Lent Week 3: We Are Not Alone

lent09We began our Lenten journey by going straight back to the beginning of our Christian faith:  At the tomb of Jesus, where he had just risen from the dead.  Why an Easter story during Lent?  Because Easter is not a one-day-a-year thing, it is the every-day-of-the-year reality of who we are as Christians.  We are a resurrection people, formed at a fundamental level by the reality that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.  We looked at some of the specific things we will find when we look at the place where Jesus lay:  specifically that Jesus is alive, that God has done it all, and that the possibility of connection with God is now a reality.

We are now looking at what it means for us as the Church to be a resurrection people, to live as the people of a resurrected savior Jesus Christ, even in the midst of a world which is becoming increasingly hostile to the Christian way of looking at things, a world in which we as Christians have lost and are losing much of the privilege and influence we once had even as recently as a decade or two ago.  A world in which we find ourselves in exile, in a manner of speaking–not actual, physical exile but a situation which in many ways resembles the situation faced by the Old Testament Jews in Babylon and the centuries which followed.

First I pulled out and addressed specifically the political aspect of things, as that bears special relevance this year.  In short, we are to be apolitical and non-ideological; not to refrain from having political convictions but to hold those convictions loosely and with an open hand.  Last week I addressed the relational aspect of things, with a call to reclaim the value of Christian friendship and the view of the Church as a fictive family, an alternative to the natural/biological family.

This week, allow me to begin by taking us to 1 Kings 19:14-18:

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

Here is the backstory for this:  After David and Solomon, the best kings Israel ever had, the kingdom split into two:  the southern kingdom where Jerusalem was located, and the northern kingdom.  The kings of the northern kingdom were uniformly bad and they led their people into apostasy and idolatry.  The kings of the southern kingdom were not that great, but there were a few good ones in the mix.

Elijah was a prophet in the northern kingdom during the reign of Ahab, the worst king Israel ever had, and his wife Jezebel who was evil through and through.  At Mount Carmel there was a showdown between Elijah and the priests of Baal whom Ahab and Jezebel had brought in.  It did not go well for the priests of Baal.

Jezebel heard about this, and she was not too pleased.  She made death threats against Elijah, and he got scared and fled into the desert.  Here he had an encounter with God.  You may have heard the story of how the earthquake and the whirlwind passed by but God was not in either of those, but then came the still small voice and God was in that.  This is that story.  The verses above are what Elijah says to God when he arrives in the still small voice, and God’s response to Elijah.

Note the last line:  “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

As evangelicals, especially here in America, we are very bad about assuming that we are the end-all, be-all of what God is doing in the world.  This expresses itself in many ways, yet a couple of examples come to mind:  The idea that people are not in right standing with God until/unless they have prayed a sinner’s prayer, made a decision for Jesus or otherwise made a profession of faith sufficient to pass evangelical muster.  (David Platt’s video about a recent preaching trip to India which made the rounds of the blogosphere a couple of weeks back is a prime example of this.)  The idea–and this is a specialty of the Neo-Reformed/Calvinist wings of evangelicalism–that complementarianism or whatever the theological cause du jour happens to be, is the last dam holding back the waters of godlessness in the church and in our world.

As resurrection people living in a world which is increasingly hostile to the Christian way of looking at things, this is a luxury we cannot afford.

Like Elijah, we think we are the only ones.

We think we are the end-all, be-all of what God is doing in the world.

We think the issues which matter to us are the last thing holding back the surging tide of godlessness and wickedness in our churches and in our world.

Yet God has reserved for Himself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.

Go find them.

Understand that their expression of Christianity will probably differ significantly from yours.  Their understanding of theological/cultural/political issues which are important to you will probably differ significantly from yours.  Many have probably never made a “decision” for Jesus, prayed a “sinner’s prayer”, or otherwise made a profession of faith sufficient to pass American evangelical muster.

That’s life.  Get over it.

