Step 1 - Get a good text editor for web development
There are two main things you're going to need to develop with Angular. One is a text editor, and the other is Node (NodeJS). For a text editor, I prefer Visual Studio Code. It's free and pretty straightforward to use. It has an integrated terminal, and extensions are readily available for you to customize it's functionality, look and feel. The built-in terminal (command line) will come in super handy when developing with Angular, Node, React, Vue, or any other JS framework. So, step number one is download and install VS Code. https://code.visualstudio.com/
Step 2 - Install NodeJS
Download and install Node if you don't already have it. The easy way would be to go to nodejs.org and download the appropriate installer for your platform (Windows/MacOS). However, if you have multiple projects that need to use different versions of Node, then using some sort of Node Version Manager would be helpful. This is easy on MacOS and Linux by using nvm, for which a Windows port also exists. However, in my experience, this creates an extra level of maintenance and awareness on your part. If you're completely new to this, I suggest just downloading the appropriate installer and install the current LTS (long term support) version of Node.
NPM stands for Node Package Manager. If you started out in development like I did, using .Net and C# you might recall NuGet Package Manager which is integrated into the Visual Studio IDE. NPM is a similar concept. It allows you to manage packages of code (made up of one or more node modules) for your project. By the way, I should quit capitalizing it because most of the time, you'll just see it as 'npm'. (I should point out that there are other package managers out there, but since we're using Node and going to be installing node modules, we'll just stick with npm for now.)
Step 3 - Create your project
Remember the built-in terminal that comes with VS Code? We're going to use it to create the basic pieces of our project. So go ahead and open VS Code, and click Terminal > New Terminal from the menu. Now that you have Node installed, you'll run commands in the terminal to use npm, Angular CLI (I'll tell you what that is soon), and work with the files/directories on your system. If you've never worked with the terminal/command line before, just jump in and pick it up as you go (remember, Google is your friend). Here's what you need to know about terminal: most of us are used to a GUI where we tell the computer to do things by point & click (or touch, tap, and swipe); well, in the command line your tell the computer to do things by typing (or copying and pasting in) a text command and pressing enter. So, here we go...
3a - Choose a place where you're going to store your project
(Note: You don't have to use the command line to do this, but why not? It's good practice.) The first thing you'll notice about the Terminal is that it will show you your current path where commands are being executed. Keep this in mind because any files/directories you create will be created here. When Terminal first launches, it usually starts in your Home folder, which is usually Users/<your username> (NOTE: Windows uses backslashes '\' in paths, but MacOS and Linux use '/'). You'll want to create a folder that you're going to work in. I created a folder in my Users/Ben/Documents folder called Development, but you can choose whatever you like. You don't have to have a name for your project/app yet. This is just a generic folder where you can save multiple projects. To do this in terminal, you'll have to navigate to that directory by executing the command 'cd Documents' and then the command 'mkdir Development'. Then navigate to the Development directory you just created by running 'cd Development'. (HINT: when using the 'cd' command, most terminals have tab-completion for existing directories so you can just type the first few letters and hit tab to autocomplete the rest of the directory/file name.)
Example Terminal Commands (on Windows)
3b - Install Angular CLI
You could do this step before choosing and creating your directory, but I wanted you to get some practice using terminal first. To develop with Angular, you'll want to use Angular CLI (Command Line Interface). To install it, run 'npm install -g @angular/cli'. When I first started with Angular, I went to Angular.io and clicked the "Get Started" button. It walks you through the setup, and then has a step-by-step tutorial to follow where you can learn the basics of building an Angular web app. (NOTE: The '-g' is important. It stands for 'global'. This means that the Angular CLI will be installed globally on your system so you can use it to create lots of apps.)
3c - Create your Angular app
Now that you're in your working directory and have installed Angular CLI, you're ready to generate the base files and file structure for your Angular app. Simply execute the command 'ng new my-app' in the terminal, where 'my-app' is any name of your choice. Using my previous post as an example, I chose 'sw-movie-checklist'. Once you hit enter, you'll see things start to happen. The Angular CLI will create a new folder and build out the files and folders it needs, which involves npm installing some packages. Once it's done running, inside the folder it just created you will see at least 3 folders and some files. One of these folders is named 'node_modules', that's where npm installed packages for the Angular app. You don't really need to do anything with that folder or those files, I'm just pointing out what the Angular CLI does when you execute 'ng new'.
