Jesus Sighting: Man of Steel

One of the interesting things about art and media, whether you're talking about books, movies, songs, TV shows, paintings, etc., is how they can show us a part of ourselves, of our humanity, in a new perspective.  Sometimes, without us even knowing it.

In the same way, media can give us new glimpses into how we imagine and experience God, and for me, that includes the person and work of Jesus.

Those who know me, know how much of a superhero fan I am. And I can't wait for the new superman movie next year, Man of Steel! I have long seen strong parallels between Superman and Jesus but the teaser trailers that were released about a month ago for this new movie really bring that to the forefront for me.

The following videos contain the same video but each has it's own voice narration. In the first you will hear Jor-El's voice (Superman's biological father), and in the second you will hear Jonathan Kent's voice (Superman's adoptive father) .

Here is the text of the voice overs:

You will give the people an ideal to strive towards.
They will race behind you. 
They will stumble. 
They will fall. 
But in time, they will join you in the sun. 
In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.

You're not just anyone. 
One day you're gonna have to make a choice.
You have to decide what kind of man you wanna grow up to be. 
Whoever that man is, 
good character or bad, 
is gonna change the world.

What do you think? Do you see it too? Can you hear it too? At what point does this analogy break down? 

Either way, I can't wait for this movie!



The internet has become a place where people go to fill lots of needs, of all kinds.

Even faith.

Online church's have sprung up all over the net. In the luxury of your own home and pj's, you can get a sermon, some hymns, community, even confession.

However, what happens if you come from a sacramental tradition?

Well, even those needs can be met online! Check this out!

You can even take communion at home! No pastor necessary...or at least not one you can see. There are some obvious concerns here, or maybe they're not so obvious.

Are there limitations on how God can bless the elements of bread and wine (or whatever you choose to use)? In other words, because a pastor is blessing the elements over the internet, from far away, and maybe even at a pre-recorded time, does that make this any less communion than we might experience at a physical church?

Is God limited by distance, time, or binary code?

Can't God's son work through our flickering computer screens just as well as our glimmering stained glass windows?


Is it wrong to unfriend someone?

Have you ever unfriended someone on Facebook? I have. Before you judge me, hear me out.

I believe we "unfriend" people all the time in the physical world. Think about it, when you encounter a new person, you have the choice to engage them or not, to learn more about them or not, to ask questions and answer questions...or not.  When you choose to engage, I equate this to friending someone on Facebook. Be honest, sometimes you just friend people to "stalk" them, to see what they're all about, maybe even to see if they'd be a good match as a "real" friend.

So, after that initial encounter with someone in the physical world, you then have another decision to make. Do you pursue more contact with that person? Many times the answer is no. Not because they are a horrible person (although that is sometimes the case) but usually because you have little in common with that person or they're simply not someone you'd want to hang out with. No ones fault, sometimes that just happens, and usually it's mutual. I equate this to unfriending someone on Facebook. When you walk away from someone without any intention to engage them again. My faith may convict me to love all people but I don't have to like them.

I've heard the argument that unfriending people is an immoral decision, that it stifles any chance at making connections with people that we deem as too different. Really? How does that play out in the physical world? Do people who make this argument intentionally remain in contact with people that bore them to death, or use offensive humor, or blatantly insult them, or who share zero common interests? I deal with enough of those kinds of people just by chance without choosing to be around them.

So what do you think? Is it wrong to unfriend? Is this a moral decision? Is this an ethical decision? I'm open to hear other points of view, but I might have to unfriend you afterward. ;-}


Monastery Reflection #2: Cries

"And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it,
 and the household of Pharaoh heard it."
Genesis 45:2

I've only heard a few people in my life wail. It's a sound I'll never forget. I hope to never hear those kinds of cries again. However, the more I connect myself to this world I find myself in, the more I realize how impossible that will be.

Last week, I wrote about my monastery trip. I wrote about the peaceful tranquility that I experienced there, as the photo below illustrates. What I didn't mention, is how it ended.  Peaceful is hardly the word I'd use.

I had never been around sheep before. The first thing I noticed was how they communicated with each other. The lambs would call out to their mother and when the mother heard, she would call out to her lamb who would then follow her voice until she reunited with mom. Each had it's own call and each knew the call of their loved one.

And then, something went horribly wrong for them. On day two of my stay there, we heard a sound that we hadn't heard before. Though I had no previous experience with sheep before, I recognized this new noise as one of distress. The monks had separated the lambs from the sheep for tagging and medical care, and upset hardly captures the sound they were making.

