Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Monday, March 30, 2015
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
Note: Video is incomplete.
2015/03/22 Christ Church, Mountain Top
2015/03/22 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Call to Worship, Psalm 51.1-17
Children, John 12.20-33
Message, Jeremiah 31.31-34
Today, we come to the climax of the covenants in the Hebrew Scriptures, the “new covenant” described uniquely by Jeremiah in what some call the most moving passage in the Hebrew Scriptures (Bright, Anchor Bible). It is a passage that has been appropriated in the Christian tradition to refer specifically to Jesus, who offers us “my blood of the new covenant” for the “forgiveness of sins”. This is an appropriate and biblical usage of the theme, yet we must remember that the first time the Scriptures describe the “new covenant” is around 600 or more years before Jesus, as a promise given to our Jewish friends and neighbors. We must remember, as well, that this new covenant, which Jeremiah describes in contrast with the old, nevertheless utilizes language associated with that covenant with Israel at Sinai, language associated with Torah.
For example, in the new covenant, “I will put my law (Torah) within them” and “they will all know me” (Jeremiah 31.33, 34). And we hear Moses declare, “The word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe” (Deuteronomy 30.14). And, before Jeremiah, the prophet Isaiah writes, “The earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11.9; see also Habakkuk 2.14). There is a contrast between old and new, certainly. There is also continuity.
Jeremiah’s ministry takes place during the final days of the Jewish state of Judah. The northern kingdom, Israel, what is spoken of today as the “ten lost tribes” has already been destroyed. In the south, Jerusalem becomes weaker and weaker, both in military might and political capital. What bothers the prophet most, however, is that they are wandering further and further from their God. “You have lived as a prostitute with many lovers – would you now return to me?” (Jeremiah 3.1). Yet, in this oracle, God offers hope: “I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take out your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful” (Jeremiah 31.4).
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Each year's confirmation class has the opportunity to lead worship at Wesley Village. This year's group did so on March 15, and they each shared a portion of the afternoon message. Kudos to all! And thanks to Tim & Kim, their teachers, and to their mentors as well.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Sunday, March 22, 2015
Saturday, March 21, 2015
Friday, March 20, 2015
2015/03/15 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Call to Worship, Psalm 107.1-3, 17-22
Children, John 3.14-21
Message, Numbers 21.4-9
As we continue working our way through the covenant story in the Scriptures, using the curriculum of covenant to discern the grace of God and the obedience of faith, we have discovered that, over and over, God is the initiator of covenant. Our God desires a relationship with us, longs to know us and love us, and hopes to receive our love in return. Yet, over and over, we break the covenant. We reject God’s love. We turn upon one another.
It’s been that way since the first human encounter with a serpent. “You will not die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3.4-5). Well, then, since you mentioned that … I’ve been thinking that this fruit does look pretty tasty, and I’d enjoy being god-like – isn’t that the goal, anyway? The serpent was lying. “The serpent struck Adam in paradise and killed him, Israel in the camp and annihilated him” (Ephrem the Syrian, ACCS, OT III, p 242; see Bede, ACCS, p 241).
So we come to this odd story in Numbers, tossed into the mix of several other stories with which it shares little except a geographic progression from one mountain region to another. It includes the story of Moses making a brass snake on a pole, in what seems a clear violation of the second commandment to make “no engraved image”, but – at least in this story – is explicitly commanded by God (see Justin Martyr, ACCS, p 241). It includes the people whining, which surely must be humans at their very worst. And, why whine now, so nostalgic for Egypt? In the text, it has been YEARS since Egypt, and they might have learned before that their complaining only makes God mad. And, it includes God’s response to their whining, which seems downright spiteful: “Well, if you really believe you were brought here to die, that can be arranged!” Then, there’s the weirdness of Jesus’ remark in John’s gospel that the snake on a pole is somehow parallel to Jesus upon the cross. But he wasn’t biting people like a snake, or a vampire, was he? Of course, analogies are just that, analogies. They do not work in every detail, but only in limited particular details.
Before we go into the story itself, I do want to list a few key details in which the analogy does work:
· The serpent on the pole was a sign of judgment; Jesus on the cross is a sign of God’s judgment on our sin.
