Monday, May 31, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
v. 1 Does not “Sophia”, I mean, “wisd
om”, call? Does “wisdom” equal “understanding”?
v. 22 Unlike the preexistent Christ, Christ not being one of God’s creations, wisdom is a creation of God, although one of the first creations, even before the creation of the earth (23) and the establishment of the heavens (27).
How does the fact that this passage was chosen for the First Reading on Trinity Sunday influence how we interpret it? How does it influence our understanding of the Trinity? Where does Sophia/wisdom fit within our doctrine of the Trinity?
vs. 1, 9 Liturgical repetition?
vs. 3-5 These are some of my favorite verses in the Psalter, verses which seem to capture the childlike sense of wonder which can give birth to a love of wisdom.
How does this Psalm inform our understanding of the Trinity as well as our liturgical celebration and affirmation of the Trinity?
v. 1 Mention of “God” and “our Lord Jesus Christ” gives of two persons of the Trinity, perhaps.
v. 5 Mention of “God” and “the Holy Spirit” gives us two persons of the Trinity,perhaps
Combine verse 1 and verse 5 and we have a text for Trinity Sunday.
This text seems to offer more theologically than a mere mention of the Trinity. Are we missing Paul’s point by interpreting this passage through a “Doctrine of the Trinity” lens? Let us not forget about suffering, endurance, character and hope
v. 12 Are we able to bear today, any more than the disciples could bear, the many things Christ has to sayto us?
v. 13 Is the “Spirit of truth” the same as the Holy Spirit?
v. 15 “the Father”
With Jesus talking, do v.13 and v.15 demand a Trinitarian interpretation?
One of the Professors in my D.Min. program argued in our Reformed Theology Seminar that the Doctrine of the Trinity is not biblical but it is essential.
If God is at all like light (Jesus is, after all, the light of the world) then perhaps our understanding of light can serve as a metaphor for our understanding of God. Sometimes light seems to behave like a wave. Sometimes light seems to behave like a particle. Neither understanding, even combined, fully explains the nature of light and in a sense light is still a mystery. While the Doctrine of the Trinity can (sometimes) help us make sense of the way God behaves in Scripture, I am becoming increasingly convinced that it does not give us a complete picture or fully explain the nature of God. The Doctrine of the Trinity helps us to conceptualize and understand the mystery of God, yet God still remains a mystery we must ponder, a mystery that invites us to marvel at God with the same childlike wonder of the Psalmist in Psalm 8:3-5, only more so.
It has been a while since I last read Carl Jung, but I think he argued that the Doctrine of the Trinity was not psychologically complete, that what humans need psychologically is not a Trinity of Father – Son – Spirit but a Quarternity of Father – Son – Spirit – Wisdom, and that for Roman Catholics the Doctrine of the Assumption of Mary comes close to fulfilling this function.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Seriously there is a lengthy Wikipedia entry (well OF COURSE there is, I shouldn't be surprised, but I am), here is the link: Presbyterian Church (USA). Was the Rev. John Witherspoon really the only Minister to sign the Declaration of Independence? What about Lyman Hall? Ok, so he was first a Doctor, but wasn't he also a Minister? (Ok, ok, so he was actually fired from one church for moral failings; but we won't talk about that.)
There are a number of other statements made that I think will raise the hackles of a few members of this ring. So, anybody want to take a stab at an editing job?
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
As children of God, we know just what our Father wants us to know, needs us to know, and when and where to use it. This is somewhat comforting in that we can never know too much. We often find ourselves searching for more knowledge, seeking the truth and trying to discern where we can find these genuine items without losing ourselves in the process. This is a natural maturity, seeking and finding answers to our questions, particularly when we pose them to God, our Father. He will never lead us down the wrong path, but instead keep us on the straight and narrow. Our doubt can actually be a good thing, encouraging us to continue our search for the truth.
We, as Christians, need to be ridding ourselves of our doubt and fears continuously by spending our time with the one who knows everything, and has already seen what we are searching for in the first place. He can easily erase our doubt about any subject, big or small, and ease our minds with His grace and mercy. The bible contains a huge volume of wisdom, knowledge and great advice that can be applied to any situation. The book of Psalms and the book of Proverbs contain so much of this timeless advice that is appropriate for any situation, big or small.
