My son is a boy. He has legs and feet and he moves them all by himself as though they belonged to him. He owns a set of arms and hands too. He’s mastered the art of holding just two or three fingers up at a time. He’s an anatomical engineer. He fights, he cries, he tells stories and jokes, he even sings songs and can carry short tunes. Who is this person?
He’s sitting behind me in the car. My wife and I are conversing. I pause mid sentence to the sound of a spittle explosion from the back seat. In the rearview mirror I can make out hands and fists weaving excitedly through the air. Explosion follows explosion. Spittle mists through the cabin of our Subaru. The backseat is engulfed in war.
“Whatcha doin, Riv?” I ask.
“Who are you fightin?”
“What bad guys?”
“Uuuummmm, I’m fightin’ draaagons aaand dinosaaaurs aaaand monsteeers.”
“Ok, good work.” Battle sounds resume. My wife and I pick our conversation up again. A couple of minutes later, the Doxology echoes out of the car seat, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…!” after the initial introit, the words and melody are not as clear, but the battle must have been over and apparently he was the victor.
Running down the hallway, my son is swinging a drum stick; he calls out, “you wanna fight, dad?” I agree and he runs away. Reemerging from his room he is lugging a lacrosse stick behind him. “Play dad, play. You wanna fight?” I take the lacrosse stick.
“On guard!” Swords clash.
“I wanna sing…, I wanna sing…, I wanna sing…” He sings some nursery rhymes with us, but usually when he suggests singing, he’s going to ask for “Our Father”, “Praise God”, or “Blessed the man.” Those are the classics. Those are the regulars, the ordinary service music of each day. The usual liturgy has “Our Father” after breakfast and prayers. “Praise God” is after our post-dinner singing of a psalm or hymn. And “Blessed the man” closes his day after a book or two in bed. “I wanna sing…, I wanna sing…Our Father!”
I tell my son it’s time for bed. He looks up with wondering eyes. He points one finger up by his face and squints slightly, “Just one book?” I nod, “Just one book. Go pick out a book and go wait for me on your bed.” He hurries out of the room, his two arms straight down and back, steering the thing. I walk in a minute later. He’s waiting on his bed with a book. I remember something. “I’ll be right back; hang on just a second.” He looks up blankly. A minute or so later, I return. He’s still sitting on his bed, but his book is gone. “Where’s my book, daddy?”
“I don’t know, what did you do with it?” He shrugs. I look around. Then I notice him patting his blanket. I pull at the blanket and the book emerges. I’m shocked. My son has just played his first practical joke. He’s beaming ear to ear. I lavish my highest praises and tickle him for his genius. My son has just turned two and he’s already playing practical jokes on me.
My son’s hair, if you were to ask him yourself, is “in the trash.” After two years of little trims and slight ‘touch-ups’ he’s had his first full-on haircut. And this was the first without tears. “I’m being tough, dad?”
“Yeah,” I tell him, “you’re being tough.”
“You buzz my hair, dad?”
“Yeah,” I nod, “I buzzed you’re hair.”
One of my proudest moments being dad was a few weeks ago when we were sitting on the porch of a friend’s house, an hour or two after bedtime, enjoying the thick summer air of upstate South Carolina. Looking out into the dark, my son looked up and asked, “What’s out there, dad? Are there monsters?” I told him I didn’t think so, but I asked him, “What do you say to a monster if you see one?” Without a second thought he growled and said, “On guard!”
My son thinks he is a person. He uses words that I don’t remember teaching him, phrases I’m sure he heard somewhere. But he throws them at me like he owns them. These are my words, dad, and I will use them.
“Who was Joshua?” I ask him.
“What did he do?”
“Adam and Eve, daddy?” Everything always comes back to Adam and Eve for him. I guess everything really does go back to Adam and Eve.
“Who did Joshua fight?”
“Bad kings. I not fight ladies, dad?”
“That’s right, you only fight bad guys and monsters, and you can play fight with daddy or other boys if they have swords.”
“I not fight momma?”
“No, you protect and defend your mom.”
“Adam and Eve, daddy?”
“Yes, Adam and Eve disobeyed. They did not obey God.”
“I obey daddy? I say daddy, yessir! and mommy, yesmam!”
Little feet are walking into my room. I turn around. He is wearing a red shirt and grey basketball shorts. He has some bit of fabric wrapped around his upper torso. He turns and says: “I’m King!” And if I was not yet sure, he grits his teethe and adds in his gruffest voice, “I’m King of the World!”
My wife and I are bustling around, getting ready for church. A blow dryer is hanging off the bathroom sink, as on a gallows, still humming, swaying slightly, rejected for a curling iron or eye liner. I’m tying, now retying my tie. That little back piece always comes out longer than the front on the first try. My son is standing in the middle of the room, in the middle of the world. He’s holding a piece of Styrofoam, an ancient treasure, a holy relic of weeks gone by. He holds it up and says, “This is my body.” And without looking at anyone in particular, he breaks the foam board in half.
My sons walks into my room, “Hi dad. Havin’ a good day?” I peer at him through squinted eyes, “Who are you?”
“I’m Rio, dad. Who are you?”
“I’m dad. Who are you?”
“I’m, I’m, I’m…. ummm, ummmm…” He knows this game so he’s trying to come up with something good, “I’m… mom!”
“No!” He smiles.
“Who are you?”
“I’m, I’m, I’m… grandma!” A grin stretches across his face.
My wife is tucking him into bed. He’s talking about what he accomplished for the day. Swimming, playing toys, eating dinner, and reading books are the usual highlights. My wife informs him that she will be going to the grocery store tomorrow and asks what he would like. “Um, um, mayonnaise, um, meeeat, um, chickennnn, and steeeeak, asparagus, and, um, juice!” My son is already making grocery lists. He’s telling my wife that he would like asparagus from the store.
Who is this person? Where did he come from? I know, I know… I know where he came from. And I know who he is. But golly. An entire new world, a vast universe it seems, has emerged in my apartment. There were just two us, a shared world, a fairly tame universe, and then this small man began asking for asparagus and fighting dragons and playing practical jokes on me.
My wife is due with our second child at the end of July, and my suspicion is that it’s another person, another world, another universe getting ready to emerge.
Friday, June 30, 2006
Posted by Toby at 7:02 AM
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Catholics on the Bench
Robert F. Cochran Jr. points out that in the last 200 years of America's history there have only been seven Roman Catholics on the Supreme Court, and five of them have been appointed in the last twenty years.
Citing 'natural law', 'subsidiarity', and 'religious freedom', his thesis is that these doctrines found in Roman Catholic theology make the most appealing lawyers to the apparent gaping divide that has become the continuum of American politics. Cochran explains 'natural law' as a sort of marriage of special and general revelation, faith and reason, a middle ground between pure secularists and biblical theonomists. 'Subsidiarity' (it seems to me) is a social application of the doctrine of the Trinity. Cochran describes the doctrine as a recognition that societies work best were those nearest to the issues can be given freedom to work for their solutions, a middle ground between radical individualism and collectivism. Finally, 'religious freedom' a more recent arrival to the Roman Catholic dogmatic scene, but attested to by Vatican II and proclaimed in the words of Pope John Paul II that "the church imposes nothing, she only proposes." This alleviates fears from liberals and conservatives, athiests and fundamentalists.
Of course Cochran's point is only an observation, to point out possible connections to the apparent success and credibility of R C lawyers. One wonders of course, which way the wind is blowing in RC dogmatics. Interestingly, fifty years ago, RC politicians were scrutinized for their church's history of religious tyranny, and now they're on everyone's invitation list. Or maybe it's just this last element of 'religious freedom' that's the real deal-maker for Americans, pluralists that we are.