This is not a time to write off an entire nation as bound for hell because they have not made a profession of faith sufficient to pass muster according to your theological way of looking at things, as David Platt unfortunately seems willing to do in the case of the people of northern India.

This is not a time to write off an entire class of people as outside the family of God because they hold views on human sexuality which you consider offensive.  Our approach to engaging with gay Christians should be to figure out how we can include them in the family of God while remaining true to what the Bible teaches with regard to human sexuality.  (And would SOMEBODY PLEASE SHUT THIS IDIOT UP?????  Sorry.  Had to get that off my chest.)

This is not a time to write off entire denominations as nothing but godless liberals, even if the stereotypes which persist in evangelicalism are true and richly deserved.  Many of these denominations have much that is of value which we evangelicals have abandoned in the name of relevance.  And there are faithful people among them who no doubt are distressed at what they see yet choose to stay and make the best of things, just as there are many in evangelicalism who no longer feel at home yet choose to stay and make the best of things.

We think we are the only ones who are faithful in a world which is becoming increasingly hostile to the Christian way of looking at things.  Yet God has reserved for himself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.  We just have to know where to look to find them.

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Lent Week 2: Relations of Resurrection People

lent09We began our Lenten journey by going straight back to the beginning of our Christian faith:  At the tomb of Jesus, where he had just risen from the dead.  Why an Easter story during Lent?  Because Easter is not a one-day-a-year thing, it is the every-day-of-the-year reality of who we are as Christians.  We are a resurrection people, formed at a fundamental level by the reality that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.  We looked at some of the specific things we will find when we look at the place where Jesus lay:  specifically that Jesus is alive, that God has done it all, and that the possibility of connection with God is now a reality.

We are now looking at what it means for us as the Church to be a resurrection people, to live as the people of a resurrected savior Jesus Christ, even in the midst of a world which is becoming increasingly hostile to the Christian way of looking at things, a world in which we as Christians have lost and are losing much of the privilege and influence we once had even as recently as a decade or two ago.  A world in which we find ourselves in exile, in a manner of speaking–not actual, physical exile but a situation which in many ways resembles the situation faced by the Old Testament Jews in Babylon and the centuries which followed.

Last week I pulled out and addressed specifically the political aspect of things, because that bears special relevance in an election year.  In short, we as a resurrection people are to be apolitical and non-ideological–not to refrain from holding political opinions or convictions but instead to hold those convictions loosely and with an open hand.  We must recognize that ideologies are incomplete truths, useful to a limited extent yet always claiming to be more than they really are, to be able to explain more of life and the universe than they can truly explain.

This week we are going to address the kind of community and relations which must exist among us as a resurrection people.

In short, we are to be intensely and intentionally relational.  One of modernity’s biggest lies (actually a universal failing through all of human history but one which modernity has amplified a thousandfold) is that people are not people but instead things to be used, managed, and then discarded or pushed aside once they have outlived their usefulness.  It is not to be so among us.

We must reclaim the value of Christian friendship.  Specifically we must reclaim the notion of the Church as the family of God, an alternative to the natural/biological family.

This means conservative evangelicalism must give up its incessant fixation with the biological family.  Evangelicals have conflated faithfulness to God with faithfulness to the notion of family, as if the forces of evil are those godless liberals who are attacking the traditional family and traditional family values, and we are called upon to defend God and the Christian faith by defending the traditional family.  And yet, despite all the culture war rhetoric about queers and godless liberals run amok and other threats to the family, our society places a very high premium on family life.  It is increasingly difficult to live as a family of one in a world made for two.  (Especially around Valentine’s Day.)  The church has played right into this cultural idolatry of the biological family, even while claiming that the family is under attack.  People are confused about our message, to the point that many think the Gospel is synonymous with family values.  Much of the programming in churches is directed toward families and children, and churches are all trying to outdo each other in terms of what they can provide for YOUR family.

