Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Smith, Derrida, and the Church

Despite the dire effects of procrastinating, I am forgoing some of my reading for school to post a few comments on James Smith’s, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism. For a more exhaustive dialogue you can visit The Church and Postmodern Culture: Conversation and find a chapter-by-chapter discussion of the book beginning in July archives.

Smith’s book is the first in a book series that will draw on the “culture of postmodernity as an opportunity for rethinking the shape of our churches” (9). “Opportunity” indicates that the realm of postmodern culture and theory can be utilized by the Church to help it recover a better ecclesiology, which Smith suggests is both ancient and liturgical. To utilize postmodern culture and theory is to neither shun it nor baptize it, an important point to be kept in mind! For the Church Smith is encouraging a “creative recovery of ancient themes and figures” (25), as opposed suggesting a paleo-orthodox route.

As this is not meant to be a blog post exhaustive of Smith’s book, there are a few highlights I would like to make.

On Presuppositional Apologetics: Presuppostional apologetics means exactly that, a person’s worldview has inherent presuppositions that give is shape. There is no neutral rational playing field where everything means the same thing. One’s experience has and is determining what is true and false. For the Church this means that we have to recognize and embrace people will different worldviews. We cannot expect people to understand what we mean when we say, the “Word became flesh”, or “Christ’s blood is the blood of the new covenant.” Smith suggests that the primary responsibility of the Church is proclamation (kerygma). The church is not a system of truth dictate by neutral reason but a story that requires eyes to see and ears to hear (28). Revelation is the key to this kerygmatic proclamation.

On Derrida’s claim, “there is nothing outside the text”: Essentially, there is nothing outside of context (52). There is no neutral rational playing field. Interpretation is always context sensitive. Simply put, we cannot escape our own skin. Everything must be interpreted in order to be experienced (38). To experience something is to interpret it. However, Derrida goes on to say that an interpretation is good or bad based on the guidelines of one’s context, or community.

There is a lot that can be said further, especially as one gets into some of the finer nuances of “deconstruction”. For now I just want to highlight what Smith has to say about a deconstructive church.

On a deconstructive church: A deconstructive church embraces the entire biblical text in the form of the lectionary, converses with ancient voices in the form of creeds and preaching, and listens through prayer to global voices of today’s Church, especially those marginalized voices for the gospel, which is largely “foolishness” is to be spoken from the sidelines (58). A deconstructive Church is a prophetic Church because it does not count on people simply seeing that Christianity is true it proclaims the truth of the gospel and trusts the Spirit to illuminate that truth. Worship in a deconstructive church shapes our worldview to be able to call out the false realities of the world that claim they are the truth. In worship we give ourselves to be formed after the image of God so that we can interpret the world according to the gospel.

Now, why the short summary of a few chapters of a book?

I guess when I read something like this I find many of faith gaps of my life being filled with a certain level of assurance of my being a follower of Christ. Proclamation makes more sense, if you will, than demonstration (according to Smith). How can I ever prove the gospel according to a neutral rational playing field? Now, I am not suggesting that the church proclaim a certain level of ignorance. Proclamation assumes language and practice. That said, the Church is to prove the gospel through its communal witness as it exists in space and time. This kind of “prove” is a demonstration not according to common sense but faithful witness. We will prove the things of God by our lives and always by the Holy Spirit.

I guess I’ll end my comments for now.

Peace,
Scott

Thursday, December 21, 2006

For if Christ is God, as indeed He is, but took not human nature upon Him, we are strangers to salvation

Some good stuff from Cyril of Jerusalem for Christmas.

"Nurslings of purity and disciples of chastity, raise we our hymn to the Virgin-born God with lips full of purity. Deemed worthy to partake of the flesh of the Spiritual Lamb, let us take the head together with the feet, the Deity being understood as the head, and the Manhood taken as the feet. Hearers of the Holy Gospels, let us listen to John the Divine. For he who said, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, went on to say, and the Word was made flesh. For neither is it holy to worship the mere man, nor religious to say that He is God only without the Manhood. For if Christ is God, as indeed He is, but took not human nature upon Him, we are strangers to salvation. Let us then worship Him as God, but believe that He also was made Man. For neither is there any profit in calling Him man without Godhead nor any salvation in refusing to confess the Manhood together with the Godhead. Let us confess the presence of Him who is both King and Physician. For Jesus the King when about to become our Physician, girded Himself with the linen of humanity, and healed that which was sick. The perfect Teacher of babes became a babe among babes, that He might give wisdom to the foolish. The Bread of heaven came down on earth that He might feed the hungry."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Drama Persists!

A very profound insight on preaching from Willimon.

"Therefore, I think the best preaching from the Bible is that preaching that is evocative, suggestive, and thick, rather than that preaching which, in wooden fashion, merely lays out principles and precepts, abstractions and rules. We pastors are those who are called, in great part, to open up the imagination of our congregations to what is possible and probable now that a creative God is determined to get back what belongs to God. Too often we preachers think that our job is to take a biblical text and narrow the possibilities of that text, force it to speak univocally, and reduce it to the one authoritative, right interpretation. More creative, and perhaps more faithful, biblical interpretation and exhortation seeks to multiply the possibilities, to open up new perspectives, and to help us see something that we would not have seen without the imaginative stimulation of Scripture."

I particularly was interested in his saying that preaching should be evocative, suggestive, and thick, that it should open up the imagination of the congregation. Perhaps we ought to start preaching “fictionally”. Not in a sense that what we have to say is all make-believe but rather that through the words we are drawn to what is beyond the words, letting the biblical narrative breath its ancient wisdom drawing us forever into the fullness of God’s reality through Christ and by the Spirit.

Willimon also said something that interested me as well in regards to how the Church speaks about the time between the times, that is in a "post" biblical context. He notes that too often Christians believe that "the dramatic parts of the Christian story are over; except for some commotion at the end on which it’s best not to dwell." I found this helpful especially as I think about my own denomination as it finds its place in a divided Church, as I wonder about its purpose for existing. We Nazarenes are not a people wandering aimlessly, merely waiting for the end to occur, passing the time by promoting the life of holiness as sort of a hobby. That makes no sense. If we believe we have something to offer the Church catholic (Rome, Orthodox, and Protestant) in regards to holy and faithful living then we need to find ourselves within the tradition, not in a sense that it is their tradition in which we seek to return but in fact that it is our tradition in which we seek to find ourselves faithful. There is hope as the Church seeks to be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic that the dramatic parts of the biblical story do indeed continue today because we people of who the Book gives witness, and witnesses ourselves who give stature to the Book. The Church truly is the living end of God’s work of creation and redemption. The end is here, now, and charging at us in God’s Spirit. The drama persists!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christology, Peace, and Advent

Malachi 3:1-4
Psalm 126
Philippians 1:1-11
Luke 1:68-70; 3:1-6

I was particularly drawn to Sunday’s advent Scripture readings. I am not sure, if it has to do with the upcoming finale of the fall semester in which I am more inclined to be thinking about beginnings and endings, or rather if it is because it is advent and I am forced to think about beginnings and endings and seemingly never ending “middles” of time. Probably both.

These readings compel me to wonder about the purpose and mission of the Church as it relates to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who is to come again to fulfill what He has already accomplished in Himself in our redemption. The Psalm teaches us to sing of our freedom from captivity and our return to Zion by the mighty works of God and yet Paul is painting a picture of the ever-approaching fullness of our freedom in Christ when he comes again. I am drawn to the gospel of Luke and Zechariah’s prophecy of the gospel of peace, a peace accomplished by the Lord God of Israel and our ever increasing knowledge of this mighty reality as, to mix metaphors, the love of God unfolds like a blanket on the earth, shinning down until all darkness is destroyed.

Peace is inextricably wrapped up in the incarnation of the Word of God. It would be a shame to for us to miss how important it is that the Church be a community after the Shalom of God for it is that very reality that has been made known to us in Christ who stands, even now, as the first true worshipper of God, for his perfect obedience unto death was that right and proper worship that humanity abandoned so long ago. O how peace has to do with worshipping in Spirit and in truth. Let us this advent be the peace of God even now amidst a violent world as a witness to the peace of Christ we know only by Hs life, death, and resurrection.

Sorry (maybe not) for the blog sermon. The tension between the times is sometimes too overwhelming!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Consider this the next time you watch a commercial on TV

“It is the intent of this study to tell … how ordinary folk came to distrust leaders of genius and talent and to defend the right of common people to shape their own faith and submit to leaders of their own choosing. This story also provides new insight into how America became a liberal, competitive, and market-driven society … In this way, religious movements eager to preserve the supernatural in everyday life had the ironic effect of accelerating the break-up of tradition society and the advent of a social order of competition, self-expression, and free enterprise. In this moment of democratic aspirations, religious leaders could not foresee that their assault upon mediating structures could produce society in which grasping entrepreneurs could erect new forms of tyranny in religious, political, and economic institutions.”