Posted by Toby at 2:44 PM
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
The Curse of Presbyterianism
"Because of the transgression of a land, many are its princes; but by a man of understanding and knowledge right will be prolonged." (Prov. 28:2)
I'm a Presbyterian. I grew up in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, my father is an Orthodox Presbyterian minister, my siblings are all members of Presbyterian churches, and I know of at least three sets of aunts and uncles as well as a set of grand parents that were members of Presbyterian churches (when they were living). I know and love reformed Presbyterianism well.
Moreover, I'm in general agreement with the principle of polity, rule by a plurality of elders (presbyters) made up of both clergy (ministers/doctors) and lay representatives (elders). However, I also believe that we are not given many clear instructions beyond that (though I admit there are several fairly clear threads of practice in history), but I'm pretty comfortable with the idea that this is all on purpose, meaning, that different contexts, cultures, time periods can use this basic set up with different emphases and concerns to address. For example, I'm comfortable with a continuum stretching from some forms of Episcopal government to a 'low Presbyterianism' which borrows some from a congregational government. I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all-church government, much less Presbyterianism. That said, while the Proverbs teach us that in the multitude of counselors there is wisdom, we also have this Proverb that teaches us that sometimes there are a multitude of counselors who think they ALL have wisdom. In other words, just because you have a room full of people talking doesn't mean you automatically have anything more than a room full of hot air.
The fact is God made humanity to function best with leaders, wise and knowledgeable individuals who God raises up sometimes within and sometimes outside of the usual step-ladders of authority. But we live in a day, particularly in reformed Presbyterianism where just about everyone thinks they are a well spring of knowledge and wisdom. And of course here I am typing away on my little barrel of whiskey, and someone is bound to ask, 'what about you, mister?'
But the difference has everything to do with the difference between princes and counselors. Those who give counsel know that they are merely doing that, giving honest, heartfelt advice. When they have finished giving counsel they shut up and follow their leader whether or not their advice is followed. Those who are princes (or think they are) believe they are in line for the throne and perhaps in some anticipatory way, already have a share in that rule. These types give their opinion and then are offended when their advice is not taken. Choosing not to follow their counsel is tantamount to betrayal. This point is made wonderfully in C.S. Lewis' Prince Caspian. Trumpkin, the dwarf, tells Caspian what he thinks: "your Majesty knows I think the Horn--and that bit of broken stone over there--and your great King Peter--and your Lion Aslan--are all eggs in moonshine..." But later when Caspian decides to blow the horn anyway and needs to send a messenger to find whomever the horn brings into Narnia, Trumpkin volunteers. When asked why he's willing to go when he doesn't even believe any of it's true, he replies: "You are my King. I know the difference between giving advice and taking orders. You've had my advice, and now it's time for orders."
Presbyterian government should be a blessing: the opportunity for the congregation to elect representatives to help in the decision making with the ordained clergy of the Church. But often this has turned into a council of popes, a congregation of bishops, rather than the counsel it is intended to be. And then following their leaders, all manner of self appointed princes and judges surface on the internet or wherever. But Kings or queens or presidents lead nations; ministers, priests, or bishops lead churches; heads of households lead families. God has instituted numerous opportunities for wise leaders to hearken to wise counsel, and it can be fitting for congregations and nations to be given the opportunity to make some decisions, but God has not instituted a pure democracy at any level.
Posted by Toby at 9:29 AM
Monday, June 26, 2006
Exhortation: Being a King
C.S. Lewis in the story A Horse and His Boy from the Chronicles of Narnia tells us what it is to be a king. He says: “this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.” To be first in every desperate attack, last in every desperate retreat and to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land. In Jesus Christ every man is called to be a king. You were anointed and coronated in your baptism and you have been enthroned here in worship. Masculinity does not whine, it does not pull back from risk, it does not boss people around or bark orders at the weak. True masculinity dies. Do you want to be a man? Then you must die. Do you want to be a king? Then you must take all the risk. But to risk everything is to place all of your trust in the God of the resurrection, the God who raises His sons from the dead. And because we believe in the resurrection we may wear finer clothes and laugh louder over scantier meals than any man in our land.
Posted by Toby at 10:29 AM
Mark 1: King Wisdom
When we think of royalty or kingship we often merely consider the authority involved, the dominion or rule that a king or queen may wield. But in Scripture, a godly king rules not with brute force or coercion. A godly king rules through the mystery of wisdom.
The Wisdom of God
The gospel of Mark begins with another loaded term: the very first word is ‘ARCHE’ or “beginning”. This might remind us of Creation, perhaps the gospel of John, but consider the word “beginning” in conjunction with some of the other context: We’ve already established that Jesus is a King, and that his gospel proclamation is a royal announcement, a political proclamation. This gospel is accompanied by a “voice crying out” and saying things like “Make [your] paths straight.” This King is also saying strange things, riddles like “I will make you fishers of men.” These themes and words should remind us of the book of Proverbs and King Solomon, the wise man (Pro. 1:1, 7, 20-21, 23, 2:8, 15, 20, 3:6). Mark is indicating with these allusions that Jesus is not only the new King, but also a new kind of King, a Solomonic King.
The word “wilderness” is not an empty word either. The wilderness wanderings of Israel were a particularly significant part of the story of Israel, a cautionary tale if there ever was one (Josh. 5:6, Ps. 78:13ff, 95:8-9). Notice how all of Judea went out to John (1:5) and then entire cities and regions begin coming to Jesus (1:33, 37, 45). But if the center of Israel is in the wilderness again this means that the current Israel must be some kind of Egypt, and it must also mean that Jesus is ushering in a new Exodus, a new conquest. This is made clear by the mere mention of the Jordan (1:5). We should also notice the characterization being played out. If John is a Moses in the wilderness, then Jesus is the greater Joshua. But a hairy man with a leather belt in the wilderness (2 Kgs. 1:8) means that John is also an Elijah making Jesus an Elisha. Mark emphasizes this, by making Jesus John’s successor (1:14). With John and Jesus in the wilderness, the implicit question is: Who will prove themselves to be the faithful Israel? Who will fall in the desert? Who will test God saying, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?” (Ps. 78:19)
Notice that in Capernaum there is an “unclean spirit” in a man in a synagogue, and that evening many who are “demon-possessed” were brought to Jesus for healing. There does not seem to be a dramatic difference between these two afflictions, and it is likely that the difference is merely in terminology meant to highlight the problem with the first situation: an unclean spirit is in this synagogue (and perhaps ALL of them: Mk. 1:39). The language of “unclean” also connects to the last vignette (vv. 40-45) where a leper is in need of “cleansing”. Leprosy made it impossible for one to enter the temple. Ceremonial uncleanness was a reminder of the way the Old Creation worked: sin infected everything: the world was oriented in such a way as to make sanctification an uphill battle. When Christ comes on the scene he begins driving the demons out (v. 1:26, 34, 39). But where in the Old Covenant, no one was allowed to touch the unclean person or anything he/she had touched, Jesus touches him, and becoming “unclean” himself makes the leper “clean”.
The Messianic Secret
Related to the wilderness theme, where a new center is being made outside the old center, is also Jesus’ reluctance for fame or the Messianic Secret. The gospel is openly declared, but Jesus’ identity is a guarded fact (v. 24-25, 34, 37-38, 44). He has secret haunts outside of town where he hangs out, and when lots of people are looking for him, he heads off to other cities, saying, “mission accomplished.” (v. 38) This theme is found throughout Mark, but notice also WHO know Jesus’ identity: the unclean. The Jews in the synagogue are astonished and left wondering what kind of new theology this is and go home to their blogs to split theological hairs (v. 22, 27). Of course for the reader there is no secret (Mk. 1:10), but it is fitting that Jesus' lifestyle be an enigma, a riddle, as He is a King, but a different kind of King. The “secret” is not that Jesus is a king, but the kind of king that Jesus came to be. And thus Mark foreshadows the work of preaching the gospel when the leper goes out “preaching freely” (v. 45). Preaching what? Preaching that Jesus “touched” him (became unclean) and made him clean. He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus is preaching in dark sayings, riddles, and mysteries, but his disciples will go out and proclaim freely what has been done.
