My duty to the Bible’s living interpretive tradition

bibleI had a good discussion yesterday with my pastor covenant group about our discernment process as a church in the wake of the Frank Schaefer trial and controversy. I know that I got a little hot-headed in the debate online so I wanted to offer more circumspect reflections. I believe that each disciple of Jesus Christ not only has the right but actually the duty to contribute to the ongoing living interpretive tradition of our faith. Some Christians think that the Bible doesn’t require any interpretation, but I contend that the way we interpret it is by living it and sharing our testimony with each other. Continue reading

The holiness of belonging to *this* world (with @BrianZahnd)

In Brian Zahnd’s May 26th sermon “New Creation (Not Evacuation),” he confronts the neo-Gnosticism of the evangelicals who think we can trash the Earth because God’s just going to blow it up anyway, taking on in particular the key prooftext of the rapture fan club, 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Zahnd uses the analogy of going to the airport to receive a relative who’s been away on a long trip, like a military deployment. People who read rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 are like someone who goes to the airport to pick up Jesus, except that they’ve packed their suitcases to get on an outbound plane rather than getting their house ready to receive Him. There’s a lot of good stuff in Brian’s sermon but the best part is a poem he wrote about the holiness of belonging to this world.

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The fate of “those who destroy the Earth”: Revelation 11:18

While I’m down here in the Dominican Republic, I’ve been reading some theology books in Spanish to improve my fluency. One of them is called La Palabra No Está Encadenada (“The word is not enchained”) by Xavier Alegre. He has a chapter on the book of Revelation that interprets it as “Christian resistance and prophetic hope.” Revelation is usually the anti-environmentalist prooftext par excellence. If God’s going to destroy the world anyway, why should we care about driving SUV’s (as Mark Driscoll jokingly tweeted)? But what the twenty four elders around the throne say to God in Revelation 11:18 ought to give the Al Gore-haters and climate change-deniers some pause:

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The kings of the Earth and the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:24)

The lectionary reading for last week was taken from Revelation 21-22 which describes the New Jerusalem at the end of John’s apocalyptic vision. A single verse in this reading completely debunks every irresponsible interpretation of Revelation by the doomsday-lusters and Left Behind series fans: Revelations 21:24 — “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of earth will bring their glory into it.” Continue reading

Moses’ veil or mirrors of glory? 2 Corinthians 3:12-18

I  had a very uncanny experience today with the Daily Office. In a blog post this morning, I wrote, “My role is less to bring truth down to them from Mt. Sinai and more to name the truth that the Spirit is already breathing in their midst.” Well, what did God put into the Daily Office Old Testament reading today but Exodus 34:29-35 when Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai and has to put a veil over his face because he’s glowing too brightly? It made me tremble to read it because I thought God was directly confronting and contradicting what I had just blogged about. I wrote in my journal: “Teach me how to understand when I need to go to Sinai and when I need to seek Your word from my people.” But then I read the Daily Office epistle, 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2, in which Paul uses Moses’ veil as a foil for the way in which God’s truth should be sought under Christ. And that pretty well sent me into orbit. Continue reading

It’s the beginning (again), not the end!

beginning is nearWell 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