Posts in Constructs
How to Trust a Sermon

Because so much of my writing and podcasting as well as the teaching in TRIBE are deeply Scripture-centric, I am often asked how to recognize a Sunday sermon as theologically sound.  It is a difficult question, no doubt, becacuse the deeper you go with truly reliable Scripture study methods, the more the proof-texting and quicky applications so prevalent in today’s mega-churches and would-be mega-churches (isn’t that everyone’s aim these days?) ceases to resonate. Recognizing the Bible’s slow and steady pace to the margins of American religious life, I felt it was time to start answering this question for us all.

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Man's Great Dream of Himself.

Resurrection Day. A Day when we are reminded of how far the ego in us will go to destroy the life we are made for.  A day when our roles as both crucifiers and crucified is liberated in the vacant womb of an empty burial grave.  A day when we are to recognize the liberation from a lost life and awakened to a new, unformed and perhaps even unwelcome life.  

Resurrection Day. Old and tired identities die. New, unformed and humble ones emerge in their wake. Because He Lives.

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Mind: The Thoughts and Perceptions that Inform Us

The frame of the SOUL triggers our BODY into action or inaction. The frame of the HEART drives all our our prevailing narratives, impulses and will to exist. In between the SOUL and the HEART is the translation center of the MIND: life’s incredible tool for extracting meaning, interpretation and theory out of the rich and various experiences of life and how we respond to it.

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The Sacred and the Profane

In my normal day life, I do an unconventional mix of marketing management, corporate training, project development, vendor relations and unofficial spiritual direction, all under the heading of Chief Operating Officer.  I rarely use THIRTYSIXWORDS to talk about my professional life, not because they aren’t interrelated, but because I struggle in the same war as so many of you: the fight to compartmentalize and put things in boxes. It is my instinct, like yours, to separate life into (seemingly) controllable frames. And from those frames keep my mashed potatoes from getting gussied up by my peas and carrots. I seek to divide good and evil and in controlling the categories of the sacred and the profane I, like you, seem to keep the edges from getting too loose. And isn’t control what it’s all about after all?

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Landmarks of a Transforming Life

The Self-Help section is one of the largest at Barnes and Noble, and without a doubt high on the profitability scale.  The idea of an accessible and simple formula for lifetime success has now even seeped into the biography section.  There was a time when one read biographies to view from the long end of history how a life had been formed by experience, choice and belief.  Not today.  Today, the majority of “biographies” more accurately stand as mid-life memoirs (some earlier than that) and they don’t intent to map out the story of life so far, but instead to manipulate the events of an unfinished life into the few short platitudes which can create tips for a ravenous public. 

Our new ways of defining human thriving have so denigrated our ability to stand in our own skin and to relate to each other with love and respect that anyone with an objective view would jettison these views in an instant.  But without a meaningful alternative, an attainable counter-narrative to the way to life, the deep and addictive rut of the status-quo will continue to hold us in its sway. Thankfully this counter-narrative is not far off.  There are signs for optimism.

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Windswept Faces

Most believers I talk to wrestle with deep, unmentionable questions about their faith.  They have silently and shamefully accepted massive contradictions about the culturally assumed gospel in the hopes that no one will notice, particularly themselves.  They, with much effort, put on a brave face, attend their church of choice, read their devotional material of preference and soldier on, in the hopes that the so-called mysteries with which they struggle will be resolved on eternity’s white shores. 

This is a great tragedy.

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A High and Holy Comedy: Our Search for Truth

I have stated previously that desire is a sequence. It is a way of functioning in the world that draws us from the surface of our lives into our deepest heart. In the murky crevices of our
being is where we meet the Triune God who subsists as Faith, Hope and Love—an infinite giving and receiving of desire in relation. This, to say the least, is a mouthful. More than a
mouthful, it is a life-ful because attempting to live conscious of such a pervasive reality as the desire of God working through the distorted desires of human hearts is something that only
the unfettered and ordained days and years of a lifetime can begin to untangle.

Daunting as it may be, we must begin here, because desire in the beginning of everything.  And for our surface wants and preferences to transition into the deeper waters of intimacy with God, it is required that we have accessible places to being. To have categories. Categories are like rungs on a ladder or grips on a climbing wall. They don’t define the precipice your climbing, but they sure make the summit a whole lot easier. In the grand context of desire and longing, I think there are such ladders. The frame of them was acknowledged by Plato millennia ago and has been affirmed by thoughtful people ever since. Plato called them the “forms:” truth, goodness and beauty. Not only do these three useful frames of reality occur around us with regularity, drawing us into God’s presence, calling us into the Trinitarian life, they are also the spheres in which our desires play out. The desire to know the Truth, act out the Good, be the Beautiful.

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Did Jesus Come to Forgive Sins?

A Look at Atonement through the Words of Mark

I have been spending the last 4 months with a committed group of 12-15 folks who are working through the Gospel of Mark as a committed spiritual practice intended to open us up to the transformational work of Jesus.  This effort has been rich and multi-dimensional and reminiscent of similar journeys I have taken through this exact text with other groups in the past.  At certain points in the journey I will take a moment and consider the implications of Jesus' actions and Mark's explanation of them.

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