Felicity Elizabeth was baptized this morning into the Christian faith. We are so thankful for God's continued kindness to us as a family. Please rejoice with us. Below is the basic outline of the baptismal service.
Celebrant: Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
All: And blessed be his kingdom, now and forever. Amen!
Celebrant: The Lord be with you!
All: And with your Spirit!
Celebrant: Let us pray: Almighty and eternal God, who according to your righteous judgment did condemn the unbelieving world through the flood and in your great mercy did preserve believing Noah and his family, and who did drown hardhearted Pharaoh with all his host in the Red Sea and did lead your people Israel through the same sea on dry ground, thereby prefiguring this bath of holy baptism, and who through the baptism of your dear Child, our Lord Jesus Christ, have consecrated and set apart the Jordan and all water as a salutary flood and a rich and full washing away of sins: We pray through your same unbounded mercy that you will graciously behold this your child and bless her with true faith in the Spirit so that by means of this saving flood all that has been born in her from Adam and which she herself has added thereto may be drowned in her and engulfed, and that she may be sundered from the number of the unbelieving, preserved dry and secure in the holy ark of your Church, serve your Name at all times fervent in spirit and joyful in hope, so that with all believers she may attain eternal life according to your promise; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns unto ages of ages. Amen.
Baptismal Meditation and Exhortation
We do not baptize babies because they are cute. We do not baptize babies merely because we don’t want them to feel left out. We baptize our children because of the word of God. From our sermon text today, we read Jesus’ words: Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, ‘Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.’ (Mk. 9:36-37) And later in the same chapter, Jesus says: But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. (Mk. 9:42) In a parallel passage, Luke 18:15-17, Jesus makes it explicit that He desires for all children to come to Him, even the infants. The challenging thing about these passages is that Jesus makes the faith of small children and infants the model of faith. We are too often just like the disciples and think that in order to be really “in”, to really “get it”, we have to be older and understand (or at least be able to say) lots of long theological words. But Jesus assumes that they already believe in Him, and his warning is not to children but to adults. You adults, Jesus says, better not cause one of these little ones to stumble.
Lastly, Jesus says that by receiving these little ones we receive Him, but in that process we are not really receiving Him but rather the One who sent Him. This means that baptism, particularly of little children, is always an invitation to the Father. We are here performing a grand reception, receiving the Son, receiving the Father, in the power of the Spirit. We are taking part in the dance of the Trinity, the giving and receiving that eternally characterizes the love and fellowship of God. And this means that this is all a great gift; it’s all grace, it’s all the wonderful, completely undeserved favor of the Triune God.
Therefore I charge you, Toby and Jenny, in the sight of these witnesses to be faithful in receiving Felicity as a sister in the Faith and by the grace of God, a model of faith. Encourage her and cultivate this faith in her more and more by praying with and for her, teaching her the holy doctrines of our faith, and bringing her up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Amen.
Celebrant: And now, being persuaded of the good will of our heavenly Father toward Felicity Elizabeth, declared by His Son Jesus Christ; let us faithfully and devoutly bring Felicity Elizabeth to enter into covenant with our loving and Holy God and embark upon a life of service in the household of God.
The Celebrant addresses the congregation
Celebrant: Do you, the people of the Lord, promise to receive Felicity Elizabeth in love, pray for her, help instruct her in the faith, and encourage and sustain her in the fellowship of believers?
Answer: We do, God helping us.
The Celebrant addresses the parents
Celebrant: Because Felicity Elizabeth cannot answer for herself, I therefore call upon you to answer in her stead: Do you, therefore, in the name of Felicity Elizabeth, renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the sinful desires of the flesh, so that you will not follow, nor be led by them?
Answer: I renounce them all; and, by God's help, will endeavor not to follow, nor be led by them.
Celebrant: Do you believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth?
Answer: I believe.
Celebrant: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; The third day He rose again from the dead, He ascended into heaven, And sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From there He shall come to judge the quick and the dead?
Answer: I believe.
Celebrant: Do you believe in the Holy Ghost; The Holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body, And the life everlasting?
Answer: I believe.
Celebrant: Do you present Felicity Elizabeth to be baptized into this Christian faith?
Answer: I do.
(Name) I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And may the blessings of the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon you both now and forever. Amen!
All: Little child, for you, Jesus Christ has come, he has fought, He has suffered. For you he entered into the shadows of Gethsemane and the terror of Calvary; for you he uttered the cry “it is finished.” For you He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, and there for you He intercedes. For you, even though you do not know it, little child, but in this way the Word of the Gospel is made true, “We love Him because He first loved us.”
Celebrant: Let us pray.
All: We give hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it has pleased You to regenerate this Child with Your Holy Spirit, to receive this Child for Your own Child, to incorporate her into Your Holy Church and to set her apart as a servant of Your household. We humbly beseech You to grant, that she, being dead to sin, may live unto righteousness, and being buried with Christ in His death, may also be a partaker of His resurrection; so that finally, with the residue of Your Holy Church, she may be an inheritor of Your everlasting kingdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Thursday, August 24, 2006
St. Bartholomew and His Day
Bartholomew is listed in the synoptic gospels as one of the Twelve, likewise in the list given in the book of Acts. Apart from these references we know nothing else for certain about this man. Some have conjectured that he is the same as Nathaniel (John 1:45-51; 21:2), and early legends also testify to this. The thought is that Bartholomew is most likely a surname. It literally means "Son of Thalamai". We also know that Philip and Nathaniel were friends according to John's account, and in the synoptic lists, Bartholomew is listed with Philip. Perhaps then, the synoptic authors referred to this man by his last name, while John remembers him according to his first name, though all of this is conjecture. Eusebius is the earliest record of anything regarding Bartholomew, and there it is recorded that he was a missionary to India who left the gospel of Matthew in Hebrew with new converts there. Accounts vary with regard to Bartholomew's death. Some legends record that Bartholomew was beheaded while most others recount that he was flayed alive before being crucified upsidedown. Apparently this latter legend is why he is pictured flayed and holding his own skin in Michelangelo Last Judgment.
It should not be forgotten that it was also on this same day, a millennium and a half later, in 1572, that Catherine de Medici ordered the slaughter of an estimated 100,000 Huguenots, French protestants, an event remembered in history as the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. Despite the bloodbath, Pope Gregory XIII responded by congratulating the Queen of France and minted a special medallion in her honor, commemorating her "holy" deed.
Because of the way it is believed that Bartholomew died, a knife has consequently become the emblem of St. Bartholomew and can be seen in many old almanacs. At the abbey of Croyland, one source says that there used to be a distribution of knives each St. Bartholomew's Day, in honor of the saint, a custom which I say ought to be revived.
The fact that this day often inaugurates cooler weather in many places is expressed in a popular distich:
Brings the cold dew."
A Collect for St. Bartholomew's Day:
Almighty and most merciful God, who gave your faithful servant Bartholomew the grace to heed your call to discipleship and give his life in service to your Son, grant that we, together with all your saints, may take up our crosses daily and follow after Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, unto ages of ages, Amen!
Posted by Toby at 12:20 PM
Authority is Loyalty
In Mark 9, John points out to Jesus that they (the disciples) had seen someone casting out demons in Jesus' name, but because they were not followers of the disciples, they were forbidden to continue the practice. And Jesus responds: "Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side."
In a post several days ago regarding my qualms with those who "convert" to other branches of Christendom, I questioned the validity of playing the "authority card" in defense of Rome or Constantinople. Now to make it perfectly clear, I do believe that the Church is the Body of Christ, and the appointed leaders of the Church speak with real authority, and they are to be honored and obeyed as such. And I am willing to fully affirm that it is possible that some ecclesiastical authorities today have been ordained by men who have been ordained by men who were ordained by others who (going back all the way) were ordained by apostles who were chosen by Jesus. But Jesus' words make it clear that authority does not rest in a particular theological pedigree. Ultimately, true authority rests in loyalty to Jesus. And because this is the case, all authority must be assumed to be such (1 Pet. 2:13ff).
And of course someone will pipe up in the back of the peanut gallery and want to know how many miracles I have performed in the last few months. Isn't that a prerequisite for "rogue" ministry? Actually, no. Jesus says that for sure whoever is doing miracles in His name should be left alone, but continues and allows for even more. The mark of true ministry and authority is allegiance to Jesus. The point is this: there is no club, no seminary, no ecclesastical convention, and no tatoo that entitles you to a free ride. The guy with the apostolic succession on his head may be as godly as St. Peter himself, or as God damned as Judas. To say that all Protestants must repent of their sectarianism and return to Rome or Constantinople is like saying that the scribes, pharisees and Pilot weren't guilty of the blood of Jesus because hey, they were just doing what that Holy Blessed Apostle Judas told them to do.
