Manute Bol: A Fool for Christ

Manute Bol’s Radical Christianity
Jon A. Shields

Bol reportedly gave most of his fortune, estimated at $6 million, to aid Sudanese refugees. As one twitter feed aptly put it: “Most NBA cats go broke on cars, jewelry & groupies. Manute Bol went broke building hospitals.”

When his fortune dried up, Bol raised more money for charity by doing what most athletes would find humiliating: He turned himself into a humorous spectacle. Bol was hired, for example, as a horse jockey, hockey player and celebrity boxer. Some Americans simply found amusement in the absurdity of him on a horse or skates. And who could deny the comic potential of Bol boxing William “the Refrigerator” Perry, the 335-pound former defensive linemen of the Chicago Bears?

Bol agreed to be a clown. But he was not willing to be mocked for his own personal gain as so many reality-television stars are. Bol let himself be ridiculed on behalf of suffering strangers in the Sudan; he was a fool for Christ.

During his final years, Bol suffered more than mere mockery in the service of others. While he was doing relief work in the Sudan, he contracted a painful skin disease that ultimately contributed to his death.

Bol’s life and death throws into sharp relief the trivialized manner in which sports journalists employ the concept of redemption. In the world of sports media players are redeemed when they overcome some prior “humiliation” by playing well. Redemption then is deeply connected to personal gain and celebrity. It leads to fatter contracts, shoe endorsements, and adoring women.

Yet as Bol reminds us, the Christian understanding of redemption has always involved lowering and humbling oneself. It leads to suffering and even death.

Link: Complete Article

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A Ragamuffin Prayer

The Ragamuffin Gospel
Brennan Manning

Lord Jesus, we are silly sheep who have dared to stand before You and try to bribe You with our preposterous portfolios.  Suddenly we have come to our senses.  We are sorry and ask You to forgive us.  Give us the grace to admit we are ragamuffins, to embrace our brokenness, to celebrate Your mercy when we are at our weakest, to rely on Your mercy no matter what we may do.  Dear Jesus, gift us to stop grandstanding and trying to get attention, to do the truth quietly without display, to let the dishonesties in our lives fade away, to accept our limitations, to cling to the gospel of grace, and to delight in Your love.  Amen.

Are We Still Listening?

[1] At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. [2] But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” [3] He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: [4] how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? [5] Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?

– Matthew 12:1-5

As Jesus walks with His disciples, the Pharisees are suddenly and deeply offended.  Jesus’s disciples are breaking the Sabbath.  Sabbath-keeping is the fourth commandment.  Exodus 20 is clear.

[8] “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. [9] Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, [10] but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work…

In the Old Testament, breaking Sabbath was punishable by death.  So to avoid breaking Sabbath, the Pharisees had many rules.  There were rules about how far you could walk, how many letters you could write, and so on and so forth.  Eventually, they began to think that they had a complete set of rules regarding the Sabbath.  They had figured out Sabbath-keeping.

But then in v. 3-5, Jesus bursts their bubble.  Jesus is speaking to Bible scholars who had most of the Old Testament memorized, and He is playing them when He asks, “Have you not read?”

See, the Pharisees felt that they had figured out faith, that they had even figured out God.  They were arrogant and so they stopped listening.  We too can imagine that we have many things figured out.

We have relationships figured out.  We have parenting figured out.  We have finances figured out.  We have our list of needs figured out.   We have the future figured out.  And when we believe this, not even God can tell us we are wrong.

When was the last time God told us that we are wrong about something very important?  Are we still listening?

The Snozzcumber

The BFG
Roald Dahl

‘The snozzcumber!’ cried Sophie.  ‘There’s no such thing.’

The BFG looked at Sophie and smiled, showing about twenty of his square white teeth.  ‘Yesterday,’ he said, ‘we was not believing in giants, was we?  Today we is not believing in snozzcumbers.  Just because we happen not to have actually seen something with our own two little winkles, we think it is not existing.  What about for instance the great squizzly scotch-hopper?’

