Thursday, May 21, 2015


Forty is a very Biblical number.  It rained 40 days and 40 nights during the flood.  The children of Israel spent 40 years wandering around the wilderness.  David reigned as King for 40 years.  After his baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wild to fast for 40 days before he began his ministry.  Usually, 40 was representative of the complete and total time an event lasted, whether or not it was literally and exactly 40 days or years. 

Our family has 40 days left in Ireland.  For us it is literally 40 days until we complete the entirety of our sojourn on this little green isle.  A lot can happen in 40 years or even 40 days.  Lord, make it rain, but not literally! - Shay

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Get Real

On Thursday evenings, a number of Dubs (and wannabe Dubs...I am one) have been getting together in a local coffee shop to read and discuss the first epistle of John.  In this beautiful, spiraling prose that borders on poetry, the author keeps stressing that faith in Jesus Christ is grounded in the reality of God's Son taking on a real flesh and blood body in the man Yeshua of Nazareth.  The writer of this epistle is battling an early form of Gnosticism which denied certain, if not all aspects of the incarnation.  This ancient heresy claimed that true spirituality is found through non-material means, most explicitly realized in a special form of knowledge (gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge, hence the term Gnosticism).  This teaching was elitist and led to divisions in the Christian community.  It's emphasis on the ethereal had the tendency to disengage its practitioners from the realities of life in one extreme direction, while allowing unhindered moral license in another (if the material world doesn't count then what one does with one's body is inconsequential).  Neither of these two extremes properly expressed the ethos of the Christian faith and by denying the foundational tenets of life in Jesus, the Gnostics had cut themselves off from the very source of true spirituality.  John rightly described them as "antichrists".

I've heard that there are a few Gnostic churches springing up in our modern world.  I find this disturbing, but not surprising.  Over the past few years I've met a number of people who embrace neo-gnostic philosophies when it comes to spirituality.  But I also think our present world is in danger of disengaging from reality as much, if not more than the ancient gnostics in other areas of life.  For instance, how often do people miss out on meaningful conversation and relationship with the person(s) sitting right in front of them?  It's not uncommon to walk down the busy city streets in Dublin and pass dozens of people who are glued to their smartphones while (sort of) navigating other pedestrians and traffic.  Many of the cars these people are dodging have drivers who are just as preoccupied with their mobile devises.  As dangerous as this may be from a purely physical perspective, it poses even more social and spiritual risks to our society.  The Matrix was prophetic, but instead of people being unaware that they're "plugged in", many are simply voluntarily signing up for a life of (virtual) reality.  But I can't keep from thinking that this (un)real life isn't as rich and fulfilling as it could be.

First John provides some answers for us I believe.  The theme of the entire letter is summed up in 4:7-12, "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.  God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us."

It all begins and ends in God - it all begins and ends in love.  How is God love?  In his very being, he exists in loving relationship: Father, Son, and Spirit.  We as humanity are made in his image - made for loving relationship.  God so loved us that despite our sin and brokenness, he entered into the mess of human reality.  He not only made us in his image, he took on our image in the real life man, Jesus of Nazareth.  Those who embrace this Jesus and choose to live life through him have the opportunity to not only receive the love of God, but to pour that love out to others.  This requires us to live and engage with life the way that Jesus did - to get down and dirty; to get real.  It's not easy.  Sometimes it would be nicer to escape to the various worlds floating out there in cyberspace.  But just as true life wasn't found in the ethereal world of the Gnostics, but in the tangible day to day encounters of people expressing love for one another in action, so the abundant life promised by Jesus, I believe, more often is manifested in our day to day encounters with real people and (un-virtual) reality than through the online world.  I pray Christ's body will embrace the opportunity to offer an alternative lifestyle to the world around us.  Let's get real! - Shay

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


In exactly 7 weeks from today our family will be boarding a plane bound for home.  I didn't begin to actively keep up with the amount of time we have left in Ireland until a few weeks ago.  Now it's hard not to think about it.  I've always tried to be fully present wherever I'm at, but at the same time, I've always been a dreamer with a heavy dose of hope and optimism thrown in for good measure. 

Not only am I beginning to imagine a future back home in the States, the past few weeks have provided  me with the opportunity to look back on our time in Ireland.  I've had the opportunity to do a lot of reflection lately.  It's been said that we live our lives going forward, but we understand them looking backwards.  I think there's a lot of truth in that and in fact, I think we are far more prepared for the future when we have a good perspective on the past.

So over the next 7 weeks as I engage with people in Bible study, theological reflection, and in communal worship, I'll be balancing the past, present, and future.  I am so thankful that we have a God who is fully present to us in all three of those arenas. - Shay