Category: Systematics

Losing my religion

The word “religion” can have different meanings. At its simplest, it means “belief in and worship of God or gods” (Oxford Dictionary). But more precisely, religion is often seen as a designated set of beliefs and rituals by which people relate to a god. Thus religion (implying dogma and restrictions) is often contrasted to spirituality … Continue reading Losing my religion
Syndicated from the Way?


There, But for the Grace of God…

Over the past few months, I’ve had a number of people, close to home and from afar, comment that they’ve appreciated my reflections and stories that emerge out of Monday mornings spent at the jail. I’ve obviously appreciated the affirmation, even as I sometimes privately wonder if I’m dancing a little too close to the line of voyeuristically exploiting the pain of hard stories to make a bit of theological hay. In my more optimistic moments, I believe these stories need to be told to bring a bit of humanity into a place where stereotypes and casual dismissiveness abound, to shine a light on the glimmers of hope, to bear witness to the sadness, etc.; at other times, I wonder if I’m doing little more than wordily rubbernecking as I pass the scene of a car wreck.
I’ve been thinking about one particular question I was recently asked about these posts from the jail. It was a simple one: “Why? Why do you naturally gravitate toward these stories? Why do they seem to bring something different out of you than other kinds of writing?” I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I’m not sure I have a great answer yet. But a first stab at it would go something like this.
I think the stories, the people, and the general stark realities of the jail are a kind of extreme microcosm of the human condition. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in jail is that the lines that we like to draw between “criminals” and “law-abiding citizens” is not nearly as clean as we like to imagine. The people I encounter each week at the jail are not some unique category of humanity that needs to be hidden from contact with “normal” people (except in extreme circumstances). They are people. People who have done bad things, certainly. Sometimes very bad things. But people all the same.
Every human being who makes their way in the world exists at the intersection of personal responsibility and an external world that impinges upon us in countless ways. We are in control and we are out of control. We choose and there are choices made for us. We act and we are acted upon. But of course, not all of our actions are constrained to the same degree or by the same factors.
Nearly everyone I’ve met in jail struggles with addictions of some sort. And what is addiction but a way of coping with pain? The pain of absent or abusive parents, dysfunctional social structures, the pain of failure and despair, the pain of ignorance, of not knowing how to make better choices, of never having anyone model what a well-lived life might look like. Most of us are better at hiding the ways in which we self-medicate to dull the pain of existence than those in jail are. We often have access to social and relational safety nets that they don’t. Our addictions come in more socially approved forms. But we all have our ways of escaping from difficulties that seem like more than we can bear.
Nearly everyone I’ve met in jail struggles with impulse control and anger, at least on some level. They have burned bridges that they desperately wish they could cross back over. They want to do better, but they keep lashing out. Those of us on the outside have perhaps learned better skills for keeping our impulses and urges and volatile emotions under wraps or expressing them in less obviously destructive ways, but we do not inhabit some separate category of human experience where these things are foreign to us.
Many people I’ve met in jail have experienced debilitating racism for their entire lives. They have grown up in communities where indigenous people have been ridiculed, misunderstood, mistreated, and neglected. They have inherited the pain of a long history of colonialism that has spun out into all kinds of chaos and addiction in family structures and misguided coping mechanisms. I think that this is something that is impossible to fully understand from the outside looking in.
Nearly everyone I’ve met in jail has wandered down dangerous and destructive paths at least in part as a response to a hunger for love, belonging, and acceptance. I am regularly struck by how the men and women in jail so frequently go back to some childhood trauma. Those who were supposed to protect them, didn’t. Those who were supposed to teach and guide them, neglected the task (or didn’t know how to do it). Those who were supposed to give love, belittled and mistreated. Those who were supposed to provide a bedrock of safety and security provided an environment that was precarious and unreliable at best. Those who were supposed to be cherished were treated as inconvenient impediments. So many of the people I meet in jail found themselves in the wrong beds, with the wrong friends on the wrong streets, making the wrong choices, at least on some level, because they were so desperate to find somewhere where they belonged and where someone at least gave the illusion of caring about them.
The above comments aren’t true across the board, of course. There are exceptions. There are those who say, “I had a good story, good parents, etc., I just f***ed up.” I am painting with broad strokes here. But the overall trends are real, and they are both necessary and painful to bear witness to.
I guess, in short, I am drawn to the jail because it’s where the human condition is laid most starkly bare. It’s a place where the illusions and pretense that most of us hide our darker selves behind is stripped away and where the conversations get pretty real, pretty honest, and pretty unfiltered very quickly.
“There, but for the grace of God, go I” is a phrase that I tend to avoid (it just seems like a different way of saying, “There, by the grace of God, goes that poor sucker!”), but I sometimes leave the jail feeling something like this. I’m not so different from these people. I’ve received a few breaks that they haven’t. I’ve had a few more good people in my corner. I’ve had positive choices reinforced more than negative ones. But I’m regularly struck, when sitting around the circle in the jail, by how we’re a lot more similar than dissimilar. There we sit, sinners every one of us, hungry for love, for forgiveness, for grace, for mercy and longing to live lives that reflect these things better than we’ve managed so far.

