Reposted with permission from the BlackVoices section on HuffingtonPost.com.
This week, we're tackling some of the major themes of the holidays.
First, young minister Princeton Parker asks us, "Are we wasting the inspiration that God is giving us?"
Alisha Gordon continues her examination of the Tim Tebow phenomenon and looks at other athletes who kept their faith at the forefront. And just in time for Advent, Reverend William Flippin, Jr. looks at the gospel of John and Jesus' journey from word to flesh.
By Princeton Irvin Parker
It has been just three weeks since Thanksgiving, and thankfulness has lost its' place in the spotlight. In fact, the holiday hadn't even lived out its' full 24 hours before people turned their sights to what they could acquire in the Black Friday sales. This doesn't just occur with Thanksgiving, but with holidays throughout the year like: Christmas, Valentines Day, and even the American Independence day. This reference to how we treat holidays is just an analogy for something even more serious. Often times we treat moments of inspiration with the same disregard. It seems as though we treat moments of inspiration like social trends: we participate while they're occurring, and as soon as they're over we continue on to the next thing as though nothing happened.
I've discovered that it is easy to get caught in the emotions of a moment and become inspired to make a resolve to make a vast life change, or set a new goal and strive to achieve it. What is harder, however, is to start planting one foot in front of the other, and moving towards that goal. Many factors or events can create a moment of inspiration. Atmosphere, music, spending time with loved ones, a church service where the sermon moves you with its' relevance and the presentation by the minister, seeing someone accomplish something that is a goal of yours, or even seeing a performance where the art captures you, are some examples of things that can contribute to a moment of inspiration. Many times people leave that moment of inspiration with nothing more than a good feeling inside because once it was over they didn't act on their inspiration. You can't control how you're inspired, but you can control what you do with the inspiration.
So how can we avoid becoming complacent Christians, and complacent human beings? The answer lies in changing the way we think. Romans 12:2 shares "Be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind..." The mind is the station where inspiration is turned from potential energy to kinetic energy. If your thoughts become wrapped around your inspiration, your words will become wrapped around it, and eventually your actions. I've seen this principle demonstrated in my life through simple things. If I see a commercial for a great new entree at T.G.I. Friday's, I think about it all throughout that day. Eventually, I share it with my mother or father about how bad I want to try it, and I talk and dwell on it until I am able to physically pursue it. When the change occurs in our mind, it will transfer to our actions.
Pursuit of things becomes easier when our mindset meets inspiration and becomes the driving force of our action. For this to happen, we often have to change our perception of the things that would keep us from pursuing our goals. Instead of looking at thankfulness as just an attitude to have for one day, look at it as a lifestyle, and apply that "attitude" to your everyday routine. Instead of looking at past failures, mistakes, and goals with shame and regret, look at them as a part of your growing up experience, and use them as reasons why you should push toward a better future. Personally, as I look toward starting as a freshman at the University of Southern California on January 5th, I have changed my mindset. Instead of worrying about the difficult classes that I will encounter, or not making friends, or the pressures that come along with being a college student, I'm looking forward to the great opportunities that lay ahead for me to enhance myself, meet new people, get exposed to new environments, and most of all, obtain a college degree.
God gives us inspiring moments and situations in our lives for the purpose of pushing us toward production. Our job is not to waste inspiration, but use it to transform our mind so that our growth and progress as human beings is never stifled. The message is simple: the moment when you are inspired, is Day 1. After the hype and glory of your moment of inspiration, make a lifestyle change that will help you act on that inspiration on Day 2.
Follow Princeton Irvin Parker on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PrincetonParker
By Alisha Gordon
While I've always been an avid NFL fan, I never thought that the sport would call for two different blog posts about one particular player and his faith. One discussion after another, Tim Tebow and his miraculous feats on the football field have stirred up another week's worth of water cooler discussion, sending the media into a frenzy over Tebow, his football skills, and his faith.
