Monday, April 30, 2007
I want to brag on three people - my closest friends. These guys are all incredible; they give me endless support and love.
Here they are in alphabetical order:
Allen is an astute philosopher and rubix-cube solver extrordinaire. For two guys, we can talk for hours, giving any pair of junior high girls a run for their money. Quite possibly one of the most amazing guys in the world. It's been so great getting to really know you so well this past year, Allen. I love you.
Marc is quite possibly one of the goofiest people I know. Marc & I have known each other for four years now. We work together and discuss our frustrations with the fundamentalist movement in Baptistdom, and our liberal theological persuasions. Marc is always there for me. I love you, bro.
Tony! This the guy that always comments randomly on this blog. We met a few years back when I worked with him at First Baptist Church, Waco. And 'your mom' jokes have never been the same since! Two summers of screaming children at day camp and now I'm a groom's man in your wedding. I love you, bud.
Just some shout-outs to the most amazing guys in the world - from my perspective anyways. Y'all are an amazing group of ministers, who are not afraid to just be honest and curse every once in a while. I absolutely love you guys.
I am truly blessed to be doing life with you.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
See, I firmly believe that God has a plan for each of our lives (Jer. 29.11). I believe God plan is best. But we have to be willing to surrender to his plan for our lives. This is not easy. It involves risk - great risk. It's dangerous, from our perspective anyways.
Point is... God's plan doesn't change; but God can change our plans. This is where faith begins to become uncomfortable. We have to rely on God, completely, wholly, and with reckless abandon.
This is scary.
I had a great talk with a friend tonight. She told me a story in a way I'd never heard before from 2 Kings 6:4-7.
In this story, God provides the power to Elisha to miraculously make an iron axhead float on the surface of the water. God made iron float on water! This iron axhead was only an iron axhead; God's actions here did not have global ramifications - it was just borrowed and they wanted it back. And because of this, God caused iron to float on water. My friend reminded me tonight that when God is in control, all bets are off. And God can do miracles. Salvation is not the only miracles he works; he also works many we consider insignificant - like making a borrowed iron axhead float on the surface of the water.
4 And [Elisha] went with [his servants].
They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. 5 As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. "Oh, my lord," he cried out, "it was borrowed!"
6 The man of God asked, "Where did it fall?" When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. 7 "Lift it out," he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it.
I trusted God when I came to Baylor four years ago. I had no idea how I could afford the tuition or anything. But God provided; I still can't tell you how - only that he did. Four years later, he is reminding me to trust him all over again.
And honestly, it's scary.
Monday, April 23, 2007
This song is particularly inspiring today.
PLEASE pray for the ministers and the people at Western Heights Baptist Church in Waco.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
" PULITZER PRIZE " winning photo taken in 1994 during the Sudan famine.The picture depicts a famine stricken child crawling towards an United Nations food camp, located a kilometer away.The vulture is waiting for the child to die so that it can eat it. This picture shocked the whole world. No one knows what happened to the child, including the photographer Kevin Carter who left the place as soon as the photograph was taken.Three months later he committed suicide due to depression.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Monday, April 09, 2007
This tradition is often seen by Christians as an integral part of the faith, a sacrament, or even an obligation. But what exactly are we doing when we take part in this ancient tradition?
This Easter, most Christians had the opportunity to participate in the Eucharist. It occurred to me how odd this really is. There are three traditions regarding the Eucharist within Christianity. Transubstantiation is the idea that at the time of consecration of the elements, they literally become the body and blood of Christ. This doctrine is widely associated with the Roman Catholic Church. Another view of the Eucharist is called consubstantiation; this says that the elements are 'with' the essence of the body and blood of Christ. This perspective is most widely associated with Martin Luther. A third view is symbolism; the elements are simply symbols of the body and blood of Christ. Most Baptists claim this view.
