Angry over what?

This afternoon I've been sifting through Matthew's gospel for anything that relates to the subject of anger, since that will be the subject of Sunday's message.

Jesus gives a huge warning about anger and name-calling. He also commands his followers to not hate or seek revenge, but to love and bless those who treat us as enemies.

So, does that mean there's no room for getting P.O.ed? Is it always a sin to get steamed?

Look again. Jesus gets angry. He gets frustrated. He gets indignant. He pronounces judgment. He scolds.

Matthew's gospel also shows a lot of other people getting mad, too: the Pharisees, the chief priests, the disciples. But they're not getting mad about the right things.

After one particularly tense verbal exchange between Jesus and Simon Peter, Jesus put it this way, "You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:23).

Maybe we need to learn what's worth getting mad over.

But this is way more of a preview of the sermon than I usually give, so I'll shut up for now.


NT in two sentences

Okay, I haven't posted for ten days. You're tempted to give up on me. I'm trying to do a better job managing my life and giving myself a daily dose of downtime. That means that some things are left undone--such as postings on the blog. (Is that a great excuse, or what?)

As most of you know, the blog began as a way to record and share my reflections about trying to be car-free in July. I still bike some, but blogging about it seems to have run its course. So I'm trying to get a sense for what this blog should be about, and I'm still feeling my way through it.

But today I want to share with you something I read this week from Richard Hays's book, "The Moral Vision of the New Testament". Yes, it is a thick theological textbook, but it's got a lot of good stuff. Anyway, on page 193 he summarizes the entire story of the New Testament in two sentences. Here it is.

"The God of Israel, the creator of the world, has acted (astoundingly) to rescue a lost and broken world through the death and resurrection of Jesus; the full scope of that rescue is not yet apparent, but God has created a community of witnesses to this good news, the church. While awaiting the grand conclusion of the story, the church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is called to reenact the loving obedience of Jesus Christ and thus to serve as a sign of God's redemptive purposes for the world."

I've read it many times in the last few days, and I love the way Hays holds it all together. What do you think? Do you have questions about it?


Five years ago and today

Five years ago today, as I was leaving my car to walk into the church’s rented office, a business owner from another suite told me of a disaster in New York City. I called Trish, and she turned on the TV and told me what she was seeing. I went home and watched it with her. We hoped it was some kind of accident, but when the second plane hit, we knew it was intentional.

Remembering 9-11 feels different this year, because a couple months ago my son and I visited NYC. Walking amid the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan, I could imagine that day: hearing a low-flying jet but not knowing what it meant; watching with a sense of foreboding as smoke billowed out of the World Trade Center towers; fleeing with thousands of panicked others as suffocating dust rolled through the concrete canyons. Today, as I watch video footage of five years ago, it’s all the more vivid, because now I’ve been there.

As we walked the final block to Ground Zero, I felt heaviness in my chest, identifying with the sadness and chaos of that day. The visitor center is sandwiched between the vast pits that we were once the twin towers. Peering through chain link we saw the ground still littered with the final remnants of destruction. We stood before the artwork of hundreds of children in the visitor center, each grieving painting created to honor a parent, friend or relative who died in the attack.

September 11th. Four planes hijacked. Three buildings attacked. Nearly 3000 people lost. Our world forever changed. We are in a war that seemingly has no end.

I cannot interpret the events of that fateful day. I do not know if they are a message from God. But I believe that peacemakers are still blessed, as Jesus said. I believe the U.S., because of its wealth, strength and values, has the opportunity and a responsibility to be a servant-leader and help work for a better world.

Should the U.S. be in Iraq? Is staying there crucial in the fight against terror? Good, intelligent people disagree. But I do believe that the ultimate outcome in Iraq does not depend on the U.S. but on the people of Iraq. Only they can reclaim their nation and establish peace among the factions.

And so I pray that God, who raises up nations and brings them down, will give the people of Iraq the opportunity for peace.


Rethinking downtown cycling safety

Saturday's paper reported an accident downtown that killed motorcyclist, Fred McEntarffer. I'm acquainted with the driver of the car, Judge Warren Urbom.

Both families must be suffering terribly right now. Apparently Warren turned left from a non-turning lane of a one way street and turned into the motorcyle in the left lane.

It makes me rethink safety on my bike downtown. As much as I ride defensively, assuming that I'm invisible to motorists, I cannot predict when someone turning or changing lanes will fail to check over their shoulder for their blindspot. And with all the drivers straddling the new bike lanes, it seems like there's little room for cyclists in Lincoln's downtown multi-lane one-way streets.

Say a prayer for the McEntarffer and Urbom families.


Saving the world, right here in Lincoln, Nebraska

Gas prices are falling, but it's really not necessary to thank me. However, every time you've filled up at the pump lately and paid less, no doubt you've been thinking of Pastor Steve and his bicycle and how much gasoline I had personally saved the nation, causing a mini-glut and plummeting prices. It's all about supply and demand, don't you know.

I can understand your overflowing appreciation, but I can't take all the credit. Nearly ten people have started biking once in a while just because they heard about my car-free July! Think of the six people who rode their bike every Sunday to church in August (well, three Sundays; it was raining one time). By following my example, they're the ones making the real impact.

So it's no wonder crude prices worldwide are falling and gasoline inventories are up. Some so-called experts point to things like slowing world economies, the absence of damaging hurricanes, and a perceived relaxation of tensions between the West and Iran. But they always overlook what's right in front of them: the reduction of consumption right here in Lincoln, Nebraska.

But that's okay, we're humble. We don't want the limelight. One day history will show where it all began. Until then, we'll continue to quietly save the world from an economic meltdown. By the way, I need to fill up; where's the cheapest gas in town?

P.S., I promise to say something spiritual in this blog again soon.