Thoughts on Our City This Week

We are taught young to stand up for what we believe in. To defend our positions in a respectful manner. Debates and the interactions between various ideas are vital to a democratic society. But, I admit, I am floundering in a land of facts, experts, and Facebook posts. You will not get any strong opinions here -certainly I’m no legal expert or social commentator. I doubt I’ll say anything new. Just another voice in the crowd. But if you are compelled to hear my voice…know it is a lament.

My heart breaks.

It breaks for the Brown and Wilson families.

It breaks for the black families of Ferguson -and white families.

It breaks for the white policemen of St. Louis -and black policemen.

It breaks for all those who will sit around a table tomorrow, pressured by tradition to give thanks but filled with anger, pain or grief.

It breaks for a system that is obviously flawed, and those content with its brokenness.

It breaks for a society which gorges itself on sensational reporting in 150 characters or less.

It breaks because I want to spend this time ranting -calling out all those mean and insensitive things I’ve read the last few days.

My heart breaks for Tamir Rice.

I have no profound teaching or words of wisdom to share. I will not give the impression I live in an ivory tower because I live in West County. It has been a struggle to find a Christ-like response to those who have been violent or apathetic. I am confused as our city weeps.

So, together, my city and I express our brokenness. We see the storm, but our eyes are watching God.

And this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is His faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion;’ therefore I will wait for him. (Lam 3:21-24)

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Lament for Life Lost Too Young

I am not good with death. I have often blamed my inexperience. Death avoided my circle in the formative years, and I am blessed to be in my 30’s and still celebrate my grandparents’ birthdays. I remember one of my best friends telling me on the way to school his dad had died the night before, but after elementary condolences we talked about cartoons or sports. In college a friend lost a younger sister in a car accident, and the condolences were more sincere this time but still elementary.

My adult years have brought Death and I closer. That’s one of the stinky parts of growing up they don’t tell you about in Home Ec. And my job has brought me into homes where Death lurks in the corner of the room waiting to introduce himself to someone. And if you’re not aware, the collateral damage of Death is more than the loss of a loved one. Death also takes relationships. Because of the inexperience of my youth, when Death strikes I want to shut the world off and grieve all alone. I didn’t grow up grieving communally.

I never knew Oscar Taveras as anything more than the young guy tearing up the minor leagues and a future All-Star for the Cardinals. I have no idea his background except he was from the Dominican Republic. But the accident this week that took two lives is tragic. It is much worse than wondering what the Cardinals will do in right field. It is wondering how a team is grieving the loss of their co-worker, how a city can move forward after losing one of their own, how a family can breathe when they bury their son. The night is darker because the world has lost a star.

But in the darkness, as a nation and city mourn, I see rays of light shining in the photos of the funeral. I don’t see individuals mourning on their own, but a community acknowledging brokenness and dependence on one another for strength. Death has taken someone too soon, but the love shared in that community is to strong for Death to claim any more relationships this time. Over time their love will help them see the light.

We all grieve in different ways over various amounts of time, but may we see those around us as beacons of hope and love, and together, may we find the strength to rise.

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An Update From Our Family

Three weeks ago my mom was in a serious car accident that landed her sixteen days in the ICU as her body dealt with several traumas. With the help of our local church bodies, our family circled the wagons and shut down “normal” during that time. We wondered if mom would walk again, how well she would be able to communicate and a million other concerns. Since then we have seen a number of miracles -including hearing my mom’s voice and watching her take a few steps! She already had the award, but now I truly believe mom is the strongest person I know! We are so thankful for the care she has received in the hospital and the care we have received from family and friends. My mom has 5 sisters spread around the country, and each has been here to spend multiple nights with her. Even my grandmother made it to St. Louis in the middle of the night to see her little girl. God’s people have surrounded us all with love, along with the angels, and my mom’s improvement is for His glory. Yesterday she was transferred out of the hospital and into a rehabilitation facility to help regain her strength. If I began to make a list of thanks for all the people who have helped on this journey, I would run out of room. So I praise God for you all.

Intersecting with this journey was the path my family has been on as we listen to God’s voice for direction. No point in telling you all the twists and turns in the road, but after 13+ years in professional ministry I will be stepping down as the preaching minister of the Maryland Heights Church of Christ at the end of November. We will be staying in St. Louis and I will spend my days caring for my mom while we listen for the gentle whisper nudging us down another path. We are thankful beyond words for the love we have shared at Maryland Heights over the last four and a half years, and if any of my preaching buddies are looking to relocate to a town nicknamed Baseball Heaven, give me a call.