And no, this doesn't mean that ordination doesn't matter or that the church is a free-for-all democracy. But it does mean that the church is a theocracy; it means that God does whatever He wants and He does it with whomever He wants, our fancy little ceremonies notwithstanding. Maybe God will wind up reuniting the organizational structure of the church over the history of the world. Maybe in ten or thirty thousand years there will be an "Office of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church." Maybe. But I kind of doubt it. I suspect that as God perfects His Bride, it will be far more organic. Sure, maybe there will be various leadership positions over certain branches of the church and those leaders will be in fellowship and communion with other leaders. But that unity and fellowship will not be based on a particular heritage, a pretentious ceremony or the letterhead on the stationary. Our unity is and will always be in our allegiance to Christ, our loyalty to Him and to His people.
It's the disloyalty expressed in phrases like "I'm converting" that makes me sick.
Posted by Toby at 9:33 AM
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Holy Trinity Weekly
This Sunday will be the Twelfth Lord's Day after Pentecost.
The Christian Almanac records that in mid August of 1301 Dante Alighieri fell out of favor with the rulers of his home town of Florence, Italy. Eventually being banished from home, he took up an exilic residence in Venice. And it was during this period in Dante's life that he wrote "The Divine Comedy". This allegorical epic traces Dante's pilgrimage from the depths of Hades through Purgatory to the heights of highest Heaven. Written in high Italian meter, full of sweeping imagery and challenging themes, Dante presented the world with the story of history revealed as the story of a beautiful gospel. His work was historically startling, presenting his
contemporary world with a work in the vernacular as well as his careful attention to characterizations and human psychology.
If you have never had the privilege of wandering up through the labyrinthine trail of "The Divine Comedy", I highly recommend that you do. For if nothing else, Dante shows us the world much more truly than most, a world with all of its ugliness and sin, all of its glory and joy, and all of it sovereignly ruled by the Love of its
The sermon text for this Sunday will be Mark 9. The lessons for the day will be 1 Kings 19:4-8, Ephesians 4:30-5:2, and John 6:41-51.
Posted by Toby at 1:25 PM
Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton Study
Chapter 1: Introduction: In Defense of Everything Else
1. What kind of apologetic does Chesterton intend to employ?
Chesterton opens telling us that he wants to defend Christianity as the one fitting/satisfying answer to the innate human need to live in the world as familiar and unfamiliar, completely at home and full of wonder as though it were a yet an undiscovered world. Chesterton is writing for “ordinary people”, people who take for granted the basic desirability of a life of imagination and wonder and joy. Chesterton wants to defend the faith as a “romance”.
2. What does Chesterton “despise most of all things”?
He despises “light sophistry” or what he also calls “mere paradox” or a “mere ingenious defense for the indefensible”. In other words he hates the scientist who explains to the little boy, “Oh that’s just gravity, it’s a measured, magnetic force that…” The problem is that for every so called “explanation” we cannot cover all the bases. We can define something and hope to have really explained everything it entails. And so when we say that something is “just…”, we are lying (e.g. Shaw, p. 4). But of course the lie is revealed for what it is by the reality of truth. All of our words compare to the Word. This is why Chesterton says that he never said anything in his life because he thought it was merely funny. (It was also always true.) Likewise the example of the rhinoceros: it’s one thing to explain or describe an imaginary creature with certainty (like the griffin or gorgon), but it’s an entirely different prospect to discover the rhinoceros as a creature that actually exists (is true!) and looks like it ought to be found in an anthology of mythological creatures.
3. So what does that mean?
The point of all this is that truth is gigantic, strange, and exotic. Lies are simple, plain and straight forward. The truth is a story of intrigue and adventure. So when we look at the world we need to come to at as Chesterton, the man in the yacht, discovering England for the first time. And the same thing goes for the Christian faith. It needs to be discovered afresh by every last man, woman and child in the world, and because it’s true it can be. But because it’s true, it will be discovered to have been there all along. It’s new and old, familiar and unfamiliar, alien and homely.
4. What form of Christianity is Chesterton defending?
Chesterton is after a defense of "mere" Christianity, the Christian faith as outlined in the Apostles’ Creed, and he is not seeking to discourse on the subject of where the rightful authority of that creed ought to be declared from (i.e. Rome, Constantinople, Canterbury, Greenville, etc.).
Chapter 2: The Maniac
1. How does Chesterton feel about the dictum: “Believe in yourself”?
Chesterton begins by deconstructing self-confidence because self-confidence is the beginning of insanity. This is first of all because of the reality of sin, yea even, original sin, which for some reason, modernists of all shapes and sizes have made a habit of denying. This should have been our first clue. But since sin has been denied by many moderns, Chesterton says he will begin with the insane, because that’s still an admissible category, and (we suspect) Chesterton doesn’t see any meaningful difference. They are both to some degree, self-inflicted cages.
Thus beginning with the asylum, Chesterton sets off on a mission to find sanity.
2. What is the main difference between sanity and insanity?
Insanity is created by an over insistence on reason and logic. Sanity is the common sense of the poet. “The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.” (p. 11) This insistence on certain and exhaustive knowledge and understanding is an enslavement, a determinism. When one serves the god of reason or logic, one must keep to that one and only traveled path.
3. What are the three most common forms of insanity?
Chesterton gives three of what he calls the most common forms of insanity: the conspiracy theorist, the guy who says he’s the rightful king of England, and the one who says he’s Jesus Christ. The point is the same in all three instances. All three are examples of tiny minded intellectualism. Everything is about them and their theories. And it’s all self-centered and egotistical. Chesterton admits that there may be reasoned and logical arguments that can uncover the fallacious assumptions at work, but these are probably useless. The best argument is one of pity and aesthetics. Wouldn’t it be more lovely to have a bigger, grander world? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it weren’t true? Isn’t it a more enjoyable existence to live as though your claims were nonsense?
Evil is at the heart of unbelief and insanity. And therefore it must always be remembered that we do not speak words into the world as though they were tools intended to fix the machinery. Logic and reason are not used because they merely convince the un-tuned mind; rather the words we speak should mimic the words of God (e.g. “Let there be light.”), speech-acts declared in faith to dis-spell the nothingness. We should not “seek to argue with it like heresy but simply to snap it like a spell” (p. 15) And this spell is an all encompassing spell. The madman has a tiny hammer and everything is nail.
4. What is the first modern example of a widely held or “respectable” insanity that Chesterton raises?
Chesterton brings up materialism as a prime example of the kind of insanity he is concerned with. It is a kind of “insane simplicity”. Everything is boiled down to the “blind destiny of matter”. (p. 18) And Chesterton objects to this on the grounds of how similar it is to the previous examples of insanity. It is a tiny universalism, limiting every question to a very small set of possibilities. Chesterton admits that all truth ‘limits’ to some extend, but some truth claims are more tyrannical than others. Materialism leaves a man with no other options than explaining everything by blindly determined causation wrought by the pure genius of matter. And Chesterton objects because there is nothing left unexplained. “Materialists and madmen never have doubts.” (p. 19) The circle is too small. The Christian faith draws the circle so wide that freedom is created. Materialistic determinism defeats every question.
5. What is the other example that Chesterton brings up, what Chesterton calls the “other extreme of speculative logic”?
Next Chesterton takes up Rene Descartes. Without naming the philosopher, Chesterton brings up the extreme skeptic, the one who is willing to doubt or question the verity of everything until finally reaching the echoing interior of his own skull and settles down as though he has finally found freedom and certainty. This theory is just as insane as materialism in that it is just as simplistic, just as universal in claim, and just as much a straightjacket for the imagination, a self-defeating circularity.
6. What does this chapter finally conceive of as the “chief mark of insanity”?
Reason without root (e.g. materialism) or reason in the void (e.g. skepticism) is the chief element of insanity.
7. And what does Chesterton finally claim is what keeps men sane?
Mysticism is what keeps men sane, the ability to live with mystery and paradox. This keeps the world “open” enough to live in, the world big enough to explore and celebrate (p. 23). “The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand.” (ibid) Only by beginning with the infinite are we ready to study the finite as it’s reflection (in some miraculous way). In other words, only after one has first admitted the deep mysteries of chlorophyll and photosynthesis and bowed before the dark glory of the Creator, can one say truly, “That is a leaf”. Otherwise we are left lying our heads off, saying, “That’s just a leaf.” And we’ve drawn the circle in a tame, definite ring around our tiny, frail brains, effectively cutting off all possibility of actually arriving at the Truth.
