Showing posts from March, 2016

The resurrection isn’t an argument. It’s the Christian word for defiance

Giles Fraser
On Friday, all was lost. Richard Dawkins and his smirking acolytes had got it right, blast them. I know the atheist recital better than most. Religion is a busted flush. The dream turned out to have been a fantasy. Perhaps we all got carried away by the charisma. But now, it seems, the one we had followed had over-promised. So it’s time to pack up our chalices and do something useful. Time to admit the truth: it had all been a lie and a waste.
But that was Friday. On Sunday morning, just before dawn, a group of us gathered outside church and kindled a small bonfire. From there we passed the flame to a large candle and processed it into the nave – the tentative, flickering light illuminating the dark corners of the building. And from that large candle, we all lit our own individual candles, passing the light from one to another. Everything now starts again. Hallelujah, Christ is risen. Without this, the whole Christian faith is nonsense. Read more at…

Practice Resurrection! How?

Easter is all about newness, victory, resurrection. Yet after all the hoopla things go back to normal and we face the prospect of Low Sunday a week later and a world that seems not to have changed. How do we “practice resurrection” (Wendell Berry) in the ordinariness and opaqueness of life?
1.The world often (always?) seems more darkness than light.                                       The best I can do is trust that God has this whole mess completely under control.
2.There’s not much I can do about this mess.                                                          Except use each day and its opportunities to do what I can.
3.Optimism is hard to come by.                                                                                      I have to choose hope and affirm life and the world.
4.I make mistakes often, errors of both omission and commission.                                Ann Lamott is right – shitty first drafts are necessary.
5.Life is busy and hard with little enough time …

Easter! Now What?

Lent is over. Easter is here. Hot Cross buns have been eaten. Pageants performed. The great Easter hymns sung. But what’s next? Where do we go from here?

Life seems to return to “normal.” But the Easter message is that the Risen Christ has made all things new. What is this newness and how do we identify and participate in it?
Fortunately, C. S. Lewis has given us a wonderful fictional depiction of our participation in Christ’s resurrection triumph. In Prince Caspian, the second in the original published order of the Narnia Chronicles, the four Pevensie children from our world have returned to Aslan’s world of Narnia. There are a great kings and queens. They have been called to aid Prince Caspian, a young royal whose scurrilous uncle had his father killed and claimed the throne of Narnia for himself. Having no male heir, Uncle Miraz had adopted Caspian and ruled in his stead till the young man grew into his adulthood.
However, Miraz’ wife has become pregnant and given him a son. Now Caspi…

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is a day of mourning and waiting. There’s nothing to do. It is, after all, Sabbath. Holy Saturday is a postscript to Good Friday and a preface to Easter Sunday. Whether postscript or preface depends on where one enters it spiritually. Some years it will be the one and some the other. I share this for those (like me) entering from the Good Friday side this year. The Smashing Pumpkins song “Tales of a Scorched Earth” definitely parses Holy Saturday in a postscript mode. It’s an anthem for this day when it is experienced as the “end” for Jesus and also for us.
“Farewell goodnight last one out turn out the lights
And let me be, let me die inside
Let me know the way from of this world of hate in you
Cause the dye is cast, and the bitch is back
And we're all dead yeah we're all dead
Inside the future of a shattered past
I lie just to be real, and I'd die just to feel
Why do the same old things keep on happening?
Because beyond my hopes there are no feelings
Bless th…

“The Three Days”/Triduum Lite – A Reconceptualization

A number of churches in North America have regained a sense of the Church Year since the 1960’s. And that is a good thing.
However, lumping the three days of Easter weekend together under the rubric of “The Three Days” is, in my judgment, less helpful than it might be. And that’s because this rubric covers three days of very different theological and historical valency. Being under one rubric, however, tends to obscure the critical differences between them and inclines us to treat them as simply days on which things important to the Christian faith happened. I suggest this is a woefully inadequate approach. And combined with the near universal neglect of Holy Saturday divests what happened on this weekend of much of its meaning and power.
Good Friday-Holy Saturday-Easter Sunday are “The Three Days” of Easter weekend. Usually reduced to just Good Friday and Easter by ignoring Holy Saturday we dilute the power and potential of this great celebration as a time and tool of Spirit-ual[1] gro…

