Category: Uncategorized

February 11, 2012 / / Uncategorized

I was recently exposed to an influential article by Gerd Theissen* pertaining to the interpretation of the Bible in light of sociological analysis of the situations the text presents. Namely, Theissen sets out to explain the cultural significance of meat in the city of Corinth at the time of Paul’s letters to them, an attempt to better understand the controversy taking place in 1 Corinthians 8-9.

This article about the quarrel between the “strong” and the “weak” in Corinth reveals the customs, cultural traditions, and economic realities that shaped the variations in perceptions of eating meat for the 1st century Christians. Theissen is able to show that the richer people ate meat often, were accustom to consuming it, and were uninvolved in its purchase (which could quite possibly come from a sacrifice to idols). The poor, on the other hand, experience meat far less frequently, and consumed it primarily in pagan festivals and feasts in the city, the object of which was idol worship. This, amongst social factors such as sociability, legitimation, and communication in the upper class, reveals the tension to which Paul speaks in 1 Cor 8-9.

The fascinating and moving thing about Paul’s response is the way that it deals with these societal norms. Theissen reminds us that “for Paul the revaluation of all norms of social rank and dominance – including the dominance of a higher “knowledge” and “wisdom” – proceeds directly from the preaching of the cross (1:18ff).”* The compromise which Paul lays out leaves room for differing social classes to partake in meat in their different ways. The privileges and participation of the social classes is preserved. However, one thing is clear: The concern, care, and respect of other believers is to so permeate the norms of the Christian community that they would give up their rights or privileges if it meant preventing a brother or sister from stumbling.

Though the situation to which Paul speaks is quite specific, the principle is seemingly clear. When it comes to rights and privileges, I cannot help but be overwhelmed with the connection to my own culture and society. Our world of rugged individualism, self entitlement, and inalienable rights certainly leaves a wake in our own worldview. We speak about what we “deserve” and what we have a “right” to in such a way that it takes only a little reflection to see the selfishness it masks. We, too, so easily fall victim to the logic of what we deserve – the defense of our own rights. But as Christians, what rights should we be claiming? To what should we be most strongly entitled?

Paul’s preaching emerged from the cross. If, as followers of Christ, we are going to be enthusiastic about claiming any rights, stubborn about any one thing we deserve, ardent about being denied something particular, I pray that these would emerge from the cross.

Above all other rights, above any other claim, before we dare make observation about what we do or do not deserve, may we begin with the rights afforded to us by the cross.

May I claim no right but to sacrifice, to give, to be poured out on the behalf of others.

To be rid of self-interest, less concerned with what I rightfully own than what I freely give.

I have a right to be taken advantage of, to be slighted, to be misunderstood and falsely accused.

These are the rights I find at the foot of the cross.

To be broken, dejected, and wholly dependent on the Father.

To care as much about those suffering on my left and on my right as I do about my own plight.

To lovingly embrace the poor, unclean, and shamed.

To endure shame and stigma on behalf of the kingdom of God.

To be most interested in the welfare of all of creation over and above my own comfort and convenience.

To be less about self-promotion and more about promoting the will of the Father.


If I claim any right, it is the right to give mine up.

January 16, 2012 / / Uncategorized

The beauty of days in which we recognize icon’s like Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movement he represents is that it offers us the perspective of just how far we’ve come, and it is a solemn reminder of where we once were.

I have recently observed a number of scenarios that have caused me to question what Christian equality truly looks like and what our collective next step must be.  What better setting to offer these reflections than the holiday dedicated to a man who championed the “content of character” as a person’s value rather than the color of their skin.  This was truly a man who envisioned a community in which “all flesh” see things together.  I thank God that I have grown up in a world that stepped beyond the tragedies of segregation and mass, racial injustice.  My lifetime has not known appearance as a perquisite.  My classrooms, locker rooms, universities, teams, and social settings have always been painted with a beautiful spectrum of diversity, worlds apart from where America could be found on the eve of King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.

A host of courageous leaders pioneered a movement for equality in that decade.  But that was the need for that decade.  That was the necessary step toward true equality in that day.  I look around and ask, What must be ours?

January 16, 2012 / / Uncategorized

No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made.

Matthew 9:16


Undeniably, we live in a culture that loves a quick fix. Drive through oil change, 15 minute tire rotation, fast food, and social media in 140 characters or less. This is nothing new. If there is a quicker way to fix something, why not? It seems like we would even sacrifice quality for expediency sometimes. Okay, maybe it just doesn’t “seem” like it. It’s true. I mean people are eating up some disgusting fast food like its going out of style.

We’d often rather throw a quick patch on a problem than really get to the heart of what’s wrong. Sometimes, things simply require significant maintenance or an extensive overhaul.


These words of Jesus come in Matthew 9:14-17 as a response to the questioning by the disciples of John over the issue of fasting, but the real issue is clear. They are concerned about what it takes to be righteous. “Why we doing this and your disciples aren’t?” they ask. “How do we maintain an appropriate level righteousness before the law?” they wonder. As we see over and over in the teaching of Jesus, he will quickly reveal (whether or not they realize it) that something serious, something extensive, is going to happen.

