Friday, April 24, 2009

Household and Love

I am currently taking a course called Sexual Ethics and the Family at Northern Seminary. We are in the middle of a book by David Matzko McCarthy called Sex and Love in the Home, and the book is as challenging to our understanding of the household and love as it is challenging to read.

I came home from class late last night very frustrated and angry. A fellow classmate had belittled another classmate, the topic of the lecture opposed many of my understandings of the church and its mission, and I found out that I had not been accepted as a recipient of a scholarship for the 2009/2010 school year. But when I arrived home, I was greeted through the common and ordinary expressions of love and household that my wife offered in service to our family. Common and ordinary household necessities of cleaning and maintaining are viewed, in our capitalism/economic driven society, as hills that must be conquered in order to reach the productive and valuable services of income earning and material consumption. McCarthy says that, "household management, then, loses its legs, loses its rationale, and the house-keeper is no longer interdependent but simply dependent and socially inconsequential" (107). The household becomes a place not of life, but a place to re-energize for the life that really matters.

I am very new in these discussions, but identify the weight and importance of participating in them. Jamie and I do not have children yet, but are planning on it in the near future (near meaning years away yet, mom). The way in which we view our household and family now will shape the way in which we view our household as we grow. I am so thankful that my wife and I can participate together in the household and ordinary routines of living together as expressions of love, not just as means to maintain peace and order.

Household and Love

I am currently taking a course called Sexual Ethics and the Family at Northern Seminary. We are in the middle of a book by David Matzko McCarthy called Sex and Love in the Home, and the book is as challenging to our understanding of the household and love as it is challenging to read.
I came home from class late last night very frustrated and angry. A fellow classmate had belittled another classmate, the topic of the lecture opposed many of my understandings of the church and its mission, and I found out that I had not been accepted as a recipient of a scholarship for the 2009/2010 school year. But when I arrived home, I was greeted through the common and ordinary expressions of love and household that my wife offered in service to our family. Common and ordinary household necessities of cleaning and maintaining are viewed, in our capitalism/economic driven society, as hills that must be conquered in order to reach the productive and valuable services of income earning and material consumption. McCarthy says that, "household management, then, loses its legs, loses its rationale, and the house-keeper is no longer interdependent but simply dependent and socially inconsequential" (107). The household becomes a place not of life, but a place to re-energize for the life that really matters.
I am very new in these discussions, but identify the weight and importance of participating in them. Jamie and I do not have children yet, but are planning on it in the near future (near meaning years away yet, mom). The way in which we view our household and family now will shape the way in which we view our household as we grow. I am so thankful that my wife and I can participate together in the household and ordinary routines of living together as expressions of love, not just as means to maintain peace and order.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hope, Peace, and Love

My thoughts have been consumed by a new friend in the past few weeks, and I believe it to be one of the healthiest relationships that I could ever be a part of. I believe firmly that God's grace has been present in my life since I was born. I was baptized within a few weeks of birth, grew up with the liturgies of confession, prayer, creeds, sacrament of the Lords Supper, and confirmed in eighth grade. My parents raised us to know the grace of Jesus Christ in our family and the world, and taught a life that was lived out of the rhythm of Christianity.

Spirituality took a new shape when our family switched to an Evangelical Free Church in the same town, of which I am also grateful for. It was here that I came to understand a personal dimension of faith in Jesus Christ. This faith was illustrated through good works as natural outpourings of thanks to God for the grace given to the individual. Mentors came alongside me, and it was at this time that I found a new identity as an individual Christian. As I said, I am grateful for these years of falling in love with Scripture, with God, with people, and with the good news of Jesus Christ. It was also during these three years that I first sensed a call to a life of vocational ministry.

In the last six years, I have had the privileged opportunity to study the Church, liturgy, mission, and theology. Because academia and intellentia cannot happen in sealed container or vaccuum, my past experiences and worldview have shaped my theological understandings. I have realized that some of my most formative years, 16-18, were spent trying to rid myself of sin and walk more closely in the ways that Christ walked. Most scholars will agree that my experience in the evangelical path of faith is not unique, but that much of evangelicalism is consumed with the avoidance of sin - which has far reaching implications.

