Author: Allan (Page 1 of 377)

First and Foremost

“First and foremost, I beg you to consider that there is nothing in this life, and especially in our own day, more easy and pleasant and acceptable to men than the office of bishop or priest or deacon, if its duties be discharged in a mechanical or sycophantic way; but nothing more worthless and deplorable and meet for chastisement in the sight of God. And, on the other hand, that there is nothing in this life, and especially in our own day, more difficult, toilsome, and hazardous than the office of bishop or priest or deacon; but nothing more blessed in the sight of God, if our service be in accordance with our Captain’s orders.”

~ Augustine to Valerius on his ordination at Hippo, 391 AD

The Second Incarnation

Jesus is the incarnation of God. Incarnation just means flesh and blood. The Gospel of John says the Word of God – the will of God, who God is and what God wants for the world – became flesh and blood in Jesus so we could see it and know it. In his own words, Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” You see it and you know it. You get it because you’ve experienced it in me.

The Church is the second incarnation. And, yes, we are mostly a mess. We’re just like the people Jesus called to follow him, just like the people he surrounded himself with: ordinary fishermen and business people, blind people, loose women, weak men, liars and cheaters and cowards. And people who’ve been hurt. All of us have been injured. We’re all wounded and put back together with duct tape and twistie ties. And grace.

Grace that in Christ we are God’s chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. It’s a great mystery, but for some reason the Church is the way Jesus has chosen to be real and present in the world. He lives in us and through us by his Spirit. His heart beats in our chests, his eyes see through ours; when we speak, his voice is heard; and his welcome is felt in our embrace. We are the flesh and blood Body of Christ.

When people see the Church, they expect to experience God. When Jesus says, “You give them something to eat,” he’s talking to you. He’s talking to us.

Peace,

Allan

Serve Like Jesus

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants.” ~1 Corinthians 3:5

Around the table on that last night, our Lord Jesus personally washed the feet of his disciples. Then he told them, “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing” (John 14:12). Our model is the Lord. We serve others in the name and manner of our great high priest. We do our best to imitate Jesus, the Christ, who was always with people, always helping people, always serving people. In the crush of the crowd, in the middle of the multitude – healing, feeding, protecting, encouraging. In the quiet of the one-on-one conversations at night. Weeping at a funeral. Eating with a tax collector. Holding the kids. Dying on a cross.

The Church is not an end in itself. The Church does not exist to make rules, to pass laws, to be in charge, or to glorify itself. The Church does not seek its own power or privilege or comfort. And we’re not just a support group for people who have already been saved. Just like our Lord, the Church is sent into the world not to be served, but to serve. And to give itself up for others.

We know the words of our Savior who said it is more blessed to give than to receive. And we experience the truth of that, and the blessings, when we serve others in love.

Peace,

Allan

Christ For the World We Sing

“Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a Kingdom of priests.” ~Exodus 19:5-6

The Lord places our priesthood in the context of the whole world. We are not saved by God to rule the world. We are not saved by God to ignore the world. We are saved and called by God to participate in his plans for the world.

A priest is someone who stands between two parties – a liaison, a go between – usually between the people and God or, in this case, the world and God. Priests represent the people in the presence of God. So as a Kingdom of priests and a holy nation, Israel was called to represent the whole rest of the world to God. On behalf of all the people on earth, Israel was to offer praise to God. And sacrifices and offerings. Confession and prayers. Worship.

Worship is a priestly duty. Our worship is for the sake of the world. We mostly think of worship as for the sake of the individual, for my personal sake. We act like the purpose of worship is to inspire me, to enrich my own private walk with God. That’s part of it, I think. But we need to remember that we represent all of creation when we come together in the God’s presence to worship.

Christ for the world we sing! The world to Christ we bring!
With loving zeal;
the poor and them that mourn, the faint and overborne,
sinsick and sorrow-worn, whom Christ doth heal.

Christ for the world we sing! The world to Christ we bring!
With fervent prayer;
the wayward and the lost, by restless passions tossed,
redeemed at countless cost, from dark despair.

