Snoopy’s Theology Book…

“Has it ever occurred to you that you might be wrong?” Snoopy’ title in this classic Peanuts strip is pretty appropriate. Theology is simply the way we humans try to put the wordless wonder of God into words. Such an undertaking is like trying to contain the Atlantic Ocean in a paper cup. When we talk about God we should do so with the humility that we may not be 100% right and that those with whom we disagree with might not be 100% wrong. Certainty is the enemy of faith.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

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Duck Church

There is a little town of Ducks. Every Sunday the ducks waddle out of their houses and waddle down Main Street to their church. They waddle into the sanctuary and squat in their proper pews. The duck choir waddles in and takes it place, then the duck minister comes forward and opens the duck Bible (Ducks, like all other creatures on earth, seem to have their own special version of the Scriptures.) He reads to them: “Ducks! God has given you wings! With wings you can fly! With wings you can mount up and soar like eagles. No walls can confine you! No fences can hold you! You have wings. God has given you wings and you can fly like birds!” All the ducks shout “Amen!” And they all waddle home.

This short parable by Søren Kierkegaard perfectly illustrates the truth that faith is meaningless unless it is put into action. We should leave Church transformed and ready to change the world. The book of James tells us to be doers of the word and not merely hearers of the word. Too often, though, we listen to eloquent sermons about the extraordinary way in which we are to live but fail to put those words into action. We have just wasted an hour of our time if we waddle out of Church the same way we waddled in.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

 

“Is Anybody Up There?”

A man was hiking on a large mountain when suddenly he looses his footing, trips, and goes stumbling off the side of a steep cliff. He has the presence of mind to reach out and grab a branch half way down. Clutching his branch, he looks down at the jagged rocks below and then at the impossibly steep cliff above. Not knowing what else to do, he looks up at the sky and cries with all his might’ “Is anybody up there?”

Suddenly some clouds parted, revealing a bright shaft of light and a deep soothing voice sounded from heaven, sayin, “It is I, God! You must have faith my child. Let go of the branch and I will catch you.”

The man thinks for a second, looks up at the sky, and cries, “Is there a body else up there?”

Faith is casting your lot entirely with God, no matter what. There is no plan B. The life of faith is letting go when it is not clear that we will be caught. If we knew how everything would work out, it would take no faith. The saying may seem trite but it’s also true: there comes a time in which we must let go and let God.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

The Great Blondin

In the middle of the 1800s, the most famous tightrope walker in the world was a man called “The Great Blondin!” Blondin was famous for crossing Niagra Falls on tightrope and people came from all over the world to watch him perform the feat.

On one such occasion Blondin, known for his showmanship, called out to the crowd, “I am The Great Blondin! Who believes I can cross over Niagra Falls on this tightrope?”

The crowd was excited and called out to him, “We believe, Blondin, we believe!”

Next, Blondin pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket, tied it around his head and called out: “I am The Great Blondin! Who believes I can cross over Niagra Falls on this tightrope, while blindfolded?”

The crowd, more jazzed up than before, called out, “We believe, Blondin, we believe!”

Then Blondin whisked away a sheet and revealed a wheelbarrow standing behind him. He called out once more to the ecstatic crowd, “I am The Great Blondin! Who believes I can cross over Niagra Falls on this tightrope, blindfolded, while pushing this wheelbarrow?”

The crowd was practically roaring now! “We believe, Blondin, we believe!”

Finally, Blondin, summoned the crowd to silence and spoke once more, “I am The Great Blondin! ….. Now, who wants to get in the wheelbarrow?”

This parable, based on a true event, reminds us that it is far easier to trust God in word than to trust Him in deed. We can say we believe from the safety of the crowd but it is a completely different thing to ride in the wheelbarrow. In the gospels, Jesus says, “Whoever would be my disciple must, deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.” As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Discipleship is a risky proposition. Our safety is not guaranteed. God offers only this assurance: if we surrender ourselves and put our trust in Him, He will never let go!

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

 

What is a Saint?

A father and his 5 year old daughter showed up early for mass one morning and spent some time quietly in the sanctuary. There were three beautiful stained glass windows in the chapel: one of St. Peter, one of St. Francis, and one of St. Andrew. The little girl was fascinated by the windows. “Who are these people?” She asked.

The father smiled and answered, “Those are the saints.” Not wanting to miss an opportunity to teach her about their faith he asked, “Do you know what a saint is?”

She looked up at one of the windows and saw the sunlight beaming through it, casting colorful shadows on the floor. “I think I do,” she answered, “a saint is someone the light shines through.”

So often we think of saints as being a super-class of spiritual individuals who have achieved levels of holiness we ordinary mortals could never hope to attain to. This parable reminds us that what makes one a saint is not who they are but whose they are. The test of a saint is how brightly the light of Christ shines through them. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his followers, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” These instructions are for all believers. We are all called to be people the light shines through!

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

 

The Missionary and the Cannibals

A story is told about a missionary preaching to a tribe of cannibals. Things were going fine for the first couple of weeks. They had accepted him into their camp and he felt like he was really starting to make some headway. Then one day it all changed! The missionary wasn’t really sure exactly what happened. Perhaps he had committed some social taboo or made a grave error in translation, but at any rate, he had angered the whole tribe and things took a quick turn for the worst. That night as he lay in his tent, he heard the sound of war drums and off in the distance he saw torches. So he did what any of us would do! He ran! His speed unfortunately was no match for theirs and he tripped over a vine and found himself surrounded by the angry tribe of cannibals who quickly bound him and placed him in a large pot of water over a roaring fire. Not knowing what else to do, the missionary looked up to the heavens and beseeched The Lord to intervene!

“Lord,” He prayed, “If it be your will, I pray you would make good Christians of all this heathen tribe of cannibals!”

Suddenly, in the night sky, the clouds parted, and a great shaft of light fell on each cannibal assembled there. One could hear the faint strum of angel hearts as, one by one, each cannibal knelt in the earth and made the sign of the cross. Then, each lifting their eyes to the heavens, they began praying in unison:

“Bless, O Lord, this food which we are about to eat…”

A more pc version of this humorous parable can be told with a preacher and a bear but the truth remains. Real faith in Jesus Christ fundamentally changes our nature. As scripture reminds us: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (1 Corinthians 5:17) Becoming a Christian means a radical change in our behavior and thinking. Jesus criticized religious leaders who were pious on the outside but inwardly were “ravenous wolves”. He called them “white washed tombs” and criticized their practice of washing the outside of the cup and leaving the inside full of grime. As people of faith we must constantly be challenged by these words. We are called to be more than simply cannibals who pray before we devour one another!

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

“What the Hell Are You Doing Here?”

This is a clip from the end of one of my favorite episodes of “The West Wing”. In the midst of this scene is a dramatic retelling of a modern parable. God intervenes for us in many ways. Many times He intervenes for us in ways that are startling and miraculous. Far more often, God intervenes in ways that are simple and mundane: simply sending the right person at the right time. This parable reminds us that we are foolish to ignore the help we receive through earthly means in favor of some great divine intervention. It reminds us that sometimes those earthly means are the divine intervention. Recently I was counseling someone who was worried that undergoing a particular surgery may be demonstrating a lack of faith. She worried that she might be rejecting God’s intervention by accepting a more human means of healing. I reminded her that God does demonstrate His power through fire, smoke, and parted water, but just as often He demonstrates it through a scalpel and a steady hand.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…