Wednesday, January 29, 2014
There is suffering in the world, and people often want to know the reason for it. This is the area of theology called theodicy, the study of evil. In Why O Lord? The inner meaning of suffering by Carlo Carretto (Orbis 1986), readers approach suffering in a spiritual sense and the author challenges them to appreciate the spiritual growth produced by suffering.
The book opens with Carretto's speech to a group of handicapped individuals. In his speech, he recognizes his own brokenness and draws this reader (me) into an appreciation of what it means to be human. We are all connected. Someone else's suffering can be my suffering, and we can walk down the path together.
Carretto organizes the book into twelve short, readable chapters. The text is approachable and does not require any technical theological language. He often quotes scripture, seems to use it well, and does not misuse the Bible. The first chapter sets up the way he approaches suffering. Then, in chapters two through eight, he develops a theology of suffering, relating God to each moment of each day. In chapter nine, he shifts away from God engaging with humanity to martyrdom and the human element of reciprocally engaging with God.
Chapter ten is somewhat problematic because he proffers God as the initiator of suffering, but the following chapters are more pastoral and somewhat less deterministic about the cause of suffering. The final chapter is a guide for a short, three-day prayer retreat. There is also an appendix calling for people to remain in community rather than seeking solitude in their faith journey.
It might seem strange to review a book from 1986, but so much new material is published each year that old gems get swept under the rug. This review is an attempt to draw our attention back to something that is worth reading. It might have a dingy cover and only be available in the used-book section, but we should not be discouraged from seeking out the spiritual growth this book can give. Why O Lord? is a fairly quick read, but well worth the time spent.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
In many churches, the congregation will share a vision each year. I fondly recall a friend who was a pastor in a charismatic tradition, and his congregation eagerly waited for their New Year’s Eve worship when the pastor would reveal the new vision. They would guess the theme for the year and try to get him to give clues, but he waited until the appropriate time to share it with everyone.
‘Appropriate time’ accurately describes a 2014 vision. I have witnessed God at work in our congregation, continually honing us as a church and drawing us closer together. It seems to me that it is an appropriate time to reach out and share all the good things happening at Kilmarnock Baptist Church with our community.
At some point in November or December, I was struck by how rich our worship experiences are each Sunday. That particular day, everything seemed to click together, and then it struck me: Kilmarnock Baptist Church is a wonderful place to worship and encounter God on any given Sunday.
It doesn’t matter if we have a special service like the Hanging of the Greens or not; God always shows up! We can worship and have a great experience together. This is something worth getting excited about, and it is worth sharing with other people.
Did you know that there are people, here in our area, who do not worship anywhere on Sunday? Of course you know, but my point is THERE ARE MISSION OPPORTUNITIES ALL AROUND US!
Perhaps some people who do not attend church never have been invited. Maybe God is calling you to invite them. Pray. Ask God’s guidance. Then, be open for the Holy Spirit to lead you to an opportunity to invite someone to experience the joy and wonder of encountering God at KBC. There are wonderful things happening in our church.
Our job, as a church family, is to keep it up.
If you have a job or opportunity to participate in worship, do it to best of your ability. Accept the task as an opportunity to glorify God, and realize that no task is small. Everything we do we can do to the glory of God, from ushering or lighting candles to reading or playing music.
If you do not have a job in worship, ask for one. The choir can always use more members. You can usher, give out bulletins, welcome friends, etc. You can think about something God has done in your life and then share it with the congregation as a testimony. We can all be uplifted by hearing about your experience with God!
In 2014, let us reach out. Let us share God’s grace with our community. Let us tell others about the exciting things happening at KBC and invite them to join us.
Can I get an ‘Amen’?