I should stop Reading Seth Godin’s blog. Stuff like this is like an irresistible taunt to me: “Either, not both“.
It’s still Easter.
The recollection of long church services and family celebrations may have started to fade, the kids might not remember what they found on their egg hunt, but it’s still Easter.
But as long as Jesus is raised from the dead, as long as Jesus is seated at the right hand of God–as long as the most basic Christian claim of all, Jesus is Lord, still reflects reality, it’s still Easter.
And this means that we can, and must, read with new understanding.
At the end of Luke, it is the resurrected Jesus who sits down his disciples for a course in Biblical interpretation. As the Resurrected One, he calls to mind what they have not yet been able to hear and invites them to read with new understanding.
Only after the resurrection is there understanding that “all things written about Christ” entails suffering and death, resurrection and exaltation, mission and worldwide proclamation. And, after the resurrection, no other understanding of what “Christ” might entail is viable.
Because it is still Easter, we must still read the Old Testament as writing about, predicting, entailing, and even demanding, a Christ whom we simply are not capable of seeing until the Crucified is raised.
We look for a prophet like Moses, but not one whose life and people is defined by Torah.
We follow a second Joshua, but not into fields of military engagement.
We follow great King David’s greater son, but not one whose reign is secured by war or marred by the sins that disintegrate the royal family.
We confess a fulfillment of the promises of restoration, but without the removal of Romans from Judea.
We confess a new and glorious temple, even now, while the building in Jerusalem still stands in ruin.
The only reason to say, “No matter how many promises God has made, in Christ they are ‘Yes,’” is to know already that this particular Christ is the One anointed of Israel’s God.
It is Easter wherever the Bible is read as though Jesus is the point. Easter creates a new memory of scripture, what it says and what it means.
You may have forgotten that killer mint aioli I made for the lamb on Easter Sunday, but the measure of Easter’s presence is a different memory. It’s Easter, and therefore we remember that the Scripture God breathed is the sacred writing that makes us wise for the salvation that is found in Christ Jesus.
As I embark on Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics 2.2, I want to know what you think will be results of my delving into Barth’s creative reimagining of the doctrine of election. Please take the one-question survey below!
Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.
If approaching the Bible as Story, and God as a story-bound God, opens up our interpretation of scripture, and Christianity, how does this not become a free for all?
Today I have a guest post up at Peter Enns’ site wrestling with just this issue:
if we open ourselves up to the idea of “story,” we are opening ourselves up to a Christianity, and a God, that cannot be easily controlled or pinned down. We are opening ourselves up to embracing the plurality of Christian expression and practice that we find even in the pages of scripture itself.
I was recently challenged on this. A perceptive reader of my work asked, “You’re talking about plurality and openness, and yet you speak quite confidently about any number of issues–where does that confidence come from within this more open narrative?”
Read the rest here.
An Open Letter to Jason Stellman, whom I’ve never met. Jason posted his “adios, PCA” letter on his blog last week.
Welcome to the other side of your PCA sojourn.
The step of leaving a denomination, especially when your seminary training, pastoral preparation, and ordination have all taken place within the same orbit of friends, is tremendously difficult.
You will never have the same kind of community again.
You will have other communities, and perhaps some that are even as rich, but you have bonded with folks through some of the most formative times of your theological education and career, and you can’t replace that.
You probably are losing some friends right now. Take courage–you’ll get some of them back after the wounds heal. But know this, too–many are gone forever. Hold them with open hands. Let them go. You’ll make new ones.
Many of our denominations create quite a strong identity for themselves, and many of us were part of tight-knit sub-groups within such worlds as well. This makes leaving all the more difficult.
But you’ll learn a new narrative. As many good things as are going on in that world, there is plenty of spiritual vitality to be found beyond its pale. Take courage, you’ll find yourself nourished in your new communities. It may take time, but you will find like-minded people who will help you grow in your walk with Christ and be fellow contenders with you for the Kingdom.
You’re leaving the PCA, in part, because you are seeing that the NT won’t let us separate our faith from our action. I hope you’ll learn quickly that this also means that our standard of judging our communities has much more to do with embodying the cross of Christ than the many other markers that have become popular (especially in Protestantism).
Make sure to embody this way of the cross in your responses to your detractors. I know they are many, from your blog’s comments.
Finally, as you experience the wounds of those you thought were friends, you might realize that you were a wounder of those who are friends and brothers. I’d encourage you to take this time to think about folks whom you may have wounded in your Reformed zeal–I can think of at least one by name.
I pray that as you go from the PCA, you will go in peace, as a man of peace, and find those who will receive you with the same.
I have a guest post up at Peter Enns’s blog: Why Getting the Bible Right is Critical for Our Faith.
There’s a follow-up post that will go up in a day or so as well.
What is the Bible and what are we supposed to do with it?
“Inspired” is an answer that many of us give right off the top of our heads:
Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character. (2 Tim 3:16, CEB)
But in general we’re not so up on the lead-in:
Since childhood you have known the holy scriptures that help you to be wise in a way that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 3:15, CEB)
Scripture is not just about “learning things” that God wants us to know.
And it’s not just about finding out “what we should do.”
