Posts

Showing posts from 2019

When We Sin

The story of God’s confrontation with Adam and Eve after they ate the forbidden fruit is full of insight for us today if we pay attention to the questions by which God elicits the truth from them. The first question God asks Adam is “Where are you?” (Gen.3:9) Adam says “I heard you coming and hid because I was naked.” God’s first question top us when we are struggling with sin is the relationship question. We are out of relationship with God, hiding at the mere hint of his presence. Where are you? – apart from God, out of proximity to him, out of relationship. Hiding is a primal response to shame when we have failed someone. Especially God. Unless we are in active rebellion against God, in which case we’d be hotfooting it in the other direction not simply hiding in the same environs, we try to explain ourselves but often give ourselves away and get in deeper. As Adam did by talking about nakedness.
Who told you that? God wants to know. (Gen.3:11) This is quite important. Losing touch …

Bird Cages or Bird Baths – Some Late Night Musings

Some years ago the idea that the church should be a centered set rather than a bounded set. The latter is like a bird cage enclosed by metal bars and entered only through a small opening. The point is to get inside the metal enclosure and every effort is expended to police that entrance to keep the unqualified out. The former is like a bird bath. It has open boundaries at its edges. Those who enter move to the center where the deepest, coolest waters are to refresh and clean themselves. Helping those at the boundaries move to the center is the action desired here. Closed or barely permeable boundaries and clear differentiation between who is in and who is out or open boundaries with movement to the center by those who may or may not have clear commitments at the point of entering the bird bath.
The church in America has been largely a bird cage church. Getting people in and making sure their commitment is sound has been the norm. However, the day for this kind of church here is over.…

Genesis 1-11 Retold (Part 1)

In the beginning God built a temple. And that tells the whole story. The whole story. To miss this story is to miss the whole point of God’s work. God built a temple because, well, that’s where gods live, right? And God wants to live on the earth he created with us. Still does. And will. On a mountain God planted his garden temple/palace to live with his human creatures (Ez.28:13-16). In that garden God walked in communion and fellowship with Adam and Eve. And they’re just us, you know. All humanity. What’s more, God made them (and us) priests in this garden temple. Royal priests because they (we) are children of God the Great King. This is that “image of God” thing. What God started there he intends to spread the length and breadth and height and depth of the whole creation. Remember the river from Eden that branched into four to water the rest of the then uninhabited earth. Why water it if people weren’t going to live there. Yep, God wants this whole world full of his royal pries…

The Church of Us vs. Them – A Reflection

“That is the first question: no longer to know whether God exists, but to exist as Christian communities.” So writes the French Jesuit writer Michel de Certeau in an essay “How is Christianity Thinkable Today” (Theology Digest 19, 1971).  F. C. Bauerschmidt glosses this statement: “One cannot even pose a question about God without the existence of a community for which such a question would be of concern, and it is the existence of such a community as much as the existence of God which is in question for Christians today” (“The Abrahamic Voyage: Michel de Certeau and Theology,” Modern Theology 12:1, 1996, 10). Dietrich Bonhoeffer poses the same question this way in his notes for a book he never lived to write: “What do we really believe? I mean, believe in such a way that our lives depend on it?” (Letters and Papers from Prison (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works) Fortress Press. Kindle Edition: 486). This is the question David Fitch wrestles with in his new book The Church of Us vs. Them unde…

Trinity Sunday: The Christian God (2)

Image
   C. S. Lewis on the Triune God Only Christianity, according to Lewis (in Mere Christianity), gives us an idea of what something “super-personal” might look like. Eastern religions picture God as finally non-personal, a single reality into which all entities are part of, like water drops in the ocean, and will be absorbed into. Lewis observes, “If that is what happens to us, then being absorbed is the same as ceasing to exist.” Christianity alone has “any idea of how human souls can be taken into the life of God and yet remain themselves—in fact, be very much more themselves than they were before.” Here’s Lewis’ analogy for this: -One-dimensionally, there is a straight line. -Two-dimensionally, there is a square. -Three-dimensionally, squares can be combined to form a cube, something inconceivable in a one-or-two-dimensional world. Similarly, in our world we believe one person is one being. Some marriages, perhaps, give us a hint of “two becoming one.” But still we are basically a …

Life in Christ

Image
All of us carry around a mental picture of ourselves, our condition, our standing with God, our future. We know that the devil’s strategy to derail God’s work in us and through us in the world is accusation (Rev.12:10). In other words, on the past and on what we have done or not done to displease God. This goes hand-in-glove with promoting a distorted image of God as one perpetually wearing a scowl, clutching a moral scorecard for each of us, scanning them relentlessly do so not to miss a single misstep we make so he can unleash his vengeful judgment on us in full strength.
This lie about God feeds the lie that we must focus on our past and vice versa. A downcast spirit and a waste of time are the products of these lies. And the devil’s hope to undo us and God’s work. After Christ’s cross and resurrection lies and illusions are the devil’s only weapons. He can only distort and mislead in a parasitic way on the truth of God established in and by Jesus Christ. A spirit burdened by a pas…

Trinity Sunday: The Christian God

Image
Trinity Sunday and the Church Year The transition from the part of the church year focused on Jesus’ life and work to the church’s life and work begins with Trinity Sunday. This part of the year is an extended sequel to Pentecost which closes out the Easter cycle hinged by the Ascension.  It’s called Ordinary Time not because it’s boring or unimportant but because there are no major feast days till Advent. Trinity Sunday offers a reflection on the Christian God we have met in Jesus Christ. The Triune God “God” is the most dangerous word in any language. More mischief, damage, and death occur under its auspices than any other word. Get “God” on your side and almost any terrible thing you want to do can be done. A parade example is the Old Testament deity considered by himself as a solitary deity. Christopher Hitchens is brilliant in skewering this figure: The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, un…