Why Did Jesus Die? Baxter Kruger

Why did Jesus die?Who killed him?What was his death really about?I read the four gospels straight through looking for an answer to this question.Given that I was brought up in Calvinism and modern Evangelicalism (both of which are quite different from the evangelical vision of the ancient church) I expected to find a series of verses that proclaimed that Jesus suffered from his Father the just punishment for our sins.What I actually found did not fit in with my expectations.Again and again Jesus told his disciples what was happening.Here is what I found:

Good Friday 2016

“Who are You Standing With Today?”

Christians and Pagans, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in July 1944:

People turn to God when they’re in need,
plead for help, contentment, and for bread,
for rescue from their sickness, guilt, and death.
They all do so, both Christian and pagan.

People turn to God in God’s own need,
and find God poor, degraded, without roof or bread,
see God devoured by sin, weakness, and death.
Christians stand with God to share God’s pain.

God turns to all people in their need,
nourishes body and soul with God’s own bread,
takes up the cross for Christians and pagans, both,
and in forgiving both, is slain.

“Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed!”

Jesus stands before you. Yes, that Jesus. The one the Romans crucified on Friday afternoon. Yet he stands before alive again on Sunday morning.

He’s the same Jesus. The real Jesus. He eats food the way he always did. The gash in his side and the holes in his hands and feet are beyond doubt.
Yet he’s different, too. He seems able to appear where he wishes. He can pass through locked doors.
He’s the same Jesus. The one we betrayed, before whom we are guilty. We thought he failed, disappointed us. Don’t know what to think now. Same with our despair, hopelessness, and fear. What must he think of us now!
Yet he’s different, too. Jesus is here with no recrimination or blame for us. No suspicion or disappointment or victimization. Only happiness to see us again. Peace. He’s still willing to claim us as his people. Share the joy he has with Father with us. And use us for God’s purposes.
If this is what forgiveness feels like, it is wonderful. Beyond words. Beyond expectation. Just “beyond”! Jesus…

The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016 - Malachi (2)

The book of Malachi ends with God's promise to send a messenger to prepare the way for his coming to his people and their temple (chs.3-4). Historically that promise was fulfilled by John the Baptist.

God keeps sending his people messengers, though. Prophets, mentors, examples, it matters little what we call them. It only matters that we hear them and heed their words, God's words, to us.

One such messenger was Oscar Romero. A shy, bookish priest, he was made Archbishop of El Salvador by the church in the expectation that he would cause no trouble and things in El Salvador would continue on as they had been. El Salvador was run by the infamous "Fourteen Families" in a highly unjust and repressive way. The people were systematically oppressed, threatened, murdered to keep them in their place.

Romero, however, as he got to know the people of El Salvador, God raised him up as a voice for the people, a voice for justice, a voice for God. The people rallied beyond him a…

To Love What God Loves: Understanding the Cosmic Scope of Redemption

Biblical Studies, Theology
J. Richard Middleton
The most well-known, and perhaps well-loved, verse in the Bible is John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (NRSV).
God so loved the world — the kosmos, in Greek. Could that mean what we mean today by the “cosmos”? God loves … this universe?
We know that elsewhere in the Gospel of John, and also in 1 John, the term kosmos refers to the social order, indeed, the corrupt, fallen “world” that humans have constructed.
So 1 John 2:15 tells us: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them.” This verse understands human beings as loving, desiring creatures; what we set our hearts on shapes our lives. So we’re warned against internalizing the values of this corrupt world, this twisted social order. Love of the world in this sense is antithetical to true love of God.
Likewise, Pau…

How a TV Sitcom Triggered the Downfall of Western Civilization

I want to discuss a popular TV show my wife and I have been binge-watching on Netflix. It’s the story of a family man, a man of science, a genius who fell in with the wrong crowd. He slowly descends into madness and desperation, lead by his own egotism. With one mishap after another, he becomes a monster. I’m talking, of course, about Friends and its tragic hero, Ross Geller.

