Showing posts from September, 2017

A Lot of this going around these days

Our relation to God is ungodly. We suppose that we know what we are saying when we say “God.” We assign to him the highest place in our world: and in so doing we place him fundamentally on one line with ourselves and with things. . . . We press ourselves into proximity with him: and so, all unthinking, we make him nigh unto ourselves. We allow ourselves an ordinary communication with him, we permit ourselves to reckon with him as though this were not extraordinary behavior on our part. We dare to deck ourselves out as his companions, patrons, advisers, and commissioners. ...
Secretly we are the masters in this relationship. We are not concerned with God, but with our own requirements, to which God must adjust himself. . . . Our well-regulated, pleasurable life longs for some hours of devotion, some prolongation into infinity. And so, when we set God upon the throne of the world, we mean by God ourselves. In “believing” on him, we justify, enjoy, and adore ourselves.
The Color of Truth – Brad Jersak (with Eric Allaby)09/27/2017No comments Sea Anemones – Grand Manan Island, NB – Depth: 85 feet
On my first visit to Grand Manan Island, I met a new friend. Eric Allaby is a kind and fascinating soul who was born on this lobster paradise off the coast of New Brunswick. In the 1950s, he was first to introduce scuba diving to the herring fishery (cf. weir fishing) and to personally survey the dozens of shipwrecks around the island. Eric was mapping and salvaging the wrecks when others were still wearing metal diving helmets.

Mr. Allaby would go on to become a map-maker, museum curator and minister of the New Brunswick provincial legislature, where he served for 19 productive years. As I said, fascinating!
During our time together, he shared the featured photos of sea anemones, along with this explanation, to create an illustration regarding “truth”:


Truth, Lies, and the NFL [1]

By Adam Ericksen [2] 9-26-2017
Do you remember two weeks ago when Donald Trump surprised everyone by working with Democrats [4] to come to a consensus on the DREAM Act? Many thought the president was finally pivoting. He was turning a new leaf by attempting to unify the country. His base wasn’t happy [5], but many of us were hopeful that the leader of the U.S. might be moving in a new direction.
But then Friday happened. Trump decided to pick a fight with the NFL. He said in a speech [6] in Alabama:
Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired!” You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, “That guy disrespects our flag; he’s fired.” And that owner . . . they’ll be the most popular person in this country.
Some commentators said that Trump makes these claims to start a culture war that distract us from legislative issues that truly matter. . . Rad more at: htt…

16. Mark 4:26-34: The Kingdom of God

The Mystery of God’s Kingdom (4:26-29)
The underlying question still facing Jesus’ proclamation of God’s liberating, emancipatory, life-giving Jubilee junket is the obvious one: “How can any of this be more than pie-in-the-sky moonshine. Look at Rome! Somehow, you are telling us, this New Exodus movement will upend the mighty Empire? Get real! That’s not how things work in the real world.”
Jesus turns to the process they know best – sowing and reaping. This most basic and important process, on which their lives depends, is ultimately mysterious and uncontrollable. We do what we can and have learned to do, but even as we reap a harvest we admit that we really don’t know why this is happening. “The earth produces of itself” – Jesus says.
If God is in control and at work according to his will and plan, humans can never foreclose on old hopes or new possibilities surprisingly opening up right in front of their eyes. And this, Jesus implies, is just what is happening in and through him. The h…

15. Mark 4:13-20: Ways of Hearing

The questions the twelve asked Jesus about this parable prompts him to ask how they will understand any of the parables (v.13). His parabolic announcement of Jubilee, then, is paradigmatic of what the Jesus movement is all about. And as hard as it may be even for them (to whom its mystery has been given, v.10) to “get” this parable, they should not be surprised when it “sowing” to their contemporaries issues in much rejection. Thus, Jesus uses its imagery to craft a parable on “hearing.”
Some hearers are on path where the word was sown. They have no chance as Satan himself swoops in and removes the word from them. Enmity to Jesus’ Jubilean word has more than human rejection to deal with. Think here of a balloon lying deflated in your hand. You intend to blow it up but somehow, for some reason, you never get around to it. The balloon lies limp not doing what it was meant to do.
Some hearers are like seed sown on rocky ground. They accept it at first happily but its puts down no roots in …

Economics as America’s Sovereign Religion: Is it Time for a Reformation?

