Stepin Fetchit, Seder Skippers, Moses, and Keeping The Feast

You’re going to miss the gospel if you choose to skip the seder!

(And I don’t care what that article you read said.)

My congregation, The Vine, is hosting a Passover Seder tonight. Passover is a festival of redemption. In it, we hear again the story of God’s deliverance of his people from the oppression of their Egyptian oppressor. Passover launches The Exodus, a story we cannot help but see repeatedly over and over again throughout the scriptures. It’s about release, freedom. I can’t think of too many people who wouldn’t want to sign-up for redemption.

It’s this deep desire for redemption that drives me as a pastor, teacher, and writer. I chronicle my redemption and believe God wants me to explore it and share it with others. If there’s ever a moment of redemption accessible to me, I want to soak in it.

Which is why I have been surprised this last week as my Twitter and Facebook feeds have been sprinkled with articles telling me why, as a Christian, I shouldn’t participate in seder. More than that, many of these articles were penned by and passed along by people I know, love, follow, and consider mentors.

Trust me, I get the argument. Christianity has a much blemished history. From colonization and slavery to contemporary lusts for cultural and political domination, we’ve all too frequently tramped over and mocked the history, significant practices, and cultural markers of others. Too frequently we’ve said, “If it doesn’t make sense to us, it doesn’t make sense.”

Yet, I think, the “stay home from seder” crowd is missing something. Ironically, its the same something the colonizers missed: The ministry of reconciliation.

The Big Part We Take Too Little Notice Of

What is manifestly apparent in the New Testament is that the central mission of the Apostle Paul was the unifying fellowship between Jew and Gentile. Unity between those who might not otherwise unite is the reason Paul teaches us that “from now on…we regard no one from a human point of view,” and that through Christ the “dividing wall, that is hostility, has been torn down.” It’s the reason Paul tells the churches in Rome – while in the midst of Jew/ Gentile tensions – to not make an issue of food and drink, and it’s why he pauses so long, over and over again, to describe the church as a body in need of each of it’s members. There’s a reason Paul wants us to understand there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. And, oh yes, just in case it slipped passed us, it’s why he tells the Christians in Corinth that God has given them (and us), the ministry of reconciliation.

My friends are right, there is a manifest danger in Christians hosting a Passover Seder. It’s too easy to play dress-up and misappropriate a beautiful and meaningful Jewish tradition. As an African-American I’ve been to too many predominantly white church events when someone asked an African-American worship leader to come lead a song or two in the style of the African-American church. It’s cheap, reductive, and dismissive and I don’t like it. The worship of others is not an opportunity for your entertainment. Folks whoop and clap and the whole thing — to me at least — smacks of Stepin Fetchit.

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Isn’t It Time to Be Helpful?

I didn’t mean to stop blogging, I just did…but I had a good reason, I think.

My phone rings at least once a month with someone asking me about starting their blog. The best piece of advice I know to give is “be consistent.” But I haven’t been consistent recently. I could blame my failed hard drive, a busy travel season with lots of speaking, other writing projects, preparing for Holy Week, or, geez, just trying to be a decent husband and father. The truth is that penning this blog twice a week can be a grind, but not for the reasons you might think. Blogging becomes a grind when it feels as if you’re contributing to a tiresome, stalled, unhelpful conversation. And much of blogging is just downright unhelpful.

Take the recent World Vision dustup, for instance. For the uninitiated, World Vision changed their hiring process to come in line with the law in Washington state. Because they are a religious non-profit, they were not compelled to shift policies, but citing the reality that World Vision employs Christians of various denominations – some which support gay unions – the organization made a move to make hiring decisions in line with what they are – transdenominational. Immediately, those opposed to Gay Marriage logged onto their blog sites, wrote opposing positions, called for the withdrawal of funds, and rallied their constituents to act on their convictions. Fair enough! At the same time, Christians who supported World Vision’s hiring decisions – regardless of whether they support Gay Marriage for Christians – replied with their series of blog post and rallying cries. Fair enough, again!

Guess what changed? Hardly anything.

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The Celebration & Challenge of Spiritual Disciplines

Today’s post is from Lance Bolay. As we continue to focus on spiritual practiced this Lenten season, today we focus on celebration and challenge.