Posted by Toby at 7:00 AM
Monday, August 21, 2006
“Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat. Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”” (Mk. 8:14-15)
Jesus’ exhortation here implies that His disciples are bread. They are a lump of dough that must beware of particular kinds of leaven. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod; the yeast they need is the yeast of Jesus. They need to be growing up into the one loaf, which is His body. One of the most common ways of leavening bread both in the ancient world and even still sometimes today is the practice of saving some of the dough from a previous batch of bread. That small piece of dough ferments and becomes the leaven for the next day’s bread. And so day after day, portions of bread are kept back to ferment and then mixed into the following day’s bread. And so John records Jesus right after the feeding of the five thousand saying, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world… I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst… I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” And so I imagine Mark probably had a bit of a smirk on his face when I wrote this: “they only had one loaf with them in the boat.” There was only one loaf of bread in the boat; it was the bread of life come down from heaven for the life of the world. And you are this loaf, and each week you come here to be remade and renewed, and Jesus leavens you with His flesh so that you are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, for the life of the world.
Posted by Toby at 7:16 AM
Mark 8-9:1: Seeing the Kingdom Halfway
This chapter is in some ways a turning point in Mark’s gospel. Up to this chapter all of Jesus’ actions have been secretive and rather enigmatic. Here is the first glimpse of an open proclamation of who/what Jesus is. But it is apparently not quite what people were expecting.
Feeding the 4000
Why another feeding? Perhaps Jesus performed this miracle a number of times (more than 2), but why highlight these two feedings? And we should notice the fact that the disciples act as though they don’t remember the first time (Mk. 8:4). Why don’t the disciples understand? Why don’t they remember? Just like last time, the Pharisees show up right after the miracle and begin asking questions. The irony of course is that Jesus has just performed a sign (for a second time!) and so Jesus sighs and moves on (vv 12-13).
How is it that you do not understand?
Jesus asks about the fragments of bread left over from both of his feeding miracles and expects the disciples to have drawn some very important conclusions. Jesus begins by warning the disciples about the “yeast” of the Pharisees and Herod (v. 15) and rebukes them for worrying about how much bread they brought along in the boat (v. 17). The numbers probably correspond to the context of the feedings. The first feeding was in Israel for Israelites (Bethhsaida, cf. Lk. 9:10) and there were 12 baskets left over. The second feeding was in Decapolis (7:31), a gentile region of Israel and there were seven baskets left over. Seven is a number that reminds us creation, the world in raw, and it is a tenth of seventy, a number associated with the nations of the world (Gen. 10). Twelve signifies the twelve tribes of Israel. The point is at least that Jesus can feed anyone: He is the bread of life. But Jesus is probably also making a subtle point about who Jesus can be life for: not just the Jews, which was indicated with the Syro-Phoenician (7:27-28).
Two Staged Healing
This healing of the blind man parallels the healing at the end of chapter 7. In both cases the man is “taken aside” away from the multitude or out of the city. In both cases Jesus performs some action first and then it is a second action or word that actually finishes the miraculous healing. In both instances, Jesus spits and touches the places where the man is afflicted. Both stories end with Jesus warning the healed man not to tell anyone. These two-staged healing stories are rather remarkable given what some of the earlier healings were like: touching his garments and simple commands of healing. But these healings act as parables showing us what the disciples and (presumably) others understood (compare 8:18 with both healings). And Peter is immediately presented as an example of this: He sees half way, recognizing that Jesus is the Christ (v. 29), but he doesn’t really understand or see what that means (v. 32).
Who Is Jesus?
Peter’s confession is that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Annointed One. Jesus warns his disciples that they should tell no one this, but in the very next episode Jesus begins to openly declare that the “Son of Man” must suffer, die and rise again. Now it is Peter’s turn to take someone “aside”. And Jesus rebukes Peter, telling Satan to get “behind” him. Interestingly, Jesus’ very next words are instructions for those who want to follow “behind” Jesus (8:34). This following essentially means death, losing life to find life.
The Kingdom of God Present with Power
The chapter break here is probably an unfortunate mistake. 9:1 appears to be the rest of Jesus’ explanation of who He will be ashamed of when He comes. This is not a warning about the end of the world, of Jesus’ Second Coming. He’s warning his disciples to be faithful, even to death because Jesus is going to judge Israel within their lifetimes (9:1). Many commentators have taken Jesus’ words to only refer to the Transfiguration which follows this episode immediately. But limiting Jesus to only this event seems to short change His warning. It seems reasonable that some of the disciples are seeing the beginnings of the glory of Jesus, but His resurrection and ascension, as well as Pentecost and perhaps ultimately the destruction of Jerusalem are all elements that point to a new kingdom being established by Christ, and His judgment of the faithless.
Conclusion and Application
The chapter opens with the dullness of the disciples. They only half way see; they only half-way understand. The healings are parables of Israel but of the disciples in particular. Peter stands as a representative. But Jesus’ own message is also being unraveled in pieces. He has told riddles to the crowds and explained them to his disciples (4:34), and now He is telling riddles to his disciples and explaining them to the crowds (8:31). We know that Jesus is the Christ, and that this means he has to die and rise again. But Jesus has divided these two facts introducing tension into the lives of the disciples. Jesus is reveling in two stages with everything, here a little, there a little, not everything all at once.
We’ve said before that this is the way God is. He delights in tension, and as His people we need to do the same. But this two stage kind of living, this two stage healing and revealing is also they way Jesus saved us. He lived and died and then he rose and ascended to glory and sent His Spirit down upon us at Pentecost. Some have suggested that this was the reason of Jesus’ deep sighs in these chapters (7:34, 8:12). Jesus’ own ministry was two staged, and so much of life is this way: birth to middle age to death, life to death to resurrection. Cities and nations are born, grow, peak and decline. These two stages are the heart of the world because Jesus Himself lived this pattern of life-death-resurrection. Sufferings and then glory. Losing life and then finding it. This is real tension, real faith: being willing to be patient and faithful in the little things now and waiting for God to bless with the big things later, down the road.
Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. This means that as the Holy Spirit of Christ dwells in you richly, you will grow and evidence more and more patience as the years go by. We are a pampered and spoiled people. We have fast food, cell phones, microwaves, high speed internet, automobiles, e-mail; we have the world at our fingertips, and it is incredibly tempting to believe that we are entitled to this kind of service and speed. But it is all a gift. We become accustomed to our timing, getting what we want when we want it. But God is the ruler of all, and He bestows all things in his time. He has made everything beautiful in its time. And this is the point: if you are chafing against God’s timing then you are despising the beauty that he has designed for you. This does not mean that you do not pray for better things. This does not mean that you are not hungry for the blessing of God. But it does mean that you must be comprehensively and thoroughly thankful. You must be drenched, soaked to the bone, dripping with gratitude for everything. It’s all a gift from God what he has and has not given to you, and when we cling to disappointment or bitterness in anyway we are like small children pouting when our father says that we have to eat our peas before having dessert. This may apply to how you view your job or your family or your parents. It may apply to how you view this church, the worship, or the leadership. It may apply to what you think about your finances, your health, or your future in general. Be patient. Cast all of your cares upon God because He does care for you. Then be patient. And you must be so patient that you are even willing to give it all up if that’s what God requires. God is not a stingy father, he has more good planned for you than you can even begin to imagine. But God loves tension and drama; he understands a good joke, he understands how a climactic ending ought to work. So don’t ruin the play. Don’t spoil the fun. God is working in your life, telling a wonderful story. Just go along with it. Be patient, and God will raise you up.
Posted by Toby at 7:10 AM
Thursday, August 17, 2006
A Couple Links
Martin Luther has apparently been resuscitated and now has a blog. A self proclaimed movie critic, this guy is a hoot. Scroll down and look at his post from August 9th titled "World Trade Center and Other Pressing Matters." He also has a post somewhere in there with some thoughts and comments on Leithart's recent Credenda artical about Flannery, sacramental theology, and the dearth of protestant imagination.
I was also pointed to this site. The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance is a "coalition of religious leaders, clergy, theologians, scientists, academics, and other policy experts committed to bringing a proper and balanced Biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development." Looks interesting.
Posted by Toby at 8:38 AM
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
If I was stranded on a desert island with a Roman Catholic priest, an Orthodox sub-deacon and lesbian Episcopal Bishop I would, by the grace of God, seek the peace of God's church and worship with these fellow saints with great forbearance allowing them latitude in areas that nevertheless seemed sketchy to me, and I would hope that they might show similar grace and forbearance with me in areas that were perhaps not as "regular" as they might wish.
But I'm not stranded on a desert island.
