A Fear of Whales

A Fear of Whales

Absolution

posted by rgaffney

Once in Mr. Kaufman’s 5th and 6th grade combo class I said something really stupid and awkward. I was trying to make sound effects for a movie. I bragged on myself quite a bit; I could not deliver what I promised. I still remember it once and a while and cringe at how dumb I was.

It was almost 20 years ago.

Do you ever do this? Feel guilt for something from high school? Stress about mistakes you made in college? Shrink back as you remember your parents yelling at you for something from ages past and forget that you are an adult now with a car and a job and your own apartment?

I think most of us do.

I’ve come to believe the problem is characteristic of a lack of absolution. We seek confession, but often forget absolution. When something goes wrong, out societal response is to investigate, see what and who messed up. Then we accuse that person. Then that person confesses.

20 years later they still feel like the person who messed up.

I don’t like shoes; I walk around barefoot a lot. Sometimes I walk into a restaurant, forgetting I don’t have shoes on. I don’t mind being told I need to go put on shoes. I do however mind the 3 minute lecture I often receive after I get the shoes.

”Sir, I noticed you aren’t wearing shoes.”

”Oh I’m sorry, I have a pair in my car, I’ll be right back.”

”Yeah, would you get some shoes? We need you to have shoes. It’s because of a state law actually, people have to have shoes on at all times where food is being served. It’s corporate policy that we obey laws in all Burger King locations, so shoes are definitely a must.”

”JUST LET ME GET THE SHOES!!”

…I don’t actually say that; I just want to.

When I come back there is often another lecture waiting. Someone wanting to justify themselves and convince me that I am the wholly guilty one, the one who committed the grave abomination of barefootedness. 

But your self-justification deprived me of the opportunity to restore relationship. I never get to hear that it’s okay, I have shoes now, I’m not a 5th grader anymore, my lost Gameboy is obsolete and I can afford a new one. I don’t know I’m forgiven, and it haunts me years later.

This is one of the many reasons that the gospel is so good. Even if you don’t forgive me for saying something insensitive, my heavenly father forgives me. Even if it’s years later and the person from whom I need forgiveness is dead, the person I really need forgiveness from offers it freely.

Confession is a good discipline but absolution is a life giving necessity that all Christians should experience regularly.

Texas

posted by rgaffney

Alright so I missed a week! I’m really trying hard not to do that, but I knew the next post should really be about my adjustment to Texas, and I’ve had a hard time finding the internet time, and the depth of revelation I wanted.

In short: I’m loving it.

Austin is a great town, and while it has been just egregiously hot here, it’s been hot in a way that hasn’t kept me from doing active things like riding my bike and going swimming. The restaurants are ridiculously good here and the food and gas are not nearly as expensive as I thought they would be compared to Kansas.

My apartment is old, but it’s huge. Centrally located just north of downtown in the middle of campus surrounded by grass and trees. I live alone, but an connected enough to the buildings around me that I have access to things like tools if I need them. I am refurnishing on craigslist.

Classes haven’t started yet and I still need a church, and a job. but so far I’m not worried.

As classes start I’m expecting to be rocked a bit. First years in seminary tend to. I’m not sure I can depend on the ideas I will be having or how quickly I will be able to share them without annoying people, but I am hoping to use the next couple months to dump unused Kansan ideas while I write new Texas ones for later publication. There is a lot that I’ve learned which I’ve yet to share, so I hope to go back and remember where I’ve been for a while as I go somewhere new. I hope that makes sense, and I hope you’ll join me

3 Years Ago

posted by rgaffney

Three years ago at this time I started this blog. I backdated some posts from earlier blogs when I started it.

I was fundraising for InterVarsity and trying to increase my web presence. I had a lot of time on my hands, a lot of people who I wanted to be able to stay in contact with, and a need to feel heard.

Yesterday I left Kansas. and as of Today I live in Austin, Texas.

Three years ago I felt like I had been waiting forever for my life to start. That I has abundant training and experience, but precious little application. I felt pressed against the door to adventure and adulthood, but I felt it locked from the other side.

