A Few Thoughts on John 11:1-16

Lazarus is deathly ill. Mary and Martha expect Jesus to turn around and hotfoot it back to Bethany. The disciples, on the other hand, seem to be concerned about all the angry folks with rocks waiting back over the horizon. Amazingly, Jesus doesn’t meet either of their expectations. First he waits, upsetting Mary and Martha. Then he returns, upsetting the disciples.

In all of this, I love Thomas’ response. Even though he was just as scared as everyone else about what would happen back in Bethany, he has a classic line. “Well…let’s go. We might as well die with him.” If you follow Jesus, you really don’t know where it will lead. He has this strange way of failing to meet our expectations, only to transcend them in the very next moment. And the only way we can follow him is like Thomas, scratching our heads, shaking our heads, and then following him come what may.

Sure, there will be times when we get tired. Thomas eventually got frustrated enough that he said, “How in the world are we supposed to follow you if we don’t know where you’re going?! (v. 14:5)” But Thomas was the one who loved Jesus so much that he just had to know Jesus had really risen.

I suspect Thomas’ advice to disciples would be this: just follow him. Don’t lag too far behind. Don’t worry too much about your questions. Don’t hold too tightly to your expectations. Just follow him. That’s enough. You’ll see.

Live Like You’re Dying

This is the first Ash Wednesday sermon I ever preached. May God bless you as you contemplate your mortality and cling to the hope we have by trusting in Christ.

In our world, we prefer to deny death. Death is simply not something we like to talk about. We even disguise the word. We say things like, she “passed away,” he’s “no longer with us,” or they “didn’t make it.” With modern medical breakthroughs and modern science, life spans have increased by 60% since the 1900s. Our culture has even retreated into a battle against aging – there are creams to smooth out the wrinkles that come as we age and if that doesn’t work, then by all means, botox is a viable option! Yet no matter how we may disguise aging and no matter how many decades we add onto our lifespan through healthy eating, exercise, or visits to the doctor, it remains that each and every one of us will die.[1] On one hand it is not unreasonable or even unchristian that we spend so much time in our battle against death. After all, Paul himself refers to death as the final enemy in 1 Corinthians (15:26). Yet on the other hand, there are many ways in which our culture’s choice to deny the inevitability of death impedes our lives. Denying death leads to a loss of life.

A basic Christian spiritual exercise is to acknowledge death. Ash Wednesday is a time where our worship reminds us of this truth. As I put the ashes on your head or hand here in a few moments, I will say to each of you, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This isn’t to be morbid or gruesome. It is simply to acknowledge the reality that each one of us will die. Yet, our awareness of death should remind us to really live.

Sometimes we can remember particular times in our life because of the music that stands out in our minds. The summer I worked as a chaplain at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, KY, there was a song that stood out. Each day, I was confronted with death. Death of the worst kind – family shootings – death from abuse – cancer – heart attacks – accidents – death, both unexpected and drawn out. There are songs which we’d never sing in Church that describe things we deeply stand for and believe in. One day on my way into the hospital, Tim McGraw’s song, “Live Like You Were Dying” came on the radio. The first verse was eerily familiar with the experience and response of the patients I saw nearly every day:

“He said I was in my early forties
With a lot of life before me
When a moment came that stopped me on a dime
And I spent most of the next days
Looking at the x-rays
Talking ‘bout the options
And talking ‘bout sweet time
I asked him when it sank in
That this might really be the real end
How’s it hit you when you get that kinda news?

A man is diagnosed with a terminal illness – a man is faced with the news that is ultimately true of all of us. Even though our “real end” might not be as soon as this man, it is nonetheless equally true. When we live in denial that we will all die, we deny the call each one of us has to truly live. McGraw’s song goes on as the man describes what he did in face of the tragic news. As Christians, we are likely not called to, “go sky diving, Rocky Mountain climbing, or to ride bulls for 2.7 seconds!” However, there are many significant lessons we can learn as the song continues:

I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter, I gave forgiveness I’d been denying…I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn’t, and I became the friend a friend would like to have. I finally read the good book, and I took a good hard look at what I’d do if I could do it all again…

    The dying man then makes the most important point of the song, “Someday, I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.”

