Sunday, April 21, 2013

The 3 - April 21, 2013

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, is headed by the tragedies in Boston and West, Texas this week, and the Christian responses that were expressed.   Also, this week marked the annual "Day of Dialogue", a Christian response to an established gay rights event in schools.   Plus, thousands of Christian leaders converged on Orange County, California, to be motivated in their leadership and ability to implement and influence change.

3 - "Day of Dialogue" counters "Day of Silence"

The GLSEN-sponsored "Day of Silence" was observed in schools across America on Friday.  GLSEN stands for Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network, and the one of the principal purposes of the event is presumably to call attention to bullying - the alleged taunts and improper treatment that homosexual students face in school.

Christians should be on the front lines concerning bullying - no one should be devalued or victimized by hurtful words for any reason.  But often, Christians end up being bullied as the result of their expressing a Biblical view of sexuality.   So, gay and straight people have differing views - can there be any sort of dialogue?

The "Day of Silence" implies that the answer is "no" - and gay students and those who sympathize with them are encouraged to say not a word during that day in order to magnify their plight.   But, CitizenLink, the public policy arm of Focus on the Family says, "Let's talk".   They took over the sponsorship of the Day of Dialogue and changed its name from Day of Truth, in order to send a message about the importance of communication on these issues.   It's quite the contrast from the silence of the following day.

According to CitizenLink:
The Day of Dialogue encourages student-initiated conversations about the fact that God cares about each person’s life and relationships. Students will also be able to exercise their free speech rights by handing out Day of Dialogue “Conversation Cards” before and after class. The cards provide redemptive, encouraging messages. Many will wear Day of Dialogue T-shirts and will display posters.
An estimated 7,000 students in some 46 states were expected to participate.  

2 - Catalyst West conference pulls together host of Christian leaders, speakers

Over 4,000 Christian leaders converged on Southern California this week to attend the Catalyst West conference at Mariners Church in Orange County.   This event is an offshoot of the larger, national Catalyst event held in Atlanta each fall. 

Catalyst President Brad Lomenick, who has held that position for some 10 years, told The Christian Post  that:  "There's so much hope we can still have in the present regardless of circumstances...We love this idea that we should be hopeful leaders, encouraging and more excited about tomorrow, but equally present in today. Part of the reason that we created an environment at Catalyst that is fun and is hopeful is to give people permission to enjoy and find joy in the present."

And, what we might call, "A-List" Christian pastors and leaders spoke at the conference, including Andy Stanley, Louie Giglio, Jud Wilhite, and Matt Chandler.  Chandler reportedly tackled the question, "What is meant when we say God is holy and majestic, and perfect in His nature?"

He told those in attendance:  "Here's why I want you to read the Bible...Disaster, suffering, and loss should never surprise us. The Bible is full of it. People die, there's rape, incest, plagues, natural disasters. It shouldn't surprise us because God didn't try to paint some different reality of what you are seeing here and now, and all around you."

Obviously, the desire of the event is to be a catalyst for change, that the leaders who attend would return to their churches and communities and be life- and hope-givers.

1 - Christians respond to tragedy in Boston, Texas

The disturbing images that filled our television and computer screens this week remind us of the fallen world in which we live, the brokenness of humanity, and how we are never really that far from tragic circumstances.   This week, it was the Boston area, with the explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  Also, this week, it was the small city of West, Texas, where a fertilizer plant explosion took the lives of over a dozen people.

And, these times of crisis, while serving as a reminder of human frailty, can also become a time to radiate hope.  That was happening in these locales and across the nation this week.

In West, a team of 10 Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains were sent to the area, where they encountered a sense of loss in the community and became sensitive to divine appointments to share hope in the midst of turmoil. 

And, pastors across the country, including Boston-area clergy, offered their words of peace and comfort amidst the desperation, according to a piece in USA Today:
Ed Stetzer, a Baptist pastor and president of LifeWay Research, a Christian research agency based in Nashville, blogged Monday that the tragedy drives us to cry out as it says in the Bible, "Come quickly, Lord, and set things right."
Stetzer shared words from Boston-area pastors such as Brandon Levering, pastor of Westgate Church in Weston, Mass., who devoted a blog post to defeating the fear instilled by terrorism.
"There is one thing on earth that no bomb can shake, and no terror can overcome: your presence. … As our city quakes from the effects of sin in this world — the evil, the violence, the injuries and loss of life — we pray that your holy and healing presence would be made known," Levering wrote.
The troubling, persistent, demanding question of "Why?" is also addressed by Adam Mabry, pastor of Boston's Aletheia Church. His answer is the same as Levering's: sin... 
"What are we to think when tragedy mingles with beauty? When pain accompanies grace? When blood spills with tears?" asks Mabry, who offers the Christian answer of turning to Jesus.
"I'm praying for my city. I'm praying for the victims. I'm praying for the first responders. I'm praying for families. But most of all, I'm praying for that grace which comes from God alone to overcome all that besets her."
Stetzer coined the phrase "from Marathon to Maranatha".

Acts of kindness were prevalent throughout the city in the hours following the tragedy, as many runners and spectators were intent on helping out the victims of the 2 major explosions near the marathon finish line.  There was a tremendous spirit of charity and compassion throughout the area.

And, there were thoughts that were shared about praying for the living suspect on Friday night, according to Christianity Today:

During the search for Dzhokhar, which had residents across the Boston area on lockdown for most of Friday, John Piper tweeted prayers that he be caught and his soul be saved: "My prayer for the running Boston bomber: Make his foot slip. Spare more victims. Save his soul." Following his capture, Piper indicated he would continue to pray for the suspect’s salvation, saying, “Two prayers answered. One to go.”

Huffington Post Religion quoted clergy, Catholic sites, and other Christian tweeters who were praying for Dzhokhar because “he is still a child of God” and “we are to pray for our enemies.”
LifeWay Research president Ed Stetzer sent a tweet saying, "'But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.' -Jesus."
There were plenty of moments for reflection during this ordeal, as we contemplate the nature of sin and the brokenness of humanity.  And, we look to our Savior for comfort and hope, the One who said He would make all things new.

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