Friday, December 11, 2015

Worship: the Gift of Christmas

"Christmas" means worship, it contains the words Christ and mass.   Christians the celebrate Good News of God becoming one of us and coming into the world the same way we came into the world, through a woman.  We worship and give thanks to God because we know the end of the story that this baby would grow up to prove God's love and accomplish our salvation through the cross and resurrection.

Today we are living in oft broken world; a divided society, acts of terrorism, racial injustice, a changing climate, an inequitable economy and other seemingly intractable problems fill our consciousness with fear and loathing. With all the problems in our world these days perhaps you might wonder what worship can actually do?     Worship is the first discipleship practice; it turns our hearts toward God, renews our minds, resets our emotions and gives us proper perspective.  

Worship is central to the story of the incarnation found in the Bible.  We find Mary in the midst of all of her challenges of becoming a new mother in impossible circumstances singing:

for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him Luke 1:49-50 (NRSV)

Zechariah the father of John the Baptist celebrates the work of salvation that is only just beginning by singing these words:

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. Luke 1:68 (NRSV)

The shepherds going about their normal work-a-day lives witness the angels worshiping so they can tell the Holy Family some Good News to help them through their challenges of being first time parents while far away from home.  The angels sang:

Luke 2:14
"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" (NRSV)

The Magi take an arduous journey and dodge a murderous middle eastern despot all to engage in a a brief moment of worship for the newborn Savior of the Nations.

On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 (NRSV)

All of these people and countless since have found, hope, promise, peace and inspiration through worship. This is all available to us through the gift of Christian community that gathers for worship.

We therefore invite you to worship with us at Holy Cross this Christmas Eve.  Our schedule is as follows:

Thursday December 24, 2015 
Live Nativity  3PM
Family Worship and Pageant 4 PM
Candlelight Worship and Communion 7PM

Wherever you worship this Christmas Mei, Beata, Paul and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.  May your hearts be filled with peace that only our Lord Jesus can give.

Be blessed,

Pastor Knecht

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fight Terrorism: Teach Generosity

Waking Up to the Same Nightmare

Terrorism is nothing new.  It has been around my whole life.   In my childhood, headlines reported acts by the IRA, FALN and the Weathermen. Europe had the Bade-Meinhoff gang and Red Army Faction.  Israel has suffered terrorist attacks its entire existence as a modern state.  In the 90's Timothy McVeigh attacked Oklahoma City, a cult poured sarin gas into the Tokyo Subway. Then we lived through the rise of  Al Qaeda with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, 9-11 and the London and Madrid attacks.  Now we have ISIS. While much press is always given how we can prevent future attacks, surprisingly little is given to how do prepare to respond when attacks occur.  Given the reality of human history this point should not be overlooked.

So I would like for us to think about how we can prepare spiritually for when attacks come. Terrorists like ISIS not only attack physical and human targets they intentionally target the spirit of the community in their cross hairs.   By examining what Jesus teaches us, we will have the tools to strengthen and protect our own spirits and the the spirit of the community we serve.

The Terrorist's' True Target: Goodwill

The primary goal of a terrorist attack is to disrupt the target society by instilling fear.  Part of achieving this plan is to disrupt those who work for a civil society, destroy goodwill, so people will feel they have nowhere to turn and are cowed into submission. For example, ISIS wants the flow of refugees to stop, just like the Communists did when they built the Iron Curtain   ISIS needs people to kick around, children to conscript into its army, people with skills to keep the water running, the lights on, and most of all to sell crude oil.   When people leave the conflict zones, ISIS loses human capital to continue its struggle for domination in the Middle East.  Our goodwill starves ISIS of resources. Their goal: instil fear to stop generosity.   Our fight: stand up for our identity as disciples of Jesus Christ and remain gracious.

The Jesus Way

People forget, but the scholarship is clear; Jesus lived in a time when terrorism was rife. On Epiphany we will read how Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled the state sponsored terror of Herod.  Two of Jesus' own disciples may have been identified with groups that may have engaged in acts of terror, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot. Jesus was killed using a Roman method to intentionally inspire terror.  So when you read the words of Jesus below, remember that he was no pie in the sky dreamer, but a person who lived and served in a very violent society.