3d - Open your working folder in VS Code
Now that you've created an app there's one more thing you need to do before you can view it and start working on it. In VS Code click File > Open Folder..., then select the 'my-app' folder that Angular CLI just created. In my case, I selected the folder named 'sw-movie-checklist'. Once VS Code opens that folder, you'll see the filesystem in the left hand sidebar File Explorer. Go ahead and now click in the VS Code menu Terminal > New Terminal. Now when you open terminal, the prompt shows your working folder as the one you just chose. This is where you'll want to run any npm and angular cli commands as you develop your project. For example, if you execute the command 'ng serve --open', you'll see your default web browser open up to your new app that you created. Make note of the address, http://localhost:4200, this is the default local address that node is serving your angular app to. The 4200 is a port number, which can be changed by adding the '--port ####' flag to the 'ng serve' command (so our whole command could look like 'ng serve --port 4201 --open' and the webbrowser would open to the specified location). (Note: While an Angular app is being served, you won't be able to execute any commands in that terminal; however, Visual Studio Code allows you to open multiple terminals by either selecting the 'New Terminal' option from the menu again, or by clicking the plus sign ('+') next to the dropdown in the upper right corner of the terminal pane. You can use that drop down to switch between terminals, and you can split terminals into an additional pane. Most of the time, I use one terminal at a time, so I stop serving by pressing CTRL+C and hitting 'Y' and then Enter for yes. I do that for safety in case some commands mess with the webserver; I'm probably being overly cautious.)
Step 4 - Using Source Control
If you watched closely when the 'ng new' command was running, you may have noticed that Git was set up for the project. If it was set up successfully, you'll notice the lower left-hand corner of VS Code, in the status bar, there's a git symbol and the word master, and a couple other symbols and numbers. Yes, source control is integrated into VS Code, and Angular CLI helped set it up for you. That status bar is telling you that you're in the master branch of your code and if there's all zeroes, then there's no errors or warnings about Git/source control. You'll also notice in the toolbar on the left-hand side of VS Code there's a Git icon. Click it and you'll see the Git controls in the sidebar. If you want to share your code on GitHub, like I did with the Star Wars challenge, then there's a couple of easy steps to take.
4a - Create a GitHub repository
Go to the GitHub website and login to your account (create one if you haven't already). Next, click the green button that says 'New' and has a book icon on it. Type in a name for the repo and click the green "Create repository" button at the bottom. (Note: You can type in a description and select Private if you like, but DO NOT check the box that says "Initialize this repository with a README" because we will be importing an existing repository in the next step.)
4b - Import your code to GitHub
On the next page, look at the section titled "...or push an existing repository from the command line". There, you'll see two commands to run in terminal. Copy and run each one in the order they appear on the page (top one first, then the second one). If the first one fails, it may be that Git isn't setup or isn't set up correctly on your system. The terminal should display an error. Google the error (include your system Windows/Mac in the search) and find a way to fix it. Hopefully, both commands run without any problems. Once that's done, your code is synced to GitHub. Now, as you work on it, you use the Git tools in the sidebar to commit changes, and push/pull/sync/etc.
Step 5 - Build your app
Ok, now the fun begins. You can edit the files and see your app take shape. I recommend following a tutorial for your first try. The Tour of Heroes tutorial at angular.io is a good place to start. In my next post, I'll share the steps I took to complete the Star Wars challenge (from my previous post). To get started click the files icon in the left-hand toolbar of VS Code so you can see the filesystem. The files you'll be interested in are located in src/app. Look at the file src/app/app.component.html and you'll see the code that Angular CLI generated as the example boilerplate app that you saw in the browser when you ran the 'ng serve' command.
