Archive for the ‘Advent’ Category

My Spring Course on N.T. Wright

Friday, November 30th, 2012

If you are anywhere in the Baltimore–DC–Wilimington–York, PA–Northern Virginia area and you appreciate the work of N.T. Wright, you may wish to consider my spring course at the Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary & University. This is a graduate course, but there are no prerequisites other than having a bacherlor’s degree with a decent GPA. The course is available for credit or audit.

BS/ST509/709 The Writings of N.T. Wright

Thursday, 6-9 p.m., January 14-March 21 (3 graduate credits)

[This is a combination biblical and systematic theology course offered at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.]

Course Description:

An exploration of some of the biblical, theological, and pastoral writings of the contemporary British Anglican scholar N.T. Wright, with attention to the significance of his work for the life of the church.

Course Requirements for all students:

1. Regular attendance and prepared participation in class discussion.

2. Five 100-word reaction posts online (not due when doing discussion-starter paper).

3. Two one-page discussion-starter papers, with summary and discussion questions.

4. One book review of 2,000 words.

5. Class presentation and final, synthetic paper of 2,000 words on some aspect of N. T. Wright’s writings.

Additional Requirement for 700-level students (matriculated degree and certificate candidates):

Same as above plus one additional book review on an additional book by N.T. Wright.

For C.A.S. (Certificate of Advanced Studies) students, the additional book must be a major work approved by the instructor.

Required Texts:

Kurt, Stephen. Tom Wright for Everyone: Putting the Theology of N.T. Wright into Practice in the Local Church. 978-0281063932.

Wright, N.T. (Tom). For All God’s Worth: The Worship and Calling of the Church. 978-0802843197.

Wright, N.T. (Tom). Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. 978-0061920622.

Wright, N.T. (Tom). Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters. 978-0062084392.

Wright, N.T. (Tom). Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. 978-0061551826.

Wright, N.T. (Tom). What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? 978-0802844453.

Some additional online reading and video viewing.

Recommended:

Perrin, Nicholas and Richard B. Hays, eds. Jesus, Paul, and the People of God. 978-0830838974.

Applications for the Ecumenical Institute’s 2013 spring term are due by Monday, December 3, though late applications will be considered. For admission requirements, go to http://www.stmarys.edu/ei/ei_adm_overview.htm, or contact Zenaida Bench at zbench@stmarys.edu or 410/864-4202. Registration continues until spring-term classes begin. See the course brochure at http://www.stmarys.edu/ei/ei_semester.htm for an overview of all of next term’s course offerings.

We believe there is no better way to begin study at the Ecumenical Institute than walking and talking with a friend (see Luke 24:13-14). To encourage that, we offer a one-time tuition incentive for new students who begin together: a tuition remission of 50% for both of you on your first “E.I.” course.

If you and someone you know are considering theological study, this is your opportunity to encourage one another to explore and discern together. You can take the same class or try different courses and compare notes.

Your walk begins with just one course… and may lead to…

  • more courses…
  • or perhaps a certificate in Biblical Studies, Faith Community/Parish Nursing, Religious Education, Spirituality, Urban Ministry, or Youth and Family Ministry…
  • or even a Master of Arts Degree in Theology or Church Ministries.

For more information, please contact the Ecumenical Institute office at ei@stmarys.edu or 410/864-4200.

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.

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

Advent 2011

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Happy New Year! (That’s right; it’s the beginning of the Christian New Year.) As Advent 2011 begins, I am sensing a genuine renewal of interest, in many circles, about taking and keeping Advent seriously–even among non-liturgical folks.

I’ll be speaking about this at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Odenton, MD, which is literally in my backyard. (Our yard adjoins the church property.) The title of the talk: “Reclaiming Advent: A Spiritual Season for a Secular Age.” The talk is sponsored by all the Catholic churches in the area and is open to all. After all, the speaker is Methodist.

Hallelujah Chorus at Christmas (2): A Guest Post

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

In response to my previous post, my friend and former student Susan Jaeger offers the following thoughtful take on the Hallelujah Chorus during Advent and Christmas:

I am aware that the Hallelujah Chorus is not part of the Advent/Christmas section of Messiah (though most performances of Messiah that I have heard during Advent have included the entire work). What I appreciated about the video clip [of the flash mob in Canada singing the Hallelujah Chorus] was that, in the midst of the peak time for pre-Christmas shopping madness, the juxtaposition of the Hallelujah Chorus with all the shopping-mall corporate logos made me think of something Tom Wright might say: if Jesus is Lord, then Mammon is not.

I am not so naive as to assume that the same thought was in the minds of all the singers. Obviously it is impossible to know what their various motivations might have been. It’s just that my own thoughts and motivations are muddled often enough that it is hard to judge others. I found it to be a lovely performance musically. People singing about Jesus as Lord, in the middle of the “Agora,” seemed to me to be a worthy confrontation with paganism, at least slightly akin to early Christianity.

