Monday, December 24, 2007

Fourth Sunday of Advent

As a student of theology within the academic academy, I frequently come to the realization that I am overly-critical of the local church and the practices of worship. Dan Lugo has written a blog about this phenomenon; the tension between theologians and ministers. As I was in church this morning I realized that I was being highly critical of the worship service and the way in which the time of worship was separated from the service of the Word. But most of all, I was critical of the service because it was December 23rd, the fourth Sunday of Advent, and we were celebrating the birthday of Jesus. I wondered if this was one of those situations in which I was overly-critical, living in a theological ivory-tower.

I have been thinking about this for the last few hours and continue to arrive at the conclusion that this is anything but one of those trivial matters. Why do I feel it is so important to observe the fourth Sunday of Advent on this day rather than arriving at Christmas Eve/Christmas early? It’s because of the fact that when we spend more time waiting (Advent), the waiting increases the importance of the celebration. This has been common knowledge among the history of believers. The three great festivals of the Hebrew/Jewish tradition were made “great” because there were three of them, each prepared for and anticipated. When these great feasts/festivals arrived, they were great because of the powerful themes and because of the mentality and attitude that the believers have been preparing with for much time.

The more I study Dr. Robert Webber’s works, and the more I experience the church calendar, the more I realize the importance of rhythm and of time. When we recognize and observe ordinary time, our extraordinary time is made more incredible. Advent is the time spent and observed in order to make the celebration and observance of the incarnation of Christ even more wonderful: much more wonderful than commercial/capitalistic society tells us. So as I conclude, I will not lessen my criticism of the observance of Christmas, when we are still to observe and participate in a time of waiting. By no means does this mean separation from these types of churches, but it gives me a great desire to impact and influence them.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

As a student of theology within the academic academy, I frequently come to the realization that I am overly-critical of the local church and the practices of worship. Dan Lugo has written a blog about this phenomenon; the tension between theologians and ministers. As I was in church this morning I realized that I was being highly critical of the worship service and the way in which the time of worship was separated from the service of the Word. But most of all, I was critical of the service because it was December 23rd, the fourth Sunday of Advent, and we were celebrating the birthday of Jesus. I wondered if this was one of those situations in which I was overly-critical, living in a theological ivory-tower.

I have been thinking about this for the last few hours and continue to arrive at the conclusion that this is anything but one of those trivial matters. Why do I feel it is so important to observe the fourth Sunday of Advent on this day rather than arriving at Christmas Eve/Christmas early? It’s because of the fact that when we spend more time waiting (Advent), the waiting increases the importance of the celebration. This has been common knowledge among the history of believers. The three great festivals of the Hebrew/Jewish tradition were made “great” because there were three of them, each prepared for and anticipated. When these great feasts/festivals arrived, they were great because of the powerful themes and because of the mentality and attitude that the believers have been preparing with for much time.

The more I study Dr. Robert Webber’s works, and the more I experience the church calendar, the more I realize the importance of rhythm and of time. When we recognize and observe ordinary time, our extraordinary time is made more incredible. Advent is the time spent and observed in order to make the celebration and observance of the incarnation of Christ even more wonderful: much more wonderful than commercial/capitalistic society tells us. So as I conclude, I will not lessen my criticism of the observance of Christmas, when we are still to observe and participate in a time of waiting. By no means does this mean separation from these types of churches, but it gives me a great desire to impact and influence them.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Care of the Earth

I realize the necessity to stop and comment on the purposes of humans in creation (yes, purposes is plural). All too often we hear from our local pastors an admonition to become "right with God." Because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, the consummation of this life will welcome in an eternal bliss, recapitulating the relationship once held between Adam and YHWH. But is this "right relationship" with God all that our redeemed lives are to reflect?

Genesis 1:26-27
26 Then God said, “Let us make humankindc in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,d and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
27 So God created humankinde in his image,
in the image of God he created them;f
male and female he created them.
c Heb adam
d Syr: Heb and over all the earth
e Heb adam
f Heb him
The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989, S. Ge 1:26-27

We are living in a culture and society that consumes natural resources without thought of the resulting consequences. Care of the creation is left to those extremists who exist within PITA or are labeled as tree-huggers. Yet, as recorded in Genesis, humankind (adam) is to have dominion (care) over creation. Not only is our purpose to be in relationship with God, but to be in relationship with fellow creation. Why is it that, in most of our churches, only one side of this message is preached?

What can we do as faithful/committed Christians to care for our creation?

