Dear Friends in Christ,
During my 44+ years as a pastor I have had the great privilege and joy of teaching many Bible studies and Christian Education classes on a wide variety of topics. I enjoy teaching and all that goes into it, including and especially the preparation. My testimony is similar to that of other teachers – that I get at least as much out of the class as do those who are the students.
I’m not sure, however, that I have learned more or have gotten greater satisfaction out of teaching any class than I have the Senior High Construction Site I am currently teaching on culture. The curriculum I am developing is inspired by Jesus’ high priestly prayer recorded in John 17:
And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in thy name, which thou hast given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. (John 17:10-18)
The disciple of Jesus Christ is called upon to live in the world, even as Jesus lived in the world but to not be of the world, even as Jesus was not of the world. That means that the faithful disciple cannot remove him/her self from the culture and neither can he/she identify or be absorbed by the culture. Knowing what is good in the culture and can be celebrated, and what is bad in the culture and must be rejected and resisted, is tricky business.
Our high school students are bombarded with huge waves of negative cultural influence each and every day and I think that it is strategic in the discipleship training that we give them to help them navigate these tricky waters. I am enjoying the process and I think the students are, too.
One of the phenomena of culture that has captured my attention as an observer and consumer of both politics and news is the rash of accusations of sexual harassment and abuse made public ever since the revelations surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein a number of months ago. These were followed by accusations against actor Kevin Spacey (the news of which captured the attention of my high school students while they were barely aware of the terrorist attack in NYC in the same week!), then those against senate candidate, Roy Moore, and now, just this afternoon, against Minnesota Senator Al Franken. Of course, accusations of misdeeds against Hilary Clinton and President Donald Trump have been with us since well before the election one year ago.
Every one of these issues is knotty and twisted and difficult to unravel and will, I suspect, be interpreted with the bias of the interpreter. Democrats don’t believe that Hilary did anything wrong and Republicans will not countenance the notion that Donald Trump is guilty of anything. Minnesotans and Saturday Night Live fans may well give Franken a pass on this latest allegation while those who felt he recently treated Attorney General Jeff Sessions with mockery, trickery and disrespect are taking great satisfaction at Franken’s comeuppance.
But here’s the concern I have as I watch all of this play out in our culture – I am concerned by what I see as conviction through accusation. I know that many of these accusations will not see the light of a formal civil or criminal case in a court of law. But the damage is done, regardless. Men and women are being tried and convicted in the court of public opinion with the only “due process” being the publishing of the allegation by the media and the willingness of people to believe or disbelieve whatever they chose. Lives, careers and reputations are being destroyed by the mere assertion of an impropriety. The case is closed before a case is even opened!
In my Sunday School class, in dealing with how the truth gets lost in the noise of various public mediums I have spoken about the difference between communication, information, knowledge, truth and wisdom; they are not all the same. Just because something is alleged doesn’t mean it is true; an assertion is not a truth statement.
But who has the time and the other resources to check every assertion, to follow up on every allegation? Who can say what accusation is false or true? It takes time and it takes effort. We tend to rely on journalists to do some of this work for us but many journalistic enterprises operate from a biased approach to the truth as well. It’s tricky and it’s labor-intensive and it is far from perfect!
What I am challenging my students to do in the contexts in which they live and move and observe and discuss and decide is to ask questions: What do you mean by that? How do you know what you say is true? What is the source of your information? What if what you are suggesting is true? What if what you are suggesting is false? Have you ever considered…?
Living in the culture, being in the world but not of the world is hard work but it is the calling of the follower of Jesus Christ; He leaves us no option.
Now for some quick updates:
At the Stated Meeting of the Session this past Tuesday evening, the Session received and approved the request of Joe Williams, Director of Student Ministries, for retirement, effective August 31, 2018. In a separate action the Session voted unanimously to offer the position of Director of Student Ministries to Bob Kelley, Ministry Associate for Student Ministries and Technology, effective September 1, 2018. Congratulations to both Joe and Bob.
- Our current Inquirer’s Class, taught by Pastor Nate Devlin, has 19 participants, some of whom will be baptized, along with some of their children, on Sunday, November 26th.
- Next Thursday we will hold our annual Thanksgiving Day Service of Worship and Praise at 10 A.M. in the sanctuary, preceded by a coffee fellowship in the Social Room at 9 A.M.
- FINANCIAL UPDATE: The October accounting of the Lord’s resources released for ministry by members of the congregation shows contributions of $75,500 which are $4,500 below budgeted monies anticipated/required for operations last month. In most years the church operates with an ongoing deficit that is gratefully covered by planned, catch-up and generous additional contributions in November and December. Our current deficit is $36,700. The Beverly Heights ministry is enabled when the rich abundance of the Lord’s resources are contributed to this ministry through you – His faithful managers. Not only do we rely upon but we celebrate your continued good stewardship.
Faithfully in Him,
Posted on Fri, November 17, 2017
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