Notice all the Davidic themes: We have the rightful King in the wilderness (compare 1 Sam. 23:14ff) and a tyrannical king on the throne (implied in Mk. 1:14). Of course the story of Saul and David also involves warfare between the Holy Spirit’s anointed and the evil spirit that haunts Saul (1 Sam. 16:13-14).
We live in the New Creation, the conquest of the world. In the resurrection, Jesus stormed Hades and delivered a crushing blow to the powers of darkness. But if we have been made kings and queens with Jesus we should also expect that now more than ever wisdom is necessary. Consider the confusion and chaos of David’s day: ark, tabernacle, high places, Saul, David, Samuel… What were God’s people to do? It is a very similar situation to the world of Mark 1.
Follow your King; run to the roar. Where is their confusion? Where is their distress? Where is the biggest problem? Is not your King before you? Follow him.
The preeminent picture of a king is sitting enthroned. Sitting pictures rest; sitting pictures faith and confidence; sitting also pictures rule. And thus we sit down at this table to dine with our Lord, our Master, our King. We are his nobility, his lords and ladies in waiting. Ultimately we sit because that is how Jesus taught his disciples to celebrate this memorial meal. In fact, they were probably reclining a bit, leaning back on the floor all around their table. You’ll also notice that I sit at this table. Even in many congregations where sitting is the accepted practice the pastor and elders continue to stand even when they are not serving. But Jesus sat, he reclined at the head of the table, and as minister of the gospel, a deputy and authorized representative of Jesus Christ, I sit just as He does even now in heaven. And this is the beginning of Wisdom. Wisdom does not look sideways at the chaos in the world. Wisdom does not fear man or politics. Wisdom does not worry about finances or unexpected bills. Wisdom sits down at this table with eyes of faith fixed on Jesus, unrelenting, full of certainty that the God of all the earth will do right. This is the feast of Wisdom; and Wisdom cries out, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here! Come, eat of my bread and drink of my wine I have mixed. Forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding.” (Prov. 9:4-6)
Posted by Toby at 10:25 AM
Friday, June 23, 2006
David's Loyalty to Saul
We often stress (rightfully) David's loyalty to Saul, God's anointed, even when Saul is obviously out of his mind and what we might consider "unfit for office". David's patience and reluctance to harm Saul in any way are great lessons to learn about submission to tyrants and patience in adversity.
But it should not be forgotten that David was also eager to enlist his help to the Philistines when they gathered together to do battle with Saul and his sons. Providentially, David is delivered from what could have been a very interesting battle, when the other Philistine lords question Achish and disallow David to go with them. But David's willingness and eagerness to be involved in the battle seem to indicate that David would have been very willing to fight for and with the Philistines, even (one speculates) to the point of killing Saul.
David's loyalty is not an absolute loyalty that would always prevent him from killing God's anointed. He recognizes that in one situation he is seizing for the throne and refusing to place his trust in God's word (the promise that he would become king after Saul). Furthermore, any sort of vigilante assassination would have been a great blemish on his record with the people of Israel. In the other situation, joining forces with the Philistines, God is providentially delivering up the throne to David. As it turns out that is exactly what God does, but He does it completely without David with the swords of the Philistines and ultimately Saul's own hand.
After some further consideration and tossing the idea around to others, I'm not persuaded that the above is the best interpretation of David's seeming willingness to fight with the Philistines. I'm still a little puzzled by the record of David's eagerness to fight, but I think given chs. 24, 26 and David's Song of the Bow lamenting Saul's death, it seems unlikely that David was really willing to fight Israel, much less kill Saul. I'll leave this post up, but that's what I'm thinking as of now.
Posted by Toby at 8:33 AM
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Take one down, pass it around
This is a helpful sight for those of you interested in reading more on the Federal Vision, some of the responses to it, and some responses to the responses.
Also, Douglas Wilson's recent reply to the OPC Report on Justification, Federal Vision, New Perspective, etc. was short, pithy and to the point.
Posted by Toby at 10:22 AM
Monday, June 19, 2006
You are here this morning because the Triune God has summoned you into His throne room. You are not here because the CREC is the best denomination. You are not here because Holy Trinity has the best liturgy. You are not here because we practice paedo-communion. You are not here because this is a church full of decently dressed middle class Americans. You are not here because your friends or family are here. You are not here for any reason except that the God all the earth summoned you here this morning and requests a hearing in his presence. We are ascending into the throne room of God in order to offer our lives to His service, do not pretend that you have set the agenda; do not presume that you know why you are here. Do not think that You are the host because you are in fact a guest. You are welcome guests, but you are guests all the same. You have been summoned to the King, come now with fear and joy: because he holds the breath of all the living in His hands. This is none other than the gate of heaven.
Posted by Toby at 2:00 PM
Trinity Season (or Pentecost Season) is the second half of the Christian calendar where we remember the works of God in history and in His Church. This period after the earthly ministry of Christ is sometimes called the Church Age, and is the era of Christ’s reign from heaven, until all of his enemies are his footstool (Ps. 110:1, Heb. 10:13).
A Kingdom without a King
There are perhaps many different ways to tell the story of Israel, but one very prominent one is the story of Israel as a Kingdom in need of a King. From the promised seed of the Woman in Genesis (Gen. 3:15) to the promised descendents of Abraham (Gen. 12:2, 15:5, 17:16) to the period of the Judges (17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25) there can be no doubt that this is what God intends for His people. His chosen people need a King. There are brief hints of what this King would be like throughout the Pentateuch and then later in the judges, but the closest and greatest picture is David and his son Solomon. But the rest of the story of Israel from Genesis all the way into the gospels is the story of a Kingdom without a King, a Kingdom in search of a King, and all the consequences of that dilemma. This is what makes the Book of Kings so painful to read.
The Good News of a Dead King
When we open the New Testament we must always remember that we’re starting a story that’s about three quarters of the way done. Sometimes the writers are kind enough to quote from the Old Testament, but there are always significant idiomatic, verbal, thematic and cultural conditions that give words and the stories they tell the fullness of their trajectory. When Jesus comes teaching and preaching the Gospel or Good News of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 4:23, etc.) this proclamation was not an entirely new concept. The word in Greek and its Hebrew ancestor had a history that Jesus was speaking out of. The word EUANGELION and its relative, the verb form: EUANGELIZO, are used throughout the Old Testament Septuagint to proclaim a particular kind of good news, the good news of dead kings or rulers brought into submission. Throughout, it is the same root word in Hebrew, the verb BASER. The word first appears in 1 Samuel 4:17, when the messenger arrives to tell Eli about the death of his sons. The word “messenger” is the substantive form of the word. The word is also used several times to describe the news of Saul’s death (1 Sam 31:9, 2 Sam 1:20, 4:10, 1 Chr. 10:9). The passage with the most prolific use of the word is in 2 Samuel 18 in conjunction with the death of Absalom. Some form of the word is used seven times in 2 Samuel 18:19-31. The six or eight other uses of the word throughout the prophets regularly have a context of false or tyrannical kings or rulers being driven away or destroyed (Ps. 68:11-12, Is. 40:9, 15-24, 41:25-27, 60:3,6,10, 61:1, Nah. 1:15).
