SECOND NAZARENE
  There is also the miracle of the daughter of Jairus.
FIRST NAZARENE
  Yea, that is sure. No man can gainsay it.
HERODIAS
  Those men are mad. They have looked too long on the moon. Command them to be silent.
HEROD
  What is this miracle of the daughter of Jairus?
FIRST NAZARENE
  The daughter of Jairus was dead. This Man raised her from the dead.
HEROD
  How! He raises people from the dead?
FIRST NAZARENE
  Yea, sire; He raiseth the dead.
HEROD
  I do not wish Him to do that. I forbid Him to do that. I suffer no man to raise the dead. This Man must be found and told that I forbid Him to raise the dead. Where is this Man at present?
SECOND NAZARENE
  He is in every place, my lord, but it is hard to find Him.

–Oscar Wilde, Solome, as sited in NT Wright’s Surprised by Hope

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And transforming my Mother’s Day graveside visit.  Just a sample from my latest read, Surprised by Hope:

I hope that those who take seriously the argument of this present book will examine the current practice of the church, from its official liturgies to all the unofficial bits and pieces that surround them, and try to discover fresh ways of expressing, embodying, and teaching what the New Testament actually teaches [about death, resurrection, & heaven] rather than the mangled, half-understood, and vaguely held theories and opinions we are meeting [in our world].  Frankly, what we have at the moment isn’t, as the old liturgies used to say, “the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead” but the vague and fuzzy optimism that somehow things may work out in the end … What we say about death and resurrection gives shape and color to everything else.  If we are not careful, we will offer merely a “hope” that is no longer a surprise, no longer able to transform lives and communities in the present, no longer generated by the resurrection of Jesus himself and looking forward to the promised new heavens and new earth …

Easter was when Hope in person surprised the whole world by coming forward from the future into the present.  The ultimate future hope remains a surprise, partly because we don’t know when it will arrive and partly because at present we have only images and metaphors for it, leaving us to guess that the reality will be far greater, and more surprising, still.  And the intermediate hope–the things that happen in the present time to implement Easter and anticipate the final day–are always surprising because, left to ourselves, we lapse into a kind of collusion with entropy, acquiescing in the general belief that things may be getting worse but there’s nothing much we can do about them.  And we are wrong.  Our task in the present … is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second. 

This was a favorite phrase from one of my seminary professors.  (Not your average systematics-guy.) 

Today, in gearing up for the Intuitive Leadership  conference I’ll be attending next week, I was re-reading a portion of Tim Keel’s book (also called Intuitive Leadership).  The following paragraph stood out as just one part of what means to say we are first creatures and then Christians:

Because of the incarnation, people and churches must always contend with the limitations of our creatureliness.  We always access and thus must subsequently express the life of God with and through the cultural tools at our disposal.  This does not make all tools equal or valuable.  The task requires discernment and wisdom.  But because of the reality of our limitations, our language and communal faith expressions are always provisional and in need of reframing and re-forming around the continued revelation of God in Christ.  Moreover, we must be in constant dialogue with those with whom we differ (in concept, culture, or class), whether they are contemporary or ancient, in order to access and submit ourselves to the full wisdom of the church animated by the Holy Spirit.

hosanna

March 16, 2008

hosanna.jpg

I used to think this popular holy-week-word meant something like “praise God.”  It’s actually a Hebrew expression that means, literally, “save now.”  Psalm 118:25 in one word.

Kind of makes the palm branches seem a little more militant (than celebrative), huh?  God’s approach to His Kingdom coming here and now seems so diametrically opposed to our propensity to force the same. 

Another time, tears came to Jesus when he looked out over Jerusalem and realized the fate awaiting that fabled city.  He let out a cry … “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”  I sense in that spasm of emotional pain something akin to what a parent feels when a son or daughter goes astray, flaunting freedom, rejecting everything he or she was brought up to believe.  Or the pain of a man or woman who has just learned a spouse has left — the pain of a jilted lover.  It is a helpless, crushing pain of futility, and it staggers me to realize that the Son of God himself emitted a cry of helplessness in the face of human freedom. 

–Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew

a few reminders

January 19, 2008

Should not one dare then to talk about Abraham? I think one should. If I were to talk about him, I would first depict the pain of his trial. To that end I would like a leech suck all the dread and distress and torture out of a father’s sufferings, so that I might describe what Abraham suffered, whereas all the while he nevertheless believed. I would remind the audience that the journey lasted three days and a good part of the fourth, yea, that these three and a half days were infinitely longer than the few thousand years which separate me from Abraham. Then I would remind them that, in my opinion, every man dare still turn around ere he begins such an undertaking, and every instant he can repentantly turn back. If the hearer does this, I fear no danger, nor am I afraid of awakening in people an inclination to be tried like Abraham. But if one would dispose of a cheap edition of Abraham, and yet admonish everyone to do likewise, then it is ludicrous.

Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

kenya.jpgCain’s act of murder has been described as “meaningless” (Zenger 1983, 17).  It was not; murders rarely are.  It was governed by a faultless logic, provided Cain’s premises were right.  Premise 1: “If Abel is who God declared him to be [regarded by God], then I am not who I understand myself to be.”  Premise 2:  “I am who I understand myself to be.”  Premise 3: “I cannot change God’s declaration about Abel.”  Conclusion: “Therefore, Abel cannot continue to be.”  Cain’s identity was constructed from the start in relation to Abel; he was great in relation to Abel’s “nothingness.”  When God pronounced Abel “better,” Cain either had to readjust radically his identity, or eliminate Abel.  The act of exclusion has its own “good reasons.” 

The power of sin rests less on the insuppressible urge of an effect than on the persuasiveness of the good reasons, generated by a perverted self in order to maintain its own false identity.  Of course, these reasons are persuasive only to the self.  God would not have been convinced …

–Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace

perhaps

January 2, 2008

hagia_sophia_vestibule_christ_mosaic.jpg

So what difference does this doctrine of the Incarnation make?  What insights does it allow?  How does it impact our prayers?  Our worship?  Perhaps the simplest answer is this: it means that God is Christ-like.

–Allister McGrath, Incarnation (Truth and Christian Imagination)