Monday, July 21, 2008

First Class Service

“Now see how those in authority over the people use it to their own advantage. With you, us, it cannot be this way. It’s actually just the reverse. If you want to be regarded within yourselves you have to take the low road and serve. And if you want to win the prize, start by putting yourself at the disposal of others. Not even God came with intentions of lording it over others. As a matter of fact he came to wash feet, to serve, and to give his life up so that others might actually find it.”
- Mark 10:42-45 (RSV)

If you have seen a recurring theme in any of these it’s that a lot of my recent thoughts have come out of time I have spent in and around my work. A couple of weeks back we played a team in our league from Bermuda. It’s not particularly relevant to this thought at all actually. I just thought you should know I was in Bermuda. It was awesome.

With that said on the way back we also played a team in Massachusetts. We tied the game and it was of no real consequence until the following morning. We had a flight out of Boston Logan Airport at I believe 9:30 AM. We left our hotel at quarter to six to cover the hour and a half drive to Boston as well as time to check in and get to the gate. As we hit the inbound highways to the city we came to a complete and total stop. Nothing. For almost half an hour we went nowhere. As we finally inched closer and closer to the city it became quite apparent we might just miss our flight.

With 4 different rental cars it became the proverbial every man (van) for himself. It was a complete and total rat race for that flight back to Cleveland. As cars weaved and dodged their way in and out of traffic we all arrived pretty closely to each other at the curbside drop off. It seemed as though we would make it just in time to get on the plane.
The only problem is that the rental cars still needed to be returned. And the rental car return was quite a ways away from the terminal. There was going to have to be four people who took the chance at missing the flight.

Amazingly enough, the four drivers who had already suffered putting up with the traffic mess chose without even being asked to take the cars back. To attempt at making this a little shorter, two of the four made it back with no problem. We boarded the plane with the exception of myself and another member from our front office. We stood at the gate and pleaded with the airline representatives to wait for our two friends.

At the last second we were able to speed one of our guys through security and make it to the gate just in time. As he arrived the airline rep let us know that there was an extra first class seat available. Because of the obvious situation and stress already delivered to our newly reunited friend it was easily decided that he would get the first class seat. We boarded and as I watched him take his ridiculously more spacious comfortable leather chair I thought that he more than deserved it for his self-sacrifice and service to the rest of the team.

Oh, did I forget to mention – the other guy never got to the gate. We took off without him. He had to find a new flight, and subsequently a different ride home from the airport in Cleveland.

This drove me nuts for the whole flight and car ride back home. I just couldn’t figure out why there was this negative connotation with service. What happened to one friend made more sense: If you serve, there’s a reward. It’s just that simple.

And yet Christ, one who had no business taking a car back, let alone death on a cross knew that service itself was reward enough. That to serve others is completely and exactly in line with whom we have been created to be as image bearers of the Most High.

What has been most convicting is that so often I find myself offering first class service. Not so much tangible in the actual service I am giving but more so in what my expectations are for return.

Am I only serving for a First Class Ticket?

In a world where the best of the best Christian leaders were looking out simply and strictly for number one, even with their service, gifts, and actions, Christ’s example of love and self-sacrifice is what shocked and awed the people as much as anything. We seemingly live in a world today that is begging for the exact same thing. In the past people have wanted strict apologetics for the gospel. Did the flood actually happen? Where? How can I defend the Scriptures with other primary and contextual sources?

Now don’t misunderstand me, those are all important pieces of knowledge. But I think we are living in a world, especially in America that is begging for an apologetic of love from followers of Christ. I thought it was always that they would know we are Christians by our love; not our T shirts (I saw one of these…thought it was brilliantly subversively appropriately mocking).

If we have been called to be Christ’s ambassadors those set apart to show others how awesome a life lived with and in Christ are, how did we screw it up so badly, myself at the top of the list?! There does however appear to be hope. Hope that maybe not us, maybe not Adam, but that one of US got it right. And how cool to know that his service, his love has afforded the rest of us that first class seat. What a beautiful irony…

Monday, July 7, 2008

Unnecessary BodySculpting?

Then the Master craftsman proclaimed, “ Let’s build people just like we are; with ideas, loves and passions like ours. Let them take charge of all else created; the animals that roam the earth birds flying in the sky, and everything that swims in the waters. And so God made man just like himself, as he is. The way he is, he hand crafted each one of them, man and woman.
- Genesis 1:26-27 (RSV)

One of the main groups that work with us here in Cleveland is a company that produces a machine that helps muscle warm up and recovery. If you use the machine on your lower extremities for about 5 minutes, it is the equivalent of a full 20-30 minute warm up. Likewise using the device after a training session or workout is much quicker as well as more efficient than other forms of recovery like icing and taking recovery shakes.

I have become quite close with the core of the organization as they are trying to market and sell their products to professional teams and athletes like our own. They have shared some of the teams and organizations they are working with as well as some of the various shows and conferences they have attended. A few months back they took the product to the national bodybuilding symposium. They brought back some pictures from the event and I was literally stunned. The absolute enormity of the individuals who came by their booth absolutely shocked and awed me. These athletes had trapezius muscles that extend as far as my shoulders do! Throughout the conference I guess they would come and use the device. Although I wasn’t there, I can imagine it would be like when I go into Sharper Image. You know what I’m talking about? There is absolutely no way I am going to buy the $8,000 chair! I will however, enjoy the benefits while whoever I am with gets what they need. If you take a look at body builders it is quite clear they are experts at toning up and adding only what they want while they take everything away that they do not.

What is interesting to me is that it seems we in the church have become expert body builders as well. Looking around we have chosen to build up and add where we want but have no problems or issues stripping away things and places we don’t. Where on earth did we get this frame of mind? In the beginning weren’t we created as God-loved image bearers of the Most High? It seems today we have completely stripped people of this beautiful reality. We no longer have people who reflect YAHWEH and his beauty. Now all we have are Muslims, or deadbeats. Alcoholics or homosexuals. Ignorants or obnoxious individuals. We have completely and entirely stripped them of the beautiful title and reality with which they have been given.

This is seemingly exactly what Christ came and countered. Don’t get me wrong; I need to be aware of this more than ever. And while I want to merit Christ as the only WAY, I think that quite honestly a man like Zacchaeus would be seen as a modern day Muslim. The love and power of the Gospel is supposed to change, transform, and inspire not tear apart, belittle and strip down.

This then is why people run away from the church, isn’t it? A pastor out in California has written a book They Like Jesus, but they don’t like the Church. How has this happened? If we the BODY are supposed to be little Christs (Christians) why are so many people continually hurt by it? What have we done, What have I done that this is the case? Seemingly a Kingdom approach would not be as a friend once said, “Come join our alien society.” It should instead be a booming, “Come home!” If there is a place that people should be able to run to it is the body; not away from it!

It is not our job to pick apart and tear down. This is one body that has truly been sculpted by the master craftsman.