    Ash Wednesday serves as the reminder that we should live like we are dying because in fact, we are all dying. Today is the first day of Lent and begins the time of repentance in preparation for Easter. Many Christians give up something during Lent, perhaps a favorite food or drink or maybe even television. But more and more people are choosing to add something to their lives instead of giving something up. That’s my challenge to you – live like you are dying – love deeper – speak sweeter – give the forgiveness you’ve been denying – become the wife or husband, or father or mother you haven’t been – become the friend a friend would like to have – spend time each day reading God’s word and praying.

    Do these things because the Gospel promises that existence doesn’t end with death – it ends with life. Living like you are dying brings new life – because we live in response to God’s Spirit and the power that raised Jesus at Easter. Easter, which lies at the end of Lent, is God’s answer to death – God raised Jesus Christ from the dead as the answer that death is not the end for Christians. By the power of Christ, we’re enabled to take good hard looks at our lives. Ash Wednesday and Lent remind us that God allows u-turns. We can turn from our destructive ways through the power of Christ and live our lives fully in view of the life giving resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “Live like you are dying” and you will live a life worth living.

    In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


    [1] Many insights for this section of the sermon were gleaned from Tortured Wonders by Rodney Clapp, Brazos Press 2004

    Sunday Sermon: Luke 14:1, 7-14 – God’s Table Etiquette

    In recent years many people have criticized the decline of etiquette and manners in our world. To many, it seems that society has grown accustomed to things that would have been considered incredibly rude only a decade or so before. My Grandma was always in charge of patrolling this area for my family. Even though Grandma and Grandpa didn’t have much in the way of material things, this was by no means an excuse to be uncivilized! There would be no elbows on the table, the forks were always on the left, and you most certainly did not come inside the house without taking off your hat or cap! So this morning, in memory of my Grandma Pauline, I want to give you a little reminder of some important Table Manners. So, here are ten simple table manners from Emily Post’s daughter Lizzie, who has updated them just a bit for this generation: 1.) Chew with your mouth shut. 2.) Avoid slurping, smacking, blowing your nose, or other gross noises. (If necessary, excuse yourself to take care of whatever it is you need to take care of.) 3.) Don’t use your utensils like a shovel or as if you’ve just stabbed the food you’re about to eat. 4.) Don’t pick your teeth at the table. 5.) Remember to use your napkin at all times (contrary to popular belief, this is not the reason shirt sleeves were invented – that addition is from Grandma). 6.) Wait until you’re done chewing to sip or swallow a drink. (The exception is if you’re choking.) 7.) Cut only one piece of food at a time. 8.) Avoid slouching and don’t place your elbows on the table while eating (though it is okay to prop your elbows on the table while conversing between courses.) 9.) Instead of reaching across the table for something, ask for it to be passed to you. 10.) Always say ‘excuse me’ whenever you leave the table.

    We won’t take a poll on how many of those you all follow, because today I want to talk about a different kind of table etiquette – a kind that comes from a significantly higher authority than Emily Post’s daughter! Someone once said that in the book of Luke you always find Jesus coming to a meal, at a meal, or leaving a meal, and that is true in this passage. Jesus had been invited to the home of one of the leading Pharisees, but it wasn’t just your average social occasion. The passage shares the real reason for the invitation – they were watching Jesus closely.

    This group of Pharisees and religious scholars probably wanted to give Jesus a very thorough test, but in a surprising twist, the only observations made at the table came from Jesus himself, as he began to comment on their table manners. You see, the religious and social culture of that day had very strict and well-developed list of social rules for eating together, and there were an incredible number of do’s and don’ts. The ways you interacted in these settings were very much tied to your social standing and your place in society. The place you sat at the table was incredibly important and determined your social rank, so we may not be surprised to find that as they sat down to eat, there was a great deal of jockeying for position.

    Lest you think we’re above this kind of behavior, and social ranking has nothing to do with your seating, just think about your last family Thanksgiving or Christmas gathering. Maybe your family has a “kids table” that still has thirty and forty year olds sitting at it?! At Nanci’s family gatherings, those of us who are the younger adults in the family had to wait until we had enough kids to populate the kids table with grandkids in order to get to sit with the adults! In my family, my Dad sat in the same spot at the table for as long as I can remember! And even though we might think these kinds of things don’t really matter in our day and age, it was a little bit awkward the first Thanksgiving after my Dad’s death, because no one else had ever sat in that place.