An Eternal Kingdom with an Eternal King
Given the royal flavor of this language and the relationship with death and destruction, the Gospel that Jesus is coming to declare has a significant political dimension to it. For Jesus to declare the Gospel was for Him to declare the doom of the current rulers of Israel which would include everyone from the priests to the governors to the Roman Empire (Daniel). But the death and destruction of these old powers always assumes the establishment of a new king, a new Lord. But the story of EUANGELION also takes on a new character in the story of Jesus when Jesus Himself dies. As is shown throughout the gospels, Jesus is becoming Israel for Israel, keeping the law, living faithfully what Israel could not. But even more than that, Jesus has become the failed monarchy, the dying king, in order to be raised back up to life again, in order that the Kingdom might never die, in order that the Kingdom might never be without a King.
Learn to live confidently. By faith, we are not strangers here. This is our home: we are subjects of the one, true King. Scorn all fear, all timidity. But also scorn all pettiness and pickiness and shrillness. Relax and live faithfully. This is our land, our world because we reign with King Jesus.
This confident life is a lovely life, a beautiful life, a good life. Pursue a rhetoric of beauty. Reformed types are notoriously shrill, petty and argumentative, stuck on being “right”. Shut up and go plant a garden. Shut up and go build a cathedral. Many Reformed types should just make it point not to say anything until someone asks.
We’ve considered the royal and political dimensions of the Gospel today. And now you are invited to the royal feast, the first fruits of the great Marriage Supper of the Lamb. You are the king’s sons and daughters. You are nobility. Eating at this table is a declaration of allegiance, and this means that you may not eat at the table of demons. Eating here is a declaration of loyalty. Modern Christians are infamous for hypocrisy, worshiping God on the Lord’s Day and fellowshipping with sin during the week. If you eat here, you cannot lie to your brothers and sisters. If you eat here, you cannot cut corners at your work. If you eat here, you may not speak to your children as though you have not. If you eat here, you are called to commune with your husbands and wives with the same diligence and joy. This table is a declaration of loyalty and a royal oath of allegiance. But do not think if you have failed that you are not welcome. This table is for those who know their weakness, those who know they need strength for these very things. So come in faith: you are the royal family, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. God is strengthening you and blessing you now. Come in faith, and believe the gospel: our King has come and died, but He is now risen and reigns until every enemy is put down.
Posted by Toby at 1:57 PM
Friday, June 16, 2006
Smashed out of Recognition
This is a great part in Perelandra where Ransom is climbing up from under the waters of the world. He has tried to strangle the Un-man, but something has followed him up into a giant, firelit chamber...
"Slowly, shakily, with unnatural and inhuman movements a human form, scarlet in the firelight, crawled out on to the floor of the cave. It was Un-man, of course; dragging its broken leg and with its lower jaw sagging open like that of a corpse; it raised itself to a standing position...and at that same moment [Ransom] became convinced... that the evil thoughts which had preceded the appearance of the enemy had been poured into his own mind by the enemy's will. The knowledge that his thoughts could be thus managed from without did not awaken terror but rage. Ransom found that he had risen, that he was approaching the Un-man, that he was saying things, perhaps foolish things, in English. "Do you think I'm going to stand this?" he yelled. "Get out of my brain. It isn't yours, I tell you! Get out of it." As he shouted he had picked up a big, jagged stone from beside the stream. "Ransom," croaked the Un-man, "wait! We're both trapped..." but Ransom was already upon it.
"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, here goes --I mean Amen," said Ransom, and hurled the stone as hard as he could into the Un-man's face. The un-man fell as a pencil falls, the face smashed out of all recognition."
--From chapter 14 of Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
Posted by Toby at 12:56 PM
There are probably others, but I just found that Joel 2:28-32 has its very own chapter (chapter 3) in the Hebrew and Septuagint scriptures. This means that our chapter 3 is actually chapter 4 in the Hebrew and Greek. Also in Nahum, chapter 2 begins at our 1:15. Just curious about that. Who did it and why? The Psalms are all one chapter off. I can't remember exactly, but I think that Psalm 1 and 2 might be together in the older Scriptures (No, I just checked, it's somewhere else). Anyways somewhere there's a glitch, and it throws the references off for the rest of the book.
I assume that that the Hebrew Scriptures were given chapters and verses around the same time of the Septuagint. I guess the place to check would be the Vulgate as to where IT puts the divisions.
Aha. I've just checked, and the Vulgate agrees with our versions of Joel and Nahum. So my (shooting from the hip) hypothesis is that Jerome is responsible for the discrepancy. Way to go, Jerome.
Posted by Toby at 8:37 AM
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Honoring the Orthodox Presbyterian Church
This was for this last Sunday and can be found on the CREC website:
The Following Resolution was Passed at the 2005 CREC Council Meeting:
In celebration and grateful acknowledgment of the seventieth anniversary of the formation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church [OPC] at its First General Assembly in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 11-14 June 1936, the first General Council meeting of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches hereby resolves:
That 11 June 2006 shall be proclaimed a day of celebration and prayer in our various churches; that we thank God for the OPC’s seventy years of confessional adherence to the Reformed faith, and for that body’s steady witness of the Gospel against unbiblical pietism and liberalism; that we thank God for the many faithful teachers and pastors of that body from whom we in the CREC have learned so much; and that we petition God for his continued protection and blessing upon our brethren in the OPC—for their continued peace, reformation, and faithfulness to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ for generations to come.
Posted by Toby at 1:17 PM
The associated press out of Anchorage, Alaska reports that polor bears may be resorting to canabalism. The artical is
here, but of course the root of all this "evil" is global warming, the all-purpose scarecrow of modern science.
I don't know.
First of all evolutionists can't say anything is "bad" or "evil." Secondly, why would they want anything to stay the same? In a world of evolution, change is the only thing there is, and therefore as close to "good" as one might find. And last, being a Creationist, my response is twofold: I'm still not convinced we have enough data to prove that global warming is in fact happening. Thrilling Hollywood movies aside, I'm not even convinced it's true.
But secondly, lets pretend for a moment that it is true: the world is in the slow cooker. Two things: one, I'm absolutely convinced that if this "warming" is bad, God will lead us into the wisdom necessary to deal with it. That might sound like a typical fundamentalist answer, but I do mean that we need to study more. So this isn't the responce of a Christian Emu; I'm not advocating closing our eyes and ears and humming one of our latest Power Hour Praise Songs. I'm just saying that God's in control, he designed the universe for our good, and if there's warming, we will find out. If we have harnassed the voo-doo of radio waves with cell phones, surely we can figure out global warming. And, while I have doubts about the extremity of green house gases, pollution, etc. I wouldn't be utterly undone to find out that we ought to be more careful with certain things. That's fine; we should be more careful if at the very least for aesthetic reasons.
But lastly, I wonder exactly what would be bad about global warming? What if the world is warming up, and what if that's what it's supposed to be doing? I know, we'd miss white Christmas and all that, but my understanding is that a warmer climate would melt some of the excess snow and ice, adding a bit more water to world. This would tend to create more of a green house affect, adding more moisture to the air, softening (perhaps) the direct angst of the sun.
Then we, like the famous Alaskan zucchini, would grow up bigger, stronger, and healther. I'm no scientist, so correct me if I'm wrong, but maybe we'd actually end up with something a little more Edenic, a more moderate, year round climate.
Posted by Toby at 4:20 AM
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Hostility vs. Strangeness
"No land was in sight, nor had been for many hours. He was on the high seas, the waste places of Perelandra, as he had not been since his first arrival. The sea-noises continuously filled his ear: the sea-smell, unmistakable and stirring as that of our Tellurian oceans, but quite different in its warmth and golden sweetness, entered into his brain. It also was wild and strange. It was not hostile: if that had been, its wildness and strangeness would have been the less, for hostility is a relation and an enemy is not a total stranger."
