February 2011


Suppose for a moment that on some not so distant future day, we worshipped with our smart phones on. I don’t mean the way some people do it already, waiting for a message from outside, but with intention, as part of the liturgy. (Yes, I know this is already happening in some of the hipper churches, where the preacher sends out tweets during the sermon.) Instead of saying the common, traditional liturgical responses, like the Sursum Corda or the Anamnesis in the Eucharist or the Lord’s Prayer or the Apostle’s Creed, the liturgist and the people send text messages and tweets back and forth. What would some the short forms be? How might the teachings and prayers of the Church be summarized in 140 characters?

Here are some suggestions:

LBWU—The Lord be with you.

AWU—And also with you.

LUYH—Lift up your hearts.

WLTL—We lift them to the Lord.

XP—Jesus Christ.

XDXRXX—Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

YHWH—Yahweh.

Lord’s Prayer tweet (based on Luke’s version):

Holy Father, your kingdom come. Give us today the bread we need. Forgive our sins as we forgive. Do not bring us to the time of trial. Amen.

Apostles’ Creed tweet:

I believe in the Creator and in Jesus his Son, born, judged, dead, risen, coming. And in the Holy Spirit, gathering, forgiving, giving life.

Silly? Maybe. But I’ve heard people complain or simply state that the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed have become rote, that we don’t really listen to the words. Maybe an exercise like this, reducing them and other sacred texts to their essence, is worthwhile, to help us consider exactly what they’re saying.

At least, IMHO.*

© 2010 Tom Cheatham

*In my humble opinion.

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No doubt like most Americans, I’m bothered when the national anthem is either sung or played poorly. Case in point of course is Christian Aguilera’s infamous butchering of the lyrics at the most recent Super Bowl. It seems to me that someone used to performing before large crowds, not to mention getting paid as much as she undoubtedly was, should know the song so well that she would sing it flawlessly. When asked about her mistake, she said: “I got so lost in the moment of the song that I lost my place. I can only hope that everyone could feel my love for this country and that the true spirit of its anthem still came through” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/06/super-bowl-2011-national-anthem-singer-christina-aguilera_n_819311.html?utm_source=Triggermail&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Daily+Brief&utm_campaign=daily_brief ). Well, sometimes it’s important that both the spirit and the letter be followed. It’s a matter of respect for an important national symbol. (For more on Aguilera and the anthem, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-eskow/christina-aguilera-and-th_b_819979.html).

I don’t follow Bill O’Reilly, but I ran across a long excerpt from his interview with President Obama on Super Bowl Sunday. After thanking the president for helping ensure the safety of some Fox reporters in Egypt, O’Reilly got nasty, in my opinion. He would seldom let Mr. Obama finish a sentence and then had snide and dismissive comments about most everything our leader said. To his credit, Mr. Obama remained cool and collected and gracious, inviting O’Reilly to the White House Super Bowl party.

Watching the interview, I thought how even if O’Reilly does not respect Mr. Obama personally, the least he could have done was respect the office, the institution of the presidency and let the president finish a sentence without interruption. What has happened in our land when even the Chief Executive is treated with such disdain? We have indeed lost all sense of civility and decorum, a fact I have decried in the Church for some years now.

To watch the interview for yourself, go here:

 

As if O’Reilly’s disrespect weren’t enough, at least one website believes that “Jesus hates Obama” and tried to run an ad on the Super Bowl, which was rejected by the network. As a Christian minister, I am livid that anyone would co-opt my Lord for any political cause, right or left. (Which means that these days I’m livid most of the time, I guess.) But this ad, which featured a Jesus and an Obama bobblehead in a silent battle, with Obama finally being thrown into water and drowned, presumably by the Jesus doll, crosses the line. The network was right to ban it. It cheapens both faith and political discourse. I can say with certainty that the One who said “Love your enemies, pray for those who despitefully use you” would not sign on to have “Jesus Hates Obama” printed on his chest, as in the video. Again, no respect, either for our Lord or for the president.

God help us.

© 2010 Tom Cheatham

Recently I heard that Amazon had available, and then pulled from its inventory, a do-it-yourself (DIY) gastric bypass kit. I never was sure if the product was some sort of gag or was meant to be a serious offering. The company that made it claimed it was intended for professionals only.

Soon after that report came out, I got a book catalog in the mail offering among many other works The Portable Seminary: A Master’s-Level Overview in One Volume. The blurb proclaimed it the “next best thing” to a seminary degree in biblical studies for those who “can’t afford the time or money needed for” such work.

Imagine! By reading a volume shorter than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, you can now get the academic credentials others take three or four years to receive! No tests or papers or projects! No student sermons, CPE or supervised ministry! And best of all, no student loans or uprooting your family! You can say you are qualified to be a pastor by having read just one book of 704 pages! It’s the DIY seminary!

I don’t think so. Even those who do have a seminary degree are not truly prepared to be pastors. For that, a woman or a man needs real world experience in both the Church and the community. She or he must know how to deal gently with troubled folk, be a non-anxious presence in conflict, respect the traditions of people who fear change while proclaiming and promoting God’s new thing. At least the seminaries I graduated from did not prepare me for any of that. I had to learn it, sometimes the hard way, on the job in congregations and from work in a law firm and presbyteries.

Academic study is important, and in my tradition, essential, but it’s never enough. There’s an old saying that I discounted for a long time but embrace wholeheartedly now: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

As for DIY, nothing we do in life and especially in ministry is ever “do-it-yourself.” We live and serve only by the grace and power of God.

© 2011 Tom Cheatham