I suspect any of us could come up with a significant list of positives and negatives for social media. No matter how many of each, it may not matter much what we think about social media. Perhaps more interesting are the ways we choose to use it and what it says about us. For instance, it reveals our spiritual deficiencies. This is most evident when it is used as a platform to discuss polarizing issues. Culture thrives in the arena of instant critique. And the church seems to join right in. We don’t have to look far for evidence, just let Rob Bell write a book, Eugene Peterson get interviewed, or Donald Trump do anything.

I suspect we sometimes respond with “cyber rage” because we think others expect us to protest certain things. Maybe we fear silence will be viewed as agreement. There are likely any number of reasons we do what we do but anxious reactivity will always reveal something about our spirituality. Our words and other responses will impact our witness. We need a spirituality that refuses to rush to judgment. Among other things, the cyber age reminds us how easy it is for grace and truth and thoughtful response to be replaced by messages that are not part of our message.

One of the dangers of social media is that we can speak without looking at others. This is not the fault of social media. In this way, social media is like driving a car. During proper navigation, everything goes ok. Yet sometimes when we feel safe enough, out of reach, or that we have not been recognized we think we can get away with words and gestures we might never say or do if we were in closer proximity to those we communicate with.

I sometimes wonder if we believe condescending comments are acceptable if our theology is good. The fact is, our behavior reveals more about our theology than any verbal report. If we behave in hateful, hurtful ways our theology is bad. It is ok to disagree with others. It is ok to disagree with others publicly. It is not ok to become part of the larger problem to fail to love others.


Happy Birthday

There has been an osprey hanging around at Wildwood Lake. It has attracted a lot of photographers. It’s the kind of thing Dad would have liked. Today is Dad’s birthday. We have often went out to eat to celebrate birthdays and we often would wind up at the Olive Garden for Dad’s. Dad would always order spaghetti and meatballs. I am not sure if we ever liked the Olive garden or if we liked hearing Dad order his food. Spaghetti please, sauce on the side. Meatballs, also on the side. Soup or salad? Salad please, dressing on the side. Sometimes we would add. Garlic bread please, garlic on the side.

I will miss this. I will miss the way he would record conversations and play them back for people later. (True story, if you have spent time with Dad, there may be a recording of you lying around somewhere). I will miss the story about slicing fresh pineapples in the field with his knife while stationed in Hawaii. (This is actually a story protesting the taste of canned pineapple). I will miss him thumping his chest and saying “170 lbs., same as when I got out of the Marine Corp.” (A story we have not heard him tell in recent years). I will miss the story about lassoing a groundhog. (I am still not sure this is a true story). I will miss the way he tried to act like he didn’t want us to tell how he lost his teeth while swimming in Dominica. (This is a true story).

I think I might stop by Wildwood Lake today and look for the osprey. And then I might just go out to eat spaghetti. Maybe I should order my sauce on the side.

Most of us have probably heard by now about the fourteen articles known as the Nashville Statement. Endorsed by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, each article contains an affirmation and a denial regarding gender and sexuality.

This statement has been met with a lot of passion – both for and against it. Those who agree with it have opportunity to sign it online. To encourage more signatures, one can find a list of religious celebrities who have already signed it. Those who are opposed can also point to prominent names who share their opposition. The mayor of Nashville even chimed in by saying the statement “is poorly named and does not represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville.”

The content of the document focuses on gender and sexuality. But the discussion has included things like eternal subordination of the Son and complementarianism. If these terms are unfamiliar to you, here are the short definitions; eternal subordination of the Son – Jesus is a subordinate to the Father. And complementarianism – females are subordinate to males. While we can debate whether these things are woven into the document, we do know that those behind the document are influenced by such ideas. Scot McKnight is one convinced these things influence the statement. His response, “Those we can’t trust for orthodoxy on the trinity can’t be trusted when it comes to morality.”

Gender and sexuality are addressed in the bible, sometimes in significant ways. Yet they have never been mentioned in one of the historical creeds. Even if it were appropriate for a creed-like statement like this, many will protest the timing of this document. At a time when many are looking to the church for unity, is this one more thing to divide us?