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. ' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:38-48 NRSV)

Refuse to Submit

For ordinary folks like us, the Way of Jesus Christ may seem hard,  but I will ask you to pray and think deeply, and hopefully see the grace in it.    When we succumb to fear and take revenge for ourselves in contradiction to biblical teaching, we play by the terrorists' rules.   The core of radical fundamentalist Islamic teaching is that Allah needs the terrorists to take revenge on the infidel  (btw doesn't that really say their god is weak?).  When we seek out revenge, we will only give them new motivation for further acts of their revenge. We will also be submitting to the scenario they wanted all along.

Countless Christian Martyrs and the the great peace leaders of the 20th century such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. realized the gift of Jesus' teaching.  They understood it for what it precisely is, a courageous, comprehensive, and effective strategy to stop evil. They would not submit to an unjust system.  When we stand with them, we are refusing to submit, and standing up to evil.  As Paul wrote when we are gracious, it is as if we are pouring hot coals over their heads.  This is because by being gracious and generous we are disrupting their agenda of violence.

This struggle we have is not just with groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda, the KKK, Neo Nazi's or Anarchists.  It is is spiritual struggle against powers at work within our very communities and homes. These powers are calling us to become hard hearted and fearful. If we submit to them we lose, not just to them, but indeed we lose our very selves.

When humanity killed God's only Son, God did not take revenge.  He refused to submit and raised Jesus to new life.  God refused to submit to death and stood for life. Countless Christians will continue to to do the same, by serving and helping those who the world says should be their enemies. When we aid the Syrian refugee, we are fighting evil, When we clothe and feed the homeless, we are fighting evil.  When we greet and welcome the neighbor from the county we can't find on the map, we are fighting evil.  When we affirm human dignity of every person, we refuse to submit to the world's agenda.  If the headlines have shocked you lately, maybe it is just the time to stand with Jesus and be generous.

Be blessed,

Pastor Knecht

Thursday, October 15, 2015

How to Share Your Faith without Annoying People

Christian Life is Proclamation

Jesus started his ministry by saying "The Kingdom of God is near!" (Mark 1)  Jesus teaches the 12 disciples (Mathew 10) and then later on 70 more (Luke 10) to do what he does and they report back some great stories.  The disciples then proclaim the Good News of Jesus' Resurrection at Pentecost (Acts 2).   The Apostle Paul travels around the Mediterranean proclaiming and building up communities of proclaimers.  (The largest part of the book of Acts, Romans 10)  Christian life is proclamation.

What Christian Proclamation is Not 

Somewhere along the way some believers reduced the Christian life to a series of accepted facts. Evangelism was also thereby reduced to getting others to accept these facts.   So some believers became argumentative and annoying so the world stopped listening. The real tragedy is that a relationship with the living God of Jesus Christ was lost to countless people.

This summer while on vacation in Virginia Beach as my 8 year old son and I were walking from our hotel to get some ice cream we encountered a group of believers who were trying to get patrons of a local bar "to accept the facts".   They were doing this primarily by yelling condemnations through a bullhorn to try to get people to see that they were wrong.    My son whose experience with Christianity is overwhelmingly positive and nurturing was quite bewildered at this circus.   As we ate our ice cream, we talked about what was going on.   I tried to be as gracious as I could about these street preachers and told him that they really thought they could help people.   He said simply "I don't think it's working."

When I speak about evangelism or faith proclamation this is unfortunately is what most people have in mind.  They actually think that when the church sends people out, it is to annoy other people, argue, and get them to submit to what we think.  No wonder people don't want to evangelize.  Who in their right mind would want to do this?   Fortunately this is not what we are called to do when the Bible speaks about proclamation. Real faith sharing is much more meaningful and life giving.

Real Proclamation has Real Stories

Let me show you another picture by talking about how anyone can share the Good News of Jesus Christ in 5 steps without becoming another person's burden and without feeling guilt or shame.