Anyway, in the beginning I spoke of a newly visited friend. This friend is the freedom to live out of my baptism and new life in Christ Jesus. It is a friend who announces with clarity that my life in Christ is not only about avoidance, but participation! It is a participation in the goodness of creation, and a participation in the kingdom that Christ established already, awaiting a final fulfillment.

I am currently in a class on spiritual disciplines, and a fellow student (David) remarked last week that when people are asked the question, "how are you doing spiritually?" they will immediately run through a list to be checked off: "Have I read the Bible? Have I prayed? Have I sinned?" Being we are stll sinful creation who have a glimpse of our future reality, we rarely are able to answer with confidence, "I am doing well!" We never can live up to even our own expectations of the spiritual life. But as David said, our spiritual life is not measured (necessarily) by those things, but by our ability to live in peace, with hope, through love.

Let me illustrate how this has been a welcome friend in my own life. On Tuesday night, Jamie and I visited some friends downtown who had flown in from California. As we were on the train, I was struck with the reality that right then, at 5:08 PM on a Tuesday afternoon somewhere between Bartlett and Chicago, I was living as a faithful servant of Christ. I had not won any battles against temptations, I had not resisted selfishness and given of myself, I was not praying, reading scripture, or evangelizing (in the traditional sense), but I was living in faith, hope, and trust. My spiritual expressions on Tuesday night were not extraordinary, but they were powerful.

The second example comes from my job. I work at an elementary school, and we are currently finishing a required standardized test. My job is to set up the computers, give instructions, and administer the test. As I was walking around the lab today, with students busily making calculations and digging for answers, I was overwhelmed with the fact that I was, at 9:07 AM at Century Oaks Elementary School, living the life of a saint (if that use is scary to you, be reassured that I believe in the fallenness of humanity and depravity - I just also believe in the power of the cross and resurrection). Although I was eventually led to pray for the students, for about 10 minutes I rejoiced in the fact that I could simply smile at any one of these students to make their day a pleasant one. That just through the act of a greeting, I can change the way a student views the world.

Living as a new life in a new community should bring hope, peace, and love to the world. Yes, we need to repent of sin and face the reality that it is our Triune God alone that has payed for our sins and allowed us to be called friend. But my prayer is that we intentionally take-on the goodness of new life in Christ.