Jesus "great acts"


I was reading Dallas Willard's book this morning, The Spirit of the Disciplines. After a brief forward, which describes with much brevity a history of spiritual disciplines and the abused or neglected view of them, Willard proclaims that the first spiritual discipline is life itself. I want to share a line that Willard wrote in his 3rd chapter: "A close look at Jesus' "great acts" of humility, faith, and compassion recorded in the Gospel narratives finds them to be moments in a life more pervasively and deeply characterized by solitude, fasting, prayer, and service. Surely, then, the lives of his followers must be just as deeply characterized by those same practices." (Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988), 28-29).

How incredibly humbling to a 21st century Christian. Confined by an oh-so-busy schedule and deceived by a mentality that rejects any act that may be contrived as syncretized with culture, I have struggled since coming to know Christ to faithfully and fully participate in the wonderful disciplines of solitude, fasting, prayer, and service that Willard highlights as the characterizations of Jesus' life.

Yet, I sit and wonder why the Christian acts that I so believe in, are regularly so difficult to follow through with. Humility, faith, compassion. All three of these "great acts" require the individual to see with eyes that are trained. Humility is not natural in our culture. Image and popularity are. Faith, in our culture, is accepted, as long as it is accepting of others' faith and beliefs. Yet the scriptures are clear that faith needs to be rooted in the Son of the Father:
11 And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989, S. 1 Jn 5:11-12)

And in a land that lives out of fear; fear of war, of poverty, of image, and of government, compassion is a high and non-holy pursuit that can only lead to destruction. How can an individual or an institution be compassionate when they are fearful that someone or some group will get ahead as a result of compassion?

I write about these things not as someone who is good at practicing the requirements to fulfill the great acts, but someone who realizes (at least in the head) the importance of the spiritual disciplines. I hope to learn from the ancient-fathers how beneficial and necessary these disciplines are.

Care of the Earth

I realize the necessity to stop and comment on the purposes of humans in creation (yes, purposes is plural). All too often we hear from our local pastors an admonition to become "right with God." Because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, the consummation of this life will welcome in an eternal bliss, recapitulating the relationship once held between Adam and YHWH. But is this "right relationship" with God all that our redeemed lives are to reflect?
Genesis 1:26-27
26 Then God said, “Let us make humankindc in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,d and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
27 So God created humankinde in his image,
in the image of God he created them;f
male and female he created them.
c Heb adam
d Syr: Heb and over all the earth
e Heb adam
f Heb him
The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989, S. Ge 1:26-27

We are living in a culture and society that consumes natural resources without thought of the resulting consequences. Care of the creation is left to those extremists who exist within PITA or are labeled as tree-huggers. Yet, as recorded in Genesis, humankind (adam) is to have dominion (care) over creation. Not only is our purpose to be in relationship with God, but to be in relationship with fellow creation. Why is it that, in most of our churches, only one side of this message is preached?
What can we do as faithful/committed Christians to care for our creation?

Labels:

Jesus "great acts"


I was reading Dallas Willard's book this morning, The Spirit of the Disciplines. After a brief forward, which describes with much brevity a history of spiritual disciplines and the abused or neglected view of them, Willard proclaims that the first spiritual discipline is life itself. I want to share a line that Willard wrote in his 3rd chapter: "A close look at Jesus' "great acts" of humility, faith, and compassion recorded in the Gospel narratives finds them to be moments in a life more pervasively and deeply characterized by solitude, fasting, prayer, and service. Surely, then, the lives of his followers must be just as deeply characterized by those same practices." (Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988), 28-29).

How incredibly humbling to a 21st century Christian. Confined by an oh-so-busy schedule and deceived by a mentality that rejects any act that may be contrived as syncretized with culture, I have struggled since coming to know Christ to faithfully and fully participate in the wonderful disciplines of solitude, fasting, prayer, and service that Willard highlights as the characterizations of Jesus' life.

Yet, I sit and wonder why the Christian acts that I so believe in, are regularly so difficult to follow through with. Humility, faith, compassion. All three of these "great acts" require the individual to see with eyes that are trained. Humility is not natural in our culture. Image and popularity are. Faith, in our culture, is accepted, as long as it is accepting of others' faith and beliefs. Yet the scriptures are clear that faith needs to be rooted in the Son of the Father:
11 And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989, S. 1 Jn 5:11-12)

And in a land that lives out of fear; fear of war, of poverty, of image, and of government, compassion is a high and non-holy pursuit that can only lead to destruction. How can an individual or an institution be compassionate when they are fearful that someone or some group will get ahead as a result of compassion?

I write about these things not as someone who is good at practicing the requirements to fulfill the great acts, but someone who realizes (at least in the head) the importance of the spiritual disciplines. I hope to learn from the ancient-fathers how beneficial and necessary these disciplines are.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A contemplative service?

