Easter is about a new creation that has already begun. God is remaking His world, challenging all the other powers that think that is their job. The rich, wise order of creation and its glorious, abundant beauty are reaffirmed on the other side of the thing that always threatens justice and beauty – death. Christianity’s critics have always sneered that nothing has changed. But everything has. The world is a different place.
Night dragged into day, and my wretchedness only increased as the city came to life and hurried about its business. I retreated inside and stayed there as the hours wore on, afraid to leave the house in case anyone looked me in the eye; afraid that, now that my cocky, self-assured shell had been shattered, the pitiful coward that remained might be exposed for all to see.
We are getting ready to go to the sunrise service at our church. It has been many years since we have been to an Easter sunrise service. That’s one tradition I miss.
The service is scheduled for 7:00AM. The sun rises at 6:59.
I’m going to try to be early.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ ”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. (John 1:1-18, NRSV)
- The light is still shining.
- Death could not quench the light.
- His own creation did not know who he was.
- His own creation did not accept him.
- He still did what he did for his creation.
- He became real flesh.
- He lived on planet earth.
- Full of grace and full of truth.
- From him we receive more grace than we could possibly use.
- In Jesus Christ (Messiah) we see God. Actually.
Death hangs heavy in the air. I can smell it, I can feel its oppressive weight, I can taste its cloying, bitter taste in my throat. At this moment, I can see and feel little else; death is everything and everywhere.
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
“As in my anger I swore,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’ ”
though his works were finished at the foundation of the world. For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this place it says, “They shall not enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he sets a certain day—“today”—saying through David much later, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.
Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.
Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:1-16, NRSV)
- Rest! Imagine it.
- There is rest for the weary. It’s coming.
- Don’t mess with God’s word. It’s dangerous.
- When God speaks, nothing is hidden. He knows everything about you.
- Jesus covers for us. He punches our timecard for us when we come in late.
- Because of him we can come to the Father as if he was our father.
- Mercy and grace.
- The Same Spirit of Faith
- Fight the Good Fight
- The God of All Consolation
- Opportunity to Teach
- Simply Incompatible
- Yes, Yes
- Logos: Introducing Sense of the Day
- Messiah-Shaped Love
- The Mind of the Messiah
- Beck: Noah, the Nephilim and the Descendants of Seth
- Workers With You
- But You’re a Bishop
- Sharing in the Body of Christ
- Foreman: This Is Why Switchfoot Won’t Sing Christian Songs Anymore
- Frye: Jesus, the Radical Reader
- Beck: The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53
- The Sufferings Destined for Christ
- Cyzewski: Why Would Anyone Want to Kill Jesus?
I would argue that the reasons for the conspiracy behind the execution of Jesus are a bit of a mystery for modern readers. Do we fully grasp the reasons why a bunch of people, who really wanted God to show up, would murder God when he actually did show up as promised?
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look!
Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. (1 Peter 1:10-20, NRSV)
- God’s plan was Jesus all along. Just Jesus.
- Therefore …
- Hope is in Jesus.
- Conform to Jesus.
- Conduct yourself like Jesus.
- Be transformed by Jesus.
- The end of the age was Jesus.
- The new age starts with Jesus.
Basically, when the bible speaks about “the forgiveness of sins” it is referring to the forgiveness of Israel’s sins.
More precisely, the “forgiveness of sins” is the end of Israel’s exile in Jesus Christ. Which was needed for the Kingdom of God to expand out from Israel and into the whole world. Thus, the forgiveness of sins–the end of Israel’s exile–leads to salvation reaching you and I in the gospel proclamation that the Kingdom of God has spilled out into the nations, that “Jesus is Lord of all.”
When pastors, of all people, in the USAmerican church are too busy to exegete lives, then they betray their primary study. People are amazingly unique human beings made as God’s Eikons and redeemed by God’s Son and loved by God’s Spirit, each one with a story uniquely his or her own. The pastor’s task–a diligent, artistic contribution–is to show people how their stories may be caught up into God’s grand story. Perhaps pastors should be sent to detective training school rather than to seminary.
Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds. The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed.
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drinkl without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (1 Corinthians 10:14–17, 11:27–32, NRSV)
- We have a share in the death of Christ. That’s good. And bad.