We cannot let doubt take over our lives. This would create pandemonium and chaos, allowing our fears to dominate our thoughts and actions. It would advantageous to be prepared to do battle with doubt, particularly when we know it can sneak up on us at any time, in any place, in any situation. We need to put on the armor of God and don the breastplate of righteousness and be prepared to do battle when doubt creeps into our psyche. A keen understanding of God’s Word will provide the ammunition you need to fight off doubt and fear and to live our lives daily in a manner that glorifies God.
As children of God, we need to act accordingly and attempt to learn and understand His guide to life, the Holy Bible. This is our textbook that that has been so graciously provided by the Holy Spirit, taking us from beginning to end. It’s our History 101 class where an “A” may not be good enough, but in His eyes, it is our best effort and we are forgiven for all of our misguided notions. In His eyes, our doubt will not keep us from being His children, and will not keep us out of His kingdom. We just need to make sure we do not doubt His mercy, His faithfulness, His grace. For it is not by our good deeds, our doubtless thoughts that we are welcomed into His kingdom. We are allowed into His heavenly home by His grace and mercy.
If you are confident in your future, and you know that Jesus is the man He says He is, then there is no doubt, no fear that He sits at the right hand of God. He will erase all doubt when our day comes and we see him face to face. Then we can say “see, told you so, there was never a doubt in my mind.”
Monday, May 24, 2010
Last night, millions of viewers across the world were left stunned with the final conclusion of the television series LOST. They just couldn’t believe that none of the characters survived the initial plane crash and that all the events on the island were either ways to salvation or damnation. I think that most of the fans wanted their favorite characters to survive, so most of them were either disappointed with or grieving the ending.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
If you use the Acts passage as the first Reading, then use the Romans Reading as the Second Reading.
vs. 3, 4, 7 What does all the “let us”language suggest?
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
v. 24 God’s works are manifold, not our works. What does manifold mean, anyway?
How do we read the reference to “wisdom” in light of next week’s Reading from proverbs?
v. 14 If “all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God”, then are all who are children of God led by the Spirit of God?
John 14:8-17 (25-27)
v. 9 When I read this verse I think of icons.
All five passages are pregnant with meaning and possible hermeneutical and homiletical possibilities and I fear I have barely touched the surface.
On any given Sunday I usually include all four readings in the liturgy even if I am preaching on only one, but will often use the vocabulary and imagery from readings I am not preaching on to form and inform prayers and to influence my choice of hymns.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I thought this would be a good addition to my teaching library, but was disappointed to find that it was very derivative of the work of John Dominic Crossan, former Catholic priest and founder of the Jesus Seminar. The author quotes so frequently from Crossan's The Birth of Christianity and his book with co-author Jonathan L. Reed, Excavating Christianity, that I wonder why this was published. I'm not a fan of Crossan and do not agree with his theological point of view, but if you are, I suggest you just read his books instead of this one.
Additionally, much of the text is contained in the numerous footnotes which are in teensy tinsy print which makes the book difficult to read.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
I had the great privilege of participating in an annual bicycle ride to Washington DC, paying tribute to Law Enforcement Officers killed in the line of duty in the past year. This ride is an annual event, but this was only my second year as a determined bike rider. The 120 mile ride begins at the capitol in Richmond, VA, and ends in Washington, DC. The ride takes place on Thursday May 16, 2010 in recognition of National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial week. We complete the ride in one day, pushing ourselves to our personal limits of physical abilities in order to demonstrate our dedication, our devotion to this very worthy cause. We all climb off our bikes that evening, vowing never to pedal another mile again for a long time. We have just pedaled 120 miles when there are people who hate to drive that far in a car. We have just pushed ourselves to the limit in order to pay tribute to our fallen comrades, all in the name of our departments and our respected occupation.