To be sure, the institution of the family holds a high place in the economy of God. Throughout the Bible God’s love for His people is described in terms of family relationships–husband and wife, father and child, etc. Large portions of the New Testament are dedicated to how we are to live in our family relationships. Yet a lot of what Jesus says in the Gospels is about commitment to him in spite of family expectations. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53) “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50)

The Church is an alternative family, united in friendship and common love, where the unloved, abandoned, and unwanted, those who come from broken families, and yes, those who, like me, are families of one, can find home, belonging, community, and acceptance.

Let us reclaim this vision of the Church as the family of God, as an alternative to the natural family.  Let us take to heart the words of Jesus Christ:  “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

John Piper: Don’t Watch Deadpool

Deadpool, the latest in the Marvel Comics X-Men film series, dropped this weekend.  Surprise surprise, John Piper had something to say about it.  His comments (lightly edited) can be found at the Desiring God website.

Turns out the movie has some nudity in it.  And that is of HUGE concern to Piper.  Piper preaches complete avoidance (“TOUCH NOT THE UNCLEAN THING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”) as a test of one’s faith in Christ.

This is the thing with Piper:  True to Neo-Calvinistic form, he takes an issue which is of secondary importance at best, and elevates it to a place of do-or-die significance where it suddenly becomes the linchpin of faith in Jesus Christ.  This is how we show the world who we are as Christians, this is how we prove our faithfulness to Jesus Christ:  By completely and totally avoiding this godless piece of utterly heathen cinematic filth.  Have nothing whatsoever to do with it.  That is how the world will know you are Christians, and that is how you will know you are a Christian.

John Piper has been on my shit list ever since “Farewell Rob Bell” a couple of years back, and things like this are a big part of the reason why.

Lent Week 1: Politics of Resurrection People

lent09We began our Lenten journey last week at the tomb of Jesus, where he had just risen from the dead.  Why begin Lent with an Easter story?  Because Easter is not a one-day-a-year thing, it is the every-day-of-the-year reality of who we are as Christians.  We are a resurrection people, formed at a fundamental level by the reality that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.  We looked at a few of the specific things we will find when we look at the place where Jesus lay:  specifically that Jesus is alive, that God has done it all, and that the possibility of connection with God is now a reality.

Today and in the weeks to come, we will look at what it means for us as the Church to live as a resurrection people in a world where we are losing influence, a world in which we could be said to be in exile in much the same way that the Israelites were in exile in Babylon.

This week I will come back to a point I touched on in the Advent series and one which seems especially relevant in an election year:  As Christians we are to be apolitical and non-ideological.  We are called to seek the welfare of the city where we have been placed, and part of that means recognizing that we will probably not get a say in the city’s political and cultural arrangements.

Does this mean we are not to have political opinions?  Absolutely not.  We live in a country where, for the time being at least, we have the freedom to vote on who our leaders will be.  As a result, we have the freedom to hold opinions on who people should vote for.

What it means is that we are to place our faith ahead of our politics.  Not by placing the Bible ahead of our politics–it is possible to find something in the Bible which supports or appears to support any political position.  Nor by placing Jesus ahead of our politics–it is possible to find something in the sayings and/or actions of Jesus which supports or appears to support any political position.  No, the way we do this is by placing people ahead of politics.  Jesus was always about what was best for people, and that is what we should be about as well.  It is possible to debate what is best for people, but it is not possible to argue with the idea that what is best for people is what we should be about as Christians.

God is eminently concerned with how you treat other people.  So much so, that He has staked His honor on it.  God is honored when people are well-treated; the parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46) is ample evidence of this, as is the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) in which the rich man’s eternal destiny is tied up in how he treated a beggar who was sitting outside his gates.  So if you love God, then show it by how you treat other people.

Recognize that everyone’s political opinions make perfect sense to him/her, even if they make no sense to you.  Political opinions are not formed in a vacuum, but are the end result of a long story of experience with the world which causes people to see certain things in certain ways.  People who hold political opinions which make no sense to you, have knowledge and experience you don’t have, which causes those opinions to make perfect sense to them when they make no sense to you.

