Monthly Archives: April 2014

Thomas the Twin

I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by Thomas in the Bible.  You know, the guy who we’re taught to pretty much hate in Sunday School?  We walk away from the Bible knowing him only as “doubting Thomas,” as if doubt is some fatal thing that no good Christian should ever experience.  Then again, the story of Noah was always presented as this happy children’s story, and completely devoid of Noah getting smashed and everyone on earth dying.  So…going back and re-examining children’s Sunday School stories is usually a good thing.

Anyway, I was reading through John, and John 11:19 struck me.  This is the part where Jesus heads to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead.  Then John 11:19 happens:

“So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.'”

This stood out to me as kind of funny.  Thomas’s reputation is that of a doubter, as I mentioned above, so to see him say something courageous surprised me.  That prompted me to see what one of my favorite writers, J.C. Ryle, said on the issue:

“On each occasion he appears in the same state of mind, – ready to look at the black side of everything, – taking the worst view of the position, and raising doubts and fears…Here he sees nothing but danger and death, if his Master returns to Judea.  Yet He is true and faithful nevertheless.  He will not forsake Christ, even if death is in the way.  ‘Let us go,’ he says to his fellow-disciples, ‘and die with our Master.  He is sure to be killed if He does go; but we cannot do better than be killed with Him.'”

“Let it be noted that a man may have notable weaknesses and infirmities of Christian character, and yet be a disciple of Christ.  There is no more common fault among believers, perhaps, than despondency and unbelief.  A reckless readiness to die and make an end of our troubles is not grace but impatience.”

Then, this:

“Let us remember that this same Thomas, so desponding in our Lord’s lifetime, was afterwards the very Apostle who first preached the Gospel in India, according to ecclesiastical history, and penetrated further East than any whose name is recorded.  Chrysostom says, ‘The very man who dared not go to Bethany in Christ’s company, afterwards ran alone through the world, and dwelt in the midst of nations full of murder and ready to kill him.'”

I don’t really know why that stood out to me.  Maybe it’s because we’re never really told “the rest of the story,” but letting the story end with “well Thomas doubted and that’s bad so don’t be a doubting Thomas” is doing a great disservice to the guy.


Holy Week Thoughts

I don’t exactly know how to say what I want to say here.  This is really just kind of a ramble, which I guess fits in with the title of this blog, as opposed to a well thought out argument (which I usually try but may not really successfully pull off).

It’s “Holy Week.”  I woke up this morning (I started writing this on Palm Sunday, I don’t know when it’s actually going to get posted), and pretty much everyone I know who’s a Christian and posts Christian things on their Facebook/Twitter/Instagram had posted something about it.  Our call to worship this morning was from Zechariah 9.  Those things were great.  I, in no way, want to criticize that.  It served as a wonderful reminder of the significance of this day.

But this week, a lot is going to be made of Easter.  There will be Maundy Thursday services (I’m preaching one), Good Friday services, and sunrise services Sunday morning.  These are good things.  After all, Easter is the very reason Christianity exists.  No resurrection, no Christianity.  Pretty simple.  Easter is a big deal.

I know lots of pastors, and they all share similar frustrations of the pattern many people hold of going to church on Easter and Christmas and pretty much no other time.  That is frustrating, but I kind of wonder if it’s not, at least in part, our fault.

I grew up in a weird church.  There were lots of great things about it, and there were lots of weird things about it.  That’s the best way I can sum it up here.  During my time there, I saw it go from your average Southern Baptist church to something that bordered on Pentecostal to something attempting to be super trendy.  But the one constant was the big deal that Easter was.  Growing up, we had a huge passion play.  Then for a few years we rented out a livestock arena and had a service where about a million people showed up and we had shuttles coming in and all that.

Like I said, Easter was a big deal, and we treated it as such.

But my thing is this – and this may be feather ruffling, it may not be though – I wonder if we put too much emphasis on Easter (please notice I said Easter and not the resurrection).  I wonder if part of the reason people only show up on Easter and Christmas is because we make it seem like those are the only days worth showing up.

I mean, my church was a pretty normal church – passion plays and having big services aren’t anything unique.  Other churches do crazy stuff.  I’m sure there are many levels between.

But why?

Why does Easter get such special treatment?

Is Jesus any less resurrected on a Tuesday afternoon in August than on the first Sunday after the full moon following the March equinox?  If He is, then Christianity is lame.  If He’s not, then why do we act like it?

The amazing thing about preaching the Gospel is that week in and week out, we get to proclaim Christ crucified, buried, and risen.  Every Sunday.  The apostles saw the resurrection as such a big deal that they centered Christian worship around the Lord’s Day, Sunday, as opposed to the traditional Sabbath.  We celebrate, or we should celebrate, the resurrection every single Sunday.  That’s also the point of the Lord’s Supper.  We take it, or at least we should take it, on a regular basis, as Jesus said, to remember Him.

Everything we do has consequences, intended and unintended.  When we make a spectacle out of Easter, whether it’s dressing up way nicer than you normally would or giving away cars, flat screens, and iPads, you may be sending the message that this one Sunday is special.  You may also be sending the message that the other 51 of the year…aren’t so special.

So celebrate Easter this Sunday.  But celebrate Easter every Sunday, too, because it’s just as big of a deal next week, the week after that, and all the other weeks after that.

Wrestlemania XXX

On April 6, 2014, I got to go to Wrestlemania XXX.  I love pro wrestling, and while I’m not this guy (though I likely sat by one of his relatives), it’s one of my favorite pastimes.  So when we found out Wrestlemania XXX was happening in New Orleans, Leah and I decided to go.

I say this without any qualification:  that was one of the most fun things I have ever been to.

It’s hard to exactly define what it was.  Professional wrestling is equal parts drama, production, and, yes, sport.  And you just can’t understand how big of a deal it is until you take it all in.

The size of the event alone was ridiculous.  There were 75,000+ in the Silverdome Superdome, which…is a lot of people.  For reference, Super Bowl XLVII had 71,000.  The set was unbelievable – it was MASSIVE.  I couldn’t really get a good picture of it because of where our seats were, but it just dwarfed everything.  And any time you have 75,000 people who are there, locked in, and energetic, whatever the event is will be awesome for that reason alone.

It’s also pretty cool to see such a huge production in person.  Watching on TV, you don’t notice everything that goes into the production.  On TV you see a close up shot of the wrestlers walking to the ring.  It’s fairly simple.  But live, you see the camera crew of like 12 guys walking backwards as one unit to give you the great shot you see on TV.  Although it’s not always as cool – the Wyatt family’s entrance is awesome on TV, and it was still pretty cool in person, but it was kind of funny to see Erick Rowan dragging Bray’s rocking chair behind him.

But the thing I appreciated the most about the event was how good those guys are at telling a story.  When you go to a live event, you don’t get to hear the commentators (which actually is awesome, because WWE’s announce team sucks), and you don’t have a play by play guy in the stadium calling out what happens. So when you’re watching live, you’re depending on the guys in the ring to tell a story.  And that they did.

From a wrestling and storyline standpoint, I loved the show.  It was the payoff of a year’s worth of storylines, and for Daniel Bryan, four years worth of hard work and frustration.  From a production standpoint, I was absolutely amazed.  I have to remind myself sometimes that the WWE is a billion dollar entertainment company, but after seeing what I saw, I get it.

Overall, though, it was an amazing night.  I don’t know if I’ll ever get another chance to see a WWE event live again, but I do know that chanting “YES!  YES!  YES!” with Daniel Bryan and 75,000 other people is something I’ll never forget.