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Pastor Athanasius

"For as a kind teacher who cares for His disciples, if some of them cannot profit by higher subjects, comes down to their level, and teaches them at any rate by simpler courses; so also did the Word of God. As Paul also says: 'For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the word preached to save them that believe'. For seeing that men, having rejected the contemplation of God, and with their eyes downward, as though sunk in the deep, were seeking about for God in nature and in the world of sense, feigning gods for themselves of mortal men and demons; to this end the loving and general Saviour of all, the Word of God, takes to Himself a body, and as Man walks among men and meets the senses of all men half-way, to the end, I say, that they who think that God is corporeal may from what the Lord effects by His body perceive the truth, and through Him recognize the Father. So, men as they were, and human in all their thoughts, on whatever objects they fixed their senses, there they saw themselves met half way, and taught the truth from every side. For if they looked with awe upon the Creation, yet they saw how she confessed Christ as Lord; or if their mind was swayed toward men, so as to think them gods, yet from the Saviour's works, supposing they compared them, the Saviour alone among men appeared Son of God; for there were no such works done among the rest as have been done by the Word of God. Or if they were biassed toward evil spirits, even, yet seeing them cast out by the Word, they were to know that He alone, the Word of God, was God, and that the spirits were none. Or if their mind had already sunk even to the dead, so as to worship heroes, and the gods spoken of in the poets, yet, seeing the Saviour's resurrection, they were to confess them to be false gods, and that the Lord alone is true, the Word of the Father, that was Lord even of death. For this cause He was both born and appeared as Man, and died, and rose again, dulling and casting into the shade the works of all former men by His own, that in whatever direction the bias of men might be, from thence He might recall them, and teach them of His own true Father, as He Himself says: 'I came to save and to find that which was lost'."

St. Athanasius

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Vicarious Humanity of Christ

"The vicarious humanity of Christ thus became integral to the doctrine of the ‘atoning exchange’ effected by him and in him between God and man. Hence the Gospel of the reconciliation of man with God has to be understood not just in terms of God’s mighty acts of salvation upon our humanity, but in terms of its actualization within the depths of our human existence in the perfecting and presenting in and through Jesus of our response of faith and obedience, in love and worship, to God the Father. For us to share in the worship of the Father through, with and in Jesus Christ belongs to the essence of our reconciliation to God, and is over the very substance of the Gospel.”

Monday, December 04, 2006

It's back!

Season six of Scrubs kicked off last week with a great first episode. In case you missed it because you're in the middle of watching the first five seasons, you can purpose this first episode on itunes. For now, enjoy the inner world that is "Turk and J.D."

Friday, December 01, 2006

"But the bible says..." as a hermeneutical strategy

This gave a me good chuckle.
"...Any Christian using New Testament words could fend off the most brilliant theological argumentwith the simple retort that one was using God's word against human opinion. All the weight of Church history could not being to tip the scale against the simple declaration that the New Testament did not contain such phrases as total depravity and communion of the saints. For every republic's gentlement theologians, this ingenius argument was both perverse and frustrating."
I chuckled at the huge dichotomy placed between the "educated" and the "non-educated" in post-revolutionary America. There were some (Methodists) who provided a good balance between the two but never in a manner befitting a proper catechism. The book continues, however, to describe the importance of the invention of music in the vernacular and sounds of the common person. It is here that John and Charles Wesley shine. Perhaps through music the "educate" and the "non-educated" could find a common theological languge. Perhaps the dischotomy is false to begin with and the Church needs to realize that in the Eucharist she receives a truer knowledge than even music can give. Either way, hopefully we are moving beyond prooftexting and entering into communities who read the Holy text together and for purpose of faithful living.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

On Preaching

With all your assumptions included, what do you think of this quote from John Leland?

"Preaching is now a science and a trade," Leland wrote in a satirical poem on the professionalization of the ministry, "And by it many grand estates are made."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Willimon is blogging

Just thought I would post a note saying that Bishop Willimon is blogging again. I was hoping he would come back after his previous blog had been hijacked by an outside voice.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Suggested blog post titles (pick your favorite): “Wah, that’s my sermon!” or “Are you ignorant or just lazy?”

I came across an article in the Wednesday, November 15, 2006 edition of the Wall Street Journal. The title of the article: Preachers Use Sermons From the Web. I have to say that I was taken aback, first of all, that this article appeared at the very top of the front page. This article has do with the excessive rise of pastors adopting some pretty unorthodox hermeneutics, i.e. the buying and preaching of someone else’s sermon. Most of the article has to do with ethics. It is a question of whether or not the pastor is plagiarizing when he/she preaches from the internet.

My frustration comes not from the sharing of sermons through the Web. I, in fact, carry around a copy of John Chrysostom’s famous Easter homily in my bible … just in case. I am frustrated when I read things like:

“Truth is, there’s no sense reinventing the wheel.”

“If you’ve got something that’s a good product, why go out and beat your head against the
wall and try to come up with it yourself?”

“Don’t be original be effective.”

“We need to get over the idea that we have to be completely original with our messages,
each and every week.”


Has the sermon really entered an “age of re-runs”? Is today’s pastor really this ignorant and lazy? More importantly, I guess, is are we okay with this.

Now, this seems a bit harsh as far as typical a blog post go for me. Usually I am much more sensitive to the misinterpretation and harsh discourse that runs rampant in the blogosphere. In this case, however, I find it absolutely disturbing that pastors are more concerned about being cleared of plagiarism than they are about preaching the goodnews of Jesus Christ.

Our hero in the article, Thomas Long, says, “every minister owes his [or her] congregation a fresh act of interpretation … to play easy with the truth, to be deceptive about where the ideas come from, is a lie.” These pastors are more concerned about the theatrics of “Church” and being motivational speaks (mentioned in the article) than they are about telling the story of God that leads the Church to our true worship of thanksgiving. Long mentions the need for clergy man to be ‘sizzlingly entertaining.’” Seriously? One pastor claimed that in an age where so much information is at our finger tips pastors are at an advantage because better sermons can be preached and distribute. If the same pastor had said I can't write a sermon because I am overloaded with information and am not sure how to sift through it all I might have bought it.

What next? Partaking of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist by watching the food network?

The pastor has been called and gifted by God to receive a particular role in the gathering community. This role, however, is distorted when it becomes centered on the task of preaching. When the Church does not gather to receive the Eucharist and give thanks to God a great many things get distorted on down the line. One of the great things about a word and table service is that we are given the opportunity to expound on a mystery (sermon) in which we can only participate (Eucharist).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Shalomite

I recently stumbled across someone's (also here) invention of a word to describe those committed to Christian non-violence. Some say that the word "pacifist" sounds just too passive and rightfully so. Christian non-violence is in fact a non-violent resistence because of the kind of life we are called to live as follower's of Jesus ... anything BUT passive and non-active. And, shalom gets at the heart of what is really going on when Christians say they are non-violent. To live out God's shalom as we have received it in Jesus Christ is so much more than non-violence. That said, I am a Shalomite.

Also, for your interest and enjoyment, check Charlie's site for a recently stimulation converstation on Just War and Christian pacifism.

Peace,
Scott

Friday, October 27, 2006

Cyril of Alexandria

So I am taking a class at school called The Theology of the Major Eastern Church Fathers. I will be writting a paper on Cyril of Alexandria's Christology as a theology of worship. I came across this quote that placed the Eucharist right at the heart of worship and Cyril's Christology. There are two things I want to point out that are happening in this quote. For Cyril, Christ must have His own flesh. It was not good enough for salvation to come in one who possessed a power like that of the prophets, for example. God Himself must save. Also, notice the importace of the flesh of Christ for the life of the world. Oh man, how this is forgotten in the ever expanding Protestant rebellion! Let us learn Christ at His table. Enjoy the quote.

So we approach the mystical gifts and are sanctified, becoming partakers of the holy flesh and the honourable blood of Christ the Saviour of us all, not receiving it as ordinary flesh - God forbid - nor as that of a man sanctified and conjoined to the Word by a unity of honor, or as one who had received a divine dwelling, but as truly life-giving and the Word's own flesh. For being by nature, as God, life, when he had become one with his own flesh, he made it life-giving.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pope, Parish life, and the Eucharist

I wanted to post this article from the September 22, 2006 Zenit daily email. Good stuff!

Pope: Early Christians a Model for Parish Life
Tells of Need for Encounter With Christ

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 22, 2006 ( Zenit.org).- The renewal of a parish does not depend on beautiful pastoral plans, but on its members' encounter with Christ, especially in the Eucharist, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope presented to modern-day parishes the model of the early Christian communities, when he received participants of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. He met them today at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

Cardinals, bishops, priests and numerous lay people attended the council's plenary assembly. It was presided over by the council's president, Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, and it reflected on the theme: "To Rediscover the Parish: Paths of Renewal."

As the Holy Father explained in his address in Italian, the desired renewal of the parish "cannot come only from suitable pastoral initiatives, regardless of how useful they are, or from blackboard plans."