Having said that, how many of us feel that dedicated, that devoted to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the man who died for our sins, gave His life so that we could live. I was thinking about this as we pedaled the miles, working towards a very obvious goal of reaching Washington. With God, the goals are not so clear. We are left to discern what God wants from each of us, then to carry it out. We are left to get on the bike, then to figure out in what direction we should pedal. We are required to do all of the same preparation, the same practice rides, the same methods of preparation for God’s ride through life. It seems as though some will skip the preparation and head straight for the ride, not knowing how difficult or how long the ride will be. They may not even know the ultimate destination, but want to participate regardless of their lack of knowledge. As Christians, we know that we have a map book, a holy Garmin, a mapquest program beyond all programs. We have God’s Holy Word. We know when we lose our way, when we have trouble figuring out just where we are or where we are supposed to be, we can open the Bible. It’s amazing to find the wisdom and awesome insight included in the pages of the Bible. A book written so long ago still applies to our lives today. A book written by so many different people with so many diverse backgrounds can only have one source, the Holy Spirit. This is why the Bible is so consistent despite the different authors and the span of time used to create it. Devotion is our way of expressing our fervor, our zeal for God’s Word, giving us direction regardless of the circumstance, regardless of the distance, regardless of the ultimate destination. We are devoted to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for His wonderful and amazing gift to us. We are loyal to God’s instructions and directions even though we can’t see the end of the journey. Despite all of what this world says about our God, we know that we have a friend in Jesus Christ who will protect us, guide us, and lead us to our final destination. All we have to do is keep pedaling.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Next up this week is long-time Unoffocial PC(USA) Blog contributor Stushie! Stushie has been contributing to this blog longer than most or all of the current crop of contributors. (I'm not sure about Quotidian Grace and JusticeSeeker; I think all three of them predate me.) In addition to supplying this blog with original art, Sunday Lectionary Devotions, and other timely posts, Stushie manages several blogs of his own. His main blog is Heaven's Highway: Regular reflections of a Scottish Pastor living in the Bible Belt, including some unique religious art work and interfaith stories from around the world. Recent posts include lots of Stushie Art and Daily Devotions.
Last up today is Kim from Hiraeth: a Christian yearning for heaven. This week's posts include a hymn, a quote, an amazing picture of spider hatchlings at her house, and newborn robins. Or, if politics are more your cup of tea, you might check out her recent post on immigration.
Thanks to all the unofficial PC(USA) blog contributors and member blogs!
Friday, May 14, 2010
Unless you’re graduating (which I’m not, at least this year), the academic year at Princeton Seminary ends not with a bang but with a whimper. After the climax of Spring semester finals comes May term, a three-week long “intensive” term that asks its customers to dig deep for one more plunge into the abyss.
It doesn’t seem like many of us have gas left in the tank for one more course. It feels instead like we’re limping home. For better or worse, then, in this epilogue of a semester, I am enrolled in Princeton Seminary’s 2-credit, pass/fail course on Presbyterian polity. This is it: the full official treatment on Presbyterian governance offered by the school, and our preparation for the polity ordination exam.
When I tell anyone that I’m taking polity I universally receive some version of the same sarcastic reply: “Well, that must be fascinating” or “I bet you’re loving that!” or some other smirking, winking rejoinder. And of course there’s a certain glamourless-ness to it: for the most part, those of us taking polity are there because Presbyteries have forced our hands, and I doubt many of us would have signed up for it in a world without the ordination exam looming.
On the other hand, I have to admit that it has been refreshing, after a year of ancient languages and conceptual theological rubrics, to have a course firmly planted in the practical realities of parish ministry. Yes, I know that the Book of Order is in some ways a kind of fascinating ecclesiology in its own right. Yes, I know that it contains a vast swath of scriptural source material. But a class in polity is nonetheless ultimately a class about everyday parish decisions, and it’s the only course I have taken so far that can make that claim.
So here’s the question for the day, and it’s not one that to which I claim to have an answer: what is the best use of our classroom time at seminary? Is it the role of seminaries to provide the kind of theological, Biblical, and historical training that institutions of higher learning are uniquely equipped to do? Or are they rather (in the case of ordination-track students) best deployed as practical training grounds for the professional realities of parish ministry?