SEPTEMBER 22, 2017 BY TIM SUTTLE 0 COMMENTS The most powerful religion in the Western world is no longer Christianity. It is economics. It can actually be quite instructive to consider economics not as a science or sociology but as a religion, complete with doctrines, priests, and constant references to faith. So says John Rapley in his essay from The Guardian last July. “Think about it. Economics offers a comprehensive doctrine with a moral code promising adherents salvation in this world; an ideology so compelling that the faithful remake whole societies to conform to its demands. It has its gnostics, mystics and magicians who conjure money out of thin air, using spells such as “derivative” or “structured investment vehicle” … it has its prophets, reformists, moralists and above all, its high priests who uphold orthodoxy in the face of heresy.” If the economy is the new religion of the masses, then economists are its priestly class replete with their own denominational squabbles and even…

The Church and Changing the World

The church is not called to change the world, it's called to participate in and witness to the changed world brought by Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
I posted this earlier on my facebook status and one friend responded: “I think that would change the world.”
I agree but not perhaps in the sense my friend means and not as I suspect many American Christians, progressive or evangelical believe.
My thesis is this: “Changing the world” is a mantra that has been present in many ways in American Christianity throughout its existence. Some of it came from post-millenial thought. Steven Pointer explains:
“During most of the nineteenth century, American Protestants believed they were living in special times, that current events were hastening the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth. Hymns like the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" became popular because they so well expressed this hope: "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,/He is tramplin…

God-given Weirdness

Much of the literature on the fundamentalist – modernist controversy of the 1920’s and 30’s is described as the struggle of fundamentalists against modernity — its science, its ways of thinking, approaches to Scripture, and, in particular, the theory of evolution. But what we don’t talk about very much is the way in which the desire not be thought of as fundamentalist has shaped mainline Protestantism. If you read the history of that period, you will discover that big donors to Riverside Church in New York City — where Harry Emerson Fosdick was the preacher for so many years — gave to the building of Riverside, precisely as an effort to stem the spread of fundamentalism. If you read the steady stream of blogging, there is no end to the skewering . . .


14. Mark 4:1-34: Parables (I)

“Parables have typically been preached in North American churches as ‘earthly stories with heavenly meanings.” That, however is exactly what they are not. Rather, Jesus is describing the sovereignty of God in the most concrete possible terms, using images that any illiterate peasant could understand. The genius of parables is that they offer recognizable scenarios, drawing listeners in, then throw surprise twists is order to challenge listeners’ assumptions about what is possible.” (Myers, Say to This Mountain, 39.) The Parable of the Sower: More Jubilee (4:1-9)                                                            (See here Myers, Say to This Mountain, 39) The parable of the Sower is its own parable. It does not require to be “explained” by vv.14-23. The intervening section, 4:10-12, puts that latter Sower parable in a new and different context than the first. This first Sower parable announces the radical Jubilee agenda of God’s New Exodus movement. Jesus preached to peasants who …

13. Jesus and Family

No doubt family is important to humanity. So important that it is one of the two things almost every human being would kill and die for. The other is, of course, the nation-state. Interestingly, neither merit that kind of commitment according to Jesus. One’s nation is way down the list of priorities for God’s people. Family is a lot higher but not high enough to kill or die for. Only God is atop the priority list meriting such level of commitment. And while Jesus does promote the possibility of giving one’s life for God, he never supports, indeed, rejects in the clearest and strongest manner, the taking of life. Even for the family. That’s why Jesus talks about “hating” mother and father. It’s hyperbole, to be sure, but the reality is Jesus will not accept or tolerate any other commitment or relationship that dilutes, distorts, or denies the ultimate priority of following him. And why he foresaw family members rising up against each other before the authorities on account of him. And wh…

Reading the Bible Through Neuroscience: Is Your Brain Different From Moses’ Brain?