    Jesus noticed how the people put a great deal of effort as they jostled for position at the table, so he began to teach through a parable. He told the people gathering around the table the best way to go about choosing a seat. “If you’re invited to a banquet, don’t simply sit in the place of honor. You just might not be the most honored person there, and it will be incredibly humiliating when your host asks you to give up your seat and you have to traipse back down to the children’s table…” Instead, Jesus says, “Sit at the least honorable place, so that your host can invite you to the higher place. Then you’ll receive a great honor.”

    Now what happened next is the most surprising, because Jesus doesn’t stop with what may have been accepted as reasonable and practical advice. Instead he challenged the very notion of what honor and privilege were all about as he turned to look at the host and challenged the practical wisdom and etiquette of the day.

    Meals like this one were not just occasions to gather, eat, and talk; they were occasions to build your own reputation and connections. Gifts, such as an invitation to a meal, weren’t free but were tied to obligations to those who accepted the invitation. If you gave out an invitation, you expected to receive one in return. In a way, these dinner invitations were a lot like political rallies. You’re invited to attend, but there are expectations that are tied to the invitation. But Jesus turned this on its head when he said, “When you have a big meal, don’t invite all the people you’d normally think of inviting, just because they can invite you in return and pay you back. Instead, when you throw a party, invite the poor, cripples, lame, and blind because they can’t repay you. And in the end, you’ll receive your reward, not from them, but at the resurrection of the righteous.”

    Jesus gave them, and he gives us, a completely different kind of table etiquette. In those days, common wisdom and social etiquette said jockey for position. Jesus said God’s etiquette calls for something completely different – all who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted. In those days, common wisdom and social etiquette was to invite those who can give in return. Jesus said that God’s etiquette reminds us to invite the very least: the poor, lame, and blind. And when we show generosity to those who can never give in return, Jesus says that we’ll find out something incredible. You won’t be repaid in the usual way, but you’ll be repaid by the very God who created every man, woman, and child. God himself will be the one who gives in return for those who are unable in the resurrection of the righteous.

    Jesus shows us that God’s table etiquette operates with an entirely different way of looking at the world, and I believe that is directly connected today with our celebration of Holy Communion today. At God’s table, everyone is welcome. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, able or disabled, young or old, white, black, Asian, or Hispanic. As we kneel at Christ’s table today, we are shoulder to shoulder and elbow to elbow with people from all walks of life. Because around Christ’s table, we are all one receiving the very same grace, love, and forgiveness that only God can give. Kneeling at the feet of Jesus Christ, we are all loved, we are all cared for, and we have all been offered the same gift of forgiveness and Salvation. As we prepare our hearts and minds for communion today, let us pray that God will give us the grace to practice the kind of etiquette we learn at God’s table outside these walls in our daily lives – that’s the kind of etiquette that will truly be rewarded…

    In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

     

     

     

    Sunday Sermon: Luke 14:1, 7-14 – God’s Table Etiquette

    In recent years many people have criticized the decline of etiquette and manners in our world. To many, it seems that society has grown accustomed to things that would have been considered incredibly rude only a decade or so before. My Grandma was always in charge of patrolling this area for my family. Even though Grandma and Grandpa didn’t have much in the way of material things, this was by no means an excuse to be uncivilized! There would be no elbows on the table, the forks were always on the left, and you most certainly did not come inside the house without taking off your hat or cap! So this morning, in memory of my Grandma Pauline, I want to give you a little reminder of some important Table Manners. So, here are ten simple table manners from Emily Post’s daughter Lizzie, who has updated them just a bit for this generation: 1.) Chew with your mouth shut. 2.) Avoid slurping, smacking, blowing your nose, or other gross noises. (If necessary, excuse yourself to take care of whatever it is you need to take care of.) 3.) Don’t use your utensils like a shovel or as if you’ve just stabbed the food you’re about to eat. 4.) Don’t pick your teeth at the table. 5.) Remember to use your napkin at all times (contrary to popular belief, this is not the reason shirt sleeves were invented – that addition is from Grandma). 6.) Wait until you’re done chewing to sip or swallow a drink. (The exception is if you’re choking.) 7.) Cut only one piece of food at a time. 8.) Avoid slouching and don’t place your elbows on the table while eating (though it is okay to prop your elbows on the table while conversing between courses.) 9.) Instead of reaching across the table for something, ask for it to be passed to you. 10.) Always say ‘excuse me’ whenever you leave the table.