Syndicated from Rumblings

9 Reasons Faith ≠ Certainty

One of the things that Christians typically believe in and that I’ve struggled with a great deal is the concept of faith. Like most Christians, I once assumed a person’s faith is as strong as that person is certain. And, accordingly, I assumed that doubt is the enemy of faith. ...
The post 9 Reasons Faith ≠ Certainty appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

When the Water is Troubled

By the pool of Beth-za’tha and its remedial waters is where Jesus came across the invalids. Many of them, apparently. The blind, the lame, the paralyzed. The broken and discarded pieces of humanity that were and are easy to walk by. But not Jesus, of course. Jesus summons such people to life. Jesus says things like, Stand up. Take your mat. Walk.

There’s no pool at the dementia ward. Just doors with security codes and heavy iron bars. Hand sanitizer stations and signs with rules and regulations for visitors. That kind of thing. I walk to my friend’s room to say hello. I know he won’t recognize me—he hasn’t for some time—but I’m in the neighbourhood. And it is, after all, nice to say hello.

I open the door and cast a glance to the bed, the chair. Both empty. The bathroom light is on but nobody there either. Old country music is blaring from the TV, but no sign of my friend. I’m about to leave when I see him there, splayed out on the floor, right in front of me, just behind his walker, pants around his ankles, legs tangled up in a telephone cord, moaning softly. My heart sinks and I want to weep at the sight. It is heartbreaking and undignified as scenes get.

A nurse enters at that moment and shrieks. I can’t tell if it’s horror? Compassion? Guilt? Maybe all of the above. More attendants are summoned, I am asked to wait outside. With some difficulty, they get him off the floor, clean him up. He’s not injured, but he’s irritated, swinging, refusing, muttering angrily. We’re just trying to help! they desperately plead. But he doesn’t want them, and he doesn’t want their kind of help.

Eventually, I’m allowed in. He’s in bed, under the covers, eyes darting wildly around. I say hello, ask him if he remembers me, ask him if he’s ok. A thin smile appears, then recedes. A few disconnected words trickle out of his mouth, but nothing that penetrates the dense fog. You look… “Familiar?” I opine, hopefully. No, you look… He smiles and turns his head toward the window.

I sit there for a few moments. I think about Jesus by the pool, Jesus with the broken pieces, Jesus who calls into being things that are not, Jesus who picks people up off the floor and sends them on their way rejoicing. I think about the question he asks. Do you want to be made well? Well of course, Jesus. Kind of an insensitive question, don’t you think? Who wouldn’t? Whether you’re splayed out in on the floor of the dementia ward or in the portico by the pool, nobody wants to stay there. Everyone wants to get up, surely.

