Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Readings Traces

A new feature: from time to time excerpts from various sources will be posted here, along with my comments. --ca

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


In March 2007 a show on the Discovery Channel, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, was presented. It claimed that a tomb containing the bones of Jesus, Mary and Joseph had been found. Most scholars were very dubious about the claims of those responsible for the show. However, the prospect of finding Jesus' bones raised some interesting questions.

Early Christians claimed that the empty tomb argued for a physical resurrection; and, if physical remains were discovered, some branches of Christianity would be left scrambling for an explanation. But Paul claimed that the resurrection body was a spiritual entity (1 Cor 15.44), not a physical one. Certainly Jesus' resurrection body was unusual. At one point he walks through walls (John 21.19ff). But, the question remains, what difference would it make of our understanding of Jesus--his death and resurrection if physical remains were found. Christian Century, March 20, 2007 p. 5.

This is all hypothetical of course, but the question does not bother me at all. The overwhelming presence of the risen Christ is a primary basis of my post-resurrection understanding of Jesus. This presence is a spiritual presence, not a physical one (at least that's as far as my experience and reason will carry me). If authentic bones were found, I would be interested in solving the mystery of how they got to where they were discovered. But, it would have little impact upon my relationship with God. --Conrad

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A book by this name has just been released. It is written by Pope Benedict 16th. Very intriguing is a review I read (have not read the book, yet) which raises the issue: "how to love and respect what you are being taught to dissect". The pope is speaking to a very relevant concern of Christians today. In the face of biblical criticism and the use of scientific methods to study its origin, authorship, development of theology, etc., how is the modern Christian to develop and maintain "an intimate friendship with Jesus"?

Pope Benedict proposes that we "trust the gospels," read them critically and with love. He asserts that Jesus exploded all existing categories and can be understood "only in the light of the mystery of God." George Weigel, Time Magazine, 5-21-07, p. 49.

I was amazed to find the Pope speaking so openly and positively about biblical criticism. He focuses on the "meaning" of Biblical stories as more important than the results of "over-dissecting" the texts. Reading the Scriptures with love and critical examination show us, as the Pope points out, reality's translucence to God. I have ordered this book. --Conrad

Monday, May 21, 2007

Some Favorite John Wesley Quotations

John Wesley was one of the greatest Christians ever to live. What you will find here are some things he said or wrote about a variety of topics.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
LOVE. For how far is love, even with many wrong opinions, to be preferred before truth itself without love. We may die without the knowledge of many truths and yet be carried into Abraham's bosom. But if we do without love, what will knowledge avail?
Works (Bic Ed 1.107.

MONEY. Gain all you can without hurting either yourself or your neighbor, in soul or body, by applying hereto with uninterrupted diligence, and with all the understanding God has given you. Save all you can. by cutting off every expense which serves to indulge foolish desire, to gratify either desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life. Waste nothing, living or dying, on sin or folly, whether for yourselsf or your children. And then, Give all you can, or in other words give all you have to God.
Works (Bic Ed) 2.278f.
[In another work, Wesley amplifies the use of money to include what is needed for one's business or profession and to provide for necessities of you children (which would include college and other sustaining expenses.--ca]

Scripture. I want to know one thing, the way to heaven--how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book!
Works (Bic Ed) 1.105

Field Preaching. George Whitfield persistently urged Wesly to engage in preaching outdoors; but Wesley did not think it proper. Finally, on April 2, 1739, he wrote in his journal: "At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile, and proclaimed in the highways the glad tiding of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a ground adjoining the city (Bristol), to about three thousand people." Albert Outler believes this experience was as important as the Aldergate experience, for Wesley had finally found his vocation.
Quotation from Journal II (Jackson Ed.), 172-173.

Disagreements. Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking which he desires they should allow him; and will no more insist on their embracing theirs. He bears with those who differ from him and only asks him with whom he desires to unite in love that single question, "Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?"
Albert Outler, John Wesley, 1964, p. 95.