Obviously as students it’s not only our own choice to make: degree requirements and CPM stipulations will strongly influence the inflection of the courses we take. Requirements in Greek and Hebrew reinforce the idea that preparation for ministry is different than on-the-job training. But any number of friends working in parish ministry now have testified to the importance of courses in family systems, congregational song, and pastoral counseling.
So what’s the priority? In three years of seminary education, we simply can’t fit everything in; so, do we study the subjects we’ll never have an equivalent chance to encounter, or do we seek the most practical training for the jobs we seek? For those of you with seminary well behind you: were you ready for ministry? What do you think that question even means? What do you wish you had taken more of?
Thursday, May 13, 2010
v. 16-17 This is not only one of the “we” passages but also refers to “us”. Who else was travelling with Paul at this point in the narrative?
v 17 From the mouth of a pagan comes truth. What if today tarot cards or a crystal ball leads one to the spiritual insight that leads to a way of salvation in Christ?
v 18 Why exercise a truth telling spirit?
v 18-21 Thank God we today have the separation of church and state and religious liberty.
v 30 A sincere question from a pagan seeker? Saved from what? Saved from sin or saved from the wrath of his superiors, the magistrates?
v. 31 One person’s faith saves the whole household? Where have we seen this before? Look back at last week’s reading about Lydia.
v. 33 Believing on the Lord Jesus and being baptized makes one not a Christian (that moniker was not yet being used) but “a believer in God”. As a pagan and not a Jew, the jailer and his household were previously outside the covenant promises.
This psalm praising the God of the storm was most likely chosen for today as a commentary on the earthquake and the fortune teller of the Acts Reading.
v 1. When the LORD is king, who is not king? Is this not an antithesis to blind patriotism and political allegiance, a warning to leaders as well as their followers?
v. 5 Is there something going on in the Hebrew. The first LORD refers to the Holy One of Israel, but what about the second Lord?
vs. 7, 9 How do we monotheists handle these references to other “gods”?
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
This Reading concludes a seven week lectio-continua reading of Revelation and it will be three more years before we encounter such a large block of Revelation again, unless Christ returns before then.
v 12 How does our theology of grace, which shuns works righteousness, deal with this verse?
v 14The first two assertions make sense, by what about the third? Is there any other way to enter the city but by the gates? Will someone be standing at these always open gates checking to make sure names are written in the Lambs book of life before people are allowed to pass through the gates?
v 16 There is some beautiful imagery here, most, if not all, drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures. Note that Christ claims to be both the root (alpha) and the descendant (omega) of David. I love the imagery of “the bright morning star” but what does it mean? Astronomically speaking, the bright morning star (most likely the planet Mercury) is at other times of the year the first visible star in the evening sky, the light of this planet outshining all other objects in the night sky other than an illuminated moon.
v 20 Who is “the one who testifies”? Come, Lord Jesus! = maranatha!
v 21 Amen and amen.
v. 21 Can this be interpreted as suggesting that those who believe in Christ become divine?
v 22 What does it mean to receive the same glory that the Father has given the Son?
v 24 This verse assumes the preexistent Christ, that is we take “before the foundation of the world” as a temporal rather than a spatial reference.
v 25 Christ’s prayer is not that God will love us, or that we might know the love of God, but that the same love God loved the Son with may also be in us, and Christ may be in us. I “love” John’s mystical love language, especially in relation to the theme of unity. I wonder, however, is Jesus talking about Christian unity or our unity with him and the Father. By interpreting this passage in relation to Christian or Church unity we may actually be missing the point.
When not posting Lectionary Ruminations to Presbyterian Bloggers I post on an eclectic variety of topics on my personal blog, Summit to Shore.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Presbyblogger Robert Austell has written a very helpful four part series about what Twitter is and why and how you might want to follow tweets of those involved in it. If you read the following posts you will learn all you ever needed to know about using Twitter to follow doings at the GA:
Twitter: An Anology for the Non-Technical
What Is Twitter? an introduction
Why Use Twitter? 8 Potential Uses at GA
How To Use Twitter: step-by-step guide
It will be interesting to see if there is less blogging and more tweeting at this upcoming GA. What do you think? Are you planning to follow the action via Twitter, blogs, Church and World, Presbyterian edition (formerly Presbyweb), the Presbyterian News Service, The Outlook, The Layman or other online sources?
