30 June 2007

Jesus - Suffering Servant, not Conquering Messiah

Here is another excellent commentary on tomorrow's gospel reading, this time from Preaching Peace.

We reject Jesus self-identification [as the Suffering Servant] too when our Christology sacrifices Jesus on the altar of the violent God. Some espouse a Christology in which God has a wrathful (if temporal) relationship with Jesus; a Christology that demands propitiation; a Christology wherein Jesus is scapegoated by God as well as by us. This Jesus gets even in the end, brings justice through violence, “his terrible swift sword.” To the extent that we claim all or part of this Christology, we stand rebuked as well.

Why do I keep going on about this and why do I think it's important? Well, first of all, there is currently a debate going on about 'theories of atonement'. In plain English, Christians are discussing how it is that we come to be reconciled with God. Why does God forgive us?

Some people are quite concerned to say that God forgives us only after his anger at our sin and / or his anger at sinners has been satisfied by the death of his Son. I do not agree with this view and may therefore be representing the view unfairly because it's not my own. As I see it, people who believe this are worried that those of us who don't hold to their view don't believe that sin is a serious thing.

The reason that I have a problem with this view is that I believe that Jesus was quite clear that he came as the Suffering Servant and not as the conquering Messiah. Tomorrow's Gospel reading actually makes that quite clear.

Sin is very serious indeed. The problem is that the idea that violence can be conquered by violence just plays into the 'worldly' agenda in my view. The great myth that our human nature would love us to buy into is the myth that if only my enemies could be destroyed, peace will reign in my heart. It will do. Temporarily. Until I find another person or group to hate.

The only way to achieve peace is to become peacable and act peacfully.

29 June 2007

Threats of Judgement: an evangelising tool?

Both in real life and in blogdom, the issue has come up of whether or not threatening unbelievers or heretics with God's judgement is a way of focussing the mind. Some seem to argue that God's judgement is real and therefore should be cited. Others argue that threats of judgement will get the attention of people and possibly convert them where proclamations of God's grace might not.

On that subject, there is an interesting statement mad by Fred Craddock in his Commentary on Luke regarding verse 54 of this Sunday's Gospel reading, Luke 9:51-62.

Craddock writes:

Jesus' disciples remember quite well scriptural precedent for calling down heaven's fire (II Kings 1:9-10), but they have forgotten the recent words of Jesus: when on a mission, acccept the hospitality offered you. If none is extended, shake the dust off your feet and move on (9:1-6). Is it not interesting how the mind can grasp and hold those Scriptures which seem to bless our worst behavior and yet cannot retain past the sanctuary door those texts which summon to love, forgiveness, and mercy? Jesus rebukes James and John for an attitude of revenge and retribution, an attitude totally foreign to his ministry and theirs.
If the apostles were called to leave judgement to the Lord, then I believe we are too.

23 June 2007

Peace Blogger Interview

Michael Westmoreland-White is the founder of the Peace Blogger webring and he has been interviewing members of the ring.

He has just published a
Peace Blogger Interview with yours truly.

18 June 2007

Sermons - Law, Faith & Grace / Storm at Sea

I preached two sermons yesterday which I've published over on my sermon blog:

Law, Faith and Grace

and

Storm at Sea

16 June 2007

11 June 2007

Is it PSA? Or not?

In the post below, I recommended Myron S. Augsburger's article Justice in Forgiveness.

Some comments have been made to me elsewhere (i.e. not on this blog) to the effect that the article: 1) Does support Penal Substitutionary Atonement; 2) Does not support Penal Substitutionary Atonement.

Perceptions are interesting. For anyone who thinks that communication through language is easy or that communication of ideas is straight-forward, here's a great example of how people might have very different ideas.

What do you think? Does the article support PSA or not?

10 June 2007

Thankfulness 2

I don't have any profound thoughts, just an experience to share with the 'ether'.

I've been privileged to find a Spiritual Director, something that has been a great help to me since I started in formal full-time ministry in September 2006. I remember that at our first session, we talked about thankfulness to God. After years of studying, I was feeling incredibly thankful for the privilege of being a full-time minister.

The theme of thankfulness came full circle at my last 'session' with my Spiritual Director when I said that God had put in on my heart to ask for the grace of thankfulness and to try to cultivate thankfulness. So this is something that I have been praying about.

Now I don't know how prayer 'works' and I don't know how this sort of prayer 'works'. Some may say that this kind of prayer - praying for a thankful heart- is simply a matter of mind over matter, or visualisation; they might say that praying for thankfulness is an indication of already being thankful. I don't know. I don't quite see it that way.

All I know is that, at the moment, God has opened my eyes to all sorts of things to be thankful for. This is not a 'knowledge thing'. It's a 'heart thing'. And I know that we can't always base our faith and our trust in God on feelings. But right now, I'm thankful to God for a sudden wave of thankfulness.

Sermon - Trinity Sunday

I've just published last week's Sermon for Trinity Sunday on my sermon blog.

I had another baptism today, in a different church than the baptism a fortnight ago. Today's sermon was simply a reworking of that sermon and so I will not publish it on the sermon blog.

Forgiveness & Atonement

I just got my issue of The Living Pulpit - several months late due to not living in the US. (Grrr, but that's another story. It's still well worth getting.)

The current (April - June) issue is on the subject of atonement and I'm extremely pleased that the editors have chosen Dr. Myron S. Augsburger's article
Justice in Forgiveness to publish in full on the internet.

In my part of the cyber-world, I've been having discussions with one person on how there can be no justice without retribution and another person thinks that it's our repentance that calls forth God's forgiveness. I think this article answers both of those questions.

The article also answers the question of 'blood' - although I suppose it will not satisfy those who thinks that God demands a literal, physical sacrifice of blood before he will give.

My favourite idea - and one which I will have to mull over - is the idea of God saying (in Augsburger's words):
I care more about you than about what you have done. I really love you, and I will move beyond the issue to the person.

07 June 2007

Stephen Sykes 'The Story of Atonement' - Ch 2 Justification by Faith

Over on my book blog, I've posted a precis of the second chapter of Stephen Sykes book The Story of Atonement: Chapter 2, Justification by Faith.