- That is what makes us one.
- Don’t make wild speculations about what it means to eat or drink in an unworthy manner. It probably doesn’t mean what you think it means.
To those who comment, ‘But you’re a bishop, so presumably you take a “Christian” view’, I reply: Yes; but the ‘Christian’ view I take, in my tradition at least, is to let the text to be the text, rather than make it say what we want. There is after all no one ‘Christian’ view on these matters. If it turns out that Paul says things I do not want to hear, I shall live with it. If it turns out that I say things which Paul doesn’t want to hear, perhaps he will one day put me straight. If it turns out that Paul says things the twenty-first century doesn’t want to hear, it’s better that we get that out into the open rather than sneakily falsifying the historical evidence to fit our predilections.
N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (vol. 4; Christian Origins and the Question of God; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 1133.
But I call on God as witness against me: it was to spare you that I did not come again to Corinth. I do not mean to imply that we lord it over your faith; rather, we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in the faith. So I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came, I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice; for I am confident about all of you, that my joy would be the joy of all of you. For I wrote you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.
But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent—not to exaggerate it—to all of you. This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person; so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. I wrote for this reason: to test you and to know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ. And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11, NRSV)
- Church leadership is not lordship.
- It’s together, not over.
- Love, love, love conquers all.
- Togetherness is important.
- The enemy would love to tear us apart.
The argument here is that the “image of God” is carried through the line of Seth.
So the problem in Genesis 6 is that these “sons of God”–the descendants of Seth–”fall” when they begin to intermarry with the descendants of Cain (“the daughters of men”).
In Noah we don’t see this intermarrying, but in the movie we do see the worry emerge in Noah’s resistance to find wives for his sons from among the daughters of Cain.
Paul would have understood the old maxim about giving someone a fish and feeding them for a day as opposed to teaching them to fish and feeding them for life. He did from time to time give people blunt and direct instructions, to keep them on the rails for the immediate future. But he was far more concerned to teach them to think through, with a mind renewed by the spirit, what it meant to live in the New Age when the two Ages were still overlapping. Indeed, he was concerned to teach them to think, reflexively as it were, about the mind itself, and about its role within the total self-sacrificial obedience of the whole person. This, he would have said, is what it means to have the mind of the Messiah.
N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (vol. 4; Christian Origins and the Question of God; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 1124–1125.
Paul, as a pastor, knew that conscience was a sensitive instrument, and if roughly handled might suffer lasting damage. This, too, is part of the ‘not yet’ of the gospel. Presumably Paul thinks that in the new creation such problems will disappear. Learning how to live wisely within a world, and a church, in which such issues loom large is for him a further impetus towards a Messiah-shaped love in which no party insists on ‘rights’ and all concentrate on mutual responsibility and service.
N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (vol. 4; Christian Origins and the Question of God; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 1120.
Logos has written up a little introduction to the feature I mentioned the other day. In this little piece, Jonathan Watson has explained the sense of senses:
A sense is a meaning that can be attached to multiple words. For instance, the sense “deliverance” could be explained as recovery or preservation from loss or danger, whether physical or spiritual. This sense is employed in myriad passages, including Luke 1:69, Hebrews 11:17, and Psalm 82:4, using words like salvation, deliver, and rescue. They are different words, but they share the same sense.
You can learn a lot a little at a time this way. I highly recommend subscribing the the RSS feed.
We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again, as you also join in helping us by your prayers, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
Indeed, this is our boast, the testimony of our conscience: we have behaved in the world with frankness and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God—and all the more toward you. For we write you nothing other than what you can read and also understand; I hope you will understand until the end— as you have already understood us in part—that on the day of the Lord Jesus we are your boast even as you are our boast.
Since I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a double favor; I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to ordinary human standards, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been “Yes and No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not “Yes and No”; but in him it is always “Yes.” For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God. But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment. (2 Corinthians 1:8-22, NRSV)
- Do you feel like being a Christian is hard in today’s culture? You ain’t seen nothin’. Yet, anyway.
- Frankness and sincerity will go a long way. That is godly wisdom.
- Don’t equivocate.
- The Spirit is the first installment of the kingdom. He is the already part. Can’t wait for the not yet part.
- Yes. And amen.