    We won’t take a poll on how many of those you all follow, because today I want to talk about a different kind of table etiquette – a kind that comes from a significantly higher authority than Emily Post’s daughter! Someone once said that in the book of Luke you always find Jesus coming to a meal, at a meal, or leaving a meal, and that is true in this passage. Jesus had been invited to the home of one of the leading Pharisees, but it wasn’t just your average social occasion. The passage shares the real reason for the invitation – they were watching Jesus closely.

    This group of Pharisees and religious scholars probably wanted to give Jesus a very thorough test, but in a surprising twist, the only observations made at the table came from Jesus himself, as he began to comment on their table manners. You see, the religious and social culture of that day had very strict and well-developed list of social rules for eating together, and there were an incredible number of do’s and don’ts. The ways you interacted in these settings were very much tied to your social standing and your place in society. The place you sat at the table was incredibly important and determined your social rank, so we may not be surprised to find that as they sat down to eat, there was a great deal of jockeying for position.

    Lest you think we’re above this kind of behavior, and social ranking has nothing to do with your seating, just think about your last family Thanksgiving or Christmas gathering. Maybe your family has a “kids table” that still has thirty and forty year olds sitting at it?! At Nanci’s family gatherings, those of us who are the younger adults in the family had to wait until we had enough kids to populate the kids table with grandkids in order to get to sit with the adults! In my family, my Dad sat in the same spot at the table for as long as I can remember! And even though we might think these kinds of things don’t really matter in our day and age, it was a little bit awkward the first Thanksgiving after my Dad’s death, because no one else had ever sat in that place.

    Jesus noticed how the people put a great deal of effort as they jostled for position at the table, so he began to teach through a parable. He told the people gathering around the table the best way to go about choosing a seat. “If you’re invited to a banquet, don’t simply sit in the place of honor. You just might not be the most honored person there, and it will be incredibly humiliating when your host asks you to give up your seat and you have to traipse back down to the children’s table…” Instead, Jesus says, “Sit at the least honorable place, so that your host can invite you to the higher place. Then you’ll receive a great honor.”

    Now what happened next is the most surprising, because Jesus doesn’t stop with what may have been accepted as reasonable and practical advice. Instead he challenged the very notion of what honor and privilege were all about as he turned to look at the host and challenged the practical wisdom and etiquette of the day.

    Meals like this one were not just occasions to gather, eat, and talk; they were occasions to build your own reputation and connections. Gifts, such as an invitation to a meal, weren’t free but were tied to obligations to those who accepted the invitation. If you gave out an invitation, you expected to receive one in return. In a way, these dinner invitations were a lot like political rallies. You’re invited to attend, but there are expectations that are tied to the invitation. But Jesus turned this on its head when he said, “When you have a big meal, don’t invite all the people you’d normally think of inviting, just because they can invite you in return and pay you back. Instead, when you throw a party, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind because they can’t repay you. And in the end, you’ll receive your reward, not from them, but at the resurrection of the righteous.”

    Jesus gave them, and he gives us, a completely different kind of table etiquette. In those days, common wisdom and social etiquette said jockey for position. Jesus said God’s etiquette calls for something completely different – all who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted. In those days, common wisdom and social etiquette was to invite those who can give in return. Jesus said that God’s etiquette reminds us to invite the very least: the poor, lame, and blind. And when we show generosity to those who can never give in return, Jesus says that we’ll find out something incredible. You won’t be repaid in the usual way, but you’ll be repaid by the very God who created every man, woman, and child. God himself will be the one who gives in return for those who are unable in the resurrection of the righteous.

