Archive for December, 2011

April in Greece and Turkey, Anyone?

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

I still have room for people in my bi-annual journey to the cities of Paul and John. See here for more information (once you get to the site, go first to “Event Specifics.”). You can go for fun or for 3 undergraduate or 3 graduate credits. The trip is from April 9 (Easter Monday) to April 20, and the cost is $4,399, which includes RT airfare, lots of flying in the countries, 4- 5-star hotels, daily breakfast and dinner, and all admission costs. Our itinerary includes Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Pergamum, Sardis, Laodicea, Colossae, Pisidian Antioch, Cappadocia, and more. Contact me for more information.

We are Part of the 1%

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

On this third day of Christmas and third month of “occupy,” for some strange reason I have been trying to think about why the occupy movement evoked in me both empathy and discomfort with the organizers. Among several reasons, one that has lingered beneath the surface, unarticulated, has just been articulated for me on FB by Lee Wyatt. Here it is:

Until the church in North America stands in the world community, acknowledging it lives among the 1% of the world, and honestly answers as to whether it has lived in the simplicity, and with the hospitality and generosity of Jesus Christ toward the 99% of the rest of the world, and acts in accord with the answer given, all our other disputes over doctrinal and ethical matters are secondary. To think or act otherwise is to engage in perverse mystification of reality and constitutes a failure to “occupy” the “new creation” that is our reality since the resurrection of Jesus.

Thoughts? Comments?

Kings College Bidding Prayer–Festival of Lessons and Carols

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

A portion of this year’s bidding (opening) prayer for the Kings College Cambridge Service of Lessons and Carols, 3 pm today in England (10 am Eastern US time):

Beloved in Christ, be it this Christmas Eve our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels; in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger. Let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the ?rst days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child; and let us make this Chapel, dedicated to Mary, his most blessèd Mother, glad with our carols of praise:

But ?rst let us pray for the needs of his whole world; for peace and goodwill over all the earth; for unity and brotherhood within the Church he came to build…

And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us at this time remember in his name the poor and the helpless, the cold, the hungry and the oppressed; the sick in body and in mind and them that mourn; the lonely and the unloved; the aged and the little children; all who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love.

Lastly let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the
Word made ?esh, and with whom, in this Lord Jesus, we for evermore are one.

Doonsebury gets it right about Iraq and Christians

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

This is a sad but poignant cartoon. The effects of U.S. wars on Christians in the countries invaded does not receive enough attention. It’s one of the most fundamental reasons Christians in this country should be very suspicious of U.S. military action. (HT Daniel Stoddart on FB)

Daniel Kirk talks about his new Jesus-Paul Book

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Daniel Kirk of Fuller Seminary talks about his new book, Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul…?, a book I endorsed and called a page-turner. Have a listen and buy the book at your nearest independent Christian/theological bookstore, such as Hearts and Minds in Dallastown, PA.

Update: part 2, part 3, part 4.

Tom Wright on Three Recent Jesus Books

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Tom Wright reviews recent books by the Pope, Maurice Casey, and Bruce Fisk on Jesus, which (he suggests) represent premodern, modern, and postmodern approaches, respectively. He lauds their interest in Jesus’ rootedness in the Scriptures and Second Temple Judaism but decries their inability to see the centrality and meaning of the kingdom of God for Jesus. His own recent book Simply Jesus attempts to do both. (HT Dan Reid on FB)

Reclaiming Advent

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

I know it’s a bit late for this year, but here’s the outline of my talk from a few weeks back, as there have been several requests. This talk was given by me (a Methodist) at an event sponsored by three Catholic churches. There were several people from other kinds of churches present. Unfortunately, there is no audio and no full text.

    “Reclaiming Advent: A Spiritual Season for a Secular Age”

? The Secularization of Advent
o Shopping season: consumption
o Christmas songs as a seductive marketing device
o Focus on the coming of a day/gifts, not a person; non-religious “advent” calendars

? The Season of Advent
o The word: “coming”
o The season: since late 5th c.; wreaths since about 9th c.
o The colors: purple, rose, blue, white, green

? The Sundays of Advent: hope, peace, joy, love
o Advent I = Hope/prophecy
o Advent II–IV = peace, joy, love or other themes (e.g. Prophets’, Bethlehem, Shepherds’, Angels’ candles)

o III (sometimes IV) is joy/rose (Gaudete Sunday = Rejoice Sunday)

o Lectionary Gospel readings
I Jesus’ second coming/coming of God’s kingdom in its fullness
II John the Baptist
III Jesus’ identity (JBapt in year C)
IV Jesus’ birth OR annunciation OR incarnation

? Some Things to Remember
o Christmas is not your birthday.
o Presence is more important than presents.

