According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Thursday, December 8, 2011

An Aussie Children's Christmas Story

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Christmas Story (2010 version)
told by the children of St Paul's Church.
 
 
 
 

Luke 2 (ESV)

 
The Birth of Jesus Christ
 
1In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration when[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. 6And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

8And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." 16And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
 
21And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
 
 
 

Jesus, the Fulfillment of God's Revelation to Man

Daniel's article below cannot be emphasized enough as to how to read the Bible. It is read first and foremost Christologically, that is, through Jesus. All the more startling when considering the many OT Jewish themes of promise left unfulfilled unless understood as fulfilled in Jesus. Who ends them. Completes them. Uplifts them. Transforms them. Transitions them.

These are known as the "Themes of Continuity and Discontinuity" found within the Bible and in perfect correlation with the overarching Christological themes of the Bible that bind the Old and New Testaments together as one documental revelation by God to man. The balance between the books then is given to the NT, as the OT should now be read from the perspective of Christ as Israel's Messiah Redeemer. As the Second Adam. As the risen King of Judah. The Inheritor of the Davidic throne. Who perfects the Israelic priesthood in Himself (Hebrews). Who is God's Prophet, Priest and King. Who is the Lamb and Lion of God. And so on, and so on. Each biblical theme is found changed by, and in, and through, and because, of Christ. Christ Jesus completes the testimony of God to man in the OT. And Christ Jesus continues the testimony of God to man in the NT.

R.E. Slater
December 8, 2011

* * * * * *  * * * *


The Story of Christ… Really…

by J.R. Daniel Kirk
November 15, 2011

I’ve found myself indirectly thinking about what it means to read the Bible as Christians. By “indirectly” I mean that these thoughts have gnawed around the edges of my thinking while I’ve been working on other things: teaching the Gospels and Acts, writing a paper on wisdom literature in the Coen Brothers’ movies, listening to sermons on the deadly sins, reading books on what the Bible is and we’re supposed to do with it.

By “reading the Bible as Christians” I don’t just mean reading it like we’re supposed to learn from it. There are lots of ways to read the Bible so as to learn from it. But those among whom I number myself approach the Bible as Christians–not as Jews, not as Mormons, not to mention that we don’t approach it as atheists or pantheists or deists.

Reading the Bible as Christians means that we not only read it with a ready disposition to hear it as God’s word, as the story of salvation, it means to read the story with the conviction that the narrative comes to its surprising climax in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

You have to do this on purpose, if you want to do it.

Pick up the book of Deuteronomy, and you’ll come away with a strong sense that the way God will fully restore his people is through their faithful obedience to Torah. Jesus is a surprise.

Pick up the law or the prophets, and you’ll come away with the strong sense that God’s ultimate plan is for a nation to be located in the geophysical land of Israel. The explosion of the promise of land to a promise of the world and indeed of new creation is a surprise.

Pick up the Proverbs, and the next thing you know you’ll be looking for your diligence to overflow in wealth and peace. The call to embody the death of Jesus in all quarters of our world is a surprise.

To read the Bible as the story of Jesus is to decide that nothing in the OT comes to us directly. It all comes to us mediated through Jesus. This means both that it is mediated through Jesus and that it all comes to us. Some is transformed in him, some is fulfilled and left behind. And some comes as a word reiterated now for a people reconfigured around Christ rather than Torah.

The vitality, and validity, of our reading the OT as Christians hinges on our willingness to read it in light of what we know to be more ultimately true: the Christ who is the end of the Law, the Christ to whom the Law, Prophets, and Psalms bear witness.


4 Comments

On (not) Being Insecure Christians

Kathy Escobar: On Insecure Christians

by Rachel Held Evans
November 21, 2011

Today I am delighted to welcome to the blog my friend and a true “woman of valor,” Kathy Escobar. Kathy is the co-pastor of The Refuge, an eclectic and beautiful faith community in Denver. She is passionate about community, healing, equality, justice, spiritual and transformation, and is the author of Down We Go, a challenging book about following Jesus into the hard places of community. When I think of women who inspire me, Kathy’s one of the first to come to my mind because she truly puts her convictions into action. If you enjoy the post, be sure to check out Kathy’s blog, or follow her on twitter.

kathy-escobrI had an amazing conversation last week with a non-Christian counseling grad student who had a project in this class to "move toward something in their culture they were uncomfortable with." He chose Christianity. His experience with it wasn't a positive one so he was trying to bravely explore it. We had a delightful conversation because he asked the best questions, the kind where trite Christian answers won't quite do. He wasn't talking about atonement theories or biblical interpretation of certain passages (for the most part, I think only Christian insiders give a rip about that kind of stuff).

He asked--Why do Christians never seem to feel very good about themselves?

I laughed that he had hit the nail on the head. The basic premise of Christianity is that there is nothing good in us. That original sin has ruined us and we are miserable sinners, unworthy of anything good without the blood of Jesus. That depravity is our essence.

With that as our starting place, my experience has been that despite all of the "God loves me" messages that get tossed around in church services and Bible studies, nothing completely fills in the cracks of that deep chasm. That somehow, no matter what, we just aren't good. We aren't worthy. We aren't secure. We aren't loveable. We are fatally flawed as human beings.

I know this well in my own life. I come from a liberal, non-churchy family that believed in the basic goodness of people (we were those people who evangelical Christians worried about!). When I opened my heart to following Christ, I needed a real, tangible God and was strangely and beautifully drawn to Jesus. I always say that if I had just stuck with that and never became involved in the kinds of churches I ended up attending, I would have been better off in the security-as-a-person department. But alas, that is not my story, and the rigidity and rules sucked me in, and I learned about what a miserable person I was without the cross of Christ. I ended up feeling worse about myself than when I started, and I brought a lot of shame and guilt to the table from the beginning! Christianity seemed to cement in me my badness. It reminded me constantly how much I fell short and how unworthy I was without God in my life.


About 17 years ago a wise and beautiful friend rocked my world with an important theological twist that some of you might say "duh!" at, but it was never taught to me in my hyper-conservative-evangelical circles. We were made in the image of God. That goodness is in us from the beginning. Sure, sin and brokenness has infiltrated this Genesis 3 world, but we must remember it all started with Genesis 1. Man and woman, created in the original image of God. That is our essence even though brokenness buries it.

I think that the spiritual journey is to uncover God's image that was originally placed there.

I know from experience in my own life and journeying alongside many others that this is no easy task. It makes it far worse when the starting place is "I am really a miserable wretch."

The Apostle Paul in Romans 7 talks about the struggle of our humanity to lean into sin. This passage is used all the time to hold up basic depravity, but we forget the twist that is there--"It's not me, but the sin that lives in me" (vs. 7:12).

As a mother of five, the last thing in the world I want my kids to think is that they basically suck and are unworthy, unlovable. I want them to know they are beautiful, created in the original image of God with his imprint built into every fiber of their being. I want them to know they are worthy, secure, free. With a great human capacity to sin, fall, fail and really mess things up, sure. But I do not want a faith that forces me to build in them a basic insecurity from the start. That feels cruel. And completely counter to what I know about being a loving parent, and I'm only a human one.

My experience in working with people in pain in the church is that there's an awful lot of insecurity going around in a system that is supposed to be built upon freedom, healing, and wholeness. Far too much fear, depression, inadequacy, unworthiness exists in countless Christ-followers when they have a chance to be really honest. Something is gravely wrong with this!

But the systems we've created and the theologies we've clung to perpetuate it.

Ultimately it not only damages us personally and relationally, but keeps the real power of the church paralyzed and stuck.

And really insecure.




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