    Jesus shows us that God’s table etiquette operates with an entirely different way of looking at the world, and I believe that is directly connected today with our celebration of Holy Communion today. At God’s table, everyone is welcome. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, able or disabled, young or old, white, black, Asian, or Hispanic. As we kneel at Christ’s table today, we are shoulder to shoulder and elbow to elbow with people from all walks of life. Because around Christ’s table, we are all one receiving the very same grace, love, and forgiveness that only God can give. Kneeling at the feet of Jesus Christ, we are all loved, we are all cared for, and we have all been offered the same gift of forgiveness and Salvation. As we prepare our hearts and minds for communion today, let us pray that God will give us the grace to practice the kind of etiquette we learn at God’s table outside these walls in our daily lives – that’s the kind of etiquette that will truly be rewarded…

    In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

     

     

     

    Hebrews 11 – Perseverance Personified

    Hebrews 11:1 is a fascinating verse, but there is hardly a consensus on how it should be translated. For example:

    • NRSV – Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
    • NIV – Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
    • NKJV- Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

    With a little help from various commentators and a peek at the Greek, here is the rendering (because it’s darn sure not a translation) I’d like to offer: Faith is the reality of everything we’re looking forward to – the very witness of what remains unseen. Somehow, faith is the very reality of the end to which things are heading – faith itself, is the witness to what remains unseen. After my little paraphrase, I thought I’d look up Eugene Peterson’s as well. Here’s the rendering in

    • The Message The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.

    As I read this, it drew me to think about examples of those, like Abraham in Hebrews 11, who pressed on in spite of a lack of clarity – those who lived faithfully in spite of the dim vision we have of the unseen reality of God. Thinking as a good Methodist, John Wesley was definitely one who came to mind. I found a reference to Wesley’s perseverance here.

    Problem is, I like to check stuff like this and the words they said were in Wesley’s Journal were nowhere to be found. Trust me, I checked the PDF version at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library! It is there in Spirit, but you’ve gotta do a little work. Here’s what I found (with a little editing such as adding the months, even though I didn’t track down the years):

    Sunday, May 7th: I preached at St. Lawrence’s in the morning, and afterward at St. Katherine Cree’s Church. I was enabled to speak strong words at both; and was therefore the less surprised at being informed that I was not to preach any more in either of those churches.

    Sunday, May 14th: I preached in the morning at St. Ann’s, Aldersgate; and in the afternoon at the Savoy Chapel, free salvation by faith in the blood of Christ. I was quickly apprised that at St. Ann’s, likewise, I am to preach no more.

    Friday, May 19th: I preached at St. John’s, Wapping at three and at St. Bennett’s, Paul’s Wharf, in the evening. At these churches, likewise, I am to preach no more.

    Friday, November 3rd: I preached at St. Antholin’s; Sunday, 5, in the morning, at St. Botolph’s, Bishopsgate; in the afternoon, at Islington; and in the evening, to such a congregation as I never saw before, at St. Clement’s, in the Strand. As this was the first time of my preaching here, I suppose it is to be the last.

    Friday, March 10.—I rode once more to Pensford at the earnest request of serious people. The place where they desired me to preach was a little green spot near the town. But I had no sooner begun than a great company of rabble, hired (as we afterwards found) for that purpose, came furiously upon us, bringing a bull, which they had been baiting, and now strove to drive in among the people. But the beast was wiser than his drivers and continually ran either on one side of us or the other, while we quietly sang praise to God and prayed for about an hour.

    Then in Wesley’s 85th year of life, with a history of many successes and perhaps far more apparent failures, he writes these words near the end of his journal:

    Saturday, August 22. I crossed over to Redruth and at six preached to a huge multitude, as usual, from the steps of the market house. The Word seemed to sink deep into every heart. I know not that ever I spent such a week in Cornwall before.

    Sunday, August 23.–l preached there again in the morning and in the evening at the amphitheater, I suppose, for the last time. My voice cannot now command the still increasing multitude. It was supposed they were now more than five and twenty thousand.

    In the end, like Abraham, Wesley didn’t see the invisible and heavenly country (Hebrews 11:16) that he desired, yet he pressed on in faith. That’s the kind of faith that is the very witness of that which remains unseen. May we all live so faithfully!

    Can a Robe Obscure the Gospel? Revisited

    My good friend Robert posted this as a comment on my Can a Robe Obscure the Gospel post. I really enjoyed reading it, and thought it might go unnoticed there, so with his permission, I’m reposting it here:

    The 2-point charge in this very rural area helped me with that decision. The smaller church encouraged me to dispense with the robe from the beginning; it only took me about 3 months to catch on and leave the robe off. The larger church told me from the first that their pastors wear robes in the pulpit, and that they would be happy to buy a robe for me if I did not own one already.

