If you are interested in the life of the church, the moral life, and theological scholarship in service of both, consider participating in the international online Webinar Ecclesia and Ethics, May 18 and 25. Go to ecclesiaethics.com. You can also see online interviews with some of the speakers, including yours truly and Tom Wright.
Archive for the ‘Christian practices’ Category
Announcing an international Ecclesia (Church) and Ethics Conference/Webinar with NT Wright, Stanley Hauerwas, Shane Claiborne, yours truly, and others: May 18 and 25. Get more info now!
This unique conference costs only $10 in the form of a donation to a charity!
Ecclesia and Ethics: An Eco-friendly and Economically-feasible Online Biblical Studies and Theology Conference is an academic and ecclesial conference taking place on Saturday May 18th and Saturday May 25th 2013 in real-time via the high-tech Webinar site http://www.gotomeeting.com. No software will need to be purchased by presenters or attendees, and Webinar access is provided entirely for free due to a generous Capod Innovation Grant through the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Participants and attendees will be able to sign on, present, and listen to or watch presentations from anywhere in the world with reliable internet and a computer. Registration for the conference consists of a $10/£7 (minimum) donation to one of our Recommended Charities. We invite participants to give according to their means above the $10/£7 to one or more of our charities if they feel led and are able.
Main papers will be presented by our Main Speakers: N.T. Wright, Michael Gorman, Dennis Hollinger, Shane Claiborne, Stanley Hauerwas, Brian Rosner, Mariam Kamell, and Nijay Gupta. Additionally, we will have five Multiple Paper sessions throughout the conference, via five Virtual Rooms which will feature papers from a total of 20-25 selected papers. Interested parties are invited to submit an abstract to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration from January 2013-March 2013.
All conference presenters (both Main Paper and Multiple Paper session presenters) will be allotted a 40 minute time slot with an additional 10 minutes designated for Q+A (50 minutes total). All presentations will be recorded as videos and available for viewing by registered conference attendees with a provided password through T&T Clark’s website. T&T Clark will also be publishing selected proceedings from the conference as a book.
Reprinted (with minor changes) from 2009:
In some U.S. churches, at least some Methodist churches (and I suspect others), this Sunday’s bulletin will announce that it is Independence Sunday—perhaps along with something else (like the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost), or perhaps not.
But it is not Independence Sunday, because that liturgical day does not exist, or at least should not exist. “Independence Sunday” is an American invention, an example of American civil religion: the inappropriate Americanizing of Christianity and Christianizing (in some vague, superficial sense) of America.
The misnaming of the Sunday nearest July 4 is a theological mistake in at least three specific ways. First, it nationalizes a calendar (the liturgical or church calendar) and a day that belong to the entire Christian church. “The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost” or “The 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time” or simply “The Lord’s Day, July 1, 2012? is theologically appropriate because each of these is inclusive, universal, catholic. But “Independence Sunday” is exclusive and parochial. When we come as Christians to worship God, even on the Fourth of July weekend, we come to celebrate our oneness with people from every nation, tribe, and race, and to recommit to a divine mission that includes all peoples. There may be appropriate ways for Christian individuals and churches to acknowledge their particularity as Americans or Iraquis or Koreans, but hijacking the Christian calendar and liturgy is not one of them.
Second, “Independence Sunday” robs not only the Christian church, but also, and far more importantly, the Lord of the church. It takes the focus of worship off the Triune God who liberated Israel in the Exodus and then came to rescue wayward humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, substituting—however subtly (or not!)—a national deity who is usually thought to have chosen America and poured special blessings on the American people as Americans. Sunday—every Sunday, no exceptions—is the Lord’s day, the day devoted to the adoration of Jesus as Lord and to communion with him. Centering on anything or anyone else negates the very reason for the gathering and transforms it into something else, something alien.
Third, the language of “Independence Sunday” misleads both Christians and non-Christians into thinking that one’s true identity and freedom are given to them by one’s nation state. It will not suffice to say something like “We celebrate our freedom as Americans but also, and more importantly, our freedom from sin because of Jesus.” Why is this insufficient? Because comparing the two trivializes the latter, the one that really matters. Why do these words not make “Independence Day” language in church appropriate? Because the use of “we” in “we celebrate” erroneously suggests that there is something as significant, or almost as significant, about the assembled group’s identity as Americans as there is about its identity as Christians.
The custom of singing songs and offering prayers about peace, justice and similar topics on the Sunday nearest July 4 may be a good thing—if they are appropriately interpreted by the pastor in non-nationalistic and non-militaristic ways. In my experience this is seldom done. (But at least it’s better than blatant nationalism.) A church can do this without either misnaming the Sunday or misfocusing the worship service.
I have just finished participating in a stimulating international symposium on the Bible and (Christian) spirituality at the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham, England. It was sponsored by the University’s Centre for the Bible and Spirituality and the British Bible Society. Participants and topics included (not the full list):
- Stephen Barton (retired, Durham): Joy in Luke-Acts and Paul
- Richard Briggs (Cranmer Hall, Durham): Daniel as spiritual reader of Scripture
- Stephen Chapman (Duke): The Amalek texts and Christian spirituality
- Ellen Davis (Duke): Literal Jerusalem in Christian spirituality
- Pieter de Villiers (Free State, S. Africa): Love in Galatians
- Andrew Lincoln (Gloucestershire): Colossians and spiritual formation
- Gordon McConville (Gloucestershire): Spiritual formation through the Psalms
- Walter Moberly (Durham): Job and spiritual wisdom
- Lloyd Pietersen (Gloucestershire): Spirituality of persecution in 2 Tim and the Anabaptist martyrs
- Sandra Schneiders (GTU Berkeley): Method in NT spirituality
- and yours truly: The this-worldliness of NT spirituality
The conversation was wonderful, collegial, and promising. The papers will be published in a volume from Wipf and Stock, due out in about a year.
Our alum and WBAL reporter Tim Tooten interviewed me briefly on the occurrence of Good Friday and Passover on the same day.
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.
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 a theophany.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. When I survey the wondrous cross, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
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.
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 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.adventconspiracy.org: worship fully, spend less, give more, love all
o www.crs.org/act/advent: prepare prayerfully, shop responsibly, give generously
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.
Or, The Death of Christ, Christology, Ecclesiology, Doxology, Martyrology, and the Death of Nationalism, Tribalism, and the Like (Revelation 5, 7)
6Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. 8When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9They sing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; 10you have made them to be a [single!] kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth.” 11Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,12singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
9After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat;17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”