UPDATE: Robert Austell has also created a very helpful website for commissioners that will answer many questions and gives good information about preparing for GA: GA Help.net. If you are a commissioner, check it out and bookmark it!
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
My Psalm 105
Praise be to God for He has been a good shepherd to me, a lost sheep.
I will choose to serve Him and to spread the good news of His son Jesus Christ, who was crucified and buried, but was resurrected to save the world from sin.
In my darkest hour, He was there at my side, blessing the hands of my doctors, my healers.
In my darkest hour, He was there, giving me peace and confidence in His great power and mercy.
In my darkest hour, He was there, giving me patience, forgiveness and understanding, as I dealt with the pain and confusion of a marriage ending.
In my darkest hour, He was there, giving me the strength to start over, the trust to hope in His future for me.
In my darkest hour, He was there giving me the confidence and the trust that He wanted me seek Him and to choose the path less trodden.
In my darkest hour, He presented me with a true family of believers, a family that showed me just how loving and caring He can be, and helped me see and feel His blessings in my life and become a true pilgrim, seeking His Prevenient Grace.
In my darkest hour, He was there to help me come through this change and purge all the weight holding me back and genuinely trust in His grace and mercy.
Now, in my brightest hour, in my period of change, my time of renewal, I see clearly the path He is leading me down; A path of service, a path of worship and praise, a path of forgiveness. Now I see His light. It is now my desire to follow Him, to obey His will for my temporary assignment on earth, preparing me for my eternal assignment in His glorious Heaven.
I recommend that everyone create their own version of Psalm 105. It is a great exercise in giving thanks to our God for the many blessings He has bestowed on us, even though we do not deserve them. You need to make it personal, so that you can add to it as the blessings continue to flow freely from our loving God. It can do wonders for your mental and spiritual health. The only thing left to do is to lace up the running shoes and run to Him.
Monday, May 10, 2010
William (Beau) Weston, blogs at Gruntled Center: Faith and Family for Centrists. Weston is a sociology professor who has been studying happiness. Interesting posts abound, including his latest: Inequality Makes Rich Liberals Unhappy. Worth a read!
Steven Hurtz blogs at
Gulf Shores Steven’s Weblog: Rooted in faith, open to the Spirit, curious about everything. His sermons will keep you busy for a while; I got a little carried away reading this week's "A Funny, or not-so-funny Question" [John 5:1-9]. Snippet:
There is no such thing as a perfectly healthy person. All of us here to day have our unhealthy areas; the more in touch with ourselves, the more honest we are, the more we are aware of just how unhealthy we are. Do we want Jesus to change us? What if it is difficult? What if it hurts?
Saturday, May 08, 2010
I went to see “Stomp!” last year at the Tennessee Theater in
I often wish that church could be like that on Sunday mornings. I’ve tried over the years to encourage more participation in worship by our church people. I feel that the more they put into praising God, the more that they will get out of it. I think way back in the days of the psalmist, worship must have been more celebratory and theatrical than it is now. I sometimes wonder what the original psalmists would have thought about our neat and tidy hymn and prayer sandwich services. They were more into an all day event with trumpets and harps, tambourines and horns. They certainly wouldn’t have been anxious to get out after an hour in order to get to the restaurants before the bigger churches finished their worship!
The old Hebrew word for praise is ‘yadah,’ which actually means to hold out your hands and lift them up to God. What I saw at “Stomp!” last year was yadah in action. I definitely think that if more modern worshippers were to allow themselves to praise God by lifting up their hands and exalting the Lord’s Name, they would feel freer and closer to God. Who knows, maybe this Sunday “Stomp!” will come into our sanctuary and the Spirit will lead our people in pure and powerful praise.
