This is the site of Nathan Hill, dad, theologian, musician, and writer.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13
By Rev. Nathan Hill
There was a little girl with her mom who was at a wedding for the first time. As she looked around with wide eyes at everything going on, she leaned over to her mom and asked, “Why is the bride wearing white?”
The mom smiled and said, “White symbolizes happiness. She wears white because today is the happiest day of her life.”
The girl thought about that for a minute as she continued to look around - then she nudged her mom again with a puzzled look on her face. “So then why is the groom wearing black?”
That joke is really monocultural. In a diverse church like ours, we recognize that other cultures don’t necessarily follow the bride in white/groom in black wedding dress code. Instead, the bride and groom can wear all sorts of colors, even khakis and Hawaiian shirts.
When my wife and I got married, we had a portion of our service which followed the traditional Korean style - and we were everything but black and white. Our outfits were really made up of many beautiful colors - the dress of royalty - everything but but black and white. (See picture above.)
In truth, I like wedding outfits of many colors - because relationships, marriage, commitments are complex. They are not simply all good or all bad - they are a mix of blessing and challenge. To love and be loved is harder than it first looks or feels. Life is not a Disney movie - we do not live happily ever after.Read more
This is a fun park.
Bring In Your Kingdom
by Rev. Nathan Hill
During my family’s recent vacation, I inexplicably found myself deep in thought and reflection about heaven and hell - about what happens to us when we die.
And no, it was not because I am theological nerd.
When you spend over 12 hours in a car with a six year old and a four year old, your mind goes to dark places.
But what really triggered these thoughts was a movie my kids watched from their back seat - Toy Story 3.
How many of you have seen Toy Story 3?
The Toy Story movies are a series of Disney/Pixar children films about a group of toys owned by a boy named Andy and their adventures as they deal with being replaced, sticking together, and discovering their purpose. I’ve watched all three of them quite a few times - they are big hits in the Hill household. Fun stuff. What was different this time was the fact that I could only listen, and as I listened, I couldn’t help but hear the ways this movie speaks about how we understand the afterlife.
In Toy Story 3, the plot centers on the fate of Woody, Buzz, Jesse, and their gang of toys as their world is literally being torn apart. Their owner Andy has grown up, and he is moving off to college. The toys know they are facing their possible demise. The best case scenario? The toys get dropped into the attic to wait and wait and wait until maybe Andy gets married and has kids someday. The worst case scenario? They are put out with the trash. Stuck in this conflict, with their world no longer making sense, with their owner no longer giving them a sense of purpose, they feel their fates, their future, literally hanging in the balance.
For some people, vacation is like the most attractive thought in the world until it comes time to pick up and go somewhere else and have… fun. Inevitably, like an invisible spider web, work or thoughts of work grasp us and weave back into our minds and routines. Pretty soon, we are wondering about the office, scheduling, task lists, visions, changes, and so on.
And so we forget that we are supposed to be having fun, relaxing, laughing, or just doing something unrelated to that which gets us a paycheck.
One of my growing commitments to myself is to try not to answer phone calls and emails on my day off, just because I am one of those people that takes any excuse to look at my phone. Since I get all my emails (including work emails) on my phone, yes, it’s tough to peel away. It feels irresponsible not to respond to someone’s email right away, even if I am hundreds of miles away celebrating life with my family.
Yes, those are pretty fireworks, honey, but let me respond to this planning thread real quick.
This wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t that I try to be a follower of that guy Jesus, who in the midst of launching a revolution about loving neighbors, caring for the poor, and transforming an unjust world, took time off to shut up and go pray by himself. Or sleep on a boat. Or notice the way farmers, fishermen, widows, and birds did their business. Jesus liked to hang out with the wrong people and was accused of being a glutton and a drunk. He must have loved parties.
Core to Jesus’ Jewish faith was the concept of Sabbath. This practice suggested that life was meant to have a regular routine of work and rest - life was better with such a practice in place. At least once a week, people needed to rest and savor life. Rest meant more than just lying around and sleeping - it meant honoring one’s relationships. Some theology professor once told me that sabbath for rabbis even meant making love with one’s spouse.
Intrinsic to all of this and why we have such struggle as post modern people living a fast-paced capitalist world, our society tells us that our value comes from working, contributing to society or to our families in some significant way. Certainly, there is a lot of value from hard work and being successful in our toil - but Sabbath pushes back and suggests something a little different. It perhaps reminds us that our value also ultimately comes from our identity as created beings who are woven into a web of relationship with those we around us and our broader world - and that all of this is meant to be enjoyed and savored, even if for just one day out of the week.
The picture above is from a brief visit to the Red Rock Canyon, near where I grew up in Hinton, OK. I hadn’t been back in a long time, and it was awesome to go and have memories flood back from exploring that canyon as a kid. Like the stump at the end of Shel Silverstein’s book, the Giving Tree, the brief visit was an opportunity to sit and rest and savor the beauty of this world that I share with so many others.
For further reading on Sabbath, check out my friend and colleague James Ellis’ excellent sermon, here.
Written by Rev. Nathan Hill / University Christian Church
Note: This was my out of the box approach to Jeremiah’s call story that I shared with my congregation on Sunday. I sat out a table, big office chair, cup of coffee, and manila folder right in front of the communion table, reading as if I were God and interviewing Jeremiah for his occupation. Yes, it was irreverent and a bit risky - but it worked. I actually ended by naming congregation members who were next in line for their interview that day. “Let’s see who is next…”
Ahh, good morning. Welcome. Come in and have a seat.
Let me introduce myself.
I am God.
Yes, that’s right - spelled G-O-D.
And for the record, there is no “O” before or “damn” afterwards. Just God. I also go by the names - Creator, Yahweh, Awesome Lord, and the Boss.
But enough about me, let’s talk about you.
You are here today to interview for a job, a great job, one of the best jobs in the family business. It is a demanding job with long hours and grueling labor, but it has great benefits, including the opportunity to work closely with me and a pretty good after-death policy. In short, with this position, your name will be revered, and your work will be celebrated by generations of people to come. It’s that good.
Shall we take a look at your resume?
Oh, I’m sorry. I notice your confusion. Being a Jew living sometime around 620 BC, you probably have no idea what a resume is. Or a job interview for that matter. Never mind all that - let’s just move along.
It says here that your name is Jeremiah. That’s a good name. In Hebrew, you know of course that it means “Yahweh has uplifted”. Much better than Scott. (No offense to any Scotts in the house today.)
Your father is Hilkiah, a good priest. I know him well, though he does get a little long-winded with the prayers sometime. Uh, don’t tell him I said that.
Ahh, you grew up in Anathoth, a little village, just about 4 km north of Jerusalem, right? To city folk, you were probably seen as a country kid, but you and your family were close enough to Jerusalem to get word of all the juicy gossip and events unfolding among the kings and priests of your people. Must have been exciting. Kind of like living along the beltway of the Jerusalem world.
Oh, I’m sorry again. I realize you already know this stuff. So, how about some things you don’t know?