Step 6 - Deployment
Once you get your app to a place that you’re ready to publish it, there’s one more Angular CLI command you can use. From the working folder of the project run ‘ng build --prod’. This will create a new folder called ‘dist’. Inside that folder is another folder with the same name as your project folder, and inside that are the files you’ll need to put on a web server for others to view. For my Star Wars challenge project, I followed the instructions at https://angular.io/guide/deployment to ‘Deploy to GitHub Pages’. There you’ll also see instructions for “Simplest Deployment Possible” and guidance on web server setup/configuration. Since I didn’t want to get my little project out to others quickly and cheaply GitHub pages was the way to go. If you’re going to put something into production for others to use, you’ll want to set up a web server through a web host or some other cloud hosting service.
There’s a lot more to Angular, but this should at least get you to the point that you can start playing around, creating basic things, and complete tutorials. Now that your computer is all set up, creating another Angular app is as simple as running ‘ng new my-app’. There are more Angular CLI commands to learn, and plenty of tutorials out there to help you learn them. Be curious, and see what you learn!
I chose to use Angular partly because that's what I know right now, and I didn't want to take a lot of time learning the basics of something else. I also wanted more practice with Angular and learn some more of it's features/capabilities and things that I usually don't mess with, one being Angular Material. For work, I build components in Angular, but we have our own custom theme, so I'd never played around with Angular Material much. This seemed like the perfect opportunity.
What I Learned
Here's some thoughts about my experience of this exercise:
Happy coding and stay curious!
As a follow-up to my year-in-review post, I thought I'd summarize some of the things I'm proud of accomplishing in 2018. I'll try to put these in chronological order:
Overall, I'm mainly proud of myself for believing in myself enough to accomplish something I didn't know if I could do when I started, and I didn't give up when it got difficult. What are you proud of accomplishing?
2018 was a big year for me and my family. By that I mean, I made a lot of major decisions and lots of things happened--a lot changed. Really, it boiled down to one major decision: Take a break from pastoral (vocational) ministry. This involved tackling probably the hardest thing I’ve done in quite a while. Let me give you a quick timeline of events:
I still worry that I left a lot of people wondering about my decision. Life was really pretty good and comfortable for my family and I. As a UMC pastor, the system took care of us fairly well by providing housing and other benefits. I just had to agree to move to any location in Missouri. I could go into a lot of reasons that all played a part in my decision, but I’ll boil it down to one. Leadership takes a toll on you. I know this. I signed up for it. I embrace it. I had a pretty good habit of taking care of myself. I didn’t have a good habit of taking care of my family, and more specifically, my spouse. Realizing this, I prayerfully considered my options and decided the best one was to take a leave of absence
The Most Difficult Task
Once I made that decision, I launched myself into “the most difficult task”: finding a new source of income. At first, I looked for ministry opportunities: chaplaincy and church staff positions. I wasn't satisfied with those options. It would have simply been a continuation of the status quo, which I had decided was not a good option...besides I was pretty well convinced that after 15 years of vocational ministry, on the whole, I wasn't very good at it. Being a geek and having talent with computers and technology, I looked into IT possibilities. While I had quite a bit of experience in IT through the church and hobbies, I didn’t have anything substantial on paper or any job titles to prove it. So I enrolled at Centriq Training in their Full Stack Web Developer program. That was the easy part.
I enjoy learning new things. I enjoy creating things. I love to let my curiosity run wild and discover things. School was easy for me (always has been). The hard part, “the most difficult task”, was finding a job. The last month of school, while I was in the midst of wrapping up my pastoral ministry and moving my family, I was also applying for 10-15 jobs per week. That was over 50 applications (mostly submitted online). Out of that I got 3 legit interviews. That’s a lot of rejection. The anxiousness and stress was overwhelming as time wore on without any luck. But I was in a no-fail situation, so rejection didn’t matter. I just kept moving on to the next possibility, making resume tweaks and evaluating myself all along the way.
Somehow, It All Worked Out
My official last day as a full-time pastor was June 30th, I was on “vacation”, so that wasn’t a big deal. However, I will say that leaving behind people and places for new things is always bittersweet. On July 2nd, I started my first day as a software developer at KSB Dental, Inc. It all worked out. AMAZING. Looking back, it really is a lot to comprehend. A lot of people, more than I realize, were praying and pulling for me and my family. I am thankful. In fact, that’s how I’m ending 2018 and saying hello to 2019: THANKFUL.