Serenity Prayer

Perhaps you have never come across the complete Serenity Prayer as written by Reinhold Niebuhr. I had heard the first three verses, but not the complete prayer. Here 'tis:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that you will make all things right
if I surrender to your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with you forever in the next.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Eight Principles of Celebrate Recovery

by Pastor Rick Warren
Saddleback Church

1. Realize that I am not God. I admit I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable.
Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.

2. Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover.
Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

3. Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ's care and control.
Happy are the meek.

4. Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.
Happy are the pure in heart.

5. Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask him to remove my character defects.
Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires.

6. Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I've done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others.
Happy are the merciful. Happy are the peacemakers.

7. Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will.
8. Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and by my words.
Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires.

Monday, May 14, 2007

SERMON: Why "Good Friday"?

I was reading on the internet a review of a movie earlier this week when I came upon a warning, in bold print. WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD. What that meant was the writer was about to tell me the way the movie came out . So if I didn’t want to know how the story ended, I shouldn’t read any more. Knowing how the story ends, takes away from the suspense and emotion of the movie.

I think the same can be said for the passion story.

I have heard it said that we cannot experience the ecstasy and joy of Easter, unless we experience the pain and despair of the crucifixion. It is an basic part of our human make-up that we try to avoid pain and we seek out pleasure. But it is also true that healing and growth often require pain and sacrifice.

So, tonight, let us listen to the testimony of some of the principle actors in the Good Friday events. We will hear from them as they speak to us on Saturday---the day after the crucifixion, the day before what we call Easter. At that point, they do not know about the Resurrection.

Our first witness is Peter:
“This is the worst day of my life. First, Jesus wanted to wash my feet and I wouldn’t let him. Then I begged him to wash my feet. I had a hard time knowing what was expected of me. Then Jesus asked me to pray with him when we got to the garden. And, of all things, I fell asleep.

The next thing I know the Temple Guard is there, arresting Jesus. I was ready to fight them off, but Jesus said no.Then, early in the morning (or very late last night) I said I didn’t even know him. --- not once, but three times. I was so scared. I wish I’d never been born.And I ran away and hid. Then they killed him on a cross.


And hear from his mother, Mary:
I worried so much for him, especially those last days. There had been times in his life when our family felt like he was going too far. We tried to help him, but he wouldn’t listen. When he created that ruckus in the temple, earlier this week,I think that was the last straw.

Today as I watched him dying on that cross, I felt like I was dying too. I wish I could have taken his place. My heart has been crushed. I loved him so, and now he is gone. Any mother knows how I feel.


Then there was the Roman soldier:
I never wanted to come to this country. And when I got here I was appalled to be assigned to execution squad. Once, my son was terribly ill, and having heard about Jesus, I asked him to heal my son. And he did. That is why I found it so hard to understand why these people wanted to kill Jesus.

I watched helplessly as my men whipped him. I saw him struggle as he went to Golgotha. It was incredible. Here he was, seemingly despised and hated by everyone, and he asked his Father God to forgive everyone. Then the earth began to move from under my feet, and the sky was covered with a blanket of darkness. I was surprised when I heard my elf say, “Surely this is the Son of God.” And then he died.


We call this day "Good Friday" because we see all these events with Resurrection Eyes. But Resurrection eyes can see the risen Lord, only with the cross in the background.

As I heard someone say earlier today, “We know how it all turned out.” So for us the horrible things that happened on that day are more easily accepted. We may want to minimize the suffering of Jesus. We may want to run away from that cross and hide, like his disciples did. But we cannot; not if our relationship with him is to have any real meaning.

Here, on this darkest night of all nights, may we meditate and give thanks for the overwhelming sacrifice of love which Jesus give to us.

We call this day Good Friday, because what Jesus did this day and every day of his life, was to erase the condemnation of sin from each of us.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.