They wailed. The lambs cries went unanswered, and their confusion could be felt in the air. My heart went out to them. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not the animal rights activist kinda person, but I could not help feeling like I wanted to help them in some way. They wailed all night. So much so that I had to use the fan in my room just to drown them out so I could get some sleep.

So many are crying, wailing, in our world today. So many more are looking for ways to drown them out. Others are looking for ways to answer the cries. Which one are you? I have been all three at various times in my life.


Nary a Word

Here at LTSG we have chapel every weekday at 11:55am (don't ask).  Today, as I walked into the sanctuary and looked for a seat, my eyes were quickly drawn to someone who was sitting alone in his pew. I wasn't drawn there because he was sitting alone, I was drawn there because he was sitting in the middle of the pew, not on the end.

How many times have you entered a church, movie theater, bleachers, opera house, etc. and have encountered an empty row...empty, except for that seat on the end? I encounter it quite often and sometimes that person is me.

I'm not sure why we do that and I am sure that there are not only many reasons but there are probably some very good reasons out there. What I do know, is that seeing that person today, sitting alone in the middle of his pew, was inviting. Without saying a word, or even making eye contact with me, I felt invited to join him.

We can say so much without a single word.  Do you ever wonder what you "say" to people without using words? I need to remind myself to do that more often than I do.


Laughing, Bullying, and Honey Boo Boo

A good friend of mine recently wrote about sin in his blog, which I highly recommend. More specifically, he wrote about the shame connected to sin and how our culture creates/responds to it. He wrote, "We increasingly find ourselves in a culture that loves to seize on those who do something wrong. People who do wrong things quickly become whipping posts for the wider public to line up, weigh in, and have their say."

I'd like to add a twist and rephrase it this way: We increasingly find ourselves in a culture that loves to seize on those who are different.  People who are different quickly become faceless clowns for the wider public to line up, weigh in, and have their laugh.

With this in mind, watch this video sampling of a popular reality tv show called Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

I love a good laugh as much as the next person. I love to laugh with people. However, life experience combined with my faith journey, has made it uncomfortable to laugh at people. One could argue the case that the people in the above video are in fact laughing with us, but that's not my issue. 

Is this a form of bullying?

My fear is that we are creating an atmosphere that nurtures culturally acceptable bullying. Can those who watch shows like this, especially children and teens but not limited to them, make the transition to the physical world without bringing with them this atmosphere? To ask that another way, can my 8 year old watch this show and go to school the next day and realize that laughing at someone who talks differently, looks differently, dresses differently, etc. is not OK, even though we were laughing and pointing in between our haughty derisive scowls the night before?


ImageS of God

How do you picture God in your mind's eye?

Because I come from, and have remained in, a Christ centered tradition, most of the time I picture God as Jesus, and specifically the crucified Jesus. Already, you probably have an image in your mind of the crucified Jesus as you read this and odds are it's different than mine.

In our Introduction to Theology class in my first year at seminary, our professor showed us a painting. Let me first warn you though, this image may be offensive to you, and/or may not be suitable for children, and contains partial nudity. Click here if you'd still like to see it.

Not what you were expecting was it? The first time I saw this image I was appalled...I was insulted...I was disgusted...but...I grew.

Many things have changed me over the past few years. I have grown and been stretched in ways that I would have never thought possible.

Is the above image my new way of seeing God? Absolutely not!

However, what I realized was that my way of imagining God does not have to be your way of imagining God. Your way of imagining God does not have to be my way of imagining God.

AND, all of our ways of imagining God can bring something valuable to the table. That is what my professor was trying to get across to us.

I don't expect you to answer my first question any differently now, but what I hope for is that we can welcome all answers to the table. I believe our image of God will be all the more richer for it. And maybe, just maybe, we will more easily see the image of God in others, no matter how different they are, and act accordingly.


I am not a theologian...

...and I'm not going to pretend to be.  All it takes is ten minutes in a seminary theology class to remind me of this fact.  I am simply not comfortable with people assuming that because I am a seminarian then I must be an expert on theological matters when I know for a fact that this is not the case for any of us seminarians, nor is that the goal of seminary. I had a great conversation about this with my internship supervisor this past year and he was able to stretch me to think of my future ordained self as a "theologian in residence".  A theologian in residence refers to someone who is visiting a place temporarily with a willingness to use their theological gifts there. This was very helpful and much easier for me to swallow.