The book of the Acts of the Apostles, he continued, "describes the first community of Jerusalem persevering in listening to the teaching of the apostles, in fraternal union, in the breaking of bread and in prayer, a welcoming and solidaristic community to the point that everything was held in common."

Inspired by this model, "the parish 'rediscovers itself' in the encounter with Christ, especially in the Eucharist," said Benedict XVI.

"Nourished by the Eucharistic bread, it grows in Catholic communion, walks in full fidelity to the magisterium and is always ready to receive and discern the different charisms that the Lord inspires in the People of God," affirmed the Holy Father.

"From constant union with Christ," he assured, " the parish draws vigor to commit itself ceaselessly in the service of brothers, particularly the poor, for whom it is in fact the first point of reference."

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Proper 17B

Psalm 15
Deuteronomy 4:1-9
Ephesians 6:10-20
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

“O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.” Lord God, with Psalmist we have to confess this day that this does not describe us. No, we prefer to dichotomize the inner and the outer, creating disconnect this is unbearable and divisive. We confess our sins in this and we are sorry. This “whole armor” thing that Paul talks about seems to be what you have given us so that we can recognize what you have done in Your Son, who is actually one who can abide in your tent and on Your holy hill. This we confess today, Lord God we have our wholeness in Your Son who obeys Your commands so that the nations might know you and see You mercy and justice in love. Lord God, let us be the same mercy and justice, let us be love, so that as the world sees your church they might come to know that it is by Your good intentions that You draw all people to Yourself. Let us learn Christ today as we gather around Your table singing your praise, lifting up our hearts in prayer, and handling the body and blood of Your Son. AMEN.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Proper 16B

Psalm 16
Joshua 24:1-2, 14-25
Ephesians 5:21-33
John 6:60-69

God of the WORDS OF ETERNAL LIFE, where, indeed, shall we go? Today's many desires threaten your stabiity, for we are always bombarded with forgetfulness. We make you complex and a burden when all you have done is come and smiled upon us in your justice and mercy. And yet, somehow even we, your people, leave Jerusalem to frequently visit Egypt, to drink from beyond the river of life, where nothingness is given a place. Train us through the gifts of your body and blood to confess again, "You are my Lord, I have not good besides You (Ps. 16:2)." AMEN.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Love of the Beautiful

So, as my last post indicates, I picked up the Philokalia again this morning. I put it down a few months ago so that I could finish some reading for the Fall semester and I got a little sidetracked. Plus, I was in the middle of a section that I had left and come back to many times and it was getting difficult to push through to the end. I’ll have to revisit it because I know that I didn’t read it well.

But, I did make it to the next section where I was pleasantly surprised with Mr. Diadochos of Photiki. You can call him St. Diadochos if you prefer. Amazing! The section is titled On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination: One Hundred Texts. Here are a few to consider:

7. “Spiritual discourse fully satisfies our intellectual perception, because it comes from God through the energy of love. It is on account of this that the intellect continues undisturbed in its concentration on theology. It does not suffer then from the emptiness which produces a state of anxiety, since in its contemplation it is filled to the degree that the energy of love desires. So it is right always to wait, with a faith energized by love, for the illumination which will enable us to speak. For nothing is so destitute as a mind philosophizing about God when it is without Him.”

21. “He who loves God both believes truly and performs the works of faith reverently. But he who only believes and does not love, lacks even the faith he thinks he has; for he believes merely with a certain superficiality of intellect and is not energized by the full force of love’s glory. The chief part of virtue, then, if faith energized by love.”

66. God is not prepared to grant the gift of theology to anyone who has not first prepared himself by giving away all his possessions for the glory of the gospel; then in godly poverty he can proclaim the riches of the divine kingdom. This is made clear in the Psalm, for after the words ‘O Lord, in Thy love Thou hast provided for the poor’, it continues, ‘The Lord shall give speech to those who proclaim the gospel with great power (Ps. 68:10-11. LXX).”

90. “[…] for no one can acquire the perfection of love while still in the flesh except those saints who suffer to the point of martyrdom, and confess their faith despite all persecution. Whoever has reached this state is completely transformed, and does not feel desire even for material sustenance. For what desire will someone nourished by divine love feel for such things? It is for this real that St. Paul proclaims to us that future joy of the saints when he says: ‘For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17), which are the fruits of perfect love. Those who have advanced to perfection are able to taste this love continually, but no one can experience it completely until ‘what is mortal in us is swallowed up by life’ (2 Cor. 5:4)”

This is some good stuff for us Wesleyans to chew on plus, it’s interesting to read the body/soul dualism so prevalent in his 100 texts. For example, he says, “everything longs for what is akin to itself: the soul, since it is bodiless, desires heavenly goods (text 24). Ouch, what was the purpose of the incarnation then? Couldn’t God find a better way than entering this filth we call the flesh? – That’s sarcasm for those missed it – But Diadochos goes on to say, “the joy which then fills both soul and body is a true recalling of the life without corruption (text 25). He does not correct the dualism but he is much more positive towards the body, even including it in heavenly things! Yea! What a huge resource for us today. Fearful of any social gospel naïve enough to think that the world is “getting better” and that it is the task of the Church to help it get better, we can approach the goodness of creation with an eye towards the end as the Spirit ushers in the kingdom. I would ask an open-ended (not a rhetorical) question: What is the task of the Church if we are not to make the world a better place?

Friday, August 25, 2006

"All I wanted was a simple kind of life"

So... you need to read the Philokalia. I know, I don't care. You need to read it!

"We should remain, then, within the limits imposed by our basic needs and strive with all our power not to exceed them. For once we are carried a little beyond these limits in our desire for the pleasure of this life, there is then no criterion by which to check our onward movement, since no bounds can be set to that which exceeds the necessary. Pointless effort and endless labour wasted on what is unnecessary only serve to increase out longing for it, adding more fuel to the flames. Once a man has passed beyond the limits of his natural needs, as he grows more materialistic he wants to put jam on his bread; and to water he adds to first modicum of wine required for his health, and then the most expensive vintages. He does not rest content with essential clothing, but starts to purchase clothes made from brightly-coloured wool of the very best quality; next he demands clothes made from a mixture of linen and wool; next he searches for silken clothes – at first just for plain silk, and then for silk embroidered with scenes of battles and hunting and the like. He acquires vessels of silver and hold, not just for banqueting but for animals to feed from and for use as chamber-pots. What need is there to say more about such absurd ostentation, extending as it does to the basest needs, so that even chamber-pots must be made of nothing less than silver? Such is the nature of sensual pleasure: it embraces even the lowliest things and leads us to invest the meanest of functions with material luxury.”

St. Neilos The Ascetic

P.S. This affirms as well my thinking that we have lost the ancient art of theological name calling. I mean who today do we refer to as "the ascetic?" Think of the greats. Thomas Aquinas was referred to as "the dumb ox" because he was quiet as a student (and huge!). But guess what happened when the Summa hit the scene. Boo yaa. And Athanasius, my favorite, was called "the black dwarf." Awesome!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Proper 15B

Psalm 34:9-14
Proverbs 8:1-6
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:53-59

GOD OF WISDOM, what is wisdom? Everyone has the answer and product that is the end-all to all we have ever hoped and dreamed. What is wisdom? Oh, how it is that we are to know your wisdom at the table, for you are GOD OF THE EUCHARIST. All those who seek truth and wisdom are to find it at your table. It is at the table the we learn to see you in each other for it is at the table that we learn that our adoration of your wonders and glory that so fill our minds and the outer reaches of all we can imagine has no other place to go but in our love for one another. You are the God that that did not teach us things of another world but rather taught in our synagogues in the city of Capernaum. Very real, very local, and very material is the call of faithfulness to be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. God, we have nothing to offer but two empty hands that we may receive Christ hoping that Your Spirit makes us Christ. AMEN.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Board of General Superintendants Call for Prayer and Peace

Note this statement by the General Superintendants:

"The Board of General Superintendents joins all people who are deeply disturbed by the violence and bloodshed in our world. The number of militaristic hot spots has grown to include millions of our planet's citizens. We deplore the loss of human life, the destruction of property, and the enormous toll in human suffering exacted by the intransigence of warring parties.

With specific regard to the conflict between Hezbollah and Israeli military, we wish to express our concerns as well as our grief over the suffering resulting from both the events leading up to the conflagration and the current conflict. We wish to commend the community of nations for its efforts in working toward a God-honoring peace. The issues must be addressed in ways that ensure basic human rights, which all individuals and nations deserve.

We offer our prayers for peace and encourage Nazarenes around the world to intercede for world peace. We continue to affirm the message of Jesus, the Hope. Our prayer remains steadfast that all will come to know the Christ who is our Peace."

Sacred Space (Part Two)

Our worship service at Trinity (warning, this site has not been updated recently) is broken down into four movements: God calls, we gather; God speaks, we listen; God acts, we give thanks; God sends, we go.

