whytheology

For the Intersection of the Everyday and the Sacred

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Happy Resurrection Sunday everyone

whytheology

He is Risen!

This holy week I’ve been talking about how the events marked during this week change everything. Jesus instituted a different kind of revolution, a different kind of covenant relationship, and revealed himself as a different kind of king. The resurrection confirmed all of these things, and so much more. The resurrection, it turns out, changes everything.

I’m not going to take the time to argue about the historical veracity of the resurrection of Jesus. Those arguments have been made and will continue to be made. I will say a brief word about it, though (apologies if I get too technical, I’ll try to resist). Personally, I like the arguments for the historicity of the resurrection made by Wolfhart Pannenberg, but considering I’m doing my thesis work on him I’m probably not impartial. Nevertheless, Pannenberg seems to really understand the historical impact that the resurrection makes…

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We had a good (and busy) Good Friday service tonight. In light of the day, here’s last year’s post for Good Friday

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This is part 3 of a series of posts for Holy week. Part 1 is here and part 2 is here. Part 4 will appear on Resurrection Sunday.

Jesus life had a clear trajectory, particularly from the moment he started his ministry. It was not going to end well, at least not according to how the world defines success. You say and do the kind of things Jesus was saying and doing without expecting some type of response. And that’s exactly what Jesus expected to happen. He was not the meek and mild cuddly type of person, but boldly went about with determination to change everything. And in the moment that he appeared a total failure, victory had already been won.

Jesus set about to begin a revolution. That’s what the incarnation is all about: it’s a holy and sacred invasion. An invasion, though, isn’t for the sake of…

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Last Year’s Maundy Thursday Post

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Today is Maundy Thursday according to the Church’s liturgical calendar. For those outside of liturgical traditions, including most Baptists like myself, Maundy Thursday is essentially the day that focuses on the “Last Supper” of Jesus and his disciples. It is, in many ways, preparation for Good Friday. Maundy comes the Latin for commandment, and is derived from Jesus’ declaration in John’s Gospel of “a new commandment I give to you: that you love one another just as I have loved you.”

On Sunday, I talked about how Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem marked a different kind of revolution. In this revolution, a temporary political shift wasn’t going to happen; instead everything, from the very foundation of this world, was going to change. In the Lord’s last supper we catch a glimpse of that.

John’s description of the Last Supper is unique. While in the other three gospels there is…

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James 5:19-20 (Lent Readings)

This is the last of my James series. I’ll update the Calendar link to hyperlink each section to the appropriate reading as I have time. Let me kn0w in the comments if you’ve appreciated the series or what you would change.

Text

KJV Below (Link to NIV)

19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;

20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

Comment

In the book of Genesis, immediately after the sin of Adam is the incident of the first murder. In that account, the question is posed, one that presses us more than any question except the one concerning our relation with God and what to do with sin: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The response given here by James is: YES! Part of living in community, which is what the church fundamentally is, is watching out for others while they are in the fold, but even more so when they wander from it. We don’t give up on each other because the church is not a holy club, it’s a family. We are our brothers’ keepers, and they ours. We do not work alone. The priesthood of believers means that all Christians are (under the Great shepherd) simultaneously sheep and shepherd. And what we do now, how we act that out, has far reaching consequences.

Question

Have you ever failed in your duty to brothers and sisters who have wondered far? Have you asked for forgiveness? Have you tried to do anything about it since?

James 5:17-18 (Lent Readings)

Text

KJV Below (Link to NIV)

17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.

18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

Comment

As an example of what I spoke of yesterday, James points to the Old Testament prophet, Elijah. He prayed, and something happened. The implication is that his prayer, in some way, had an external and not merely internal impact. Now, in light of yesterday’s passage and the reality of our life, it should be noted that, being a righteous person was because he was following God’s will. It was God’s will to cause a drought and end it, for a very specific purpose. God was calling his children back and they needed to be woken up. Does this mean that if Elijah had prayed no such thing would have happened? I don’t know. I think either God would have worked in a different way, or found a different person, but my hunch is that to ask such a question is a mistake because this is the episode that marks the beginning of Elijah’s entrance into Scripture. We don’t know anything else about him before this. My hunch is that, if Elijah had not prayed, we would simply never have heard of him. That’s not to say that doing God’s will makes you famous, in fact it very often does quite the opposite, but it does mean that being in the will of God means our prayers have a real impact.

Question

Have you ever personally prayed, or known of someone who prayed, for something that seemed near impossible only to have it happen anyway? Who gets credit for it? The person praying or the One to whom we pray?

