Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 13:26
"If I found a key on the road, and discovered it fit and opened a particular lock at my house, I would assume most likely that the key was made by the lock maker. And if I find set of teachings set out in pre-modern oriental society that has proven itself of such universal validity that it has fascinated and satisfied millions of people in every century, including the best minds in history and the simplest hearts, that it has made itself at home in virtually every culture, inspired masterpieces of beauty in every field of art, continues to grow rapidly and spread and assert itself in lands where a century ago the name of Jesus Christ was not even heard; if such teaching so obviously fits the locks of so many human souls, in so many times and so many places, are they likely to be the work of a deceiver or a fool? In fact it is more likely that they were designed by the Heart Maker." -- G.K. Chesterton
Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 11:26
I read something recently that reminded me of the extravagant efforts people made to get near Jesus. Because everywhere he went, people were desperate to get near him. Desperate. Four friends dig a hole through a roof (property damage!) to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus. A tax-collector wants to see Jesus, but he’s too short and the crowds refuse to let him through. So he does something completely shameless and climbs up a tree like a child, desperate just to get a glimpse of Jesus. A leper causes a scandalous scene by approaching a crowd, breaking all social and legal taboos, and pathetically cries out, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" A street prostitute interrupts a gathering of dignified religious leaders meeting with Jesus to wash his feet with her tears and hair – an act that opens her to hateful scorn and sneers.
All these people were absolutely shameless in seeking out Jesus, just to be near him, just to see his face. And I look at myself and I ask – do I have faith like that? Do I love Jesus like that? Or am I reserved, self-protective, risk-aversed? Perhaps it's because I don't feel my desperate need like these other people. Because for them, Jesus was their only hope, their only salvation. And so they were shameless.
So I’ve been thinking about the role of patriotism in the life of a Christian. I think there are two extremes to be avoided. First, we should keep distinct the Kingdom of God and the United States. Sometimes, we fret about certain laws or national trends as if the very fate of Christianity were at stake. Augustine addressed this very issue in his seminal book, The City of God, when Rome was sacked by the Visigoths and Christians fell into dismay. We should never forget that nations will rise and fall, but the Kingdom of God endures forever. But second, patriotism and love of country is a good thing because it binds us to our communities and demonstrates neighborly love. We ought not to be detached and remote, but deeply involved and concerned with local and national affairs. And therefore, as Christians, we maintain this dynamic tension. On the one hand, we are the very best citizens, law-abiding and working for our nation’s prosperity, but on the other hand, we are also citizens of a greater Kingdom, and our ultimate loyalties lies there. And so, we live as dual citizens until the age to come. I also wrote a related blog post about a year ago on politics and Christian faith; you can read it here.
Having come to the half-way point in our sermon series on the Gospel of Mark, we’ll take a brief break this week and start a new summer series on the Psalms, the songbook of God's people.
Have you ever wondered why God placed a songbook in the middle of the Bible? In other words, why is singing and poetry essential to the Christian faith? It reminds me of this scene from Jerry Maguire, when he has just secured a contract with Cushman, the expected number one draft pick in the NFL. Jerry Maguire is beyond ecstatic. And on the drive home, there’s this funny scene where he’s searching on the radio for just the right song so he can properly express his joy, until finally he finds Tom Petty's "Free Fallin," and with great effusiveness, he belts out the chorus.
The Bible is saying that we can not understand the fullness of the human condition until we sing it. And therefore, God gives us a book of songs to explore and understand the full range of the human experience: depression, fear, joy, thanksgiving. And so for the next several weeks, not only will we preach the Psalms, but we will also sing the Psalms. Through the summer, we'll work a few Psalms into our worship singing. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." --Colossians 3:16
Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 June 2014 16:34
In Sunday school, we looked at the Mosaic Covenant. The difficulty is how to understand the complex web of both gracious promises (“I will surely save you”) and conditional language (“obey and live; disobey and perish”). Because on the face of it, they seem at odds. Either God relates to us by grace or by works. It can’t be both.
The answer is that the Mosaic Covenant is fundamentally of grace. This is Paul’s argument in Galatians 3:17, when he says the Mosaic law does not cancel out the promises of grace given to Abraham. So also, in Exodus 19:4, God reminds his people that they were brought out of Egypt on eagles’ wings. JRR Tolkien was inspired by this biblical imagery in The Lord of the Rings, when giant eagles come to rescue Gandalf at Isengard (see picture to right). The point is that when you are being carried on eagles' wings, you are doing nothing, contributing nothing. And so the Mosaic Covenant is essentially of grace.
However, in the Mosaic Covenant, there is also law. Obey and the people will flourish in the land; disobey and the people will be banished into exile. As Paul argues in Galatians 3:24, the Mosaic law was a tutor to teach us that we cannot stay in the Promised Land (Eden) on the basis of our obedience, but that we need a savior, Jesus Christ, who would fulfill the law for us as our substitute. This is the point of the whole drama of redemptive-history. The law cannot save - only Jesus can save. This is the gospel according to the Old Testament.