Glory to God.
P.S. There’s a lot I left out of the story, so I’ll keep sharing as time goes. Check back for more.
Setting boundaries is a good practice for life. In sports, there are rules. There's an "out of bounds", and play doesn't happen "out of bounds." Boundaries for life allows you to limit yourself in a healthy way so you're not taking over responsibility for things you're not and don't need to be responsible for. It gives you a system for saying no to things so you're not overwhelmed and able to operate at your peak performance. The best book about this stuff is by Cloud & Townsend and it's simply titled: Boundaries.
It got me thinking about the character of God. There's lots of verses in the Bible about God having no limits:
"all things are possible with God",
"nothing can separate us from the love of God".
And I'm sure many others that talk of God's sovereignty. But, in practice, it seems like there are things that happen that God would rather not see happen. We call these evil and injustice and suffering and oppression...you get the idea. The word to sum all this up is Sin. Sin is stuff that goes against what God wants. But if God is sovereign, how is that possible???? Some try to explain this by saying God designs stuff to work that way for a reason. I think, a better way is to realize that God is self-limiting God's sovereignty.
What is that limit?
Your free will.
God's love is not dependent upon your free will. However our experience of God's love is limited by our participation with it. The nature of love is that we consent and desire to love. If we don't want to love, or we don't consent to love, then it ceases to be love. God's greatest commandment, the commandment that Jesus gives his disciples, is LOVE ONE ANOTHER. You don't have to. But it is what God wants. And God desires to bring each of us to a place where we want that too.
In fact, that's why he sent Jesus Christ, not to condemn the world, but so that we'd know and become Love like Jesus Christ. Life becomes a journey of refinement in Love, where you are shaped to freely choose Love first and foremost.
As I go through this time of transition, a lot of people have asked me: "Are you okay?" Concern is expressed about me or my family. The assumption is that Personal Leave of Absence means something is wrong. Which is totally justifiable. I'm glad people are asking because it means they care.
From my perspective, nothing is any more wrong than any other time. There's not really a "fix" that I'm looking for. Sure, there's burnout lurking here and there as it always does for any church leader. But I'm not one to isolate from other Christians and church leaders who support me. For me, this is really a journey of connecting with God on a deeper level and following where that leads.
For me, that means stepping away from my comfort zone that is the church. My whole life has been in the United Methodist Church. It seems a little backwards on the surface. But so far, it's deepening my faith as I take these steps into an unknown future. I'm excited to see what's next and to share that when the time comes.
Looking back, I reflect on a lot of things. It's tempting to focus on regrets, the "if only" scenarios. Hindsight is 20/20, or so they say. If I had only known then what I know now, then I'd have done that differently. Those are important lessons for me to process, but I try not to dwell there.
More importantly, I want to celebrate the good instead of assuming the bad (wrong). I wouldn't be where or who I am today, if not for what I've come through to get there. The good that I'm celebrating is a growing faith. I remember the words of Jesus "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." (John 6:29)
So, to answer the question "Is something wrong?" The short answer is "No," and more correctly: "There's not anything any more wrong than any other time...In fact, things are better." Why? Because my faith continues to grow. I encourage you to take a similar outlook towards your life. Quit comparing yourself to others, what they think, the expectations they place on you, and their assumptions. Celebrate the good: The Faith that God is building within you.
Celebrate the good: your family.
Celebrate the good: your friends.
Celebrate the good: your faith, your life...gifts from The Giver.
That gratitude will spread into others' lives.
Lent is the season for giving up things, so here's a list of some that I've found in the most recent season of my life.
1. "Fix It" mindset
I love to solve problems. It's very satisfying to find and implement a solution that works and complete something. Unfortunately, it doesn't work for people and organizations like the church. Trust me. I tried. If there's one thing I wish I could go back and change is that I too often approached my church's decline as if I had the answer and if people would just do what I say, then we'd be good. It often to criticizing the church, when what I really wanted to do was build up the church. I also found that I criticized myself a lot, and was extra sensitive (paranoid) when others criticized me. The "Fix It" mindset created a whole big mess. There's no silver bullet fix to your church's problems. (And saying "we just need Jesus" is an over-spiritualized copout.)