James 5:13-16 (Lent Readings)

Text

KJV Below (Link to NIV)

13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Comment

The main thrust here is that no matter what our circumstances, happy or sad, troubled or free, we should be in communication with God because it “availeth much.” However, this passage does raise some issues. What about the times I prayed in faith and the sick weren’t healed? Do I simply have to wait until they are “raised up” on the last day? On the one hand it is tempting to say that our prayers merely change us, but not God (I think C.S. Lewis said something similar), but that doesn’t seem to be the case with this passage. Here, it seems that our prayers do accomplish something. That it is important to bring others into the prayer and fervently pray. So how do we reconcile the disconnect? I don’t know for certain, but I have an idea. I think of it like I think of my relationship with my (still very young) children, after all, Jesus taught us to think of God as our Father. Now, when my kids ask me for something, I will do everything in my power to get it for them (or do it for them), at least most of the time. This doesn’t mean I didn’t have other plans, I very well may have and they were good plans, but there are certain aspects of those plans that can be done other times, or the particular aspects of which may be open to change (you want Strawberry Jelly instead of Grape? no problem). Yet, other times it is not in my children’s best interest for me to fulfill their requests. If they want another cookie at dinner, sometimes I need to say no because the sugar makes it hard for them to sleep, and they’ve really had a large meal. Sometimes it’s even trickier. For example, my daughter likes to get herself stuck in places and ask for help. Sometimes, I leave her there for a bit because a) she really can get it out and its good for her problem solving skills, or b) she needs to face (at least briefly) the consequences of her actions, or c) sometimes I’m doing something else. Now, I’m not suggesting God is ever busy doing something else, but I am suggesting that, in some way, perhaps a way we can’t see or even begin to comprehend (my kids don’t understand the complexity of sugar and how it affects sleep and future health issues), but that doesn’t mean it’s not for their betterment. Remember, we have a full eternity with God coming up, that’s the ultimate benefit of prayer. Sometimes, it may be in our best interest, in a way we can’t begin to fathom yet, for God to say “no,” even for our fervent prayer. Yet in that prayer, the “no” is still for our betterment.

Question

Have you ever had God say “no”? What might that situation look like if you put it in terms of a young child to a parent who says “no”? Do you think that our relationship with God can still be improved through the “no” answers that God gives to our prayers? In what ways?

James 5:10-12 (Lent Readings)

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KJV Below (Link to NIV)

10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.

11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

Comment

Now, near the end of the letter, James reminds those to whom he writes that the end of days is near (in light of the resurrection we are always in the last days). And in light of the eminent presence of Christ we are encouraged to endure in the midst of persecution, just as the prophets who were each intimately acquainted with God in the Old Testament. And that even Job, who may not have enjoyed the same intimacy as even the prophets, could endure, so much more should we. The final verse, which at first glance looks out of place, is an attempt to make it more practical. Rather than a legalistic rule to follow (as some do, particularly those who have problems with pledges and oaths in court), this is a principle in the face of persecution. All too easily those being persecuted could have found ways to avoid their persecution by deceiving those who were against them, only they thought it was not sin if they did not technically lie. Rather, James is encouraging them to be courageous. They need not hide who they are (as this ploy would likely be discovered), or make odd oaths as certain Pharisees and Sadducees were (swearing by the gold of the alter rather than the alter, etc) whom Jesus criticized. Instead, the Christian should be marked by integrity in all things, particularly in the face of persecution.

Question

Do you experience persecution? How does it compare to that of the prophets, most of whom were killed? If they can endure theirs, does it help you to endure yours? Have you ever been tempted to hide your faith to avoid persecution? How did you feel about your actions if you gave into the temptation?

This was my post last year for Palm Sunday, but I think it still speaks

whytheology

Today is Palm Sunday. This is the day that marks Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as its King. The name comes from the branches that people cut down and laid down or waved as Jesus came into the city, which is noted in Matthew and Mark, and from the fact that “Coat/Cloak Sunday” just didn’t have the same ring to it. This caused me to wonder, when I was younger, why did they cut down branches? Was that just what they did? For a long time afterward, I just accepted that this was clearly some sign of honor, but it was only a few years ago when someone pointed out to me the connection with the Maccabean Revolt.

If you are unaware of the Maccabean Revolt, or even if you are, let me give a brief overview (hey it’s always good to review). This historical event is important for understanding…

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James 5:7-9 (Lent Readings)

Text

KJV Below (Link to NIV)

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

Comment

James here now makes another appeal. This time he is appealing on the basis of the nearness of God. Because God is near, we are already in the last days. Because we are in the last days, we should be patient. This is the hardest part, between when the work is done and the harvest time. Christ has done the work. It is only ours to wait for the harvest.

Question

Do you sometimes get impatient waiting on God? What can we learn from how a farmer has to wait for a good crop yield?

James 5:4-6 (Lent Readings)

Text

KJV Below (Link to NIV)

Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.

Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.

Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.

Comment

Simply put, don’t use people. Other people are not a stepping stone for your personal gain. The Kingdom of God is about God first and about others next. It’s not about you, at least not you at the expense of others. And the cries of the ones whom our excess oppresses reaches God’s ears. The people of God, at least some of them, have moved from the slaves in Egypt to the Pharaohs who oppress. This applies to us now too. We cannot be ignorant of our responsibility in the things we buy (or refrain from buying) and should be generous in our charity. We do not live in isolation and should always be on the side of those whom Jesus called “the least of these.”

Question

Do you think about where the money you spend goes? Do you try to consider the needs of others before your personal comforts? Today is World Water Day. 1 in 5 children lack access to clean water. To find out more about water shortage, or what you can do to help, go to water.org or similar organizations

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