dark secrets to be exposed, it supposed to be a safe place for bad habits to be dealt with, its supposed to be a safe place for vulnerable wounds to be exposed and healed.  May our church always be this safe.

The church is supposed to be dangerous too.  Dangerous in the same way a show at Marine World is dangerous; you might get wet!  Dangerous to our comfort, dangerous to our ego, dangerous to our need for control and our desire for gratification.  Celebration is always a danger to decorum; just as worship is a danger to pride, fellowship is a danger to wealth, and glory is a danger to apathy.  May our church always be this dangerous.


It wasn't just the water that was a little 'messy.'

We joined together with another congregation during the service.  Both congregations had members to baptize, so we celebrated the unity of faith in 'one baptism' as proclaimed by St Paul.  This meant we got to hear preaching that was different than normal, got to see baptisms performed in ways that were uncomfortable for some of us, and heard things said that we didn't all agree with.

I have to say, I was blessed to see the way people entered into the mess, cleaning up the water, engaging in relationships across dividing lines, and celebrating the beauty and potency of the Spirit's work in the lives of the saints.  This is a picture of how the church is supposed to be safe in the right ways, and dangerous in the right ways...


What is Needed for Unity to Flourish?

Be completely humble and gentle;
be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit
through the bonds of peace.

Ephesians 4:2-3

What, precisely, is meant by 'every effort?'

What hasn't been tried yet?

Remembering that Scripture commands 'every effort'
in the preservation of unity,
reflect on the places where disunity is present in your life.


Humility is required.  Humility is the recognition of one's proper place in the order of things.  Knowing where you belong, and whom you belong to.  Understanding what authority you have, and who's authority you are under.  Knowing what wisdom you possess, and knowing what wisdom you lack.  Recognizing that you cannot stand alone, and have been joined (by God!) to those who challenge the bonds peace. Humility is required for unity to flourish.

Gentleness is required.  Harsh words and hard responses invite people to see us as their opponents.  Condescending tones provoke inferiority and/or indignation.  Strong actions, when taken without mutually agreed upon wisdom, lead to wounds; wounds lead to pain, mistrust, anger, and fear.  Gentleness sets aside all of this, and invites trust.  A gentle man can be trusted not to wound; even when he misunderstands, he does not misstep, because his steps are slow and deliberate.  Gentleness is required for unity to flourish.

Patience is required.  Perhaps the older word is better; long-suffering is required.  It has been said, about the work of reconciliation, "if you are bleeding, you are doing it right."  It has also been said, about the fellowship of Christians across cultural lines, "expect to offend, and to be offended."  Patience is the willingness to tolerate discomfort, disagreement, confusion, pain, deprivation, misunderstanding, even egregious offense, with the expectation that the future will be better than the present.  Without patience there can be no maturity, and maturity is a pre-requisite for unity.  A mature believe understands that all holiness, all glory, all wisdom, and all godly power, comes into the community of humans through a process that takes time, energy, and obedience.  Unity will not be sustained without the 'long obedience in the same direction.'  Patience is required for unity to flourish.


Leaders Get What They Want?

We often think that a leader is someone who gets to make decisions; a leader is someone who gets whatever they want.  This couldn't be more wrong-headed; a godly leader is a person who no longer thinks about what would fulfill his own desires, and instead works hard to make the community healthy and fruitful.  A leader shouldn't give people the things that he desires for himself, but instead, a leader should give people the things that they need to flourish.

Leaders don't do what makes themselves happy, they do what makes other people healthy.


Racial Politics: Why our Rhetoric Matters

I heard an interview on the radio the other day…

I am not even sure of the station or the program as I was driving out of the area.  But the program host was discussing with guests and callers the situation surrounding one of the recent shootings of black men by police officers, and the surrounding protests, the movements, the politics, the social forces, etc.

A woman called in and said something that I thought was profoundly important about race relations in our country.

She identified herself as an 'older, African-American, woman,' and she proceeded to say that in her experience white bigotry is no longer an important factor in our racial problems, rather white apathy is the problem.  She talked about other factors (the history of bigotry, and the black community's own apathy), but she talked mostly about how problematic and inaccurate it was to diagnose the problem as 'white racism;' in her experience, most white people aren't racists, they just aren't willing to do much of anything about the plight of black communities if it costs them personally.

I thought this profoundly important for several reasons:

1) Its true: while it is true that bigotry endures in our day, it is not the problem that it once was.  It is no longer acceptable by our culture, indeed calling someone a racist in many circles is a serious charge that most people will respond to with strong emotions.  The majority of white people in America are completely in favor of a society where people of all colors can freely share in the wealth, power, and blessing of our nation, and they are personally willing to engage relationally with people of all colors.  …but not if it costs them anything to do so!

2) Its informed: she had obviously spent enough time engaging with white people that she understood what was going on inside the hearts and minds of individuals and communities.  This is not just about proximity, but also about a desire to understand those who are different than you.

3) Its honest: saying what is true about a situation, instead of throwing insults at one's socio-political opponents, is a display of integrity.  It feels good to insult people, especially if they have hurt you.  But calling someone a bigot, when you know that they are not a bigot, is simply dishonest.

4) Its helpful: imagine a Doctor who was so bent on the eradication of cancer that he diagnosed every patient he saw with cancer and gave them chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  Compare that to a Doctor who was so concerned with the health of her patients that she carefully and methodically diagnosed each patient's symptoms for their various root causes and then applied the appropriate treatment for each individual case.  It simply doesn't help to call someone a racist who isn't a racist.  That usually only produces righteous indignation, and resolute opposition.  It simply doesn't help to ignore apathy in a lazy person or a lazy society.  Pointing at the real problem helps highlight the real solution.  A misdiagnosis erodes trust and hurts everyone involved.

5) Its generous: it would be easier to point at the actual white racism that exists.  It would be easier to point at the rhetoric of politicians who foment racial fear to gain votes.  But instead, she chose to look beyond that, to give people the benefit of the doubt, and to seek to understand.  She wanted to point at what was good in the white community and their response to racial politics.

6) Its hopeful: seeking to have an honest dialogue about a sticky topic is an indicator that you want to see progress.  Too often sticky topics are simply used by those attempting to gain political power.  Calling names, provoking anger, inciting fear, fomenting dissension, this is what we see politicians do with all divisive issues, and with race in particular.  They do it so that they can get elected.  But it doesn't help us heal, it actually gets in the way.  To hear a woman speak this way is an indicator that she actually hopes for healing; she actually believes our society can change.