There are some very simple statements that are rarely expressed that are the seed bed of faith. You get close to them if you look at the world and just say what you see. Do you see millions of atoms randomly moving around? Do you see a tragic beauty? Maybe just beauty? Probably your answer to that sets your course. You presuppositions typically set your logic.
I was converted in a way to our VBS this year. It did a masterful job of talking about some of the unexpressed basic assumptions. Who is God and how does He act in regards to us? What are your gut level thoughts and presuppositions about God? VBS took Psalm 139 as the text. I pays every Christian to bring those basic thoughts to life every now and then. The world and our adversary will try and convince you that you are a fool for thinking something like: God loves you no matter what. But that is what God has revealed about himself in the Bible, in Creation and most clearly in Christ, in the cross. Those simple statements are the simple milk of faith.
[Note – in the podcast the sermon starts about the 5:00 mark]
Here is the Spotlight Drama CD as a zip file. Just download and extract to disk to see the story we built this week. (Warning! This is a large file. It could take 20 mins to download. If you have trouble downloading, give me a call or an email and I’ll forward that way or mail you a disk.)
Finally, this was a great VBS. If I had to admit it, I was a little worried about the theme at the start. But, by the end this was a great VBS. It got the core gospel message across very simply for many who might never have heard it, or only heard it at long interval. Let me tell you a little way I mean. Here are the five/(six) phrases that someone who attended this VBS will leave with.
1. God Created You
2. God Listens to You
3. God watches over You
4. God loves you no matter what
5. God gives good gifts
(The sneaky Lutheran liturgical propaganda response (inside joke, sorry) to all of them was #6. Thank You God!)
The exacting theologian in me would hem and haw and tweak things. (Most of that has to do with one thing. What we see as good gifts and what God sees are often quite different especially for the young in faith. That Gap in understanding is what leads to things like the prosperity gospel or Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.) The practical theologian says yeah, it’s that simple. It is all by God’s grace in Jesus Christ. In an age that is largely biblically or theologically illiterate, that introduction is a good proclamation. That is the milk of faith. As we live the Christian life we discover the riches of the Kingdom. Give me the Pandas at the start.
The office of the Keys is all about who has the authority, responsibility and accountability to forgive and bind sins. The good news in Lutheran doctrine is that Christ himself rules the kingdom of the gospel. If sins are forgiven here, they have already been forgiven in heaven. Heaven acts first. And heaven acts through the means of grace – baptism, Lord’s supper, confession/absolution, preaching. In those methods the grace of God through Jesus Christ is proclaimed; it is announced. The words have power and are received simply by faith.
That faith is given or revealed by the Father (in the son and through the work of the Spirit to complete the Trinitarian formula). We are not left without proof. Faith itself is a proof. The work of Jesus is the greatest revelation. But faith is a revelation. Peter did not confess Christ by flesh and blood but by the revelation of the Father. Same with us. Hard teaching or pure comfort. Either God is still at work on an hourly basis and involved personally with you, or faith is something you can’t accept.
This was a short article from the WSJ that explores some of the background behind a few recent news stories. The stories I’m thinking of most recently are: the Calvin College professor named in the article, Michelle Bachmann and the pope/antichrist or on submission, Tim Tebow, and World Youth Day.
Think for a second of all the people behind those stories – a college professor, a congresswoman running for president, a quarterback, a pope and thousands of largely western (i.e. wealthy) Roman Catholic Kids. All those people are Christian. One of the easy ways to tell that is look at the coverage they all got in the standard media which usually boils down to, “look at these kooks, we don’t get them, but there seem to be a lot of them, look at all the Tebow Jerseys and they guy has played 3 games”. My guess is that if you put the professor, the NFL quarterback and the pope into a bar you’d have an interesting discussion. They’d all agree on the life of Jesus and in slightly different words what it means. (Boil it down to Incarnation, Ministry, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and atonement or salvation.) But ask them about Adam and Eve, or modern Jews and Israel or the military or even sports and watch the differences.
The big word behind this is hermeneutics. That is the big word for how one interprets meaning from any source: written, verbal, or you name it. We read and interpret the Bible. Christians find Christ at the center of that interpretation. That is why the pope, Tebow and the professor actually have more in common together than with most of the journalists covering their stories irregardless of their many differences. At least for me (and Irenaeus who I’m stealing from/leaning on) that is the central role of the creeds. These are the things we all agree on. They lay out the boundaries of hermeneutics. If you read the bible and come up with something that breaks what the creeds say…go back and read again because you got something wrong. At the center of those creeds is the life of Christ and its meaning.
I also wanted to link to this story because of the picture. That is a 1993 work of art – so it is modern. And it was visually striking. There is a physical Adam and Eve, and I suppose that could be a blanket, but in a certain manner it looks like a burial shroud or a veil. In the middle of garden, death was coiled and things hidden. Coming at that picture with Christian eyes you would interpret a whole different set of things than if you were biblically illiterate.
I would be real interested to know what people actually heard from this sermon. I think it had a high emotional register, but I’m not sure if I used that emotion to the proper end.
