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Tantalized by the writing of N.T. Wright

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Mm-mm. . .

I just read a first chapter full of promise.  Know the feeling?  A chapter that makes your heart beat faster, for you catch a glimpse—as if peering through the woods—of what you’ve been looking for? Many of you know.

The book is N. T. Wright‘s The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is. A few (of many) quotes that have left me tantalized:

We have been taught by the Enlightenment to suppose that history and faith are antithetical, so that to appeal to one is to appeal away from the other. […] When Christianity is truest to itself, however, it denies precisely this dichotomy—uncomfortable though this may be. […]  Actually, I believe this discomfort is itself one aspect of a contemporary Christian vocation: as our world goes through the deep pain of the death throes of the Enlightenment, the Christian is not called to stand apart from this pain but to share it. [15-16]

I am someone who believes that being a Christian necessarily entails doing business with history and that history done for all its worth will challenge spurious versions of Christianity, including many that think of themselves as orthodox, while sustaining and regenerating a deep and true orthodoxy, surprising and challenging though this will always remain. [p 17]

Many Jesus scholars of the last two centuries have of course thrown Scripture out of the window and reconstructed a Jesus quite different from what we find in the New Testament. But the proper answer to that approach is not simply to reassert that because we believe in the Bible we do not need to ask fresh questions about Jesus. […] And this process of rethinking will include the hard and often threatening question of whether some things that our traditions have taken as “literal” should be seens as “metaphorical,” and perhaps also vice versa. [17]

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When atheists come to church (sermon of July 5)

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C Vonaesch - Femme Touchant Jesus

C Vonaesch - Femme Touchant Jesus

Last week, Jesus, pushing through a crowd, was secretly touched by a woman who’ d been bleeding for 12 years; her bleeding stopped.  She who’d been untouchable by the rules of the day touched him; she was then well, and he became untouchable.  She gets well. He takes on her “uncleanness.”

And then he touched a 12 year old girl who had recently died. He was now “unclean” twice-over (touching a dead body made him so a second time), but the girl was alive.   She gets life. He takes on her “uncleanness.”

Magnificent.

And the next thing that happens is that Jesus, the now-famous, compassionate, but scandalously irreligious traveling teacher, goes home to Nazareth. And while he’s been amazing everyone, at Nazareth, Jesus is amazed.

What could possibly amaze Jesus? Read the rest of this entry »

Name 10 things the government does well

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A dear friend of mine left a challenge in a comment.  Here ’tis:

Other than the military, can you name 10 things that the government has done really well, better than the private sector?

It’s an important question, for skepticism toward all government (rather than reform of bad government) is not only common, but at the root of a couple of major political outlooks.  And because it’s important, it seemed worth a post of its own.

Here’s my quick response. Maybe you can do better:

You betcha. Off the top of my head, I’ll give you twenty, most of which are under-funded for the work they do:

  1. The FAA. Crashes are a rarity here, thanks to equipment safety tests and massively successful air flight controlling.
  2. Medicaid: private sector insurance companies make money by ditching their customers when they get very sick. Medicaid picks up the castoffs.
  3. Social Security: What if Mr. Bush had succeeded in privatizing SS before the markets crashed? Can you imagine how many old people would be working at WalMart, since their SS would have been cut in half? And did you know that before SS, thousands of older Americans simply starved to death?
  4. SCHIP: Healthcare insurance for children who would not otherwise have it – enormously preventive of school absence, long-term illness, loss of physical and mental development
  5. Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s chill. We’re both partly wrong. (Sermon of 1 Feb 09)

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In the aftermath of  World War II, many European intellectuals (later joined by Americans and many others) were forced to ask this question:  how could this have happened? This referred to two world wars, and especially the Holocaust. […] They diagnosed the sickness that had befallen Western civilization in general and “Christian” Germany in particular to be excessive confidence.

Brian McLaren in Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope

Mark 1:21-28 (NIV*)

Arguing over a sales commission (Chicago Theater Blog)

Arguing over a sales commission (Chicago Theater Blog)

21They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

Strange thing to say, isn’t it?  Rabbis certainly did have authority to teach the Scriptures. But when Jesus spoke, something else happened.

And as if to prove it:

23Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24″What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

Remember, we’re in Chapter 1 here.  Who else in the room would have even thought this? Virtually no one but Jesus himself. How shocked they must have been to hear it. What a statement!

And what a source! Jesus reacts immediately. First:

25″Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly.

Why would he shush, if it’s true? Why would an evil spirit say it, anyway? Read the rest of this entry »

Jesus, ooey-gooey, and The Onion (Sermon of Nov 23)

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Jesus paints the end of time over and over in the runup to Matthew’s version of passion week.  But, whew! The implications of these stories are startlingly controversial.

He tells of a great sorting of people (Matthew 25:31-46).  Goyim —gentiles—people, perhaps, like me.  The method of his sort, though, I never heard in Sunday School.

He's an Author and Homeless i...

He explains his choice to the group invited into his “kingdom:”

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.

“Say what?” they respond.  “We never saw you like that.”

His answer?

Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me-you did it to me.

Huh.  Wonder what that means.  To him?

Don Jail

Now the second group, whom he says are “good for nothing but the fires of hell.” And why?

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

“Say what?” they respond.  “We never saw you like that.”

His answer?

Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me-you failed to do it to me.

The “goats” go off to their doom, the sheep to their reward.  The end.

But wait, this is going to get very strange. Read the rest of this entry »