Mark Driscoll’s “working class” bloody Old Testament Jesus

Jesus-gunI’m not a pacifist or a pansy (other than the fact that I’m not very good at sports, I don’t own a gun, and I don’t see much value in  gratuitous displays of macho-ness). So I don’t feel attacked by Mark Driscoll’s recent assertion that Jesus is not a pacifist pansy. I really have tried to avoid writing anything about Pastor Mark for a long time since I didn’t like the fact that his name was getting almost as big as Jesus in my tag cloud. But one of the paragraphs in his latest infamous blog post offers a revealing illustration of what Mark Driscoll wants Jesus to look like and why. Continue reading

Why I hate retributive justice

I just found out that a kid I love a lot who’s a very smart and beautiful person has been arrested for a shooting that sounds like it’s a pretty cut and dry case, which will effectively end his chances at having a future. This kid’s little brother shot and killed his sister a couple of months ago. I was their youth pastor. I helped them start a soccer team called Sangre de Cristo. We got the uniforms of the Spanish national team the year they won the World Cup (before they won the World Cup!) mostly because their uniforms looked cool and they were the “right” color, red, since none of my kids would have worn them if they were blue. It was supposed to be the inspiring “Dangerous Minds” story about how they walked away from gangs and enrolled in all AP classes and all went to Harvard for college. Things don’t happen like they do in the movies. Continue reading

Peace and hunger (Micah 3:5-6)

“Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry ‘Peace’ when they have something to eat, but declare war against those who put nothing into their mouths. Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without revelation” (Micah 3:5-6). This is an excerpt from the Daily Office Old Testament reading for October 11th, 2012. It raises a question: what does peace really mean? For those who have enough to eat, peace simply means the absence of physical violence and bloodshed. To them, a peaceful society is one in which the laws are followed and people who break the laws are caught and punished. But this is not the case for those who have nothing to put in their mouths. Their hunger is violence against them and the fact that the responsibility for their hunger is not traceable to a specific person who broke a specific law only exacerbates this violence. We should be called out by these two verses from Micah, because they describe the attitude that many Americans have today. Continue reading

Greg Boyd and the shadow of the cross

This summer I started listening to the podcast of Greg Boyd, a Minnesota pastor who ruffles a lot of feathers in the reformed tradition from which he comes. Boyd has spent most of the last two months in the second chapter of Colossians. He just started a new sermon series called “the shadow of the cross” based on Colossians 2:17-18: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” In a sermon a couple of weeks ago, Boyd uses this basic paradigm of contrasting the shadow with the reality of Christ to tackle one of the most difficult problems in Christian theology: reconciling the nationalist warrior God of the Old Testament with the revelation of God through Christ in the New Testament. Boyd offers a way of reading the Old Testament through the lens of the cross in which God’s depiction as a warrior god is a shadow of the reality that is to come in Christ. Continue reading

What should Christians say about guns?

In the wake of the Colorado shooting tragedy, there’s been a lot of talk about why the politicians are not talking about guns. The only thing that President Obama is willing to say concretely is that he is committed to protecting 2nd amendment rights. Over the past twenty years, our politicians have been consistently punished electorally for advocating any sort of gun control, so it’s become a toxic issue that they want to avoid touching at all costs. The NRA has never been in a more powerful position in our society. In this context, what are Christians supposed to say about guns? Certainly plenty of Christians own guns for hunting and protecting their families. Other Christians who believe that Christianity requires a radical commitment to nonviolence would say that guns are always bad and no Christian should own one. I’m not sure exactly where I fall on that spectrum, but I do think that Christians have a responsibility to say something. Continue reading

How can blood tear down a wall? Sacrifice in Ephesians 2:11-22

This past weekend, I preached on Ephesians 2:11-22. It’s one of my favorite passages because it talks about how Jesus tears down the walls between us. And at first glance it would seem like a great opportunity to talk about how important it is for the church to fight racism and take on all the “us vs. them” conflicts in our day that build walls between people. But there was a line that confronted me in the passage that I felt like I couldn’t just treat as a rhetorical flourish as I’d so often read it before. I needed to be able to explain it. Paul says, “You who were far have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” That line doesn’t make any sense unless you read it with some understanding of the central purpose of sacrifice in the community of the ancient Israelites. Only through the lens of sacrifice can we understand how the blood of Jesus can tear down the wall that had kept the Gentiles out of the Jewish temple. Continue reading