The fact you have read this means you care about our family, and I am thankful you are in our lives. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we go through this season of our lives.

In Christ alone, together,

The Teigens


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Two Vikings, a Bear, and How We Read the Bible

If you’ve got a few minutes I’d like you to watch this video and then let’s have a conversation about how we read the Bible.

*This is not a commentary on Adrian Peterson, spanking, or the NFL. My intent here is to stand at the crossroads of culture, faith and scripture and point out something I find interesting*

When I talk to people about how we read the Bible, I have a tendency to challenge traditional methods. I think Bible reading should be an ever-evolving process, not a “we figured it out” method to be passed on through the centuries. There are emphases and teachings generations unearth that all of Christianity can benefit from. How thankful are we all for the reformation? The social upheaval of the 20th century brought about liberation and feminist theologies. I’m excited about how the church will continue to respond to post-modernism and the new readings that will reveal even more of God’s truth. The evolution of hermeneutics, like most other fields, is a blessing to creation.

However, not everyone feels this way. There are some who believe previous generations nailed down the proper method and function of scripture. If it was a code, they had solved it. If it was a door, they had unlocked it. All humanity’s problems could be run through their rubric and finalized. The evolution of hermeneutics had reached her apex.

This brings me to Mike Ditka. His thought on spanking was that it was justified because it made him a better person. (I have no idea the severity of Mr. Ditka’s discipline) If it made him a better person, then it obviously will make Adrian Peterson’s son a better person. (We do have an idea the severity of Mr. Peterson’s discipline) There is a rigidity and stonewalling that occurs. He agrees with everything already said, but his response could not be more opposite. Mike Ditka is saying, “My dad did it, so it is ok to do now.”

Apply this to Bible reading. There are some who can be shown a million pieces of evidence or hear from a world renowned scholar, and rather than changing their view they will dig in their heels. “Are you saying my grandpa was wrong?” 

Contrast that to Cris Carter’s impassioned plea, “My mom loves me, she did the best she could, but she was wrong about this one!” Cris is willing to concede error without throwing out love and honor. It is possible to honor those before us without deifying them. This is not an easy step, but it is the antidote to the toxin of blind religion.

We, the Church, must look back in thankfulness for all history has provided us. Traditions and teachings that ground our faith in Christ are signposts we are obligated to carry into the future. Let them be banners of hope, not weights of burden.

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09-07 Sermon: The Kiddie Table

(Due to circumstances, I decided not to share my opening sermon to the series, The Hunger Games. For those interested in reading it, here you go)

You’ve been a Christian most of your life. Showed up on time. Signed up on the bulletin boards to bring food, maybe taught a class or two along the way. Faithful in your tithing. Spent time at Church Camp, doing your best to raise your kids right and be a good person. But, sometimes, as you worship on Sunday mornings there is this nagging hunger inside -“Why don’t I feel closer to God yet?” 

You were converted as an adult following a series of Bible studies a friend led you through. It all made sense at the kitchen table. Your friend had such a confidence, a skill as they flipped through the Bible and connected the dots. You were drawn to their boldness as much as you were drawn to the cross. You wanted to feel that way about anything, and maybe baptism was the answer. But now, months later your soul is hungry. You don’t feel any closer to God than when you began that study. Where is God’s peace and presence?

Maybe you’re a seeker, curious about this Gospel and Church. You’ve been burned by communities in the past -opening up yourself to them only to be disappointed by the cold shoulder. Maybe you carry baggage you’re not ready to share with anyone. If Jesus followers ignore you -Jesus probably doesn’t care either. But your soul is hungry for something bigger than your present reality. There’s got to be a greater plan than the rat race you’re in every week. The people all around you seem to think they’ve found it. What does Jesus have to say to me today?

Do any of these descriptions fit you? I’d like to spend some time this month talking about those hunger pains we all get from time to time. We long for something grander -an intimacy like David talks about in. (READPsalm 63:1-8) For many of us, the meal we’re consuming doesn’t look or taste like the Feast in Scripture. When we look at followers of Jesus in the Bible, we hear words like abundance, eternal, banquet. (examples are Jesus in John 6:51, Matt 7:9-12, and Luke 6:23A) When John the Baptist needs a report, Jesus comes back with Matt 11:4-6. (To fit my metaphor, I wish he would’ve said, ‘the hungry are stuffed!’)