We sing for the whole world. We intercede for the world. We speak to God on behalf of the world. Part of being priests is that we sing and pray for everybody. We ask God to be merciful, we ask God to forgive, we ask God to save – not just people like us and not just people who like us. Everybody.

Once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy. So we ask God to show that same mercy to all people. We intercede for the world in our worship.

Peace,

Allan

How ‘Bout Them Conleys!

Our great friends Stan and Kelly Conley treated Whitney and me to their amazing seats at last night’s Monday Night Football game in Arlington. It was the home opener for the Cowboys against the hated Eagles and the first Cowboys game we’ve attended in ten years. Needless to say, Whitney was beside herself. She wore out her rally towel and both arms before kickoff. She exulted with every Cowboys score, gloried in every Philly penalty, and nearly fainted with delight when Dallas went over the 40-point mark in the fourth quarter.

I hate it when the Cowboys look good. It would be very easy for me this morning to write about how Jalen Hurts is a disaster and this Eagles squad might be the worst team in the league. But, Dallas did play a great ballgame last night. You play the schedule as it comes in the NFL and the Cowboys, for once, committed to the run against Philly’s two-deep safety zone all night. Dallas dominated time of possession, kept the penalties to a bare minimum, and basically allowed the Eagles to beat themselves. Which they did. And while I did not love the whipping it turned out to be, I did thoroughly enjoy the experience sitting next to our oldest daughter.

 

 

 

 

 

Whitney’s about as hard core as it gets among Cowboys fans and she had an absolute blast last night. Stan and Kelly’s seats are on the 40-yard line, a perfect ten rows up behind the Cowboys bench. And Whitney was just overjoyed to be able to watch Dak and Zeke and Cooper and her favorite players, up close, in person, on the sidelines. She kept waving that towel madly throughout the game, whacking me in the side of the head after every good play and during every third down. She stood for nearly the entire game, exchanged wild high-fives with everybody sitting within a ten foot radius, and went through two massive nine-dollar Diet Dr Peppers. She loves the Cowboys and she absolutely despises the Eagles, so it was a perfect night for the Whitster.

My favorite moments came at the half. The Pro Football Hall of Fame presented Cliff Harris, Drew Pearson, and Jimmy Johnson with their HOF rings during halftime in a ceremony that featured every living Cowboys Hall of Famer in person together on the field. Staubach and Lilly, Rayfield Wright and Tony Dorsett, Mel Renfro and Randy White, Aikman, Emmitt, and Michael Irvin – they were all there on the field to welcome Captain Crash, Drew, and the Jimster. It was chilling. Goosebumps. The three newest inductees each gave short speeches, brief synopses of what they’ve been saying for a year now. Harris recalled his humble origins as an undrafted free agent out of Ouachita Baptist and thanked Gil Brandt for hunting him down, Drew (sadly, I think) raged into the microphone again about how his Hall of Fame induction validates his career and himself as a human being, and Jimmy thanked Jerry (boo), his players (yay), and all the Cowboys fans (crescendo of applause), for the great honor of coaching the Cowboys. And then, of course, he punctuated the end of his time with one more “How ’bout them Cowboys!” to which the stadium nearly collapsed with thunderous ecstasy.

 

 

 

 

I didn’t realize then that the game was already over. But it was. After Trevon Diggs’ pick-six to begin the third quarter, it was only a matter of how much. As the second half wore on, the guys on the row in front of us got drunker, the over-the-top couple from Corpus Christi next to me got rowdier, the Eagles wilted, the crowd overall became more aggressive, the Cowboys dominated, and Whitney’s grin grew bigger and wider.

Thank you to Stan and Kelly for their great generosity and a wonderful night together in Arlington. Thank you to Dale and Rita Brown for the gracious gift of their transportation and their pleasant company to and from the game. And thanks to the powers that be for opening the roof of the Death Star.

Experiencing the game with Whitney, enjoying her joy, I allowed myself a little smile here and there at this perfectly-scripted night for the Cowboys. It’s nights like this, when the fans leaving the stadium are all talking Super Bowl, that make the inevitable loss to the Panthers this Sunday so delicious.

Peace,

Allan

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