Thursday, July 26, 2012

Suffering, and 2nd Timothy.

During a counseling class at Covenant Theological Seminary, a professor encouraged us to think in terms of "Systems Theory," viewing the network of family relationships like a delicate mobile. As long as everything stays the same and doesn't shift, balance can be maintained and everything flows, but you change one aspect, even just a little, and the whole system is rocked. The challenge is not for a person to START maturing, but rather for a person to MAINTAIN their maturity, because as soon as they renter the system, the whole thing is thrown off balance, the resulting chaos is then blamed and the one who is maturing, and each player in the system attempts to undo the changes in the one who has grown.

Reading through 2nd Timothy again, the theme of Paul's own "suffering" and the ways that he encourages Timothy to "share in suffering" began to make sense to me in light of System Theory. In Christ, when we begin to grow and act according to his design of things rather than according to the broader system of sin and fallenness, the balance is rocked, and the whole system begins to push back against the changes that are growing. For some this looks like imprisonment, for some like betrayal, for some like attack, for some like social rejection, for some like just never quite fitting in, for some like direct challenge in the workplace, for some like abandonment by families. However this suffering is experienced, the message of 2nd Timothy stands as strong and true todays as it did when Paul first penned it: "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted...But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed...which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2nd Timothy 3:12-15)

In the counseling room, while you warn clients that their growth will often bring about more challenges, the truth of the matter is that by maintaining their growth, they begin to change the system, and it is forced to recon with the same kind of health itself. Therefore, "share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling...which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted" (2nd Timothy 1:8-12).

-Drew

*Photo from Fine Art America of Carolyn Weir's Raindrops Kinetic Mobile Sculpture

Friday, July 20, 2012

Spokes

Now that I am a licensed preacher in the Presbyterian Church in America (half way to ordination, oh yeah!), I've had a few opportunities to prepare sermons for different congregations. Most recently, while traveling through California on a support raising trip, I was invited to preach at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Bakersfield, CA. It was a blast to be there, and it was wonderful to be able to meet face to face with many of the people throughout California who have been such an encouragement to us over these last few years. The challenging responsibility of all preaching is to ground each topic in the core of the gospel without getting distracted and tangled up in all the other overlapping concepts, truths, reflections, profundities, etc.. It is like trying to follow a single spoke of a bicycle wheel from the rim all the way to the hub without getting your vision caught up on all the others; to choose a single concept and trace out its roots simply and clearly down to the heart of the gospel in such a way that, so far from being crossed, confused, and wrapped up in the adjacent and overlapping concepts, the single thought actually elucidates the connected ideas, as well as the greater structure they form, all the more.

All that to say, one of the things I am learning right now is that truth of the statement that the hardest part of crafting a sermon is deciding what NOT to preach. The beauty of Scripture is that this is a REALLY hard challenge.

- Drew