From the chair:
“They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”
This is an interesting turn of phrase, “according to my gospel,” but it also protects us against a particular error. Yes, “gospel” does “mean ‘good news'” in one sense: If you look up the word in BDAG, the standard Greek-English dictionary, it does list “good news as proclamation” under the meanings. However, even the dictionary doesn’t stop there. Considering the context, BDAG says that “gospel” connotes “God’s good news to humans,” “details relating to the life and ministry of Jesus,” or “a book dealing with the life and teaching of Jesus.”
Not every piece of good news is the Gospel, nor does every part of the Gospel feel like good news upon first hearing. that god judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus initially sounds terrifying. Yet, it’s one part of a complete package, an entire proclamation that adds up to something great: The man, Jesus of Nazareth, is the Christ, God incarnate, and has not only lived and died to fulfill the law but has been raised from death in victory over sin as the firstfruits of those who will be forgiven, sanctified, and raised themselves–all who believe. This is good news–specific good news–and I too call it “my gospel,” not because it belongs to me but because I belong to it.
From the desk:
“Increasingly, churches are coming to see the value of involving laypeople int he leadership of public worship. Not long ago the chancel was strictly the province of pastor or priest. But the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, and an increasing awareness of the range of spiritual gifts that god brings to each assembly, have changed things. One of the focuses of liturgical renewal in the past few decades has been to return to the sense that worship is a holy activity that involves us all. It is not just something performed by the professionals on behalf of the untutored. This shift has allowed the clergy to step aside so that the various ministries of worship leadership can be shared by capable and gifted laypeople. When this happens, the clergy’s role shifts. No longer the solitary leaders of worship, they take the lead in finding ways to provide training for laypersons who wish to serve in worship roles. As the trained professionals in matters of prayer leadership, chanting, or Scripture reading, the clergy undertake to equip the saints for performing these functions.”
-Clayton Schmit, Public Reading of Scripture, p.18
I like this passage because it steers clergy away from both domineering the congregation and neglecting pastoral responsibility. The priesthood of all believers calls for more, not less, from the clergy, but it’s a “more” that involves less show and acclaim, more intentionality, diversity, and cooperation as marks of the Kingdom of God.
“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.