Job: Searching for Answers

TuxedoThe lines at the box office stretch all the way around the
block. It is opening night at a play that has left all the critics buzzing. The
audience is curious as they begin to settle in their seats, curiously checking
their Playbills for a hint of what is to come, a look at the cast of
characters, a nervous anticipation of a drama that no review has really been
able to fully describe.

The lights dim and the curtain opens, revealing a man
immaculately dressed in a top hat and tuxedo. He is obviously wealthy, but he
does not carry any of the arrogance the audience might expect in the rich. He
is standing in the midst of a lavish dinner party, surrounded by what appear to
be his many children and grandchildren. He smiles, even as he watches carefully
what is going on around him. The next scene shows him going to church to pray
for his family, just in case they had overindulged or violated their religious
obligations during all that celebration.

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Shaking the Foundations: An Introduction to Theodicy

Braun_hogenberg_I_resPsalm 13

The morning of Saturday, November 1, 1755 dawned as another
beautiful day in the seaside town of Lisbon, Portugal. It was All Saints Day,
and most of the population was in church that morning, reflecting the fact that
Lisbon was one of Europe’s most religious countries in the 18th
century. Of its 250,000 residents, at least 10% were priests or nuns. The
church of the city’s most prominent saint, Saint Vincent, was packed to
capacity, as were the other basilicas and places of worship in a city so devout
that penitents were often seen in its streets whipping themselves as atonement
for their sins.

At 9:30 that morning, just sixty miles out in the North
Atlantic, a massive earthquake heaved up the ocean floor and sent tremors
rippling toward the unsuspecting worshippers. A 9:40, the first tremors hit the
city and the walls of Saint Vincent’s began to shake violently. The bell towers
swayed, sending the bells clanging, candles fell to the floor, shards from
stained glass windows showered the congregation. Terrified priests fled the
altar while some parishioners stayed in their seats to pray as the church fell
down around them, and on them. Others fled into the streets, only to experience
the next wave of tremors, which some seismologists estimate at 8.5 to 9.0 on
the Richter scale, that destroyed the most of the rest of the city. Amidst the
rubble, fires started to rage, most likely sparked by the fallen candles in the
many churches.

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The Chief Follower

From the current issue of Homiletics, my Senior Writer’s Block column on being a follower before being a leader:

When I came to my current church in 2010, I remember that we had a long discussion about what my official title should be. Since “your eminence” was clearly a bit pretentious and requires a large hat, we looked at some of the other options. I have a marvelous staff and a really fantastic associate pastor, but not the minions of staff that seem to warrant the title “senior pastor.” Indeed, I remember being an associate myself and having people say, only half jokingly, “Well, if he’s the senior pastor, you must be the junior pastor!”

I know, hilarious, right?

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Scandalous Love

Hosea23Hosea 1:2-10

It must have been frontpage news at the supermarket checkout
counters in Israel, right next to the hummus and the Tic-Tacs: “Local Prophet
Marries Prostitute” screamed the headline of the Israel Inquirer. “Holy Man Hosea
Hooks Up with Hooker” winked the Samarian Post. You can just imagine the
pictures—the paparazzi following Hosea around, the seductive poses of his wife
Gomer there in the centerfold. If the Israelites had had Google, Hosea and
Gomer would have been the number one search term in about 750BC, especially
given that in 2012 the number one Google search term was Whitney Houston dying
in a bathtub.

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Weeping for the Children

I had just finished officiating at a funeral yesterday when I came into the office and heard the news about the horrific shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. Death is the enemy that stares us all in the face on a daily basis, but there are certain days that make it seem like the enemy is winning.

As I watched the news coverage, it struck me that this tragedy is especially difficult because of it’s proximity to Christmas. A season that we expect to be all sweetness and light has turned dark for the families of the victims and the family of the mentally disturbed shooter. It’s painful to imagine the unopened presents, the incomplete child artwork meant for Christmas cards for mom and dad, the empty places around the tree that families will be dealing with during this season that’s supposed to be about peace and joy.

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