What does it mean to have a worship service/gathering that is contemplative? And how does this type of service differ from the current trends in Western Evangelical Protestantism (or does it)?

A contemplative service?

What does it mean to have a worship service/gathering that is contemplative? And how does this type of service differ from the current trends in Western Evangelical Protestantism (or does it)?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fallacy of the Direct Object



I had the opportunity this morning to read a short book by Lauren F. Winner, titled Mudhouse Sabbath. She briefly describes her childhood, being raised in a Jewish family, and arriving at her final year of college, converting to Christianity. Although she has found (or has been found by) the God-Man Jesus Christ and the ultimate gift of grace, she bemoans the loss of rhythm and pattern in the practice of the day, week, month, year, and ultimately life cycles as experienced within the Jewish community. I appreciated her expressed intentionality of purpose and meaning towards life. One line in particular, when describing the Sabbath, jumped off the page: "We could call the second problem with the current Sabbath vogue the fallacy of the direct object" (Lauren Winner , Mudhouse Sabbath (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2003), 11.)

I believe that the "fallacy of the direct object" applies to all areas of our religious practice in which we have placed the individual at the center. This narcissistic desire is a product of the cultural desire to get ahead and promote individual right over responsibility. The Sabbath that Winner describes urges the pious to observe the Sabbath not because it is therapeutic (as practitioners and health care workers are now realizing), but because God has ordained and commanded it. Spontaneous prayer and meditation is a wonderful thing, when the direct object is not replaced with the needs-for-me mentality. Eating well and care of the body are holy pursuits when the desire is not to gain appreciation and acknowledgment from the culture. The fallacy of the direct object, the direct object being the self and not the sovereign God, is a fallacy that has so pervaded the Christian Church that has forced many Protestants to reject ritual and rhythm all together.

All that to say, I appreciated Winner's short comments on spiritual disciplines. We (who are Christians in the 21st century) have much to learn from our Jewish heritage. I leave you with the Shema, given to us in the book of Deuteronomy: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone."
The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989, S. Dt 6:4

Fallacy of the Direct Object



I had the opportunity this morning to read a short book by Lauren F. Winner, titled Mudhouse Sabbath. She briefly describes her childhood, being raised in a Jewish family, and arriving at her final year of college, converting to Christianity. Although she has found (or has been found by) the God-Man Jesus Christ and the ultimate gift of grace, she bemoans the loss of rhythm and pattern in the practice of the day, week, month, year, and ultimately life cycles as experienced within the Jewish community. I appreciated her expressed intentionality of purpose and meaning towards life. One line in particular, when describing the Sabbath, jumped off the page: "We could call the second problem with the current Sabbath vogue the fallacy of the direct object" (Lauren Winner , Mudhouse Sabbath (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2003), 11.)

I believe that the "fallacy of the direct object" applies to all areas of our religious practice in which we have placed the individual at the center. This narcissistic desire is a product of the cultural desire to get ahead and promote individual right over responsibility. The Sabbath that Winner describes urges the pious to observe the Sabbath not because it is therapeutic (as practitioners and health care workers are now realizing), but because God has ordained and commanded it. Spontaneous prayer and meditation is a wonderful thing, when the direct object is not replaced with the needs-for-me mentality. Eating well and care of the body are holy pursuits when the desire is not to gain appreciation and acknowledgment from the culture. The fallacy of the direct object, the direct object being the self and not the sovereign God, is a fallacy that has so pervaded the Christian Church that has forced many Protestants to reject ritual and rhythm all together.

All that to say, I appreciated Winner's short comments on spiritual disciplines. We (who are Christians in the 21st century) have much to learn from our Jewish heritage. I leave you with the Shema, given to us in the book of Deuteronomy: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone."
The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989, S. Dt 6:4

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Advent-Third Sunday

For those of you who are unfamiliar, or unaware of the use of the lectionary, I highly suggest looking into and meditating on the scripture passages for tomorrows observance of the Lord's Day. These scripture verses are replete with the encouragement to wait. But not waiting without a vision for the future, but with a vision of hope for the future. I hope that these are a blessing to you.