By the grace of God I was born into a Christian family, regarded as holy from conception by virtue of my parents' faith. I was washed in the laver of regeneration when I was four years old and was confirmed by public confession of faith at the same time. I have been eating and drinking at the Holy Eucharist, the table of the Lord for these many years. And in the providence of God, I've been brought up and nurtured in the faith of my fathers, a fairly generic American Protestant faith, but broadly reformed and presbyterian at various points. I now find myself in the ministry, on a journey, somewhere between an ordained pastor and a ministerial student. It's not as holy or official sounding as it might be in other communions, but I'm ok with that. I've grown in an enormous appreciation for the breadth and depth of Christendom over the years. I'm grateful for the faithful in all of Christ's Church from the arminian baptists and bible churches to the flaming charismatics and liberal lutherans in the midwest. I firmly believe that the Triune God is knitting us all together into a bride without spot or wrinkle. And I'll readily admit that I am hungry for more depth, more glory, more richness than I've grown up with, but I utterly refuse to despise the depth, glory and richness I've already been given.
The thing that ticks me off about people "converting" to this or that church is the ingratitude of it all, the willingness to give God the middle finger. It's one thing to find oneself in a providential situation where one must make a decision where one will attend church and sometimes one must do that. But it's an entirely different thing to "convert". And there is an enormous difference. The language of "converting" betrays a certain bitterness for what has come before. Of course, if one is converting from the Church of Satan or Mormanism, by all means, convert. But if you've grown up in the projects of pop evangelicalism and see the old mansions of Roman Catholicism up on the hill, it's simple straightforward ingratitude to declare that now you're "finally going home." If God gave you a Christian family, if He clothed you with His righteousness and washed you in Holy Baptism and fed you with his own flesh and blood in the Holy Eucharist, if He has faithfully given you these very basic things, then He has given you a home. Believe it and rejoice and repent of your voyeurism.
And what about authority? Who has the right to start a church? Who has the right to preach the gospel or perform the sacraments? It is good order and decency that the ordained ministers of the church lead and perform these mysteries for the blessing and welfare of the church and the watching world. But it is not absolutely necessary. Baptism is entry into the church. Baptism makes one a disciple, and baptism authorizes every believer to behave like a Christian, to be Christ to the world. This means that in the early church and in missionary situations, it is fully within the right (and dare I say duty) of every baptized Christian to preach the gospel and perform the sacraments if and when it becomes necessary. Of course formal ordination is to be preferred where possible, but the Scriptures no where indicate that it is necessary and everywhere imply that it is admissible. And anyone with a little knowledge of the early church knows that it wasn't all neat and tidy, with all the bishops and presbyters and deacons all arranged with shiny, neat job descriptions. Of course good order emerges from faithfulness, but good order doesn't create faithfulness anymore than a ten minute old corpse can give itself CPR.
And that's why I refuse to convert. I will not despise the good gifts of God in my life. I will not act as though the last several decades were a big mistake. I will not dishonor the faithfulness of my parents, my pastors, my elders, my friends, or give such an example to my children. I am hungry for richness, for glory, for depth, for beauty, for cathedrals, for chanted liturgies and generations of faithfulness. But I also know that love is patient. And I refuse to be impatient. I will work and pray for reformation in the church God has given me. I will not despise the gifts of God; I will not opt for the easy way out. No thanks; I'd rather die fighting than have to tell my children the embarrassing story of how God gave me a second rate matchbox truck when I was little, but I told Him off and now I have a Tonka.
Liturgical Texts and DC Talk
For anyone interested in Greek Orthodox liturgy, this is a good resource. I've skimmed through several services and liturgies, and I think many of the prayers would be fitting in other branches of Christendom. Of course for all my openness to using bits and pieces or chunks of their services, I still get the willies with the scattered prayers to Mary. It isn't so prevalent that I can't recommend the texts, but it still shows up here and there. And I say this as someone fully aware of the necessity of recovering a rightful honoring of Mary, our "Most Holy Theotokos". But it is one thing to remember her faithfulness and bless her courage and piety (Lk. 1:48), and it is an entirely different thing to ask her to save you. As DC Talk once put it, "Jesus is still alright with me, Jesus is still alright, Oh-yeah." Oh, and the other thing that gives me the heeby-jeebies is their closed communion policy. Their "we're the true faith" mantra makes me feel woozy and reminds me of fundamentalism at its worst. I love my Orthodox brothers and sisters, and they would be most welcome at our table. I just wish they felt the same about me. And I'm quite sure that St. Paul would say the same (Gal. 2:11ff).
Posted by Toby at 8:15 PM
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
A Question For You
I've sent this question out to a few email lists I'm on, and I'd also like to hear from any of you if you care to comment. My question is:
What does Jesus mean when he forbids praying "to be seen by men"?
Does he mean that we should not pray at restaurants or other public places before a meal? Does he mean we shouldn't hold prayer rallies on the capitol building steps where we're sure to end up on the 5 o'clock news? Does he mean that we shouldn't post "prayers" on our blogs for the world to see? How about praying in front of abortion clinics? Or televising worship services? Why or why not?
Or is Jesus' prohibition merely a matter of intentions? e.g. 'Don't pray with the idea of getting everybody to look at you and thinking you're all holy.' And as long as you mean well, "pray without ceasing"...
Are there specific/concrete ways that one might actually ignore Jesus' teaching here today? Or would one have to dress up like a 1st century pharisee and set up shop on a street corner in Manhattan? At what point would you/do you cry foul?
When Jesus says "go into your room and shut your door" is he talking about prayer in a general sense (speaking to God) or is he only referring to 'common prayer' or corporate worship? What about the Old Testament examples of prayer/worship in public battle scenes (e.g. Jericho or Jehoshaphat in 2 Chr. 20)?
I would appreciate any thoughts or feedback you might have.
Posted by Toby at 9:08 AM
Monday, August 14, 2006
Miraculous Feeding Question
I know there has been significant discussion as to why there are two miraculous feedings in the synoptic gospels. Why 5000 men and then 4000 shortly thereafter. What's with the significance of five loaves and two fish and seven loaves and a few little fish? Then there's the leftovers, and the apparent significance of them (Mk. 8:19ff). And I'm sure these are all important questions and fruitful discussions. But I'm just amazed at the disciples. Even granting that there may have been weeks or months between the two feedings, how could the disciples have forgotten? Why do they seem just as troubled with the same setting: a great, hungry multitude in the wilderness in need of bread. Was there something about the first miracle that made it seem less miraculous? If I were a disciple, I would have been looking for more chances to get stranded in the wilderness and hungry. Maybe instead of bread, I would have brought four crab cakes and two bowls of coconut shrimp soup. Or whatever sounded good. I just don't get how the disciples seem at such a loss for how a great multitude could possibly be fed. Is that the point? Mark wants us to think the disciples were dull? Or is something more going on here?
Posted by Toby at 8:51 AM
Is a 12 billion dollar industry in America.
According to these stats, the porn industry is bigger than ABC, NBC and CBS combined. And it dwarfs all of the combined revenues of all professional football, baseball and basketball franchises.
No wonder we're so full of shit.
Posted by Toby at 7:38 AM
“But Jesus said to her, "Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs." And she answered and said to Him, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children's crumbs." (Mk. 7:27-28)
A couple of commentators point out that this conversation between Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman has to do with timing. It’s not whether the “little dogs” will eat but when. This indicates that Jesus’ ministry is not just for Israel but also for the Gentiles, which the book of Acts makes explicit.
Others have been concerned that Jesus is countenancing some form of racism in his remark, but this is to miss the primary point. Israel was the son that God had brought out of Egypt. Israel was the son that was invited to sit at God’s table and be continually fed. The point is not that all other races or cultures were inferior as such. The point was that God had invited someone else to the table, and Jesus recognized the protocol of a good host: feeding the guests. Only later can the food be distributed. The woman’s answer provides a way for Jesus to be both Just and the Justifier of this woman.
One of the other details we should notice is the fact that Jesus assumes that His bread is for children. We already noticed the Eucharistic overtones of Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 in the last chapter. Mark can hardly be recording this short episode about a Gentile being able to eat with the Israelite Children without any regard to the Eucharist, particularly with all of the later discussions about table fellowship between Jews and Gentiles. Jesus is Himself the bread of God come down from heaven, and He is bread for the children of God. This is the children’s bread. Another way of saying this is that you can’t come to this table unless you’re a child. This isn’t bread for the already grown strong. If you think you’re strong and fit for this table then you’re not. This table is for children. This bread is the children’s bread.