Hope, Peace, and Love

My thoughts have been consumed by a new friend in the past few weeks, and I believe it to be one of the healthiest relationships that I could ever be a part of. I believe firmly that God's grace has been present in my life since I was born. I was baptized within a few weeks of birth, grew up with the liturgies of confession, prayer, creeds, sacrament of the Lords Supper, and confirmed in eighth grade. My parents raised us to know the grace of Jesus Christ in our family and the world, and taught a life that was lived out of the rhythm of Christianity.
Spirituality took a new shape when our family switched to an Evangelical Free Church in the same town, of which I am also grateful for. It was here that I came to understand a personal dimension of faith in Jesus Christ. This faith was illustrated through good works as natural outpourings of thanks to God for the grace given to the individual. Mentors came alongside me, and it was at this time that I found a new identity as an individual Christian. As I said, I am grateful for these years of falling in love with Scripture, with God, with people, and with the good news of Jesus Christ. It was also during these three years that I first sensed a call to a life of vocational ministry.
In the last six years, I have had the privileged opportunity to study the Church, liturgy, mission, and theology. Because academia and intellentia cannot happen in sealed container or vaccuum, my past experiences and worldview have shaped my theological understandings. I have realized that some of my most formative years, 16-18, were spent trying to rid myself of sin and walk more closely in the ways that Christ walked. Most scholars will agree that my experience in the evangelical path of faith is not unique, but that much of evangelicalism is consumed with the avoidance of sin - which has far reaching implications.
Anyway, in the beginning I spoke of a newly visited friend. This friend is the freedom to live out of my baptism and new life in Christ Jesus. It is a friend who announces with clarity that my life in Christ is not only about avoidance, but participation! It is a participation in the goodness of creation, and a participation in the kingdom that Christ established already, awaiting a final fulfillment.
I am currently in a class on spiritual disciplines, and a fellow student (David) remarked last week that when people are asked the question, "how are you doing spiritually?" they will immediately run through a list to be checked off: "Have I read the Bible? Have I prayed? Have I sinned?" Being we are stll sinful creation who have a glimpse of our future reality, we rarely are able to answer with confidence, "I am doing well!" We never can live up to even our own expectations of the spiritual life. But as David said, our spiritual life is not measured (necessarily) by those things, but by our ability to live in peace, with hope, through love.
Let me illustrate how this has been a welcome friend in my own life. On Tuesday night, Jamie and I visited some friends downtown who had flown in from California. As we were on the train, I was struck with the reality that right then, at 5:08 PM on a Tuesday afternoon somewhere between Bartlett and Chicago, I was living as a faithful servant of Christ. I had not won any battles against temptations, I had not resisted selfishness and given of myself, I was not praying, reading scripture, or evangelizing (in the traditional sense), but I was living in faith, hope, and trust. My spiritual expressions on Tuesday night were not extraordinary, but they were powerful.
The second example comes from my job. I work at an elementary school, and we are currently finishing a required standardized test. My job is to set up the computers, give instructions, and administer the test. As I was walking around the lab today, with students busily making calculations and digging for answers, I was overwhelmed with the fact that I was, at 9:07 AM at Century Oaks Elementary School, living the life of a saint (if that use is scary to you, be reassured that I believe in the fallenness of humanity and depravity - I just also believe in the power of the cross and resurrection). Although I was eventually led to pray for the students, for about 10 minutes I rejoiced in the fact that I could simply smile at any one of these students to make their day a pleasant one. That just through the act of a greeting, I can change the way a student views the world.
Living as a new life in a new community should bring hope, peace, and love to the world. Yes, we need to repent of sin and face the reality that it is our Triune God alone that has payed for our sins and allowed us to be called friend. But my prayer is that we intentionally take-on the goodness of new life in Christ.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Easter and Baptism

We are joined together in celebrating the second week of Easter. Historically, the season has been a time of submerging and rising again out of the baptismal waters. It is a time for all Christians to live out and announce to the world that Christ is risen!, and announce that we, too, have been crucified and raised with Christ. The sacrament of baptism is marked by many external expressions and words. Typically, during the baptismal rite, the following is said (or something similar):

Do you renounce all evil,
and powers in the world
which defy God's righteousness and love?

I renounce them.
Do you renounce the ways of sin
that separate you from the love of God?

I renounce them.

Although the language here specifically comes from the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship, nearly all baptismal rites will contain some sort of renunciation of evil. In fact, to many Western Christians who are so deeply influenced by Augustine, resistance and avoidance of sin is the primary purpose of baptism (and to many, the primary understanding of being a Christian).

David B. Batchelder has written an article called, “Baptismal Renunciations: Making Promises We Do Not Intend to Keep,” and in it illustrates the pervasiveness of technologies of speech in all of our lives. He says that in these technologies of speech we, “convincingly say to ourselves and others what we know we do not mean and never intended to mean.” (412) Rather than renouncing the evil in torture, American government has softened moral responsibility through dispassionate labeling such as, “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and, “moderate physical pressure.” (412)

These technologies of speech are sadly even more prevalent to an appealing Christianity that seeks to confess and proclaim “Christ as Lord,” but never pick up the cross and carry it. When our lure to conversion is a guarantee of eternal salvation for merely nickels and dimes, costing little to the individual or community, we thus have thrown away the gospel of dying to self and rising anew with new life in the kingdom of God.