Third Sunday of Advent

Old Testament: Isa 35:1-10
Psalms: Ps 146:5-10 or Luke 1:47-55
New Testament: James 5:7-10
Gospel: Matt 11:2-11

Advent-Third Sunday

For those of you who are unfamiliar, or unaware of the use of the lectionary, I highly suggest looking into and meditating on the scripture passages for tomorrows observance of the Lord's Day. These scripture verses are replete with the encouragement to wait. But not waiting without a vision for the future, but with a vision of hope for the future. I hope that these are a blessing to you.
Third Sunday of Advent

Old Testament: Isa 35:1-10
Psalms: Ps 146:5-10 or Luke 1:47-55
New Testament: James 5:7-10
Gospel: Matt 11:2-11

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Golden Compass-Part 2

I had the pleasure of seeing the major motion picture tonight with my sister. There have been few movies in my life that have raised such excitement (due to all the hype and controversy surrounding it): let me say that it was no more than disappointing. As most people would agree, movies usually fail to live up to the quality of the written form. I was especially disappointed with the character development. The book created characters with depth, with history, with feelings and personalities that extended beyond the short moments given in the movie (esp. Serafina Pekkala, Lord Asriel, and Ma Costa). The movie script writers also took the liberty to change the order of events, the most obvious being the confrontation between Iorek Byrinson and Iofur Raknison, and the release of the children at Bolvangar. With such serious changes in the structure, and with the failure of character development, I found the movie to be an utter disappointment.

Let me also express frustration with some people who are choosing to boycott this movie because of the belief that those who see it are supporting a work that "undermines everything we believe in" (particularly: certain Christians). The only way in which this argument will hold any weight is if the one who feels threatened and undermined fully believes that his or her beliefs are represented in the movie. If our vision for the church is as Pullman describes it, "controlling, destroying, obliterating of all good feelings, authoritative, powerful," then yes, we should stand up for that church that is being attacked.

But the message that I receive when I interpret the scriptures, the message I receive when I interact with the culture in which I live, the morals and ethics I pick out when I read of the life of Jesus Christ, are even more against those idealogies and desires of the church than those delivered by Pullman. One need only open a history book to realize the great atrocities the church has committed in the name of God. Whether that be the Crusades, the oppression towards women, the enforcement and acceptability of slavery, the greed and power hungry authorities in place to deliver indulgences and salvation through works, or the facade of purity, we must acknowledge the reasons for such anger and hatred toward this thing that we call the bride of Christ.

However, the Church remains the bride of Christ. After Christ ascended to heaven, the Church was set in place to continue delivering the message of the Suffering Servant. The Church was to announce Christ as Christus Victor. The Church was not to be an oppressive institution, but a place that people would want to come to because of the witness of the body that made it up. So why is it that we are so upset about a non-believer delivering a story that illustrates and illuminates the failure of the Church when it's vision is set on power and oppression? Are we, who claim to know Christ and his mission toward the "poor, the widows, and the meek," to throw our arms up in disgust when a non-believer sees these same problems?

I will continue to enjoy Pullman's literary works until he starts attacking the Jesus or the Church that I believe in: one that seeks to live out of love and not power. I hope that others will see the failures of the Church in this way, and allow the book and major motion picture to offer dialogue and opportunities to apologize for the atrocities of the church in the past (and present, and most likely future). But not only apologize for those things, but offer an image of what the real Church is to look like.

Golden Compass-Part 2

I had the pleasure of seeing the major motion picture tonight with my sister. There have been few movies in my life that have raised such excitement (due to all the hype and controversy surrounding it): let me say that it was no more than disappointing. As most people would agree, movies usually fail to live up to the quality of the written form. I was especially disappointed with the character development. The book created characters with depth, with history, with feelings and personalities that extended beyond the short moments given in the movie (esp. Serafina Pekkala, Lord Asriel, and Ma Costa). The movie script writers also took the liberty to change the order of events, the most obvious being the confrontation between Iorek Byrinson and Iofur Raknison, and the release of the children at Bolvangar. With such serious changes in the structure, and with the failure of character development, I found the movie to be an utter disappointment.
Let me also express frustration with some people who are choosing to boycott this movie because of the belief that those who see it are supporting a work that "undermines everything we believe in" (particularly: certain Christians). The only way in which this argument will hold any weight is if the one who feels threatened and undermined fully believes that his or her beliefs are represented in the movie. If our vision for the church is as Pullman describes it, "controlling, destroying, obliterating of all good feelings, authoritative, powerful," then yes, we should stand up for that church that is being attacked.
But the message that I receive when I interpret the scriptures, the message I receive when I interact with the culture in which I live, the morals and ethics I pick out when I read of the life of Jesus Christ, are even more against those idealogies and desires of the church than those delivered by Pullman. One need only open a history book to realize the great atrocities the church has committed in the name of God. Whether that be the Crusades, the oppression towards women, the enforcement and acceptability of slavery, the greed and power hungry authorities in place to deliver indulgences and salvation through works, or the facade of purity, we must acknowledge the reasons for such anger and hatred toward this thing that we call the bride of Christ.
However, the Church remains the bride of Christ. After Christ ascended to heaven, the Church was set in place to continue delivering the message of the Suffering Servant. The Church was to announce Christ as Christus Victor. The Church was not to be an oppressive institution, but a place that people would want to come to because of the witness of the body that made it up. So why is it that we are so upset about a non-believer delivering a story that illustrates and illuminates the failure of the Church when it's vision is set on power and oppression? Are we, who claim to know Christ and his mission toward the "poor, the widows, and the meek," to throw our arms up in disgust when a non-believer sees these same problems?
I will continue to enjoy Pullman's literary works until he starts attacking the Jesus or the Church that I believe in: one that seeks to live out of love and not power. I hope that others will see the failures of the Church in this way, and allow the book and major motion picture to offer dialogue and opportunities to apologize for the atrocities of the church in the past (and present, and most likely future). But not only apologize for those things, but offer an image of what the real Church is to look like.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Advent