How many would use this overflowing imagery to describe our relationship with God today? How many would describe the American Church’s relationship with God in these terms? Most of us struggle with this disconnect -to have the faith of Paul, the perseverance of John, persistence of Lydia. We see this abundant Feast of faith in the Bible while we’d describe our faith as a fast-food meal. And rather than working on our side of things, we come up with ways to justify the disconnect.

Remember the 6 blind men who describe the elephant? Each one touches a part of the elephant and thinks they understand what an elephant is, and Godfrey Saxe’s poem ends with all of them being in the wrong. Sometimes we take a segment, one understanding, of the Great Feast from Scripture and think we understand Christian living.

We say, “The Feast is Only Eschatological.” (Don’t fear this word. All it means is ‘end times’) We’re saying all that abundant goodness Jesus talked about wasn’t talking about the here and now but the sweet by and by. We take verses like John 14:1-4 and 1 Peter 4:13 and think the good life isn’t supposed to be now. Have you met someone who thinks like this? We’re to be suffering servants. Christianity should be one struggle after the next, one fight after another, and then, when we meet Jesus in the oasis he’ll quench our thirst and satisfy our hunger. It is a martyr’s feast, actually looking for fights to prove just how faithful we can be.

To justify the disconnect between the abundant feasting of Christ life in Scripture and our faith walks today, some turn those Biblical feasts Spiritual with no Connection to the Physical World. We take verses like the fruits of the spirit (in Galatians) and ignore verses like Luke 6:21. The abundant life is all on the inside. The Feast is a contentedness we develop regardless of our surroundings. We have such a fear of being labeled “Prosperity Gospel,” or “the Health and Wealth Gospel” we swing the pendulum as far as possible and become the “Only on the Inside Gospel,” as if Jesus didn’t care at all about the physical. Some think our souls are all that matter to Jesus. Wasn’t he the Rabbi who fed the thousands? Who healed the physically disabled? Who raised the dead body? Wasn’t he present at creation and said it was good?

To justify the disconnect between abundant life in the Bible and what we’ve got now, some say,Maybe all that Feasting in the Bible was just Historical Jesus Events.” When Jesus fed the 5,000 in Mark 6, what Tim read earlier, certainly we are to study that in context, and view it as an historical event. To recognize Jesus as the focal point in redemption history and the wellspring of life. But if we leave these words in the past, surrounding them with security glass and hoisting them on a pedestal in the museum, we are not honoring their purpose. These words are meant to be feasted on in the present to impact the future. We place ourselves in the 5,000 -trying to get a glimpse of the Rabbi, to hear his teaching. We sit with the disciples and are cut to the core when Jesus challenges them (or is he challenging me?) “You give them something to eat.” It was John 20:30-31that summed up his Gospel, but so eloquently gets to the heart of the matter for all 4 Gospels, if not all 66 books of Scripture.

And lastly, to justify the difference we see in the Christian life of the first century and the Christian walk we’re on, We take these Feasts, these Abundant Life teachings of Jesus, and turn them into Morality Snacks. We take the Sermon on the Mount, the greatest feast of language since a voice called from the heavens, “Let there be light.” We take those 3 chapters in Matthew and boil them down to morality lessons -reasons to behave and act properly in a broken world, and we miss they are so much more. They are Jesus turning the world upside down, and announcing new creation breaking through the old! Jesus cares more about us than just our morality -he cares about our bodies and souls! He wants us to join in the mission!

All this said, what ends up happening is we argue back and forth about whether the Feast of Christianity is all about being in another world, internal, in the past, or only concerned with our morality. We feel the elephant once and our minds think we’ve got it. There is no room for humility. And what we’re left with is a malnourished Church and a starving World. I don’t know how to say it more bluntly:  Christianity has become a system of beliefs instead of a way of life. We want to argue with one another instead of recognizing they touched a different part of the elephant, and let’s get on with the mission of Christ!

We’d rather talk about preparing the meal and all the necessary components that go into hosting a meal, instead of giving up all that pretense and just sitting at the Lord’s Table as a sinner sitting next to other sinners saved by the power of the One at the head of the table. We’ll argue whether the meal was sprinkled or fully marinated, when we’re invited to dig in now! and enjoy the feast everyday. And if the Church is reluctant to dig in at the table, what chance do we have, what motivation do we possess to share our food with the world? To give them even a cup of cold water in Christ’s name?

Are we missing the Feast of Life because our appetites are hungry for the Meal of Religion? When I first thought of this series, I thought I would spend most of my time contrasting the Feast of Christ and the Meal the world offers. But I don’t think that’s where we struggle. Maybe it’s not the meal of the world that is causing problems, as much as it is the meal in front of us. The meal of religion -going through the motions without our hearts -without passion.