This week, many "pundits" noted that Tebow is not the first sports figure to represent his faith publicly through some kind of prayer, hand gesture, in-zone celebration, or quiet reflection with bibles all around in the locker room. Pittsburgh Steelers star safety Troy Polamalu is known around the league as someone who prays during plays. (Is that considered an audible?) Even Tebow's own teammate Brian Dawkins is recognized for his outspokenness about his faith. Everyone seems to "thank God" for his or her accomplishments -- it's seemingly the "thing" to do. Even if your works don't glorify Him, (I read that a porn star thanked God at an award ceremony) people have been giving God the credit for all kinds of things (good and bad) for a very long time.
We can all agree that Tim Tebow is NOT the first athlete or person to give God glory for His wonderful exploits. Right? Right.
So that leads me to this question: Why Tebow and why now?
Why, after so many other players before him who have openly professed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, not gotten the same attention for their expressions of faith?
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. -- Ecclesiastes 3:1
Throughout history, there has always been one person out of many that rose up to do great things in our society. Even if there was someone in close proximity doing the same thing, there was seemingly only room for one person during a particular "season" to have a greater impact than the rest. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one among many men and women who were fighting the good fight and standing up for justice for all people. The names of the Civil Rights greats are long and plenty, but it was Martin who was called out, set apart from his peers to change the course of history.
Consider Paul from the bible that was formerly known as Saul, the Christian killer. In his day, there were MANY people killing and persecuting Christians -- he wasn't the only one! But God called for Saul to encounter Jesus on the road to Damascus to change his life for the good. He was one out of many who were all doing the same thing, but was chosen to do more than the rest. Because of Paul's calling, he revolutionized what it mean to be a Christian and established some of the early churches that took the gospel around the world.
For many are called, but few are chosen. -- Matthew 22:14
Now, in no way will we ever try to compare Tebow's skills with a pigskin to that of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the apostle Paul, but we can see that there are some similarities to those people who were picked out, chosen, set apart to be the one to bring glory to what God is doing in the earth.
Why Tebow, why now? Because God is calling for believers, the ones bold enough to stand when the world tells you to sit down and shut up. Everyone's purpose isn't the same -- we aren't all called to be main attraction super heroes for Christ. Some of us will play our positions behind the curtain. Some of us will have small roles on stage. And some of us, like Tebow, will have to swing from the rafters about how great our God is. It is not for our own glorious gain, but to win souls to Christ. Those who live for Christ are charged with the mission to bring others into the fold. Whether we do that in the quiet spaces of our home or on the world stage, our mission is all the same.
For just as the body is a unity and yet has many parts, and all the parts, though many, form [only] one body, so it is with Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). -- 1 Corinthians 12:12
We can discuss for hours whether Tebow is skilled enough on his own merit to take the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl (without some divine intervention, of course). However, what we can take away from his successes now is that God has elevated him to be a light in a dark, sinister world. Why Tebow, why now? Because people are desperate for hope in a time where hopelessness runs rampant. Why Tebow, why now? Because, whether you believe it or not, his public expressions of faith is a public expression of God's love for us - His blessings towards us are never kept quiet, are they? Why should our expressions for God be toned down? It's through a passion for God and compassion for others that people are won to Christ. This tried and true method works.
Finally, we should never, ever put Tebow, the man, on a pedestal -- one slip up can bring all of the world'sglory and adoration for him down faster than a Kardashian marriage. What we can elevate, however, is God's desire for His love, works, and compassion for people to be exemplified through this Southern boy's love for good old fashion football.
Follow Alisha L. Gordon, M.Ed. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AlishaLGordon
By the Rev. William Flippin Jr.
During the Third Sunday of Advent, I preached from the fourth gospel this text. I make it no secret that the Gospel of John is my least favorite gospel but was enlightened more than I've ever been before in seeing the significance of the Logos in the "word made flesh and dwelt among us." I have come to see the Logos in the reality that ideas are powerful. Books make a difference even with the invention and popularity of kindle. Words on a page; spelling important notations; telling dramatic stories are terribly important.
But this passage is not about words; ideas or stories. But it rather tells of a birth, an event, a person, the coming in the flesh of the world's most life-changing word, idea and story. If Luke tells of a young mother, of angels and shepherds and a manger; and if Matthew lets us in on a visit from wise men; and if Mark is silent about the whole thing; the writer we know as John seems formal and dull.