We are currently in that time when we wait for the celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ. It is a time not of celebration and joy, but a time of analysis and inventory of the current state of things. When analyzed, the realization that our world and culture is still in need of the re-creation, still in need of the final coming of the kingdom of God. Advent is filled with this two part understanding: (1) awaiting Christ's incarnation, (2) and awaiting Christ's return.

In Western society, where instant gratification is glorified, the observance and practice of Advent provides the observer a time to slow down and think through the implications of a Savior coming into the world. First of all, that we live in a world that is fallen. One need only turn on the news channels to see that crime and injustice is prevalent all over the world. The great commandment to love God and love one another is only a myth and idea in many of our lives.

Second, we live in a world that rejects God. Whether that be in the form of narcissism, atheism, agnosticism, New Ageism, or relativism, the monotheistic understanding of God is viewed as narrow and elitist. The culture in which we live hates the fact that we claim to know God and claim to offer a message that has impact not only on ourselves, but on all of humanity.

Third, Advent is a time to be intentional and thoughtful of the ministries we are involved in. Is our church functioning in a way that displays the incarnation and hope of re-creation? Are we offering hope to those who do not know the love of Christ? Are we serving one another, not only within the church, but outside as well? Am I being that light in my workplace, just as John was, announcing the glory of the Lord?

The church calendar is not only a ritualistic remembrance of the events of Christ, but is a means in which we, as the church, can display the importance of time in our lives. Time is not something to be wasted, but cherished. And this time is not narcissistic and self-centered, but looks toward loving God and loving our neighbor.

Advent


We are currently in that time when we wait for the celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ. It is a time not of celebration and joy, but a time of analysis and inventory of the current state of things. When analyzed, the realization that our world and culture is still in need of the re-creation, still in need of the final coming of the kingdom of God. Advent is filled with this two part understanding: (1) awaiting Christ's incarnation, (2) and awaiting Christ's return.

In Western society, where instant gratification is glorified, the observance and practice of Advent provides the observer a time to slow down and think through the implications of a Savior coming into the world. First of all, that we live in a world that is fallen. One need only turn on the news channels to see that crime and injustice is prevalent all over the world. The great commandment to love God and love one another is only a myth and idea in many of our lives.

Second, we live in a world that rejects God. Whether that be in the form of narcissism, atheism, agnosticism, New Ageism, or relativism, the monotheistic understanding of God is viewed as narrow and elitist. The culture in which we live hates the fact that we claim to know God and claim to offer a message that has impact not only on ourselves, but on all of humanity.

Third, Advent is a time to be intentional and thoughtful of the ministries we are involved in. Is our church functioning in a way that displays the incarnation and hope of re-creation? Are we offering hope to those who do not know the love of Christ? Are we serving one another, not only within the church, but outside as well? Am I being that light in my workplace, just as John was, announcing the glory of the Lord?

The church calendar is not only a ritualistic remembrance of the events of Christ, but is a means in which we, as the church, can display the importance of time in our lives. Time is not something to be wasted, but cherished. And this time is not narcissistic and self-centered, but looks toward loving God and loving our neighbor.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Les Miserables and the Pharisees


As I was working around the apartment today, I had the opportunity to listen to the Les Miserables soundtrack. What struck me in particular was the way in which Jean Valjeans character and saving act pushed Javert to a fatal act of suicide. Earlier in the drama we see Jean Valjean given a second chance, and responded by changing his life to a life filled with meaning and blessing to others. But when Javert is given a similar second chance, he responds with phrases such as:

"I am the law, and the law is not mocked"

"The world I have known is lost in shadows"

"Does he know, that granting me my life today, this man has killed me even so."