Posted by Toby at 7:36 AM
Mark 7: Israel is the Corpse
The Pharisees come up to confront Jesus about his disciples eating bread with unwashed hands, following almost directly on the heels of the multiplication of the loaves. It appears that these folks missed the point, or Mark is at least suggesting it to his readers. This would be like a young boy announcing proudly to his father that he had hit a homerun and the father griping about his stance or follow through.
The Tradition of the Elders
We’ve noted previously that Yahweh had organized Israel’s culture around making careful distinctions about clean and unclean foods, clean and unclean people, sacred and common, etc. The point in part, was to make Israel a discerning people, a people of wisdom, with the ability to make careful distinctions. But the temptation with any rule is to bend it in one of two directions. Legalists and Sentamentalists out of “zeal” for the law erect more laws and rules around the original rule, essentially setting themselves up as the guardians, and ultimately the law is set aside for their own person. Of course some bend the law in the other direction, making it virtually meaningless. And we may point out that both of these tendencies have the same root problem of disregard for the law.
In Israel, laws grew up that were supposed to protect and safeguard Israel from breaking the law of God. We see that by the time of the Christ it was not lawful to eat with anyone suspected of uncleanness (Mk. 2:16). And while God had prescribed various “washings” when something had become unclean (Lev. 11, 15), a tradition of the elders had grown up around that basically assuming “uncleanness” and mandating washings (Mk. 4:7). But this was a misunderstanding of the cleanliness code. When we see Jesus touching “unclean” people, we just assume he’s like “superman” and that’s why he doesn’t get infected. But Jesus says that it’s what’s inside a man that comes out and makes him unclean. This is inspired commentary on the Old Testament, and we should receive it as such. In other words, there’s something inside man that makes him susceptible to “uncleanness”. The Pharisees assumed they could deal with the problem with a more vigorous system, but they had radically misjudged the problem. This would be like trying to protect our children from the highway by teaching them to run through the street faster. That’s not part of the solution at all.
Jesus tackles this very issue by bringing up Isaiah. Isaiah 29 is a prophecy of the downfall of Jerusalem. The reason for Jerusalem’s downfall Isaiah says is that God has poured out a “spirit of deep sleep” on Israel (Is. 29:10). That “deep sleep” is the prophets and seers that God has sent to them. And because Israel is “dead” (cf. Is. 29:4), all they can muster is lip service, but their hearts are far from God. The ceremonial uncleanness or “death” is communicable and contagious for the very reason that there is already death inside them. And this is what is coming out them. And Jesus applies this to the Pharisees, “Well did Isaiah prophecy of you hypocrites…” (Mk. 7:6). And this means that their worship is worthless vanity. Their “qorbans” are despised by God because they dishonor their parents by not supporting them financially. With lungs and bellies full of death they cannot approach the source of all life. Death cannot approach Life. Death is dead.
Jesus is Elijah
Like Elijah before him (1 Kg. 17), Jesus declares the death of Israel and leaves and goes to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Like Elijah, Jesus meets a woman with a sick child and has a conversation about bread. The story is altered somewhat, but the effect is the same. And Jesus’ initial reluctance to heal the woman’s child draws this fact out. Why is Jesus off healing Gentiles when he should be healing Jews? Part of the movement here also indicates that there is uncleanness outside of Israel because of “what’s coming out of Israel” (cf. Mk. 7:20). Israel is the corpse infecting the nations.
Finally, returning to Decapolis, a gentile region within Israel, a deaf/mute man is brought to Jesus for healing. This is a different reaction to him from the last time he was here (Mk. 5:17) apparently the result of the former-demoniac’s proclamation.
The irony is high enough to swim in. Jesus has cleansed the Syro-Phoenician’s daughter from her unclean spirit, while the Pharisees are the ones who are unclean. The ones who are most “concerned” about God’s Word have no interest when it confronts them in the flesh. And the “little dogs” and the gentiles are flocking to him for crumbs. Israel is deaf and mute because Israel is dead. Their ears and mouths need to be opened.
Application and Conclusion
First, we need to recognize that God doesn’t hear all prayer and worship. He sends deep sleeps, and closes his eyes and ears to the pleas of his people for a time. The arrogance and pride of many Christians who think they can summon God up at their whims while refusing to repent of sin is this “deep sleep”. Peter suggests that our prayers may be hindered for simply not honoring our wives properly (1 Pet. 3:7). Therefore we should be aware of our own Pharisaism. Where have we invented traditions and enforced them as tests of orthodoxy? Praying before meals? Having quiet time every day? Maybe certain expectations about hospitality? It’s one thing to develop glorious traditions and celebrate them as such. But it is an entirely different thing to consider them as though they are God’s Word.
Secondly, we should not forget the rest of Isaiah 29 or what God did with the “deep sleep” he sent upon Adam. From Adam he formed a new bride, from Exile God formed a new united Israel from the divided and scattered tribes. And in the death of Jesus, God has formed one new man (or to change the metaphor) one new bride for his son, in the death of His Son. And God continues to work in this way. While we live among a people of stupor, our duty is to pray and work for reformation, and expect that God is going to raise us up into a new, united Christian people. But we must be prepared for whatever new things God brings to pass.
Many of us here find that one of our central callings right now is the regular discipline of young children. Some of you have passed this stage and are being challenged in other ways, but you still need to impart this skill and understanding to your older children. And some of you do not yet have families of your own, but Lord willing, you will one day. I want to remind you of the basics of discipline this morning through the form of our liturgy. When a child needs to be disciplined (and by that I mean spanked or singled out for an exhortation or admonition about a particular issue), it should be our normal practice to imitate God’s dealings with us here: We should Call the child to us in private (if possible). The sin must be named and addressed and confessed. This needs to include prayer. The child has probably sinned against you or someone else, but we need to always make it clear that the greatest offense is to God. After full confession, full forgiveness must be declared, and you the parent are authorized to tell your child that he/she is forgiven through Jesus. And it is important that Scripture be part of this process, explaining in simple terms what the child should and should not do. Communion always follows this: hug your child, laugh with your child. Make sure that full fellowship is restored. Finally, Commission your child: send your child back into the world in obedience. Often this will include the duty of making restitution. This is an oft neglected duty by young and old alike. If something is stolen it must be replaced, if something is broken it must be fixed or replace. If someone has been mistreated, forgiveness must be sought and love extended.
Our children are hypocrisy hunters. They see you as you are with them and with their father or mother. And they see whether you really believe all that we do here is really all that important or not. And you are preaching the gospel to them every moment of every day. The only question is: which gospel are you preaching? Are you preaching the gospel of grace, that God in His mercy renews covenant with us in Jesus Christ? Or are you preaching a half-hearted gospel, a harsh gospel, or a careless gospel? As God treats you here, week after week, you must go and do likewise with your children in your families.
Posted by Toby at 7:33 AM
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Holy Trinity Weekly
Tomorrow will be the Tenth Lord's Day after Pentecost.
The Christian Almanac records that this last week marks the anniversary of the publication of the Augsburg Confession. While an earlier version had been submitted to the Emperor and rejected and later editions would appear, its modern form was first introduced to the world on August 8, 1531. The Confession consists of twenty-eight articles which deal with the doctrine of justification and address a number of "abuses" resident in the church. The author of the confession was born Philipp Schwarzert, but at the advice of his uncle, he took a new last name and become Philipp Melanchthon while studying at the University of Heidelberg in his early teens. Later, he studied under Luther at Wittenburg and eventually became a
professor of theology at the University. While Luther was confined in the Wartburg Castle for some time, Melanchthon single-handedly filled the great Reformer's shoes, directing the affairs of the Reformation in Wittenburg. Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of Melanchthon and the Augsburg Confession is how conciliatory they were. Melanchthon defended the truth boldly but ever with a tone of hope and prayer for peace and unity in the Church. It is said that Melanchthon died praying that "the churches might be of one mind in Christ."
This continues to be our challenge today. How can we be the Church for the world in such a way as to hold both truth and peace in the same hand? May God give us such grace.