By all means have political opinions and convictions, but hold those convictions loosely and with an open hand.  Recognize that ideologies are incomplete truths, useful up to a point yet always claiming to be more than they really are and promising more than they can deliver.  Recognize that the political controversies of today will in all likelihood be long forgotten by the time the next election cycle rolls around.

Do not say or do anything that would forfeit influence in the lives of people around you.  The Church has already lost lots of influence in the world at large by attempting to speak to the political controversies of the day, staking its credibility and influence on things where the world has now long since moved on.  Do not stake whatever influence you may have in the lives of people around you on issues that are likely to be non-issues in a couple of years.

Our call as Christians, as a resurrection people who serve a resurrected Savior, is to show the world that there is another way to live.  One which is not tied down to any political ideology or tied up in the political controversies of the day, but which points to a God who sacrificed Himself for us rather than demanding that we sacrifice for Him.

Ash Wednesday: The Beginning

lent09Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season.

Lent is the forty days before Easter.  Start at Easter, back up six Sundays, then back up a few more days to the Wednesday before, and you get to Ash Wednesday.  That’s actually forty-six days.  Back out the six Sundays, which are treated as “free days” and not counted as part of the Lenten season (they are and they aren’t–it’s complicated), and you get to forty days.

Lent is a season of preparation for Easter.  We prepare by focusing on Christ and his journey to the Cross, which lies squarely across our path and looms ever larger the deeper we get into the Lenten season.  The 40 days of Lent tie in directly with the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness prior to the start of his public ministry, and indirectly with the 40 years Israel spent in the wilderness prior to entering the Promised Land.  Not all of us can go out into the wilderness for 40 days, but we can all place ourselves in a posture of humility and choose practices consistent with a lifestyle of repentance.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of this journey.  Many churches have Ash Wednesday services where you receive ashes on your forehead.  Ashes symbolize repentance from sin; to go around in sackcloth and ashes was a classic Old Testament expression of grief and repentance.  Ashes also symbolize mortality; we are but dust and unto dust we shall return.  We die to ourselves and all that we are in this world in order that we may rise to life in Christ.

Last year during the Lenten season we looked at three words which marked the end of Jesus’ earthly life and the beginning of all we are as Christians:  “It is finished”.  What is finished?  Why, no less than God’s very plan for the redemption of all humanity and the putting of all the universe to rights.  Along the way we looked at several things that are finished as a result of Jesus’ victory over death through his death on the cross:  Religious systems.  Sin.  Self-effort.  Division in the Church.  And the pursuit of power which is the defining characteristic of the world’s way of doing things.

This year we will look at three different words.  These come from Matthew 28.  We will get to them shortly, but first let us set the stage.

When Jesus died on the cross, Matthew’s account records that the sun went dark for several hours; most likely a phenomenon we would know as a solar eclipse.  It was as if God did not want the world to see the disgrace of Jesus’ death on the cross.  The darkness of those hours matched what everyone who was close to Jesus was feeling:  Silence.  Disillusionment.  Despair.  This is the one whom we believed would save Israel, the one whom we left everything to follow, and now look at him.  Where do we go from here?

Night fell.  Still dead.

The next day passed, and then night fell again.  Still dead.

The next day, the women went down to the tomb with the intent of preparing Jesus’ body for burial.  Jesus’ body had been taken down off the cross and placed in a tomb the evening after his death, but it was a rush job because the sun was setting and Sabbath was about to begin.  (Jews don’t roll on Shabbat.)  Now, it was the day after the Sabbath and the women were going down to finish the job.  When they got to the tomb they saw the stone rolled away and this angel sitting up on top of it, chillaxing.  The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb had fallen down as if they were dead.  Now get the picture:  This was an elite guard.  They had been placed at the tomb by Pilate and the Jewish religious authorities because they were concerned that the disciples might try to steal the body and then claim Jesus had risen from the dead, so that it would not go well for them if they tried anything like that.  These were the baddest, strongest Roman soldiers in that part of the world, and they were on an assignment where if anything went wrong they would die.  Now this angel shows up all white with a supernatural glow, and they are so blown away by it that they just fall down dead.