Despite my strong reservations about the Hallelujah Chorus at this time of year (unless sung at its appropriate place in Messiah), including the fear that its powerful content indicated by Susan will be trivialized, I think she makes a very good point. Thank you, Susan.

Good-bye, Away in a Manger and the Hallelujah Chorus (the latter at least at Christmas)

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Brian Gorman (yes, he’s related) has a fine post about some of the church’s theologically poor and misleading Christmas music, above all “Away in a Manger” (sorry, kids) here.

I will add my two-cents about the Hallelujah Chorus, which seems to be gaining in popularity, at least in shopping malls. While there’s lots to sing about and shout Hallelujah about at Christmas, Handel’s “Christmas Part” (part I) of his oratorio Messiah does not end with the Hallelujah Chorus. Handel and his collaborator Charles Jennens knew better. The Hallelujah Chorus, derived from Revelation 19:6,16 and 11:15, concludes part 2 of Messiah‘s three parts. It celebrates the victory and reign of God/the Lamb, the defeat of evil and emperor, the reality that God alone is and always will be Lord, and the fact that we know this God in the self-revelation of the Lamb who was slain and who triumphs, by his word, over all God’s enemies.

Can we sing that in Advent and at Christmas? Of course. Jesus’ birth demonstrates and foreshadows some of those Revelation themes. But I doubt most people sing it for that reason (actually, I’m not sure why hey sing it, apart from the one word “Hallelujah”), and I doubt, liturgically, narratively, and theologically that now is the best time to sing it. The end of part two of Messiah celebrates the Lordship of God, over against all false claimants to the throne of the universe, that is manifested in the victory of cross, resurrection, and ascension.

Let’s wait a few months to sing Hallelujah.

No Time for Birth: Incarnation and the Messy Subject of Abortion

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that Christians are not talking much about abortion lately, or doing much about it either. As some of you know, I have written two books on the topic, though it is not something anyone enjoys writing or talking about.

However, as we are in the season of Advent and Incarnation, a poem by Madeleine L’Engle recently came to mind as I was asked in an email, by a young public-school student (I’m guessing middle school) writing a report, what Christians think about abortion. (My response to him is printed below.)

The Irrational Season
This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There’d have been no room for the child.

Dear ________,

Thank you for your message and your interest in this important topic.

The answers to your questions are very complicated, because different kinds of Christians have various approaches to abortion. I will try to give you an overview of the subject.

The basic Christian view of the world is that God is the creator of all life.That gives, or should give, Christians a strong presumption against destroying any kind of life. Christians also believe that humans are made in the image of God and are special forms of creation, so that destroying human life is especially serious. Furthermore, Christians believe that God became human in and through a young woman’s womb (uterus), so that should give Christians great pause when they think about destroying human life in the uterus–abortion. Abortion, then, it would seem, is prohibited by the commandment against taking human life/murder, and is a serious form of failing to love one’s neighbor.

The earliest Christians who wrote about abortion did so less than 100 years after the time of Jesus, and they began a tradition of Christian opposition to abortion for the reasons stated above. Of course, even then, some Christian women procured abortions, but it was still seen as a grave sin. Christian women who contemplated abortion were encouraged to find other solutions, with the help of their Christian family. The same has been true for almost 2,000 years and is still true for many Christians today.

However, in the last 50 years, a growing number of Christians have gone along with the cultural attitude that because sexual activity is a right and is not necessarily connected to having children, continuing a pregnancy is a matter of choice. Many Christians just take this secular attitude for granted, while others have thought about it carefully. Today, there are basically four Christian views of abortion:

1. Abortion is never permitted.

2. Abortion is permitted only in rare circumstances (it threatens the life of mother or baby; the child will likely be seriously deformed; the pregnancy is due to rape).

3. Abortion is permitted as a last resort, for good reasons (broader and more vague reasons than those in #2), if all other options (adoption or keeping the baby) seem unworkable.

4. Abortion is permitted for any reason; it is a woman’s free choice, though the decision should be taken seriously.

The majority of practicing Christians in the world who have thought seriously about abortion probably hold to #1 or #2. Those who advocate #1 or #2 (most Catholics, evangelicals, and Eastern Orthodox, as well as many others) often try to help women in problem pregnancies by providing clothing, medical care, and/or adoption services. There is also a growing emphasis on the responsibility of Christian individuals and churches to care for such women. Pregnancy is not something to go through by oneself.

Position #3 is the basic position of many so-called “mainline” denominations, the Protestant churches that have been losing members for the last few decades Position #4 is held by a few Christian individuals and by one religious organization. Although it is not the official position of many churches, some people think it is the normal Christian position.

Much more could be said (I have written two books on the subject), but I hope this is helpful.

The Cross at the Start of Advent

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

“The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!”

–Charles Wesley, “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending”

HT Charlie Collier, who reminds us that Wesley’s hymn tells us that we begin the new year where it all ends.

I have a beautiful new calendar from Rev. Dr. Ed Searcy, pastor of University Hill Congregation in Vancouver, that begins today and follows the Christian year. I am posting it outside my office.


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