You may see it as a comedy, but I cannot laugh with you. To me, Friends signals a harsh embrace of anti-intellectualism in America, where a gifted and intelligent man is persecuted by his idiot compatriots. And even if you see it from my point of view, it doesn’t matter. The constant barrage of laughter from the live studio audience will remind us that our own reactions are unnecessary, redundant.
The theme song itself is filled with foreboding, telling us that life is inherently deceptive, career pursuits are laughable, poverty is right around the corner, and oh yeah, your love life’s D.O.A. But yo…

The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016 - Zechariah (2)

The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016
The Refiner’s Fire – Zechariah (2)
“This third I will put into the fire;
    I will refine them like silver
    and test them like gold.
They will call on my name
    and I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are my people,’
    and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”(Zechariah 12:9)
Here is the goal of God’s work as Zechariah presents it – to have a people, just a remnant (1/3 of the people according to this passage), who will claim him as their God and whom will call “my people.”
Does this mean only such remnant will be saved? Not at all. Remember, God’s strategy since the Fall has been to have a people, just a fragment of all humanity, to be his subversive counter-revolutionary movement who will spread his blessings everywhere and to everyone. That’s what being his “chosen” people is all about – serving and being for the world!
This remnant is God’s work, his refining work. Only he can do this in and for us and only he will do this work in and fo…

The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016 - Zechariah (1)

The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016
The Branch – Zechariah (1)
Twenty years after the return from exile in Babylon we meet the prophet Zechariah. A contemporary of Haggai, he like his fellow prophet focused on the rebuilding of the temple. This iteration of the temple, to avoid the fate of its predecessor must keep the vision of life of the Torah front-and-center. “And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah:“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’” (7:8-10).
“The rebuilt temple will make God’s return concrete.  Even more, though, the call to live with trust in God and God’s message in Torah (and not trust in idols), and to practice justice, mercy, and kindness, especially toward vulnerable members of the community (and not gathering wealth and “devising evil” versus each other) remains central to Israel’s futu…

Holy Week Monday: Temple Business

March 21, 2016 by J. R. Daniel Kirk0 Comments
There is one mystery, one paradox that runs through the Gospel stories. It’s the whole point of the story, and yet none of Jesus’ friends could ever quite wrap their minds around it.
Yes, they could all agree, Jesus was Messiah.
But no, Jesus kept insisting, not like that.
The juxtaposition was there for those with eyes to see during the entry into Jerusalem. While the crowds are shouting hosanna. They want the coming of the kingdom of David. They want the glorification of Jerusalem, so long promised.
But Jesus has chosen a humble mount: a claim to kingship, but a humble one.
Yes, the kingdom will come, but not like that.
Perhaps the first indication that things aren’t going to go quite as people hoped is Jesus’ anti-climactic arrival. After looking around, he decides it’s time to go to bed.
Cue the Monday morning return.
Signs of Life?

The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016 - Haggai (1)

The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016
“Give Careful Thought to Your Ways” – Haggai (1)
Haggai lived and prophesied during the time of the Persian empire after Cyrus decreed the return of all Jews who wanted to return to their homeland. A chief issue for the returnees was rebuilding the temple that the Babylonians had destroyed at the beginning of the Exile. The rebuilding started well enough. But the difficulties and the prospects of the rebuilt temple’s lesser grandeur than Solomon’s temple dimmed enthusiasm and the project lagged. A major burden of Haggai’s preaching was the people’s renewal of the temple’s rebuilding.
Haggai sets the temple’s rebuilding in the context of God’s covenant with David (that a son of David would always rule in Israel) and God’s promises for a great future of the nation and its temple. Post-exilic Israel lives between this covenant and those promises, to wit,
-that God promises to be with this people as covenant partner the way he was with Israel in the exodu…