-From chapter 12 of C.S. Lewis' Perelandra
Posted by Toby at 1:01 PM
Unity and Difference
Some of this is mentioned or alluded to in some of the previous posts below, but I've been re-reading portions of Colin Gunton's excellent book: The One, the Three and the Many. Excellent read. I also have in the back of my mind David Bentley Hart's work: The Beauty of the Infinite. Maybe somewhere back there is also some of Barth's discussion of the Trinity in his Church Dogmatics 1.1. I'm probably stealing stuff from Peter Leithart and Ralph Smith as well.
BUT, inspired by that reading, I have been struck by some of the dynamics of unity and difference and the absolute necessity of both. It is the Spirit that unifies the Father and the Son. It is the Spirit that holds creation together, and brings together Jew and Gentile in the New Testament Church. But if the Spirit unifies there must be particulars to unify. Therefore, the Spirit must also be the Establisher of the particularity of each thing, each person. It is the action of unifying that establishes the Other. For in order for two things (or more) to come together, they must--in the first place--be two things. To bring this home: the unity that we share with other people MUST be with DIFFERENT people or it is no unity at all. It is not unity to have a lengthy discussion with the guy in the mirror.
Or a similar point could be made with the ideas of mystery and familiarity, akin to the concepts of unity and difference, particularly when grounded in the Trinity. Mystery is Other/Distance/Difference where familiarity is Unity/Harmony/Intimacy/Similarity. This being the case, both are absolutely necessary to preserve the other. Just as God's 'Oneness' IS the communion of the three persons and not some 'prior' substance 'behind' the threeness, so also our relation to others, our country, family, nation, land, whatever has to hold and glory in both the Other as Other/Difference/Mystery and then embracing it as such, we create Familiarity/Unity/Harmony.
Or something like that. It just seems like the continuum of mystery and familiarity is a similar continuum between unity and difference. And it is absolutely necessary to have both in order to preserve both. When one becomes dominant, they both careen into nothingness. Or to say it another way: no person/thing can be familiar without he/she/it first being mysterious/different (and continuing in some kind of mysteriousness/difference). Otherwise, you're just talking to the guy in the mirror again (all same). And someone/something cannot be mysterious/different without first having come in contact with it (having entered into some level of familiarity). Otherwise, how would you know it was mysterious, how could it be different?
Looking at it now, it seems all so plain and basic. But I guess I just got excited seeing the Life of the Trinity in the ordinary. I'm also intrigued by the idea that Gunton has that most of the last couple millenia are Western Civilization leaning towards 'oneness', boarderline unitarianism all along, and that the gospel to the world must be the good news of particularity, the essential goodness of difference in harmony, and full blown Trinitarianism for everyone to see.
Posted by Toby at 12:36 PM
Love is a Person
In our sermon text for today, Ephesians 4, Paul exhorts us to “bear with one another in love” and later to “speak the truth in love.” St. Augustine spoke of the Trinity, describing the Son as united to the Father in the person of the Holy Spirit. In his description, the Holy Spirit was the personified love of the Father and the Son. If something like this is true, then it is the Spirit of God who makes the Son and the Father more truly who they are as each gives glory to each other. The Son gives himself to the will of the Father and gives Him glory through the Spirit, and the Father begets and glorifies the Son in the power of the Spirit. The Spirit is the bond of love between the Father and the Son. If this is the case, then when we are called to “bear with one another in love” or to “speak the truth in love” this means that our “bearing” and our “speaking” to be most faithfully Trinitarian must seek to give glory and honor to the other. It’s not good enough to just clench your teeth and hope for the best. It’s not good enough to go on lambasting your brother even with good intentions in your heart.
We begin our services of worship in the Name of the Father, Son and Spirit. You will notice that we do not begin in the “names” but rather in the one Name. All who have been baptized into this one Name have an obligation to show forth the Love of the Trinity in their actions and words to one another and to those outside the faith. The Reformed world is plagued with schism and suspicion, envy and spite for brothers within our own communions and denominations, and often even with the rest of Christendom. Hearty disagreement is acceptable; genuine difference can even be glorious; but the bitterness and anger which characterizes many disputes is tantamount to a Trinitarian heresy. Do you dare speak to your brother that way? Do you dare speak to your wife that way? Have you spoken about your husband in ways that lie about the Love of the Spirit? Have you dishonored your parents in such a way as to deny the Trinity? We serve the Triune God: the Father, and the Son who dwells together in the unity and love of the Holy Spirit. Therefore love one another.
Posted by Toby at 12:33 PM
The Gifts of God for the People of God
Many Christians, when they come to the Lord’s Supper at all, come to the Table cowering, trembling, sometimes they get to the table or the bread comes by and they balk and refuse to take, saying to themselves: “Surely I’m not worthy, I really haven’t done as well as I should have this week.” But this gets the table all backwards and upside down. Of course, you’re not worthy, that’s the whole point. This is a table for forgiven sinners. This is a Eucharistic table, a table of thanksgiving. And the principle thing we are thankful for is the fact that we are here in the first place. But this thankfulness must translate into joyful confidence or it is not really thankfulness. The irony is that the person who cowers and balks at the Supper is actually not being humble at all; he’s actually being arrogant and proud, trusting his intuition, his conscious, his feelings over and above God’s Word. Here’s the bread, the body of our Lord for you, rejoice! Here’s the wine, the blood of our Lord for the remission of your sins, rejoice! To cower, to balk at these gifts here presented is to disbelieve the Word of God. It is not humility, it is simple unbelief. Here are the gifts of God, for you the forgiven people of God. Therefore receive them now with joy and thanksgiving.
Posted by Toby at 12:30 PM
Trinity Sunday Sermon Outline: The Glory of Real Diversity: Eph. 4:1-16
We have just celebrated Pentecost, the high feast of the Holy Spirit, where we remember and glory in the pouring out of the Spirit on God’s people in the world. The Holy Spirit, we considered last week, is the creative, warrior storm of God that overflows the Triune fellowship as the New Wine, the joy of God. Another way saying a very similar thing is to describe the Spirit as the person in God who creates unity or harmony by destroying distance between persons. And now we come to Trinity Sunday where among other things we celebrate who our God is: unity and diversity, and seek to better live out the loveliness and essential goodness of this unity and diversity in our lives.
The God of Difference and Particularity
If there is unevenness in the ‘seesaw’ of our tradition, it is most assuredly on the side of ‘oneness’ that we tend to lean. But we serve the God who holds difference and particularity in unity as His very essence or ‘oneness’. The Trinity is sometimes misunderstood to be three persons that share some sort of ‘oneness’ behind or above their ‘threeness’, a plurality that is held together by some prior unity (which may be what is sometimes meant by “God is three in one”). But this is really just a subtle form of modalism, where a solitary god merely masquerades as different persons. But the true doctrine of the Trinity is that the oneness of God is the relatedness of the three distinct persons. This is the case because unity or relatedness is not possible where particulars do not exist, and particulars are not possible where relatedness does not exist.
Keeping the Unity: 4:1-6
Our text is very much concerned with unity and diversity, oneness and particularity. Paul begins with who Christians are (v. 1) exhorting them to be what they are (v. 2) and to preserve what they already have (v. 3). Christians are exhorted to humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another in love (remember the Holy Spirit) (v. 2) which is how we endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit (v. 3). Notice that we are not commanded to create the unity, to manufacture unity or figure out some kind of common, middle ground between ourselves and the other baptized guy over there. The unity already exists and we are required to preserve it through humility, gentleness and love. If the unity already exists, that means that Paul is assuming that difference already exists. This is because God the Spirit Himself is that unity and bond of peace (v. 4-6).