Paul believes in some sense in a present ‘kingdom of the Messiah’, and also ‘kingdom of God’, but normally when he speaks of the latter he is referring to the ultimate future. When he does so, it is sometimes in order to warn that there are certain present lifestyles which are simply incompatible with being part of that future. This is much more than simply providing a kind of ‘negative warrant’, a stick as opposed to a carrot. It is reminding people of an analytic truth: when the creator finishes his kingdom-project, those who are included within it will be those who have already learned to embody the kind of human life which reflects his own character.
N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (vol. 4; Christian Origins and the Question of God; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 1113. [emphasis added]
I’m feeling pretty good. Yesterday I taught our Sunday School class in the absence of our teacher. (I had been supposed to teach two weeks earlier, but I got sick and had to miss it. That turned out ok because only one other couple would have been there anyway, due to spring break.)
I enjoyed the preparation and the teaching itself. The class responded well to my very different style of teaching. It felt good to get back in the saddle after a few years off. I really miss the regular interaction that comes with teaching a Bible study.
I also have accepted an offer to lead a small group that meets a couple of Sunday nights every month. I warned the PTB that I don’t like to do the book club approach; I want to do straight Bible studies. I haven’t heard any objections. So that will start pretty soon, maybe in a month or so. I need to start thinking about what we will study.
Regular readers will know that we floated in the evangelical wasteland for three years or so. I swore I would never again attend a church of our denomination.
One shouldn’t swear.
Our new church is of the same denomination that I have been part of since the day I was born. It is the church of my parents and all my grandparents and even of all of my great-grandparents.
I am home.
And it feels good.
We are actually transferring our membership to our new church. I expected to never again be a voting member of a local church. So there you go.
Thank you very much, all you guys and gals out there that have loved me through this ordeal. Your prayers were efficacious.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God that is in Corinth, including all the saints throughout Achaia:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation. (2 Corinthians 1:1-7, NRSV)
- Something about consolation or something like that.
- Like, x10.
- Our consolation is in the Messiah.
- Whenever you see “Christ” in Paul’s letters, replace it with “Messiah”.
- There is consolation, even in suffering.
- Hope stands firm even in trouble.
Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:12-16, NRSV)
- Keep going. Don’t go down without a fight.
- Jesus didn’t give up. Don’t you give up either.
- The time is coming. Don’t give up.
- Eternity with Jesus is an unimaginable reward.
- So be it.
But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:13-18, NRSV)
- Speak what you believe.
- Grace is extended to more and more people. We are the dispensers.
- Don’t give up. Inner stamina is more important than physical strength or ability.
- Hope is eternal.
- Love Never Ends
- Send Me Your Bible Questions
- Columba: Who Were the “Sons of God” in Genesis 6?
- By the Mercies of God
- Olson: Does God Change?
- Columba: Idolatry in Modern Worship
- How Will I Benefit You?
- Infants in Evil
- Triumphal Procession
- The Season
- Metzger: Racial Fatigue and Energized Suffering
- Peter Enns on Inerrancy and the Bible
- Grayson: Setting scripture free
- BSCL: Podcast Series on Noah
- We Have Such a Hope
- Metzger: The Lord’s Supper—A Heavenly Happy Meal?
- By God’s Mercy
- McKnight: Are Millennials Leaving the Church? What do the numbers really say?
- Olson: What’s New in Theology? (Some Musings about Novelty–Or Not)
- Logos Academic: Sense of the Day – Compassion
One of the newish features of Logos is the sense lexicon. This week Logos Academic started publishing a Sense of the Day to promote this great feature. Even if you haven’t studied Greek much you may enjoy following along with this series.
I’m not at all interested in the “goddess of novelty,” but I do keep an eye out for new solutions to the old problems theology has faced: God’s and creatures’ agencies and how they interact, God’s transcendence and immanence (how they can be held together), the nature of the Bible as God’s written Word, the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, the roles of grace and human decision and action in salvation, etc., etc. It seems to me that all the avenues have been explored and “new” ones are simply old ones recycled. What makes them seem new is simply the new clothes they wear—their contemporary expressions.
Big point: young adults have been less affiliated for a long time; when they get married and have children they return to their faith. Part of the life cycle is reflected in this.