Here's a brief homily I used to introduce the Lord's Supper on Sunday:
The cross is seen as the main symbol of Christianity, and rightly so. The cross clearly symbolizes Jesus' suffering and death, which is essential for faith and the gospel. Unfortunately, the other important symbols--the bread and the cup--can be easily downplayed or totally ignored. However, we cannot overlook them because Jesus used the bread and the cup to interpret and explain his death. Jesus did not die as an inspirational martyr under a corrupt system; he died for us. "This is my body given for you." And his blood was not shed to display his guilt as a lawbreaker; it was shed to begin a new covenant--a new relationship between us and God--that manifests itself in the forgiveness of sin. "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, for the forgiveness of sins." Thus we see that Jesus' death isn't the end of a life, but the beginning of a new relationship between God and those who trust in him. So let us honor and celebrate his death by taking the bread and the cup.
“The systematic theologian: a lamentable creature, whose reach exceeds his grasp, responsibility outdistances his competence; he is dependent on the Bible as his foundation, yet he lacks the exegete’s mastery of the language, textual intricacies and historical backgrounds. He can only aspire to the analytic rigor of philosophers. Historians shake their heads in dismay at his hasty generalizations, and longsuffering social scientists wait for him to say something relevant.”
We're nearing the 7th anniversary of the release of Napoleon Dynamite, in my opinion a third-rate comedy stuck in first gear for eighty-two minutes, yet it still managed to suck in an undeserving $47 million (thanks IMDB). Since the movie challenges Star Wars and The Sandlot in the realm of pop culture ubiquity, a plot recap would be both hopelessly redundant and borderline nonsensical because there is no plot (thus also challenging Seinfeld's title of "the show about nothing").
In case my tone was not accurately conveyed in the above paragraph, let me be explicit: I did not like Napoleon Dynamite. But that's not the point of this post, so put down your stones; I am writing to admit to something else. Over the past few days I watched little bits of several different "comedy" films on Netflix Instant Watch, and I started asking the question that I often default to: What inspired this? I enjoy discovering the origins and beginnings of things, so I turned my mental gaze to the origins/inspiration behind these films I watched. And time after weary time, no matter how much I tried to shake the thought like a leech on my back, I had to honestly conclude:
Napoleon Dynamite is the most influential comedy of my generation
As much as ND draws on other comedy traditions (especially 80s romantic comedies), ND is in a class by itself. No film before it had a cast made up of entirely awkward characters. No film before it had more "awkard" scenes and dialogue than ND. And now, most films and TV shows thrive on the Dynamite approach (pardon the pun) to less jokes and more "weird."
So I witness to Napoleon Dynamite's cultural influence, as much as I want to persist. Napoleon, you win.
There's a March sale over at cbd.com, where you can nab Michael Bird's 'Are You the One Who Is to Come?' for a sweet price of $3.99. This book is a fascinating read where its depth and scope go beyond its length (208 pages).
I'm sort of offended that you're still reading this post; you should've bought 4 copies of the book by now.
I went to a meeting for the church elders, and to put it frankly: I didn't fit in.
I don't have the ability to think outside the box on big issues. I can't consider all the issues that goes into making good decisions for the health and needs of the church that haven't already been laid out with an appended pros and cons chart. Thinking about creative ways in reaching our local context--not a chance, 'cause I need about 15 hours to think about the different social and ethnic groups in our local context (which will take me about 3 hours to finally settle on an adequate definition of what that means!). And I haven't even gotten to money matters!
I cannot conceptualize a grand vision and three action steps to get the ball rolling. I didn't even know something had to be changed! Everyone else's ideas were machine gunning out, while my ideas were flopping out like a broken rubber band. My mind is too slow and I get hung up on irrelevant side issues. In terms of ministry production, I'm dial-up in a 4G world.
So what can I do? More specifically, what good can I do? What can I do if i can't create, or reason through possible ministry ventures?
This passage is certainly on the go-to list for a Christian perspective of money and material goods. If the passage comes up in a Bible study or a casual Christian conversation, I'm sure the majority of those present will explain it in terms like "focus on kingdom values, not earthly" or "use your money for God things, not me things." Well and good.