    I’m one that believes in the value of clerical collars for weekday wear, although that was new in the communities I serve. The only time I wear a clerical collar in the pulpit is when I have no other clean white (I tend toward white clergy shirts more often than black) shirt in the closet or I am participating in an ecumenical service (such as Baccalaureate) – where a robe or alb in this rural area would tend to exaggerate the differences with the pastors from the other local churches.

    I have introduced the white alb for celebration of the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion at the larger church (and for Baptism only at the smaller church). Both churches are happy with the alb. Oh, there are some who think it looks awfully “Catholic” – which is fine with me, being a bit of an Anglo-Catholic myself. And both churches were especially pleased with the addition of my red Order of Saint Luke scapular for the Sacrament(s).

    By the way, the smaller church which likes me in a suit rather than a robe on Sunday mornings, absolutely wants me in a robe for funerals and weddings. Is that because those are “official” church services, or perhaps because they long for that connection with the universal church of the ages for those important passages in the lives of us all? If so, does that mean that Sunday morning worship is not really “official” or not really important? Has Sunday morning just become a time for some singing and a comforting lecture from a non-threatening neighbor?

    Now, the black alb (yes, I know that is a contradiction in terms, at least based on the origin of the word “alb”) for Good Friday services has not proven as popular. . . yet.

    Do robes and albs get in the way of the message? Yes, sometimes they do for some people. Business suits get in the way for some people sometimes, too (particularly $1,500 well-tailored suits that smack of the “prosperity gospel” or the “city slicker here to fleece the local folks”).

    It may be that robes and albs are more important to me because I grew up in a church that considered such garments a mark of apostasy from the “true religion.”

    Do golf shirts and khaki Dockers get in the way for some people sometimes? Yes, they do.

    Where I serve right now, the only dark suit – the only suit of any color – the only coat and tie, in the church on Sunday morning would be in the pulpit. Does that make the suit, the coat and tie, an outmoded costume or uniform worn to express continuity with another place and time? Sure does – just as the robes and albs do. I just believe it is more important to show that connection with the Church over the last 17 or 18 centuries, than over the last 7 or 8 decades. For others, it is more important to reject either of those connections, each of which brings to mind as many tragic events as powerful and positive events.

    For me, each situation should be considered, and we should remain flexible and open to change as time goes by even in the same church and community.

    But those who reject robes and albs because they are costumes and carry some “baggage” with them, should be aware that WHATEVER we wear in the pulpit, or on the street (clergy collars originated among Anglican – not Roman, clergy so that they could stop wearing cassocks on the English streets just a couple of centuries ago or so), is a costume and sends a message to at least some observers.

    Vote on My Stole

    Allright…I’m one of those rare commissioned elders who hasn’t worn a stole during my probationary period. I simply feel that it is a mark of full ordination, and I want my ordination service to be special. It seems to me that wearing a stole on the Sunday following my ordination will carry a lot of deep symbolism and meaning both for me and my congregation. Some people argue that the congregation “deserves” to have someone who wears a stole, thereby not feeling short-changed by not having a “real” elder, but I haven’t bought that argument.

    However, I am already collecting stoles to wear once I am ordained next year (unless something weird derails the process). The first two are gifts from my mother-in-law, and I’m trying to decide which green stole to start out with. Right now, I’m stuck between two really nice plain green stoles. So what could be more fun than an interactive informal blog vote. Pick your favorite and tell me in a comment. I’ll try to post something a little more intellectually stimulating some other time!

    #1. Stole #1.                        #2.Stole #2.

    Pentecost

    I find the account of Pentecost in Acts to be very interesting. One thing I’ve noticed is the interpretive model that Peter uses. There are three responses to the dynamic outpouring of the Holy Spirit. 1.) Confusion: as seen in the folks who asked, “What’s going on?” 2.) Skepticism demonstrated by the folks who said, “They’re just drunk…don’t we all speak foreign languages when we’re drunk? Don’t we?” and 3.) Peter’s interpretive act whereby he clarifies and interprets the event through the lens of Old Testament prophecy.

