March 2010


When I blogged last week about genuine community and mentioned the Mennonite faith tradition, I could never have imagined how soon the nation would see first hand how this actually is demonstrated in time of tragedy.

More than 3,000 mourners, most of them Mennonites or Amish, traveled by the busload Tuesday to pay their respects to nine Mennonites killed when a tractor-trailer struck a family’s van in south-central Kentucky.

The family’s pastor, Leroy Kauffman, urged the audience to trust in God, even in the face of tragedy. He said he had faith the family did that when they saw the headlights of the tractor-trailer on Interstate 65 before dawn Friday as the van traveled to Iowa for a wedding.

As news traveled quickly through Mennonite communities in the U.S. as well as in foreign countries, there were out-pourings of love and concern for this small community in southern Kentucky. Many traveled great distances to show their solidarity and join the mourners today at the funeral.

When I see this kind of expression among Christians and glimpse the mutual love and concern for oneanother I find myself  longing for everyone to belong to such a genuine human community. The Mennonite Christian tradition is one of the great stories in the history of the Christian church.

From Saint Paul’s Philippian letter:

2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This is a good question to consider all this week as we relive the original Passion week of Jesus, the Christ. Why did He love us so much that He would endure such rejection and abuse as the sinless, holy one of God? Such questions should not encourage our own speculations but send us to the Scriptures themselves for answers. I invite you to submit comments with the Biblical answers that you find.

Meanwhile, here is a hymn that is found in many of the hymnbooks from various faith traditions, “Why Should he love me so?”. This one happens to be in Brazilian Portuguese and comes from the Seventh Day Adventist in Brazil. This is just how we sang it for twelve years with the churches in our adopted nation.

Did I mention that Kentucky plays  defense as well?
 
 
 

 

Watching  DeMarcus Cousins control the paint can be intimidating. Throughout the season, Cornell’s 7-foot center Jeff Foote could get the ball in the post and then see if he could score. Thursday that didn’t happen after the first few possessions.

“(Cousins) doesn’t look like he’s that flexible but he is,’’ Donahue said. “He’s way more impressive in person as an athlete. He doesn’t look like he can move quick but he can. He’s got good hands and a sense on how to play. He could probably play harder for longer. But he does everything else. He’s incredible.’’

UK Monster Man

What has been somewhat lost is just how dismantling the Wildcats’ defense has become this season. But during a 62-45 win against Cornell on Thursday night at the Carrier Dome, you couldn’t help but notice UK’s defense for a 15-minute stretch that was as stifling as any team has put on another at this level.

“It was the best defense we’ve played all year,’’ said Patterson. “It was a total team effort. Coach Cal told us to shut down the 3-pointer shooters and make them take tough twos. We had to get our hands up every time they shot the ball.’’

Donahue was miffed at how easily the Big Red were able to execute their offense in wins over Temple and Wisconsin in the first two rounds of this tournament. Against the Cats, Cornell couldn’t do much for that 15-minute stretch that signified the end of the game, even if the Big Red did cut the lead to six at one point late. The message was clear for that stretch that Kentucky could change the outcome by tightening its defense

It was team defense,’’ Calipari said. “Our five-man helped. Our four-man helped. We made them take tough shots. It takes discipline and early our young guys didn’t have that. We’re 37 games in now.’’

Darius Miller said Kentucky hadn’t figured out how to defend early in the season. Teams were knocking down 3s and “breaking records on us. We’ve come a long way.’’

Bottom Line

Calipari doesn’t get the credit of being a defensive-minded coach. But he has made the Wildcats defend. Why do you think Kentucky looks so fantastic on the break? It’s because the Wildcats are forcing turnovers.

Kentucky has been perceived at times as having plenty of flash and not enough substance. That’s not what last night’s road game at Syracuse made clear. The Wildcats defend as well as any team in the country when they apply themselves. Teams like Butler get credit for the low field-goal percentages and scores. But UK needs to get credit for how tough it defends. Cornell couldn’t figure it out.

And if Kentucky is locked in defensively for three more games, no one else will be able to either. Go big bad Blue!

Source: Blog of Andy Katz

Is it not just amazing that we are seeing in the news at this time of Lent, nothing about the universal church retracing the historic steps that led to the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, but rather the latest status of Jerusalem? What was, according to the Biblical narrative, the day of Israel’s glory; the day that her divine calling for the world became a reality?

I submit to you that it was the day the infant Jesus was presented to God in the temple in accordance with the Law of the covenant and by faith in His promises to Israel. I’m thinking now of at least three converging themes on this wednesday: God’s provision of “the seed of the woman”, the person of Mary in this entire story as the “hand-maiden of the Lord”, the inauguration of the promised rule (kingdom) of God on earth, including the promised light to the Gentiles. No one captures this scene (Luke 2:21-35) better than Michael Card in this song , “Now that I’ve held him in my arms”.

If you are unable to view go here.

Related article : The Church’s Relation to Israel by Richard DeRidder

Another take on the True Community that we all are created to long for is represented in this song written and sung by an old favorite, Squire Parsons. There is just one minor adjustment that I would call your attention to, but for me it is an extremely important one; the pictures that were chosen for this video. 

