… on Good Friday in a crucified world

“Jesus was not the first faithful Jew who died on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem — nor would he be the last. In 4 B.C.E., Varus crucified two thousand Jews there, and in 70 C.E. Titus crucified five hundred a day — for how many days? Those first followers of Jesus… believed that Jesus was their awaited Messiah, their expected Christ. They did not think that Jesus’ was just another Roman execution. But neither did they think that he died alone.
He died, for them, as the climax of all the suffering of Israel, as the consummation of all those prayers of lament in the psalms, as the fulfillment of all the faithful martyrs of the biblical tradition.”

-New Testament Scholar John Dominic Crossan

Good Friday is the day we take time to meditate on the somber reality of the price and fulfillment of God’s love for us—the cross of Jesus Christ.  But the quoted excerpt brings to the fore the historical reality of Jesus’ cross we most often are ignorant or forgetful of… that a tyrannical empire was crucifying noble Jewish believers every day during Jesus’ time.  In one sense, Jesus was just one Jew being crucified amongst many others, often for reasons similar to his.

The Cross for Jesus was the premiere fulfillment of what is called the Incarnation.  The Incarnation was the taking up of the experience of being a human, the bearing of our sin.  Every human bears the weight of living in a sinful world.  Every human suffers and dies.  And in the Incarnation, God took on that same humanity.

I pray that this Good Friday will remind us that Jesus had to endure crucifixion, not because God needed to blow off some steam on somebody because of God’s rage issues, but because God needed to experience the world in order to have solidarity with it, and the world we live in is a crucified world.

There are all kinds of empires in this world in different forms, crucifying the marginalized and oppressed.  People are suffering all around us.  Across the globe and in our own neighborhoods, the powerful continue to deviate from God’s just will to crucify the powerless.

But God took on their suffering on the cross.  Are you too willing to take on the suffering of your world for the sake of its salvation?  Are you willing to become poor for the sake of the poor?  Displaced for the sake of the displaced?  Or sad for the sake of those who weep?  This Good Friday, will you incarnate into a crucified world?

Perhaps today you are one crucified.  You yourself hang on a cross of a betrayed relationship, a cross of poverty, a cross of some profound injustice, or a cross of a loved one’s death.  Remember, our God is a crucified God.  God’s flesh is pierced like your flesh, his heart betrayed like yours.  This Good Friday, God is with you in your suffering.

We may live in a crucified world, but we worship a crucified God.  May that Divine solidarity give us all the courage to seek a brighter tomorrow, and the hope to wait for an Easter Sunday.

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…on how a city got its name

The Tower of Babel story has so much to offer us in terms of moral teachings as well as theological ideas.  In addition, these mere 11 verses make for awesome literature when you look at it in its original language. Check out this Genesis 11 exegesis for some thoughts I assembled for a class on Genesis 11.1-11, the “Tower of Babel”.

You learned about it in Sunday School.  Maybe its time to take a second, more mature look at it.

Blessings.

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…on accomplishing something

“… striving according to His working which works in me mightily” col 1.29

For the past several months, I have worked hard to launch a small groups program at my church.  After months of thinking and planning, we launched what we call “House Church”, just 5 weeks ago.  Since then I have been planning each week’s ‘service’ which has included various discussions etc in one another’s homes.  Tonight, we ate a spaghetti dinner, shared the Lord’s Supper, and did an ancient bible study method called lectio divina on the Lord’s Prayer.

I’ve got to admit, it’s been awesome.  Each week has been rich and intimate, loving, challenging and encouraging.  I love House Church.  But each week, I watch others love it too.  So far, I’m witnessing this form of Christian community enrich and better our lives.  I believe, rather optimistically, that House Church is going to make our lives and the world better; it is going to bring God’s Kingdom to Earth in a new yet permanent way.  I think what makes this experience most special is the incredible people I am doing this with… its not just great content, its great community.

As I was driving home tonight, I felt like I had accomplished something.  And that is an awesome feeling.  I don’t want to take credit for House Church and its apparent success.  But I have this incredible feeling that I am in line with God’s will for my life, and now that I’ve stepped into God’s calling, God has used me to accomplish something great.  This is an exciting place to be in life, and I am profoundly thankful to God that He has brought me here!

Thank you, God, for placing this terrifying and wonderful call upon my life—to fling myself entirely upon the work of ministry and see your Kingdom come crashing down into my world.

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…on scripture and agriculture

Just finished Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture by Ellen F. Davis.  If you like biblical studies and you’re somewhat of a treehugger like myself, you’ll probably really like this book.  Really got me motivated about eating local or organic produce and meats when possible.  The book really demonstrates that a very large percentage of the content of the Old Testament was a prophetic or legalistic

 reckoning against empirical (industrial) agriculture that stripped land and produce from the local farmer and turned him into a peasant or slave.  It highlights the covenantal nature between God, land, and God’s people… that land and soil and its fruit are not merely commodities.  Davis really captures Genesis, Leviticus, Amos, Hosea, Micah, and Song of Songs and shows how deeply agrarian the concerns of these books were, and how today, we continue to ignore their prophetic call.   Conversely, it also offers a prophetic expose of current, ungodly practices of corporate agriculture that are destroying the soil and its corresponding ecosystems for future generations, while stripping local farmers and farm communities of their vocation, money, and dignity.  Corporations are attempting to monopolize control of global crops by means of patenting “improved,” genetically modified organisms, while only looking for short-term profit and ignoring future ecological problems of their vast empires.

