Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Little faith...

What do you do when your faith is at low tide? When prayer and/or scriptural meditation just don't dispel fear, doubt, or anxiety? When the words of Jesus "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" seem appropriate? I don't know about you but I listen to Bach. And not just any of his peaces but his organ fugues. For some reason that I can't articulate, Bach's fugues aren't just pieces of music for me they are descriptions of God's sublime majesty. And to my mind each is Bach's attempt to preach the gospel. Maybe one has to be a Christian to "get" this but I'm fairly certain that in all of Bach's organ music (even ones we might call secular, i.e not explicitly for worship) he was preaching to us through music.

It is a sorry state of affairs for Christians in the western world that we have so little sense of God's real presence -- the Holy Spirit -- in our lives. In former times we were very near the earth and all of its beauty and power (both good and ill) that getting in touch, spiritually speaking, was not so difficult. But not so much these days. Speaking of which, there is an interesting study by the Pew Forum on Religion and the Public Life that speaks about this issue, i.e. spiritual fulfilment, or lack thereof. More on that tomorrow.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tradition and "The Purpose of Exegesis"

The appeal to tradition was actually and appeal to the mind of the church. It was assumed that the church had the knowledge and the understanding of the truth, that is, the meaning of the revelation. Accordingly, the church had both the competence and the authority to proclaim the gospel and to interpret it. This did not imply that the church was above the Scripture. She stood by the Scripture but, on the other hand, was not bound by its letter. The ultimate purpose of exegesis and interpretation was to elicit the meaning and the intent of the Holy Writ, or rather the meaning of the revelation, of the Heilsgeschichte. The church had to preach Christ, and not just the Scripture.

The use of tradition in the ancient church can be adequately understood only in the context of the actual use of the Scripture. The Word was kept alive in the church. It was reflected in her live and structure. Faith and life were organically intertwinded. -- Georges Florovsky, Chapter 8, "The Function of Tradition in the Ancient Church"; Eastern Orthodox Theology, Daniel B. Clendenin, ed. (Baker Books, 1995) (emphasis mine)

The highlighted text made me stand up straight when I read it this afternoon. It was one of those "whoa, did I just read that?" moments. That the ancient church was to preach Christ didn't surprised me. But Florovsky's bit about preaching Christ and not just Scripture had me interested. How much of what we do as Christians is just preaching Scripture in a rote fashion, out of context to what it was ultimately exposition for, namely Christ crucified and risen. Without it one can do all the proof-texting one wants and, with apologies to the Bard, "it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Theology and Basketball?

So I'm bemoaning the fact that my woebegone Timberwolves got screwed *again* in the NBA lottery (no surprise there as that team can't catch a break ever!) and I think "Well, let's see who they might draft with the crappy neither-here-nor-there 6th pick". So off to ESPN's web site I go. After reading a number of pages of stuff I have already read, I go to one of the ESPN blogs called TrueHoop. And scrolling down the page I was flabbergasted to read a short paragraph get this..a theology blog! And it was about the hot button issue of homosexuality to boot! Never, in a million years, would I have ever thought I would have read about theology on anything related to sports and certainly not anything related to ESPN. I mean, are you kidding me?! This was just too astounding not to check out. So, I did. The owner of said blog is Brad East, a theology student at Emory University, and a darn good blog it is. He has links to really top-shelf theologians like N.T. Wright, Stanley Hauerwas, Walter Bruggerman, Wendell Berry, Rowen Williams and G. K. Chesterton. That's a good list.

Anyway, I've read three or 4 posts and I like him already. I should be fun digging into all the posts on the site. Check it out.

Update: I forgot to mention that I have added Brad's blog to the RSS feed list on the right.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jesus or Dan Brown

Dan Brown's America

This is an interesting critique not only of Brown's novels (and the new movie based on his second), but about our generalized, fuzzy, DIY religiosity. I consider myself a moderately liberal Christian but I have to say that the older I get the more orthodoxy appeals to me. Maybe I'll spend some time unpacking that. But for now I commend this op-ed piece for your edification.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

From death to Good News

Eternal is the gift he brings,
therefore our heart with rapture sings,
"Christ has triumphed! He is living!"
Now still he comes to give us life,
and by his presence stills all strife.
"Christ has triumphed! He is living!"
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin*), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 27Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 28Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe* that Jesus is the Messiah,* the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. -- John 20:19-31

It was a hectic week. On Tuesday my wife's grandfather passed away (death and taxes indeed!) . And so on Thursday, the family and I drove 4 hours to Marshalltown, Iowa to pay our respects the following day. I was honored to be a pallbearer and although I didn't know Paul all that well, what I did know of him was all very good. I'm getting to the age where I'm more acutely aware of the death of family and friends. It's not as though I was oblivious to it when I was younger, just that it didn't have the same resonance as it does now. Any number of my church congregation are reaching the age when death draws close at hand. I will no doubt attend some of their funeral services. Never mind that of my own, dear, 73 year old mother (hopefully not any time soon).