1b. Your Agenda
When a Bishop ordains a person as clergy, the Bishop uses the phrase "Take thou authority." Some might see that as a license to do whatever you want. Most temper that, but we still bring our own agenda to the table. Surrendering that agenda is an important process to go through. Kind of like Abraham going up to sacrifice his son Isaac. It may turn out that you get to keep some of what you want to do, but surrendering to God's agenda for your church is more important. Do that soul work of surrender and let go. God has something amazing in mind...beyond your wildest dreams.
If I had it to do again, I'd use a "coach approach" to ministry. I'd help people and the church improve themselves. That's when change can really happen because people are motivated and inspired to do it themselves; they're learning and developing themselves. It's much more grace-filled and healthy.
Trying to keep up with the latest and greatest church and cultural trends will just run you ragged. I pretty much found this out the hard way. Mainly what I mean is that most of them are not suitable for my current context; we just weren't there yet. Many could be contextualized for my context, but see #1. Even if a trend matches the culture, the church may not be there yet. I remember from being a Youth Pastor that trying to be "cool" works for a while, but eventually people figure it out and move on if there's not something deep to engage in. A better goal would be to discover your strengths and major in those. Discover what's most important to you and your church that's worth it no matter who shows up, and do it the best you can.
Again, this is connected to #1, but let's get personal and real. Often times, we do things and decide things a certain way just to feel good about ourselves. And it gets addicting. I get it, I really do. Pleasing people feels good and its a boost when you're down. Chasing after your ambitions is fun. Ambition isn't all bad, but selfish ambition is. I'm beginning to think that I pursued a lot of ministry in order to store up treasures on earth, as in the get the credit. In fact, I think in a lot of ways the institutional system is set up to reward that sort of thing and make you more hungry for it. Some may think the ends justifies the means. Ok, maybe. But at what cost? What good is it for someone to gain the whole world and forfeit one's soul?
Instead, I've learned to care for my soul first. Then I'm more apt to not care about getting the credit and inflating my ego. I have all the affection I need from God. He can have all the credit. It's called glory.
What do You Think?
So there's my list of things to give up. I guess it's closer to 4 than 3. What do you think? Does this spark any ideas in your mind?
In my whole life, I don't think I ever received an 'F' in school. I've had a few 'D' grades. Most of my bad grades were because I didn't try. Now, I want to clarify something. Yesterday I mentioned that I failed. What I mean by that is, I moved to St. Joseph, MO, and said that my goal is that I would be a Missionary here. That I would approach ministry in a different way than I had before. I failed at that for a number of reasons, but here's the big three:
1. I Wasn't Intentional
I honestly had little clue to what it means to be a missionary. I didn't set a clear, specific goal of that that would mean. Which also means I didn't know what it took to get there. It was very haphazard. I sort of just approached it as "if I just think about ministry differently, and do some things I hadn't done before, then maybe it'll happen." I should have put myself on a learning track about doing missionary work in the U.S. and been more intentional about things to try. I should have put myself in a healthy-accountability system to help me grow and progress. By "healthy-accountability" I don't mean having someone on my case. I mean some way for me to keep myself on task, and coaching to help myself think strategically instead of getting bogged down in moment-by-moment situations/problems.
I recently purchased something to try to help myself with this, the Best Self journal from Best Self Co. Right now, it seems like a lot of work to start it, and I may fail at it at first, but knowing what I know now, in the long run, it will pay off. (Is that a run-on sentence? #grammarpolice) I've learned a lot about myself and where I can grow, so I'll use this to set some goals and be intentional about them.
2. I Tried Alone
I started this change in my thinking as a personal goal, "I'm going to be a missionary, not a typical Pastor." One great piece of advice that an experienced Pastor gave me when I asked about how to start something new in a church is "Do it as a herd." We are social beings, like herd animals. We gain momentum to accomplish things when we do it together. We truly are better together.