God Calls, We Gather

We begin with a song. This song is usually according to the time of the season, but we are very flexible. If it is lent, we might begin with a little more contemplative song or a maybe a song about suffering. The band will usually begin the song as the congregation is gathering and still talking. This indicates that we are beginning the worship service.

The invocation follows the first song. The pastor will walk out to the space just in front of the table with their arms wide open saying, “Welcome in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” This is very purposeful and intentional time. Usually the pastor will have a brief word for us, may something that we had talked about in the class time before or maybe the Psalm designated for that Sunday. The pastor then leads us in an opening prayer.

We end this first movement by singing two more songs.

God Speaks, We Listen

After the two songs following the invocation we move into the reading of the Word. We always read the Old Testament and the Epistle readings back to back. Upon finishing the reader will say, “The Word of the Lord” to which the congregation responds, “thanks be to God.”

Following this we sing another song. It has been our custom at this point of the service to sing something from the Taize community but that is not set in stone. It’s usually a verse we sing three or four times in a little more focused and contemplative attitude.

Following this verse we read the Gospel reading. The same reader as before will, say “please stand for our gospel reading” or “please stand for the reading of the gospel,” something like that. However, instead of returning to the podium, the Gospel is read from amidst the congregation. This is symbolic for us as we are reminded that the Logos (Jesus) is among us. Following this reading the reader will say, “the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” to which we will respond, “Praise to you, Lord Christ.” Following the gospel reading is the sermon.

After the sermon, someone will come up and lead us in the prayers of the people. This is a time when we pray aloud together. Following a spoken prayer that one will say, “Lord, this is my prayer” to which the congregation will embrace that prayer as if it was their own, “Lord, here our prayer.” At an appropriate time, the one leading the prayers of the people will end by leading us all in the Lords prayer.

God Acts, we Give Thanks

After the prayers of the people the pastor will walk to the front of the table, initiating the passing of the peace, and say, “the peace of Christ be with you.” The congregation then responds, “and also with you.” The pastor will then say, “great one another in Christ’s peace.”

After this time we will be gathered again by a song which will move us towards the time of the Eucharist. The pastor will approach the table and prepare it with the words of institution. The Church of the Nazarene has a ritual for the table but it is nothing like more high church traditions (Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheren, etc.) Our church has been very flexible in sticking to the exact words (I will develop this thought more in a later post). Once the table has been prepared the congregation approaches to take a piece of bread and dip it in the cup. Following this we sing another song.

God Sends, We Go

This is time for any announcements to be said. Following the announcements we sing a song. The pastor will move to the back of the room in preparation for our sending (the benediction). When we have finished the song the pastor will raise their hands saying, “brothers and sisters, go forth into the world to love and serve the Lord.” We are to respond by turning hands so that our palms face upward, as if we are literally receiving the benediction, and saying, “thanks be to God, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.” The pastor will then say, “go in peace.”

Thus ends the summary of a pretty normal Sunday gathering. In my next post I want to draw out some of these implications particularly as they pertain to non-liturgical churches. If you are reading and you are from a high church tradition you will find many things absent or different. But, if you are part of a standard evangelical mainline kind of church then you might find Trinity’s contemporary liturgy to be intriguing. It is my goal in drawing on some of these implications to raise questions concerning spiritual formation (discipleship, catechism, etc.).

Sorry this post was longer than usual.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Weekly Bresee Article

My dad has raised here one of the longest standing issues in the existence of the church which is the question of our (humanities) knowledge of God after the fall. Many people have taken the reigns to provide an answer between the dichotomy of nature and grace. I don't have anything more to say on that right now because I don't have time. But, I did find helpful his asking what Christians mean when we say we "believe" in God. For more on the kinds of things I think about when I ask this question check out this conversation on Radical [Financial] Trust and Obedience going on at Charlie's blog. Otherise click read more and enjoy the post.

From My Heart
Rick Savage

Believing in God seems to be a natural condition for mankind. Except for a few people who call themselves atheists, most people believe in God. They may not believe in God the same way, and may not ever worship God as God. They may not believe God is personal or involved in the human situation. They may not believe God is making claims upon their lives. They may not even once in their lifetime work their way through their thoughts and feelings about God. However, most people are content with the premise that behind everything there is a God, a Supreme Being.

All this leads me to ask what we Christians mean when we say we believe in God. I am prompted in my question by an intriguing little verse in James (2:19) that reminds us believing in God is not a big spiritual issue. The Biblical writer indicates that even demons believe in God. So what do we mean when we Christians say we believe in God?

Do we not mean by it that we are responding to Him with the "Yes" of our obedience? Does it not mean that we are committed to His claims, yielded to His purposes, open to His involvement in our lives and in our world? Does it not mean we are acknowledging history was no accident of chance but that the world exists by design and that man reflects the creative capacities of God? Does it not mean we are committed to the premise that God is good, that love is best defined by what we see when we see Him, that justice is a universal standard and that in Jesus the Good News of God, the love of God and the justice of God are fleshed out before our eyes leading us to see that God is so involved in the human situation that He bleeds?

Based on what I see in the Bible I must contend that real belief means we embrace God with all it means for us to be who we are, and call Him "Lord of all."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sacred Space

I have been thinking about this since the first time I participated in worship with Trinity Church of the Nazarene. I really love the space we have created in which to worship. I hope to draw on some of the implications of our setting as it pertains to our contemporary liturgy in later posts.

Walking through the doors of the sanctuary one might not feel like they are in a setting much different from most mainline Protestant Evangelical worship services. On the furthest wall from the door sits the band and above them on either corner are screens to help us sing. The room itself is not a “sanctuary” per say. However, immediately one is drawn to what is different about this gathering. The congregation sits around the four walls of the room. We found that it was good to give the band a wall so that they could have room to set up and play their instruments with creativity and talent and help us all sing. They sit on the wall farthest from the doors entering the sanctuary. On the two walls to left and right of the entry doors hangs artwork according to the season of the Church calendar to help draw us into God’s presence. On each of these walls sits a candle on a stand symbolizing and reminding us of the Holy Spirit’s presence. On the wall behind the band hangs a large wood design of the Trinity. Out of the Trinity flows a creative movement of hundreds of paper dove’s that go out to the center of the room intertwining with the cross that hangs down 7 inches, parallel with the ceiling. Below the cross sits the pastor’s podium and in the front of the podium, in the center of the room, is the table upon which another candle sits in the middle and the bread and the cup await preparation.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I laughed out loud today

I laughed out loud today. That actually isn’t very unusual, I enjoy laughing. The occasion of my laughter, however, is what intrigues me. I laughed while reading Pelikan’s second volume of The Christian Tradition. I know, hilarious right. What made me laugh was a particular paragraph in his section on the filioque. In this section he is talking about the Trinity and how the West was saying that the procession of the Spirit is a matter of the divine essence (ousia) and not of the persons (hypostases). Please read the paragraphy:

"Yet when they came to the procession of the Holy Spirit, many Western theologians, arguing that the actions of the trinity ‘to the outside’ were undivided, insisted that the procession was a matter of the divine nature as a whole, hence of the ousia not of the hypostases. And so, ‘when the Holy Spirit is said to proceed from the Father, it is necessary that he proceed also from the Son, because Father and Son are undoubtedly of the same ousia.’ In an effort to circumvent the problem, some attempted to locate the procession ‘neither in the ousia, which is common {to all three persons}, nor in the person, which is spoken of in itself, but in the relation {between persons},’ which really did not clarify the issue or meet the basic Greek objection.”


Can you see the humor yet? Probably not. It just made me laugh. I sort of stopped taking myself so seriously. Studying theology is kind of like a game of Jenga with a few new rules. The Scripture is like the pieces stacked neatly and we are given the task to build upon it. So, we pull pieces and attempt a great task. Inevitably, the tower will fall because are aren’t that good at it. But, the more we do it the better we get and so we learn different way’s to stack pieces that are helpful and avoid those that are not. But still, we take ourselves too seriously. Sometimes, though, I think it’s good to just knock the building down, like most kids tend to do because then the game never ends. We always have the Scripture and we always have the task. Perhaps it is better (thanks Chuck) to maintain our catholicity in playing Jenga as opposed to unenjoyably clinging to our orthodoxy. Perhaps it is a both/and situation. We strive for catholicity in our quest for orthodoxy. I personally love knocking down the tower and rebuilding it in order to play the game again. It's fun and it makes me laugh.

Peace,
Scott

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Please!?


I can’t pretend to be an expert on the fighting going on in the Middle East. My ignorance and silence is too telling. However, I do believe that the bombing of woman and children needs to stop. With the U.S. losing allies daily the Church must be concerned that more 9/11 like events could be brewing in the near future both here and around the world. We should not long for the death of any human being let alone those trapped in the middle of a conflict out of their control. I pray for those who suffer in the Middle East from the poor foreign policies of outside nations and inability of the locals to find a relative “peace” in their struggles to share what is only a gift from God, the earth. I have no solutions.

