The Chair and the Desk, 3/11/16

From the chair:

“And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice. For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.”

-Deuteronomy 4:28-31

I’m struck, in this passage, by God’s mercy. He knows how foolishly the people whom he has rescued will ignore him and worship stupid things, but he still promises grace and even salvation from themselves.

I’m struck, in this passage, by our obstinacy. Even this offer, which meets us much more than halfway, was never enough for us. We couldn’t even live up to this concession–no matter what you’ve done, just turn back to me with all your heart–and we needed Jesus Christ to fulfill this part of the law for us too.

I’m struck, in this passage, by God’s faithfulness. Jesus Christ did fulfill this part of the law for us too. As the perfect human, he sought God with all his heart and soul as we never could, and he gave his Spirit to help us seek God as we never have. Truly, the LORD our God is a merciful God: He has not left us or destroyed us or forgotten the covenant with our fathers that he swore to them.


From the desk:

“…

Praise Him
with Blues and Jazz,
with symphony orchestras,
with Negro spirituals
and Beethoven’s Fifth,
with guitars and saxophones.

Praise Him
with record players and cassette recorders.

Let everything that hath breath,
every living cell,
Praise the Lord.

…”

-Ernesto Cardenal, “Psalm 150,” http://www.spiritsound.com/psalm.html

This excerpt from Ernesto Cardenal’s poem was in one of my books for class today, and I was a bit shocked–a bit shocked into a moment of worship. The whole poem is worth a read, and it paints a beautiful picture of praise inspired by Psalm 150.


“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.

 

The Chair and the Desk, 3/10/16

From the chair:

“17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself?”

-Romans 2:17-21

Paul lists religious statuses we might boast about (the list extends into the double digits), only to look us right in the eyes and ask: “You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself?” As a teacher in the Church and, in growing measure, as a teacher of those who will be teaching in the Church, this convicts me. So often we take leadership to mean greater privilege, perhaps some greater responsibility over external obligations. However, leadership like Jesus for Jesus really starts and ends with responsibility, and not only responsibility for tasks and processes, but also for character, integrity, faithfulness.


From the desk:

“The word ‘hosanna’ is another liturgical word with performatory power. It is the shout of adoration spoken in the Gospels to Jesus as he rode on the colt into Jerusalem. When spoken by the crowd it not only indicated but also bestowed their praise. They shouted it not to say ‘We feel adoration,’ or ‘We announce or admiration.’ They shouted it to indulge in adoration. As it is used in the liturgy, the word has the same power: ‘Hosanna in the highest,’ we say or sing, indulging in an attitude of praise for the One who came and who is present still.”

-Clayton Schmit, Too Deep for Words, p.51


“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.

 

The Chair and the Desk, 3/9/16

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.”

-Romans 2:15-16

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.

The Chair and the Desk, 3/8/16

From the chair:

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

-Romans 1:28-32

I often read these lists like certain parts of the blood donation check-in: Mental pen poised to check “no, no, no, no.” However, something always goes wrong. If I read the thing at all, I invariably have to check “yes.” But wait! Something’s wrong! I’m supposed to be able to breeze through this! I’m finally realizing I never will in this life. This is who we are. We do these things. Somehow, I’m both envious and boastful. For some reason, I never see the irony in my own slander, given the foolishness of my own decisions.

Yet, though we won’t be free of sin in this age, we can still really change, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Chris, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:12-14)


From the desk:

“It is to be considered just a folly of modern times to alter a system of corrupt ethical life, its political constitution and legislation without changing the religion, to have made a revolution without a reformation, to suppose that with the old religion and its sanctities a political constitution opposed to it can have internal peace and harmony, and that stability can be procured for the laws by external guarantees, e.g. so-called chambers, and the power given them to determine the budget and the like.”

-Hegel, Philosophy of Mind (Clarendon: 2007), p.254

I’m troubled by the vitriol of this American presidential election season, but I also hope to avoid two conclusions: On the one hand, a political tragedy cannot tear apart our world, because our world is made and maintained by a God who works not only in but also in spite of our political realities. On the other, we shouldn’t put too much hope in political salvation, because a mere change in externals, without internal transformation, is a fragile, distant, and impotent change.


 

“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.

 

 

February’s Sermon Tip at ScribblePreach

My friend Nick invited me to write a monthly homiletics piece for his blog, Scribblepreach. Today’s article is about taking a moment to stop and see the congregation before starting to speak. You can read “See us” here.

The Chair and the Desk, 3/3/16

From the chair:

The soldiers were supposed to take Paul to Rome to stand trial. As the journey went on, the prisoner increasingly became the leader. At one point, when the ship was wrecked, the guards planned to kill the prisoners so they could not escape, but Paul not only convinced them to let them live, he led the way when they washed up on the island of Malta, and the whole crew enjoyed a pleasant winter on the island thanks to him.

11 After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead. 12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. 13 And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. 15 And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. 16 And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.”

-Acts 28:11-16

This may be slightly peripheral, but I’m struck again and again throughout the book of Acts by the hospitality of the fledgling Church. It seems wherever they go, there are those called “brothers” who will welcome them in, give thanks to God for them, take care of them. It makes me wonder whether I’ve really continued this heritage, or if I seal myself off from others. In Acts, hospitality is a central characteristic of the new people of God. what about at 201 Loetscher Place?


From the desk:

“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at day-break to the plan found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn.”

-G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, p.213


“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.

 

The Chair and the Desk, 3/2/16

From the chair and the desk exercise bike:

I didn’t read a single word for class today (other work), so today’s quote comes from the exercise bike. Also, the verses that most struck me today go with it, so it all comes as one package:

“Be not wise in thine own eyes.”
“Be not wise in your own conceits.”
“Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”
“Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him.”

-Proverbs 3:7, Romans 12:16, Isaiah 5:21, Proverbs 26:12

“The humble Christian is more apt to find fault with his [or her] own pride than with other [people’s].”

-Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections (Banner of Truth, 1994 ed.), p.261


“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.

The Chair and the Desk, 3/1/16

From the chair:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” 

-Philippians 2:3

A book I was reading quoted this passage this morning, and I was convicted. I don’t think I do this consistently or wholeheartedly as I should. I don’t consider others more significant than myself, but I have every reason to and–at this moment–a desire to. “For it is God who works in [me], both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). How is it that we deserve no credit for Christ’s work, and yet we are given his reward?


From the desk:

“The study of literature is essential; it helps us understand more about ourselves and the world in which we live.” 

-Judy Yordon, Roles in Interpretation (5th ed.), p.4

I can’t say this is always why I read–I also love to enjoy, to escape–but I have found this to be profoundly true. Literature does gives us a window into other people’s thoughts, experiences, and ideas, which can teach us both about the world around us and the people we are.


“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.