‘I beg your pardon?’ Sophie said.

‘And the humplecrimp?’

‘What’s that?’ Sophie said.

‘And the wraprascal?’

‘The what?’ Sophie said.

‘And the crumpscoddle?’

‘Are they animals?’ Sophie asked.

‘They is common animals,’ said the BFG contemptuously.  ‘I is not a very know-all giant myself, but it seems to me that you is an absolutely know-nothing human bean.  Your brain is full of rotten-wool.’

‘You mean cotton-wool,’ Sophie said.

‘What I mean and what I say is two different things,’ the BFG announced rather grandly.  ‘I will now show you a snozzcumber.’

Vanity

In the book of Ecclesiastes, the concept of “vanity” is central. The word translated “vanity” is the Hebrew word, “hevel.”  Hevel is most directly translated as “absurd.”  The connotation is not meaningless or ludicrous, but absurd in the sense of extremely perplexing.

In Romans 8:18-22, Paul speaks of the creation as being subject to “futility.”  The Greek word used here is the same word the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, uses for “hevel.” While Ecclesiastes does not deny the validity of the truth found in the other Wisdom Books, Qohelet is very aware that the world in which we live is extremely complex and sometimes confusing.

To know wisdom is striving after the wind (1:17), pleasure is vanity (2:1), making great works is vanity (2:4), and having great possessions is vanity (2:7).  Pursuing a legacy is vanity as a fool can squander what you build (2:20).  Toiling for oneself is vanity (4:7).  The increase of dreams and words is vanity (5:7).  The accumulation of wealth is vanity (5:10).

Why are all these things vanity?  Because death comes to all and renders the greatest achievements in this life vanity (9:2).

The contradictions of life are also vanity.  That the appetite is never satisfied is vanity (6:7-9).  Committing evil since there is no immediate consequence is vanity (8:11).  That the punishment of the wicked falls on the righteous and the reward of the righteous comes to the wicked is vanity (8:14).  Much wisdom and study is weariness as well (12:12).

Qohelet is weight down by the apparent lack of meaning in what can be attained in a life with so many contradictions.  Vanity is the fact that things are not the way they are meant to be.  Time and death render most everything done in this life as vanity.

So how does Qohelet invite us to respond?

First, we must acknowledge that we are not God. Man “does not know what is to be” (8:7).  “However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find out.  Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out” (8:17).  “Man does not know his time” (9:12).

Ecclesiastes 11:5-6

5 As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.  6 In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

Since we are not God, we ought to fear Him.

Ecclesiastes 5:7b

God is the one you must fear.

Ecclesiastes 8:12

Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him.

Ecclesiastes 12:13

The end of the matter; all has been heard.  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

Finally, because God is good, we are not only to fear Him but to trust Him in the midst of the seeming vanity of all things.

Ecclesiastes 3:11a

He has made everything beautiful in its time.

Ecclesiastes 3:14

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it.  God has done it, so that people fear before him.

Ecclesiastes 9:1b

The righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God.

Like a Child

The Ragamuffin Gospel
Brennan Manning

[1] At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” [2] And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them [3] and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [4] Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

– Matthew 18:1-4

The child is unself-conscious, incapable of pretense.  I am reminded of the night little John Dyer, three years old, knocked on our door flanked by his parents.  I looked down and said, “Hi, John.  I am delighted to see you.”  He looked neither to the right nor left.  His face was set like flint.  He narrowed his eyes with the apocalyptic glint of an aimed gun.  “Where’s the cookies?” he demanded.

chf-cartoon-kidsThe Kingdom belongs to people who aren’t trying to look good or impress anybody, even themselves.  They are not plotting how they can call attention to themselves, worrying about how their actions will be interpreted or wondering if they will get gold stars for their behavior.

Children are our model because they have no claim on heaven.  If they are close to God, it is because they are incompetent, not because they are innocent.  If they receive anything, it can only be as a gift.

For the disciple of Jesus “becoming like a little child” means the willingness to accept oneself as being of little account and to be regarded as unimportant.