For a better assessment of the situation see Juan Cole’s sight. If you agree with me then consider this.

For a better take on how I feel see the urban monks post tears from heaven (July 31, 2006).

Peace,

Scott

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Faith is both the dreaming and the crying

There will always be some who say that such faith is only a dream, and God knows there is none who can say it more devastatingly than we sometimes say it to ourselves, but if so, I think of it as like the dream that Caliban dreamed […]

“Be not affeard, the Isle is full of noyes,
Sounds, and sweet aires, that give delight and hurt not;
Sometimes a thousand twangling Instruments
Will hum about mine eares; and sometimes voices,
That if I then had wak’d after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again, and the in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and shew riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I wak’d
I cried to dream again.”

[…] Faith is like the dream in which the clouds open to show such riches ready to drop upon us that when we wake into the reality of nothing ore than common sense, we cry to dream again because dreaming seems truer than the waking does to the fullness of reality not as we have seen it, to be sure, but as by faith we trust it to be without seeing. Faith is both the dreaming and the crying. Faith is the assurance that the best and holiest dream is true after all. Faith in something – if only in the proposition that life is better than death – is what makes our journeys through time bearable. When faith ends, the journey ends – ends either in a death like my Father’s (suicide) or in the living death of those who believe themselves to be without hope.

Frederick Buechner


Thursday, July 06, 2006

There is nothing so capacious as a fugue

Robert Jenson has emerged as one of the few American Systematic Theologians of which we all should pay attention. Hopefully I will be posting a little more on The Triune God (I know, it's ridiculous how much this costs. Shop around, you can find better). For now, enjoy an excerpt from the last few pages.

"One transcendental remains: God is beauty; to be God is to be enjoyable. In that the triune conversation is righteousness, it is the perfect harmony of the triune communal life. And the harmony of discourse taken for itself is its beauty; more precisely, its music.

The necessary doctrine here is analogous to that about God’s truth and goodness and need not be developed at length; God’s beauty also is not a dispositional property, waiting for our action, in this instance for our enjoyment. God’s beauty is the actual living exchange between Father, Son, and Spirit, as this exchange is perfect simply as exchange, as it sings. The harmony of the Father, son, and Spirit, the triune perichoiresis, transcends its character as goodness because it has no purpose beyond itself, being itself God. And the harmony of a discourse thus taken for itself and for the sake of itself, is its beauty, its aesthetic entity.

Correspondingly, our enjoyment of God is that we are taken into the triune singing. Perhaps we may say we are allowed to double the parts. And here too we must insist on concreteness. That the proclamation and prayer of the church regularly bursts into beauty, indeed seems to insist on music and choreography and setting, is not an adventitious hankering to decorate. A congregation singing a hymn of praise to the Father is doubling the Son’s praise, and the surge of rhythm and melody is the surge of the Spirit’s glorification of the Father and the Son […]

[…] All such beauty of the creation, now or in the Kingdom, is constituted by ‘sweet mutual consents’ with the persons of the Trinity, the supreme Harmony of all. Thus the holiness of god himself is a ‘sweet conjunction’ of greatness and mercy, with nothing in it but what is ‘ravishingly lovely’ […]

[…] To conclude, we may invoke Thomas’ maxim a last time: the discourse that is God is not other than its sheer occurrence as the divine perichoresis. Therefore the discourse that is God may be thought of not only as singing but even as ‘pure’ music. It is the peculiarity of the aesthetic that in apprehending beauty we abstract from the content of discourse without becoming abstract in our understanding. God, we may thus say, is a melody. And as there are three singers who take each their part, as further specification suggests itself: the melody is fugued.

We must note what has just happened. The apprehension of God as beauty, in its concrete abstraction, has led us to another proposition of the same character as those in the preceding chapter, in which we sad that God is an event, a person, a decision, and a conversation. The phrase ‘the one God’ directs us finally to the sheer perichoresis of the Father, Son, and Spirit, and that is to their communal music. We close the doctrine of God with this evocation of God’s being, beyond which there is no more to say: God is a great fugue. There is nothing so capacious as a fugue."

Robert W. Jenson

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Just because it's awesome

Enjoy this video!

"There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path" -Morpheus

Matt. 21: 23- 32 (NRSV)

23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" 24 Jesus said to them, "I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" And they argued with one another, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?' 26 But if we say, 'Of human origin,' we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet." 27 So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 28 "What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' 29 He answered, 'I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father Ý went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir'; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Weekly Bresee Article

1. God has truly captured himself, who is the gift of grace, in the person of Jesus, and He through Israel. This we could describe as a "few poetic words." God has captured humanities story in this same person and we, also, have been given the full reality of God, an eternal relation of love, the One Lord God.

2. It is amazing that God can know our story so much so as to hear our cry. We are forever Israel's story. We have been brought out of captivity.

In 1912 James Rowe wrote the words of the Gospel Hymn, Love Lifted Me. In the first verse of the song Mr. Rowe wrote,

I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me; now safe am I.


I don’t know Mr. Rowe’s personal story of coming to Christ but I know he has captured in a few poetic words the story of a lot of people. It’s certainly my story.

I was raised in a wonderful Christian home with a Mom and Dad who loved me unconditionally. I was raised in a Church that spoke faithfully to me the message of Jesus. Still, even as a young boy approaching my teen years, I had never sensed a need for Christ – never even thought about it. Yet, I knew there were tendencies in me that were greater than myself, a bent, a predisposition, if you would, that I sensed were taking me down a destructive road I really didn’t want to go, but a road that drew me like a magnet.

My story isn’t of the dramatic kind that sells books but it is remarkable to me that in the midst of a storyline going wrong God broke in and, today, a whole lot of years later I can truthfully say, “The Master of the Sea heard my despairing cry and from the waters lifted me; now safe am I.”

What’s your story? Whatever it is God is able to enter into the storyline, even for those sinking deep in sin and who are deeply stained within. The story of the Gospel is the story of God hearing our despairing cry and moving into our lives by grace.

God has this unique way of lifting people from the waters and taking them into the safety of His own life.

I suppose that’s one of the reason it’s called Good News.

Forward Still,
Pastor Rick

Something good

This is a great excerpt from Henri de Lubac's book, Christian Faith. In this book he presents a catechsim of the faith through the Apostle's Creed. I am growing to really appreciate the way he articulates Christian faith. I hope others find in him the same thing.

"What this creed teaches us before all else is the mystery of the divine Trinity. In this mystery our whole faith consists. It is ‘the central axis on which the Church’s preaching rests down the ages’. It is light and life for us […]

The revelation of the Trinitarian mystery has turned the world upside down – not in the manner of human political and social revolutions, or, as people also call them today, ‘cultural’ ones, which mark out periods of history, but by forming within humankind a new, definitive, depth which we will never cease from exploring. By a complete refashioning of our idea of divinity, this revelation has at the same time transformed the understanding which we have of our own selves. Or rather, it has revealed it to us and transformed it. It is a mystery of total transcendence, and that is why its light can penetrate us totally, If I speak as a believer about the Most Holy Trinity, then ‘I do not speak of it as I should speak of a constellation somewhere in space, but I see in it the first principle of the last end of my existence, and faith in this supreme mystery embraces me also’. It embraces me, it embraces us all. It is by this faith that the Church of Jesus Christ lives. If, instead of letting themselves be caught up in the wretched masochism into which so many prophets are intent on plunging them, Christians decide to believe – I mean, to put confidence in their faith – their faith would make of them this very day, in truth, the soul of the world.

Our God is a living God. He is a God who is sufficient to himself. Karl Barth has written: ‘Nothing is lacking to him, neither unity nor otherness, neither movement nor rest, neither opposition, nor peace’. There is no solitude in him and no egoism. At the heart of Being, there is ecstasy, a going-out from self. This is, ‘in unity of the Holy Spirit’, the perfect circumincession of Love. So we can glimpse the depth of truth in St. John’s words (the converse of which is not true): ‘God is charity’. Our existence is not the result of ‘chance’ or blind necessity nor the work of a brutal and tyrannical omnipotence: it is the fruit of Love’s omnipotence. It we can recognize the God who speaks to us and wills to bind our destiny to him, it is because there is in him an eternal knowledge of himself; there is in him a dialogue which can spread out beyond him; he is animated by a vital movement and can associate us with it. If, even without a philosophical education, we can stand up to those who tell us that the basis of being matter, and if we instinctively pass beyond the over-abstract view of those who tell us that the basis of being is mind, or the One, it is because this mystery of the Trinity has opened for us a completely new persepctive: the basis of being is communion. If we can surmount all the predicaments which lead us to despair of the human adventure, it is because, through the revelation of this mystery, we know that we are loved. Loved by the thrice-holy God! And at the same time we learn what the most far-seeing have been led to doubt: we learn that we ourselves can love – we have been made capable of it by the communication of the divine life, the life which itself is love. So finally we understand also how ‘the plentitude of personal existence coincides with the plentitude of giving’, how self-realization is delusory apart from self-giving and how, on the other hand, that self-giving may be dissipated in an unfruitful activism if it is not the overflow of an interior life… We know, finally, that we must consent to this desire for beatitude, which no theorizing or refusal or despair can tear from the human heart, because, far from being the pursuit of one’s own interest, it expands, under the action of God’s Spirit, into the hope of loving even as God himself loves."

