Oct 30, 2009

Celebrity Preachers

One of my friends recently floated an idea by me and honestly I did not know what to say. He suggested that what is wrong with “Old Line, Main Line” churches, those that he suggested have a wonderful tradition that modern people need and good theology to boot—is that these churches need Celebrity Preachers.

I said, “Oy Vay!!! What’s next?”

Then he said, “Well think about it. The churches that are really doing well (numbers, statistics, collections, etc.) have preachers that everyone knows about. Take for example he said . . . and then rattled off a horde of preachers . . . Rick Warren, John Piper, Tim Keller, Joel Osteen, John Maxwell, Ed Young (senior and junior), Bill Hybles, T. D. Jakes, Rickie Rush, Jack Graham, Adam Hamilton, John Hagee, and well you get the idea. I support this by telling you that you know the preachers and not the churches. So . . . what you Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Disciples of Christ churches need is . . . Celebrity Preachers.”

Has it really come to this? Is our church worship and community life based on who has the biggest celebrity or ecclesial pop icon? This Sunday I preach on a text from John’s Gospel. In this text, in the older translations, it reads “Jesus wept.” Perhaps we moderns now have given Jesus yet another reason.

PS. Anybody got Jimmy Swaggart’s telephone number?

Oct 22, 2009

What We Have to Fear

In a 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death (almost 25 years ago), Neil Postman contrasted authors George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. Their legendary books were 1984 and Brave New World respectively.

In the Foreword Postman observed, “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book for there would be no one who wanted to read one . . . Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance . . . Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture.”

The final part of this Foreword chills. It reads, “In 1984 . . . people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.” How ironic that even twenty-five years ago, Postman revisited two renowned authors who have in one way or another prophetically measured today’ world.

A youngish woman told me the other day (one who never attended our church) that she cannot go to church any more because “it is like watching the same movie over and over again.” She said “I need to see something new and exciting.” Life as entertainment always ends up making people merely an audience or spectators—those who endlessly evaluate and assess other people’s performances.

Sadly many people trek through life today and see themselves as objective observers and not subjective participants. As this occurs our lives become more about entertainment than about meaning and value. On virtually every page of the gospel we see a clarion call and an invitation to invest ourselves into God’s realm. Mark wrote it this way: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (8:35). Now how entertaining is that?

Oct 9, 2009

Other People’s Treasures

It could be pity or simply over-accessibility but people give me stuff sometimes.

A couple I knew, Frank and Lou Dean, decided to move back to the Rio Grande Valley because as he put it, “It is too darn hot and too darn cold to live here in North Texas. We can’t stand it.” On their way out of town, Frank and Lou came by and gave me about twenty pounds of long playing phonograph albums that had the entire Revised Standard Version of the Bible on them. Fortunately, I knew what records were, but I am not sure if many of our children would know.

Before this, a fellow named Hunter awarded me an old Swedish language Bible saying that he thought I could use such an old and valuable Bible—I guess being that I looked like I probably read Swedish(?). “Besides,” he asked, “Isn’t your wife of Swedish descent?”

Over the years I have received many gifts of this sort, from old clocks to old books. I suppose that these various articles hold some sentimental value for people if nothing else. Perhaps, people give them to me because they cannot bring themselves to toss these kinds of artifacts into a dumpster.

What does all this mean? I haven’t a clue.

Oct 3, 2009

Eschatology of Baseball: Doctrine of Baseball Season’s End

Could they put a “warning label” on Talk Radio? As someone who spends too much time driving from home to hospitals to schools to church to various places, I also spend too much time listening to Talk Radio. After listening to one conspiracy theory after another from radio geniuses—without a shred of evidence in sight, I finally relented and turned almost exclusively to sports. I now interchange the Rangers baseball games and radio shows that discuss baseball with WRR (Dallas’ Classical music station). By the way, my favorite Ranger’s feature is Eric Nadel’s “A Page from Baseball’s Past.” It is a short entertaining story from baseball history and is utilized principally as a pre-game program before Texas Rangers baseball games are broadcast.

Tomorrow is the end of baseball season and for six long months I will have to be satisfied with listening to classical music—which will not be too hard. Yet as we say good-bye to baseball for 2009, I do want to say that some of the sports talk radio geniuses have suggested that the Rangers dump their manager Ron Washington. For the record, who would have thought that with two games to go that the Rangers would be 14 games over .500%? No person in April in Arlington I think. Wash had gotten his people to “play ball” and this team has a good up-side!

I just hope that the Rangers continue to go in the right direction and the future with Nolan Ryan, et. al. looks pretty appealing.

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