Prayer: Lord God, over the centuries You must have seen some amazing, diverse, and incredible worship services from different cultures, nations, and denominations. Your Spirit astounds us from time to time with energy, vitality, and presence. Help us to be more open to praising You in freer and more faithful ways. In Christ’s Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in
Thursday, May 06, 2010
Then the Gulf Oil spill happened, and it seemed that a "Science and Religion" blogger ought to write about that. But what to write? Everyone (mostly) thinks an oil spill is a bad thing. You don't need me to tell you an oil spill anywhere is a serious problem.
There is the topic of what we should do next, actually those are multiple topics. There are all sorts of issues surrounding environmental clean up and recovery. There are all sorts of legal and regulatory concerns. There is the whole tangled debate about energy sources and energy use. There are economic concerns. It's a complex web of issues, too much to write about in a single post.
That's the problem isn't it? When faced with complex, difficult, and divisive topics we are prone to throw our hands in the air, proclaim it too difficult for mere mortals and think about something more entertaining, like octopuses.
This disaster, the gulf oil spill is complex. There are lots of ways to compound mistakes that have already been made. We can make some things worse while trying to make other things better.There are lots of opportunities to assign blame and to condemn. There are lots of reactions we can have, lots of solutions we can propose.
So where should the church be in all this? What is the role of people of faith?
Right in the middle of it. Speaking up and speaking out. This is where science and religion meet. Not to mention where economics and religion meet. And where politics and religion meet. We will all respond in various ways. We will have various proposals. But they should have one thing in common.
As Christians we start our thinking from a different place. Our response should not be based on how this affects the price of gas in my car. Or the price of fish I eat. Or what happens to my countries energy and foreign policy.
We are supposed to view the world with eyes focused on the kingdom of God. What are God's hope and desires for us and for the planet? We start our thinking from a different place. Not centered on ourselves but on the desires of God. It's crucial that we don't engage this problem with the eyes of the world. We are called to care for creation as God cares for it.
That's part of our call. It's not easy. It takes all of us. And germaine to this blog, it takes Christians seriously and thoughtfully engaging science. This is a time to dig into the science, to understand it's implications and then the think theologically about all that.
v. 9 Throughout the Easter Season the readings from Acts have been narrating a series of visions. Now the reading from Acts offers us a vision as well.
vs. 10-11 Macedonia is what we refer to today as the Balkans. Paul’s crossing over to Macedonia from Troas in Asia Minor thus represents his and the Gospel’s movement from one continent to another.
v. 13 Did Philippi not have a Synagogue? Or if it did, was Paul not welcomed there? Otherwise, why did he go outside the gate where he supposed there was a place of prayer? Note that the first Europeans to hear the Gospel from Paul were women.
v. 14 What does it mean that Lydia was a “worshiper of God”? Is this a comment about her relationship to Judaism? Maybe Lydia was spiritual but not religious. I have heard it argued that her being a dealer in purple cloth means she was a business woman with some wealth.
v. 15 Have fun unpacking this verse as it regards our theology of Baptism. Did Lydia’s whole household open their heart to listen to Apul’s message or was her whole household baptized based on her response alone? Where there any infants or small children in her household?
I like this Psalm because of its use of the first person plural—“us” and “our”—as well as the plurals “nations” and “peoples”.
People in the pews may ask about “Selah”. How will you answer their questions?
v. 1 God’s face shining upon us as a metaphor, but a metaphor for what? I like the metaphorical image. It is personal, expressive, and ripe for interpretation.
This is a Psalm “for all nations” as it seems to be more universal than many other Psalms, which focus more on Israel.
Revelation 21:10, 21:22-22:5
v. 10 I wonder if John had any particular “high mountain” in mind when narrating this vision.
v. 22 That there was no temple in the holy city Jerusalem must have been a startling image for Jewish Christians who most likely were still grieving its recent destruction. I wonder how millenialists, who believe that the Temple must be restored (thus the third Temple) before Christ returns, interpret this passage.
v. 23 Can one make any connection with Psalm 67:1 here? Does God’s shining face replace the sun and moon?
v. 24 “The Nations” of Psalm 67?
v. 25 A welcoming “open door” or rather “open gate” policy. This would drive some people in Arizona crazy.
v. 27 When will the “Lamb’s book of life” be available for Kindle?
v. 2 Is there one “tree of life” or two? May I assume that this is the same “tree of life” from the second creation account of Genesis 2? “the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” is, I think, one of the most irenic and poetic images in the New Testament. It sure beats hellfire and damnation any day.
v. 4 I believe that looking into, or “seeing” the face of God will be awesome. Is the name of God being on the forehead a juxtaposition of the name of the beast being on the forehead?
