A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, December 05, 2016

Producing Evidence for Jesus: A Lectionary Reflection on Matthew 11:2-11

The price that John the Baptist would pay for his prophetic message was his life. He had spoken the word of the Lord without fear. Herod Antipas of Galilee threw John in prison at the fortress of Machaerus because John had publicly rebuked Herod for marrying his brother's wife.

For the moment, John was in prison. Jail cells in those days were terrible places: dark, damp, and infested with rats. When an individual was thrown into prison, he or she was awaiting two things: trial or execution.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Scriptures and Prayer for the Second Sunday of Advent

Old Testament: Isaiah 11:1-10

Psalter: Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

Epistle: Romans 15:4-13

Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12
Laboring God, with axe and winnowing fork you clear a holy space where hurt and destruction have no place, and a little child holds sway. Clear our lives of hatred and despair, sow seeds of joy and peace, that shoots of hope may spring forth and we may live in harmony with one another. Amen.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Are Your Politics and Eschatology Shaped By the Empire?

Eschatology: "...the theological study that seeks to understand the ultimate direction or purpose of history as it moves toward the future, both from an individual perspective (What happens when a person dies?) and from a corporate perspective (Where is history going and how will it end?)"--Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, p. 46.

The question we should ask is this: Where is our hope placed? In our elected candidates? In our country? To be sure, I hope our country solves its international conflicts, and I hope we resolve poverty and dissolve our educational problems and racism. And I hope we can create a better economy. But where does my hope turn when I think of war or poverty or education or racism? Does it focus on my political party? Does it gain its energy from thinking that if we get the right candidate elected, our problems will be dissolved? If so, I submit that our eschatology has become empire-shaped, Constantinian and political. And it doesn't matter to me if it is a right-wing evangelical wringing her fingers in hope that a Republican wins or a left-wing progressive wringing her fingers in hope that a Democrat wins. Each has a misguided eschatology. The kingdom story counters the culture of politics as the solution to our problems.--Scot McKnight, Kingdom Conspiracy, p. 63.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Apologists #13: The Church's Response to Heresy, Part 4

The Lapsed

Those who weakened under persecution and renounced their faith and/or sacrificed to the gods were called "the lapsed." After the Decian persecution was over, many wanted to remain as Christians. A great controversy arose over whether the lapsed should be readmitted to the church, and if so, by what requirements? To complicate matters, many lapsed under different circumstances. As soon as Decius issued his edict mandating pagan worship, some Christians immediately made sacrifice to the gods. Others did so only after cruel and painful torture. Others forged certificates stating that they had offered sacrifices to the pagan deities, even though they had not.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How Does Emmanuel Come to Us?

O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel; that mourns in lonely exile here...

When Mary wished for the coming of Emmanuel, it was very clear what she expected. She expected a this-worldly Savior who would deliver her in this world. She did not deny the resurrection at the last day; like all faithful Jews, she looked forward to it. But she also knew that what God had promised to do was to bring deliverance in the here and now. If all Jesus' birth was about was some future salvation in the world to come, then why did Herod the Great perceive this young king as such a threat? If all Jesus' ministry was about was a heavenly existence after death, why did the authorities string him up on a cross for treason? Emmanuel came to Mary as one who would make a difference in the present moment. A Messiah born into an unjust world, would seek to bring justice to those so oppressed.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sometimes, It's Best to Get the Offering Before the Sermon...: A Lectionary Reflection on Matthew 3:1-12

Matthew 3:1-12

...At least that's the advice I'd give if one is going to preach like John the Baptist. We begin wedding services with the words, "Dearly beloved." John stands at the Jordan River and begins his sermon, "You nest of snakes!" I'm not sure Dale Carnegie would approve.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Scriptures and Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent

Old Testament: Isaiah 2:1-5

Psalter: Psalm 122

Epistle: Romans 13:11-14

Gospel: Matthew 24:36-44
Unexpected God, your advent alarms us. Wake us from drowsy worship, from the sleep that neglects love, and the sedative of misdirected frenzy. Awaken us now to your coming, and bend our angers into your peace. Amen.