I was unable to (or incapable of) gathering a herd to work on having a Missionary/Missional mentality together. What I said above played a big role in that. I was only focused on changing me, and even then I wasn't as intentional about it as I could have been.
3. I Didn't Fail Enough
Failing means you tried. Not-trying is the even worse. I should have tried more things Honestly, if I would have failed more and failed faster, then I may have made more progress (see #1, I need to track and be intentional in order to try things, fail, and make progress). I know that "practice makes perfect" is a cliché, but in some ways it's true. Practice is really "fail a bunch of times and work to get better". Some say "practice makes habit" is a better way to put it, which is true, but improvement will happen when you learn and adapt as you practice. So, keep Failing, keep trying, and keep growing! Like my dad taught me, "Mistakes aren't bad if you learn from them." Another way to put it is "Fail Forward."
Stop the Blame Game
When failures happen, it's important to analyze and figure out "why". That's what I'm doing here. Sure, there's lots of other factors at play. Here I am simply taking responsibility for what I can, and provide a "why" without placing blame. Blaming isn't helpful, but self-reflection, taking responsibility, trying something new are all ways to grow and develop. So when I say that I failed, I'm saying it in a positive way. Yes there's grief, and I have all kinds of emotions, positive and negative, to process. This is part of the reason why I like the sport of baseball. They play so many games. They have thousands of at a bats. They throw thousands of pitches. There is so much data to analyze, and you see a lot of failure. You win some; you lose some. Sometimes you hit a home run; sometimes you strike out. Sometimes you can barely get the first out of the game and have to be replaced; other times you pitch a shutout. All of it is simply part of the game. It's mostly a lesson in dealing with failure. It's when you internalize the failures and make them your identity that you begin to quit trying and give up. This also means you quit learning and growing. If there's one thing that churches and church leaders need to do is to quit the blame game, keep learning & growing, and fail forward. 'F' can be for Future. What are you going to do with it?
No, not the end of the world, but the end of this blog. I announced to my churches that I'll be taking a leave of absence from being a pastor beginning the first of July. You can read my announcement here: http://www.clairchurch.com/news/important-announcement. I started this blog when I moved to St. Joseph, MO and I really haven't been very good at keeping up with it in my almost 6 years here. I am thankful for those who have taken the time to read.
The thinking was that I would approach this appointment as a missionary. That failed. I say that with some natural grief. But I say it honestly. Failure is an event not a person. So I wish it would have gone differently, but it didn't. I'm not going to go into a lot of details here, but I am writing in a journal and reflecting on as much as I can. Mainly, that's for my own mental and emotional health. Wow, so many feelings to process. My natural inclination is to stuff them down and trudge on, but that's not healthy. Fortunately, a good friend, Jim Voigt, has guided me some on that journey. You can find his latest thoughts on his podcast called Your Way Too Honest Pastor. The other resource that has helped me is the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. Stuffing your feelings never works out in the long run. In fact, some of that is probably why I'm taking a leave of absence.
So, I'm going to stop this blog, and probably start a new one where I'll just share me and my journey. I still have some more posts I want to share here, so until the end of June, I'll try to keep posting what I've worked on. I have quite a few drafts already started. I have 15 more sermons to preach before I'll be done. I'm taking vacation for June and officially no longer be pastor after June 30. Fortunately, the United Methodist Church has a process for these transitions, and the two churches I serve will not be left without a pastor. In fact, I'm guessing they already have someone in mind.
Thanks for reading. What ways do you process big life changes and the associated feelings? What resources have you found to be helpful?
When you drive, you know to watch your blindspots when you're changing lanes and making turns. If you don't, and you drive with tunnel vision, then you'll likely cause an accident. A similar idea is true for life. Get too focused on things a certain way, and you might miss something important. I think this has happened to for a lot of us in the USA in regards to the Gospel.
Gospel of Personal Salvation
Much of what we have grown to understand to be the Gospel is that through Faith in Christ, your sins are forgiven and you are saved. It is a very personal message. I don't think it's a wrong message or a false Gospel. I'm just not sure it's the WHOLE Gospel. I think it's great that you can personally know our Savior, the Living God, Jesus Christ. I think it's great that my sins, your sins, our past mistakes are each forgiven and washed clean. This frees us for new life in Christ. I'm just worried that we aren't getting the whole picture. We've developed tunnel vision.
