Advent 1

As we begin this “new year” we adjust our posture to prepare for the coming messiah. This first week of Advent we pause to consider the hope we have in Christ Jesus. This hope is simultaneously a present reality and an anticipated future.

The obvious hope we are “anticipating” is the birth of Jesus in 3 short weeks. But, as the first series of readings for Advent remind us, we are also looking forward with hope to His second advent. With this second set of eyes, we turn to the Gospel text to consider the 3 primary “interpretive lenses” we place over the text to understand the message Mark is crafting. These lenses are the Preterist perspective (all of “these things” have already happened), the Historicist perspective (some of “these things” have happened, some are currently happening, and some will happen soon), and the Futurist perspective (we are waiting for “these things” to begin to unfold). We then move on to consider the parable at the end of the passage to hear Mark’s main point, “stay awake!”

A few resources I found helpful in sparking some thoughts and questions are:

  • http://www.davidlose.net/2014/11/advent-1-b/

I often look to see what Dr. Lose is wrestling with in the lectionary readings for the week. This week he helps us stay in the tension between perspectives rather than reinforcing one fixed point-of-view over another

  • http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=184

I found Berge’s perspective on the connection between the parable at the end of the text and the passion narrative that follows interesting. We did not talk about this Sunday morning as it falls too firmly in the Preterist camp to serve the purposes of the message… perhaps food for discussion Sunday evening…

  • http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/MkAdvent1.htm

Dr. Loader consistently is helpful in framing a text and drawing solid conclusions. He ends his consideration in the same location as the text and the morning sermon… waiting, watching, staying awake.

  • http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/pmol/pastissues/2005%20Advent/magnov27.htm

Dr Busic does a nice job setting the scene and setting this text as the foundation for the rest of their proposed sermon series.

  • Revelation: Four Views: A Parallel Commentary (by S. Gregg)

This volume does a wonderful job of laying out the 4 main interpretive options for understanding the book of Revelation verse by verse. It is very thorough, and a little dense to try and read, but it is a very helpful reference resource for personal study.

  • Discipleship on the Edge (D. Johnson)

This is my “go to” resource for Revelation and all things apocalyptic. Dr. Johnson will radically alter our hearing of the text if we will take this journey with him.

I hope this consideration of the variety of perspectives can be helpful in our personal understanding of apocalyptic literature, and in our interpersonal discussion about the eschatological vision contained in the text.

Christ the King

November 26, 2017

Reflecting on the theme for this Sunday*, I thought I’d post a little background info. to fill out our time in Ephesians 1:15-23 This text is an introductory prayer of thanksgiving for the church at Ephesus. In verses 15-19 Paul thanks God for the “relational resources” He has blessed the Ephesians with; revelation, wisdom, open eyes and an eternal hope. I was inspired in this section by NT Wright (https://ojs.st-andrews.ac.uk/index.php/TIS/article/viewFile/1215/931) who talks about how the Ephesian church, and our contemporary churches, seem to have lost sight of the hope held out to us in scripture and in the resurrection power of hope.

As we move into the last few verses of this text we encounter the main theme of the morning, the authority, power, and position of the resurrected and exalted Jesus. Jesus as King certainly has universal and eternal scope, but our 3 main reminders come as we try and grasp how He functions as head of the church. To illustrate this principle, we tried to stay in the metaphor of a head governing and exercising authority over a body. In thinking about this, I came across a helpful article by Frank Viola (http://pastors.com/5-ways-jesus-head-church/) which helps us frame our thinking in this relationship. When Viola’s ideas combine with the teaching of people like Dallas Willard about spiritual formation we have a potent combination of ideas.

  • Jesus directing His Church in obedience to His call, giving specific commands, in specific circumstances, for a specific response. God still calls His people to obedience and service in the same ways He spoke to Peter, Paul, Phillip, and others in the New Testament.
  • Jesus forming the Church to His character, through spiritual formation. Dallas Willard has been heavily influential in this area of our understanding, describing the role of spiritual disciplines as enabling us to something we could not otherwise do by direct effort. (Renewing the Christian Mind p. 32)  The church learns to display His character as it practices simple obedience, expresses love for one another, serves the oppressed, worships together etc.
  • Jesus nurtures the church through communion, as we encounter his spiritual presence, engage in service and receive the sacraments. As His people, we are sustained by Christ’s presence in us and with us, as we are filled with His Spirit, incarnate His presence in serving others, and receive His gracious presence practicing the means of grace He instructed.

*I will be posting reflections like this throughout Advent as a way of sharing some resources that are helping me, shaping me, and informing my understanding of the passages we are studying together. 

Renovation of the Church I

“How can discipleship to Jesus—in a sense recognizable from the Bible, with the spiritual transformation it brings—be the mode of operation in a thriving North American congregation?”

Renovation of the Church p. 9

I believe this question, articulated by Dallas Willard, is the question for the western church in today’s North American culture. The forces of consumerism, affluence, entitlement, fear, and individualism have pushed and pulled the church so out of shape it is almost unrecognizable from its form, mission, and function in the past. How do we wade into this massive challenge in a way that we will be able to stand against the gravitational pull of outward success, pastoral/leadership ambition, and attractional/consumer based Christianity?

Willard suggests that the starting point is for the leaders in the church (including but, in my opinion, not limited to the pastor) to sever the root of ambition for personal or corporate success expressed in the cultural mantra of “having things my way.” We have raised up a generation of church going, cultural Christians that live by this mantra in their homes, careers, families and in their church. Until this root of pride, selfishness, individuality and personal preference is cut out and laid aside, there can be no progress in the spiritual life. However, once this root has been discovered and the process of putting off the old nature has begun, the journey of putting on Christ can begin.With this

With this realization and commitment in place, the community of faith can resume its true purpose and goal of making disciples that are mature in Christ. This goal will totally redefine 1. our understanding of success, 2. our purpose for coming together, 3. the way we view and utilize our resources, and 4. the way we organize ourselves and make decisions.

So, the primary decision for us to make at the outset of this journey is, “do we realize the primacy of being and making disciples of Jesus, and if we do, are we willing to walk the road to maturity together?”

There are no secrets or shortcuts to this process. Scripture and tradition are clear in the method, the costs, and the intended outcomes. History shows again and again that when a group of believers commits themselves to this process God is faithful, His Spirit is sufficient, and apprentices of Jesus are the results. Are we ready for this journey?