Even Greater Than This

This past weekend was a big one in Maryland for two reasons.

First was the Chris Tomlin concert.  His “Burning Lights” tour came to the 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore on Friday.  You would think  all of my neighbors, co-workers, and friends were in attendance.  Every time I turned my head someone would be talking about it or posting a picture/status update on Facebook and Twitter.  The local radio station had this to say about the event:

951 ShineFM

Second was the University of Maryland Terps basketball game against Clemson University.  A win set their record at a 2-1 ratio and makes MD a formidable foe in March Madness brackets.  But speaking of UMD, check out the flash mob that the crowd enacted just a few days before:

What do a Christian music artist’s concert and a major university’s basketball game have in common?  For starters, they both generated a lot of attention.  That is to be expected with any large crowd, but mass media was also very influential in the manufacturing of these two events.

Concerts cannot sell tickets, flash mobs cannot be arranged without the aid of mass media.  Whether it be a pillow fight, a food court musical, or a no-pants prank on the New York subway system, they are easily facilitated through texting, mass emails, and social networking sites.  Subconsciously, these events then appeal to raw emotion.  Concerts, flash mobs, any social networking tools allow people to feel important because they can be a participant in something greater than themselves.  (It is a great irony, as I see it, because the individual is actually lost in a crowd, but I digress…)

We all want to have meaning or feel significant.  I suppose participating in a rock concert, a flash mob, or any large scale event is one way to achieve that.  Still, I am reminded that Jesus had a larger vision for us – an EPIC vision – and he presented it to humanity about 2000 years before the first cell phone, computer, or website was accessible to him.  The prophet announced to his disciples: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these… (John 14:12)”

Really?  Is that possible?  Can I do anything that will draw more attention than a flash mob or even the miracles Jesus performed?  Is this attainable by myself, insignificant little me?  I can always organize or attract more people to an event, but is Jesus saying that our lives or our activities can have a large-scale impact, even without the crowd?

Certainly, because if we follow Christ he promises us the gift of the Holy Spirit.  We have access to the inner life of God.  And if we act in obedience to Him, it is by this authority that we can share life-giving news to the world.  That power, that purpose is far greater than any concert or flash mob I can envision.

What are you going to do with your one and only life?  Will it be caught up in entertainment and self-glorification?  Or will it be an eternal investment?  Allow God’s spirit to work in you and make your life EPIC!


The Manifestation

It has been a long time since I’ve posted a poem, so here is one that is particularly meaningful for me written by Theodore Roethke (1908-1963).  As I learn and read more from him, I come to appreciate these sentiments more and more.

Many arrivals make us live: the tree becoming
Green, a bird tipping the topmost bough,
A seed pushing itself beyond itself,
The mole making its way through darkest ground,
The worm, intrepid scholar of the soil—
Do these analogies perplex? A sky with clouds,
The motion of the moon, and waves at play,
A sea-wind pausing in a summer tree.

What does what it should do needs nothing more.
The body moves, though slowly, toward desire.
We come to something without knowing why.

Peter’s Imperatives

I’m reading 1 Peter right now, the first published letter and eventual New Testament book of the Bible written by the apostle Peter.  Given that Peter walked with Jesus in his lifetime and was part of the inner circle, he would be a ripe candidate to give insights on the Christian life.  Indeed, he does and I appreciate the counsel he offers to believers throughout the letter.  But what I am struck by the most in this reading is the overwhelming number of imperatives that Peter gives to his audience.  Specific commands or guidelines which will ensure that one is on the path to holiness.

Maybe there are more, but here is the list that I have compiled:

1:13  Prepare your minds for action (a good place to start with a list this long!)
1:13  Be self-controlled
1:13  Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed
1:15  Be holy in all you do
1:17  Live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear
2:1   Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind
2:2   Crave pure spiritual milk
2:11  Abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul
2:12  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God
2:13  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men
2:16  Live as free men
2:16  Live as servants of God
2:17  Show proper respect to everyone
2:17  Love the brotherhood of believers
2:17  Fear God
2:17  Honor the king
3:8    Live in harmony with one another
3:8    Be sympathetic
3:8    Love as brothers
3:9    Repay evil with blessing
3:15  In your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord
3:15  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have
3:15  Do this with gentleness and respect
3:16  Keep a clear conscience
4:1    Arm yourselves with the same attitude as Christ Jesus
4:7   Be clear minded and self-controlled
4:9   Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling
4:10 Use whatever gift you have received to serve others
4:11  Serve with the strength God provides
4:13  Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ
4:16  Do not be ashamed if you suffer
4:16  Praise God that you bear that name
4:19  Commit yourself to your faithful Creator and continue to do good 
5:12  Stand fast in the grace of God

Just to be clear, there are also negative imperatives:

1:14  Do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance
2:16  Live as free men…but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil
3:9    Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult
3:14  Do not fear what they fear
3:14  Do not be frightened

And directives towards specific types of people:

2:18  Slaves, submit to your masters with all respect
3:1  Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands
3:7  Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives
3:7  (@ Husbands) Treat them with respect 
5:2  (@ Elders) Be shepherds of God’s flock
5:5  (@ Young Men) Be submissive to those who are older
5:5  (@ Young Men) Clothe yourselves with humility
5:6  (@ Young Men) Humble yourselves
5:7  (@ Young Men) Cast all your anxiety on him
5:8  (@ Young Men) Be self-controlled and alert
5:9  (@ Young Men) Resist the devil, standing firm in the faith

There is one imperative that is cultural and therefore only appropriate in a particular time/place, though probably not the particular time/place which we had in mind:

5:14  Greet one another with a kiss of love

And one imperative that unites all of these commands into one.  It is so important that Peter inserts it twice throughout his letter:

1:22  Love one another deeply, from the heart
4:8  Above all, love each other deeply

I did not realize previously that this can be found twice throughout the book.  It only reinforces a core truth:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:36-40)