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)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Did You Know?-- Francis Asbury

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At the height of his career, Francis Asbury (1745–1816) was so famous that one need only write on a letter "Bishop Francis Asbury, United States of America" and the letter would reach him. More than a thousand children are known to have been named after him; if you have a Frank or Francis in your family tree, you may have Asbury to thank. He was more widely recognized by the common people than anyone else from his era-- including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
You can read more interesting facts about Asbury here.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Politics of Holiness and Hospitality: Can "Make America Great Again" Be a Christian Position?-- Jesus

In the first post I picked up on the Old Testament theme of Israel’s calling and witness for the sake of the world. It is not the only narrative thread that runs throughout the Old Testament. But what is critical for our purposes is that it is precisely this storyline that Jesus draws on for his ministry. Just like Jeremiah before him, Jesus will criticize his fellow Jews for failing to be a light to the nations, but first the context must be set in understanding what Jesus was doing when he called his twelve disciples.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Christians As Aliens in Their Homeland: A Letter to Any Twenty-First Century Diognetus

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For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

To sum up all in one word--what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it, though itself suffering no injury, because it is prevented from enjoying pleasures; the world also hates the Christians, though in nowise injured, because they abjure pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and [loves also] the members; Christians likewise love those that hate them. The soul is imprisoned in the body, yet preserves that very body; and Christians are confined in the world as in a prison, and yet they are the preservers of the world. The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tabernacle; and Christians dwell as sojourners in corruptible [bodies], looking for an incorruptible dwelling in the heavens. The soul, when but ill-provided with food and drink, becomes better; in like manner, the Christians, though subjected day by day to punishment, increase the more in number. God has assigned them this illustrious position, which it were unlawful for them to forsake.

from The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, chapters 5-6.

Scriptures and Prayer for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Old Testament: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 or 1 Kings 19:4-8

Psalter: Psalm 130 or Psalm 34:1-8

Epistle: Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Gospel: John 6:35, 41-51
Bread of life, you taught us to put away bitterness and anger, and with tenderhearted kindness to share the fruit of our labor with the needy. Strengthen us by your grace, that in communion with you, we may forgive one another and live in love as Christ loved us. Amen.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Scriptures and Prayer for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Old Testament: 2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13 or Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15

Psalter: Psalm 51:1-12 or Psalm 78:23-29

Epistle: Ephesians 4:1-16

Gospel: John 6:24-35
God of the lowly and the mighty, you know the ugliness of your people when we harm and destroy one another, yet you offer us forgiveness of our sins if we but turn to you. Expand our hearts to receive the mercy you give us, that, in turn, we may share your grace and mercy with others each moment of our lives. Amen.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

The Politics of Holiness and Hospitality: Can "Make America Great Again" Be a Christian Position?-- The Old Testament

When one reads the Old Testament narrative, two things are clear: First, Israel is called as God's people to be an alternative to the nations of the world, living in holiness, that it might be a witness to the other nations of the world giving testimony to the ways of the Lord. They were to cultivate what Timothy Gombis calls a "politics of holiness" (Timothy A. Gombis, The Political Vision of the Apostle to the Nations p. 77.) that would set them apart as what Jesus refers to in the Sermon on the Mount as "a city set on a hill" that shines its light for all to see (Matthew 5:14).

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Evangelism and Inviting Others to Journey with Us in the Wonder, the Joy, the Bewilderment, and the Mess that Is the Bible

One Sunday more than a decade ago, the Lectionary reading from the Gospel that morning was from Mark 10 on Jesus' teaching concerning divorce.
Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?' He answered them, 'What did Moses command you?' They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.' But Jesus said to them, 'Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, "God made them male and female." "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.'
 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, 'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery' (Mark 10:2-12).
I did not know it that morning in worship, but a young man visiting that Sunday was very put off by Jesus' words. His parents had been divorced and both were remarried, and as he listened to the Gospel, he was hearing Jesus accuse his parents of being adulterers. Since my sermon was on one of the other texts, I did not provide the context of Mark 10 in my message.  He never returned to the church. I did not know any of this until several months later when a friend of his told me. I wish I would have known earlier because I would have invited him to have coffee and talk about it.