Step 1. Just share your good news! 

The word evangelism originally meant "good news sharing".   So we talk about the good things God is doing in our lives and in the world.   Biblical evangelism should always be positive.   So we talk about what God has done for us, how we came to know God, why a life in Christ is important for us.  We can also share how we have witnessed what good things God has done for others.  So we keep the "good" in the Good News.

Step 2. Just talk about your experience!

No need to give a history lesson, or talk about someone else.   We start with our own encounter of God. We might also include how we we encounter Christ anew through our community of faith.  The most powerful witnesses are where our stories meet God's story in Jesus Christ.

Step 3. Just relax!

Lutherans confess that it is the Holy Spirit who calls us to faith.    You are not responsible for the outcome.  Christians are called to share what God has done, is doing, and will do in the future.   Whether another accepts this is not up to us.   We just want to share some good news that might inspire or help people.   We are not called to argue, convince, persuade or manipulate anybody.  We can bless and help people no matter what they believe.

4. Just listen! 

This is where many times our proclamation breaks down.   Effective faith sharing often involves more listening than speaking.   When people are called to faith they are called out of their isolation into a relationship with God and other people.    Effective relationships always involve both speaking and listening.   One of the joys of faith sharing is that you begin to heat the stories of other people, you will get to know them, and build friendships with them.

5. Just pray!

Our faith sharing must have its source in our own living relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit.    If it does not than it is not really evangelism or genuine proclamation.   We talk about God they way would would talk of others whom we are in meaningful relationships with.  Prayer will help us see with eyes of faith where and how God is working in our life.  Prayer can also frame our witness so that we are not hurting or injuring others through our words.  Prayer is the most essential component of faith sharing.

My own prayer is that this clarification can help you have the wonderful blessing of being able to share God's story for your life with others.  May God bless you as you share your story of the Good News.

Be blessed

Pastor Knecht

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Whose Lives Matter?

Your's does.  

So tell me your story.  The details matter; your experiences matter, your life matters.

We in the church need to hear how the structures and attitudes of our world affect your life on a day to day basis.  I will do my best to listen understand and ultimately act in a way that gives a blessing to you and others.  I will be honest and admit that at times I will fail, so I ask God to help and guide me.

Can you pray this with me?

God's Children Divided 

In the Bible, St. Paul explains that as people are renewed in Jesus Christ, they see that the distinctions between people made by a broken world are artificial.  They are creations of human cultures and structures .  This one thing, faith and science agree on; we are all of the same species.   In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! (Colossians 3:11 NRSV)

Just because these classifications, distinctions, and dividing lines are artificial does not mean they are unimportant; they are real.   People have been killed because of them, black men & police officers, Jews and Palestinians, Shia and Sunni Muslims, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians.

Even when these problems don't lead to death they affect the lives we live everyday.   How do I know this?   I hear the stories from the people I minister to every day.   As a pastor I have the amazing opportunity to cross boundaries and enter into the many, varied, and different communities that make up our society.  I remember one day last year where I talked with middle and working class kids and their parents on the school yard,  counseled and helped a woman about to loose her apartment,  then had dinner at a country club overlooking the Manhattan Skyline with some really well to do folks.   I have had the privilege to minister to firefighters, police, and EMT's as well as pray with recovering attics and homeless men.  Guess what?  They all had stories, and lives that matter.

I must confess I am angry at world which is trying to tell me that I can not listen to this person's or that person's story.   I need to hear the stories of black men and women,  I need to hear the stories of police and firefighters.  I must hear the story of worker trained for the job that no longer exists and likewise, that of the immigrant come to work to send money home to his or her family. I need to listen to the story of those fleeing the almost apocalyptic destruction in Syria.  I need to take in the grief of those who feel the world is changing too fast.