 SEPTEMBER 20, 2017 BY TIM SUTTLE 0 COMMENTS What can neuroscience teach us about how to read the bible? James Kugel has some suggestions. Kugel is a Jewish biblical scholar & former Harvard professor. His new book, The Great Shift: Encountering God in Biblical Times, makes some fascinating observations about the difference between the Hebrew mind and the modern mind. The main difference is in our “sense of self.” Modern readers don’t have the same assumptions about what it means to be a human being. We differ in two key ways: Self as Internal v. External to the Body At this moment you have an idea about what it means to be you. This is your sense of self. Kugel says that the modern sense of self is quite different from the ancient sense of self . . . Read more at

A Theology of Ya’ll

Herma and Herman Neutics on "A Theology of Ya'll'

Biblical theology is a theology of Ya’ll (or if you’re a northerner, “youse guys,” remembering that in this locution “guys” is generic). Since I’m a southerner, I’ll stick with “ya’ll.”
In a “Me, Myself, and I” world this is a serious matter. Before we even open the book we have a barrier to understanding it because of the world we have been socialized into. The kind of faith we have in our part of the world is that of the individual relating to God as an individual. Church for many of us is an optional extra, a help if we need it. Alone with Jesus in the garden is an image that resonates deeply with many of us.
The basic thrust here is that the Bible speaks to and about the community, Israel and the church. Most of its imperatives (commands) are issued to the above in the 2nd person plural (ya’ll) not “you” singular. Even when the singular “you” is used, often it is for rhetorical reasons. That is, it speaks to the individ…

12.Mark 3:19b-35: Dynamics of the Fellowship of the King

A Sandwich to Chew On Mark has a habit of telling stories “sandwich” style. He often starts one (one piece of sandwich bread), interrupts its telling to relate another story (the meat), and then return to finish the first story (another piece of sandwich bread). And just like we eat the bread and meat of a sandwich together, Mark intends us to interpret these two stories together. The bread of this sandwich story is about Jesus and his family. His natural family, having heard about his strange exploits with the supernatural (exorcisms) worry about his mental stability and their own family reputation in the community “Exorcists often invoked a higher spirit to get rid of a lower one, so Jesus’ opponents accuse him of gaining his power for exorcism from sorcery-relying on Satan himself. Insanity (3:21) was often associated with demon possession (3:22). Because false teachers were sometimes thought to be inspired by demons and the official penalty for misleading God’s people this way was d…

The Church’s DNA

I suggest that the church has a biblical dna that must govern the way we conceptualize, structure, orient, worship, and serve the world. Genesis 12:1-3 gives us a classic description of this dna which, I would claim, underwrites any form the people of God take in the Bible. Whether they be a fugitive group of escapees from Egypt, a nation formed on Mt. Sinai, nomads wandering in the desert for 40 years, a united monarchy, divided monarchies, exiles in Babylon, or exiles in their own land, the threefold promise of
-being God’s people, -being blessed and protected by God, and -used by God to bless everyone else,
should mark, indeed, be the rationale, for their existence.
I assume, then, that such a dna ought to guide of reflections on the shape of the church in our time. Assuming nothing about what a church must look like, questions like these should guide our considerations:
-what does it mean to be a “people” in our individualized and increasingly individualizing culture? What of structure…

11: Mark 3:14: “to be with him”

“And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons.” (Mark 3:14-15)
Often overlooked in this passage where Jesus appoints his twelve apostles is the first of the three mandates given to them. Before Jesus intends to send them out preaching and exorcizing he intends them to “be with him.”
What does he mean by this? France says it is “their personal involvement with and training by the master” and “is the essential prerequisite” of their being sent out (France, Mark, 159). And so it is with us, as well. Time “with” Jesus is as important and nonnegotiable now as it was then. This is not, I think, a sequential process, though it may start that way. For the twelve it was an ongoing feature of their journeying with Jesus. Watching Jesus in action. Debriefing with him afterward. Taking one step forward and, sometimes, two steps backward. Growing through their failures more than their succe…