Over all, I think the image developed by this passage is not the image most people have in mind when they think of images from Revelation. This is good news that we need to proclaim, and thus counteract the more common images which undoubtedly include lakes of fire, the beast, and Armageddon.
v. 23 Is the Father’s love conditional? Does the Father love only those who love Jesus and keep his word? Where is Pelagius when you need him?
v. 26 How is the Holy Spirit an “Advocate”? I have heard it argued that the Doctrine of the Trinity is not biblical but essential. Without the Doctrine of the Trinity, how would we. Or could we, interpret this passage? Try doing so without any Trinitarian terms or thoughts and see how far you get.
v. 27 How many time have you heard this, or read it, at a funeral?
v. 29 So there would be no belief until after the ascension? Is this, perhaps, a example of some literary foreshadowing?
I do not know why there are two Gospel options this week. John 14:23-29 flows from the lectio-continua of the past few weeks. I honestly do not know why John 5:1-9 is an options and am open to enlightenment. I will use the former.
v. 6 Obviously a question to all of us.
v. 7 Excuses, excuses, excuses.
Vs.7-8 There is no mention of faith or belief. Why was this man made well?
The story seems to function as an explanation of why the Jewish authorities came to be so opposed to Jesus. Among other things, he was healing on the Sabbath. Of course if there had been universal health care back then, there would have been no story to tell.
I have been posting this column for two months now. My posts have not generated a lot of comments; then again, it seems very few posts on this blog do. Still, I am wondering what you have liked and not liked. Has there been too much of an edge or not enough? Have I been asking too many questions and not commenting enough or vice versa? Are the posts too long or to short, or just right? How about the format and appearance?
In a final moment of unabashed self-promotion I also invite you to peruse my personal blog, Summit to Shore. It is pretty eclectic and you never know what you might encounter there, so please check it out. You might be surprised.
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
After I wrote my post last week about special needs, I began a class on Presbyterian Polity. Even in reading through the first few chapters of the Book of Order, it was striking to me how the thoughts in my post played out on the pages so to speak. Here I will highlight two portions but please be assured there are many more instances I could cite.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) shall give full expression to the rich diversity within its membership and shall provide means which will assure a greater inclusiveness leading to wholeness in its emerging life. Persons of all racial ethnic groups, different ages, both sexes, various disabilities, diverse geographical areas, different theological positions consistent with the Reformed tradition, as well as different marital conditions (married, single, widowed, or divorced) shall be guaranteed full participation and access to representation in the decision making of the church. (G-9.0104ff)
The congregation shall welcome all persons who respond in trust and obedience to God’s grace in Jesus Christ and desire to become part of the membership and ministry of his Church. No persons shall be denied membership because of race, ethnic origin, worldly condition, or any other reason not related to profession of faith. Each member must seek the grace of openness in extending the fellowship of Christ to all persons. (G-9.0104) Failure to do so constitutes a rejection of Christ himself and causes a scandal to the gospel.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
God’s Word is a great place to learn just when to talk and when to act, emphasis on act. As Christians, we are given a huge responsibility to live our lives praising God and giving Him our best shot. By claiming His birthright, we are entitled to the most challenging way of living, believing, and praising His name. This way of life can be cumbersome and lack excitement if we only consider the “consequences” of this lifestyle. The trick is to think about all of the positive attributes attached to living a Godly life in a challenging world. There are several huge and glorious expectations that we, as Christians, can look forward to. We can expect to live in a beautiful and magnificent heaven, beyond any description imaginable. We can expect to actually see God and His son Jesus Christ once the day comes. We can hope to experience the awesome wonder of living in His presence. We can also hope that by encouraging others, they too will be able to experience all of these wonderful things in heaven.
