My Claim to Fame
When I was fourteen I was on a connecting flight headed to LA and happened to meet Larry King (the longtime CNN talkshow host). Ok, so perhaps this isn’t so much a claim to fame as it is a claim to connect with someone who is famous. Perhaps I should call this my vicarious claim to fame.
I’ve always found Larry King fascinating because of his detached inquisitiveness. He would ask really hard-hitting questions, but seemed emotionally disengaged with those he was interviewing. It often felt painfully so. Perhaps I’m being too hard on Larry considering how invaluable seconds are in television interviews. Still, I’ve always felt for the interviewee. Can’t they at least hear a few words of sympathy or receive a nod of affirmation? People want to feel emotionally connected even if it’s an interview, right?
The Universal Longing to Connect
There is an ongoing (75 years!) Harvard research project that studied the life of 268 Harvard undergraduate men. These men came from all walks of life. There have been many who have headed up this project over the longevity of its undertaking. I would like to quote the latest in charge. He says something quite profound regarding human relationships. "Let me lay out 70 years of evidence that our relationships with other people matter, and matter more than anything else in the world," writes Vaillant in a 2009 Positive Psychology News article." (Harvard's 75-Year Study Reveals The Secret To Living A Happy Life. And Here It Is.)
Don’t gloss over that too quickly. The findings from this study are clear. What makes people happy and satisfied in life are deep, meaningful, relational connections with others. This is the case despite tragic external circumstances like cancer or poverty. I’m going to go so far as to say that the key to happiness is connection. It’s not a key, but the key.
Consider Jesus’ words in John 17:3,
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
For those who have worried that heaven will be a long, boring, isolated ride atop a cloud you need to consider this verse. Eternal life is to know God on the most intimate of levels. It begins once someone trusts Christ in a saving way. My intent in this post isn’t to expound on all of the reasons as to why that will be so satisfying (I hope initially they’re self-evident), but to simply strengthen my case that we were made for deep, meaningful, intimate connection…especially with the God of the universe.
The Human Condition Hinders Connection
Unfortunately, as the Christmas season rolls around many of us are reminded of just how difficult it can be to connect with others in the way I’ve been describing. Christmas can be a time that reminds us of just how disconnected, detached, and trite some of our relationships are. There’s a profound fracture in the world because of sin. Sin embeds itself deeply into the human soul and its ripple effects sever the connections we’re supposed to have, both to God and to others.
Christmas — God’s Connection to Us
Let’s revisit my vicarious claim to fame. Larry King was once on the other end of a question and asked if he could interview one person who would it be and what would he ask. His response? “Jesus Christ.” And King followed up with, "I would like to ask Him if He was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me” (I can’t find the original source material for this quote, but it is all over the Internet, i.e. Questioning Christ).
I doubt very much Larry King would describe this desire of his as one of longing to connect deeply with the God of the universe. But this is precisely what we are celebrating during Christmas. We are celebrating the Divine coming into deep, meaningful, intimate contact with the dust of the earth.
The Hebrew writer reminds us of the beauty of God’s connection to us,
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (4:14-16).
Jesus sympathizes with every human weakness and every temptation to sin. He understands the human condition because he lived in the broken state of hunger, thirst, weariness, and death. He felt the pain of the profound fracture of sin. And he didn’t just feel this because of a dysfunctional family. He felt this most profoundly because the wrath of God poured out on him in our place.
And he endured all of the above and so much more so that we might experience connection with our estranged heavenly Father. Meditate upon that with me this Christmas and hopefully intimacy with God will be more than just a mere desire, but also a felt reality.
Samuel Johnson was born on September 18, 1709, and was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer.
How Can We Pursue A Long Repentance In The Same Direction?
This last Sunday, in Calvary’s morning gathering, we studied the book of Haggai together as part of God’s Whole Story. Together we heard God speak through his prophet to his people after the exile, challenging them to remain faithful and to rebuild the temple.
The book of Haggai is the second shortest book in the Old Testament. It has 4 oracles (think: sermons), 2 chapters, and about 1,100 words.
In the book of Jeremiah we read of God’s intention for Daniel and all of those with him who have been exiled from the land of promise.
We are in a sermon series called The Whole Story, so named because we started off with the assumption, and belief really, that the whole Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus. Each and every book is a bit like a chapter that contributes to the overall story that God is telling.
We Are Calvary
To say that we live in times of rapid change may be the very height of understatement. Our culture, and its norms, is changing at an unprecedented rate, making it increasingly challenging for the church to remain relevant—and faithful—in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, in a way that will bring about the expansion of that kingdom.
This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)
Especially When You Don't Feel Like It
Sunday is just about my favorite day of the week (“just about”…because my day off each week, our family’s Sabbath Saturday, is a tie or really close second). I love getting up that morning, making my smoothie, sitting in my favorite chair in our fireplace room, and pulling my Bible onto my lap. I relish the time spent listening to my Father speak, and I delight in those moments spent talking with him about the morning’s ministry, the people in our gathering that I hope he will transform, as well as the eleven other pastors (and their congregations) on whom I pray his blessing every Sunday.