Henry de Lubac (Christian Faith, ix-x)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Prozac Nation - A marginal movie review with honest questions raised

I do describe a few scenes from the movie. If you have not seen the movie, you might not want to read further. However, because this is a marginal review I am not giving away much. The movie is not about the ending per say but that reality that it portrays. That said, I hope some find this helpful.

Prozac Nation
Based of the book written by Elizabeth Wurtzel

As often is the case with independent films, there are two results. First, no obvious point is made, thus leaving the viewer to draw from the subtleties, which might have some meaning or importance. Second, so loud is the point that it can’t help but be noticed and acted upon. Thus, this movie review arises out of the later.

A masterful performance by Christina Ricci, Prozac Nation commands notice. The viewer is drawn to the reality of depression through Ricci’s interaction with her mom, dad, friends, and persistent changes of life in general. The movie is narrated from Ricci’s perspective as the depressed but what is interesting is her seemingly dual personality. As the depression takes control in various situations she is almost living out a double reality. One is real. The other is in her mind, the way she wants it to be.

Gradually and then suddenly one enters into what has been classified as clinical depression, but in the same way can redemption occur. Ricci’s mom is guilty of living vicariously through her daughter, attempting to hide her own depression and inadequacies of a failed marriage and unproductive life. As she becomes poorer and poorer due to the costs of therapy so becomes her own journey of redemption with her daughter, though not with her own mom. Her Mom mugged, Ricci learns she is avoiding pain medicine. The realities of a different time begin to set in. In one scene along the way, Ricci’s mom allows herself to let go of the situation and simply tell her daughter goodbye. Goodbye in the conversation and yet also, it would seem, to the way things have been going. She is not going to give her the advice that she wished she had. She is simply saying good-bye to the way things had been.

In another scene, Dr. Sterling, Ricci’s nurse (played by Anne Hesche) walks in on Ricci in the bathroom where is holding a piece of broken glass to her wrist, shaking and battling the decision to cut. Silent, Hesche watches. At a moment, her own young daughter walks in which she picks her up and holds her telling her its okay. In that moment the gradual return from depression makes a sudden move towards redemption. Broken, crying, and bleeding, Ricci lives vicariously in that one moment, receiving the care and love that she lacked.

I cannot pretend to understand the in’s and out’s of clinical depression nor the pro’s and con’s of Prozac as a drug. It seems that Wurtzel, on the one hands is saying that drugs can provide breathing room and on the other hand, to what extent is the reality of a drug-numbed life beneficial. After all, when Hesche walks in on Ricci about to cut her wrist, the viewer is led to believe that her depression has been controlled. The controversy in the previous scene is whether or not she wants to continue in a drug-numbed life. I can say with confidence that in a nation where so many people are clinically depressed one has to question the continuance of the institutions and methods of which people are formed. United, a nation might stand, but autonomous, all will fall individually and lonely.

Pearl Jam

I just purchased Pearl Jams new album, Pearl Jam, off itunes. Being that I am only a recent listener to Pearl Jam I do not feel like I have much to say as to value of this album compared to their previous ones. I am, however, very aware of their fame and importance in the grunge world. Like Nirvana, Pearl Jam brings a level of honesty to the table that is refreshing.

As I listen to the songs and become more familiar with their content I will post more. For now, here is an article from Rolling Stone Magazine on the new album.

Peace,
Scott

Hidden

Friday, June 16, 2006

Weekly Bresee Article

Here are three quotes that I found at catholica.pontifications.net. I think they go with the article.

St. Leo: “Sharing in the body and blood of Christ produces in us an effect which is none other than that of making us be changed into that which we take.”

St. Augustine: “I [Christ] am the nourishment of the strong; have faith and eat me. But you will not change me into yourself; it is you who will be transformed into me.”

St. Thomas: “The principle for arriving at a right understanding of the distinctive effect of a sacrament is to consider it by analogy with the matter of the sacrament…. The matter of the Eucharist is a food. It must, then, be that its distinctive effect is analogous to that of nourishment. One who assimilates bodily nourishment transforms it into himself; that conversion makes good the losses of the organism and gives it its proper growth. But the Eucharistic nourishment, instead of being transformed into the one who takes it, transforms that person into Itself. It follows that the distinctive effect of this sacrament is such a transformation of the person into Christ that the person can truly say: “I live, now not I; but Christ lives in me.”

Enjoy the article, for "even now our lives can be consumed by the ways and means of heaven so that even in this world, the reality of the future is everywhere present."

From My Heart
By Rick Savage

The first Century missionary said, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7), and he told the truth. We do, don’t we. We walk by faith. We don’t walk by sight or by feelings our by bottom lines. We don’t walk by our ingenuity, creativity or accomplishments. Instead, we take hold of the hand of Jesus and where He leads we follow. And, we follow knowing that whatever God does in and through our lives is “not by might nor by power, but by [His] Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6).

When we walk by faith we are placing into the hands of God all it means for us to be who we are and all it means for us to live in this world. Truthfully, to live in this world, some days at least, is a chore. You just have to get up, put one foot in front of the other, and do what you have to do. When you are created to live in heaven but for now must live in a fallen world, it can be tough, emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually.

However (and don’t you just love the word however when it comes to God), the truth is that even now our lives can be consumed by the ways and means of heaven so that even in this world, the reality of the future is everywhere present. We can live for God today. In fact, we are called and empowered and enabled to live for God today.

Maybe one of the great aspects of what it means to be a follower of Christ and a witness to His wonderful life is to take what comes our way, commit it to God, and live as faithful men and women in a world that doesn’t honor or respect Christian faithfulness much.

Life can be hard but Jesus is always Lord. So, we place our hands into His hand and walk by faith, not by sight. It’s a great way to live. It is an awesome way to live.

God bless you as you seek to live it.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Perfection in holiness can be achieved only through humility and that through faith

"The thief who received the kingdom of heaven, though not as the reward of virtue, is a true witness to the fact that salvation is ours through the grace and mercy of God. All of our holy fathers knew this and all with one accord teach that perfection in holiness can be achieved only through humility. Humility, in its turn, can be achieved only through faith, fear of God, gentleness and the shedding of all possessions. It is by means of these that we attain perfect love, through the grace and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory through all the ages. Amen."

St. John Cassian

From the Philokalia, Volume One, 93, On the Eight Vices.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Zarqawi

Yesterday, the US dropped a 500 pound bomb on a city killing 19 and wounding 40 (apporximately). In this attack, the US was successful in killiong al-Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zaeqawi...

There have been a few (that's an understatement) stories covering the death of Zarqawi (BBC ). I was watching a clip from the Glen Beck show last night and they had made a Zarqawi cake, complete with an icing outline of his corpse.

My hope for Christians is that there is no celebration. Even if one affirms a just war theory as a mode of discipleship, one should always mourn death. And even if one affims that war as legitimate in any and all circumstance, I would hope that your reasoning and what little compassion may be left in your being would still flinch at the sight of death and violence. "Christians are prohibited from ever despairing of the peace possible in the world. We know that as God’s creatures we are not naturally violent nor are our institutions unavoidably violent (Stanley Hauerwas, The Reader, 325)."

"...love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44)." And then it says something about being perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect which seems to indicate that we (Christians, not necessarily the US, although it might be interesting) can once again reflect God's image even as the Holy Spirit teaches us how to reflect God's image. Interesting.



Consider that Hitler smiled. It is often the case with "enemies" that they become the faceless evil of which one is not required to look at with the compassion and love of God. Perhaps one has to consider the situations that drive people to act the way they do. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not justifiying their action. Zarqawi, like Hitler, is subject to God and will be dealt with accordingly. As for our formation as disciples of Christ, we are proghibited from ever despairing. Perhaps some can be changed by the love of God, but it takes a Church willing to die at all costs that some might live to even regret their actions and be turned to God. Interesting.

Consequently, I found this quote from the Washington Post to be rather ironic: "This is a message to all those who use violence killing and devastation to disrupt life in Iraq to rethink within themselves before it is too late (said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, appearing at a news conference with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. military commander in Iraq)."

Whose violence? which devastation?

Marantha!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Charity

Recently Angelina Jollie and Brad Pitt announced that they were going to sell their first baby photos to celebrity magazines (People and Hello!) and donate the proceeds to charity. These pictures could sell for up to $7 million dollars.

I have thought about the concept of charity in American culture for the past few years. For the rich, it is often seen as a way to help out in the common good of the world and get a break on your taxes. For the poor, this is often where the largest donations come from towards making changes in society all the way from the first to the third world.