Check out Scripture, Culture and Agriculture!

 

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…on the death of Occupy Wall Street and the Church

Recently I responded to a cnn article by Tony Perkins, who suggested Jesus was a free market capitalist and would have been against the Occupy Wall Street movement.  His assumption, I think, was that OWS is a movement full of lazy hipsters who want to tear down our capitalist economy to replace it with a socialist government and thus empower their laziness.  As fundamentally wrong as Perkins was on a biblical and gospel level, he was right about one thing… there literally is a lot of OWS folks who are lazy hipsters who want a socialist government so they can have more of the perks with less of the work and risk.

But then again, Perkins isn’t right.  A lot of the OWS currently have jobs and protest during what little free time they have.  Many of them have college degrees.  Many of them make decent money.  Some are challenging the Wall Street crew that is responsible for our economic collapse, or they are protesting a capitalist system that oppresses and destroys communities abroad for the sake of $20 jeans at Old Navy, or they are protesting the wealth and power a few hundred individuals yield in our nation who own way too much wealth for the health of a democratic nation.

Occupy Wall Street really has no central demand.  Its kind of just a bunch of pissed off people.  Everyone seems to want something different.  Everyone has differing levels of education, commitment and goals.  For this reason alone, I personally wouldn’t stand with a poster board amongst them.  I think ultimately they really won’t accomplish much.  Its not that I necessarily disagree with their message—I just don’t feel like I have a message to agree with.  It’s a movement that I don’t perceive moving anywhere.

But here’s the question… is the Church detrimentally becoming like Occupy Wall Street?

As the modern church, with its creeds, empty liturgies and episcopal governments, gives way to post-modernity church autonomy, non-denominationalism, orthopraxy over against orthodoxy yet impotence in moral edification for fear of ‘legalism’; is it dissipating into a muddled horde of people who have no distinct message, no distinct life, no distinct community to offer to the world?  When people think “church” or “Christianity”, what will come to mind?  I am currently serving at a church plant that I absolutely love.  One thing I love about it is that we have no statement of faith or creed and we have no community covenant of behavior.  I don’t want to get kicked out if I question a particular theological doctrine such as, say, the eternal security of a believer or the inerrancy of scripture etc.  And I don’t want to kick people out if they if they have sex before marriage or say a cuss word when they smash their thumb.

But can a church like this stand vitally for 100 years?  200 years?

Recently in my Church History class, we learned how the order of the Catholic Church’s government early on in history probably saved Christianity from extinction. There were other, bigger religious movements at the time that faded out because they didn’t have sufficient governmental or belief structure to ultimately last over time and across space.  We now live in a time where the church and its dominant privilege are fading into a position of minority once again, like its beginning.

We truly live in a postmodern age… where a group of protestors cannot tell you what they are protesting and a church cannot tell you what it believes or how its congregants act.  Will the chaos of our time destroy the church?  How are we to retain relevance while remaining counter-cultural and true to our identity?

After all, what is the point of going to church if the church is whatever each individual wants it to be?  What can it distinctly and exclusively offer?

Will the Church die like Occupy Wall Street in this 21st century?

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…on mutating Jesus into a capitalist

I just read an opinion article on cnn.com that frankly, made me a bit angry.  In summary, some gentleman decided that “Jesus was a free market capitalist who would vehemently oppose the antisocial Occupy Wall Street lazy people who don’t want to work for a living.”  Aside from his detrimental judgmentalism and ignorance of OWS, as well as his poor theology that opposes Christians fighting for the in-breaking of God’s kingdom on Earth, I was particularly interested in his anachronistic and biased use of his biblical text.  He uses Luke 19, the very parable of Jesus I posted an exegetical paper on my blog.  In my paper, I warned of people making that very error… of using Jesus’ final parable to theologically promote capitalism, which if anything, the text argues against.

Check out the article!  Check out my paper!  (hyperlinks)

Now, don’t get me wrong, politically, I am a “capitalist”.  And I don’t necessarily stand behind everything with the OWS.  But I do, in a sense, stand with some of their ideals, like challenging those who are most responsible for the economic collapse.  And I did find Tony Perkins’ remarks absolutely ridiculous, and I presume most people who read the article did as well.

Jesus came to embody the Kingdom of God, not vouch for a particular

economic/ political system… much less vouch for one that wouldn’t come into existence for well over a thousand years after his death.  Jesus’ life certainly had vast political ramifications.  But I’m pretty sure that didn’t mean telling poor people to acquiesce to the rich or “endorse the principles of business and the free market.”

If Jesus were here today, would He stand in solidarity with the poor and challenge an oppressive and oligarchical economic system, or spray them with mace to chase them off public property?  Read the four gospels,  and consider it.

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…on discovering a broader ending in the beginning

I just finished a paper on universalism in the early church.  Basically, some of the most important theologians of the first 400 years of Christianity were more or less “universalists”, but universalism was not considered heresy until some time in the sixth century.  Check out the link to find out more all ye seekers.

Discovering a Broader Ending in the Beginning

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