Thursday, December 22, 2011

Proud Pastor

We are in the last week of the advent season, which at UBC is the week of love.  As is sometimes the case, I struggled to shape the sermon around the theme because of the abuse of the word love in our culture.  I settled on Psalm 89, which is the alternative reading from the Hebrew Bible. 

The text thrust me into the idea of covenantal faithfulness.  I shared about the difference between our cultural conception of the feeling of love or being in love and the Hebrew idea of hessed/emet.

On Tuesday this last week I got a call from the guidance counselor at the middle school that we work with through several of our outreach programs.  She explained that they had three students whose families needed help with Christmas because another church was unable fulfill its commitment.  I explained that most of our congregation was gone because of Baylor’s schedule, but that I’d check with the rest of the staff.  We unanimously agreed to give it whirl.  The guidance counselor dropped off the information on Tuesday afternoon and we were overwhelmed by the list of 41 presents.

Our idea was to shape the need of the families as an opportunity to respond to the idea of love.  So in the last few moments of the sermon I explained the situation and gave directions for people to help if they were able.  Katie, made individual slips of paper that listed the gift needs, which she hung on our tree for people to grab in the lobby after the service.  I explained that the presents needed to be bought and wrapped in 24 hours.  We were skeptical, but hopeful.  Most people were getting ready to travel.  Christmas budgets had been spent.  We figured money and time were commodities in short supply.

By the time I got out into the lobby after the service I found a line of people asking what they could get because all the slips were gone.  Katie suggested we make a sign that asked for gift cards to restaurants and local grocery stores. 

On Monday afternoon I headed into the office to get some work done before we jetted for the holidays.   I was greeted by this … our hallway wall lined with presents.

Undoubtedly the best moment of this Christmas Season for me. 

So proud of UBC.  They never fail to give.

This is love embodied.  This is the practice of incarnation.

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas moment

Last years enthused Christmas-present-opener-moment went to my son Roy for this ...

with much joy in heart, he opened an Imaginext Toy Story 3 Trash Dump.  

This year we have a new winner.  Lilli is an avid collector of baby dolls.  Since Lindsay has not given her free reign over her baby sister Mabel, Lilli received a Bitty Baby from Santa Clause. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

One Question for the NT Wright

I think Tom Wright’s work is incredibly helpful. However, after reading Justification, if given the chance, I would ask him about one comment. On page 252, the second to last page, Wright writes,
“Finally, as is already clear from above, this lawcourt verdict, implementing God’s covenant plan, and all based on Jesus Christ himself, is announced both in the present, with the verdict issued on the basis of faith and faith alone, and also in the future, on the day when God raises from the dead all those who are already indwelt by the Spirit. The present verdict gives the assurance that the future verdict will match it; the Spirit gives the power through which that future verdict, when given, will be seen to be in accordance with the life that the believer has then lived.”
As I made my way through the book it struck me that this is primarily a debate about the rejection of imputed righteousness. Chasing the trajectory of imputed righteousness, Wright examines (among others) Augustine and argues that his appropriation of imputed righteousness shifted the lawcourt metaphor to a medical one … “a kind of remedial spiritual surgery, involving a “righteousness implant” which, like an artificial heart, begins to enable the patient to do things previously impossible.” (p. 91).
This is also why it makes sense for Wright to write a book called After You Believe, which is essentially an overlay of Nichomachean Ethics on Paul while redefining Aristotle’s telos from Aristotelian happiness to something like life in Christ. Participationist soteriology is deeply concerned with conformity to Christ through the habituated practiced of the will. Said differently … discipleship. Since righteousness is not imputed it must be developed through practice.
Here's more.  Wright asserts that, “And at that judgment seat the verdict will be in accordance with one’s ‘works.’” (p. 108) The judgment seat will be a scene the character is squeezed and we get to see who we are. We will have worked to become something. And also why it is meaningful for Wright to point out “ ‘salvation’ and ‘justification’ have been tossed around as mere synonyms, both being thereby denied their proper force.” (p. 170) For Wright they are not the same. But if all that is true the initial statement strikes me as inconsistent.
If justification is about entrance into the community of God (assuming the ecclesiological badge) and not a “medical metaphor” then it would follow that there is plenty of room to fail once inside of the community. Why would that pronouncement necessarily be the same?
Given Wrights theological genius and exegetical ability I assume I’ve misunderstood him on the point raised in the initial quote. Any thoughts would be welcomed.

Friday, December 9, 2011


I really don't like the inspirational/glance-at-my-picture and feel bad about your life campaigns that are often found on facebook.  That said this image was gripping, probably because I feel like the ladies on the right. I love Christmas.  I love lots of presents and I love all the cliche culturally manufactured moments that surround Christmas.  I want to be Clark Griswold. 

Anticipating criticism, someone will probably object that these are exploited orphans who serve the purpose of making photos like this more poignant.  Granted, but let's acknowledge that some version of both parties in this picture exist.  One having something to do with the condition of the other.  

Do I think all you dirty capitalist Americans (that was sarcastically pejorative) should fight Christmas consumption.  No, I'm one of them.  I just hope you carry this reality in your heart and include it in your Christmas imagination. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Birthday Trivia Answers

1. Anna Danger Waldrop
2. Amber Wilhite
3. Bethany Wallace
4. Amy Jacober Peacock
5. Beth McCarty
6. Kareem Shane
7. Lindsay Carney
8. Melody Zuniga
9. Timmy Moon
10. Britt Duke
11. Molly Winn
12. Matt O'Brien
13. Mark Waldrop
14. Jose Zuniga
15. Tye Barrett
16. Katie Barrett
17. Katie Lauve Moon
18. Melissa Rowland Whisnant
19. Jeremy Nance
20. Tom McCarty
21. Holly Duke
22. Emily Nance
23. Craig Nash
24. Toph Whisnant
25. Tim Riggins
26. Josiah Wallace
27. Cory Peacock
28. Chris Gibson
29. British Jon
30. Adam Winn
31. David Wilhite
32. Brett Gibson

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mabel Nokomis Carn-Dog

20 inches
7 lbs 10 oz

more pictures to come later...