And while baptism and the Christian life has often become, as a technology of speech, merely a confession of abstinence from sin, the sacrament is replete with taking on a new life and being fully made a new person. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer, after the renunciation of sin, has the following:

Do you turn to Jesus Christ
And accept him as your Savior?

I Do
Do you put your whole trust
In his grace and love?

I do
Do you promise to follow
And obey him as your Lord?

I do

Is this the type of life that we are living examples of? Have we died to self and risen anew in Jesus Christ as Savior, trusting wholly in his grace and love, and following daily Christ as Lord? Is this being shaped in community, where we are opening and offering ourselves to one another in mutual grace? The season of Easter is a time to grasp on to hope and love – the primary disciplines of the new life. It is a time to return to our baptism confessions and return to living our professions in belief. I encourage you to find the baptismal liturgy that was used in your baptism, to read and pray through it, and re-commit to living in the full weight of baptism. This means not making technologies of speech out of confessions. Renunciation of evil actually means turning from evil desire and action. Professing a new life actually is marked in the joy of the Lord. May we live out our baptismal confessions!

Batchelder, David B. “Baptismal Renunciations: Making Promises We Do Not Intend to Keep” Worship 81.5 (S 2007): 409-425.

Easter and Baptism

We are joined together in celebrating the second week of Easter. Historically, the season has been a time of submerging and rising again out of the baptismal waters. It is a time for all Christians to live out and announce to the world that Christ is risen!, and announce that we, too, have been crucified and raised with Christ. The sacrament of baptism is marked by many external expressions and words. Typically, during the baptismal rite, the following is said (or something similar):
Do you renounce all evil,
and powers in the world
which defy God's righteousness and love?

I renounce them.
Do you renounce the ways of sin
that separate you from the love of God?

I renounce them.
Although the language here specifically comes from the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship, nearly all baptismal rites will contain some sort of renunciation of evil. In fact, to many Western Christians who are so deeply influenced by Augustine, resistance and avoidance of sin is the primary purpose of baptism (and to many, the primary understanding of being a Christian).
David B. Batchelder has written an article called, “Baptismal Renunciations: Making Promises We Do Not Intend to Keep,” and in it illustrates the pervasiveness of technologies of speech in all of our lives. He says that in these technologies of speech we, “convincingly say to ourselves and others what we know we do not mean and never intended to mean.” (412) Rather than renouncing the evil in torture, American government has softened moral responsibility through dispassionate labeling such as, “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and, “moderate physical pressure.” (412)
These technologies of speech are sadly even more prevalent to an appealing Christianity that seeks to confess and proclaim “Christ as Lord,” but never pick up the cross and carry it. When our lure to conversion is a guarantee of eternal salvation for merely nickels and dimes, costing little to the individual or community, we thus have thrown away the gospel of dying to self and rising anew with new life in the kingdom of God.
And while baptism and the Christian life has often become, as a technology of speech, merely a confession of abstinence from sin, the sacrament is replete with taking on a new life and being fully made a new person. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer, after the renunciation of sin, has the following:

Do you turn to Jesus Christ
And accept him as your Savior?

I Do
Do you put your whole trust
In his grace and love?

I do
Do you promise to follow
And obey him as your Lord?

I do
Is this the type of life that we are living examples of? Have we died to self and risen anew in Jesus Christ as Savior, trusting wholly in his grace and love, and following daily Christ as Lord? Is this being shaped in community, where we are opening and offering ourselves to one another in mutual grace? The season of Easter is a time to grasp on to hope and love – the primary disciplines of the new life. It is a time to return to our baptism confessions and return to living our professions in belief. I encourage you to find the baptismal liturgy that was used in your baptism, to read and pray through it, and re-commit to living in the full weight of baptism. This means not making technologies of speech out of confessions. Renunciation of evil actually means turning from evil desire and action. Professing a new life actually is marked in the joy of the Lord. May we live out our baptismal confessions!
Batchelder, David B. “Baptismal Renunciations: Making Promises We Do Not Intend to Keep” Worship 81.5 (S 2007): 409-425.

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