Different Gifts: 4:7-12
But Paul knows that there cannot be unity without difference. We cannot compliment one another unless we have been given different gifts (v. 7). The center of this passage is the quotation from Psalm 68 where the Messiah is Yahweh God ascending to the highest of all mountains after having destroyed the enemies of His people (Ps. 68:12, 14, 21-23). Our triumphant King is the reason for our unity: having spoiled His and our enemies, He gives gifts to men (v. 8). If Jesus has given the Spirit and His gifts to men then we have been brought into the life of the Trinity. But the only way mortals can be brought into fellowship with the Immortal is if Hades has been ransacked. And it has (v. 9-10) and not only at Pentecost, but He “daily loads us.” (Ps. 68:19) This is the life of the Trinity overflowing in and through history: the terrible, joyful dance of the Father, Son and Spirit spilling gifts on His people. The ascension of Jesus Christ means that we have been joined to the Trinity in the body of our Lord. We, in the power of the Spirit are united to the Son and are now members of the eternal, most holy, most glorious gift-giving frenzy.
To a Perfect Man: 4:13-16
Lest any should doubt whether Paul believes in Truth or whether diversity has any limits, he concludes describing what true humility, gentleness, patience and love results in (v. 13,14). The result is NOT that they don’t believe anything or relativism, consigning most doctrines to the “who’s to say?” category, but the result is that they are “no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine…” (v. 14). Humility is not uncertainty or sheepishness any more than a son doubting his father’s love is being humble. True humility is confident and mature in doctrine. Because faith, the knowledge of the Son and true doctrine are gifts, humility does not doubt but recognizes the Giver, and refuses to despise the gift. And when thanks are given, when honor and glory for the undeserved are rendered, we are living out the Trinitarian life.
The spirit of our age is one of false diversity and superficial multiculturalism. The most potent weapon against this is deep, profound thankfulness. We began by talking about the goodness of difference and particularity. Because this is what the Trinity is: three different persons united in the pursuit of the others’ glory. And without difference there could be no gratitude, and this is because there could be no gift, there could be no grace. This means that our gratitude cannot be generic, open-ended thankfulness, a counterfeit gratitude. Thankfulness always has specifics, objects, particulars, and this teaches us loyalty to our own gifts and openness to others’.
Live this gratitude in your homes. Give thanks for your food with exuberance; sing psalms and hymns with thanksgiving in your hearts. Speak to one another with grace, and guard your words: take care that your words don’t even sound ungrateful. As we seek to recover and rebuild a faithful Christian culture, our aim is to be built up into that perfect man, conforming to the image of Jesus Christ. But as grace has its way in our lives and we respond with thanksgiving, the glorious thing is that it will often look and sound very different in different people and places. The same God who made Hermit crabs also made asteroids, sea weed and icicles. And it’s the same God who’s remaking us now. In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Collect for the Day
Almighty and everlasting God, since you have given us, Your servants, grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith, and to worship the true Unity in the power of Your divine majesty, keep us also steadfast in this true faith and worship, and defend us ever from all our adversaries; for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.
All: Amen! The Lord is enthroned as King forever. The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace.
Posted by Toby at 11:25 AM
Friday, June 09, 2006
C.S. Lewis on Predestination
"The thing was going to be done. There was going to arrive, in the course of time, a moment at which he would have done it. The future act stood there, fixed and unaltered as if he had already performed it. It was a mere irrelevant detail that it happened to occupy the position we call future instead of that which we call past. The whole struggle was over, and yet there seemed to have been no moment of victory. You might say, if you liked, that the power of choice had been simply set aside and an inflexible destiny substituted for it. On the other hand, you might say that he had [been?] delivered from the rhetoric of his passions and had emerged into unassailable freedom. Ransom could not, for the life of him, see the difference between these two statements. Predestination and freedom were apparently identical. He could no longer see any meaning in the many arguments he had heard on this subject."
-From Chapter 11, Perelandra, by C.S. Lewis
Posted by Toby at 8:16 AM
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Monism with a funny hat
This was posted by Doug Wilson over at blog and mablog.
"What multiculturalism in the curriculum assuredly does not mean is a renewed emphasis upon the mastery of foreign languages or the close study of complex civilizations . . . the campaign to impose 'multiculturalism' amounts to nothing less than a war on Western civilization and, beyond it, a war on the very idea of civilization" (Elizabeth Fox-Genovese in the Foreword to Sacks and Thiel, The Diversity Myth, xii-xiii).
The irony of course is that the 'campaign' or 'war' turns the diversity banner on its head, making their driving concern the unanimous concession to their version of whatever they think multiculturalism means. Their pluralism is actuall monism with a funny hat.
Posted by Toby at 12:49 PM
Obedience, courage and prosperity
While the world is not a vending machine, and there are people like Job in the world. The Bible does not shy away from giving us the basic principle of the Good Life. Prosperity is the result of following the Law of God. The Lord says to Joshua, "Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart form your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous."
But how can Joshua (a sinner) obey? Shouldn't this make him terrified? Actually, the next verse says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage." The result of being told to obey is strength and courage. The exhortation to obey is followed up with, "so be strong and brave." Not, "but of course you can't do it because you're a lousy sinner." Protestants often get their hackles up at the first sound of law and obedience. But that betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of grace, salvation and even the way the world works. Of course no one was ever saved by climbing up to the back door of heaven. Of course no one will arrive in heaven having actually preserved any slightest smidge of automous righteousness. But this is simply the way the world works. God is sovereign over all things, and even if there was some guy who *thought* he was working his way to grace (whatever that would mean...), everything about him, including his self-dillusions of autonomous granduer were given to him by the Ancient of Days.
But the point is simply this: exhortations to obedience are calls to courageous faith. All of our obedience is given to us, and therefore we must trust the God who works in us to will and to do according to his good pleasure those works which he prepared for us beforehand to walk in them. And doing so, you will prosper.
Posted by Toby at 11:53 AM
The Holy Ghost Hole
“In medieval times the figure of a dove was widely used to enact in a dramatic way the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. When the priest had arrived at the sequence, he sang the first words in a loud and solemn voice: Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Ghost). Immediately there arose in the church a sound “as of a violent blowing” (Acts 2:2). This noise was produced in some countries, like France, by the blowing of trumpets; in others by the choirboys, who hissed, hummed, pressed wind bags, and rattled the benches. All eyes turned toward the ceiling of the church where from an opening called the “Holy Ghost Hole” there appeared a disc the size of a cart wheel, which slowly descended in horizontal position, swinging in ever-widening circles. Upon a blue background, broken by bundles of golden rays, it bore on its underside the figure of a white dove.
Meanwhile the choir sang the sequence. At its conclusion the dove came to rest, hanging suspended in the middle of the church. There followed a rain of flowers indicating the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and of water symbolizing baptism. In some towns of central Europe people even went so far as to drop pieces of burning wick or straw from the Holy Ghost Hole, to represent the flaming tongues of Pentecost. This practice, however, was eventually stopped because it tended to put the people on fire externally, instead of internally as the Holy Spirit had done at Jerusalem. In the thirteenth century in many cathedrals of France real white pigeons were released during the singing of the sequence and flew around the church while roses were dropped from the Holy Ghost Hole.”
-From the Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, by Father Francis X. Weiser, the chapter on the Feast of Pentecost.
I’m just pleased to see that Modern Evangelicals aren’t the only ones to come up with bad names or silly charades.
