culture


Another Great Read for the New Year!

I first read this article in January of 1997, in First Things magazine. I immediately knew that Neil Postman, the author, had said some things I too had discovered and that I wanted to bookmark. I knew that E4Unity blog (that was still in embryo at the time) would want to review this at least once a year.

Science & The Story that we Need

But in the end, science does not provide the answers most of us require. Its story of our origins and of our end is, to say the least, unsatisfactory. To the question, “How did it all begin?”, science answers, “Probably by an accident.” To the question, “How will it all end?”, science answers, “Probably by an accident.” And to many people, the accidental life is not worth living. Moreover, the science-god has no answer to the question, “Why are we here?” and, to the question, “What moral instructions do you give us?”, the science-god maintains silence. It places itself at the service of both the beneficent and the cruel, and its grand moral impartiality, if not indifference, makes it, in the end, no god at all.

Into the breach has come still another contender—the offspring of the science-god—the great god of technology. This is a wondrous and energetic story which, with greater clarity than its parent, offers us a vision of paradise. Whereas the science-god speaks to us of both understanding and power, the technology-god speaks only of power. It refutes the promise of Christianity that heaven is a posthumous reward. It offers convenience, efficiency, and prosperity here and now; and it offers its benefits to all, the rich as well as the poor, as does Christianity.

To Read entire article at First Things

A Christmas Day Essay

What does Christmas mean to me personally? Actually today is not really more significant as a day in the calendar than any other except for the fact that it allows many Christians to concentrate on one day out of all the others and focus on that day when The Christ actually came into this world in human flesh.

That is what the whole Christmas season means to me this year; a focus on the first Advent of Christ and I have been engaged in that for some time. For me it really is a case of Holy Obsession! Being possessed in my spirit by this great event in world history. Or as the Apostle Paul put it, being astonished in utter awe:

Great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the

flesh…seen by angels, preached

among the nations, believed on in

the world, received up in glory!  

( first letter to Timothy, chapter 3)

By considering what the Biblical narrative tells us about this “great mystery”, including the details of the event itself beginning with the announcements to Mary and Joseph, the journey to Bethlehem, the political context, the ancient promises to Israel fulfilled, and all that follows.

I am still learning the discipline required to not get lost on any of the details, such as the baby and his mother, as important as that is. But by keeping my obsession centered on Jesus Christ and the entire revelation of Him as it unfolds in the Biblical story from beginning to end. Certain selected Christmas music really enhances my obsession at Christmas, another reason why I love the Advent Season. Besides my all time favorite, which is to listen to Handel’s Messiah at this season (at least once), there are certain others that have become very special.

Several years ago my daughter gave us a Christmas album by the Irish Tenors. Of all the wonderful songs on that album, my favorite has become their version of “The Holy City”. I remember my dear Mother singing this song in Church more than once. The text is based on a ‘dream so fair’ that contains three different scenes. The first, is the glad occasion of Jesus riding into Jerusalem as the children sing Hosannah or what is now celebrated as Palm Sunday. The second scene is a very somber one which ends in the “shadow of a cross”. The final vision is of the New Jerusalem, the eternal vision of John’s Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. Listen to the music and see if you can sense the same “holy obsession” that I do on this Christmas day, 2010. And may I wish all those in the weblog family, a very obsessed Christmas!

” That they may behold my glory” – The Prayer of Jesus 


Gifts of the Ascended Christ

 

The greatest desire that Christ expressed in his prayer was that his people might be with him to behold his glory. It is clear that in this prayer the Lord Christ was referring to his own glory and the actual sight of it.

Only a sight of his glory, and nothing else, will truly satisfy God’s people. One of the greatest privileges the believer has, both in this world and for eternity, is to behold the glory of Christ.

Ever since the name of Christ was known on the earth, there has never been such direct opposition to the uniqueness and glory of Christ as the present day. It is the duty of all those who love the Lord Jesus to testify according to their ability to his uniqueness and glory.

I would therefore try to strengthen the faith of true believers by showing that to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ by faith is the climax of all Christ’s requests for his disciples in this present world. Here in this life, beholding the glory of the Lord, they are changed into his own likeness by his Spirit (2Cor.3:18). Hereafter, they will be like him for they will see him as he is (1 John 3:2). This knowledge of Christ is the continual life and reward of our souls.

