Changing times demand fresh ideas

August 1, 2012

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Hamilton public school children will no longer receive shiny New Testaments in Grade 5. The Gideons have been told to stop coming. It’s too confusing.

Hamilton’s school board is the latest in Canada to say “no thanks” to The Gideons International in Canada’s long-time practice—dating back to 1936—of giving New Testaments to interested children.

According to the Hamilton board, public schools don’t have the expertise. That’s what churches are for. And what about other faith groups? It’s getting too complicated. But have a great summer, okay? And see you in September.

I guess they’re right. How can anyone explain all those “begats” on the first page of any New Testament?

And true, it’s the job of the church, after the family, to train a child in the way he should go.

When I was in public school in Niagara we actually opened and read the New Testament as a class, after “O Canada” and “God Save the Queen.” Then we’d say the Lord’s Prayer.

But that was then. This is now. And it’s okay. Really, I believe it is. The Hound of Heaven will continue to run. The stones will still cry out.

God finds us

Come. It’s a summer day in Berlin near an old church that drug addicts urinate against nightly. There he is, hair spiked tall, black muscle-shirt with Christ crucified upside down, and words, “Jesus didn’t die for my sins. He died for his own.”

He plays a flute. It’s gospel music. He tells me it’s easiest to learn. Indeed. People can run from the songs in their own heart for only so long.

We easily fool ourselves with this.

It’s another summer day and in this story, a parable, a little girl is lost. The townspeople search all day. They stop at nightfall. But her desperate father continues all night. Eventually he finds her, there, curled up, asleep, in the woods. He bends to kiss her. She wakes, reaches up, and puts her arms around him. “Daddy,” she says. “I found you!”

No, we don’t find God. He finds us. Even when we’re wandering vagabonds, lost prodigals unsure how to even begin looking for Him. Do we believe this? Or something less?

It’s summer. Time to rest. To recalibrate. To think of these things. The cheese, so to speak, has moved. But then, it always does.

Transform culture

How do we then change this culture? We don’t. We transform it. The former imposes one’s will from outside. The latter enlightens and heals from inside.

Don’t just give a kid a Bible. Invite him for dinner and connect better. There are other open doors. One is through new technology.

This is what Jesus said. Look for the creative moment.

He also said His followers work best from places of disadvantage, of tension. That’s why, of all the cultures He could have dropped in on to do His own earthly work, He chose one that was oppressed and helpless.

For His efforts, He was dished a brutal cross. Yet He turned it into the biggest cultural earthquake ever. What can we learn? The new way needs to be the old way, but in today’s language and clothing.

There’s another way. It’s without humility, where the church gets everything it wants. But then Christianity grows a mile wide and an inch deep, becoming empty and harmful religiosity.

The needs are great as ever. Our message to our culture can’t change. But the way it’s presented has to. Then we can move on in dependence, with quiet confidence. And no fear.

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August 1, 2012 • Posted in ,
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