Now the angel speaks:

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”  (Matthew 28:5-7)

At this point you may be wondering:  Why an Easter story now, when we are only at the beginning of Lent?  The answer is that Easter is not just a one-day-a-year thing.  Easter is the reality of who we are as Christians.  We are a resurrection people, identified with Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead, and who has promised that we shall do the same.  That is who we are, and the penitential season of Lent does not change that.

The very first words of the angel:  “Do not be afraid”.  Anytime an angel shows up the first words out of his mouth are always “Do not be afraid” or some variant thereof.  Why?  Because anytime God, or an angel sent by God, shows up, people are afraid.  We love to talk about intense worship experiences as if God is present–“God showed up” or “The Lord showed up” are stock phrases used to describe such experiences.  Reality check:  If God really showed up, even in just a minimal fraction of His presence, you would know it and you would be afraid.  Very afraid.

Now we come to the three words:  He has risen.

This changes everything for us.  It means that we who are identified with Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead, have died to all we were as corrupt, sinful, spiritually dead beings, and risen to newness of life spiritually.  We have the promise of Jesus that our death is not the final word and one day we too will rise from the dead, just as He did.

Now the angel invites the women:  Come and see the place where he lay.

The same invitation is extended to us.

Here we pause to note that when the angel rolled away the stone, it was not for Jesus’ benefit, as if Jesus would have needed help to move the stone and get out of the tomb.  Not so.  Jesus had just defeated death itself; he had just been down to the very depths of hell itself to proclaim the reality of his victory over death in that awful place; he certainly could have moved a stone away by himself if he had to.  No, when the angel rolled away the stone it was for our benefit, so that we could come inside and see what God has done in raising Jesus from the dead.

So what will we find when we come and see?

First, we find that Jesus is alive.  This seems elementary, but it is really not.

As noted above, the reality that Jesus is alive changes everything for us.  It means that we who were once dead spiritually, whether we knew it or not, whether we cared to admit it or not, are now no longer so.  When we think of ourselves, we love to think that our ultimate problem is that we are bad people who need to be made good, or good people who need to be made better or to make the systems and structures of our world better.  Not so.  We are in fact dead people who need to be made alive.  And if you are a Christian, this has happened for you because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  As noted above, we also have the promise that one day we shall rise from the dead physically, just as Jesus did.

Next, we find that God has done it all.

Jesus did not have, nor did he require, any human assistance in his death and resurrection.  All his closest followers had long since scattered when he breathed his last.  No one was there, except for a few women who stayed to the very end.  When he rose from the dead, it was a solitary event.  Just him in the tomb, all by himself.

When Jesus died on the cross the veil inside the temple that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.  Why?  Not so that we could go into the Holy of Holies, but so that what was in the Holy of Holies could come out and into us.  This is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in fulfillment of the prophecy in Ezekiel 36:26-27:  “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

Next, we find that the possibility of connection with God is now a reality.

Notice I did not say “personal relationship with Jesus”.  This evangelical catchphrase is a flawed and incomplete truth, but the reality which it represents is one of the most compelling distinctives of evangelicalism.  Up until Jesus’ death and resurrection, the best anyone could hope for was an arms-length encounter with God.  Even Moses had to be hidden in the cleft of a rock as God passed by in all His glory.  Now, all that has changed.  Because Jesus became one of us, died and rose from the dead, we who are identified with Jesus have the possibility of direct connection with God.  We now have the possibility of a vital and meaningful relationship with Jesus, one in which He is not just a historical figure but an actual Person whom we know and relate to in meaningful ways.  (Not that He is actually living here on earth with us, though we Christians make it sound like that sometimes.  It’s weird.  But we Christians believe some crazy things, and there’s no way to talk about it that isn’t weird.)