If, therefore we would have a more active faith and a greater love to Christ, giving rest and satisfaction to our souls, we must have a greater desire to see more of his glory in this life. We should not look for anything in heaven other than what we have some experience of (by faith) in this life. If we were fully persuaded of this we would be more often thinking about heavenly things than we usually are.

– John Owen (1684) from The Glory of Christ, the theme of the final year of his life (d.1683).

If Owen found it difficult in England in his day, how much more in our day to keep the greatest gift of all our constant priority. The Advent season is the perfect time to evaluate the year and one’s own choices to judge how well we have resisted all the distractions of the world and kept our eyes on this Leader who is both the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

 

Watch ‘Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring’.

For Brazilians: YouTube honoring Nilson Fanini (1932-2009)  “Verei Jesus como Ele e’ ” e tambem “Para Que vejam a minha gloria” http://youtu.be/3HLhhHNDvxg

Related Post: What difference has looking made?

 

 

My favorite interpretation of Mary’s Magnificat.

Gospel of Saint Luke, Chapter 1

44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be [1] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Related post: Read the First Encyclical Letter of Pope Benedict XVI, 25 Dec. 2005

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I had a great conversation with one of my daughters-in-law. She was sharing how she had been enabled to expand her horizons to some of the world’s great faith traditions and what she was seeing is pretty close to what E4Unity sees.

As a Christian already in the spirit of the Advent season, we can appreciate a vision like this one more than most because we believe that The God of Jesus Christ is at work in all the great traditions so we expect to find evidences meant to point to the greatest of all Divine revelations in human form. Now that He has come into this world, we see Him as the fulfillment of prophecies such as this with very little difficulty.

So, this one’s for you Liz. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

Related post- The Global-Worship-Wave

Viewing an extraordinary emphasis upon Mariology in Latin America in light of the cultural background involved.  

 

Did Mary Ascend as Jesus did?

I think over the past two years I have demonstrated my dedication to the unity of the Body of Christ & the necessity to work together as never before to make visual progress in demonstrating this unity before a watching world.

This does not mean we do not wrestle we difficult questions, seeking to understand Christians in differing faith traditions and promoting open two-way exchanges. Since Ascension Sunday, I have been thinking about the practical effects which are derived from living faith based upon the Biblical narrative. At the center of that narrative for this present age in which we live, I find the reality of the Living, present, rule of the exalted King of KINGS.

I think we have to ask the churches, some soul-searching questions? For example, are there some very real ways they are actually hindering worshippers from seeing and experiencing the above reality of the Living Christ? I found that Eugene Nida had dealt with this directly in his 1974 book, “Understanding Latin Americans” (William Carey Library). For the purpose of challenging Christians and non-Christians alike to seriously think about this issue, I am posting part of Nida’s argument together with a link where you can read the larger context.

In trying to understand the reasons for focusing attention upon Mary, some persons have claimed that this is an almost inevitable result of making Christ less and less attractive to the people. Rather than the victorious ‘culture hero’, Christ is portrayed as the defeated, dying victim. Such a Christ produces feelings of pity and compassion, but he does not inspire confidence and hope. Christ on the cross reminds the sinner of his sins, but this does not make the average person want to identify himself with the suffering Savior. Contemplation of the dying Christ does elicit strong emotional feelings, but they tend to drain one of nervous energy. Accordingly, they do not result in the feeling of well-being or confidence.

In contrast with the dying Christ, the radiantly beautiful Mary is the benevolent one who is always accessible and always giving. It is Mary who has compassion for the multitude, and itis the contemplation of this symbol which brings reassurance and a sense of hope and well-being. As the mediatrix between the worshipper and Christ, or God, she becomes the giver of life, the source of health, and the means of power. It is not strange, therefore, that for many persons the center of worship in the Roman Church has shifted from Christ to Mary. People prefer to identify themselves with a living Mary rather than with a dying Christ. (Nida, page 26)

Continue reading, “Mariology in Latin America“.

Earlier related post: A Catholic word to Evangelicals

A song about the Patron Saint of Brazil  by Elis Regina

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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. (Philippians 2: 9-11)

The Reign of the Lord’s Anointed- Psalms 2

2:1″ Why do the nations rage [1]
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break [2] them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

See also John’s Revelation, 5: 9-12

Read the Prayer of Saint Paul for enlightenment.