Yet, I am curious as to whether this understanding best fits the context in which Jesus says this. As is well-known, Jesus speaks this Sermon on the Mount (whether he advertised it as such, we do not know) to those who joined themselves to his movement (the 12 disciples), as well as the people sitting around overhearing it. So I wonder: How would they have understood his summons to abandon storing up "treasures on earth" (that is, money and nice possessions) and instead relocate them to heaven? I wonder about this because although the text does not comment on the income levels of the people present, I'm going to assume it is not much because Jesus didn't seem to interact too often with the cultural elite. And we do hear the disciples say elsewhere that they have given up all they have to follow him, and they're the ones Jesus is primarily speaking to. So what "treasure" do they have to store up?
So I wonder if taking into account the financial situation of the people present may lead us to a more suitable understanding of Jesus' teaching here. I don't know what that will look like; it may be more like a facelift than total reconstructive surgery, who knows.
I am a critic, firm and critical. But I am not the good kind. I am a prideful critic.
When it comes to Bible-y things, I assume I know lots. And not only lots of facts, but lots of answers. So when other people try to speak about things within my realm of knowledge, I don't consider their ideas valid, but see them as guilty until proven innocent, intellectually intenable until conceptually possible. It's a hostile defense mechanism established under my self-aggrandizing regime. The thoughts are of others are immediately held suspect, tortured, interrogated and released with cold indifference, if realeased at all. It seems as though grace has not penetrated my sphere of intellectual property, since I worked hard to acquire this monopoly on biblical and theological truth [roll eyes now]. While on occasion a refreshing spirit of humility and charity may descend from on high, too often I labor as a temple without The Presence, a person that loves self with heart-soul-mind, but doesn't reciprocate that love to others because I am not loving the LORD first.
JETS June 1, 1984, page 245, Daniel Schibler's review of Carl Armerding's The Old Testament and Criticism: 'May this book contribute to end the sad phenomenon of many evangelicals--viz., using scripture like a drunk would a lamppost: for support rather than for illumination.'
Nicholas Perrin's 'Jesus the Temple' is a helpful and thought-provoking book that investigates how Jesus and the early Christian movement related to the Jerusalem temple. The book sets up the discussion by taking passages from Paul and other early Christian writers where language of the temple is used (1 Cor 3:9-11; 6:16, 19-20), of which Perrin asks where the source of this 'Temple identity' came from. His answer is Jesus, which he seeks to demonstrate by spending the next 185 pages arguing that Jesus' actions and teachings constituted an alternative temple movement.
For its small size (190 pages +32 pages of references and indices), this book covers a lot of ground. Perrin sets this book in the midst of debates about the historical Jesus and his relation to Paul and the other New Testament writers (what did Paul know of Jesus? What continuity is there between Jesus' teachings and the rest of the NT?). However, the bulk of the book (three of the five chapters) is devoted to Jesus' words and deeds that (in Perrin's mind) ought to be seen as 'Temple acts' (my words, not his). Let me allow Perrin to speak for himself: "Jesus of Nazareth's most distinctive activities, healings/exorcisms, and meals were public signs that he had reconstituted time, space, and a people around himself, the new convergence of heaven and earth, the new temple" (p 179).
To this reviewer, the most illuminating discussion was on the topic of Jesus and the poor (chapter 4). Here, Perrin treats the thorny issues of Jesus' teachings on money (the rich young ruler incident, etc.) and how they relate to his temple program. While trying not to gush too much, I urge scholars and pastors (if I must dichotomize the two) to wrestle with Perrin's understanding of Jesus' poverty ethics. He seeks to go beyond the social justice vs. spiritualizing antithesis, which helps provide a more nuanced understanding of Jesus' view of riches and poverty.
Lastly, historical Jesus scholarship is blessed with not only gifted scholars, but gifted writers as well. Perrin joins this enviable group, with his consistently clever turns of phrase and penchant for illustrations. Occasionally his style would impede the clarity of the discussion, but on the whole his style made this book a delight to read and engage with.
Perrin has provided New Testament readers with a fresh perspective on the mission of Jesus that does justice to material in the four gospels. Those interested in the historical Jesus, New Testament theology, and Jesus' ethics will find plenty of thought-provoking insights here. I hope this book would be widely received, and I cannot wait for the follow up volumes from Perrin.
(NOTE: This was a copy of the review I posted on Amazon. I'm looking to interact with this book more in later posts)