The truth is, if I can not admit that black lives matter, why should I expect someone to think that my life matters?  If I can not listen to the story of how dangerous and difficult it is to serve in the police department, why should I expect someone to take the time to listen to my fears and worries?  We can only access universal truth through the particular stories of actual people.  If I declare the stories of a group I don't like as invalid, I am negating my own story.  Therefore, I need to hear your story and I pray that I have the courage not to let society's labels get in the way. 

Why must I do this? 

Because God heard my story.  Christ answers it everyday by placing people in my life who support, listen, and counsel me (even when I am really behaving like a jerk!).  More important than this, I am Christian and a disciple of Jesus Christ,which means I am to follow his lead and show compassion, hospitality, and concern to my fellow children of God no matter how the world classifies them.

I realize this is hard work, this is truly spiritual warfare.  I will need all the strength that the Spirit can give just to make a halting effort.   I also know that I will fail at times, because, I admit I have failed in the past to truly listen, and I have certainly failed other times in taking action.  

I pray for God's forgiveness and ask for renewal of my life. I will also pray for allies wherever I can get them,  I will not be picky; there is just too much listening and work to be done.

Be blessed and become a blessing,

Pastor Knecht

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Discipleship as Reprogramming

How do we make choices?

As part of my summer reading I read Isaac Asimov's four classic robot novels.  They are science fiction police procedurals.  The main characters are a New York detective Elijah Baley and a humaniform robot Daneel Olivaw.  They often engage in discussions about the how the programming of the robots affects the actions and decisions they make.  As in most artificial intelligence stories, the moral dilemmas are highly intriguing .  Asimov's fictional robots adhere to the three laws of robotics 1.  A robot may not harm a human being, or through inaction cause one to come harm.  2. A robot shall obey all orders from humans that do not break the first law 3. A robot shall protect itself as long as it does not conflict with the first or second laws.  The fun of the books is seeing what happens when the robots are put in situations where there are choices that cause a decision that brings a conflict in the programming.   What these in fact are, are ways to discuss how people in the real world come up with the moral choices they make.

Human Programming

While real people may not have something equivalent to the three laws, we are programmed by our biology, environment, experiences, upbringing, culture and education.  A great biblical example of this would be the wilderness temptation story found in Matthew and Luke where Satan tries to manipulate the basic human programming to have need for food (turn these stones to bread),  power (see these kingdoms, they can be yours),  and attention (throw yourself off the cliff and watch daddy come and save you!).  In each case Jesus as God’s son shows he is not programmed as Satan would have liked. He demonstrates how the first commandment to fear and love God overrides the baser human instincts for food (man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God), power (worship the Lord and serve only him), and attention (Do not put the Lord your God to the test).   The first commandment to love God puts things in proper perspective and allows Jesus to continue on with his ministry.  

Discipleship, a life of following Jesus Christ and being in a healthy relationship with Christ is a lot about allowing God to reprogram us or update our programming. Living in a sinful and broken world, our programming is often damaged.  Value judgements of the majority are taken in and accepted without question, because it is easier to do so.   Negative experiences put us on the defensive.  Life conditions may cause us to become self-centered, or others may convince us that we have no self worth or dignity.  The problem of race that America is dealing with at this time is essentially one of bad programming. Americans have been programmed with a set of beliefs and actions that are neither grounded in biology or the Word of God, which both clearly state we are single common humanity.  So overcoming this dilemma will require each of us to examine how the world has programmed us and work to change those lines of code which draw us away from God and cause conflict with our brothers and sisters.

Life 2.0

This can be done; I have seen it.   I have seen addicts use faith to help them deal with their illness and change their lives.   I have seen people whose first marriages broke apart have wonderful life giving and healthy second ones.   I have watched self centered selfish people turn around and start caring for their neighbors because an encounter with God led them there.  I have seen hyper self-conscious people afraid to talk with any one come out of their shell and build a healthy and appropriate self esteem. In short,  in my ministry I have witnessed countless people who have with the help of God altered their programming.   The real joy of ministry is watching lives be changed for the better by the Holy Spirit. Jesus encourages to do exactly this when he says things like this spoken during the Sermon on the Mount “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33 (NRSV).  