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Beginning a spiritual discipline can be frustratingly complicated.  First, there are so many kinds of disciplines from which to choose.  Dallas Willard speaks of the disciplines of abstinence and the disciplines of engagement.  Richard Foster breaks it down according to the inward, outward, and corporate disciplines.  Urban Holmes, not for the faint of heart, defines them in terms of apophatic vs. kataphatic and speculative vs. affective.  Sounds like a lot of fun, right?

Putting all categories aside, what if I simply want to pray more?  Which prayer form will I choose?  Mark Thibodeaux outlines four kinds of prayer:  talking at God, talking to God, listening to God, and being with God.  And if I want to swim in the contemplative prayer stream, will it be Centering Prayer, Breath Prayer, or Welcoming Prayer?

But wait.  It gets even more complicated.  Isn’t all of life spiritual anyhow and thus one big discipline full of countless disciplines every day?  Responding kindly to a hateful email is a spiritual discipline.  Practicing peace in a tense staff meeting is a spiritual discipline.  Doing church is a spiritual discipline.  So now I have formal (planned) and informal (unplanned) disciplines!

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Fractions, Presence, and Native Language: Getting Started with Spiritual Disciplines

During this season of LENT, we’re revisiting some of our best posts on spiritual formation.  You cannot read these and reflect on them too many times.

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This is guest post by my friend, Rhesa Higgins. In addition to being married to one of my college roommates, Rhesa is atrained spiritual director in Dallas, TX and the founding director of The Center for Spiritual Formation. Chad and Rhesa are raising their three amazing kids: Raemey, Ryleigh, and Caysson. Rhesa enjoys a good caramel macchiato, a great book, and the best knock-knock jokes a 6 year old can tell. You can find her blog at: http://cfspiritualformation.wordpress.com/

 

When I was in the fourth grade, I ran into an academic brick wall: fractions. Suddenly, fractions weren’t just an exercise in coloring a certain number of pizza slices out of each picture. No, now we were expected to find a common denominator in order to add and subtract them. I was lost. One afternoon, while I slogged through yet another worksheet of torture (fractions homework), my mom called me into the kitchen.

“Come help me make some cookies,” she said. The counter was covered in the necessary ingredients: flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, eggs, salt, chocolate chips, baking soda and measuring cups. The mixer was there and a large bowl, as well. I didn’t hesitate to start helping her measure out ingredients and pretend there was no homework to be done.

As we worked together, we couldn’t find the ½  cup measuring cup. Mom asked me to figure out how we could use the ¼ cup instead. I did it without hesitation. She smiled. Then, she mysteriously couldn’t find the ¼ teaspoon measuring spoon either. She asked me to figure out how we could use the ½ teaspoon instead. I quickly sorted it out. She grinned again.

Later, while we ate warm cookies together, she asked me how my fractions homework was going. I sighed and complained loudly that I would never understand fractions. She laughed and pulled the measuring cups out again.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t do fractions; it was that in the abstract of a worksheet, fractions didn’t make seem important. In the concrete world of cookie baking, one of my favorite things to do with my mom, fractions were a necessary tool.

I think that for many Christians, spiritual disciplines are a lot like fractions: abstract and seemingly vague. We have a rough idea that this is what we SHOULD be doing but very little idea WHY. The phrase ‘spiritual disciplines’ is even misleading, conjuring up images of barbells, uniforms, and buzz cuts. How can those things be spiritual?

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Why You Need Spiritual Direction

A couple of years ago I had a drive that challenged and changed my life. Everyone needs a Spiritual Director.

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I hate road trips. I hate them even more after driving nearly 1,800 miles this week. If you ever have a chance to drive between Las Crucas, NM and Austin, TX, don’t! But this week’s trip was a good one for me. Actually, it was potentially life-changing. Why? Because I mande this trip with my friend, Don. He is a kind of spiritual director for me and a lot of other men my age. Don is the father of two adult children, works for a non-profit and can afford the time to drive cross-country by virtue of being married to a wonderful woman who is also a physician. But what makes Don special is his honesty. He is honest with others, yes. But his honesty about himself gives his words an authenticity and truthfulness that all of us need in our lives.

As we drove and talked, I unpacked my entire ministry career – successes, learnings, failures, regrets, celebrations, and everything else imaginable. We did the same with my family of origin and my current family. And each subject was wrapped in discussions and processes of spiritual formation. These conversations are far too infrequent in Christian churches where pseudo-spirituality and fluffy-likability are exalted over genuine struggle and grasping for God. This is where spiritual direction can be helpful. As I reflect on the drive, I am reminded why everyone needs a spiritual director.

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