I cannot begin to say that I understand what the “common good” is. I believe the Catholic Church to be doing great things in promoting more just societies and helping governments see just what they are doing to there own people when half the budget goes toward the defense fund.

I think in situations like Pitt and Jollie’s we have to be thankful that they are at least paying attention to the poor even if they are using a celebrity status that does make them more money to do some good, and yes, I do think it is good that they are donating the money. My question lies in the formation of persons in the way of Kingdom.

What the Church should be careful of in talking about charity is to not mistake the practices of those not of the Kingdom of God with those that are. If, for example, they decide to donate money to Namibia, a place famous for diamond export, it is the task of the Church to call into question that practices of a government that, while so rich, has so many poor. If they go otherwise, we must be wise with our words, for or against.

Pope Benedict XVI said in his first encyclical, “For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally be left to others, but is a part of her nature, so indispensable of her very being." (Thanks John for pointing this out!!!)

However, we have to have eyes to see the Kingdom when it sprouts up in unusual places and claim those bursts of life as the work of the Holy Spirit. We are in season of Pentecost after all.

Weekly Bresee Article

From My Heart
By Rick Savage

The people of God live with a vision, a vision rooted and grounded in the redemptive activity of God in the world. If we disconnect from that vision we lose our bearings and find ourselves working hard for things that are not of eternal value. Without God-driven vision God’s people become just social clubs or glorified service organizations, doing good, yes, but not the kind of good, that moved God out of heaven into the dusty streets of Galilee.

It is extremely important that local congregations so profoundly connect themselves with the visions and dreams of God that nothing will shake them from staying true to whatever it means for them to be faithful to God in their places of service. The world doesn’t need another service organization or social club; it needs a transformed and transforming Church created by Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit.

The old Irish Hymn says it well in these wonderful words of commitment and faith:

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art—
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.


May God help us to be so fully caught up in what He is doing that everything else, for us, will pale in comparison. May God be our vision. May His presence be the light of our lives. May the very being of our church be baptized in the wonder that is God, and may we live and move and have our being in Him.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Weekly Bresee Article

Here she is...even though its been more than a week!! That's okay we won't hold it against him. Enjoy!

By Rick Savage

The last thing we read in Scripture just before the birth of the Church is notes from a business meeting where an election was held. That's remarkable. Taking care of business isn't a very exciting thing. Yet, taking care of business is essential in the ebb and flow of life, church and otherwise.

Waiting on God can be exciting. Making plans and dreaming about the future can be exciting. Praying with brothers and sisters in Christ can be exciting. Holding elections, however, that's not my idea of exciting. Elections are necessary, mind you, but the Holy Spirit doesn't show up too often in power and majesty at the annual meeting. He's there but the truth is that most of us want to get the meeting over with so we can go out and have ice cream.

In the book of Acts, however, in the midst of the praying and the waiting and dreaming it was decided that Judas needed to be replaced. So, they thought long and hard and came up with two names to place on the ballot -- Barsabbas and Matthias. Each agreed to let their name appear on the ballot, lots were cast and the winner was ……….. Matthias, “and he was added to the eleven apostles" (Acts 1:26). Next stop, Acts two, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that changed the history of the world, and empowered Christians who would go out and inundate their world with Good News.

God in the ordinary stuff of life; don't you just love it? They’re getting ready for the biggest day in the history of the world, next to Good Friday and Easter Sunday morning, and the folks are conducting an election. And, an ordinary people, doing ordinary things, filled with an extra-ordinary God began a movement that is still marching forward under the conducting baton of Almighty God.

Who Would Have Thought It?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

God is love

Today I broke my first rule of blogging: Nothing longer than a few paragraphs because nobody wants to read a dissertation on their computer. Rest assured, however, that they are not all my words.

I have been working on a paper about the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. My working thesis is Wesleyan, Christian perfection. I claim that the goal of our sanctification is pefect love and God and neighbor, and I try to bring together this "goal of Sanctification" as the East does in deification. Often times, Protestants lose the human response necessary in salvation, fearful of works-righteousness. We must not forget that we are only able to respond freely because Christ has already recapitulated the flesh. We know how to respond because He already did.

That said, I hope one day the Church will come together, look each other in the eye and forgive one another, and ask for forgiveness from the world, for centuries of division of which we have left the world a confused witness. Read and enjoy what the Catholics have to say about hope and mercy, they are family.

"No Source of Hope Other Than Divine Mercy"
Lecture by Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz

LOS ANGELES, MAY 1, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is an excerpt from a lecture prepared by Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, for a conference on Divine Mercy.

The Lay Institute of Divine Mercy was the host for the 2006 Southern California Divine Mercy Congress "Divine Mercy, Transform Us to Be Your Vessel of Hope" at Christ the King Parish in Los Angeles. The three-day conference ended Sunday.

* * *

Towards a World -- Transforming Hope in Divine Mercy

The Holy Spirit introduces us to the essence of Divine Mercy. He is the Comforting Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who, already for 2,000 years has led the Church through the stormy ocean of time with its problems and challenges, and who indicates to us Divine Mercy and its meaning. In the modern day, when man has lost the sense of sin, the Holy Spirit convinces the world of sin (cf. John 16:8), and at the same time reveals the meaning of salvation in Jesus Christ, salvation accomplished through the mystery of the cross and resurrection.

The Holy Spirit through the mystery of the cross of the Lord allows us to know sin in the full measure of the evil which it carries within itself. What more eloquently witnesses to this fact than that man was redeemed at the price of the passion and death of the Son of God. Precisely in the mystery of the cross does the Holy Spirit call us to uncover the merciful and forgiving love of God ("Dominum et Vivificantem," No. 32).

This "convincing," worked by the Holy Spirit, with respect to our sinfulness and the evil brought by sin, is at the same time a "persuading" that sin can be forgiven. That is, it turns out to be a conviction about Divine Mercy, thanks to which man can once again attain the dignity of a son of God.

In his first encyclical letter, "Deus Caritas Est," Pope Benedict XVI teaches that the death of Christ on the cross is a work of God directed in a certain sense against himself, insofar as God is offering himself as the Victim which will save man. This is nothing other than love in its most radical form. The pierced side of Christ allows us to contemplate the truth that "God is love" (1 John 4:8). Likewise, it indicates wherein true love lies. In the very pierced side of Jesus, Christians can find the way to live and to love (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 12).

Thus, the essence of Divine Mercy is the infinite love of the Heart of Jesus for man, love which extends to the shedding of blood. Christ himself speaks beautifully of this: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

Speaking of Divine Mercy and its essence brings us before the mystery of -- on one hand -- the always faithful God and -- on the other -- unfaithful man. In this mystery the characteristics of the ever Merciful God stand out in a striking manner. Like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, he receives his son with open arms and rejoices that he, who was lost, has returned, that he, who was spiritually dead, has, thanks to the grace of Divine Mercy, returned to life (cf. Luke 15:11-32).

This parable expresses the reality of conversion in the deepest fashion. This is the most concrete expression of the presence of Divine Mercy in the world: love overcoming sin. John Paul II in his encyclical "Dives in Misericordia" emphasizes that mercy does not consist in even the most sympathetic attitude toward moral, physical and material evil. Rather, it consists in the recognition and eliciting of good out of every sort of accumulation of evil, which can exist in man and the world. In this very sense of mercy can the fundamental content of the messianic sending of Jesus Christ and the power of his mission be seen (cf. "Dives in Misericordia," No. 6).

In his sermon before the beginning of the conclave on April 18, 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that the mercy of Christ does not imply the banalization of evil. Christ carried in his body and soul all of the weight and power of evil. He destroyed and transformed evil by suffering, through the fire of suffering love. In this way, in the paschal mystery, in Christ's dying and rising from the dead, the Day of Vengeance and the year of the Lord's favor meet (cf. Isaiah 61:2).

Since Divine Mercy, an attribute of God, issues forth from the infinite love of God for man, it must be said to have no limit. The only force capable of limiting it is man himself, by a lack of good will and readiness to convert. Not in vain does Pope Benedict XVI, in the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," cite the words of the Apostle John: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him" (1 John 4:16).

The Pope comments that these words express the essence of Christian faith, that is, the Christian conception of God, and, deduced from this, the proper conception of man and his path in life. Thus, the principle of the Christian life is contained in the words of the same Apostle John: "So we know and believe the love God has for us" (1 John 4:16). In other words, knowing the love of God and believing in it, the Christian is able to express the fundamental option of his life. For if God has first loved us (cf. 1 John 4:10), then love is already not so much a commandment as a response to God's gift of love to us (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 1). God waits for this answer from each of us, so as to reveal in all of its fullness his mercy to us.