During the service (which, although nice, wasn't a liturgical service and therefore a tad strange to me) I was struck by the thought that Paul's death happened mere days after we proclaimed the central tenant of our Christian faith: Death has no sway for those who believe. Christ is risen! Alleluia! If there is a central tenant to our faith, it surely must be that. That has to be the Good News, right? That we don't end at death but carry on to eternal life with the Father.

Juxtaposing that is today's gospel lection. As Dr. Martin Marty said this morning in his sermon to my church (how about them apples!), when you read "Thomas", read your name in his place. We are the doubters. But just like Thomas, we come around -- eventually. Death has a way of focusing our attention on that central tenant. But one would think that 2000 years of witness to this tenant by all the saints would be enough of a euphemistic "clue stick" to get hit over the head if we only had ears to hear and eyes to see. I guess I take great comfort that even Thomas, one of the twelve had issues of doubt, just as we do. And yet, even though we doubt we are forgiven for that doubt. Because the one that forgives us has indeed "fore-given" his own Son as the one who will lead us, through doubt and even despair into our heavenly Fathers loving embrace at the end. Good News indeed.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ 8Then they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ 19He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ 25Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.

44 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53and they were continually in the temple blessing God. --Luke 24

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Trial and Death

Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus said, ‘You say so.’ 12But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13Then Pilate said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?’ 14But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ 18For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.’ 20Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21The governor again said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas.’ 22Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ 23Then he asked, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’

24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’ 25Then the people as a whole answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ 26So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ 30They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

32 As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. 33And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; 36then they sat down there and kept watch over him. 37Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.’

38 Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 40and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ 41In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Son.” ’ 44The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ 47When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘This man is calling for Elijah.’ 48At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49But the others said, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.’ 50Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’ -- Matthew 26:11-54

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Gethsemane and beyond

When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written,
“I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.”
28But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ 29Peter said to him, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not.’ 30Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ 31But he said vehemently, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And all of them said the same.
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

32 They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ 33He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ 35And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36He said, ‘Abba,* Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ 37He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;* the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ 39And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. 41He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

43 Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ 45So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. 46Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. 47But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 48Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? 49Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’ 50All of them deserted him and fled.

51 A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, 52but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.
Jesus before the Council

53 They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. 54Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. 55Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. 56For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. 57Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, 58‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.” ’ 59But even on this point their testimony did not agree. 60Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ 61But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah,* the Son of the Blessed One?’ 62Jesus said, ‘I am; and
“you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power”,
and “coming with the clouds of heaven.” ’
63Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? 64You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?’ All of them condemned him as deserving death. 65Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ The guards also took him over and beat him.
Peter Denies Jesus

66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. 67When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ 68But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know or understand what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt.* Then the cock crowed.* 69And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, ‘This man is one of them.’ 70But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’ 71But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’ 72At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept. Mark 14:26-72

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Signs and Wisdom

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.'

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength. -- 1 Corinthians 1:18:25

As we enter into the Triduum, I thought that the above lection from about 3 weeks ago was particularly appropriate. Too often moderns of whatever denominational persuasion tend to fall into the same trap that our ancient brothers and sisters did in Corinth. Some desperately have to know, by proof or reason of some sort, that Jesus is Lord; that what we believe is in fact true in the factual since of enlightenment thought. But as Paul pointed out to the new believers in Corinth, we do not proclaim either signs or wisdom. What makes being a Christian difficult is that we proclaim that which almost everybody else calls foolishness (at best). We have heard it and seen it in other people when they find out we are "religious". And it's not just non-believers either. Even our own want signs (or wisdom). A good example is the plethora of "educational" shows about the "real" Jesus, or the historical Jesus. Just a couple of days ago, 2 channels were showing programs about the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin.

But this is not our way or our path. We walk the path of Jesus which is one of love and sacrifice; even with the understanding that the only authenticity of our faith is that of grace from the Holy Spirit and the witness of the saints throughout history. It's good to keep in mind during the Triduum that for all our lives the only proof or signs we will likely ever get is the grace that comes through faith that Jesus is Lord.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ah, Holy Jesus

It's been too long (far too long) since my last post. So I'll start Holy Week with the words to the following hymn that was sung this morning at worship; truly a hymn of lament (not enough of that going around is there?). Considering that it was written smack-dab in the middle of the Thirty Years War, I guess I can understand why lament was the order of the day.

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast Thou offended,
That we to judge Thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by Thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.
’Twas I, Lord, Jesus, I it was denied Thee!
I crucified Thee.

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered;
For our atonement, while we nothing heedeth,
God intercedeth.