Jesus came to a world which he made, yet in such manifestation and concealment that the world as such did not apprehend the wondrous presence; and he is said also to have been continually coming to his own people in prophetic visions and angelic and even theanthropic form or fashion. Elsewhere in the Gospel we hear that Abraham "saw his day," and Isaiah "beheld his glory;" but it not said that he became, i.e. entered into permanent and unalterable relations with these theophanic glories. The question is how can the Logos become flesh? has been a debate in very early Christological discussions, even so far back as Praxeas whom Tertullian sought to refute, and by Apollinaris the younger in the fourth century, it was said that this passage asserted that, though the Logos took or became flesh, he did not become or take upon himself the human, the reasonable soul or spirit of humanity, but that the Logos took the place in Jesus of the mind or spirit. Apollinaris explained, in vindication of his view, that this Christ was neither God nor man, but a blending of the two natures into a new third nature, neither one nor the other.
As an ELCA Lutheran pastor, I affirm that the flesh of Christ is constitutive and inclusive of his entire humanity. Flesh itself is not human flesh without the human, nor can there be a human soul without human spirit. The two terms are used interchangeably, and their functions are not to be regarded as different factors of humanity so much as different departments of human activity. There is a complete humanity; therefore, included in this term, not a humanity destitute of one of its most characteristics features.
What is interesting is that Christ became an ordinary human being, and further took on what is considered the lowest kind of occupation -- a servant. The incarnation, the transition from divine nature to human nature, was divine marginalization. However, when divinity takes on human form and lowly human occupation, it becomes the margin or marginality. Christ became the margin of marginality by giving up everything he had. Becoming a servant often means to become nothing, to become non-human being. To be a servant means to have no personal worth, any innate value. Christ even in the Gospel of John is still the servant of the world at the margin or marginality, and Lord of all Lords. John's prologue symbolically retells the Christmas story on a cosmic scale and provides a description of Christ's cosmic marginalization. The process of divine marginalization occurs from above, while in the Christmas story divine marginalization occurs from below. Thus, they complement each other. Thus, Jesus-Christ is identified as a new marginal person who lives in-beyond by totally affirming the words that negate him.
There is a Chinese Restaurant in Columbus, Georgia where I reside called Chef Lee's. Notwithstanding to its world class food, they have inside of it a coy pond. This pond contains a glorious assortment of tropical fish with colors so extraordinary that only God's personal coloring set could have decorated them. It takes a lot of work to run a coy pond. The owner monitors the oxygen and nitrate levels and the ammonia content. The water is filtered. Vitamins, antibiotics and sulfa drugs must be pumped in. The fish have to be fed regularly. Now with all that care and attention, you would think that the fish would adore the owner. But they don't. Anytime he comes around, they dart away in fear. The owner is like a god to those fish, too big to comprehend, too frightening to love. The only way to change that would be for the owner to somehow become a fish and communicate the true message. Similarly, God had to become a person to communicate with us. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth." This passage has awakened me to know that the logos became like us and donned a robe of human flesh, experienced the pang of hunger, suffered the trauma of thirst, endured the agony of loneliness, tolerated the shame of nakedness, faced the struggle of poverty, encountered the humiliation of blasphemy, in order that he might reveal to us the splendor of God's eternal glory he is the Word Made Flesh. Why did Jesus come? He came because sin had to be confronted and defeated but the Logos came to display his love.
I wonder as persons that are from the African descent communities of faith, how are we identifying ourselves with those who are displaced in our communities. How are we availing ourselves to those who live below the poverty line? How are we being fiscally responsible in not flaunting our wealth provided by the benevolence of those who tithe in our churches in purchasing the latest car or making residence farther away from the masses of people we serve? How can we respond to the length of Christ becoming the Logos is through our joining the struggle for causes that opposes anything on earth that dehumanizes people? We must know that the Logos favors anything that promotes justice, mercy, reconciliation and righteousness. When we recognize that the Word that walked around as we celebrate the Season of Advent will transform our circumstances because the Word walks through our market-places, our homes and the systems around which we organize life. We are called to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us. Our thanks is displayed in our openness which will allow us to let God work within us and make us whole for the coming of the Lord Jesus who is truly the Word Made Flesh-a word that walked around.
The Rev. William Flippin Jr.