When someone enters into a culture and tells it that the thoughts and practices are wrong, cultures natural reaction is responding out of fear, out of anger, and out of selfish desires. Much in the same way, Javert's law, which he knew and lived by, was turned upside when Jean Valjean "gave him his life back." Because of this act, everything that Javert knew was thrown away. Therefore, he could no longer live in such a world.

Much in the same way, we see prophets throughout the Old Testament functioning as voices calling people to be counter-cultural. To return to another way of being. By the time Jesus entered the scene, the Pharisees lived by the law with such magnitude (over 500 laws), that anyone who preached a lifestyle of humility, a lifestyle devoted to serving the poor and the outcast, or a lifestyle run not by rules and regulations but by relationship, certainly had to be silenced. If this selfless act of sacrifice would actually happen, and if Jesus disciples would actually live out this lifestyle of caring and loving, then everything the Pharisees knew would be destroyed. The only option was destroying this threat.

Javert killed himself.

The Pharisees and those living under the law condemned a man to death.

Can the Church turn itself around like Jean Valjean and realize the given blessing, and bless the world in response?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Les Miserables and the Pharisees


As I was working around the apartment today, I had the opportunity to listen to the Les Miserables soundtrack. What struck me in particular was the way in which Jean Valjeans character and saving act pushed Javert to a fatal act of suicide. Earlier in the drama we see Jean Valjean given a second chance, and responded by changing his life to a life filled with meaning and blessing to others. But when Javert is given a similar second chance, he responds with phrases such as:

"I am the law, and the law is not mocked"

"The world I have known is lost in shadows"

"Does he know, that granting me my life today, this man has killed me even so."

When someone enters into a culture and tells it that the thoughts and practices are wrong, cultures natural reaction is responding out of fear, out of anger, and out of selfish desires. Much in the same way, Javert's law, which he knew and lived by, was turned upside when Jean Valjean "gave him his life back." Because of this act, everything that Javert knew was thrown away. Therefore, he could no longer live in such a world.

Much in the same way, we see prophets throughout the Old Testament functioning as voices calling people to be counter-cultural. To return to another way of being. By the time Jesus entered the scene, the Pharisees lived by the law with such magnitude (over 500 laws), that anyone who preached a lifestyle of humility, a lifestyle devoted to serving the poor and the outcast, or a lifestyle run not by rules and regulations but by relationship, certainly had to be silenced. If this selfless act of sacrifice would actually happen, and if Jesus disciples would actually live out this lifestyle of caring and loving, then everything the Pharisees knew would be destroyed. The only option was destroying this threat.

Javert killed himself.

The Pharisees and those living under the law condemned a man to death.

Can the Church turn itself around like Jean Valjean and realize the given blessing, and bless the world in response?

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The Golden Compass - Part 1




The clock now reads 12:17 A.M. Philip Pullman has created a fantasy world that is both welcoming and desirable, much in the same way that readers have been drawn to the Potter and Narnia series. Foreign mystical lands, creatures that are to be both loved and feared, the archetypes of protagonist and antagonist, and unique self-discovery and revelation provide the reader with an urge to live, or at least imagine living, in such a reality. Despite the religious uproar and controversy thus far, I found this book to be no less than captivating.

I will avoid discussing the impact of this book or the controversies surrounding it until I finish the trilogy. But before I am labeled a heretic for doing such, try to understand my reasons. I am currently working part-time, where, for the most part, my co-workers are aetheist or agnostic. This has led to some wonderful discussions. Last week, one of these c0-workers asked if I was excited for "The Golden Compass" (movie) to come out. I informed him that I was not aware of the movie, and he said: "You probably wouldn't like it anyways, you're a Christian, and the movie is anti-Christian."

The next day I went out and bought the book, and hope to have the trilogy finished within the next few weeks. As I mentioned in a post yesterday, the power that story and narrative have on people's interpretation of everyday/visible lives has incredible impact. Because of this, story functions as a medium that encourages and builds conversation, without being accusatory or propositional in nature. The typical complaints against Christians today are these two things. I hope that by reading these books and researching Pullman's life and motives, the next few weeks will be full of conversation and honest dialogue between people who have been captivated by story.

Look for future posts addressing the controversies surrounding the book/movie. This book, like any that are done well, has layer after layer of interpretation and thought, which cannot be analyzed 30 minutes after completing. I hope to chew on these layers and eventually post insights gained through this experience. Philip Pullman's website

The following article about the controversy is posted on the Time website. Check it out.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Golden Compass - Part 1




The clock now reads 12:17 A.M. Philip Pullman has created a fantasy world that is both welcoming and desirable, much in the same way that readers have been drawn to the Potter and Narnia series. Foreign mystical lands, creatures that are to be both loved and feared, the archetypes of protagonist and antagonist, and unique self-discovery and revelation provide the reader with an urge to live, or at least imagine living, in such a reality. Despite the religious uproar and controversy thus far, I found this book to be no less than captivating.

