Monday, May 21, 2018

01.Luke 1:1-4

Luke’s elegantly written preface expresses his intent in writing this gospel. Luke is traditionally thought to be a Gentile doctor and cohort of Paul (though the gospel itself is anonymous and Luke is a common Greco-Roman name). Aware that “many” have already set down accounts about the events “that have been fulfilled” in their midst, that is, God’s promises to his people in Jesus, he decides to draw up his own to add to their number. Luke believes he has something to say about these things that will aid the story of Jesus having its full effect. One scholar notes that such an addition to a tradition of writings about a similar subject strives not “to strike out boldly in a radical departure from one’s predecessors, but rather to be incrementally innovative within a tradition, by embracing the best in previous performers and adding something of one’s own marked with an individual stamp” (cited in Garland, David E.; Clinton E. Arnold. Luke (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament series Book 3) [Kindle Locations 1332-1334], Zondervan. Kindle Edition).

These previous accounts of Jesus and the one Luke pens are “orderly” (v.1,3). All of them attempt to display the significance of Jesus’ life and ministry. They seek to “preach”! The orderly account Luke gives is about historical events crafted to persuade the reader that what they have heard about Jesus is indeed the truth (v.4).

That Luke depends on “eyewitnesses and servants of the word” (probably conceiving of them as one group, eyewitnesses who became servants of the word) and declares he has “investigated everything carefully from the very first” (v.3) sets forth his credentials. “Orderly” (v.3) “modifies the infinitive ‘to write’ . . . (and) does not refer to a chronological sequence of what happened but to a coherent, sequential arrangement of the material so that the reader has clear impressions” (Garland, Luke: 1389-1390).

“Theophilus” is the addressee of Luke (as he is of Acts as well). Though a common name at the time, it means “friend of God” and may well be a symbolic name for those instructed in the faith whom Luke wishes to fully persuade of its truth. His respectful address “most excellent” would build a relationship of trust between Luke and these readers.


“Fulfilled” (v.1): the “events” Luke writes about are part of a story. Israel’s story with God. The story prefaced by creation and beginning with God’s call to Abraham (Gen.12:1-3). Jesus only makes sense as the culmination and climax of this story which though particular (that is, Jewish) carries universal significance for all people. This verb is in the perfect tense - pointing to an action completed but with continuing effect (Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (p. 40). Eerdmans Publishing Co - A. Kindle Edition). The culminative, climactic effect of Jesus’ work continues in Luke’s day and beyond (Acts). As we tell this story today we may do so with the same confidence as Luke of its unending and inexhaustible significance.

“truth” (v.4): in the emphatic position in the Greek. This is Luke’s object in writing. Not primarily the historical veracity of what happened in and through Jesus. Theophilus may well have already been “instructed” (v.4) about that. No, Luke’s offering his considered interpretation of what happened in and through Jesus. As noted above, Luke is preaching, seeking to persuade Theophilus to commit himself fully to Jesus’ cause. Our preaching/teaching today should similarly be a persuasive unfolding of the meaning of Jesus seeking full or fuller commitment to him from our listeners.

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Contemporary "Four Spiritual Laws"

God intends for you to live the life (Rev.21-22) he always meant you to live (Gen.1-2) with him on earth.

We refused this life, broke relation with God, and brought decay and destruction to God’s good creation.

God has both reclaimed (forgiven) and restored us (and his creation) to his eternal purpose for us fulfilled and made available to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Messiah.

As we await Jesus’ return and full experience of the life God intends for us, we can now begin to live that life (partially and fragmentarily to be sure) as witness to the credibility of God and the reality of his promise of the fulfillment of all his purposes.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Say Goodbye To The Information Age: It’s All About Reputation Now

In a world of fake news, the only antidote is our ability to judge the reputation of the people supplying us with information.


There is an underappreciated paradox of knowledge that plays a pivotal role in our advanced hyper-connected liberal democracies: the greater the amount of information that circulates, the more we rely on so-called reputational devices to evaluate it. What makes this paradoxical is that the vastly increased access to information and knowledge we have today does not empower us or make us more cognitively autonomous. Rather, it renders us more dependent on other people’s judgments and evaluations of the information with which we are faced.

We are experiencing a fundamental paradigm shift in our relationship to knowledge. From the “information age,” we are moving towards the “reputation age,” in which information will have value only if it is already filtered, evaluated, and commented upon by others. Seen in this light, reputation has become a central pillar of collective intelligence today. It is the gatekeeper to knowledge, and the keys to the gate are held by others. The way in which the authority of knowledge is now constructed makes us reliant on what are the inevitably biased judgments of other people, most of whom we do not know . . .


Monday, April 30, 2018

Review of Echoes of Exodus: Tracing Themes of Redemption through Scripture

Alastair Roberts and Andrew Wilson                                                                                                                        Crossway, 2018

This is a fine and helpful book on several fronts. First, the authors offer a lucid and compelling model of scripture as a musical composition. Going into a fair amount of detail (which helped this author to understand because I am musically illiterate), a rich and textured approach to the Bible emerges from their exposition. This model is especially helpful in that handles both the unity of the biblical story and the many different ways that story is told that both unify and at times offer discordant or alternative points of view on aspects of the story.

The bulk of the book traces the Exodus theme, the major biblical symbol of redemption through the length and breadth of scripture. I believe the pattern of Exodus to Exile is a macro structuring device that determines the shape of the larger story as well as many of its parts. Roberts and Wilson are judicious in their selection of material in this section so that even if here or there one is not convinced by their explanation, I suspect that most of their explanations here will carry conviction. And offer much grist for a preacher or counselor to make use of in their respective work.