Creeds have historically addressed essentials of the faith, written to counter strong heresies. We remember them because they affirm things like Christology and Trinity and Incarnation and Resurrection. Yet I suspect that many who feel the Apostle’s Creed and Nicene Creed are unnecessary have already signed the Nashville Statement. I find it concerning that the Nashville Statement communicates a message that suggests agreement with it is necessary for Christian faith.

The Nashville Statement seems to rehearse what has already been said multiple times. To frame it this way comes across as cognitive and impersonal rather than pastoral or relational. Perhaps a helpful question to ask is “does this statement help the local church in its ministry to people spoken about in the statement?” I am not sure it does, in fact it may hinder.

The fact is, statements like these make me nervous. They suggest we have things figured out. They tend to position themselves in a place of authority where they do not belong. Instead of a statement drawn up in a back room I would prefer something more incarnational, something that looks people in the eye when we are talking to them.

The danger is that even when the Nashville Statement speaks the truth, it falls short at speaking the truth in love. Style cannot be separated from substance. Message cannot be separated from medium. Public statements like these are often written for those already in agreement with them and do not serve a pastoral purpose. That seems to be the case with the Nashville Statement. What we need is a church that is serious about loving those we meet along the way, not another statement.

On Tuesday, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released The Nashville Statement. In case you are out of the loop, this is a series of affirmations and denials about what they claim we should think about human sexuality. To commemorate this event, I offer the following multiple choice quiz.

Which of the following will we no longer be talking about in fifty years?

A) Creed of Nicea, a.d. 325.

B) Nicene Creed, a.d. 381.

C) Chalcedonian Creed, a.d. 451.

D) Nashville Statement, a.d. 2017

I recently watched again “The Book of Eli.” As the title suggests, this movie focuses on a book and a character named Eli. The book, we learn, is the last of its kind and sets Eli off on a special mission. I suspect the name of the primary character was chosen very carefully. Eli, and variations of that name, carries a great deal of significance in the book. The play on Eli’s name could prompt us to think of the coming of “one like Elijah.”

Eli is a walk by faith not by sight guy. Yet, in many ways the movie is about seeing. The movie is dark and not only due to its content. It is set in a sepia tone that works well in a world where not many are able to see what is really going on. Sunglasses are a prominent part of the wardrobe. And sight belongs to the blind, while blindness is prominent among the sighted.

There are parts that are tough to watch due to violence. For instance, do not mess with Eli. He has incredible skills of anticipation, as if he is able to see things before they happen. This is only enhanced by his skills with a machete, a bow, and even with guns. Eli is a hybrid between a prophet and a cowboy. And that is exactly how he rides into town, not looking for trouble but finding it.

But even Eli begins to see more clearly as the movie plays out. For much of the movie he quotes the book and defends it, but in the end he realizes it is more important to live by the book. This is evidenced in a scene where Eli is talking with Solara, a young lady he rescues from this dangerous town and who becomes his traveling companion. He tells her “All the years I’ve been carrying it and reading it every day… I got so caught up with keeping it safe… I forgot to live by what I learned from it.” Perhaps the movie could have been titled “Eli of the Book.”

But Eli is not the only one interested in the book. Every post-apocalyptic town is in need of someone to take charge and Carnegie is happy to do it. This Carnegie wins friends and influences people through manipulation and coercion. He is infatuated by power, which is why he wants the book, so he might further control the people. He talks about the book as if it is a weapon to aim at the hearts and minds of the weak and desperate. Needless to say, a significant portion of the movie includes a battle for the book.

The movie includes a message about things that really matter. Water is a precious commodity. A good pair of boots is rare. Food is so scarce that cannibalism becomes common. A friendly companion is something to be grateful for. Music is enjoyed as something sacred. Shampoo is considered a luxury. Important possessions receive special care. What we take for granted is in stark contrast to what we find in this post-apocalyptic world. This is highlighted in conversation as Eli tells Solara “People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious, what wasn’t. We threw away things people kill each other for now.”