I will avoid discussing the impact of this book or the controversies surrounding it until I finish the trilogy. But before I am labeled a heretic for doing such, try to understand my reasons. I am currently working part-time, where, for the most part, my co-workers are aetheist or agnostic. This has led to some wonderful discussions. Last week, one of these c0-workers asked if I was excited for "The Golden Compass" (movie) to come out. I informed him that I was not aware of the movie, and he said: "You probably wouldn't like it anyways, you're a Christian, and the movie is anti-Christian."

The next day I went out and bought the book, and hope to have the trilogy finished within the next few weeks. As I mentioned in a post yesterday, the power that story and narrative have on people's interpretation of everyday/visible lives has incredible impact. Because of this, story functions as a medium that encourages and builds conversation, without being accusatory or propositional in nature. The typical complaints against Christians today are these two things. I hope that by reading these books and researching Pullman's life and motives, the next few weeks will be full of conversation and honest dialogue between people who have been captivated by story.

Look for future posts addressing the controversies surrounding the book/movie. This book, like any that are done well, has layer after layer of interpretation and thought, which cannot be analyzed 30 minutes after completing. I hope to chew on these layers and eventually post insights gained through this experience. Philip Pullman's website

The following article about the controversy is posted on the Time website. Check it out.

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Concept of the Narrative

I have just completed an extensive reading assignment, analyzing and applying Dr. Robert E. Webber's principles and ideas contained within the Ancient-Future Series for my Theology and Practice of Worship and Spirituality class. To close the quarter, Dr. Sam Hamstra invited each person to share with one another a concept or theme that had either: (1) impacted the student, or (2) raised questions for further study. If you are aware or familiar with Webber's writings, you will understand why it is difficult for the student to answer with a quick response without proper explanation. Therefore, I am writing this blog to be a continuation of that response, developing the concept of worship as narrative.

The situation and environment was perfect to be impacted in such a way, as I was studying the Pentateuch at the same time. The main thrust of the Pentateuch (the class) was to explain the reality of the Kingdom of God as believed by the Israelites, and gain an understanding for the reasons in which followers of Christ have interpreted his works as a fulfillment, not destruction or abolition, of such historical and narratable events. Hearing and discussing the story of God, which extends deeper into history than so many Christians understand, allows the faithful to realize the sovereignty and love of YHWH since the beginning of time, finding a perfect expression through the incarnate Jesus Christ. Talk about a story to tell!

Webber's contention is that worship is not merely a time for individuals to come together and express feelings, but it is a time for the body to proclaim their unique, yet absolute story (despite the post-modern desire to exalt pluralistic relativism). Such re-telling and remembrance is not as simple as "thinking on events," but requires the observer to experience and partake through anticipation and celebration. Webber sums the act of anamnesis in such a way:

We tend to translate this word as "memory," a mental action that brings to mind something from the past. This is questionable. The word may also mean "re-calling" or "re-presenting" before God an event, so that its effects become operative here and now. In this sense the remembrance places before God the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ and makes it operative in the present to the believer who by faith receives Christ under the signs of bread and wine. In this way the remembrance is no empty act but a powerful proclamation of the sacrifice of Christ.
Dr. Robert E. Webber, Worship Old & New (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 181.

As we approach our corporate times of worship within the local churches, we need to be counter-cultural in placing our desires and needs to the side in order to allow the story of God to direct and lead our worship. I am on a journey and in a story, realizing that my relationship with God is changing and growing. Yet I can rest in the assurance that this is a story that has been in process for thousands of years, with a knowledge that the ending has already been written through Christus Victor.

P.S.-This blog was originally to be about the release of a new movie (based on a book by Philip Pullman) called, "The Golden Compass," but am realizing that such a topic is subservient to explaining the impact of story on my view of worship, expounded upon by the late Dr. Webber. I hope to write about Pullman's work shortly.

Desires To Be Heard

For the last 4 years, I have been an individual who protests the permeation of the current trend to display and share emotions with strangers on the impersonal community called the world wide web, displaying severe apathy for the all-to-popular Facebook. This has been a stance based not only in idealogical convictions to spend time with one another face-to-face, but from a knowledge of my own failure to use blessings in moderation. And to a good ol' American who has been immersed in a culture that rewards busyness, "wasting time" is simply not an option.