Posted by Toby at 8:23 AM
Friday, August 11, 2006
The engine goes silent and the wet, hot air greets my face. I open my son’s door and unhook his straps. He scrambles down on to the black asphalt and walks a crooked trail, tracing the white stripe running parallel to our car. I tell him to go to the sidewalk, and he’s already almost there. I’m loading my pockets and arms with various pieces of lost luggage from the backseat: wrappers and treasures from the journey. Satisfied with the results, I give the door a nudge and follow my son. It’s always a challenge for my son. Those 30 steps to the front door are the liturgy of our days, and they never cease to yield up their wonders to a two year old boy. But this time something is different. There’s a new step in our dance, and my son is standing on the sidewalk laughing. A two year old can and does laugh. A two year old boy can be joked with, poked, tickled and cajoled into all manner of mirth, to be sure. But there are few instances in such a young man’s life where he voluntarily finds something funny apart from some outside intervention. But there stood my son laughing and pointing up at the tree. It was the same tree that daily stood sentry at the gate of our castle, guarding those three glorious steps that mark the infinity between the common world of the sidewalk and the sacred world of our beloved building “S”. And my son was pointing and laughing at the tree. I asked him what he was laughing at, and he pointed again emitting several words between his chuckles which I suppose explained the joke, but I had to ask again. Finally he told me it was the nose that was so funny. “The nose?” I asked, unfamiliar with the punch line. “The tree has a nose, daddy!” Tracing the extended digit through the air with my Euclidian Jedi skills, I found a branch which in addition to having the assorted arboreal vestments one might expect also had a rather large knot protruding from a slight bend in the neck. Without a doubt, the tree did in fact have a nose. Some man, some sweaty faced man once held a purring piece of metal to this tree and left it with this nose. Somehow I doubt he quite understood in that moment how he was the flick of the Creator’s wrist, a casual flash of vibrato in the midst of an infinite oratorio, a few wonder filled seconds of laughter for a two year old boy and his proud and grateful father.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Leaving the Reformed Faith
Over the last number of years, but with more enthusiasm over the last couple, more and more sectors of the "Reformed" world are choosing to leave the historic Reformed faith, and now Evangel Presbytery of the PCA has joined the exodus.
Adopted within the last couple of days, the presbytery put forth this statement:
"Evangel Presbytery declares that the doctrines of the 'New Perspective on Paul,' 'Auburn Avenue Theology/Federal Vision', and teachings of Norman Shepherd, N.T. Wright, and Douglas Wilson which foster these positions, to be outside of the bounds of acceptable theological doctrine for Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders in Evangel Presbytery and are not to be believed or taught within the churches of this Presbytery; and each Teaching and Ruling Elder be charged with equipping the members of their churches to stand against these doctrines."
Just to be quite clear, I'm in no way suggesting that these brothers are leaving the Christian faith altogether. I'd be quite happy to invite them into my home, worship together with them, and quite gratefully serve in various joint ministries with them. What I am saying is that these brothers are removing themselves from the historic Reformed faith and pursuing a more broadly anabaptist and separatist version of Christianity. Where we would embrace the high covenantalism of Luther, Calvin, Bucer and the Westminster divines, these brothers would prefer a later, more reactionary and revivalistic stance towards the institution of the church, the sacraments, and the covenant.
The last comment I would make is in regard to the names listed. Interestingly, as far as the "movement" toward reviving the historic Reformed faith in the modern church goes (what has been termed the "Federal Vision"), there are a number of gentlemen NOT mentioned. It is a telling fact that of the current men associated with this renewal, Douglas Wilson is the only one named. This is due, I believe, to how widely known and respected Wilson is. His writings and teachings have covered a vast array of subjects from education to apologetics to history to parenting to theology. Furthmore, Wilson's willingness to engage with many other view points, his creative and winsome rhetoric and his quick wit make him one of the single greatest "threats" to the anabaptist tendencies in the PCA and OPC. Of course N.T. Wright is also listed, and he is a "current" member of a broader discussion about covenant theology and New Testament exegesis, but so far as this is a "Reformed Presbyterian" conversation, Douglas Wilson is the lone repressentative as far as Evangel Presbytery is concerned. And quite frankly, I'm grateful for that. I'm very grateful for the other men involved in the discussion too, but the cultural breadth and depth that Wilson brings to the table is exactly what the modern Reformed church needs.
Posted by Toby at 9:07 AM
Monday, August 07, 2006
More NT Wright on Women
Wright deals with 1 Corinthians 11 with a number of "perhapses" mostly showing the breadth of possible directions to go with Paul's exhortations concerning prayer and dress. He concludes that at the very least we can say that Paul desires men to pray like men and women like women. While that can seem to side-step the issue, it at least establishes a genuine difference in their various ministries.
When we apply this to the question of women’s ministry, it seems to me that we should certainly stress equality in the role of women but should be very careful about implying identity. This passage tells, for me at least, quite strongly on the side of those who see the ministry of women as significantly different to the ministry of men and therefore insists that we need both to be themselves, rather than for one to try to become a clone of the other.
While some of the possible interpretations he suggests seem far-fetched to me, this is nevertheless an important point to make.
Finally, he goes on to deal with 1 Timothy 2, the passage he acknowledges to be the greatest barrier to the ordination of women for ministry in the Christian Church. I'd like to come back to some of what he says, and only just touch on one part of his discussion here and now. His interpretation of the passage rests largely on his translation of the Greek. And so just two brief comments on that:
First, verse 11 is translated in the NKJV: "Let a woman learn in silence with all submission." I agree with Wright's concern that this not be read in such a way as to imply that women may not speak in the worship service. 1 Corinthians 11:5 takes for granted that women will be "praying" and "prophesying" in the worship service. It has to be read in a way that means something more like 'having a teachable spirit'. We see the same word used in 2 Thessalonians 3:12 exhorting Christians to be hard and "quiet" workers. Conceivably, Paul does not have in mind here Christians being careful not to say anything while "on the job." Rather he means something more general like don't be disruptive and be diligent about the business at hand. The kind of learning that Paul is concerned that women pursue is the kind that is not given to flightiness. It isn't a gossip ring in the guise of a prayer meeting. Paul says, "let a woman learn quietly..." In other words, don't speak out of turn.
Secondly, Wright contends that verse 12 ("And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man...") might better be translated: "I’m not saying that women should teach men, or try to dictate to them...". While Wright acknowledges that this could sound like squeezing water from a rock and wants his readers to know that he knows this but really thinks this a viable option for translation, I'm unconvinced. I'm not a Greek scholar by any stretch, but just on the grounds of the first word "permit". The Greek just doesn't mean "I'm not saying". It means "I don't allow/permit/ordain/commission/entrust/turn over/command/rely on women teaching men..." Those are the gambit of meanings for that word.
And really, even if I were to buy the translation, I really don't see how it helps the case for women's ordination. It appears to make Paul's concerns slightly more vague and removed, and I supposed that's supposed to be the hole in the fence through which Wright and his friends can scramble. But the fact still remains that Paul isn't encouraging women to teach men. Even if we can soften Paul's language down to "I discourage women from teaching men..." which is what Wright's translation seems to amount to, we still have Apostolic discouragement of the practice. St. Paul still looks down from heaven and gives a rasberry to the Christian feminist project.
And I still really, really, really (that's three 'reallys' for extra emphasis) appreciate the exceptional work of Wright on the person and ministry of Jesus as well as his contributions to the discussion of Paul's theology and development of key Christian doctrines. Just for the cyber record.
Posted by Toby at 10:17 AM
NT Wright and Women in Ministry
A friend pointed me to Wright's lecture/artical here. In an early portion of the artical he says:
Remember that the presenting issue in Galatians is circumcision, male circumcision of course. We sometimes think of circumcision as a painful obstacle for converts, as indeed in some ways it was; but of course for those who embraced it it was a matter of pride and privilege. It not only marked out Jews from Gentiles; it marked them out in a way which automatically privileged males. By contrast, imagine the thrill of equality brought about by baptism, the identical rite for Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female. And that’s not all. Though this is somewhat more speculative, the story of Abraham’s family did of course privilege the male line of descent: Isaac, Jacob and so on. What we find in Paul, both in Galatians 4 and in Romans 9, is careful attention being paid – rather like Matthew 1, in fact, though from a different angle – to the women in the story. If those in Christ are the true family of Abraham, which is the point of the whole story, then the manner of this identity and unity takes a quantum leap beyond the way in which first-century Judaism construed them, bringing male and female together as surely and as equally as Jew and Gentile. What Paul seems to be doing in this passage, then, is ruling out any attempt to back up the continuing male privilege in the structuring and demarcating of Abraham’s family by an appeal to Genesis 1, as though someone were to say, ‘But of course the male line is what matters, and of course male circumcision is what counts, because God made male and female.’ No, says Paul, none of that counts when it comes to membership in the renewed people of Abraham.
With all due respect to Wright's scholarly abilities, I would beg to differ with his appraisal of male/female privilege in the Old Testament. While the sign of the covenant was received by the males only, the point was not that the male was in any way priviledged with a greater/better/more important covenant status. Surely just as significant as the stories about male triumph and male failure are the stories that record female triumph and female failure. And as it relates to the family of Abraham, Sarah's barrenness, Rebekkah's barrenness, Rachel's barrenness... and their subsequent conceptions and motherhood are the triumph of women, the blessing and priviledge of motherhood.