My favorite book of Asimov’s robot series was the last one “Robots and Empire”  where two robots, the aforementioned Daneel Olivaw, and another robot  Giskard Reventlov come to the conclusion that the three laws they are programmed with are inadequate.   They begin to see that they actually cause moral outrages when strictly adhered to, like when saving one person will kill thousands.   Their conclusion is that a fourth law is needed. Called the zeroth law, it becomes a preface to the other three, a robot may not do something that harms humanity as a whole.   When the robots incorporate this law they become free and true moral agents.  They are liberated when they show concern for the wider world. If you have not guessed by now I will tell you; Isaac Asimov really did not write about robots, he was writing about people.

When people allow God to help reprogram their lives with a concern for something beyond themselves they are set free. Adhering to the great commandments to love God with all your heart, soul, and might,  and to love your neighbor as yourself,  is not a constriction, it is a liberation.  You become free to override all aspects of your cultural programming. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said “only the one who believes is obedient, and only the one who is obedient believes”.  What I am arguing is that only the one who is obedient is free, and only the one who is free is obedient.   Faithful discipleship is liberation.

So I invite you to come with us at Holy Cross and work on your discipleship along with us. Like Giskard and Daneel we can discuss the shortcomings of our own programming and then delve into God’s Word and learn about how we are to become free by following Jesus the Christ.

Be blessed

Friday, April 17, 2015

Holy Cross is Building Up and Growing Out

Building Up

PhotoGod is Good!  It is my good pleasure to share how we have seen the Spirit working in our church this Easter season.   After the long cold winter we have been blessed with not only the coming of Spring, but of new life to our church.   There is so much to celebrate that I probably will forget to mention something.  Please see this as a Good thing!  Some of the highlights are:

1. Worship! It was amazing to see so many people in church this Easter!  The growth of our Worship Team was on display as they led us in songs that were passionately and excellently offered up to God.  We are blessed have Jon Torgrimsen lead us and the team and we are seeing the fruit of the good work he is faithfully doing for us day after day.  More people need to worship with us, because they can come to Jesus through the good work of all who work to build up our worship.   Faith can be awakened and strengthened.

2. Mission! Our food ministry to Springfield had totally turned around the reputation in our community.   I had a man stop me on the street last Sunday as I rode my bike with my son and tell me about how he had heard that we in Holy Cross are doing great things.  Now this is not why we serve, we serve because Jesus served, and we are called to be a blessing to our neighbors.  Otherwise we are just another club and not the church.   We can create space in our church and activities for more people to help out serving Springfield.   One of the blessings of serving is it can heal those who do the serving.  Having purpose can help make people more appreciative of the good gifts God has given them.  We can be a bridge between those in the community who want to help and those who need it.

3. Kids!  Notice all the new kids lately.  Holy Cross has always had a heart for children and we are seeing lots of new faces in our Sunday School, we've got 5 high schoolers playing in our worship team or helping out with media and sound upstairs, ten middle schoolers in confirmation.  Our Christian Nursery School is having an amazing year!  With new programs to serve the parents and children of our community (this should be seen as mission too!)  More kids need to come along with us because in a world without purpose,  those who mentor our children can share with them how God in Jesus Christ has a purpose for their lives.

4. Outreach! Our upcoming Rock Cafe, our movie nights, our tables at town events to collect food and share the Good News of our congregation to this community. More ideas will be on the way.   Our hope is that these events can help us find ways to engage our community and make it easier for you to invite people to our church.  Many of these people who come will find God's grace through our congregation!

5. Community! Thanks to the diligence of our community action team people our fellowship/coffee hour after church had taken place Sunday after Sunday.  If you remember how it was a few years back when we would not always have it, this is an amazing blessing.   I have noticed people are staying a long time after worship to savor the relationships the Spirit is building. Our Mardi Gras/ Shrove Tuesday pancake dinner and upcoming picnic will provide more opportunities to build relationships.   We need to expand the circle, because hey! there are a lot of lonely people out there and God says it is not good for anyone to be alone.

