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.