Wright references Matthew 1, and I think that's a great proof of my point. Matthew goes out of his way to display how integral women were in the story of the Old Covenant.
The fact of the matter of course is that the story of the Fall records the failure of Adam to guard and protect his wife. While Eve did indeed contract her own personal guilt in the story, and all generations of men and women alike are under the curse of death, Adam takes the brunt of the responsibility. He's the one who is condemned for listening to the voice of his wife.
If anything, the general focus of the Old Testament Scriptures on the male descendents is for their continual failure and flaws. The necessity of marking the male with the sign of the covenant was surely in part a sign of the failure of Adam. Circumcision was not meant to priviledge males in any way except in so far as they were "priviledged" to bear the responsibility of Adam's sin and it's effects in their families. Remember too that every male born to the family of Abraham and the subsequent generations of Israel was a "seed of the woman" (in a general sense). This doesn't downplay the signicance of the female in any way, rather it highlights the "ministry of women" in the Old Covenant, a ministry of life-giving and nurture. The great example of this is Mary, the handmaiden of the Lord, who is blessed by all generations for her faithfulness and courage. She was the new Eve who accepted the word of the Lord and bore the Seed that crushed the head of the dragon. Mary is the fulfillment of all of the female heroes of the Old Testament story from Eve to Rebekkah to Jael to Esther to Anna.
Posted by Toby at 9:21 AM
The Last Word
Having finished The Supper of the Lamb last evening, I leave you with yet one more recommendation to get, read and relish this book. And to prod you on to such glory, a few select quotations:
The last several chapters include extended discussion about the glories of the wok and the divine nature of gas stoves. Damning electic coil stovetops, he says: "Fire is too old a friend to be forsaken for glowing rods. Perhaps I overstate my case, but it seems to me that cooking with electricity is like trying to play the piano with mittens on." He goes on to warn against excessive cleanliness. "Properly seasoned, iron is one of the greatest cooking materials in the world, but the average American housewife has been so brainwashed that she commonly scours off the cooking surface without thinking. Woks and iron skillets should be rinsed and wiped, never washed... A sense of proportion is a saving grace."
After an excursion through the wilds and wonders of cheese, he comes to the subject of butter. He's showed us his cards on this subject in the past, but here he settles down for a little more work suggesting that it "is probably possible to divide the human race into butter-eaters and non-butter-eaters..." And as for himself, finds "cold butter simply irresistible." Insisting that butter is neither a grease nor a spread but rather a "substance in its own right and justified by its own delectability... a unique and solid sauce", he says: "Exit here, therefore, into outer darkness and weeping and gnashing of teeth, margarine and all its works."
Finally, just a few random quotes for fun:
"A woman with her sleeves rolled up and flour on her hands is one of the most gorgeous stabilities in the world. Don't let your family miss the sight."
"The great astronomer Tycho Brahe never went into his observatory to study the heavens without first putting on her court robes. We should make ourselves as splendid as we can when we sit down to a great dinner."
"May you drink well enough to drown the envy of youth in the satisfactions of maturity... May there be singing at our table before the night is done, and old broad jokes to fling at the stars and tell them we are men."
For the ailment of heartburn, he prescribes baking soda: "A mere minute's wait rewards you with a glowing, not to say resounding report. The relief, so long awaited, comes in force: not little by little like spies in the night, but all at once, like an army with banners shouting."
"Dogs eat to give their bodies rest; man dines and sets his heart in motion."
Posted by Toby at 6:50 AM
“And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them…” (Mk. 6:41)
It is no accident that Mark gives us these particular details about Jesus’ miracle. Mark presents this miraculous feeding with Eucharistic details. Taking, blessing, breaking and distributing are the same basic actions that Jesus would later do when He established the Eucharist at the Last Supper. This proto-Eucharist is meant to shed light on the real thing. I would like to point out only two things: First, notice that Jesus’ original command to the disciples is fulfilled. He said, “You give them something to eat.” And then we see that that is exactly what happens! This meal is a miraculous meal, but it is perhaps miraculous in a way we do not expect. It is miraculous in that it performs and allows us to perform what God requires of us toward one another. God requires us to love our neighbor. And then inviting us here and sitting us down, He walks us through the steps of loving our neighbors: eating at a meal together, recognizing one another as people whom God has redeemed and worthy of honor and respect because of God’s image in them. And so this meal sends us out into the world to do the same. “You give them something to eat.” Secondly, Jesus commanded the people to sit down in groups, ranks it says, in hundreds and fifties. This is an army. And if the point was not explicit enough, Mark treats this multitude as an army, recording for us the number of men in attendance, the same basic formula that Numbers uses to tell us how many fighting men were available in each tribe. And therefore, we are to consider this a meal of war, and this is our war camp. We are gathered here to be fed by our Shepherd, our King seated at the head of the table, equipping us and sending us out for battle. But even more than that, Paul says that as often as we do this, we proclaim or preach the Lord’s death until He comes. This meal is a battle cry. It is the declaration of the one death that has become the life of the world.
Posted by Toby at 6:47 AM
Mark 6: Jesus the new Moses
This chapter continues to unpack who Jesus is as Mark slowly unpacks the titles that Jesus was given in the first verse of the book.
Rejected at Home
First notice the argument over Jesus’ vocation. Is He a carpenter (v. 3) or is He a prophet (v. 4)? One of the interesting aspects of this accusation is the connection to His hands. His occupation has been one of creating/re-creating with his hands (e.g. 1:31, 1:41, 5:41) much like a carpenter. Given the symbolism of wood and trees through Scripture, we should not ignore the fact that Jesus is fulfilling His trade, only different than most would expect. Verse 3 records that the people of his own country were offended at him; this is one of the responses to the word described in the parable of the seeds (4:17). Finally, notice the contrast in Jesus’ response: He “marveled” (v. 6). The previous use of this word is where the people of Decapolis respond to Jesus’ healing of the demoniac (5:20) and other words are used to describe the surprise and awe of the crowds (e.g. 1:27, 2:12). Jesus’ reaction and the commentary imply that unbelief is more deadly than death itself (v. 5).
Commissioning the Twelve
Here is the first recorded commissioning of the apostles. They are given authority in particular over unclean spirits (v. 7). In addition to preaching and casting out demons, they also heal many people through anointing them with oil (v. 13). Oil is a priestly/kingly substance. The high priests were anointed with oil for their ordinations to service in the tabernacle/temple (Lev. 8) and of course kings were anointed with oil as a sign of their office and calling (e.g. 1 Sam. 10, 1 Sam. 16:13). Jesus is the Christ, the “anointed one” (1:1). For the disciples to anoint the sick and heal them was for them to unite them to the Anointed One, the King. It was an enacting, a uniting of King Jesus to those in need of His touch. When he lays his hands on them, he is bestowing his status on them. His life is entering them. He is creating a royal people, an anointed people, a kingly people (1 Pet. 2:9). And the church is still called to this ministry today (Js. 5:14).
A False Shepherd and a True Shepherd
Herod hears about this kingly proclamation very quickly and assumes that John the Baptizer has been raised from the dead (v. 14). The suggestion that Jesus is “the Prophet” is probably a reference to Deut. 18:15 where Moses foretold the coming of a prophet like him. And this fits with how Mark describes Jesus (6:34 cf. Num.27:17). But Mark suggests this “shepherd/flock” theme as early as Mark 5:41. He records the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter and the words of Jesus in Aramaic (“Talitha, cumi”) which may be a pun on a Hebrew word for “lamb” (cf. Is. 40:11). Ezekiel 34 is also a famous passage describing the failure of the Kings of Israel as shepherds who feed on their flocks rather than giving food to them. And this is exactly what is being contrasted in this chapter. Herod is a false shepherd who has set himself up as king. The title is repeated five times in the episode and the irony is that Herod was not technically a “king” but a tetrarch. Of course Mark doesn’t tell us this, but at the very least, he’s being ironic, comparing him to Jesus. Again, like Moses, Jesus gives bread to Israel in the wilderness (vv. 31, 32, 35); He is a faithful shepherd/king who has compassion on His people and feeds them.