For those who focus on Personal Salvation, the Gospel is summarized as "Jesus died for me." They see the beatings he took, the cross he bore, the mocking he withstood, the painful death he died, and see it as something God the Son does, or allows to happen to himself in order to take on my sins. The problem I have with that being the only way to see it is that it misses the power struggle the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) describe to us.
Yes, it is sin, evil, injustice and oppression that nails Jesus to the cross. Specifically, it is the Sin, Injustice, Evil, Greed, Oppression of the Roman Authority and Jewish Ruling Elites (Pharisees, Sadducees, Teachers of the Law, et al.). Jesus was a rebel. Leading a peaceful rebellion and uprising. He threatened those in Power and Influence, mainly the Jewish Ruling Elites. Jesus was like a prophet telling the Pharisees, "Hey, you can't practice your religion and think you're a good person while ignoring "the least of these," like blind beggars, prostitutes, etc. They were keeping the "least of these" away from God, and doing it in God's name. The Jewish Ruling Elites' blindspot was their collusion with the Roman Authority to keep systems of oppression in place so they could keep their power and influence. Overlooking "the least of these" in the name of their religion didn't seem like a problem to them. They were "good people" doing what they were supposed to do in order to "keep the peace." Jesus came proclaiming a Gospel of Peace saying, "The Kingdom of Heaven (not Rome) is at hand."
I'm Worried We Have The Same Blindspot
I'm worried we have the same blindspot. I think our USA, Western culture, has shaped us to be overly individualistic. We have been unknowingly formed to be concerned with our individual salvation and our personal sins (mistakes/failures) and how to fix them. We miss the greater power of God at work that God isn't just saving individuals, but he is also redeeming all of creation. When you see the terrible beating that Jesus takes in the movie "The Passion of the Christ," or when you read the narrative in Matthew 27, know that's what Corrupt Power does to peaceful people who stand against it. The tears you shed from seeing or reading about the suffering of our Savior shouldn't just be about "what he endured for me," but also about the pain and suffering the world afflicts on "the least of these" (reference Matthew 25). I weep when I read the passion narrative(s) because I see the world still doing the same things: Greed, Corruption, Abusive Power. They are all still at work, and I contribute to the mess.
Why Is This Important?
Examining this potential blindspot is important because you might be unknowingly be shouting along, "Crucify Him!" and encouraging the suffering. I'm not talking about the personal sins you've committed, the mistakes you've made that you feel guilty about. I'm talking about the systems that you participate in daily that you can't escape. Systems that oppress and cause suffering in our world. Things that you'd rather not know about that go on so you can have a clear conscience. Examining this allows you to "carry out your salvation" (Philippians 2:12) and make choices to stand up and speak for "the least of these", the poor, the oppressed, the suffering, the voiceless, the powerless.
The Good News
Two important pieces of The Passion narrative(s) to not forget in regards to this. First, when hanging on the cross, Jesus says, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." It is pretty much impossible to extract yourself from the systems of sin at work in our world. But with God, all things are possible. Christ still forgives. We do our best until the work is completed and Christ comes again in final victory. Take the time in prayer to reflect on this potential blindspot, a time of confession. Let Jesus' words wash over you, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Also, remember Peter? He denied knowing Jesus publicly, not once, not twice, but three times. Jesus forgave him too, and made him the "rock" the leader of the Church. Take the time in prayer to reflect on this potential blindspot, a time of confession. Hear Jesus asking you like he asked Peter: "Do you love me? Then feed my sheep." Let those words set you free to engage our world with the power of God's love in Christ Jesus.
I am a Software Developer, a career shift made in 2018. So far, I have experience with C# .Net and Angular. I continue to let curiosity lead me into learning new technologies. I plan to share what I learn along the way about technology and personal/career life. Previously, my vocation was United Methodist pastor. So in addition to coding, I'll share about theology, the Church and The Bible. I also enjoy running, music, and I'm a deeply committed father and husband. Maybe my experiences will help you. I know it helps me to share.