I look around. I wish for a healing pool and for an angel to trouble the waters.

I look back at my friend. “Do you want me to read for you?” I ask. He looks vacantly past me. I walk over to his bookshelf and pick up a dusty copy of the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version. I show him the book. “Do you know which book this is?” I ask. He smiles and shakes his head. I think back to his earlier days, to theological discussions, to lively debate, to speculative interpretations. I sigh.

I turn to the fifth chapter of John’s gospel and begin reading. I read about the invalids, the broken pieces lying on the floor. I read Jesus’ famous question and the man’s response. No one’s there to put me into the pool when the water is troubled… I think about my friend lying, moaning on the floor, with no one there to help… I read the stirring conclusion: Stand up, take your mat and walk!! I read that part with a bit of extra gusto. Maybe even a bit of helpless rage.

I look over at my friend when I read that last line. He’s grinning.

He looks over at me when I close the bible. He leans over and whispers, “Was that… you?” I ponder this question for a minute. Is he asking me if I’m the man who was healed in the story? If I was the one doing the healing? If I was the one reading from the fifth chapter of John’s gospel from the Revised Standard Version? If I was the one who helped him off the floor earlier? If I was the one who cleaned him up? Is this just another random assortment of words connected to nothing in particular? Who can say?

“Yeah,” I say on a whim. “It was me.”  

He smiles more broadly and says, “You’re lucky.”

Syndicated from Rumblings

“Christ is Lord”: What Does it Mean?

We enter the domain of God’s reign when we enthrone Christ as Lord of our life. This seems simple enough. But actually, I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding of what this means. The Bible says that if we “declare with our mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,” we “will be saved” ...
The post “Christ is Lord”: What Does it Mean? appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew


There are questions that I encounter as a pastor that haunt me. I’m not necessarily thinking about the “usual suspects” here. Questions about the existence of God or why we suffer or the challenge of pluralism or the historicity of this or that biblical story or the conundrums of interpreting this or that passage or doctrine. These all represent familiar enough terrain and present their own challenges to faith. But the questions I’m thinking about today are much more personal in nature.
I’m thinking of questions like, “I’m afraid to die—does this mean my faith is weak?” or “What do I do with my crushing loneliness?” or “Why are people so mean to me? Is something wrong with me?” These are the kinds of questions to which the first (and sometimes last) response is often just a sad shared silence. This is life and faith beyond abstraction, beyond “belief system,” beyond words like “ritual” and “shared practices” and “wisdom.” These questions emerge out of a wound not an idle curiosity or even an existential hunger. I am, it probably goes without saying, more comfortable with abstraction. I suspect many of us are.
The latest haunting question came recently at the jail. A young indigenous woman leaned forward with tears in her eyes and interrupted more prosaic streams of conversation with this: “Can I ask a question? I don’t know how to say it, but… I really wanna know. How do I get unstuck? I’m so tired of making the same mistakes, going back to the same people and problems. I don’t want to, but… So, I don’t know… I guess I just wanna know how to get unstuck.” Her words dripped with urgency, longing, dread, and pain.
The “experts” in the room—the chaplain, the volunteer, the pastor—stumbled and bumbled toward a response. We acknowledged how hard it is. We talked of incremental change and the importance of community. We talked about how God is “present in the journey” (and possibly shuddered while saying it). But sometimes even true things can sound hollow in certain contexts. It’s one thing to feel like you’re in a rut at work; it’s quite another to feel stuck in patterns of addiction and abuse and relational chaos and poverty and incarceration. Some patterns seem more daunting than others. We are not all equally stuck.
And yet, I suspect that even as I grieved for the specific ways in which this young woman was stuck, I was also recognizing myself and many of my peers in her words. I suspect we all get to a certain point in life where the word “stuck” can easily creep into our vocabulary.  Passion for the job seems more elusive, the sizzle of a marriage wanes, faith seems remote and inacessible. In whatever domain of life, we settle into familiar and predictable rhythms. We realize that there are things about our lives, our communities, our world that are rather hard to change.
I was talking with my wife about this recently. Statistically, I suppose we’re at about the halfway mark of life. Of course, we could have far less than this but, you know, statistically… What do we want to accomplish? What should we be devoting these next decades (God willing) to? Is “accomplishment” even the right word to be using in pondering the road ahead? We spend so much time educating, accumulating, working, and thinking ourselves into some conception of the “good life” (house, kids, money in the bank, securing the right social standing, etc.). It’s easy, as David Brooks says in his latest book The Two Mountains, to “become strangers to [our] own desires.” Getting stuck is the easiest thing in the world to do.
I thought of all these things as I drove home from the jail on Monday. I thought about how it’s not just individuals that get stuck, but relationships, businesses, churches, institutions, even cultures. And I prayed. For all who feel stuck and for all the ways in which we need to get unstuck to live the lives we were created for. For all who are spinning their wheels and yearning to find that place in the world where they can contribute in meaningful and life-giving ways, where they can love and be loved well.
But mostly, I prayed for this dear young woman who so desperately wants to walk down better paths. The words felt useless as they fell off my lips. My prayer for her felt more like an inarticulate ache for the fullness of life that she so obviously longed for, and against which so many factors in her life conspired. It’s not vocational satisfaction or personal fulfillment on the line for her. It’s almost literally life and death.
Prayer can feels like a feeble offering indeed in the face of human pain, but as hard as it can be to pray, I often find it harder not to. I simply held her tear-stained face in my mind and pleaded on her behalf to the One who said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, those who hunger and thirst…” I said, “Well, God, you say “blessed are…” so can I please call in a blessing for one of your dear children? And not a pious abstraction, if you please. Not a hypothetical future happiness but something for a pretty screwed up present. And if you need someone to tag along as you bless, I’d be happy to help.”
Image source. 

