Brevity is next to Godliness

I found this today – it is “old” in on sense, from 1839, but it was pretty fresh to me:

“Why, then, is Jesus, the Son of God, called The Anointed?

Because to his manhood were imparted without measure all the gifts of the Holy Ghost; and so he possesses in the highest degree the knowledge of a prophet; the holiness of a high priest; and the power of a king.”

Longer Catechism, Orthodox Catholic Eastern Church, 1839, quoted in Basic Christian Doctrines, Ed. Carl F. H. Henry; Holt, Rinehart and Winston; NY, 1962

Keep it Simple

Billy Graham used to say that you have to work hard to make it simple.  This is the challenge to a pastor who wants to be aware of scholarhsip, do serious study, and at the same time, communicate to regular people meaning and connections to life.  Our success rate in this vaires from week to week. The dangers are

  • Lost in Abstraction
  • Too many Obscurities
  • Disconnect of book and life
  • Riding an irrelevant hobby horse
  • Using jargon instead of English
  • or, on the other hand, joining the Know-Nothing party
Here is my work at explaining Prophet, Priest and King theology

“People need the Lord” says a worship song,  but they may come to him by differing paths.  For example:

  • Because they are Lost
  • Because they are Guilty
  • Because they are Overpowered.

Jesus provides all that is needed in each case.

  • The Lost find the Light because Jesus is a Prophet.
  • The Guilty find forgiveness because Jesus is a Priest
  • The Overpowered find power because Jesus is the King.

On the soapbox –

I was tempted to count.  We were in a place of prayer, and what was offered were metaphors.  Lots of them.

On the Radio, someone concerned for the church, what I heard was a string of metaphors. I did not count.

Metaphors and at the same time rote, repeated and shopworn, and I have to say disconnected from reality.

And there were too many to count.

Words can have power – for example, God said, “Let there be light.”

Words can be meaningless piling on.

Perhaps I should have thought of this:

“Do not be quick with your mouth,

do not be hasty in your heart

to utter anything before God,

God is in heaven, 

and you are on earth,

so let your words be few”

Ecclesiastes 5:2 NIV-84

Ask the Preacher – Luke 4:28-30

After the message on Jesus’ sermon at Nazareth in Luke 4 a young man approached me to ask why the response of the synagogue members was so violent.  What had Jesus said that would cause them to want to throw him off the cliff?

Brainstorming options

  • too much coffee?
  • they were raving lunatics on the edge?
No, how about this
  • They were already subject to domination by a foreign power, and Jesus said that sometimes God favored foreigners.
  • Combined with a view that they were chosen as an end in itself, rather than a more faithful biblical idea that they were chosen to be blessed so that they could share the blessing.
Now try this mental exercize
  • a preacher in the 1950s in a white church in Birmingham suggests that the bible supports racial equality or even marriage between people of different races.
  • an editorial writer speaks to people assembled at a 9-11 memorial and suggests that we caused the bombings by our way of life.
  • A Bears fan shows up in Bear colors at Lambeau field.
None of those are the same really, but they may suggest how otherwise reasonable people could become incensed.

Great Book – because it is a Fresh Read

I am reading Tim Keller’s book, Generous Justice.  After living through a lot of decades where the question of spiritual life and social change, or the gospel and justice or words and works or orthodoxy and orthopraxy or about a dozen other contrasting concepts have come and gone, this book is a fresh look at the place of justice in the scripture.

What we usually end up with are arguments that are the same as the political debate of the day (with some “Jesus words” thrown in).  What we don’t often get is Christian Thinking.  I have grown tired of repackaged political rhetoric passing for bible study.  I am no longer interested in counting the number of times the word “saved” is in the bible in comparison to “the poor.”

Keller has thought about these things from a deeply biblical framework.  His discussion of the place of justice, and the place in particular of justice for the poor, the widows, the immigrant and the orphan is refreshing.  He draws on everything from Job to Proverbs and Deuteronomy to Isaiah in the Old Testament.  Then he turns his eye to the teaching fo Jesus.

The most profound insight is that biblical justice demands a personal commitment to raise the afflicted to a place of well being.  “When every one beneath his (or her) vine and fig tree shall live in peace and unafraid” (Micah 4:4) is not just for me, but for Larry who has been knocking at my door looking for a few bucks for 15 years now.  What will elevate Larry to that place?

I am still reading and will write a more complete review when I am done.  I also plan to post a few personal reactions as well.