Last Sunday I preached in Tulsa. By definition, it was spring. The vernal equinox had just passed. As certain as the whole solar system, it was (and is) spring.
However, it didn’t feel like spring. It was cold, dark, snowing, and breezy with a wind that cut to the raw bone.
It’s always disorienting when it is spring by definition but yet still feels like winter.
For believers, it is spring: Christ is risen! Yet for many of us, it still feels like winter. We identify with those powerful words Paul uses to describe our experience: groaning, longing, waiting, hoping. Those are not words of despair but of deep trust. They proclaim: “I believe spring has started even though it feels wintery.”
Even though it was cold, dark, and wet, I could see small signs of spring starting to peek out. And this I knew:Before long, the redbuds will brighten the earth, the irises and petunias will burst forth in stunning color.
And for us—Easter believers!—we eagerly await the day when dark losses and despairing griefs blossom into joy, joy, inexpressible joy.
To learn more about Dave Clayton and the Ethos Church, check out this site. Dave will be speaking on Wednesday night on Revelation 5.
Chris Doran talks about the track on “Faith and Sustainability” that he’ll be leading at the 2013 Pepperdine Bible Lectures:
Just recently I watched “The Stoning of Soraya M.,” the powerful (true) story of a woman stoned in Iran under the strict interpretations of Sharia law. Just after that I saw this piece shot by Matt Maxwell for last Sunday’s assembly at Golf Course Road.
Here’s my official invitation to you:
So much will be happening that I’ll tell you about over the coming months. But I especially want to encourage you to prepare for a study of Revelation. Many have shied away because the book seems so, well, weird; others have kept an arm’s length because of the bizarro interpretations of the book floating around popular culture.
If you’re a minister or Bible class teacher, let me encourage you to plan to do something on Revelation in the summer or fall of 2013. Come to Malibu—tough gig that it is!—April 30-May 3, 2013, to help in your preparations.
Here are some resources I’d like to recommend if you want to get a head start:
Michael Gorman, Reading Revelation Responsibly
Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder
Barbara Rossing, The Rapture Exposed
N. T. Wright (of course!), Revelation for Everyone
One of my very favorite resources will come out at the lectureship: Dr. Greg Stevenson, who teaches at Rochester College, has a new book called A Slaughtered Lamb: Revelation and the Apocalyptic Response to Evil and Suffering that is amazing. He will be one of the resource scholars, along with James Walters of Boston University (and others).
This morning Charles Siburt, described by one of his sons as “the best man I’ve ever known,” died. He was a good friend. I’ll remember his remarkable voice, his big bellowing laugh, the way his face could express the words “these are my sons in whom I’m well pleased” when around John and Ben, and his insight.
Like Tiresias, the blind prophet in Greek mythology, Charlie could see things no one else could see—despite his failing eyesight. And he wasn’t afraid to help people move beyond the places where they were stuck. He helped others see ways in which their own pride, bitterness, sense of privilege, and nearsightedness were interfering with better relationships.
Two of my favorite memories about Charlie aren’t altogether pleasant. (Let’s be honest: people didn’t call him “Chainsaw Charlie” for nothing. The truth is that this was a compliment: you just don’t meet many people in life who will love you enough to tell you the truth about yourself. It’s also why so many churches brought Charlie in to help them. When all else fails, try asking someone who will tell you the truth.)
Both of the memories come from the mid-90′s, around the time of Megan’s death. Diane and I were exhausted, and in my exhaustion I lost nearly all ability to see myself. Charlie held up a much-needed mirror.
Once was after a tense elders meeting—this seems strange to say, because there was almost never a tense elders meeting the last ten years I was at Highland—when I drove him home. We sat in the car late at night. I invited him to tell me what he thought about some conflict I was in with a few people. And kindly, but very directly, he spoke words that hurt. Because they were true. He spoke them as a friend, not as a scolding elder. And then he moved on to words of affirmation and hope. I remember thinking that this was a new beginning for me as a minister.
The other time came about a year later. It was two months after our daughter’s death. I was fragile and tired, but I needed someone to tell me that that’s not an excuse for poor behavior. I got mad at Clois Fowler. Yes, Clois Fowler: one of the best men I’ve ever known in my life. My friend. Like a father to me. But in my exhaustion and immaturity, I got upset. So I went to Charlie. I guess I was going to tattle on Clois. Or perhaps I just figured another strong leader of our church would put his seal of approval on my anger.
Wanna guess how that went? Charlie told me that he could understand how weary I must be, but that I needed to pull it together. He told me that if I had a bigger fan at Highland—someone who’d cleaned up more of my messes than anyone else—than Clois, he didn’t know who it was. He said, “If you can’t make things work with Clois, I’m guessing you can’t make things work. He’s your greatest fan.” I crumpled in sorrow. Charlie prayed for me, and I went to Clois immediately to apologize. (If you know Clois, you know that he’d already forgiven me.)
Somebody in life has to love you enough to tell you the truth. And it helps when this person is a friend.
My greatest bond with Charlie was this: we were ALWAYS fans of each other’s sons. (And he and Judy loved Megan while she was alive, too.) I aways asked him about John and Ben; he always asked me about Matt and Chris.
So it’s fitting that the last time I saw Charlie was about three weeks ago: he was sitting at The Beehive eating lunch with Judy, John, and Ben. He asked about Chris’s youth ministry internship; and he told me that John came into his hospital room asking if it was Halloween because he’d just seen Matt Cope dressed up like a doctor.
His body was bearing the marks of a long battle with cancer. But there was that great joyful face of his, sitting at a good meal with his wife and sons.
Thank you, Charlie. Well done.