Syndicated from Rumblings

Second Sunday of Easter: The Epistle Passage – The story is also in our hands

“John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:4-8)
I remember or am reminded that the world we live in now is not the world we are destined for. While it seems as if we spend forever in this world – that is because we are here for our entire life time. If that sounds rather paradoxical, you can understand why it is not something that humanity carries around in its upper most consciousness.
What exacerbates our “forgetting” of this fact is that we are actually so far from the Jesus/God event that we are used to living at a distance from the Divine. The apostles and first century believers had it in the conscious mind that Jesus was “just here” and would be back “some time soon.” Now that the “Alpha” part had come and gone, the “Omega” should be showing up soon – shouldn’t it?
And if I am reminded that the world we live is only a precursor to the world to come – the other side is believing that the end of all things will be after my life is ended. While I may (and do) hold out hope for a better way in the future beyond this reality, the current world is the only one I can be sure I will be aware of. So if my life is to be lived well, I have to live it well now! And that leads to the question, what do I want my life to be like now? And what missteps am I willing to do in order to have an “enjoyable” life now, but by doing take a chance on messing up my “life” in the world that is to come (maybe). There is the even greater paradox. So it is actually a relief to me to remember that this world is “not my home – not where I belong”.
Because when I remember that the stress and disappoints in this life will not translate to the life to come, I find I can manage this world. Things may not be perfect on this side, but things will be perfect in the future. But what will that future look like? I do not know.
The next “natural” statement to make is that I am assured of the life to come because of Christ’s death – which is a strong theme in this passage. BUT is it Christ’s blood that “freed us from our sins”? Or is it our belief in Jesus the Christ and the Lord God who sent to the earth the Divine’s Own Son? Yes, still thinking about that theological statement. I am ready to lay it aside; we chose what we will believe in, informed by the Spirit who guides us. We hope that our beliefs are authentic and true to what Jesus taught. We study and discern, examining statements, theologies, and philosophies. And we pray! We pray mightily! I pray, beloved reader, that your story and journey in Christian faith provides what you need for this world. And prepares you for entry into the eternal world that has been promised to us. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Second Sunday of Easter: Acts Passage substituted for the Old Testament – The story is in the hands of Jesus’ followers