Posted by Toby at 11:51 AM
Monday, June 05, 2006
The Cup of the Ginger Ale of the Fierceness of the Wrath of God
From Capon's book The Supper of the Lamb, the chapter entitled "Water In Excelsis", all brackets and italics are his:
"Witness the teetotaling communion service. Most Protestants, I suppose, imagine that it is part of the true Reformed religion. But have they considered that, for nineteen centuries after the institution of the Eucharist, wine was the only element available for the sacrament? Do they seriously envision St. Paul or Calvin or Luther opening bottles of Welch's Grape Joice in the sacristy before the service? ... Even the Lord's own delight was explained away. One of the most fanciful pieces of exegesis I ever read began by maintaining that the Greek word for wine, as used in the Gospels, meant many other things than wine. The commentator cited, as I recall, grape juice for one meaning, and raisin paste for another. he inclined, ultimately, toward the latter.
I suppose such people are blessed with reverent minds which prevent them from drawing irreverent conclusions. I myself, however, could never resist the temptation to read raisin paste for wine in the story of the Miracle of Cana. "When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made raisin paste... he said unto the bridegroom, 'Every man at the beginning doth set forth good raisin paste, and when men have well drunk [eaten?--the text is no doubt corrupt], then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good raisin paste until now.'" Does it not whet your appetite for the critical opera omnia of such an author, where he will freely have at the length and breadth of Scripture? Can you not see his promised land flowing with peanut butter and jelly; his apocalypse, in which the great whore Babylon is given the cup of the ginger ale of the fierceness of the wrath of God?"
Posted by Toby at 2:01 PM
For those of you interested in Jamie Soles, he's recently come out with a new album, Ascending. This is a collection of the Psalms of Ascent (Ps. 120-134) put to newer tunes. There is a chant version of one psalm as well as a tune from the Genevan Psalter for another. These are folk tunes, family tunes, good for long car rides and playing and singing around the house. The great thing is that they are word for word (or very close to it) taken from the ESV. I hadn't realized how close they were to the actual text until not long ago when I was reading through that section of the Psalter. And lo and behold I already knew them all.
So take a listen and get yourself a copy. Click here, or just google "Jamie Soles Psalms of Ascent".
Posted by Toby at 1:47 PM
Sunday, June 04, 2006
River at 2
And while it is still called Today, I would like to point out that in addition to this being my first Sunday at Holy Trinity Church in South Carolina and the high Christian feast of Pentecost, it is also my son's second birthday. While I'm pretty sure he doesn't read my blog, I would like to publicly wish him many happy returns of the day. I'm rather convinced that he's a bit confused: when I ask him how old he is, he says "three!" Then I laugh, he laughs, and I ask him, 'really, how old are you?' And he says, "five!" I give up and let it go. A few minutes later he looks up and says, "two, daddy." He's holding up his hand with his index and middle fingers ever so slightly more extended than the rest of his fingers. I congratulate him.
We have a fenced in, ground level balcony in our new apartment where River already loves to play. This morning while we were getting ready for church he was out there doing his thing, which on this occasion appeared to be reaching through the bars in the fence and pulling large handfuls of pine needles or some such foliage onto the deck. Upon finding him deep in the mysteries of pine-needle-grabbing, I asked, 'hey, whateryou doing?' He replied with wide eyes and a straight face, "I"m making a cheese burger, daddy." To which I of course replied, 'well, good for you.'
My son hunts wallies. I don't know what wallies are, but I found out tonight that they are edible. He announced that he had found some and he had killed some, but then he began eating them and asked if I wanted any. Of course I said yes and had a bite, but I'm afraid I'm still a little unsure what wallies are exactly. But he marches through the house, sometimes with a baseball bat, sometimes in sun glasses, and when he's found his wallies, well then, he kills them and eats them and makes sure to share some with mom and dad.
I really can't say how grateful I am to have a son. He's already such a person, such an individual with his own personality. He's such a joy, a delight, a mystery, a challenge, everything a good gift should be. May God make him a mighty man, and may he serve the Lord all of his days. Happy Second Birthday, River.
An Electrical Storm Gone All Wrong
In Acts 2 when the divided tongues of fire appear to the disciples, it is usually rendered that 'one [tongue of fire] sat/came to rest on each one of them [the apostles]'. However, given the context I wonder if this is really the best rendering. We already have a mighty rushing wind, the sound of which is loud enough for multitudes to gather wondering what's going on. The language of divided fire is reminiscent of Psalm 29 where Yahweh is described as the great storm God, the God who shakes the earth through the praises of His people and divides fire upon the earth. In Psalm 29 it is obvious that divided fire, in the context of a storm, is lightening. And I wonder if that is a little closer to what is going on in Acts 2. It's difficult to shake the children's picture Bible imagery of little cute candle flames hovering over the heads of all the apostles, but perhaps that's not what we're supposed to understand as happening. The word for sit/rest in Greek is KATHIZO, and is almost always used to denote an enthronement or sitting for judgment or teaching. Furthermore, the preposition usually translated "on" can have a wide range of meaning: on, around, concerning, against, towards, and others. So I would suggest rendering the verse something like: 'one [lightening bolt] signaled the enthronement/bestowed authority for each one of them.' That also fits with what Jesus had actually promised the apostles: "...you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.." And thus what we have at Pentecost is not just a gentle breeze and some creative pyrotechnics, we actually have the Holy Spirit roaring into the house in Jerusalem as a mighty wind, an electrical storm gone all wrong.
Posted by Toby at 8:41 PM
A Victory Feast
This meal is a Spiritual meal in many different senses. It is Spiritual because Christ is present with us at this meal in His Spirit. It is Spiritual because Christ feeds us with his body and blood in ways that are not explainable with chemistry or biology. But this meal is also Spiritual because God does with this meal what seems utterly ridiculous to carnal man. Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:26 that our eating and drinking is a proclamation of the Lord’s death. Throughout Acts people repent, believe, receive the Holy Spirit and start eating together. They don’t join a political party. They don’t immediately start dressing differently or working in particular industries. They immediately begin breaking bread together, this bread, Eucharistic bread together. And then the next thing that happens is that they’re getting in trouble with the authorities. What gives? What’s the threat of bread and wine? This meal is Spiritual because it accomplishes by faith what cannot be accomplished any other way. Moses sees the armies of Pharaoh and lifts up a stick. David sees the giant and picks out a few choice pebbles. And we see the world and all its ugly sin and we sit down to a table. It looks like insanity, and the world will do all it can to break our concentration. And it cannot be an accident that so many churches do not celebrate communion but very rarely. But here we are in the power of the Spirit joined to the millions thronging into the Kingdom. Salvation is a victory feast, a festival in honor of our victorious King and his mercy and grace to us and to the whole world. Therefore eat this bread with joy, drink this wine with a merry heart.
Posted by Toby at 3:40 PM
Pentecost Sermon: Acts 2
Today is Pentecost (or Whitsunday). Today is the day, some fifty days after Easter when the Church celebrates the pouring out of the Spirit onto the church. Originally the Hebrew Feast of Weeks or First Fruits, God fulfilled that type or allusion by sending His Son and after He had ascended back into heaven, He poured the Spirit out on His Church. Going back to the second and third centuries, celebrating this momentous event has a deep history, but who is the Holy Spirit? What is the Holy Spirit like?
The Creator Spirit
When God created the heavens and the earth, He sent His Spirit to hover over the deeps (Gen. 1:2). This Spirit is the RUACH, the wind or breath of God. And it is the same Wind that rushes into the house where the apostles are staying on the day of Pentecost. The presence of the Spirit means that something new is beginning. Notice also that this wind precedes the spoken Word, just as in Genesis 1. The wind gives the force necessary for speech; it becomes the breath of the apostles such that when they speak, words they did not know before spring forth, languages known to the multitudes gathered in Jerusalem for the feast. But as has been pointed out before, these new linguistic abilities are the answer to the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9). A new city is being founded. Finally, it’s difficult to imagine this scene without seeing the picture-Bible renditions of this event with picture perfect flames hovering over each apostle’s shiny Boy Scout face. But this scene should probably be considered far more like an electrical storm gone all wrong (Ps. 29). The same Spirit that roared the cosmos into being is once again at work in the world.