The things we are to learn, and the things we are to do are located within the work of God that has a specific end and goal in view.
We read scripture with full faithfulness not merely when we say, “This is God’s word,” but when we read and interpret it as a witness to the salvation that God has made available to us in Christ.
It’s not enough to read the Bible. We have to read it with a Christological hermeneutic.
If we think we’re free to say no to God, should this influence how we navigate the choppy waters of engaging culturally and politically as Christians?
Most people I know think that we are free to say no to God. Was it C. S. Lewis who spoke of eternal perdition of God’s final, “Thy will be done” spoken to the creature?
Indeed, human freedom of the will (an idea that never gets any airtime in the entire Bible) is a much firmer part of most of my students’ theology than their tentative affirmations of “predestination” (which is affirmed in several places in scripture).
We experience ourselves as free, and that freedom is one that, in our experience, extends to our receptivity to the call of God. And gifted theologians do find helpful ways of marrying freedom and Providence.
While I was reading Barth last week, I was struck by something that, I confess, I cannot find at the moment! (So I may be making this up.)
Barth was talking about God being glorious in God’s freedom. The discussion of God’s glory in freedom shifted for a moment, to claim not only that God is glorious as God acts freely, but that God is glorious as God gives humanity the ability to act freely as well.
God is glorified in his willingness to allow the creature to say no to God.
It made me wonder if we truly believe in the freedom that we say we value so highly. If we believe that God does not want to force compliance or love (for then it would not be love!) then why do we so often see ourselves charged with enforcing compliance to the will, law, or theology of God as we understand it?
It struck me that a people who would not have ourselves compelled should not compel others, but should summon them with love.
All of us are willing to affirm the greatness of Jesus’ words of love:
Do unto others as you would have done unto you.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
But are we able to own up to what we would have done unto ourselves? Will we genuinely acknowledge our desires, our freedoms, our refusal to be compelled, when we are face-to-face with a neighbor who has different desires, yearns to exercise her freedom in a manner differently than we have exercised ours, resists the compulsions of the Jesus story we participate in?
If we insist on our right to say no (or to have said no) to our God, what might that mean for our neighbor who may want that right as well?
It’s still Easter.
Even now that churches have shifted their gaze to Pentecost and the Trinity, it’s still Easter. It’s Easter so long as Jesus Christ is raised from the dead.
And the presence of Easter means that those who are Christ’s have the ability to speak for him, extending his ministry of preaching and teaching through their own.
After the resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples and says,
“I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth.” (Matt 28:18, CEB)
Something happens in the resurrection–not just for us, but for Jesus himself. Jesus becomes Lord in a sense that he was not Lord before. Jesus is given all authority as the Resurrected One.
This is why it is always Easter. As long as the resurrected Jesus is Lord, as long as we are a people demarcated by the Spirit-given confession, “Jesus is Lord,” it is still Easter.
Precisely as one newly imbued with authority over all things, Jesus sends the eleven out into the world:
When the resurrected Jesus appears, he always sends. He appears to the eleven and sends them out. He appears to the women and sends them to the eleven. Luke-Acts is the exception that proves the rule: he tells the eleven to wait. But that waiting is for the purpose of being empowered in order to be sent.
He appears to Paul. And Paul becomes an apostle.
What business does the church have speaking for God? What business does the church have thinking that it can speak as though it knows what Christ would say?
The church has this business because it believes that Jesus is risen from the dead. As the Risen One, he has authority not only to rule, but to send.
Under the Lordship of the Resurrected One, we do not merely go out into the world, but are sent there. We do not merely talk, but we speak for him.
We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us.
So go ahead and preach it. Speak what is true about God. Make disciples of Christ. Teach them to obey what Christ himself has taught.
Do this, because you are not alone:
“Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” (Matt 28:20)
Do this, because it is still Easter.
What difference does it make who you eat with?
Before you jump to too quick an answer, allow yourself to mentally relive the horrors of the middle school and/or high school cafeteria.
You sit with your friends. You sit with people like you. You hope for folks you think are cool and/or cute to join you if you’re sitting first. (Someone thinks she knows why all the black kids sit together in the cafeteria…)
Choice of who we eat with typically reinforces our social norms. When we share food together, we are quite often, if tacitly, confirming a likeness: we are family, we are Christians, we are neighbors, we are friends.
This morning I heard a sermon on hospitality. It took up the hard words of Jesus in Luke 14:
- Don’t choose places of honor at the banquet–you might be humbled.
- Don’t invite friends or family to your meal–they might invite you back!
- Compel people to join the marriage feast!
The Kingdom of God warns us about how we eat.
If we use our meals as an opportunity to reinforce our social standing, we may be in for a humbling surprise.
If we decline to use our meals as an opportunity to transcend social boundaries, actively reaching “downward,” we may be in for a humbling surprise.
And, one of the important points from this morning’s sermon, if we don’t live as though the Kingdom of God is a social as it is “spiritual,” we have missed the point.
The Kingdom of God which comes and announces glorification to the humble is supposed to be reflected on earth. That earthly reflection is to be the church. We are to be the ones who demonstrate in our life together and lives individually the world-subverting hospitality of God.
Now, who should we invite over for dinner…