One of my favorite scenes comes at the end as Solara prepares to continue the mission. The gates open, she sheaths Eli’s machete, puts his ear buds in her ears, and she steps through the gates. All while we listen to Eli’s voice pray for her protection. Perhaps we should not be surprised to find that, after spending so much time with Eli, we see the fruit of discipleship. Perhaps those of us who need help to see more clearly should make it a point to watch the movie again.

Our family would like to thank so many people for kind words and kind gestures. We especially want to thank you for loving Mom and Dad.

Every once in a while we hear of or experience a life changing event. At the risk of understatement, the death of my Dad is one of those. Who knows what to say at times like these? I surely do not. If I were asked about the chance of this happening at this time I would have guessed somewhere around zero percent.  In my eyes, Dad was one of the strongest people I could even imagine. I am pretty sure my siblings thought the same thing. For much of my life I thought he could do nearly anything. It is not that we thought Dad was a super hero. Though he did successfully convince one of our cousins that he was superman. Maybe he could not leap tall buildings in a single bound but he did have skills. There is a story about a boy who could walk on his hands and used those skills to attract the attention of a girl in sixth grade. That boy was Dad and that girl is my Mom.

The stories will live on. The fact is we love telling stories about Dad but they will never be the same without him sitting there adding to them or trying to deny them. To be honest, I have no idea what life will be like without him being a part of it. Have I mentioned that this was a life changing event?

Dad taught us things like bike riding and fishing and fielding a fly ball. Dad taught us how to sharpen a knife and appreciate the outdoors and to drive a car. My sister Jennifer wanted to make sure that I highlighted the role he had in teaching us how to love.

That love was evident in his role as Grandpa.  With some irony, on the day of Dad’s funeral, I became a Grandpa. If I am able to even utilize some of his Grandpa skills, I will be successful.

Later in life Dad became a gardener and a bird watcher and a photographer and a traveler to Florida. He loved living near the black bears that played in his yard in PA and the alligators that lived near the house in FLA. And there are plenty of photos to prove his love of both. Dad became an inventor of sorts as evidenced by a contraption we used to pick tangerines from high in the trees last spring and another that he used to hang bird feeders in unlikely places.

We love telling stories about Dad, whether true or not. We can tell stories about him shooting at squirrels in the bird feeders and at mice in our living room. We can tell stories about Dad with gun and holster practicing his quick draw.

His death may be a life changing event. But only because his life had such a significant influence on us. It is largely because of Dad’s influence that we know that God is interested in these stories and memories and the way they make us feel now. There is a room at the house where Dad sat and scribbled notes as he read and watched out the window. His most recent notes include references to the scene in the Gospel of John chapter eleven. For anyone not familiar with what is said there, John chapter eleven includes a scene where Jesus shows up at a funeral. A reminder that God does not shy away from times of darkness or even death. There is some comfort in that, knowing that God is interested in those of us who mourn. Yet this scene is not about comfort. In this scene, God looks death in the eye and begins to talk about resurrection and life. That is exactly what Dad would want us to do today.

Along the west shore of the Susquehanna River, tucked between the Juniata and Sherman’s Creek, almost hidden in the shadow of Cove Mountain, lays the borough of Duncannon. This is where you will find me on the first day of the week. There I gather with others of a similar mind about what has taken place on this day.

Genesis starts off from the beginning telling us how eventful the first day was. We go from “darkness was over the surface of the waters” to “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Needless to say, this move from darkness to light is a significant one.

Perhaps no day has ever been more eventful than one described by the Gospel. John takes us from “they saw that He was already dead” to “the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there” to “on that day, the first day of the week… Jesus came and stood in their midst.” At the risk of understatement, it is quite a move from death to life.

We are reminded again of the unpredictability of the first day when Acts reports that people “from every nation” began to “hear in our own language.” Again, just to highlight the obvious. It is quite a move from isolation and division to community.

So we gather on this day and in this place with expectation. We realize that surprise is always a possibility. We believe the miraculous can occur on any day, we are simply acknowledging a serious precedent for unpredictability on this day, the first day of the week. A day the Trinity has already been extremely active. When I think of what has already taken place on this day all I can say is “wow.”