The core concern that I think the text addressed is God’s truth. And God’s truth can be real ugly. It can be offensive. Because God’s truth tells us how ugly we are in our nature. The cross tells us and shows us what and who we are. Jesus became our ugliness. And God works in the middle of that ugly. He works through the messy and incomplete and ugly. That task of faith is to recognize that even how ugly this crucified God might appear, his love is revealed there. And it is a love that is wide and deep and more than enough. The scraps that fall, the pieces gathered after the dinner, are enough to fill his people and those like this Canaanite who were not his people but have been grafted in.
I’m hesitant to paste in anything directly political, but Congresswoman Bachmann is (or was) a Lutheran and from about the 15:00 mark everything is religious in nature.
To me this is an example of pure theological dumbfounding. Just listening to David Gregory ask the questions the “I can’t believe this crazy woman” or “I don’t even know where to start” or “This person scares me” vibe of them is interesting. The 18:00 – 18:40 mark is the perfect encapsulation of not understanding. Gregory doesn’t get it, and Bachmann knows it. Gregory can’t believe that anybody thinks that God helps them make decisions or “calls” them to do certain things. [Just like he can’t imagine a wife asking a husband about a career choice and then actually acting on the advice.] It horrifies him that a President might pray to come to an important decision. Bachmann sees the dumbfounding and just answers “that is my experience”; there was no way she could explain it. It is a pure conflict of worldviews. (And only Bachmann is aware of it.)
In that core encapsulation, notice Gregory’s definition or allowed playing field of religion – it can give “personal” comfort or warm fuzzies…but God or religion absolutely can’t be taken seriously by serious people in the public square. The same dumbfounding happens earlier in regards to authority. Gregory is dumbfounded that this crazy congresswoman might think that the American people might know more than Bill Gross, the Treasury Secretary and any other number of “technocratic experts”. Bachmann doesn’t accept or doesn’t accept the narrow and limited view of authority that Gregory operates with. God, small business owners, regular people, representative government – all of it is just crazy talk. And it leaves him dumbfounded. (Here is my private bet, the more Bachmann gets interviews like this, the higher her numbers will go and the more dumbfounded the Gregorys of the world will get.)
I ran across this list from the Modern Library Association of the 100 Best Novels (I believe it is of the 20th century or since the 20th century). The interesting thing is the comparison of “The Board’s” picks and then “The Reader’s” picks. The picture is the top 10 of each.
The Randians and the Scientologists (Hubbard) obviously came out to vote from the top 10 on the reader’s side, but the deeper comparison is still interesting. Other than maybe the Invisible Man you will not find a genre fiction selection on the the board side. The reader side is full of Sci-Fi – Dune, Heinlein, and Bradberry. The Board puts D.H. Lawrence at number 9 and some other “subversive” fiction on the list which doesn’t even make the top 100 on the readers list. Somewhat opposite of that, the readers recognize Flannery O’Connor (#38) – a southern writer who happened to be deeply Catholic – and a couple of other “theological” writers that do not appear on the board list. Naipaul gets a (deserved) nod from the Board, but my guess is that he’s just a little too “other” for the readers – chalk it up to urbanity of imagined board. (The readers sneak in Rushdie with his first work at number 100 as their nod to something good there, but we don’t really read it.)
Three questions: of these lists which book is most likely to still be read (or at least assigned) 100 years from now? 200 years? (I can’t believe more that 1 or 2 would be in that time frame.) Which list is more important for being that book or stated otherwise: Does Ayn Rand or James Joyce have the best chance? Last question: did they miss your favorite book or any glaring omissions? (I think they missed P.D. James Children of Men.)
Our vacation bible school is going to be August 22 – 26. It will be from 9 AM until 11:30 AM. We are hosting it jointly with West Henrietta Baptist. Openings & Drop off will be across the street. Closing & Pick up here at St. Mark.
The theme is Group’s Panda.
You can register on the first day (just come a little early!). Or here is an online registration form. Or if want to be nice (to be sure we have enough cookies) drop me an email with parents names, kids names and contact info. My email is [pastor at saintmarkslutheran dot com]. (I did that to avoid the spambots). Thanks
The Bible un-apologetically holds that God is Sovereign and that we are responsible. Paul hits that wall over and over in Romans 9 and 10. Romans 9 concludes that it is all in God’s election. Romans 10 says we better get busy spreading the word. I’d be lying if I thought there was really a solution to that. It is the same way that Bible holds that God is unchangeable, and yet he answers prayer.
Romans 10 talks about believing with our heart and confessing with our mouth. Christians actively do that, yet both of those are passively worked in us through the word that has drawn near. Hearts of stone turned into flesh. Halting words made to sing. And its the full person. Not a dry confession without the heart. Not the heart without some content. God takes heart and mind and makes them new.
What you can say is that the Christian can put God against God. The terrible unknowable eternal decrees can be place against the promises and the demonstration of love in Christ. God, you said he did it for all. That includes me. I’ll take that.