PS ... please start praying for Lilli as she is now a middle child ... and Diva.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On Being Left Behind

Sunday a few of you asked me about the closing line of my sermon which was, “May we be the faithful who get Left Behind.”  The play on words is of course in reference to the popular Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins series.  The idea for these few words in the sermon came from this article written by Matthew Dickerson printed recently in Christianity Today

Enough of you have asked about the meaning of that statement, leading me to conclude that the logic leading up to that point was not clear enough. 

I’m hoping a bit more explanation here might help.  Here is the pertinent section of the 1 Thessalonians text we looked at Sunday:

15For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.

The image of Hierapolis:
On the north side of the city Hierapolis is roughly two kilometer long necropolis that marches into the city.  Those who entered the city would first pass through the lengthy cemetery.  Some like John Crossan in his book God and Empire, have suggested that this archeological find is suggestive that this sort of municipal layout is indicative of many Roman cities, possibly including Thessalonica.

The Greek Words (parousian & eis apantēsin):
Parousian = coming
eis apantēsin = to meet (the word we get rapture from)

Here are those verses with those words.

1 Thessolonians 4:15: For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming (Parousian) of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.


1 Thessolonians 4:17: Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet (eis apantēsin) the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord for ever.

Though these two words could occur in the colloquial vernacular of the community in Thessalonica there occurrence together could arguably suggest that Paul has in mind a specific occurrence common in the Roman Empire during the Pax Romana.

A visit (parousian) to a city from the Emperor would demand that local magistrates ask the question about how to meet (eis apantēsin) the Emperor. 

Here is an example from antiquity during Alexander’s expansion in 333 BC.  After defeating Darius in Syria, Alexander the Great turned his attention south.  After the high priest in Jerusalem, Jaddus, expressed his intent to remain loyal to the defeated Darius, Alexander destroyed Tyre and Gaza.  A now fearful Jaddus rethought his position sacrificing an animal and waited for a response form the Almighty.  Josephus picks it up here:

Antiquities (11.327-28) “God spoke oracularly to him in his sleep, telling him to take courage and adorn the city with wreaths and open the gates and go out to meet them [literally, make the hypantēsin], and that the people should be in white garments…. And, after doing all the things that he had been told to do, [he] awaited the coming [parousian] of the king.”

Here we see the pairing together again suggesting that this language refers specifically to the event of a visiting big wig. 

The image and the Greek together:
We might then conclude that Paul is referring the event whereby a visiting kingly figure, in most cases the emperor, would first approach the city and be greeted by it’s dead.  At about this distance from the city the figure would be met by the city’s elite who went out “to meet” him.  The crucial point would be this, they did not then go back to the domain of the visiting figure, but rather return to the city with the visitor.

Ecological Payoff:
By way of analogy (and it is helpful exercise in humility to remember that Paul is reaching for a metaphor to describe eschatological events, which he and us don’t have epistemic ability to properly describe) we can conclude that when the “rapture” comes the living and the dead will meet Christ in the clouds and return to earth in the same way the city’s elite would return to the city. 

This means our eschatology does not promote the abandoning of creation, but rather the renewal of it. 

Ecological behavior in light of eschatological truth:
As I pointed out Sunday, even with our resurrected glorified bodies, we cannot endure forever on this earth if nothing changes.  Romans 8 says that the “creation longs for redemption.”  In the same way our bodies need a glorified makeover so too the cosmos does.  In other words in the same way our bodies, which are sown perishable and come back imperishable … so too the universe needs a cosmic makeover.  Something for example, needs to undo the 2nd law of thermodynamics if we are going to take up residence in God’s good creation forever.  This seems to be one of the theological points of Revelation 21 & 22.

This is why we do not embrace a view of rapture that says the world is going to hell in a hand basket, let’s escape this sinking ship as our souls fly to heaven.  This is a robustly Platonic anthropology, not a Judeo-Christian one, which instead celebrates God’s good creation through creation, incarnation and consummation. 

Still one might object that we can’t ultimately rescue the earth.  That is true, but rescuing the earth is not the point.  The point is being formed as a disciple by practicing now what we will be for eternity.  We are being formed in the image of Jesus.  I would guess that caring for the dying, the work of hospice, is probably one of the most formative moments an individual could have.  We don’t do the work of hospice because we are going to rescue our loved ones now resigned to death.  We do it because until his/her last breath, the only proper response of the disciple is to love. 

So to with our creation, which has something in continuity and discontinuity with the new creation.  The new creation will be different than this one in that “what was sown perishable will be raised imperishable.”   But it will be the same in that everything beautiful and holy about this world is so because it points to the renewal to come.  Thus we practice now with what resembles eternity to become what we will be in eternity. 

Thus my suggestion at the end of the sermon was that some day there will be a general resurrection of the living and the dead.  Those incongruent with God as measured by the person and work of Jesus Christ will be cast out.  Those found in Christ will be kept to enjoy God’s renewal.  And so to all of those who eagerly await the redemption of the new creation I pray that we may be left behind to enjoy it (as opposed to being cast off). 

hope that helps.