Today I feel tired. Poured out like a drink offering. I gave everything I had in mission at Kansas State University, and now I look forward to a break where I can think and fast and pray and rest while I get my MDiv

The process 3 years ago took longer than I wanted it to. More than a Full year from first contact to final departure. In that time I left churches and friends, often months in advance. I took I moved 3 times and regretted my storage unit and moving truck.

Today I packed everything into my van and left in a few weeks notice. 3 Different churches blessed me on my was this past Sunday. And I arrived ahead of schedule.

When I arrived in Kansas I was greeted as a spiritual leader, and given overwhelming hospitality in the prairie. I come today as a servant and learner, and don’t know yet how it will go in the big city.

3 years ago I watched a Church open it’s doors for the first time, this Sunday I saw one laid to rest

I will always treasure the experiences I had.

-I learned a new methodology of Bible Study
-I gained experience with the cultural differences inside the US
-I saw people come to know Christ
-I learned incarnation
-I got the big typical college experience I had always wanted
-I led a Black Bible Study, which I had never expected
-I spoke at many churches
-I made lifelong friends
-I played matchmaker and got some folks hitched
-I lived with A Christian Philosopher
-I started a Bike ministry, a paintball ministry, a computer ministry, a car ministry, and an RPG
-I was inspired by great teaching, and read great books
-I succeeded at many things, and failed at more
-I learned to make Chai from a Pakistani, and talked social media with a Jasmine Revolutionary
-I saw parts of America the coasters never bother to visit, and grew in love for the flyover states
-I ate the best BBQ in the world at no less than 3 distinct places
-I applied scripture in new and radical ways
-I did a thousand other things
-I lived, laughed, and Loved

Now I look forward to the next chapter

Raphael

posted by rgaffney

I came across a piece of art recently that puzzled me.

I recognized it immediately as a depiction of the miraculous catch of fish, a passage which I have analyzed exhaustively in the last year with InterVarsity. I knew the passage had great things to say about mission and devotion, depth and trust, selection and evangelism. But this depiction caught my eye. The bizarre femininity of two of the figures confused me, as did the inclusion of a character I didn’t recognize. Until my curiosity lead me to Google, I didn’t recognize it as a reproduction of a Raphael. Thanks to it being famous, I can share it with you:

raphael

That’s clearly Jesus with the prominent halo and long hair. By him is Peter, who fell to his knees in Luke 5:8, Saint Andrew his brother, and James and John in the other boat who were “called over” to help them in verse 7.

But why are there 3 disciples there?

Also, Why don’t they have shirts on?

Raphael is usually pretty good with this sort of thing, so I figured I must be missing something. I thought maybe he was depicting the other great catch found in John 21, or harmonizing the two somehow as biblical literalists like to do.

But no, John includes 7 disciples Peter, Nathaniel, Thomas, James and John the sons of Zebedee, and two mystery disciples. Also in that passage Jesus is clearly on the shore, and Peter isn’t afraid (to say the least) it has to be a second occurrence of the same miracle.

It turns out the anonymous oarman is Zebedee himself. Matthew 4 records it

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

There is no miracle here in Matthew but unlike John, it makes sense to harmonize this passage with Luke and assume Zebedee was in the boat the whole time. After all, in Luke we never get names for the occupants of the other boat until after they leave, Zebedee didn’t leave.Zeb

He just sat there.

Watching this.

Look at him.

With his little oar.

Thinking about this has brought new life for me into what had become a very familiar passage.

At one of the most dramatic moments of Jesus ministry. with the help of an undeniable demonstration of divine power. Jesus, the son of God, reached a success rate of about 70%. (or a C-)

FolkThat is of course to say nothing of the hundreds of people he left back on shore.

What was Zebedee thinking? How did he completely miss what was so blatantly obvious to Peter? Is there really nothing at all that would have convinced him?

As you go out to minister in your workplaces and communities, who are the Zebedees in your life? The little clingers that hang around but don’t get involved. How much of your energy goes into including them? How many people have tried and failed?

Is there a Peter at your feet begging for direction, reassurance, and discipleship? Are you ignoring him in favor of a diplomatic obligation of someone who never did and never would receive what you are offering?

Cutting your losses is biblical.

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