Category Archives: Literature

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Lectionary Year C

Time is just like money- it’s so annoying to be standing at the end of the week or month and be forced to say, “Now, where did it all go?” Let me use my work as an example. One practice I’ve picked up recently is taking a pro-active approach with my scheduling. It’s amazing the difference I notice in how I feel about my workload when I take steps to curb distraction. Time is just like money– think about what any financial adviser will tell you about budgeting. Mapping out where it will go at the beginning of the month is the best thing. I’m discovering this principle translates very well into my time. But we are human, and we’re going down this line of thought because, left to ourselves, distraction usually creeps in.

I’m sure you can relate to this experience somehow. Distraction. Even you Type A personalities out there. I mean, do you really always manage to filter out distraction? Raise your hand if so… Ok, no one? Because I was going to offer to let you preach instead of me. We all find ourselves asking where it all went, don’t we?

Time at work… I’ve already covered that one. Time on the weekend… what about that? Who has projects around the house that sneak under the radar Saturday after Saturday because Engineer Mountain’s wildflowers are in bloom right now, or the Denver Broncos are playing right now, or because that storm just dumped up fresh snow on Purgatory this morning, or because Russell needs your help in the youth ministry right now? Yes, we know how to play in this town, and it’s a huge battle for time.

I mentioned money earlier. Maybe your day-planner is tighter than a tourniquet, but your budget has a couple holes. Anina and I are pretty good with this, but we do have a month now and then where we look back and say “We spent THAT MUCH on the pets?!?” And I was utterly horrible at this concept when I first started managing my own money. How many of you students sometimes feel this way with your allowances?

Or here’s one: energy. Spending all your relational energy at work, and when you get home, it’s your spouse or your kids asking “You had a bad day, didn’t you?” When in fact, this may not really be the case, but instead you simply didn’t have anything left to give them when you got home.

Or who’s familiar with this scenario? A loved one passes away. In that quiet, solitary moment after you first find out, or while standing around talking with others at the wake, you ask yourself “Why didn’t I call them more often?” I didn’t deal with the passing of my mother’s mom very much at all, and this is one question that I really prefer not to confront.

All of these situations, and many others, have roots in our living of distracted lives.

I have good news for you: God knows.

And he used a stout and cantankerous but obedient man named Paul to give us some direction. Let’s pray, and then dig into today’s text. Continue reading

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William Blake’s popularity

Ok, seriously… half of today’s visits to this blog have come from “William Blake” searches.

Why is he so popular?

If you stopped by due to a search for the fine author, please enlighten me: “Why are you and everyone else’s mother is so interested in him today?”

Thesis #5

5. The four canonical Gospels narrate the truth about Jesus.The Gospels, read within the matrix of scripture from Genesis to Revelation, convey the truth about the identity of Jesus more faithfully than speculative reconstructions produced by modernist historical methods. The canonical narratives are normative for the church’s proclamation and practice.
How are the four portraits of Jesus related to one another? To what extent are historical investigations necessary or helpful in understanding Jesus? How is the entirety of scripture necessary to an accurate portrayal of Jesus? To what extent is a right understanding of the whole of scripture necessary to an appropriate understanding of the identity of Jesus?

Prima facie, Thesis #5 is a pretty easy one to accept. T5 echoes a foundational orthodox truth that many Christ-followers probably just “grow up with.” Many of us never even thought to question this truth until an author by the name of Brown wrote that little novel about some DaVinci guy and his code. Etymology, though not a be-all-end-all reason, points us to affirming T5 as well. The term gospel comes to us from Old English (that of Beowulf but not quite Chaucer, in use from ca. 450-1100 A.D.). The OE expression god-spell (roughly “good tidings“) became slurred into our current term gospel. And god-spell is a pretty accurate translation of the Greek euangelion (eu, good, -angelion, message). So, Christians calling the first four books of the canonical New Testament the “gospel” isn’t a newly invented conspiracy by the (ir)Religious Right or a bunch of pomo narrativists. The belief in a concise anthology of the stories of Christ traces back fifteen-hundred years, the element of story has been in our term for that anthology forever. I dunno, I guess I’m just an etymology nerd. And there’s beauty in the establishedness and archaity of one damn good story.

Matt’s post.

How are the four portraits of Jesus related to one another? Well, the obvious response is that they each point to Jesus. They each tell his story. They each convict me in areas where I’m failing to love as he did. To try to come up with something really deep isn’t necessary; I’ll do that when I’ve got my adulterous eyes and murderous mind completely held in check. To what extent are historical investigations necessary or helpful in understanding Jesus? Necessary? Not very. Helpful? Definitely, and so interesting! Also, if we want to paint a comprehensive context in which to introduce people to Jesus and his message, these investigations have lots of potential. But, telling the story of Jesus in history and in one’s own life is not something that requires a deep academic knowledge of the context surrounding Jesus. How is the entirety of scripture necessary to an accurate portrayal of Jesus? Since Jesus was such a good guy, we like to picture him always neatly and royally dressed. But a casual reading of a certain prophet whose name begins with “I” debunks this image. Now, Jesus’ appearance is a minor issue. But it’s an example of material outside the Gospels contributing to a more accurate depiction of Christ. To what extent is a right understanding of the whole of scripture necessary to an appropriate understanding of the identity of Jesus? Very. Christ’s work and his identity are still important, and do indeed open the Kingdom to us. But just focusing on Christ’s divinity and saving sacrifice really misses the point. Be a whole, a mature Christ-follower and get to know the big picture of God’s involvement among us.

Rauschenbusch

Picked up a new book from a freebie table yesterday… A Theology for the Social Gospel, by Walter Rauschenbusch (wiki). I studied him a little bit in an undergrad class, and didn’t think much of what he had to say. But now, with the current church climate, I think he will be a refreshing read.
Basically, he was all about missional living waaay before the emergent movement made it cool. So I’ll be diving into this book next, and probably find some good stuff to chew on (and of course, post here!)… stay tuned.

Christ, Ring-Giver Eternal

I took a Brit Lit class in the Fall of ’05 and actually, I immensely enjoyed it. In fact, I kid you not, the literature anthology from that class is the “textbook” I read the most among the ones that I kept after graduation. It’s taken up residence in/on my nightstand.

I really loved my professor’s treatment of the Beowulf epic; it really engaged me. I’ve read it again a couple times in the past year, just because the way he taught the poem just made it ‘click.’

So in my youth ministry job here Durango, I’ve recently begun to use Eugene Peterson‘s Bible paraphrase, The Message, more and more in trying to get my students to engage the Bible that King James may have made sound boring to them.

I read the Gospel of John this evening. Peterson’s take on the first chapter reads just like Beowulf! Mainly in its kennings and this dynamic between Christ and us that mirrors kings and their thanes. A couple Beowulf elements that weren’t present were alliteration, and heavy understatement, but oh well. Anyway, being stretched to see Christ as a ring-giver of sorts,seeing us as his loyal thanes… it was stirring.

1:5- “The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.”

1:16- “We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift.”

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