Thursday, April 03, 2008

King's Last Speech

Martin Luther King, Jr. preached his last sermon 40 years ago today. By the end of the next day he would be dead.

If you have never seen or heard or read it, you need to watch this clip. The clip is short, real short, but incredibly powerful. Eerily powerful.

Watch it. Listen to the words. Let them get into your bones. And let them give those bones life.

We ain't seen the Promised Land yet.

But we will.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Practicing our Faith

I want to share with you a brief audio clip from Andy Root's work with the Faithful Practices Project at Princeton Theological Seminary.

In his work Root reflects upon relational youth ministry and makes a distinction between "instrumental" relationships between ministers and young people which are always in the end about something else other than the relationship (a come to Jesus talk) and the kind of relational ministry which embodies the Gospel in its substantive practices (like showing up after a kid's parent has just been sent to the pokie).

The difference is not one uses words and the other doesn't (for as Paul says, how can they know if they haven't heard). Rather, the distinction is between doing something that gets us into a place to do what we really want to do versus doing something all along the way. What I mean by this is practice - something constitutively embedded within our encounters with each other that both points toward and is the Kingdom of God.

In other words (and this is for the grown ups) it ain't about getting people to the 10:30 service. Instead, its about the substance of our encounters with each other as we live out our lives together - including the substance of the worshiping we do together at 10:30.

When I say substance I mean the "What is" of the relationship between and among us. Another way of saying that is "character".

And we certainly have a few of those running around . . .

The Boys of LHS Part VI

I grew up relatively well off. We weren't rich but we definitely weren't poor either. Bottom line, we had a pool.

The pool was, of course, not enough. And neither was the Chevy stepside with the 350 under the hood. And neither was making the Varsity football team my sophomore year. It was all good. Cool. Exactly what I wanted, but not enough.

[Young Life enters stage right with Gospel in mouth]: "In every of us, there is a God-shaped vacuum. And it can be filled by nothing and no one else but God."

It was a classic example of Maslow's Hierachy. I had all my physical needs met, but I still needed spiritual actualization. Jesus brought that. It was the Gospel truth.

When I started doing ministry with the boys of LHS I simply assumed the Maslovian framework. It was good for me and so it must be good for them. But there was one nuance. Whereas my physical needs had been met, that wasn't necessarily the case with the boys of LHS. So I started doing things. With the aid of Lubbock Young Life I was able to help them out with money for a burger. And maybe some money for shoes. We picked up most of their cost for camp. I was earning the right to be heard.

But here is the thing that I am wrestling with. Doesn't it seem a little silly to and self-defeating to take a kid and give something to him or her only to then turn around and say, "And by the way, that thing I just gave you - it ain't what you're really looking for. What you're looking for can't be met with a burger or new shoes or a trip to camp. You've got a God-shaped hole in your heart and . . ."

Suddenly I'm wondering. Maybe the Gospel wasn't just the message at the end of all that "earning the right to be heard" medium. Maybe the Gospel was wrapped up in the medium itself. Maybe the Gospel was the time we shared together over a burger - even when I got USED by them just like the patronizing white boy would. "Price, take us out to Burger King, Price," one kid used to say over and over.

What I'm getting at is the idea that maybe the Gospel isn't really the cherry on top of Maslow's Hierarchy, but is instead, some kind of fabulous relationship with God and each other that breaks forth across all of life, cutting across the false and dualistic distinctions between physical and spiritual needs.

Maybe I'm saying that the Gospel is really the inbreaking of what Jesus called the Kingdom of God into everything - from the shoes on up.