? The Spirituality of Advent
o Hope/watchfulness
o Preparation/repentance
o Faith
o Joy
o Love/service
o Welcoming Jesus
“Advent… helps us to understand the fullness of the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the historical event, which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, we must understand that our whole life should be an “advent,” in vigilant expectation of Christ’s final coming… Advent is then a period of intense training that directs us decisively to the One who has already come, who will come and who continuously comes.” (Pope John Paul II)

? Some Practices to Reclaim Advent
o Speak Christian: “Advent Blessings”; “Merry Christmas”

o Write Christian: Christmas cards / sharing your faith

o Sing Christian: learn new Advent hymns and Christmas carols, go caroling, listen to a concert of sacred music

o Take the Christian calendar to heart
? New year
? Advent calendars

o Participate in an Advent spiritual discipline/adventure
? Reading Scripture texts
? Family Advent wreath with readings and prayers
? Reading a book
? Contribute to and/or use a church-based Advent book of devotions/ meditations

o Simplify and renew gift-giving
? Cut back
? Make gifts
? Give gifts of time
? Give gifts that benefit others
• Catholic Relief Services “Joy to the World Alternative Christmas”
• Heifer International, World Vision, etc.
• Fair Trade shops: SERVV, Ten Thousand Villages (Baltimore), church fairs

o Practice acts of kindness and hospitality (Where is Jesus already present?)
? Buy gifts for those in need (“giving trees,” etc.)
? Volunteer somewhere

o Other ideas to share with one another

? Some Resources
o www.thechristiancalendar.com
o www.adventconspiracy.org: worship fully, spend less, give more, love all
o www.crs.org/act/advent: prepare prayerfully, shop responsibly, give generously
o www.worldvisiongifts.org
o www.heifer.org/catalog
o www.servv.org

Participation and Mission in Paul

Monday, December 12th, 2011

I am in the process of completing a book on participation and mission in Paul. Here is a draft of some paragraphs from the first chapter. I look forward to thoughts and comments.

The Mission of God
What is God up to in the world? What is the missio Dei, the mission of God?

For Paul the answer to that question is clear: to bring salvation to the world. The means of that salvation is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Israel’s Messiah, and the world’s true Lord. This is the gospel, the good news. The mode by which that salvation is conveyed to the world is the preaching of this good news both in word and in deed. And the mode by which that salvation is received is described best not merely as belief in the sense of intellectual assent but as participation in the sense of a comprehensive transformation of conviction, character, and communal affiliation. This is what it means to be “in Christ,” Paul’s most fundamental expression for this participatory life that is, in fact, salvation itself….

We need to examine a bit more closely the missio Dei. What is the nature of this salvation God seeks to bring to the world?

According to Paul, God is on a mission to liberate humanity—and indeed the entire cosmos—from the powers of Sin and Death. The fullness of this liberation is a future reality for which we may, and should, now confidently hope. In the present, however, God is already at work liberating humanity from Sin and Death, through the sin-defeating and life-giving death and resurrection of his Son, as a foretaste of the glorious future that is coming. God is therefore at work creating an international network of multicultural, socio-economically diverse communities (“churches”) that participate in this liberating, transformative reality and power now—even if incompletely and imperfectly. They worship the one true God, confess his Son Jesus as the one true Lord, and live in conformity to the self-giving divine love displayed on the cross by means of the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son.

Participation and Mission
The thesis of the book, in a nutshell, is this: that Paul expected the salvation of God to spread throughout the world not only by means of his own gospel ministry (and that of his close colleagues), but also by means of the participation of his converts in the various house churches. They were, in essence, to become the gospel, not merely playing a supportive role by praying for and underwriting Paul’s work, but participating in the advance of the gospel through proclamation, praxis, and persecution (i.e., suffering). In a word, through witness: witness in word, in deed, and in the unpleasant consequences that often attend faithful witness.

But my goal is not principally a historical argument. In fact, if that were the book’s primary goal it would have a quite different shape. Rather, my goal is theological and indeed missional. The burden of the book is to suggest that those of us who read Paul’s letters as Christian Scripture need also to participate in the advance of the gospel by becoming the gospel, in word, in deed, and—if we are faithful—in suffering.

Participation, in other words, is essential not only to salvation, ethics, and eschatology, as many students of Paul have noted, but also to mission. Indeed, to separate these aspects of Pauline theology and spirituality is to commit an egregious act of misinterpretation of the apostle, for all of these are inseparably knit together for him. To be in Christ is to be in mission; to participate in the gospel is to participate in the advance of the gospel.

N.T. Wright Video on his new book “Simply Jesus”

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Look here (sorry it’s Fox News) for a fine interview with Tom Wright on his new book Simply Jesus.


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