“When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” (Acts 5:27 – 28)

In the days and weeks following Christ’s resurrection and accession the disciples had followed in his footsteps defying religious and civil authorities. And their rationale for disobedience pretty much echoed what Jesus the Christ had told them while he was on earth.
“But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” (Verse 29)
It is interesting to think about what the disciples, now the apostles, had absorbed watching Jesus interact with religious and civil authorities. Consider that the gospel tell us, in a side effects type of way, that they knew exactly what Jesus said and did when he was confronted with the high priests, Pilate and Herod.
“The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Verses 30 – 32)
Reflecting back on the issue of whether Jesus’ sacrifice was necessary and directly lead to salvation, I have to wonder what the writer of the book of Acts meant. In looking at the commentaries offered up for these passages I see that the salvation that is referred to a changing of one’s life and not a pardon for sins – as we often may think of salvation. I am going to probably be checking and double checking for at least the next week or two to see how salvation is defined and what the requirements are. What I know for sure, after having spent time pondering it, the idea of changing one’s life as part of salvation/redemption is something I am long familiar with. What I need to do is make sure I am keeping the theology of it straight and true. And keeping theology straight and true has long been a requirement of Christianity. I could digress . . . . but I won’t.
As we move from Easter forward may you think deeply and clearly beloved reader. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Why the Cross Changes Everything

Every Good Friday I usually go outside to pray when the time is approaching 3 PM. That’s when he died. He who transformed my life.
There was a time when I didn’t care at all about Jesus. He was cool, sure, but he didn’t have as many superpowers as Superman and he was far less badass than Samus Aran. The church, in my opinion, was a boring museum. The Bible was hard to read and lacked pictures.
But when I was confronted with my own mortality and understood the message of Easter – that he died for us to live forever – then I could not get enough of him. I opened the gospels and read. I can honestly say that I have never encountered so much wisdom and love from any other person, before or after.
Some want to reduce Jesus to a non-divine moral teacher. As C. S. Lewis has pointed out, it is impossible. A reasonable moral teacher does not claim to be the Son of God, the light of the world, and the door to eternal life – unless it is true.
But I understand why people recognize Jesus as wise and moral. He is! That’s what makes the painful killing of him so incomprehensible and wrong.
God died on that cross. God himself died for our sake so that we would have the eternal life we ​​in no way deserve. This eternal life, in eternal happiness, is greater than anything we can imagine. No other gift is so great and as wonderful as the gift of living in paradise.
All the peace and justice we long for will be realized to its fullest in heaven. That’s no reason to stop promoting such Kingdom-values here. On the contrary, when we truly have the eternal perspective we will become even more zealous to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. As John says:
“Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure.” (1 Jn 3:1-2)
What I realized 13 years ago is that when we celebrate on Sunday that Jesus arose from death, it is not just that we are happy for His sake. His resurrection shows where we are going if we follow him. His path is the path of life. A life that never ends. It is because of his painful death on the cross that we can go that way.
Today at 3 PM, think of Jesus and pray to him. He loves you so much that he was subjected to one of the world’s most evil execution methods. He gave everything for you. You are too precious and loved to be lost in the bottomless darkness of death. God, your Creator and Friend, calls you to eternal happiness.

Syndicated from Charismactivism

Can I say anything new about the resurrection of Jesus?

I have been re-reading NT Wright’s chapter on the “The Surprise of Resurrection” in Jesus: the final days, where he corrects some doubtful christian ideas about the resurrection, and offers reasons why we should regard the gospel accounts as basically historical. Understanding resurrection Pagans in Roman Empire in the first century might believe in an … Continue reading Can I say anything new about the resurrection of Jesus?
Syndicated from the Way?