In order to prepare for our heavenly home, we must learn to live in a world that tests our faith, courage, trust and perseverance daily. This means that we, as Christians must realize that by claiming this title, there are dues that are required. What the unbeliever does not know is that we gladly accept these challenges, knowing the final outcome and having all of the confidence that God will not leave us, nor will He forsake us. We are God’s children put here by His own hand, given the talents, skills and abilities for His purposes. We just need to keep our “eye on the prize” and never let Him down as we stroll through this temporary life, moving ever closer to our eternal life. This means that we do more than attend church. That’s just one way of displaying our faith and what we believe in. We must not be just a supporting actor in this movie we call life. As believers, we must be the star performer, always looking for ways to “feed the hungry and care for the widows.” It is one thing to place the fish on our vehicles shouting our faith to other drivers, but it is another to prove our faith and be a very considerate, courteous driver. It is one thing to teach Sunday School at our church, but it is another to be open about our faith at work. It is one thing to give to the church as you feel you should, but it is another to give freely to the poor, to give so much it hurts. As Christians, we must be ready to move beyond all of the worldly expectations, and strive toward the heavenly expectations of our God. Face your challenges each and every day with the confidence and courage often displayed by the Gentiles in the Bible. These faithful followers were convinced that Jesus was just who He said He was , and therefore would approach Him without hesitation and ask boldly for miracles. We need to take a lesson and do the same thing. We must always remember to “walk the walk” knowing that Jesus is there with us every step of the way.
Monday, May 03, 2010
Fred says, "I am an honorably retired Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. My present "ministry" is this blog and living for Jesus Christ in Arizona's beautiful but sometimes very hot Valley of the Sun."
Glad to have you back in the web ring (technical difficulties with RingSurf notwithstanding).
New Jersey Hunger Action and Advocacy.
"New Jersey Presbyterian Hunger Action and Advocacy is a joint ministry of Monmouth and New Brunswick Presbyteries. We share the goal of the Presbyterian Hunger Program: to alleviate hunger and eliminate its causes. We are here to help congregations engage in a range of creative ministries to help hungry and poor people. We are often challenged by the problems in our world, but this is nothing new for the people of God. In the time of Second Isaiah, Israel returned from exile in Babylon to find their faith in God and God’s promises challenged by what they saw—the temple in ruins, the monarchy gone forever, the religious institutions destroyed—and how different it looked from what they thought God had promised. “Where was the temple? Where were the singing mountains? Fine, we’re free, they thought, but the economy is in ruins. Okay, we’re home, but there aren’t any homes left. What have we done to deserve this? . . . . Perhaps it is a question we, too, might raise. Fine, Jesus has come and we are saved. But why does the world look like it does? Couldn’t God make things right? “Chapters 56-66 of Isaiah speak to this situation. And sometimes the words are harsh. You might wonder where God is (58:3). You might even claim you’re doing your best (58:2). But you need to know that the problem with the world has more to do with people—worse, with you—than with God (59:1-8). This does not mean God has given up on Israel (or on us). God still yearns for a relationship with people that is whole and productive (65:1). But Israel (or we?) will not (cannot) respond.” In order to enhance our congregations’ and presbyteries’ capacity to respond to present-day problems through both advocacy and relief ministries, we have begun the New Jersey Hunger Action and Advocacy initiative. In this initial phase of its implementation, the project includes two presbyteries: Monmouth and New Brunswick.  From Isaiah’s Challenge to the People of God, a Bible study on Isaiah 58:6-12, published by the Presbyterian Hunger Program. Check out our “Congregations” pages to learn more about what congregations are doing and find ideas of what you can do. Hunger Action Enabler/ Advocates, Rev. Marcia MacKillop and Rev. Phyllis Zoon, serve as educators and motivators–we are here to help. Our website/blog is a “work in progress” that we hope will be informative, useful and fun. All comments welcome!"
Reminder: older and less active blogs (e.g. those not updated within the last 12 months) are still linked here. I recently did a bit of blogroll cleaning!