Brothers and sisters, this month let’s step away from the Kiddie Table, no longer content with the insufficient meal religion offers and let us feast on Jesus! Let’s look to be satisfied (as John Mark Hicks says) with a loving God who created and nurtured the world for the sake of loving fellowship, who chose Israel as a light among the nations, who became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth to redeem the sin, pain, and hurt of this world, and who poured out the Holy Spirit to sanctify and empower a community that they might be dedicated to good works. It begins when we repent of our way and make a change -confessing our sins and then having them washed away in the waters of baptism.

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A Night I Don’t Want to Bring Up…but i can’t stop thinking about.

I’m sitting in the back of the car, wearing my letter jacket to keep warm in the Minnesota winter and my hands won’t stop fidgeting. The red and blue lights just kicked on behind us, and it was me who ran back into the car with the empty beer bottle. We were hoping they’d drive on by, but it’s after midnight and we are 3 teenage boys. Why didn’t I throw the bottle into the snow? Why did I get back in the car? I’m on the cross country team -even in the snow they can’t keep up with me. Billy’s riding shotgun and not saying much. Andy is behind the wheel of our parked car. And my hands won’t stop fidgeting. The policeman’s flashlight scans my lap from the outside, and his hand opening the door seals my fate. 

Even now, twenty years later, I can hear the bottle bouncing on the crystallized pavement and the other policeman’s mocking voice as I step out of the car and he sees my jacket. We’ve got an athlete! That evening cost me a season of basketball and my reputation as a goody-two shoes. In true adolescent form I was only disappointed to lose one of those. It was the first (and only) time since that tour you get in kindergarten I’d been in the back of a squad car. I heard my name over the radio. My parents woke up to a cop on their doorstep. I’d like a redo for that night.

That evening has run marathons in my memory over the years. Seeing it with adult eyes, it makes sense. I messed up. I was punished. I learned my lesson. Only one scene from that one night play has escaped my understanding over the years. Until now. 

When the lights clicked on behind us, my immediate response in the backseat was panic. Look forward, don’t move, don’t blink. Shove the bottle between my leg and the door. Maybe they’ll go away. Billy acted the same. But as soon as Andy saw the lights, he opened his door and walked towards the policemen with his arms up like he had robbed a bank. I mean, it was rapid response. Like he had been coached. All I could think was, What are you thinking Andy? Now they know we’re up to no good! 

Now I know Andy had the talk before that night. Andy is black. To me he was the starting quarterback and the best power forward in school, but he had been told by someone to never assume people will see his letter jacket without first noticing the skin underneath it. I never had a conversation like that. I’ve never had to think like that. Of the three people in that car, Andy was by far the most innocent, yet there he was in the freezing cold with his arms up in the spotlight.

I don’t know what to make of this scene anymore. I realize now it has a depth I couldn’t comprehend in the back of that car. Perhaps this is me being able to see a little more clearly a difference in the world I grew up in and the world Andy did. We may have graduated together. Played ball together. Gotten in trouble together. But it is a different world.

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St. Louis, Adrian Cronauer, and an Ancient Prophet: A Lament

Last night I read through the Facebook updates as the news blared in the background. Once again parts of our city were emblazoned with red and blue lights and the sound of bullets. A cocktail of frustration and anger bubbling into the streets. Only hours earlier I drove down that road, and I could hear the eggshells crackling underneath my tires. The summer heat has been mild in the shadow of the arch, but this is a hot week dripping with possibilities.

I pray justice for Michael Brown.

I pray justice for the officer.

I pray justice for the business owners who must rebuild.

I pray justice for our city.

Dead Poets Society reshaped my life. It led me to Thoreau, Uncle Walt -the classroom. John Keating is the nail my framed English degree crookedly hangs on in my office. The fictional story that hinges on the tragedy of a man taking his life because he feels trapped has echoed through our country as the nation mourns Our Captain. He was Mork, Patch, Dr. Maguire, Genie, Adrian Cronauer, Mrs. Doubtfire. Four generations claim him as their own.

I pray mercy for his family.

I pray mercy for our nation.

I pray peace for Dr. Keating.

An ancient prophet called upon his people for justice to roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream. The river appears dammed at this moment -held back by the insurmountable boulders of violence and despair in her path. A city, a nation holds their breath like a fish flopping on the sun-scorched earth, praying for the current to overwhelm her obstacles and break forth like the dawn.

The brokenness of the world glares back at us through the mirror.

Have mercy on us, O God, according to your unfailing love.

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