The Warrior Spirit
And if the Spirit of God is the storm of God, then it should not be surprising to see men act like storms when they are filled with that Spirit. Perhaps one of the most overlooked Spiritual men in all of Scripture is Samson. Of course Samson is looked to as a warrior, perhaps even a hero of Israel. But how often is he considered a prime example of what it looks like to be a Spiritual Man? Too many modern Christians portray faithful masculinity as soft and sensitive. When the Spirit comes upon a modern Christian man, it is assumed that he spent an extra ten minutes in quiet time, or maybe he got tears in his eyes when singing during the service. But when the Spirit comes upon Samson, he goes hunting for a Philistine wife (Jdg. 14:1). He tears a lion apart (14:6). He kills thirty men and takes their clothes (14:19). He breaks out of ropes and kills a thousand men with the jaw bone of an ass (15:14-15). This is not an exhortation to violence. But this is an exhortation to warfare. When the Spirit fills a man or a woman they act with fierce obedience, martial faithfulness. This is because obedience is treachery to the world and the betrayal of all sin and wickedness. It cannot be an accident that the Spirit appears as “tongues” and immediately following this the apostles are speaking in “tongues.” Words are fire; words are a storm, the only question is to what end (Jas 3). In our world and in the world of the first century, one the most central acts of obedience is with the tongue. When the Spirit descended on the apostles they got up and began boldly declaring the truth to the multitudes, and they and their descendents did it with such ferocity, that many of them were tortured and martyred for their faithfulness.
The Glad/Festal Spirit
Finally, the Spirit is the Wine of God. To be filled with the Spirit, one runs the risk of being accused of drunkenness (Acts 2:13, 15). And that’s a good thing. The passage quoted by Peter is Joel, where Yahweh expressly prophesies the sending of His Spirit and the pouring out of the Spirit as the pouring out of new wine on the people of God (Joel 2:19, 24). Paul also exhorts us elsewhere to be filled with the Spirit which is the proper alternative to drunkenness (Eph. 5:18). Remember Hannah who bitterly wept and prayed in the house of God pleading with Him for a child. She too was mistaken by Eli to be drunk. But of course this fits with the wildness of a storm and the fierceness of a warrior. The Spirit of Yahweh is also a thunderous, joyful festival (Psalm 78:65). And this is precisely what we see here in Acts 2 (2:29 (!), 41, 42, 46-47).
First, this Sunday is not only Pentecost, the birthday celebration of the Christian Church, it is also (fittingly) a new beginning for Holy Trinity Church. Today really is a Pentecost here in Greenville, South Carolina. Here, after 2006 years of Christ’s reign, God is pouring out his Spirit yet again in a new and unique way in this place and time. The Creator Spirit is hovering over us. His storm is rushing over us here, right now.
Secondly, this means we should expect opposition. This is not arrogance; this is not self aggrandizement; this is faith. God is blessing us here in this church at this time. And whenever God blesses his people in particular places, people notice; they hear the noise and come running and the enemies of God come out of the woodwork. But we, no less than all of the heroes of the faith, are confident of victory. The same Spirit that empowered the man, Jesus Christ, to fight sin, the flesh and the devil and conquer death itself is at work in each of us. Therefore believe that God is blessing us, but be on guard. The devil loves to turn blessings into ropes on which the saints of God hang themselves.
Lastly (and this is our greatest defense), we must look for and expect great joy. The effect of the work of the Spirit is a community of celebration and gratitude. Sharing bread and wine here is the pinnacle of lives shared throughout the week, living with gladness and simplicity of heart. Sin really is the great complicator. Sin is darkness, emptiness and formlessness; sin is uncreated or decreated reality; sin is the ultimate straightjacket. But where the Spirit is, life comes pouring forth, life like a waterfall, like a tornado, like a Spanish dance. This is the life of the Holy Spirit that has been poured out onto us. Therefore live this: believe that God is at work and blessing us here and now, fiercely contend for the faith by obeying, and finally, pursue simple gratitude, the kind of thankfulness that counts pennies, watches sunsets, and gives inexcusable gifts.
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
The Collect of the Day
Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Posted by Toby at 3:36 PM
Worship is warfare. The Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit on our lips, and the Psalms and Hymns we sing are the double-edge sword in our mouths. But our warfare is dragon and giant slaying. We do not enter this battlefield with a reasonably sized foe. We do not face sin, flesh, the devil and all the enemies of God on equal footing. We are Moses with a stick, surrounded by seas and armies. We are David with a few stones and a taunting, towering giant. If we look at the battlefield it looks terrifying and useless to try. There are almost a half a million people in Greenville County, close to a million between Greenville and Spartanburg, among some 300 million in this country alone. And we are a tiny band in Greer, South Carolina. But this is what it means to do battle in the power of the Spirit. Spiritual battle does not mean we cease doing battle. It does not mean retreat from the arts, business, medicine, politics, culture, technology or any such thing. It simply means that the battle is the Lord’s. We serve the Lord God of Sabaoth. That means Yahweh God of Armies, and there is no other God in heaven or in earth or under the earth, all the rest are idols. And it is He that sent His Spirit, the Spirit of the risen and victorious Christ on His people at Pentecost, and it is He that sends His Spirit now, drawing us up into the heavenly places, joining our voices, to the voices of the countless millions who confess the name of Christ. Worship is warfare: therefore I charge you in the Name of Christ, sing, chant, pray, shout, eat, drink and listen with all faith, because you serve the God of Armies, King Jesus, who turns seas into dry land, decapitates giants, and He has crushed the head of that dragon of old. Look around, every place your foot trods has been given into your hand because it has been given into the hand of your King. Do not doubt but believe.
Posted by Toby at 3:35 PM
Friday, June 02, 2006
Thanks for the prayers and encouragement. Jenny, River and I arrived into Taylors, South Carolina yesterday, late afternoon and collapsed. The drive was pretty long, and it has been a busy 4 or 5 days. But God has been so good. On either end of the trip, both in Idaho and here in SC, the people of God have overwhelmed us with kindness. Both gifts and help have been very much appreciated.
It's strange to begin learning our way around a completely different area. New streets, new stores, new culture, etc. Of course this is America, we still have McDonalds and Walmart, but you know, there are still a number of new things to get down. One quick example: apparently here, street names do not necessarily correspond to the street you are driving on. One might drive down several blocks, and paying careful attention to the tiny street name signs on street corners find that one has been on two or three different streets without turning once. Still more mysterious (challenging) is the fact that often if one wants to continue driving on a particular street, one may have to make several turns here and there at sundry intersections in order to "stay" on that street. The road to destruction is broad and wide and many find their way easily, but the road to life is narrow and difficult and often makes many detours and there are few that find it, and even fewer who manage to stay on it.
I did notice that I had accidentally published the same picture of River twice a couple of posts ago. I've taken one down, although I really am a proud father and twice proud to be the father of River. Nevertheless, it was inadvertent and so now you'll just have to wait for a new one.
Posted by Toby at 5:14 AM
Psalm of the Day
1 To the Chief Musician. On a stringed instrument. A Psalm of David.
HEAR my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer.
2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy.
4 I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah
5 For You, O God, have heard my vows; You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name.
6 You will prolong the king's life, His years as many generations.
7 He shall abide before God forever. Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him!
8 So I will sing praise to Your name forever, That I may daily perform my vows.
Posted by Toby at 5:10 AM