According to the Biblical narrative, one of the essential elements of Jesus Christ identity has to do with his radical reconstitution of major elements of the Old Covenant faith tradition. Such integral factors as the Temple, the Law, the Priesthood, were reinterpreted by Him in such a way to announce that what these elements foreshadowed in the past, He himself was their ultimate fulfillment. This is what caused his most heated conflict with the institutional religious leaders and ultimately led to his crucifixion “outside the camp”. (see Hebrews 13: 12-14)

So when Squire Parsons sings about Beulah land, is he thinking of the old city of Jerusalem in Israel or is he longing for the Jerusalem that is above? The heavenly Zion, the eternal city of God, which is that community that God has prepared to satisfy all our longings. For me, it is obviously the one the Apostle John saw and testified to us about in the penultimate chapter of the Bible.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Household of God 

” IN the present world situation it is natural that mankind should long for some sort of real community, for humanity cannot be human without it. It is especially natural that Christians should reach out after that part of Christian doctrine which speaks of the true, God-given community, the Church of Jesus Christ… It is natural that men should ask with a greater eagerness than ever before such questions as these:
  • Is there in truth a family of God on earth to which I can belong, a place where all humankind can truly be at home?
  • If so, where is it to be found, what are its marks, and how is it related to, and distinguished from, the known communities of family, nation, and culture?
  • What are its boundaries, its structure, its terms of membership?
  • And how comes it that those who claim to be the spokesmen of that one holy fellowship are themselves at war with one another as to the fundamentals of its nature, and unable to agree to live together in unity and concord?

I think there is no more urgent theological task than to try to give them plain and credible answers.” (Household of God, 1953)

Household of God (1953)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Your Church Is Too Small: why unity in Christ’s mission is vital to the future of the church. (Zondervan) 2010

A personal review of this new book on the 130th anniversary of the birth of my maternal grandfather, Henry Thomas Young. Personal, because I need to admit upfront that the vision that is so clearly and concisely stated of the Christian church as she has entered the third millennium, the vision of ACT3 is the same vision behind E4Unity Institute.

John H. Armstrong, Director ACT3

The author has placed his life-journey out on the table for all to see. In doing so, he shows us what a passion for Jesus Christ, his church, and the divine mission they are on together in this present age looks like for the eternal blessing of the nations.

My personal sense is that perhaps the best way to describe what we have in this book is a “handbook for observing the unity of the church” in her relationship to the Christ of God. John Armstrong has gone to great lengths to tell us exactly where we are and where we have come from and remind us who we are and what we have been called to both be and do on planet earth. This is the reason, he tells us, why he wrote this book and why he believes that the greatest scandal of all is our disunity before our neighbors and our watching world.

Handbook for promoting Unity

Here is a very wise collection of the realities of our divisions set in the larger context of the vision of  our oneness in Christ and his mission. It’s obvious that John has discovered for himself something of the incredible bigness and largeness of the Christian church. With the help of a glossary of terms we will need to understand the vision, the author takes us through a personal narrative in a helpful and logical progression for the reader to follow.

Beginning with Jesus prayer for our unity (John 17:20-23), John gets into the heart of the issues involved: love-our greatest apologetic, the essential nature of the church (four classical marks), all the while stressing Christ alone as the Biblical focus. The reader is at once aware that the author is deeply involved with a much larger conversation and celebration than what most of us are accustomed to. He is listening to a host of others from the first century church to the contemporary one. He is conversing with brothers and sisters from multiple traditions and denominations such as Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Pentecostal, and of course his own Reformed tradition.

He tells us about those who have been some of the helpers along his journey to seeing the vision of unity. Men like J.I.Packer, Francis Schaeffer, and Leslie Newbigin. John is honest with us about how hard it was to begin to see the ecumenical movement of the twentieth century in positive terms. But he insists that the church will need all the wisdom and experience of the saints in previous generations to equip us for the advance of the Christian gospel and the Kingdom of God that is now before us.

The one thing I probably liked most about this book is that it lifted my own heart to new levels of expectant hope in what God will yet do in and through the community of His exalted and beloved Son. I think he has nailed the major obstacles to “growing up into the fullness of Christ” together. These barriers are not really those outside the church but ones inside us all. In the very beginning he stresses that it is our own vision problem “our common penchant for placing limits on Christ’s church…”. One of the greatest challenges that confront us is that which John describes as “sectarianism”, or the evil that equates the one church with “our own narrow views of Christ’s body”. There is a brief but excellent treatment of this and the topic of “the true church” and this is one of those themes addressed directly on this blog. We simply cannot continue as we are- separated and disobedient to the clear imperatives of our Lord. There are answers for the one who seeks them and this is a good place to begin if you are not already wrestling with this part of the Biblical narrative.

I can think of no better way for every Christian to join the celebration of one-hundred years of world mission advances since the Edinburgh World Conference of 1910, than by making this book your handbook. For the last one hundred years have also seen the greatest labors toward true ecumenism that the church has seen since the earliest councils. Yes, John, unity is vital to our future. Thank you for your journey and the gift it represents to the churches of the twenty-first century.

p.s. Happy birthday grandfather. It is a joy to remember your own life vision and faithfulness to the New Covenant in Christ’s blood.

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