· The serpent was a symbol of sin; Jesus came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8.3, see Bede, ACCS, 241).
· The serpent on the pole was not alive; Jesus died on the cross.
· The serpent was lifted up for all to see; Jesus was raised upon the cross for all to believe.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Monday, March 16, 2015
Sunday, March 15, 2015
The dedication page for Lamin Sanneh's book Whose Religion Is Christianity? The Gospel Beyond the West. Sanneh is a native of Gambia, theologian, and professor at Yale. I read this in January.
To the memory of my mother
And to that of other victims of cultural oppression
Not as we knew them any more,
Toilworn, and sad with burdened care -
Erect, clear-eyed, upon their brows
Thy name they bear.
Free from the fret of mortal years,
And knowing now Thy perfect will,
With quickened sense and heightened joy,
They serve Thee still.
Nor know to what high purpose Thou
dost yet employ their ripened powers,
Nor how at Thy behest they touch
This life of ours.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
Friday, March 13, 2015
Thursday, March 12, 2015
2015/03/08 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Call to Worship, Psalm 19
Children, John 2.13-22
Message, Exodus 20.1-17
We are looking at the covenants – the treaties or agreements – that God makes with human kind. In each case, they are initiated by God and, though they are made with certain individuals or groups, are integrated into God’s larger plan for the human race. They teach us what it means to be God’s people, fulfilling the ancient purpose of Lent, to train initiates to make their baptismal vows as disciples of Jesus.
The first covenant we explored was made with Noah, with “all flesh” including the creatures, and its sign was God’s bow – a weapon – hung in the clouds, retired from use. The second was one made with Abraham, expressed and developed in at least three separate encounters between Abraham and God, designed to bless him and make him a blessing to “all families on earth”, and to claim him and his heirs as “my people” and be to them “your God”. Its sign was circumcision.
Today, we explore a covenant God makes with the people of Israel – the heirs of Abraham – focused in the commands given at Sinai out of a terrible vision of God’s glory, so glorious that no one, and no creature, could approach the mountain unbidden, or touch it, lest they die. When the LORD finishes giving these commands, we are told that all Israel heard the voice but could not endure before it: You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die (Exodus 20.19). The sign of this covenant, the covenant of Torah, a word for “Law” or “Teaching”, is the stone tablets. As in, “take two tablets and call me in the morning.” Despite the humor, much spiritual guidance boils down to a slogan-like “just do it” obedience. If we refuse to obey, why wonder that we struggle to find ourselves close to God?
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Monday, March 9, 2015
Sunday, March 8, 2015
Saturday, March 7, 2015
Thursday, March 5, 2015
2015/03/01 Christ Church, Mountain Top (Holy Communion)
Children, Mark 8.31-38
Message, Genesis 17.1-16
Last week we introduced our new series, The Covenants God Keeps, with the story of Noah, the first time the word “covenant” shows up in the Scripture. Covenants are agreements or treaties between two parties. In the case of the covenants we will examine, the agreement is between God and people. Among several implications, we noted that God is the initiator of each of these covenants, and the keeper of them. Though we benefit from the covenants, we are also the ones who break them; but God remains faithful.
Lent is the traditional season of instruction for new believers, for persons preparing to make their vows as followers of Jesus. We are using the story of the biblical covenants as our “curriculum” to learn how God desires to connect with us and how God desires us to live toward God and one another.
Today’s covenant story is the covenant with Abraham. Last week, for Noah, our key word was “water” and the covenant sign, the rainbow, was a sign for God. This week, it is “flesh”, as in, “you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins” (Genesis 17.11). Israel was not the first or only culture to practice circumcision, but they were the only one to use it as a sign of God’s agreement with their ancestor and, by extension, with them as a nation.
Three times in Abraham’s story we find covenantal language. The first time does not include the word “covenant”. It functions to introduce and call Abram, as he was then called, and the language shows up in the subsequent covenant texts:
Genesis 12:1-4 Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." 4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
Second, Gen 15
Promise of a son and of the land
Abram believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness, 15.8
Third, Gen 17, today’s text