For me, kind Jesus, was Thine incarnation,
Thy mortal sorrow, and Thy life’s oblation;
Thy death of anguish and Thy bitter passion,
For my salvation.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay Thee,
I do adore Thee, and will ever pray Thee,
Think on Thy pity and Thy love unswerving,
Not my deserving.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Indulgence redeux

How may we obtain remission of our sins? Paul answers: “The man who is named Jesus Christ and the Son of God gave himself for our sins.” The heavy artillery of these words explodes papacy, works, merits, superstitions. For if our sins could be removed by our own efforts, what need was there for the Son of God to be given for them? Since Christ was given for our sins it stands to reason that they cannot be put away by our own efforts. -- from Commentary on Galatians by Martin Luther

I've been trying out the ebook reader apps on my iPod Touch. And after installing the app, I can then choose from a number of copyright free books. Not surprisingly, one of the books I downloaded with theological in nature -- Commentary on Galatians by Martin Luther. I figured that there are a number of seminal text that any lay Lutheran theologian must read and this is one of them. Besides being tremendously verbose (who would have thunk it?) it is quite insightful both into Luther's understanding of justification and of his exegetical skill. So it was with much interest that I read the article about the re-introduction of, get this, indulgences! Wow. What would brother Martin think. (click on post title to read the article)

Monday, January 12, 2009


Click on this posts title to read a NY Times article about the conservative evangelical ministry du jour. Now, the title of the article asks a rhetorical question which the glib person in me wants to say: "That jackass". But, again, that's the glib answer. Being Lutheran, I'm not too fond of Calvinism. I don't like the doctrine of predestination -- double or otherwise. But what really galls me is that this hyper-macho brand of Christianity is just another gimmick. The proponents use the term "ministry" but what they really mean is "marketing". They are doing what they decry the mainline evangelical movement of doing -- selling out.

More importantly, if the article accurately characterizes the power structure of Mars Hill, then it's fallen into the trap of power as idol:

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Deut. 5:8-10)

In the case of Mars Hill, as in other evangelical churches, the focus of worship is ostensibly God, but in reality it's the guy up on stage. Not the guy on the cross (or his ministry either). To the extent that the Mars Hill ministry welcomes those who society shuns then so much the better.

But the kick-ass method of ministry of Mr. Driscoll is antithetical to the ministry of the man he preaches about. If Jesus where really as kick-ass as Driscoll is, then he never would have allowed himself to be crucified. He would have, well, kick Jewish and Roman ass and made himself ruler. This was precisely what he was tempeted with after his baptism that we celebrated yesterday. But that is not the way of the cross. The way of the cross is sacrifice for others. To offer the left check after having the right slapped. To give your cloak and coat too. To give to others first just has God has given to us.

As the article seems to allude: this too shall pass as another fad in the long running list of fads that characterize the conservative evangelical church (and other denominations I know). Only time will tell how God uses this for his good purposes. But I'm confident he will.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Prayer for the New Year

Recently I received a copy of the Moravian Churches yearly prayer book call "Daily Texts". Not generally my style but you never know what God will use to teach so I accepted. And in the beginning of every month there is a section titled "Prayer List for ..." where, presumably, one writes in prayers that one will say during that month. However, January has an extra page that I think is quite interesting and worth sharing. This page is titled "Prayer Journal" and says that St. Ignatius asked his students these questions. They are:

  1. What is your greatest hope for this year? (CONSOLATION)
  2. What is your greatest fear? (DESOLATION)
  3. Write a prayer of thanks that combines both your fear and your hope.

See? You never know what you will find.

So, I have thought about this and I'll share:

CONSOLATION: My greatest hope for this year is that 2009 be the start of a new spirit of cooperation that can overcome the numerous and well publicized divisions in our Church and our society such that real cooperation and reconciliation can happen.

DESOLATION: My greatest fear is that both society and the Church, will fragment even more on issues that generate a lot of heat and not much light and that good of both will again be set back while we argue and bicker.

PRAYER: Almighty Father, through your gracious love for humanity you gave us Jesus, who in word and deed showed your abundant love for the world. By his ministry we know your will; by his suffering we know the depths of your love; by his resurrection we know the good news that death has no power over us and that eternal life awaits us at the end; through your Holy Spirit we know the transformational power of your Word. Bless this new year for us. Where there is division, heal; where there is anger, show love; where there is strife, let there be peace. Instill in us a sense of sacrifice for others even as your Son sacrificed for us. Instill in us a sense of love even as you loved and love us that you gave your only begotten Son for our redemption. Send your Holy Spirit on us and empower us for the year ahead that it may be pleasing to you and further your kingdom. In the name of the one in whom we live and move and have our being . Amen.