Archive for March, 2013

Two Poems for Easter 2013

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Death Be Not Proud

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

John Donne (1572-1631)
Donne died on March 31, 1631


Seven Stanzas at Easter
Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That-pierced-died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

John Updike (1932-2009)

Good Friday Reflections 2013

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Following is my annual set of brief statements about Good Friday, with some additions for this year:

What makes Good Friday “good”? Or, what is the meaning of Good Friday?

The first thing to say is that it is good only in light of Easter. Given the reality of Easter, it is good because it reveals the depth of God’s love and communicates that love to us in order to liberate us from Sin and Death and to give us life in abundance and life eternal.

Volumes have been written on this, including some by yours truly. Here are just a few reflections summarizing some of what I have written elsewhere at greater length:

1. The main purpose of Jesus’ death was to create the people of the new covenant, who would be empowered by the Spirit of God to resemble Jesus himself: faithful to God and loving toward their neighbors and enemies.

2. The cross is not only the source but also the shape of our salvation. This is the essential meaning of “cruciformity”–daily likeness to the self-giving, life-giving divine love manifested on the cross.

3. The cross reveals the love, power, wisdom, and justice of God, and it does so, paradoxically but powerfully, in weakness.

4. The cross is not only the signature of the Risen One (so Kaesemann), but also of the Holy One of Israel; that is, the cross is not only a christophany but ultimately a theophany–the ultimate divine self-revelation.

5. Thus cruciformity is ultimately theoformity; Christlikeness is Godlikeness; through participation in the cross of Christ, we are transformed most fully into the image of God. This is sometimes called theosis or deification.

6. The fact that Jesus died as the Jewish Messiah on a Roman cross means that his death contains within it a political theology and spirituality.

7. When the cross is used for anything that contradicts its character as divine love, power, wisdom, and justice displayed in weakness, it is being used blasphemously.

Finally: When I survey the wondrous cross, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

Ecclesia and Ethics Conference Update

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

It’s just under two months until the international biblical studies and theology conference on the church and ethics. There are great video interviews with some of the main speakers at the ecclesiaethics web site, with videos or other interview formats with Tom Wright, Shane Claiborne, and others, including one with yours truly.

N.T. Wright’s “Big Book” on Paul

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

As many people know, the long-awaited “big book” is about finished. I have had the privilege of reading much of it over the last 10 months. It is well worth the wait is all I will say at the moment. And that it will be out this year. In fact, I will be on a review panel of it at the International SBL meeting in July–at St. Andrews, of course.

The principal volume will be the fourth part of “Christian Origins and the Question of God.” It is now so long that it will be published in two physical books with continuous pagination and one index (at the end of vol. 2). The title? Paul and the Faithfulness of God.

Related titles that will appear with it:

1. Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul 1978-2012: essays in journals, books of collected essays, etc. (not officially part of COQG)

2. Paul and His Recent Interpreters: the shortest of the three volumes and originally conceived of as a chapter in the big book.

Stay tuned for further details. In the meantime, here’s the Logos ad for the electronic version.

Nijay Gupta: Double Congratulations

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Congrats times two to my good friend Nijay Gupta. He has accepted a tenure-track offer to teach at Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, New York, and he has completed the manuscript of his commentary on Colossians, which will be out quite soon from Smith & Helwys. Way to go, Nijay!

Here is my blurb for the commentary:

From this perceptive commentary’s very first sentence, Nijay Gupta—a significant newer voice in Pauline studies—takes us into the heart of Colossians as few recent interpreters have done. Readers will be inspired by his passion, enlightened by his balanced scholarship, and enriched by his profound theological engagement with the text. This well-written and truly enjoyable volume is a superb addition to an excellent, user-friendly series. It will stimulate students, pastors, theologians, and scholars for many years to come.


google