Monday, August 13, 2012

Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout

Two quotes from Elizabeth Strout's book, Abide with Me. As a minister, myself, I probably get these quotes a little (a lot) more than those who are not ministers. Still, I think they translate. Strout's book has been a surprising means of grace.

- "The minister, relieved by this assignment of something specific to do, decided he would drive to Hollywell and do his shopping there rather than risk being seen by one of his congregation close to West Annett, who might - after Sunday - wonder whether he himself had not fallen prey to the Perils of Personal Vanity. He found his wallet, his car keys, his hat, and humming softly the hymn that had come into his head, "I would be true for there are those who trust me," the man walked down the tilting porch steps" (12).

- "Tyler tapped his mouth with his fingers. He thought of Bonhoeffer writing that it was not love that sustained a marriage but the marriage that would sustain the love. Tyler wanted to mention this, but Doris's weeping had become very noisy. Tyler could not recall any parishioner making the noise Doris was making, sobs climbing on top of one another. He moved farther back in his chair" (39).

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Case for Biblical Studies as a Separate Disciplines

It's weird to be blogging on a Saturday night. But since my wife is out, the kids are a sleep, and I just got done watching a movie, I figured I would hop online and see what's up. I usually don't do this because I usually find things that distract me from doing more important things like sleeping. Still, here we are.

I thought Daniel Kirk had something good to say about Biblical Studies as a separate disciplines. Apparently this is being debate elsewhere on the internet (check out the links in his blog if you like). I haven't been following that conversation, but I thought what he had to say had some merit of its own so I thought I'd give it a nod. Mostly, what he said made me pause about the task of preaching as it relates to biblical hermeneutics (Interpretation). Most notably he says,

(1) Positively, it is continuing to keep the Bible as a book to God’s people located in particular times and places in front of the church. This means both: reading it as a book written for the people of God (there is a theological dimension and it calls forth certain praxis) and that it was written in the past to people in different situations.

(2) Negatively, it serves as a gadfly, showing the church where due to cultural, philosophical, and theological blinders, it has misconstrued the words in which it thinks it finds its validation.

The second point is what makes me pause. If you want to gain the upper hand over and against the congregation, it's an easy preaching move to set yourself up as the one bearing answers to a commonly misconstrued passage of Scripture. Agreed, sometimes things need to be clarified and it's the pastors role to do so. However, if this is your normal weekly move then perhaps something is wrong. Perhaps the rule-of-thumb should be to view using the word "actually" as a warn flag against such things. The pastor does not always have to insert and actually in her sermon. A good pastor and preacher can clarify a misconstrued passage of Scripture without the people even knowing what she is doing. This is a more stealth and subversive way of doing things and perhaps more substantial in the long run.

Around the Horn

There's an ebb and flow to everything, blogging included, or perhaps especially. Here's this weeks Around the Horn. I hope it sends you down many wonderful paths.

Rob Bell released a new video.

Tim Suttle's book, Public Jesus, got a review.

Neil Gaiman is going to write another Sandman graphic novel!

Bo Sanders offers an Evangelical Support for Same-Sex Marriage.

Scot McKnight talks about Jesus (via Resurrected Living). And posted a good story about a boy named Joshua doing good things in his neighborhood.

The top 500 most visited websites.

Thumbtack Russian Roulette. Seriously, this is funny. I don't usually pass around things like this, but it's really funny. DON'T try this at home!


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Science Should Affirm Only What I Already Believe

Christians like science as long as it says nothing about the doctrine of creation (cosmology). Science can give us cool pictures of Mars, the cure for cancer, or a microwave oven, but don't mess our D.O.C! To such a thing, many Christians refuse to be honest, closing their eyes and ears. That's the irony Dr. Katherine Sonderegger points out in the paragraph below.

Incidentally, so far in Mapping Modern Theology, hers is by far the best chapter.

"Most Christians in the modern era have taken in stride scientific findings when applied to medicine or agriculture or urban life: Christians too hope for a medical breakthrough in the curing of disease, or breathe easier when a camera discovers miners trapped deep within a collapsing shaft, or feel relief when finally the lights spring back to life after a major storm. The technological reach of modern science - though in itself a worry for many Christian ecologists - has not been seen on the whole as a threat to Christian dogma. But it is otherwise with cosmology - and with evolution - the modern biological account of the genesis of animal and human species on earth. These are neuralgic [see definition below] points in the modern Christian doctrine of creation, and many, in the English-speaking world especially, when they hear of the scientific doctrine of the origin of all things and of humankind, still find it 'a cruel task to be honest.'"

*Neuralgic - "Sharp and paroxysmal [or sudden] pain along the course of a nerve." Imagine you have a cavity and keep breathing in air really fast.

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

My Ordination: A Brief Reflection

I'm gearing up to "participate" in my first District Assembly in a long time. I say "participate" because I'm really just going to share in the experience. I have no "business" to attend to. For the last few years I have been approved by my denomination for what's called "Special Service/Interdenominational," or SPC status. This has allowed me to remain in good standing with my home denomination, The Church of the Nazarene, while at the same time being an Associate Pastor at Redemption Church, a non-denominational church in Olathe, KS. I'm very ecumenical.

And I'm very thankful.

Of the weeks event, I'm mostly looking forward to hearing Jeren Rowell preach at the Celebration and Vision Service. There is a good chance that my wife and I would have ended up at his church had he not been called to be the Superintendent of the Kansas City District. I look forward to hearing the good news!

In light of all this, I have found myself reflecting on my call and ordination as a pastor. Six years ago I kneeled at an alter with the my bible open to the Sermon on the Mount as Rev. James Diehl put his hands on my head and through the Holy Spirit affirmed in me, with all of the weight and strength of many centuries worth of pastors who have gone before me, the rite of ordination. I am a baby, indeed, in all of this. I have barely learned to walk and speak, but I know the end towards whom I am headed. I know the one who called. I know the one who has his thumb in my back urging me to live into this call (thanks, Grandpa, for helping me see it this way). It is with great joy, pain, and hope that I read (and with God's help, affirm) these words again:

"The core duties of a pastor are: To pray. To preach the word. To equip the saints for work in the ministry. To administer the sacraments. To care for the people by pastoral visitation, particularly the sick and needy. To comfort those who mourn. To correct, rebuke, and encourage, with great patience and careful instruction."

With God's help, indeed.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Do you agree? Bruce McCormack on what is Modern Theology

"'Modern' theology emerged, in my view, at the point at which (on the one hand) church-based theologians ceased trying to defend and protect the received orthodoxies of the past against erosion and took up the more fundamental challenge of asking how the theological values resident in those orthodoxies might be given an altogether new expression, dressed out in new categories for reflection. It was the transition, then, from a strategy of 'accommodation' to the task of 'mediation' that was fundamental in the ecclesial sphere. In philosophy, as it relates to the theological enterprise (on the other hand), the defining moment that effected a transition entailed a shift from a cosmologically based to an anthropologically based metaphysics of divine being."

- Bruce L. McCormack in Mapping Modern Theology: A Thematic and Historical Introduction, 3