6. Spiritual Growth! We had 19 people participate in the first Discipleship Academy course!  14 of them completed it and attended every session!   We will have our second course "Bonhoeffer's Thought"  Wednesdays at 1 & 7:30 PM in May.   We will continue to find ways to grow disciples through our ministries, because it is the outcome that God expects and it leads people to a blessed life in communion with Jesus Christ and their fellow disciples.

7. Prayer! Holy Cross has always been a place of deep prayer and it continues to be so.  Open your eyes on Sunday and witness people praying for each other all over our church!  We are not church who leaves the prayer up to the pastor alone, but engages the entire community.   While we continue to pray deeply for Gianna Torgrimsen and Tom Nolz for their healing, please know that one of the joys of serving Holy Cross is all the stories of answered prayer I hear.  This past month three stories of God providing deep healing have been shared with me.   Prayer gives, healing, hope, peace, direction and inspiration to our lives.   It helps God change things in us.   More people need the gift of prayer,  more people need to learn how to pray, we can do our part to fill this need.

Reaching Out   

As I described these seven signs of how the Holy Spirit is working to build up our congregation, please notice that I tried to make the case in each instance of how these things that God is doing for us can be a blessing not just for us, but for our neighbors as well.  To me the most amazing part of our redevelopment has been Holy Cross's restructuring of things so I can can concentrate more intently on the things that God has called me to: preaching, teaching, equipping, modeling discipleship and providing Spiritual direction.  Each passing month I am able to spend more and more time meeting with people in town, community leaders, families who send their kids to our school, people I meet in Dunkin Donuts, to bring Christ to them in my humble way.   I am grateful for this opportunity,  I need to thank Jim Donaldson, Steve Bertschy especially, for their daily contributions to help get things off my plate so I can do what God called me to do.   Lots of others have helped and we have really had a culture change in our congregation where we are working together more effectively as a church.  I praise God for this.

But now I need to ask for your help and support in these areas.

1.  Talk about Holy Cross and share this message with every person you can.  We have Good News to share!  I am out in the community for our church and I need you with me as well.   I can only do so much, and people will often respond better to your impressions than mine.   I am the pastor I am supposed to think my church is great.  No one thinks that about you.

2. Support our church by carving out some time to show up and help out.   Start with coming to church more often.  Our church life is better when you are here,  and I am betting your life will be better too.   Move up to helping out the ministry and mission of our church by plugging into an area of service.  Pray for me and the mission of Holy Cross every day.

3. Give a financial offering to God through Holy Cross.  Your contributions will help us do God's work.  My thoughts on stewardship are simple, God has blessed you and you can use your blessings to bless others.   We are blessing people with the work we are doing as a church following Christ.   We will be pledging later on this Spring to our annual fund.  If you have never pledged before I ask that you prayerfully commit to trying. We bring Jesus Christ to people in your neighborhood,  we shepherd your neighbor's children,  we pray for and feed your neighbors in their time of need.  We show love to the people you love.  Yu-Mei and I tithe 10 percent of our income and God not only provides, but blesses us through this.  The real upside is that this money we give does God's good work in Springfield and beyond.

Please pray on these points and act on them.  Please also give thanks to God for the incredible work he has done in us and will do in the future.   See you in Worship and at the Rock Cafe next Saturday May you be blessed this day.

In Christ,
Pastor Knecht

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Chaos of Holy Week and Hope of Easter

No,  I am not writing about how busy I am!   I am writing about how chaos plays a role in the story of Holy Week and Easter, with the hope that when your life seems chaotic you just might see God at work.

Kaos vs. Control

Control good?
During my childhood, the spy film parody Get Smart made fun of the cold war with the Soviet Union by describing a spy on spy battle between two international spy agencies KAOS and CONTROL.   The hero Maxwell Smart, agent 86, worked for CONTROL; his enemies such as the recurring character Siegfried, worked for KAOS.   The default assumption that control is good and chaos is bad, underlies how the characters are divided up into good guys and bad guys.  This should make sense, if you asked a person on the street their true feelings, control would be seen positively and chaos negatively by most people (there is always a minority of chaos lovers out there).