Now hold that thought and let me share another internship revelation that I am now realizing is intersecting with this "theologian in residence" notion.

First, a picture.

This image of me in my collar for the first time with my family was a tough one for me to get used to.  I am not their pastor. I am their dad and husband (you can see my wife Sara in the reflection). The images of my collar and my family, together, seemed juxtaposed.

During an inter-denominational clergy breakfast in Birmingham, one of the clergy mentioned that he had to preside at his own Mother's funeral. His reasoning was, "My mom saw me as her pastor because she attended my church for the last twenty years, so I had to do her funeral...period."

That was the first time it had ever occurred to me that I might be the main clergy person in my family's life someday. How in the world can I be their pastor? Or to connect it to my earlier thought, How can I be a theologian to them?

Well, maybe I don't need to be their theologian. Maybe all I have to do is be their theologian-in-residence. 

Have you ever thought of yourself as someone's theologian in residence? I know, that's a tough title to carry, even in spite of its temporary nature. But I think people of faith have a responsibility to assist others in their own faith walk, when the path gets unstable, or scary, or just lonely.

This could happen over a cup of coffee at a cafe with a friend. 
Or at the dinner table with loved ones. 
Or the cafeteria at work with a colleague. 
Or over the phone with a long distance relationship.

Do you need to be an expert in Godly things? Nah, just a willingness to accept the subtle invitation to join someones faith journey, however temporary, however rocky, it may be.


What if there were no bees?

In his book Faith Seeking Understanding, Daniel Migliore writes about The Good Creation and our place in it by stating that "You and I are not necessary. We are creatures who exist at the pleasure of our creator. As contingent beings, our existence is precarious." If I'm honest, when I first read this, I was insulted. Not necessary? How absurd! Humans are certainly necessary for...

I don't think I ever did finish that sentence.

This got me thinking about bugs.  I've always liked bugs. It would have only taken a small turn in my life's path for me to have become a Grissom (CSI reference). I've always been fascinated by the dependence the world has on such seemingly lowly and vilified creatures such as spiders and bees. Bee Movie did great job articulating this to young and old alike. Here is a short clip from that movie that illustrates what life might be like without bees (or if they just stopped working).

I think it's safe to say that we would miss bees.  There absence would be felt on many different levels in our existence. So this begs the question,

Would we be missed?

If we were to somehow be erased from this planet, would there be a plethora of negative consequences like the absence of bees would create? What positive contribution to the planet are we making? For ages upon ages we have been taught that we were the center of creation.

Were we taught a lie?

If it's a lie, it's a good one! It's an attractive one. I'd love to believe that I am part of the center of all things, that in all of God's creation, I am somehow on a large pedestal with the rest of humanity. It's a beautiful thought.

Is it a lie?

The way in which we answer this question could have great, or grave, ramifications.

Along with being a great song, this music video from 30 Seconds to Mars is very thought provoking. (I highly recommend you click on the YouTube button at the bottom of the video and then watch it in HD as there is some gorgeous camerawork!) How do you react to the notion of A Beautiful Lie?


Monastery Reflection #1: Silence

Two weeks ago I had the fortune of spending three days at Mount Saviour Monastery.  Along with the monastery, these Benedictine monks, who devote most of their lives to silence, run a fully working farm where they raise sheep as well as tend their bee hives for making honey.  I never got to see their bees, although I could hear them, but I did spend a lot of time around the sheep. Actually, they are inescapable. If you can't see them, you can certainly hear them. Here is a sample of the scenery, from one of my favorite sitting spots:

It's a very serene view isn't it? It was very quiet. All I could hear were the sheep calling to each other, the wind dancing in the grass, or the occasional bug flying too close to my ear.

I like quiet. Always have.

Day one was pure bliss. The morning of day two was amazing. However, by that evening, the quiet was getting louder.  No, there weren't any new noises. Rather, the quiet was growing heavy and was no longer in the background but it was now in my face, all the time. It was inescapable. What a surprise! In his book, To Know as We Are Known, Parker Palmer writes of silence, "We need to abandon the notion that 'nothing is happening' when it is silent, to see how much new clarity a silence often brings." That seems like a nice sentiment, until that "new clarity" doesn't feel so nice.

How do you experience silence?
Is it good for you?
What do you experience in silence?

I still love it, but I have to admit, I'll never experience it the same way again.