Dedicated to the memory of all veterans who gave their lives for us.

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;  and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” – The Apostle Paul

Rare because most college students don’t get many letters these days; they get e-mails and tweets. Rare because what’s being advocated in this letter by Stanley Hauerwas  is the disciplined use of the mind for the Christian college student.

Christ’s call on you as a student is a calling to meet the needs of the Church, both for its own life and the life of the world. The Resurrection of Jesus, Wilken suggests, is not only the central fact of Christian worship but also the ground of all Christian thinking “about God, about human beings, about the world and history.” Somebody needs to do that thinking—and that means you.

Don’t underestimate how much the Church needs your mind. Remember your Bible-study class? Christians read Isaiah’s prophecy of a suffering servant as pointing to Christ. That seems obvious, but it’s not; or at least it wasn’t obvious to the Ethiopian eunuch to whom the Lord sent Philip to explain things. Christ is written everywhere, not only in the prophecies of the Old Testament but also in the pages of history and in the book of nature. The Church has been explaining, interpreting, and illuminating ever since it began. It takes an educated mind to do the Church’s work of thinking about and interpreting the world in light of Christ. Physics, sociology, French literary theory: All these and more—in fact, everything you study in college—is bathed in the light of Christ. It takes the eyes of faith to see that light, and it takes an educated mind to understand and articulate it. ( from First Things, November issue)

Surveys have been telling the Christian Church for years, that they are losing large numbers of their young people during the college years. Could it be that many have not been prepared to use their minds about the really big issues of life?

I now have three of fifteen grandchildren in College and University and I can personally tell you they are more than capable of thinking about serious issues. Why don’t we treat them more like rational beings instead of entertaining them with games and food? Read the entire letter by Stanley Hauerwas, a long-time professor at Duke and formerly of Notre Dame. This is exactly the challenge that the Church and Christian parents should be preparing their young disciples for in addition to everything else.

Purdue University

Thinking of recent posts, this is the call to college students to be “radical disciples” in the context of American universities.

Read the entire letter and the quote from Robert Lewis Wilken’s “The Spirit of Early Christian Thought“.

Related post (2009) “Seize the moment

For an in-depth understanding of Hauerwas’s application of this to preaching that is theological, read the introduction to his (2009) book, A Cross-Shattered Church: Reclaiming the theological heart of preaching.

Once again my good friend John Armstrong at ACT3 has put his finger on a major weakness in our American churches. It comes on the day before we Americans go to the polls to choose our national leaders. What he has to say about the absence of prophetic preaching in the pulpits of America and spiritual leadership by vision, has much to do with the challenges our larger society is facing at this moment. In “What  happened to Prophetic preaching”? He writes,

John H. Armstrong, Director ACT3

“The vast majority of pastors, as revealed in a number of surveys, declare that leadership is their greatest weakness. They admit to having become managers of ecclesial organizations and speakers in churches on Sunday. But less than 10% (in one survey) said that they believed they were leaders. A leader exercises influence, casts vision and helps people to follow that vision. Modern ideology and modern ways of training men and women for pastoral ministry have impacted the church profoundly in this area. We need to understand how and why and what we can do about this problem.

Our schools have prepared future ministers to be students who can exegete a text, clinicians who can listen and help people in personal crisis and managers who can direct programs and serve the social structures of the church. But they have not conveyed clearly how to be a godly, praying, spiritually-formed leaders who can inspire and build up people in their daily lives. And they have not been taught how to prophesy the Word of the Lord.

In my lifetime I have seen the role of the pastor change dramatically. I remember my childhood pastors being shepherds of people and leaders who gave a vision to our collective witness. I held my pastors in high esteem. Today this has changed. Pastors are much less accessible to people, far less able to cast clear vision, and churches collectively languish in spirit. This has created a tragic gulf between leaders and people. People now demand managers for the church. They do not want prophets who will challenge them to think and become truly different in faith and virtue.”

I personally believe this is one of John’s better messages to the churches and the way forward in the future.

The entire article available as   Prophetic Preaching Pastors (pdf).

Recommended reading: The Work of Preaching Christ (1864)

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