Chaos bad? 
One of my underlying assumptions about culture is that often the deepest issues of the human condition are not actually discussed in the places where they are intended to be discussed, but happen in places hidden in plain sight.  A satire like Get Smart can bring to light a deep issue in a way that we can laugh about it, and perhaps think about it in a deeper way later.

The battle between chaos and control happens in every human heart.  Too much chaos- life is stressful and dangerous.  Too much control- life is stifled and growth is impossible.  Our fear for survival may lead us with a preference for control,  but when things become too predictable life is robbed of any sweetness and joy.

Chaos vs. Control on the Road to the Cross 

Sometimes we confuse control with peace with disastrous results.   Too much need for control can lead us down unhealthy paths.  It can hurt those we are called to care for (like our kids).  It can rob all the joy from life.  Most of all, it reveals a complete lack of trust in God.

The gospel accounts show us that the fear of chaos leads Pontius Pilate to condemn Jesus to death unjustly and release a guilty man who actually caused real chaos that led to the death of innocents (Barabbas).  Fear of chaos led Jesus's enemies to conspire to have him betrayed in secret rather using legal means.   Judas' gut reaction to the unknown woman's chaotic act of anointing Jesus seems nudge Judas into betrayal of his master.  Pilate, Judas, and the leaders of the opposition to Jesus all want to do away him because he represents a potential chaos that brings change to the world they wanted to keep.  And they were right.

Jesus as Agent of Chaos 

The order of the world that Jesus came to change, was unjust and oppressive.   The Romans, Sadducees and Pharisees all had issues with being over controlling of others.  Jesus came to bring dignity and respect to those marginalized by the world.   He wanted every person to know they are God's child.  He died to set all free from sin and he created a whole bunch of chaos to get to the cross. I know many will upset by me describing Jesus as one who brought chaos but that is exactly how the Bible describes it.

On the road to Jerusalem Jesus eats and drinks with those he is not supposed to, touches and heals those who were ritually unclean. Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was certainly a chaotic affair,  then he heads straight to the temple and overturns all the tables of the money changers.  He then confounds Pharisee and Sadducee (liberals and conservatives) alike through his teaching.   He heals and forgives his enemies as they lead him to the cross, refuses to acknowledge the authority of Pilate to judge him, and questions God the Father.  When he dies the temple curtain is torn in two.   Matthew even talks of earthquakes and people coming back from the dead.

Why would the Savior of the world intentionally to cause so much disruption and chaos?

Chaos as the Stuff of New Creation 

My own personal faith story is that God used the chaos I was going through in my early twenties to bring me to a living faith in Jesus Christ.   The Holy Spirit called me from an old way leading to death to a new way leading to life.   I was open to listen because my life was a chaotic mess.   God used chaos to bring about something new and better.

This is how God has worked since the beginning of space and time.

Genesis 1 tells us that the earth was formless and void, which Biblical Scholars of the Hebrew Bible have been telling us for a long time was an idiom meaning a "chaotic mess".   God calls forth light and then uses the stuff of chaos to create the universe.   The meaning is simple,  chaos is a tool that God can use to bring new life.   Jesus used the chaos of holy week to make a new creation, which includes all people in a promise of salvation.   The chaos he created overthrew the tyranny of sin, death, and the devil.

If you are going through a chaotic time now, please know the promise of the resurrection in Jesus Christ.  God can use it to bring you to something new better.   God is not only stronger than chaos, God can use it to bring you to new life.   Please let me be clear,  I am in no way advocating one seek out chaos.  Real chaos happens on its own, and seeking it out doesn't sound healthy or faithful to me. However, if you are going through something really terrible now, please know that God can use even this to bring you life and hope.   God loves you so much he will use every tool at his disposal to bring you new life.    We need not be held in bondage to fear of an unpredictable future or the possibility of an unbearable present, because we have a God who can use all things to love us.

He is Risen!

Be blessed,
Pastor Knecht