The religious structures that were in place are going to have to experience some serious overhaul. In fact, the old must be replaced with something new. A patch simply will not do anymore…

January 10, 2012 / / Uncategorized

In a recent class which primarily engaged the theology of mission, I was asked to submit a final statement regarding my own personal theology of mission.  The full version is a bit longer, but in light of my recent thoughts about the church’s role in the world, I found myself returning to the conclusion of my statement.  It is by no means comprehensive, but I am both encouraged and greatly challenged by where I ended in writing this.  May it provide the same for you:

The Church

If I know anything, it is that mission does not begin or end with the church.  Yet, here the church stands in the peculiar position of being called and at the same time unnecessary. Called, in that it has been given a mission, a purpose, an assigned task; Unnecessary in that we must confess that the work of God is in no way limited to the church’s participation, ability, or faithfulness.  Nevertheless, God’s abundant power must surely not nullify the reality that scripture reveals His propensity to use the ordinary and unexpected to display his power on earth.

If mission is an assigned task or a calling, then I find the mission of the church to be relatively clear.  In his people, God is making himself known.  In this way, the church becomes the embodiment of the mysterious kingdom of God, the display of His ways and His character…

January 7, 2012 / / Uncategorized
churches can be ugly.


The Church is Ugly, and I love it.

I was reminded this week on several occasions just how dirty, ugly, and messed up churches can become. Fortunately, each of these examples was closely followed by the powerful role that churches and ministers play in the lives of congregations across the world.  The Church, more broadly, can be equally condemned.  It’s no surprise that my peers often reject it, that large numbers of people who consider themselves followers of Jesus do not consider church as a part of their life.  It’s no surprise that many families found attending church on Christmas day this year to be cumbersome, obligatory, or unnecessary.  It’s not breaking news that the church has long lost it’s place of privilege in the world, and with that has disappeared the sanctity of the body of Christ and the believer’s likelihood of loving it.

Yes, churches fight, argue, split, and have some less than commendable people.  As one of my mentors put it, “every church has some jerks.”  So, why bother?  I hold a very high view of the role of the local church in my own theology.  As a minister in a local church, and a seminary student, I find myself inescapably tied to it.  And let’s be honest, that isn’t always pretty. I don’t always like it. And sometimes I look around at the public perception of ministers and cringe.  But the reality it is: No matter how ugly the church may be, I am called to love  it.

January 4, 2012 / / Uncategorized

“There are things for which an uncompromising stand is worthwhile.” -Bonhoeffer  

November 3, 2010 / / Uncategorized
Fair Weather Fans...

In recent weeks, I have noticed a recurring theme among people and organizations around me, one which rings true throughout history.  When things are going poorly, or perhaps simply less than expected, people are quite inclined toward change.  In fact, in situations such as this people are very likely to assume that change automatically means improvement.

From sports culture to politics, this theme is evident even in the last few weeks.  When America’s favorite football team produces a season far short of capabilities and expectations, cries for the firing of the head coach begin.  As the season worsens, the murmurings grow into rampant Facebook statuses calling for some sort of drastic change.  One can’t help but think that if things had been going better no one would question a thing.

If your favorite college football team’s quarterback is playing poorly, put in the back up! We love him! Or worse, when an unknown team suddenly emerges, everyone joins the band wagon.  When things go south, the t-shirt fans are much less likely to put on the team colors.  This reality is appears in Scripture, and sadly within the church today as well.

October 26, 2010 / / Uncategorized
September 22, 2010 / / Uncategorized

The fascinating and well known events surrounding the crossing of the Red Sea, found in Ex. 13 and 14 provide for us a fascinating account of the LORD’s provision and the protection of His people.  Interestingly enough, the story begins by immediately acknowledging the weakness of the men and women whom God is delivering. Indeed, these people are being led by Moses by the hand of the Lord out of captivity! Yet, we read that God has not led them down the road through the Philistine country, even though it was shorter.

“For God said, ‘If they face war they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’” (13:17b)

God is already preparing the Israelites for battle, setting in motion events that will help them to not turn back.  This is but a mere foreshadow of the grumblings and murmurings and outright complaints that would be forged against both God and Moses a few verses later and for chapters to come. However, amidst this often told story of God’s miraculous provision for his people (who again find themselves traversing between a promise and its fulfillment), we encounter a Moses who boldly and wisely proclaims the power of God before an immediately retreating Israelite people.

The questions and complaints begin pouring out in Ch. 14 as the Egyptians approach , “marching after them.”  The people begin to question the journey, the reasons, the difficulties, and even whether or not their original plight was all that bad to begin with.

And Moses replies to his people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still” (14:14)

September 15, 2010 / / Uncategorized

The book of Genesis presents its readers with characters who are easily criticized, men and women whose actions are far from irreproachable.  To look back at the events which took place, the decisions people made, and the results which came from them, the skeptic can easily critique the lives of these biblical characters.  In simply looking at Abraham, the dichotomy of faithfulness and faithlessness is evident.

After all, this is the man who answers to resounding “go forth” and leave your home with little hesitation (Gen. 12) and whose providential  journey reaches its high point on a mountain with his son in one of the purest expressions of faith we can find (Gen. 22).  Yet, it takes no scholar to realize that this is the same man who is introducing his wife as his sister and the man who utilizes the surrogate Hagar, when his patience runs thin. (16)

So what do we have in all these characters?

For Abraham, and those through whom his covenant goes forth, great things surely await.  Abraham, after all, has been promised to become “a great nation”.  He has been shown the stars and told, “So shall your descendants be,” by God himself.  The man was guaranteed “one who will come forth from your own body” as an heir.

Amidst all of this, the blessings, the promises, the voice of God, the families of Genesis continue to struggle with faith in God.  It is as if no promise can assure them.  No guarantee is quite enough. Note here that the divine will of God prevails regardless.  Yet any critic, to be fair, must now be self-reflective.

In these men and women, we find narratives of lives lived out in the most difficult arena of life: the time between promise and fulfillment.