I left the jail this morning feeling a heaviness that I have not felt in some time. I don’t go there each Monday with some big agenda—I’m not there to reform or convert or instruct, but to listen, to pray, to encourage. But most days, I get a glimpse of goodness through a conversation, a smile, a new insight into the human heart and the human predicament. Today was not one of those days.
Travis* was the only one who came to the meeting today. There were rumours of others who might join, but he came alone, looking slightly apprehensive, a sly grin poking around the edges of his mouth. He was tall, lean, young, and strong. Twenty years old, jet black hair perfectly manicured in the fashion of the day, tattoos and scars peeking below the rolled-up sleeves of his coveralls. He offered his story in bits and pieces over the next hour or so. He grown up on a reserve north of Edmonton, one of sixteen kids in a patchwork family thrown together by the various configurations his parents had found themselves in over the years. Dad abused mom, mom abused him as an outlet for her pain, he abused right back, swearing, stealing, leaving, coming back. Kicked out of the house at fourteen and then bounced around the city with siblings.
“I got behaviour issues,” he says. “I yell when I get excited, only when I get excited. I say what I don’t want to say, and I can’t say what I want to say.” He leans back on his chair, eyes restlessly darting around the room. He hasn’t seen his mom for two years, has no idea about his dad, doesn’t really care. He’s got two kids of his own, he says. I look at him and smile. He reminds me of my son—big, kind, unpredictable hard to read sometimes. He told me he played football and basketball and volleyball when he was younger. “I liked sports, he said, “I was good at them.” His voice trailed off. My heart ached for this big kid, impossibly already a father.
“What are your kids’ names?” I ask. “My daughter’s name is Genesis,” he replies. “My son… um, I don’t know. His mom won’t talk to me… I think he’s mine, I don’t know.” He looks down as an awkward silence descends. “Genesis,” I say, “that’s a cool name. Do you know what it means?” He smiles, “Yeah, it means like new beginning or something, right?” I smile. “Yeah, that’s right, Travis…”
He goes on to tell us that he has Tourette’s. He’s never been formally diagnosed, he’s never even told anyone, but he’s pretty sure that’s why he finds everything so hard, why he’s always getting into trouble, why he can’t fit in and just behave himself. I think of a boy growing up on a reserve, impossible family situation, with a condition that nobody knows about, constantly getting into trouble, nobody knowing how to help, how to make anything better, how to try something different.
I think about what might happen when he gets out in a few months. I think about the religious words I traffic in—words like “hope” and “love” and “change” and “freedom” and “redemption.” I look over at Travis, head down, eyes on the floor, all alone in a circle of churchy do-gooders trying to “make a difference.” The words don’t seem to fit. I think of the cycles of violence and addiction and dysfunction that he has been raised in, of the structures and systems that relentlessly discriminate against his people, of the innumerable things that are working against him. It’s too much, I think. Who can climb out from under all that?
During yesterday’s sermon I reflected on what Jesus might have been experiencing as he sat outside the gates of Jerusalem, taking his first steps toward his inevitable death. I focused on the human emotions and experiences that might have been roiling around in his head. I reflected on these things through the lens of Psalm 31 and landed on the hopeful truth that God knows what it’s like to be human.
I preached these words:

Because of Jesus, God knows what it’s like to be deeply and persistently misunderstood.
Because of Jesus, God knows what it’s like to be betrayed by people that you love, people you had poured the best part of yourself into, people you expected better from, people from whom you had hoped for more.
Because of Jesus, God knows what it’s like to be afraid, to have that sinking feeling of dread in your stomach, to have your mouth go dry and your strength fail.
Because of Jesus, God knows what it’s like to feel helpless and angry at the inevitability of how things tend to go.
Because of Jesus, God knows what it’s like to feel like the bad guys always win.
Because of Jesus, God knows what it’s like to feel used—to be loved and adored only when you’re giving people what they want, when you’re putting on a show.
Because of Jesus, God knows what it’s like to be abandoned and to feel utterly alone.
Because of Jesus, God knows what it’s like to be mocked, ridiculed, dismissed.
Because of Jesus, God knows what it’s like to be seen as a failure.
Because of Jesus, God knows what it’s like to suffer and to die.
These are some of the hardest things we experience as human beings. And because of Jesus, God not only knows what they feel like, but enters right into them with us.
God knows what it’s like to be human from the inside.
Because of Jesus.