    What is our response to strange events in our lives? Are we too confused to look for answers, do we respond with the same old staid skepticism, or are we steeped enough in the narrative of Scripture to interpret them through the lens of God’s ongoing drama of Salvation?

    I’m pretty smitten with some of the post-modern/emergent ways of thinking, and I really appreciate the emphasis on mystery and awe found in that way of being the Church. However, sometimes I think we can over-mystify things to the point that we neglect placing them in the trajectory of God’s story of salvation. This passage seems to suggest that there are times that what seems confusing or strange, even mysterious, can be interpreted when placed in the right interpretive framework.

    On another note, here are some helpful thoughts on Pentecost from Dan Clendenin.

    Happy Feast of Saint Athanasius!

    AthanasiusToday is the feast day of Saint Athanasius in the Anglican and Roman Catholic church. Good old Athanasius, if it wasn’t for him, we’d all be Arians. We protestants don’t really celebrate feast days, but I wish we did. It would be nice to remember some of the saints while having a reason for celebratory feasts! Well, I guess my little contribution to that will be to mention a saint or two every so often. I’ve only done this once before, but now this makes two. Who knows, maybe #3 will come before the end of ’07.

    While looking for an anecdote about old Athanasius, I found an interesting story on Wikipedia,

    The bishop Alexander, so the tale runs, had invited a number of fellow prelates to meet him at breakfast after a great religious function. While Alexander was waiting for his guests to arrive, he stood by a window, watching a group of boys at play on the seashore below the house. He had not observed them long before he discovered that they were imitating the elaborate ritual of Christian baptism. He sent for the children and, in the investigation that followed, it was discovered that one of the boys (none other than the Athanasius), had acted the part of the bishop, and in that character had actually baptized several of his companions in the course of their play. Alexander determined to recognize the make-believe baptisms as genuine, and decided that Athanasius and his playfellows should go into training in order to prepare themselves for a clerical career.

    I really picked up on this story because of something that happened to me as a boy. I was playing in Jackson Creek out behind my boyhood home with my neighbor Kyle. As we splashed around in the water, Kyle stopped for a minute, looked very serious, and asked me to baptize him! Even as a good Southern Baptist boy, I wasn’t quite sure I had the authority to do this. Unlike Athanasius, I didn’t start baptizing at a young age.

    I’ve thought about this often over the years since I’ve entered the ministry. Did Kyle see something in me so long ago that suggested I might be able to baptize him? Who knows? I didn’t remember this until long after I’d responded to God’s call, but now I definitely see it as one more piece in the 20/20 hindsight puzzle that is God’s call.

    Well, back to Athanasius…let’s remember the Athanasian Creed today. I dare you to do this on Sunday! 🙂

    1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;

    2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

    3. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

    4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.

    5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.

    6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

    7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.

    8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.

    9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

    10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

    11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.

    12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

    13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.

    14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.

    15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;

    16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

    17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;

    18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.

    19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;

    20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.

    21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.

    22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.

    23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

    24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

    25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.

    26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.

    27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

    28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

    29. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    30. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.

    31. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world.

    32. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

    33. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.

    34. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.

    35. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.

    36. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.

    37. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;

    38. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;

    39. He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;

    40. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

    41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;

    42. and shall give account of their own works.

    43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

    44. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

    The Movement of the Father

    Yesterday I preached on the Prodigal Son. I noticed something interesting that didn’t make it into the sermon, so I thought I’d post it here. There are two verses that really caught my attention.

    So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20

    Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. Luke 15:28

    Both verses emphasize the movement of the father. The father moves out to embrace the sinner, and he moves out to embrace the bitter firstborn. What does this tell us? This father isn’t passive. This is a father who won’t let his status stand in the way of reaching out to those he loves.

    There can be no doubt that this is a reference to the God Jesus prayed to as Father. He reaches out to the flagrant sinner; he embraces the bitter hardworking firstborn. He does this all on the terms of those who are lost, rather than on the terms of his own status.

    So, who are we called to be? We’re called to be those who “go,” and this shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, from Abraham to Jesus, God’s people have been called to go. Abraham was called to go and form a new nation blessed to be a blessing, and Jesus calls his disciples to go into all the world making disciples and baptizing them (Matthew 28:19). A missional God will lead to a missional Church.