A final virtue particularly important to me was the Coda. In this final reflection of the book the authors frame living and echoing the exodus in our lives in terms of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. I have maintained for a number of years now a vision of Christian existence in terms of “Living Between the Font and the Table.” I found much material in the exposition to support such a view and for that I am particularly grateful.

In touch with the relevant scholarship but with a light touch, Echoes of Exodus would serve well for individual or group study for almost any level of bible reader.  Bravo!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Do You Ever Think About Being A Hobbit?

April 24, 2018 · Fr. Stephen Freeman 
I stumbled into the Tolkien novels as a teenager (in the 60’s). They were a gift from an Aunt and so collected dust on a shelf for a year or more. A virus turned me into a shut-in for a short season, and I dusted them off out of sheer boredom. I extended my illness for a couple of weeks until the whole series was finished. It was a journey into another world, one that had a way of changing the world I lived in. There were no elves that suddenly appeared nor was there an army of orcs invading my town. But there was an ache that I felt as I read that seemed to match an ache in my life. It took some years to discover the connection.
People have told stories from the earliest days of our existence. We do not have the words of the earliest stories, but we have seen their illustrations, recorded on the walls of caves. No one knows what how the stories went, but they seem to involved animals. The beauty of those animals tells us that the stories included wonder.
People have a way of seeing the world as a story. . .

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter 2018

Sleep eludes me this night forcing me to keep an Easter Vigil I did not choose. I find myself musing on St. Mark’s passion and resurrection story, odd as it is (though terribly characteristic of this gospel writer). One of its oddities is that it is pagan Roman centurion who announces Jesus’ death boldly declaring the last thing I’m sure he ever expected to be saying at that moment, “Truly, this man was God’s Son!” (Mk.15:39). The emperor was believed to be son of deity; yet here it is one pinned to a cross in a humiliating death that is so acclaimed. What did that centurion see in the dying/dead Jesus that evoked such a profession? We’ll never know, of course. And perhaps that’s the point. Against all expectation and probability this death, in all it gruesome horror, spoke to the centurion the last thing he expected to hear: a word of divine love and even victory.

I can’t get the words of Paul in 2 Cor.4 out of my mind (especially vv.10-12):

 “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Can’t say that I really understand Paul here. But his connection of our bearing the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus is manifest is us makes me think of the centurion’s confession in the gospel. I need to keep chewing on that!

A second oddity I can’t escape this night is that the voices of those nearest and most faithful to Jesus in Mark, the women, are shut by fear. Of course, they finally found their voices because the story does get told. But I’m wondering if there’s not more to it than lack of faith?

-Jesus died dashing their hopes. Now he is alive and already back in Galilee at work. No wonder those women were afraid and reluctant to tell the disciples this news. He’s never who or where we expect him to be, even those of us who know him best. Is that what we/I need to hear this Easter? To keep our/my mouth(s) shut but Jesus is not who or where we expect him to be? Might not a good disorienting of our faith and perception of Jesus be salutary for this Easter? Even necessary? Is there more integrity in that Easter response, especially in the confused and confusing times we live in in North America, than in a full-throated “Hallelujah”? I don’t know. Maybe.
-Perhaps the women feared because they realized that death, the death of Jesus and our deaths in witness to him are comprehended within the plan and purpose of God – and that scared them to silence. I think it would me. Not sure I’d be quick to share a message that implicated me in that sort of prospect. Not sure I am quick to do it. Is a time of reflective silence mulling the implications of and our/my readiness to take up the Easter witness before we launch into the “Hallelujahs” a proper response to Mark’s account? Again, I think of Paul’s words quoted above.

The birds are starting to awake and chirp outside my window. Darkness will soon flee. I don’t know whether these ruminations of mine amount to much. I think there’s something in them, though I don’t quite know what. And maybe that’s just what Mark wants – to leave us silent for whatever reasons before the wonder of this day that the mystery of cross may more deeply inscribe itself and mark our lives so that the life of Jesus becomes manifest in us. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Palm Sunday: Satire and Civil Disobedience

I tend, on occasion, to get bored with Christianity. And I wonder sometimes whether Christianity really, after all, has any relevance to the unfolding of social history, with all its violence and hostility.
Then Palm Sunday rolls around.

Let me ask you to think that Palm Sunday exhibits two “disciplines” too seldom considered as fundamental to being human in the world:

satire |ˈsaˌtīr| noun
the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize stupidity, particularly in the context of politics
civil disobedience |ˈsɪvɪl ˈˌdɪsəˈbidiəns| noun
the refusal to comply with certain laws or to pay taxes and fines, as a peaceful form of political protest

The context for Jesus’ so-called “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem, remembered on Palm Sunday, was the celebration of the Passover. Jesus and his disciples were preparing to participate in this annual feast, and this annual feast was a sort of paradigmatic anti-imperialist celebration: to again become a people who had seen the horse and rider of Pharaoh cast down, his warriors thrown into the sea, and themselves delivered from the bondage of slavery.

And by Jesus’ day, of course, Pharaoh had been replaced with Caesar. There is always another pretentious power quick to fill the vacuum left when the most recent one bites the dust. So now it was Rome. And the natives in Jerusalem would often get restless at Passover time, ready for this God who had promised deliverance to act again in a great display of magnificent power to overthrow the powers. And this Jesus seemed to be a good candidate as the newly anointed one to accomplish such a deed . . .