Also notice that you may or may not feel anything resembling an experience of God in your life.  So many evangelicals talk as if they can feel God’s presence all the time.  Reality check:  They don’t.  No one does.  Those experiences of God’s presence where you just feel it and you know it has to be God, are gifts which God gives in His time, not yours.  But His presence in your life and in your world is real, whether you feel it or not, whether you ever experience anything or not.

Finally, we find that we have a new identity and a new mindset.  As noted above, we are people who were once spiritually dead but now have been made alive.  And we have the promise of Jesus Christ that we shall one day rise from the dead physically, just as He did.  Easter is not just a once-a-year event; it is the reality of who we are every day of the year.

We all have issues and struggles.  We have things that we will struggle with and things that will rule over us for as long as we live.  But we live knowing who we are and whose we are.  We live as resurrection people, knowing that we have the promise of Christ that He has risen and one day we shall rise with Him as well.  In the posts to come, we will pick up with the theme of the Church in exile that we looked at during the Advent season, and unpack some ways in which the reality of Christ’s resurrection and our identity as a resurrection people intersects with this.

Helping Others Is Not About You

Today I wish to direct your attention to a story that went viral on Facebook last week.  Perhaps you saw it:  A father was on a lunch date with his daughter at Chick-Fil-A in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, an outlying suburb of Nashville, when a man who appeared to be homeless walked in and asked for any extra food.  The store manager offered the man a full meal on the condition that he could pray over him.  The father snapped a pic of the encounter and posted it to Facebook, and it went viral.  Most of the comments are overwhelmingly positive, praising Chick-Fil-A and the manager for their handling of this.  Here is the link to the original Facebook post, and here is a link to a news writeup complete with pictures.

But I would like to come at this story from a different angle.  Think about this:  What role does the apparently homeless man play in this story?  In the story as we have told it to this point, none.  He is basically just a prop.  His role was basically just to stand in and let the store manager pray over him and get his meal, while the store manager got all the props for being such an outstanding Christian, living out his faith in an exemplary fashion, and Chick-Fil-A got all the props for supporting him in this.  Any homeless person would have done just fine in this story.  There is no reason on earth why it had to be this particular person.

Let us be clear:  It is not my purpose to criticize the manager or Chick-Fil-A for any of this.  They did an excellent thing.  They did what we are all called to do as Christians when we have the opportunity to help someone in need.

My purpose here (and I know this probably seems like a very fine distinction but please try to track with me) is to make a point about the stories we as evangelicals tell ourselves when we have the opportunity to help others who are in need.

In these stories, typically it is we who are at the center of it all.  The others who are being helped exist to be the recipients of our generosity, and these others are basically interchangeable.  It is as if we are saying “We have everything you need, come to us and get your needs met”.  In these stories, it is we who hold all the cards, all the power, and others who come to us to get their needs met.

Contrast this with how the early Christians living in the Roman Empire helped people.  They routinely rescued and adopted babies who were left to die in the city dumps.  Not because they had any illusions about how great they were or about how society would recognize what awesome things they were doing.  Far from it.  Christians were viewed as the stinking armpit of Roman society in that day and age.  It was very dangerous to be a Christian, and they routinely feared for their very lives.  Yet they went on doing good, because they believed that these unwanted babies were people created in the image of God and were worthy to be treated as such.

I’m sure the store manager believed this about the person he was helping that day.  I’d like to think he did.  I hope he did.  But that gets lost in the story as we evangelicals tell it to ourselves.  What comes through instead is a story about how great we are and what awesome things we are doing and how the world needs to come to us to have their needs met.

It is as if we are the ones in power, and the rest of the world needs to come to us.  But power is being taken from us.  We no longer have influence to set the political and cultural agenda in our world; that is evident from that Supreme Court decision and the cultural shifts of recent years which made it possible.

We need to come to a place where we see others not as interchangeable recipients of our generosity, but as fellow humans, created in the image of God, who are worthy to be treated as such.  If power has to be taken from us in order for that to happen, then so be it.