The Frost Killed My Zinnias (and Other Updates)

  1. 1. I started watching Chernobyl with my son. It’s a heartbreaking mini-series about the accident that took place in 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. It was the worst disaster of its kind in terms of cost and casualties. The slow release of information (and misinformation) made it hard to know what was really going on. I was too young (or maybe too aloof) at the time to care, so this series has been a real eye opener. In three and a half decades, the mainstream media in this country have managed to surpass the wretchedness of the old Soviet propaganda machine. Three cheers, then,  for the internet—although this medium can feature its own heartbreaks from time to time. At least we can filter it out as needed.

2. I recently read that Tony nominee Andrea McArdle, who starred as Broadway’s original orphan Annie, has joined the cast of NBC’s Annie Live! I wasn’t enamored with that particular musical, but I was a major McArdle fan back in the day. She was amazing in Rainbow, where she played the incomparable Judy Garland in the star’s early years breaking into the entertainment industry. After hearing McArdle sing, “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” I became a fan for life. Maybe it was the mood I was in at the time, but it struck a chord. There’s a low-quality clip of it below, but it still illustrates “the little girl with a big voice.” I’m struck by the nuance and restraint she demonstrates in the piece, knowing she can belt with the best of them. McArdle will play the role of former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt in the live musical, set to air on December 2 (SamJam’s anticipated birthday).

3. I dropped major hints to my MIL (via my daughter) about a gift book I’d love to read over Christmas break. It’s The Mystical Nature of Light: Divine Paradox of Creation by Avraham Arieh Trugman. I’ve always been tantalized by the ontology of light. What exactly is it—a wave or a particle? Physicists tell us it displays the properties of both; hence, the wave-particle duality of light theory. Science can take us little further than that. Relatedly, one can ask, “Is Jesus human (a particle) or divine (a wave)?” Scripture says he displays the properties of both. No wonder, then, he called himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5). If scientists can propagate their duality theory of light with impunity, theologians can have our hypostatic union without fear of any justified riposte. Moreover, Einstein showed us that waves and particles are related. I suspect that’s why ontology always breaks down at some point; this world is a relational word, created by a relational God. Things only exist in relation to other things. Interestingly enough, George Whitefield once said, “Jesus was God and man in one person, that God and man might be happy together again.” Spot on. (Oh, that all the waves and particles in this world could relate to each other as they were meant to!)

4. They say that doctoral students start resenting their dissertation topics after a while. I’m not there yet, but I can understand the sentiment. I spent the day translating passages from the Mishnah, and tomorrow I need to make an attempt at translating a certain Syriac text. (I’m using the word “translate” very loosely here, as my Syriac is pretty dreadful.) It’s just the price of doing a deep dive on a single issue. The research is fun, but pulling it all together in an academic way is tedious and tiring. After it’s all finished, I’ll share some of my findings. I am blown away by the new things I’ve been learning.

5. My Thursday students loved our MBTI unit. Their favorite part—of all things—was the Jane Austen chart. They also appreciated how the instrument explains, to some extent, the different Christian spiritualities we find throughout the Body of Christ. (See below.) In the end, MBTI can be a helpful tool, but there’s more to who we are than these 16 categories. Tastebuds come to mind—but that’s another post. 🙂

  • The SP Temperament = “Artisan”
  • The SP Spirituality = “Franciscan”
  • The NT Temperament = “Rational”
  • The NT Spirituality = “Thomistic”
  • The SJ Temperament = “Guardian”
  • The SJ Spirituality = “Ignatian”
  • The NF Temperament = “Idealist”
  • The NJ Spirituality = “Augustinian”

6. The frost killed my zinnias. R.I.P., beautiful ones. See you next year—in another form. Hope springs eternal.

7. We’ll be singing a new (to us) worship song this Sunday, “King of Kings” by Brooke Ligertwood and Hillsong Worship. It’s rich and beautiful.

The Christ Community, Part 10: The Church as a City on a Hill (Matthew 5:13-16)

Many believers would agree with the statement, “This world is a mess!” Crime. Violence. Poverty. Injustice. Anger. Hostility. Greed. Loneliness. Depression. The list is long of what’s wrong with the human race. Yes—the world is a mess, but that mess is precisely why Jesus came! In a world filled with darkness, Jesus came to bring light. In a world filled with death, Jesus came to bring resurrection. In fact, on the very first Easter Sunday, the angelic message was, “Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead’” (Matthew 28:6).

These are the verbs of Easter—come and see; go and tell. Gather and scatter. It’s always been that way with Jesus. He gathers his disciples to teach them. And then he sends them out to love others, do good works, and proclaim the gospel of the kingdom. He then gathers them back again to share their stories and do more teaching. It’s the rhythm of life for believers—even today. Indeed, the followers of Christ gather for motivation and scatter for mission.

Jesus said, “Freely you have received, now freely give” (Matthew 10:8). We gather to receive, and then we scatter to give. So, for the Church of Jesus Christ, there is constant ebb and flow between the attractional and the missional, the receiving and the giving, the coming together and the going out, the gathering and the scattering.

When we scatter, we do so to function as “the salt of the earth” (513a). Salt preserves. Salt seasons. Salt irritates. And salt cleanses. The challenge for salt is to remain pure. (5:13b). We also scatter to function as “the light of the world” (5:14a). Light illuminates. Light awakens. Light exposes. And light warms. The challenge for light is to not hide itself (5:14b-15). As Jesus said, “A city 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.” There has to be a visibility to our faith, not just a philosophy. As one hymn puts it, “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.”

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.