However, in the last 4 months, I have found myself thinking deeper about politics, about social justice, about orthodoxy and orthopraxy, about values and ethics, and about God, without finding adequate resources to express and communicate. All of these things can be developed and deepened (or idolized and consumed) through individual thought and digestion, but all, in order to be honest and true to those whose lives we impact, require discussion in the hope and belief that the voice of the community is greater than the voice of the individual.

If I have failed in any area thus far at seminary, it is in voicing the concerns and joys that I experience on a daily basis. The simple, yet powerful, act of forming and developing language and thoughts is an education all by itself, which I am realizing to be, "Blogging 101." So I approach this beginning with excitement. And I do so with the hope of resistance to the temptation to use this as a portal in which to express "emo" desires (even though Dashboard Confessional is a wonderful band), hoping to offer insights and questions, realizing that the one who offers is usually the one who receives.

Concept of the Narrative

I have just completed an extensive reading assignment, analyzing and applying Dr. Robert E. Webber's principles and ideas contained within the Ancient-Future Series for my Theology and Practice of Worship and Spirituality class. To close the quarter, Dr. Sam Hamstra invited each person to share with one another a concept or theme that had either: (1) impacted the student, or (2) raised questions for further study. If you are aware or familiar with Webber's writings, you will understand why it is difficult for the student to answer with a quick response without proper explanation. Therefore, I am writing this blog to be a continuation of that response, developing the concept of worship as narrative.
The situation and environment was perfect to be impacted in such a way, as I was studying the Pentateuch at the same time. The main thrust of the Pentateuch (the class) was to explain the reality of the Kingdom of God as believed by the Israelites, and gain an understanding for the reasons in which followers of Christ have interpreted his works as a fulfillment, not destruction or abolition, of such historical and narratable events. Hearing and discussing the story of God, which extends deeper into history than so many Christians understand, allows the faithful to realize the sovereignty and love of YHWH since the beginning of time, finding a perfect expression through the incarnate Jesus Christ. Talk about a story to tell!
Webber's contention is that worship is not merely a time for individuals to come together and express feelings, but it is a time for the body to proclaim their unique, yet absolute story (despite the post-modern desire to exalt pluralistic relativism). Such re-telling and remembrance is not as simple as "thinking on events," but requires the observer to experience and partake through anticipation and celebration. Webber sums the act of anamnesis in such a way:
We tend to translate this word as "memory," a mental action that brings to mind something from the past. This is questionable. The word may also mean "re-calling" or "re-presenting" before God an event, so that its effects become operative here and now. In this sense the remembrance places before God the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ and makes it operative in the present to the believer who by faith receives Christ under the signs of bread and wine. In this way the remembrance is no empty act but a powerful proclamation of the sacrifice of Christ.
Dr. Robert E. Webber, Worship Old & New (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 181.

As we approach our corporate times of worship within the local churches, we need to be counter-cultural in placing our desires and needs to the side in order to allow the story of God to direct and lead our worship. I am on a journey and in a story, realizing that my relationship with God is changing and growing. Yet I can rest in the assurance that this is a story that has been in process for thousands of years, with a knowledge that the ending has already been written through Christus Victor.
P.S.-This blog was originally to be about the release of a new movie (based on a book by Philip Pullman) called, "The Golden Compass," but am realizing that such a topic is subservient to explaining the impact of story on my view of worship, expounded upon by the late Dr. Webber. I hope to write about Pullman's work shortly.

Desires To Be Heard

For the last 4 years, I have been an individual who protests the permeation of the current trend to display and share emotions with strangers on the impersonal community called the world wide web, displaying severe apathy for the all-to-popular Facebook. This has been a stance based not only in idealogical convictions to spend time with one another face-to-face, but from a knowledge of my own failure to use blessings in moderation. And to a good ol' American who has been immersed in a culture that rewards busyness, "wasting time" is simply not an option.
However, in the last 4 months, I have found myself thinking deeper about politics, about social justice, about orthodoxy and orthopraxy, about values and ethics, and about God, without finding adequate resources to express and communicate. All of these things can be developed and deepened (or idolized and consumed) through individual thought and digestion, but all, in order to be honest and true to those whose lives we impact, require discussion in the hope and belief that the voice of the community is greater than the voice of the individual.
If I have failed in any area thus far at seminary, it is in voicing the concerns and joys that I experience on a daily basis. The simple, yet powerful, act of forming and developing language and thoughts is an education all by itself, which I am realizing to be, "Blogging 101." So I approach this beginning with excitement. And I do so with the hope of resistance to the temptation to use this as a portal in which to express "emo" desires (even though Dashboard Confessional is a wonderful band), hoping to offer insights and questions, realizing that the one who offers is usually the one who receives.