I said these words yesterday morning to a room full of mostly white, mostly middle-class, mostly Christians. And they felt hopeful and good and true. They still do. Mostly.
But would these words be of any use to Travis? I desperately want to believe that they would, and I hope to get the chance to tell him. But they felt hollow as I walked out of the jail this morning. I felt like weeping for all the Travis’ of the world who seem to barely have a chance.
I thought about Travis’s daughter, the one he hoped to meet one day.
That’s the only religious word that seemed to fit today.

Syndicated from Rumblings

Holy Week – Saturday: Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel Passages – The story stops for a short time

Some years I have not written on Holy Saturday. I had, in some writings, declared it a day of waiting. The lectionary uses verses for this day that underline suffering and our need for intervention because of our sins. Mindful of what my former college bible professor wrote, I am not connecting the blessing of salvation to his death (viewed as sacrifice) on the cross. But it is a theme that comes up quite often. It seems to me the connection between our having salvation and the need for some sort of exchange/price to be paid for that salvation is strong. There seems to be the need for someone or something to suffer and be offered up it seems.
“I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long. He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago. He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me; though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked.” (Lamentations 3:1-9)
The question came to my mind, do we suffer because of our sins? According to some types of thinking we do. Some readings/interpretations of the New Testament tells us that we do. But is it suffering in this life? Or in the life to come? The writer of Lamentations finds that being separated from the Divine, or at least separated from grace and not being in relationships with the Divine is suffering.
“The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Verses 19 – 24)

While the gospels may not draw a connecting line between the what might have been the sacrifice of Christ and salvation, many of the letters in the New Testament lead one’s thinking that way. I do wonder, now, what makes us think there needs to be sacrifice/suffering to atone for sins.
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.” (I Peter 4:1 – 5)
As I sit with these verses from I Peter I have to shake my head at the assumptions there are of non-believers, or more accurately the assumptions there are of people who do not believe as we do. If you read Blosser’s article in total you will know that is a strong theme in what he wrote.
“For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” (Verses 6 – 8)
Much has change since the time when the New Testament was written. We cling to it as the best authority of how to live a good authentic Christian life. What I fear is that we cling to the wrong parts. Jesus emphasized love, compassion, and caring. We seem to cling to the discipline, the giving up of old ways, and being prepared to be judged harshly. The days of Holy Week have seen me re-think and re-consider belief and living a good and authentic Christian life. I am not sure if my beliefs and faith traditions have changed or will change – but I am thinking. In the meantime, Saturday of Holy Week.
“When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.” (Matthew 27:57 – 61)
Good Friday evening gave way to Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. As I said yesterday, the followers of Jesus saw little good in the day. I don’t think we always appreciate or understand that sadness. You know, often when I am reading a book I will skip to the end, just to get a taste of the outcome of the story. So I can gauge when the story takes its turn toward the ending. It is, actually, not a very good thing to do. And I have ruined for myself several times the story line and the anticipation that builds up because I know how it ends. Now, apply that to Good Friday/Easter and I think you will see what I mean. We are, beloved reader, still on “dismal” Saturday. But, there is a little foreshadowing that we can appreciate.
“The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.” (Verses 62 – 66)
Now, we wait! Shalom!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

How Reliable were the Early Church’s Oral Traditions?

How reliable were the early church’s oral traditions? In terms of assessing the reliability of the Gospels, this is an extremely important question. First century Jewish culture was what scholars today would call an “orally dominated culture.” While a certain percentage of people could read and write (see below), information ...
The post How Reliable were the Early Church’s Oral Traditions? appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew


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