For us to understand the nature of the Eucharist, let us begin by putting ourselves in the mindset of Jesus' disciples. Unlike the now-famous picture of the Last Supper, the historical events of this famous meal were quite routine, for the most part. The Feast of Unleavened Bread immediately followed Passover, but was celebrated at the same time as one event during the years of Jesus' life. It was celebrated only in the most intimate of one's circles. This would have been one's family. Jesus and his closest disciples make up a family. Their relationship is intimate.
They are in the Upper-Room of a two-story house. The house would have been located in the Upper City area of Jerusalem, where the wealthy families lived. (As opposed to the Lower City, downwind of the town's sewage, where the poor families lived in single story abodes). It's April in Jerusalem, and sundown is about 6pm. This is when the meal began.
The head of the family (in this case Jesus) would take the bread and say a blessing over it. In the Jewish tradition, he would say, "This is the bread of affliction we ate when we came out of Egypt." The bread would be broken, not cut, and passed around - remembering the history of Israel and the descendants participation in that history. Then the wine would be passed.
The wine served as a reminder of the blood sacrifice of the Covenant. A covenant was an agreement that went beyond any of today's contractual agreements. It was absolutely obligatory to one who chose to enter into such an arrangement. The Sinai Covenant reflected in the Bible, and what became the most important in the Hebrew tradition, is known as a Suzerainty Covenant, that is an arrangement between a Suzerain (= King) and his vassals. A covenant consisted of five parts: 1) a statement reminding a king's vassals that he has done something extraordinarily gracious for them, 2) a statement of what he expects from them ; stipulations of how they are to relate to him and each other, 3) a list of witnesses, blessings and curses surrounding the covenant, 4) the ratification ceremony, including a sign or symbol consummating the covenant, and 5) formal procedures for violation of the covenant. This pattern is followed in the Sinai Covenant in Exodus.
For a covenant to be consummated, the ratification ceremony (Part 4 listed above) must be performed. This consisted of two parts 1) a verbal agreement to the covenant, and 2) the act of blood being shed; this took the form of animal sacrifice in the Sinai Covenant (Exod 24:5-8). This is the reason for the sign of circumcision in the Covenant of Abraham, and many other blood sacrifices in the ancient world. Since the Feast of Unleavened Bread remembers the Sinai Covenant, we shall keep out focus there. The wine at the meal Jesus celebrated with his closest friends was an allusion to the covenant between Israel and God after he delivered them out of Egypt, the land of slavery and bondage. The elements of the Passover meal (bread and wine) serve as a reminder of Sinai and the history of the Jewish people.
It is important to note that Passover tradition did not understand the cup of wine to be blood, but a reminder of the Covenant, as Jewish law and custom forbid any drinking of blood, especially human blood. In fact, the idea of consuming blood is repugnant and revolting in the Jewish mind. This will play a major part in understanding what Jesus does at the Last Supper.
Jesus takes the bread and blesses it, only he says that the bread is his body. He changes the meaning of the bread, from what the Israelites ate coming out of Egypt to his body. Besides this making little sense to Jesus' disciples, it would also be seen as completely repulsive. In fact, when (and if) they finally understood this as a reinterpretation of an ancient tradition and an entirely new covenant (Jesus was the new covenant), any such revelation or understanding would still have been greatly overshadowed by the revolting idea of Jesus saying to eat his body.
Then Jesus takes the cup, calls it his blood, and tells them to drink it!! In retrospect, the Christian tradition has understood Jesus was prophetically announcing what must take place, however this would not have been Jesus' disciples reaction. It was weird, awkward, and gross.
Church traditions aside, the Eucharist is not a pretty picture. Jesus is not saying that his is literally his blood. The greek word written in Mark can also mean, "represent." And literally drinking blood and eating human flesh would defile anyone. Any pious Jew would have never considered it; also social customs would have made the idea inconceivable. But this is why Jesus statements are so appalling. The idea of consuming flesh and drinking blood is so revolting and unthinkable, even a 'symbolic' meaning would still have been taboo. While Jesus is still not telling them to literally do this, even his metaphor is shocking and unorthodox.
