The Final Four

Ladies and Gentlemen, THE FINAL FOUR:

Conquest, War, Famine, and Plague!!!

(What, no cheering?)

Even as basketball fans around the country are rooting for their favorite team (or tearing up their brackets), could it be that out there in the near future, trapped behind seals of the Book of Life, are four horsemen waiting to unleash their punishment upon the earth?

(YIKES! If so, please let if happen after the Championship game)

The Book of Revelation devotes only a handful of verses to them, but they have intrigued and confounded believers for 2000 years. Four horsemen, one in white, one in red, one in black and one a paley green. And each of them delivering a message of judgement upon lowly sinners.

Is this a literal depiction of real events that will happen? Some Christians believe so. Is this a symbolic depiction of real events that were plaguing the world back in John’s day? Many Christians would say that.

Is this a mess of images and metaphors that don’t make any sense at all? I’ll confess, I’ve said that before.

The imagery is often violent, and epic. The symbolism is really tricky. For instance, scholars today argue over the first horse, the white one. Does that represent Christ, or the AntiChrist?

Wow. You’ve got me. But if we can’t even decide which side the white horse is playing for, how do we know who to root for?

And why pick Conquest and Famine as part of the Final Four?  What about Plague and War?

These are not the Final Four I’d have in my bracket.

I’d have the Lone Ranger and Silver. They’re a great duo.

I’d have Black Beauty, who doesn’t even need a rider.

I’d even have that War Horse from the latest Stephen Spielberg movie that I didn’t see.

And maybe Mr. Ed.

Now there’s a fun Final Four! Who’s with me?

Okay, I’m being irreverent here. But my point is valid: Why do the Final Four have to be harbingers of such destruction? Why does the world have to go out with such a terrible bang?

Perhaps, buried in all that symbolism, is an important message for us to remember: There is no room in the Kingdom of God for sin, and injustice, and greed. For us to move from our imperfect world into God’s perfect Love will not be easy for any of us.

Like a refining fire burning away our faults, moving into a world of Grace will mean letting go of our selfish desires. That might be traumatic.

I don’t know if I’m ready. How about you?

As much as I pray “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done”, I may not be fully prepared for The Final Four, or any other version of complete conversion.

Perhaps that’s why John wrote Revelation. To get us prepared.

Hmm. Could be.

Regardless, let this year’s NCAA tournament serve as a strong reminder:

You may find yourself in the midst of The Final Four,

in a year when you least expected to.

Have a great week, and get ready!

Mitch

Going Solo

I’m thinking about changing my religion. I’m gonna become a Jedi.

Okay, not really.

But there really is a Jedi religion. Did you know that? Here’s what it says at JediChurch.org:

“The Jedi Church believes that there is one all powerful force that binds all things in the universe together. The Jedi religion is something innate inside everyone of us, the Jedi Church believes that our sense of morality is innate. So quiet your mind and listen to the force within you!”

People have taken George Lucas’s ideas about The Force, and turned it into something to really believe in.

That’s kind of tempting. Even as a child, I was fascinated by the Force, and I knew that the Dark Side could never win against the Light.

At the climax of The Return of the Jedi, when Darth Vader takes off his scary mask and becomes, for just a moment, human again, I felt triumphant. Good has conquered Evil once again!

So, it’s been fun, Christianity, but I’m jumping over to the Force.

It’s just nice to have things so…black and white. Just like Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi.

Of course, when I look at my life, I can’t say I’ve always fit neatly into one category or the other. Most of the times, I haven’t been all Light side, or all Dark.

Most of the time, I’ve kind of gone Solo.

I mean, Han Solo, of course. Free spirit, maverick, answers to no one but himself. Friends with a Sasquatch.

Morally…ambiguous, but seems to drift all over the place. Shows up on the Light side when it really counts.

Yeah, that more describes the journey I’ve been on. I’ve swerved back and forth from the Light to the Dark to the Light so many times that my world is more of a…dingy gray.

And while I’d like my life to be pristine, I’m not exactly a Jedi. I can’t seem to respond to the Force the way I’d always like to. Not on my own.

I need some help.

Who’s gonna help me and guide me along the way? Who’s gonna offer me grace when I’m ready to stop Going Solo?

George Lucas? No, he’s let me down big time. (You’ve seen the prequels, right?)

I’m thinking Jesus is the guy for the job. More powerful than the Millenium Falcon. More wisdom than a thousand Yodas.

Absolutely oozing with something the Jedi Church doesn’t mention: Love.

Yeah, Love is what I need for the times when my world is gray. Love is what connects me to others, so I don’t have to go it alone.

Love is after all, the most powerful Force in the universe.

May it be with you.

Have a great week,

Mitch

(Honestly, I’m more of a Star Trek guy myself.)

Do The Shamrock Shake

This year, I’m gonna do the Shamrock Shake.

It disappeared for a few years, but McDonald’s has put their minty green shakes back on the menu for St Patrick’s Day.

Of course, at 840 calories for a large one, it will take a lot of shaking to burn off all that sugar!

Still, I think it might be worth it. Here’s what I learned (from Wikipedia):

Once upon a time there was a young boy named Patrick. He lived in Wales in the 5th century. At the age of 16 he was captured and taken to Ireland, where he served as a slave for 6 years. Finally, he escaped and went home to his family.

Time passed. Patrick became a priest. Then a Bishop. And where did he choose to go serve?

That’s right, Ireland. He returned to the country where he had been a slave, so that he could be a servant. Wow.

There are lots of stories about St. Patrick, and we don’t know which ones are true, and which ones aren’t. There’s one where his walking stick came back to life and began to bloom. There’s another one where he banishes all the snakes from Ireland (that’s a personal favorite of mine).

Perhaps the best story about St. Patrick involves the shamrock. Patrick used the 3-leafed shamrock to illustrate the trinity: Three separate leaves representing the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Separate, but connected. Working as one.

When I think about the way God must have touched Patrick’s life, it makes me happy. When I think about how he turned around and shared the Love of God with his own persecutors, it makes me want to dance.

It makes me want to do the Shamrock Shake! Hallelujah!

So, whether you do the dance, or drink the dessert, or both, remember that God is the one who delivers us from bondage, and calls us into service.

And because of faithful disciples, like St Patrick, who devote their lives to the Church, we can say:

Welcome to Christianity…

Millions and Millions Served.

Have a great week,

Mitch

READ THIS: KONY 2012

READ THIS:

This is important.

I wouldn’t dream of using this space to tell you who to vote for in 2012.

But I know of someone we can all unite against.

His name is Joseph Kony.

WATCH THIS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

This is a movie. It’s 29 minutes long.

Watching it will anger you, educate you, perhaps shame you.

The video is worth the time, I promise.

It’s about Joseph Kony, a war criminal from Uganda who has kidnapped, raped, mutilated and enslaved more than 30,000 children. And it’s about how we can stop him.

DO THIS:

Share this devotion with your family and friends. Share it on Facebook, retweet it on Twitter.

Visit the site http://kony2012.com and add your pledge.

Pray for the invisible children around the world.

Have a good week,

Mitch