The community of Christ is being built

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17-19, NIV)

Continue reading “The community of Christ is being built”

The shallow soil of the American church

I am preparing for Sunday where we will focus on the parables. While I will focus more closely on another pair of parables out of Matthew 13, I was reading through the whole chapter and came to these words from Stanley Hauerwas on the Parable of the Sower.  Continue reading “The shallow soil of the American church”

The Holy Spirit and prayer

That the Holy Spirit “will teach you everything, and remind you” of all that Jesus said is immensely reassuring. None of us is born Christian. We must learn the faith, and in the Holy Spirit we see that God loves us enough to teach us all we need to know to be with God. Jesus commands us to do some extraordinary things in his name but never commands us to attempt to obey him by ourselves. Jesus tells us some astounding truth that is easy to forget. Therefore the advocate reminds us. Here is truth we cannot teach ourselves, truth that is not only a great mystery to us but also truth that we, in our human sin, cannot attain on our own. Therefore the advocate is a truth-teller. — Hauerwas and Willimon, The Holy Spirit, p. 19

 

Holiness, Prayer, and the Holy Spirit

“Prayer is the crucial practice through which we are drawn into the life of the Trinity.” — Hauerwas and Willimon, The Holy Spirit

In Romans 8 Paul talks about the Spirit interceding for us with deep groanings. With prayer, partnered with the Spirit, we are caught up into the life of God.

“To be so ‘caught’ is to be made holy.” (Hauerwas and Willimon)

 

Dead and Not Knowing It

There is a movie called “Frequency” that deals a little with communicating over a 30 year barrier. A son communicates with his father over an old ham radio, but the father had died as firefighter 30 years before. The son saves the dad’s life, but then endangers his mother because of a serial killer. (It’s a long story, so hopefully you’ve seen the movie or will rent it.)

One line I love is the son, now a cop, confronts the serial killer in the present. His plan is to get evidence to cops 30 years before so the serial killer is stopped before his mom is killed. As the son/cop gets ready to leave, he tells the serial killer, “You’re going down, pal. You just don’t know it yet.”

The serial killer had already been caught. He just didn’t realize it.

This may be the case for much of American Christianity. Stanley Hauerwas makes the case in this column.

The problem is that in many ways, especially in my denomination, things seem to be going well. We have some pretty huge churches. We are planting new churches all time time. (We’re ignoring the older ones, but who cares about the old ones? We’re a throw-away society anyway.) In many ways, there were would be a lot of ministers in my denomination who might read Hauerwas’s thoughts and think the guy is off his rocker.

The problem is, we’re dead. We just don’t know it yet. We have created a place that has become far more American than Christian and just because we have certain numbers in place doesn’t mean we have all the priorities right.

That is why in America hospitals have become our cathedrals and physicians are our priests. I’d even argue that America’s almost pathological reliance on medicine is but a domestic manifestation of its foreign policy. America is a culture of death because Americans cannot conceive of how life is possible in the face of death. And thus “freedom” comes to stand for the attempt to live as though we will not die.

The church must wake up. We have bought into the American god far too long.

We are now facing the end of Protestantism. America’s god is dying. Hopefully, that will leave the church in America in a position where it has nothing to lose. And when you have nothing to lose, all you have left is the truth. So I am hopeful that God may yet make the church faithful – even in America.

Do We Understand the Times?

I just finished my first Stanley Hauerwas article. I have heard his name for quite awhile but had never ventured into any of his writings. I finally linked to one and read it. Normally when I read such intelligent pieces having a dictionary by my side is helpful. Even that didn’t help. I understood the words. Individually. When he put them together in the manner he wrote… well, that’s where I got off track.

One of the problems of good theologians is they are horrible illustrators. They simply do not give concrete examples of how this may work out in our world. It sounds great… but maybe it’s not so great. I’m not sure.

For the most part, I am fairly sure I like what he said.

To the question I posed as the title of my blog, I am pretty sure he would say we do NOT even NEED to understand our times. At least, not in the way we want to understand our times. We keep wanting to put labels on things, and that is not what the Church should be worried about.

“Christians, therefore, have little stake in the question of whether we live in a postmodern time… Israel and the Church are not characters in a larger story called ‘world,’ but rather ‘world’ is a character in God’s story as known through the story that Israel is the Church. Without them there is no world to have a story.”

See what I mean? I have no idea if I got the idea or not!

One of the ideas he pushed was the Church does indeed have enemies. I could not agree more. He did not care to identify any enemies, so I am not sure if I agree with him beyond that point. For instance, the devil didn’t seem to come up and I remember this passage from Ephesians 6…

At any rate, he is firm that the Church does indeed have enemies. It’s interesting because we live in an age where we try desperately NOT to have enemies, unless it is with some other branch of the Church. We would just rather fight ourselves. We think it’s cool we can vote for a Democrat, smoke a pipe, and drink a beer, so we slam conservative, fundamentalist Christians. How cool.

We think it’s stupid to smoke a pipe and drink and beer and can’t imagine voting for someone who would allow the unborn to be killed, so we… you get the picture.

Hauerwas aims right at that presumption. The Church tries not to have enemies, but we make up standard ones to replace the real ones.

“Christianity, as the illumination of the human condition, is not a Christianity at war with the world. Liberal Christianity, of course, has enemies, but they are everyone’s enemies — sexism, racism, homophobia.”

I found that quote interesting in light of the academic conference I attended last weekend where one plenary session spent all their time on those three “enemies.” And it was a Pentecostal conference! (When did we go liberal?)

I honestly do not see where Hauerwas takes this whole “enemies” thing. You can read the article and instruct me. I’d love to know. (Please be kind to me. I’m simple.)

I honestly DO know we have an enemy. It’s fairly clear in Scripture. One of my Lenten readings was in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus confronts the Gadarene demoniac and has to ask the demons their name.

“My name is Legion, for we are many.”

I can so clearly remember my Church History professor, Walter Sundberg, give a lecture on Satan as our enemy using that text. Satan will crop up in any way possible to take down the people of God. So, I know we have an enemy. He comes in many forms.

But we have a Victor. WE are the winning team as the Church of the living God. Remember these words from Luther’s hymn:

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.