I’ve been reading a very stimulating and provocative book by Pauline Biblical scholar Michael Gorman called Inhabiting the Cruciform God. Gorman argues that the central point Paul has to make is that Jesus’ cross reveals the nature of God and that the way we are justified and reconciled to God is by joining Him in His cruciform existence. Gorman claims that to Paul, God is not the triumphalist emperor/military hero that popular American evangelicalism wants Him to be, but rather someone whose nature is to continually empty Himself for the sake of others, the most perfect illustration being the cross itself. This got me thinking about heaven and hell in a very different way that is partly inspired by C.S. Lewis’s Great Divorce but in one way, the opposite of Lewis’s metaphor. Continue reading
This week’s Journey to Eternity sermon is about welcome. The word welcome is one way you could summarize God’s mission to humanity through Christ. Jesus eliminates any obstacle to our welcome at God’s heavenly feast through the sacrifice of His body on the cross. For our sermon text, I looked at Luke 19:1-10, the story of Zacchaeus, in which Zacchaeus is saved from his sins not by being chastised or argued into a corner, but through Jesus inviting himself over for lunch. The sermon audio and manuscript are both below.
Growing up evangelical, I had drilled into me the dichotomy between “the law” and “grace.” We become broken record players, reminding ourselves and other people that we are saved by faith and not by following the rules. But then we often substitute ideological correctness (which is how we define “faith”) for following God’s rules as the “work” that saves us. I’m convinced that without a change in how we understand salvation, we cannot escape some form of works-righteousness. If salvation is what God does in response to an evaluation of something we do, say, or believe, then whatever we do, say, or believe is the “work” that justifies us. For salvation to be justification by faith, it must be our transformation into really believing that we have a generous God whose law is not supposed to be an onerous test of our fidelity but a gift for our benefit. That is the subject of my second sermon in the series Journey to Eternity: Continue reading
Tomorrow night I will be starting a new sermon series at LifeSign called the Journey to Eternity. My hope is to offer a fresh perspective on eternal life that is more faithful to what the Bible actually teaches than the depictions of eternal life in popular Christian discourse which have created so many stumbling blocks for people who are seeking God’s truth with sincerity. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, Bruxy Cavey at the Meeting House preached a sermon using Pinocchio as a metaphor for our existence as humans who are justified in Christ but have not yet entered into the full humanity we will fully receive when we are glorified. I was listening to it on the podcast as I worked in the Dominican Republic. I ended up using Pinocchio a little differently in my sermon that I preached in Santiago this past Sunday but the basic topic was the same: the new humanity we receive from Jesus Christ that Paul writes about in Ephesians 4:17-24. So here’s a basic paraphrase. Continue reading
Sometimes you hear songs that only your eyes know how to talk about. I’ve spent all day talking with my eyes as I listen to a very beautiful album of songs by Zach Sobiech, a kid who died of cancer yesterday after recording an album in the final months of his life. Zach formed a band called A Firm Handshake with his lifelong friend Sammy Brown when he learned that he had less than a year to live. I’ve spent time that I don’t have trying and failing to summon up the right combination of adjectives to describe his music about living richly in the shadow of death. Continue reading
I listened to a second podcast today from Company of Burning Hearts, a British charismatic mystic group I recently discovered. It’s a bit out there in terms of the encounters of the Holy Spirit being described, but the theology is sound so far. In any case, Justin Abraham says in the podcast that the church today is a lot like Nicodemus. We don’t get what it means to be born from beyond. Actually he said a different word that I can’t remember, but “beyond” captures the sense of what he was saying. We think our conversion is about having an official datetime stamp when we can say that we were “born again” so that we get through security at the pearly gates, while what Jesus is actually discussing with Nicodemus are the implications of being born into a different reality. Continue reading
It sounds like an ignorant hippie thing to say and the greatest possible contradiction. Eternity is a word for forever, for things of grave significance. A moment is definitively fleeting, unimportant. How could eternal and moment be used in the same sentence? And yet, this was the paradoxical insight shared in a video at our church men’s retreat last weekend by Ed Dobson, a famous pastor who has been living with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) since 2001. As Ed puts it, “When you are worried about the future, it’s hard to find God. When you’re living in the moment, God’s right there with you.” I think the reason America is so spiritually emaciated both inside the church and without is because we are a culture that is built entirely around not living in the moment.
I had a powerful encounter with today’s Daily Office reading. The gospel reading was John 17, one of the most beautiful prayers in the Bible that Jesus prays immediately before being taken into custody. I’ve read this prayer dozens of times at least. But this time the third verse stopped me completely in my tracks: This is eternal life: that they may know you the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. Continue reading
Well today is the last day on the ancient Mayan calendar, so I expect there will be a lot of jokes and memes all over social media. Since the doomsday prediction is coming from a different religion, I doubt that the far-right fringe of the Christian community will embrace it. I did see a new phrase that has been coined by the Daily Beast: the Barackalypse, which refers to the way that Obama’s reelection has sealed the world’s fate. I remember when the turn of the millennium was approaching, there was a lot of excitement in the fundamentalist Christian community that some members of my family are connected to. They were stockpiling food and digging private wells, yearning so hard for Y2K to bring about a global computer crash. I’ll bet that more than half of the American middle-class secretly wants for the world to end. We have intractable social problems; we have few authentic friendships; our jobs are tedious; life feels like an exhausting treadmill. The thing is, this world which seems like an inevitable dreariness really can disappear without volcanoes and meteors and seven bowls of wrath. Jesus began a new world a long time ago; it’s just that very few of His followers actually live in the kingdom He created. Continue reading