Necessity of God's mercy

The Servant of God, John Paul II, reminds us that God reveals himself to us as Love and Mercy, and the culmination of his revelation is Jesus Christ (cf. "Dives in Misericordia," Nos. 1-2). "In Christ and through Christ, God also becomes especially visible in his mercy … Christ confers on the whole of the Old Testament tradition about God's mercy a definitive meaning. Not only does he speak of it and explain it by the use of comparisons and parables, but above all he himself makes it incarnate and personifies it" ("Dives in Misericordia," No. 2).

Modern man, striving with the help of unprecedented technological progress to become master of the world, often rejects the idea of Divine Mercy (cf. "Dives in Misericordia," No. 2). At the same time, it is a secret to no one that our world is full of contradictions, being at one and the same time strong and weak, capable of good and evil (cf. "Gaudium et Spes," Nos. 1-10). In truth, the modern world is characterized by a clash of civilizations and is imbued with fear of the future.

The main reasons for this include: the gap between those who have and those who have not, ecological problems, the ever-increasing incidence of AIDS, drug addiction, alcoholism, the persistent problem of illiteracy in various countries, social injustice, violence, violation of human rights, euthanasia, problems of genetic engineering, unceasing armed conflict, extremism, terrorism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, and so on.

This troubling situation is exacerbated by the fact that the modern world is ever more secularized; it is a world in which more and more frequently moral relativism manifests itself, a world in which, in many places, people live as if God did not exist, and so forth. The Servant of God, John Paul II, tirelessly repeated warnings in this regard, and the present Pontiff, Benedict XVI, also continually reminds us to take heed. Thus, modern man can only confess, together with St. Faustina, that there is no source of hope other than Divine Mercy.

The title written on the icon of Divine Mercy -- "Jesus, I hope in you" -- is an expression of hope in the all-powerful love of God, which is especially relevant in our day. Precisely in our times, hope is often, as it were, lost in the face of so many various examples of evil and challenges of modernity. Therefore, it is always necessary to discover again and again in Jesus, the face of God, Who is "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3). On the face of the Merciful Jesus and in his glance, we must find reflected the truth of our life and the light of grace, which we first received in the sacrament of baptism and continue to receive in the other sacraments and in service to the Church.

Everywhere, where hatred, injustice and pain reign; where a lack of respect is seen toward the priceless gift of life and the dignity of man; where the wave of terrorism grows and the culture of death holds sway -- there is needed the grace of Divine Mercy, which quiets the heart of man, creates peace, returns the sense of human dignity, and leads to justice. …

Our response

The Servant of God, John Paul II, emphasizes that mercy must reveal itself as the power of that love which evil cannot overcome, but which "overcomes evil with good" (Romans 12:21) (cf. "Dives in Misericordia," No. 6). In this way mercy is an absolutely necessary dimension of love, its second name, one could say. We are required to live this love of God and neighbor, for, as the Apostle Paul teaches, "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

This is the command of Christ and the teaching of the Church. It is also the life program for every Christian. In this connection, Pope Benedict XVI fittingly noted in his encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," that man can be a source from which pour forth living waters (cf. John 7:37-38). However, for this it is necessary that man first drink from the original source, which is Jesus Christ. From the pierced Heart of Christ flows forth the love of God himself -- Blood and Water (cf. John 19:34) (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 7).

We are bound to respond to the infinite love of God to man and to his mercy in a corresponding manner. In this endeavor, a special place is held by the holy Eucharist, works of mercy, penance and prayer.

John Paul II teaches that "the Eucharist brings us ever nearer to that love which is more powerful than death" ("Dives in Misericordia," No. 13). Benedict XVI develops this idea, saying that through the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus added to his sacrificial act of love toward man the element of perpetual presence. The Eucharist, thus, includes us in the sacrificial act of Christ, thanks to which we not only receive the Incarnate Word by some sort of static symbol, but we are introduced into the dynamic of his sacrifice (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 13). As a result we are called to the deepest possible living of the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life (cf. "Lumen Gentium," No. 11).

Union with Christ in the Eucharist is at the same time union with others. It is not possible to keep Christ only for oneself. One can only belong to him in union with others. Thanks to the Eucharist, the love of God and the love of neighbor become one thing only; the Incarnate God unites us all. In the Eucharist, God comes to us, so as to act in us and through us. The love of God and neighbor unite us in one, which should be expressed in works of mercy (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," Nos. 14-15).

Pope Benedict XVI underlines in this regard that works of mercy ("diaconia"), along with the proclamation of the Word of God ("kerigma-martyria") and the administering of sacraments ("leiturgia") belong to the very nature of the Church (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 25).

"Faith apart from works is dead" (James 2:26) teaches the Apostle James. Faith ought to be realized in daily life in concrete acts of mercy. "[The Church] seeks to practice mercy toward people through people, and she sees in this an indispensable condition for solicitude for a better and 'more human' world, today and tomorrow" ("Dives in Misericordia," No. 15).

The call of Christ: "Repent and believe the Good News" (Mark 1:15) is always timely. For this reason, the sacrament of penance -- as the paschal gift of Christ to his Church and as the brightest demonstration of Divine Mercy -- should be practiced as often as possible. It leads to our spiritual transfiguration and resurrection.

The world, which is following the path of secularism and ever forgetting the meaning of mercy, must be filled with the great "cry" (cf. "Dives in Misericordia," No. 15) of the Church, her ardent and persistent prayer to the God of mercy. In this regard, the liturgies of mercy and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy are of immense use.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Good Sermon

There is a Church out here in KC called Jacobs Well. I was told the sermon from this past Palm Sunday was particularly good... It was. I have never heard the story of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem told this way. If you have time listen to it. I have put the link in my side bar under sites titled Jacobs Well. Click there and find the sermon from April 9, 2006. I suggest listening to the sermon before reading my blog because Tim keel did a masterful job at tell the story.

We are prone to only discuss Jesus' entry into the Jerusalem and how laying down the palms represents our saying that He is our peace and that even as we shout Hosanna, we know that we goes to the cross for our betrayal of him the next day. We are truly more like Judas than we think, which is why he was given no insight into the mysteries of the kingdom in order to bring about Christ's death as some Gnostic believers were prone to think. On a side note, check out this article by Roger Hahn on the NTS website regarding the Gospel of Judas.

What is often the case is that we forget the context of which scripture is written and that it is very likely that on the other side of the city of Jerusalem another parade, another entry, was occuring.

It was the custom of Pontius Pilate to come to Jerusalem during the Passover. While the Jews were gathering to celebrate there release from Egyptian oppression, it was Pilates goal to reinforce that, yes, the Jews are aloud to worship God freeing them from captivity and oppression, but look around you and know that we, Rome (empire) are incharge. It was custom to arrive in the city portraying power through military force.

On the other side, Jesus. On a donkey. Alone. Going to the cross.

What a portrayal of power.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Weekly Bresee Article

School has got the best of me these past few weeks. I am excited to say that thanks to good friday and class being canceled I slept eight hours today. I have also been able to finish up some papers I have had to write on integrating the Incarnation and Atonement; Christian pacificms vs. Just War Theory; and a paper correcting Zwingli's memorial supper. I enjoyed writing that one because I got really see how the Eucharist has been the central act of worship since the early church and how it came to be distorted through the differnet eras of conflict in the Church. Before we get to the article I want to leave you with quote from William Cavanaugh's Torture and Eucharist commenting on Herni de Lubac, who has provided a good reading of just what went wrong during in the Church's Eucharistic theology in Scholasticism, the Medieval synthesis, and its breakdown in the Reformation, which is where Zwingli pops up.

“The corpus mysticum was identified with the sacramental body, and the corpus verum with the church. However, around the twelfth century, as Henri de Lubac’s important study Corpus Mysticum shows, there is an inversion of meaning. In subsequent centuries the altar would be the site of Christ’s corpus verum, his true and knowable body, and the church would be his corpus mysticum.”

I think that leads nicely into the article.

Peace.

From My Heart
Rick Savage

In speaking about why God entered into human history through an incarnation Hebrews 2:17 says that God "had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (2:17).

Propitiation means to "make atonement." It is an act of incredible self-giving that takes away the sins of people. This is amazing when we remember that the One we've offended is the One who acts in such away as not to hold our offense against Him. That is called forgiveness; I mean, out-of-this-world forgiveness; the kind of forgiveness that redirects a persons' journey and literally enables them to reorient their lives.

Jesus is the One who helps us reorient our lives. He doesn't simply forgive. He comes into our life experience and lives there as "a merciful and faithful high priest." An act of forgiveness would be wonderful in-and-of itself, but I think we human types need more that an act of forgiveness. We need someone to come alongside us and show us what it means to be forgiven, to show us what it means to reorient our lives, to show us how to turn around and come home to God and then how to live in God's home.

This is something for all of us Christians to take seriously as we seek to be faithful to God. A great question for every local church is, "How do we be faithful to the merciful and faithful high priest?" Whatever the answer is we need to pursue it together and then commit to be a community of that Jesus, our merciful and faithful high priest.

Huge issues are at stake here. Life-energizing and transforming grace awaits us.