Why would one drink and eat human flesh? Cannibalism is taboo in the modern civilized world. It is only practiced among the most uncivilized and inhuman of people. But Christians, within all traditions, still practice the Eucharist without understanding the implications of Jesus words. The Catholic tradition holds them to be literal. As a Jew, this is not what Jesus meant by his words at the Last Supper. A symbolic interpretation would seem to be the most historically accurate understanding of Jesus' meaning here.
But even within the context of symbolism, such a statement is still odd at best. A metaphor only makes sense if we have a literal, physical aspect from which to relate it. In other words, the metaphor makes no sense without the cannibalistic overtones it contains, and our preconceptions of such overtones. So, while Jesus did not mean for us to understand his words literally, he definitely intended for such images to be conjured up. Therefore, the disciples rightly were repulsed by Jesus' words.
This shock value would seem to fit Jesus' attitude at the meal. He is trying to get the point across that he will die and that it is necessary. His death is a new covenant. He is reinterpreting an old tradition in a new way. Jesus' blood provides the ratification ceremony. It is now his blood and body that must be remembered and honored, not the Sinai covenant. These are some reason why he uses such metaphors at the dinner. He doesn't say what he says in spite of it's shock value, but because of it. He is changing the nature of the tradition.
The images of cannibalism are clearly there. The idea of ingesting anything means that it becomes a part of the person eating. The New Covenant, Jesus, is now to be a part of us, and we are to be reminded of the New Covenant constantly. These repulsive cannibalistic overtones are to be understood and not ignored. They mean we are to make the sacrifice of Jesus' part of us - while still keeping in the back of our minds, how really odd this whole thing is. By participating the Eucharist (eat my body, drink my blood), we are participating in the New Covenant.
It's just so ironic that Christian's recite, "This is my body..." without any idea of what Jesus words actually meant to those who heard them.
Next time you partake of the Eucharist, put yourself in the mind of Jesus' disciples and image how you would have reacted. And then bring that mindset to your prayers and consecration of the elements... and discover what Jesus actually meant at the Last Supper.
Friday, April 06, 2007
But love is no easy concept to grasp. If the love Christians have for one another is supposed to be reflective of the love God has for us, then, my friends, we are doing a very poor job.
We have acted with our society's understanding of love. Love is simply an emotion; and love - through often referred to as unconditional - is fleeting.
But God's love is different. True love is different. It is about sacrifice. It is about the beloved, not the lover.
If you want to see a movie about love, don't watch The Notebook, watch the Passion of the Christ.
The idea of the suffering servant is prominent in Hebrew Prophetic literature. But few saw the Messiah of God as the prophet who suffers as well. The Messiah was supposed to be a kingly figure who would overthrow the oppressors of the Israelites and set up a kingdom on this earth that will be in complete accordance with the will of YHWH.
But this was not to be so. Instead the Messiah preached a different kingdom - one that required love. And since love is sacrifice, it meant pain on his part - because love is not about the lover but the beloved.
A hot afternoon in the Near East was a day that would change the course of humanity forever. So many went about their daily business without the slightest inclination of the significance the day would hold. Because the Messiah understood true love, and acted on it. The Messiah embraced his call.
Should we not do the same?
The hotel has no internet whatsoever. Sad day. I've finally found some WiFi at a Fudrucker's. Yay for burgers and laptops!
I was asked to lead the sermon/talk things for a church from Ft. Worth, I don't know how exactly that happened, but it did. So, I'm talking on discipleship. We talked about the role of the rabbi last night, tonight I'll talk on the character of discipleship!
I've met many interesting people, and discussed theology with some great folks.
And I've garnered some new blog readers... so thanks folks.
More to come... my food is here...
Wednesday, April 04, 2007