Walking on Water
Two things are striking about this episode apart from the basic startling nature of what Jesus does. First, the text says that Jesus would have or wanted to “pass by them” except His disciples were too scared and troubled (v. 48-50). And this is not just because Jesus wanted more ‘alone time’. This word for “pass by” is the same root word that is used in the Greek Septuagint to refer to the event when Yahweh passed His glory before Moses (Ex. 33:19-22, 34:6). For Jesus to “pass by” the disciples may be an allusion of some kind to this event with Moses. This may also explain something of their response (6:50). Secondly, it is the disciples’ turn to “marvel” and they do so the text says, because “they had not understood about the loaves” (v. 52). Something about the miraculous feeding was supposed to be the key to understanding the water-walking venture. While this seems somewhat obscure, it is likely that this is once again connected to the Exodus and subsequent wilderness wanderings. If Jesus has fed Israel in the wilderness then He is a new Moses with authority of over seas and wind. Don’t you get it?
Conclusion and Application
Interestingly, the chapter ends in stark contrast to how it began. Jesus could not do mighty works in His home town because of their unbelief, but here in the land of Gennesaret the multitudes recognize Him immediately and come rushing out with their sick. Notice too that word has gotten out that power emanates even from His clothing (6:56 cf. 5:28). But these bracketing stories point inward showing us the story of the Exodus once more again: The "Pharaoh" Herod hears about The Twelve and assumes John has been raised from the dead. Then, Jesus and his disciples cross the sea (v. 32) and finding a great multitude, he feeds his people (the 5000) in the wilderness v. 32, 35). Finally, He crosses the sea again, walking on water (v. 45ff). The Exodus motif is hard to miss: from Passover to Pharaoh to the sea to bread in the wilderness to crossing the sea.
We are called to this same faith, especially on this side of the gospel. We have all of the miracles of Jesus, and most importantly, we have His death and resurrection. If a story were written about our congregation, how Mark describe our unbelief? Perhaps he would say: And they grumbled among themselves because they did not understand the miracles of Jesus. And their hearts were hardened. Or perhaps: And they were puffed up with arrogance about how Biblical their liturgy was because they did not understand the resurrection of Jesus. And their hearts were hardened. Or maybe: And they had critical spirits and held grudges against one another, refusing to forgive one another with joy because they did not understand the ascension of Jesus into heaven. And their hearts were hardened.
All of this is true. All of this is the gospel of grace to you. Jesus still greets you and says: Be of good cheer, it is I, do not be afraid. Believe it with all of your hearts and go and extend this same grace to your families and neighbors.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!
One of the patterns we see in Jesus’ ministry is His cultivation of a tightly knit group of friends and compassion for the masses. This is Jesus’ program for Church growth. He doesn’t hire marketing professionals, have a makeover and start a new building campaign. He spends a lot of time alone in the wilderness and in the mountains praying. He spends time with his closest friends explaining how the kingdom is coming and what it is like. And when he teaches people, he gives them instructions for being faithful where they are now. He tells them enigmatic stories and parables and leaves lots of people confused about who He is and what He stands for. And at the same time, He is constantly healing and showing compassion to those in need. But Jesus shows no signs of being concerned about the growth of His movement. And compared to our standards, his program should be a complete flop. But we know that the Christian Church is the living Body of Christ. It is not a corporate business. It is not a social club or a political lobbying group. We are the Body of Christ gathered into one loaf, gathered into the fellowship of the Trinity with all of the faithful throughout the world. And our calling and mission is simple: Worship God here with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your neighbors here, in your homes, and down your street and at work, showing compassion and mercy to those in need. Throw all of your cares, worries and concerns on Him: Give yourself to prayer. You are His Body, and He is the head. And He’s doing as He pleases. Be faithful with what you have been given; don’t judge those around you based on how well you think they are doing. Remember that the standard with which you judge you will be judged. Imitate your Savior: cultivate community here and in your homes with all gratitude. Be thankful and faithful where you are now. And let God work out the details.
Posted by Toby at 6:43 AM
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Of Passover Costumes and Exodus Motifs
In Exodus 12, the Israelites were given a specific dress code for the Passover. They were to eat the Passover meal dressed wearing a belt, sandals on their feet, and a staff in their hand. Interestingly, The Twelve are sent out by Jesus with similar costumes: "He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff--no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts--but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics." (Mk. 6:8) Of course it is possible that this was simply the standard garb of travel in the ancient world, but it still seems rather curious that these details are mentioned in these two places and rarely elsewhere.
But given the details of the rest of the chapter, it seems rather likely that this connection is not accidental. The "Pharaoh" Herod hears about The Twelve and assumes John has been raised from the dead. Then, Jesus and his disciples cross the sea (v. 32) and finding a great multitude, he feeds his people (the 5000) in the wilderness v. 32, 35). Finally, He crosses the sea again, walking on water (v. 45ff). The Exodus motif is hard to miss: from Passover to Pharaoh to the sea to bread in the wilderness to crossing the sea. This is also confirmed by the bracketed events of Jesus being rejected at home (vv. 1-6) and welcomed in the land of Gennesaret (vv. 53-56). Jesus is a new Moses rejected at home (Egypt/Israel) and a miracle worker and savior of Israel, as well as a new Joshua leading his people into the land.
Of course if the story of the Sending of The Twelve is indeed some kind of Passover allusion, then the recalling of the martyrdom of John would seem to figure the Baptizer as a sort of "first born" or perhaps the Passover Lamb in some sense. If John represents the "Old Israel" in some sense, then the implication is that Israel must follow Jesus through a new Exodus. But this new Exodus does not merely symbolize death by walking through the paths of the sea. Perhaps the point of bringing up John is the fact that Israel will be asked to follow her new Moses to the death.
Posted by Toby at 8:58 PM
Friday, August 04, 2006
Love is the Language of Law
Dr. Bruce Waltke points out in his NICOT commentary on Proverbs that "'love' is the language of law." The first commandment is one of loving God with all that we are, and therefore there cannot be any sharp dichotomy between what is considered "legal" and what is considered "familial" anymore than we can do some kind of philosophical lobodomy to divide between "rational" and "emotional" in the human experience, Immanuel Kant notwithstanding. Waltke goes on, quoting one Mr. D. Hillers: "To say then that 'love the Lord your God' is ultimately legal language is not to take it out of the realm of emotion but only to say that the legal concept shapes the emotional term. To love is to test one's sincere affections on the covenant Lord and to give this affection its expresion in loyal service." In other words, law does not fight against love, rather law is the direction, the shape that love takes in the world.
Posted by Toby at 10:21 AM
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Holy Trinity Weekly
This Lord's Day will be the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost.
The Christian Almanac records that Oswald was only eleven-years-old when he fled from his home after his father, the king of Northumbria was killed by his enemies in 624 A.D. Taking refuge in a monastary on the island of Iona, he was converted and joined the order of St. Columba's monks. Nine years later he was recalled to Northumbria when his older brother perished in battle. While Oswald laid aside his
monk's cowl, he brought back with him the Christian faith. Soon thereafter, Oswald found himself up against an enormous pagan army. Vastly outnumbered, Oswald erected a cross the night before the battle and called upon his men to kneel down and pray to "the almighty and only true God that He will mercifully defend us from our enemy". The following day, August 4, 634 A.D., against monumental odds, the 21 year-old king led his forces to a stunning victory. As a result of the victory and the faith of their king, many soldiers converted to the faith and soon, through the efforts of further missionary work, churches began springing up throughout Northumbria. While Oswald died in another battle only eight years later, his
faithfulness and piety will long be remembered. And as he died in defense of a Christian people at the hands of pagans, he is remembered with thankfulness as a valiant Christian martyr.
As the birth of Felicity detained me last Sunday, the sermon text for this Sunday will be Mark 6. Thanks very much to Craig Beaton for stepping up in my absence. The lessons for the day will be Jeremiah 23:1-6, Eph. 2:13-22, and Mark 6:30-34. I would encourage you to take opportunities this week and with your families to consider these passages as you prepare for worship on Sunday.
Posted by Toby at 2:21 PM
The Shape of the Liturgy: A little bit of Chapter 2
Dix says that a lot can be told about the particular tradition of Christendom one descends from by how we describe the worship service. Do we go to “hear” a mass “said”? Do we “attend” the early service? Those action verbs are loaded terms, anchors in the sea of liturgical tradition. Dix points out that in the ancient church the worship service was conceived of as primarily something done not said. Something performed not something heard or attended like one might attend a night at the opera or symphony. In fact, there appears to be a “complete absence form the original outline of the rite of anything in the nature of ‘communion devotions’… It concentrated attention entirely on the sacramental act as the expression of a will already intent on amendment of life, and as the occasion of its acceptance and sanctification by God; and so far as the liturgy was concerned, it left the matter at that, in which our more introspective devotion would probably find unsatisfying, though it served to train the saints and martyrs of the age of persecution.” Dix says that this is the first great distinction between modern and ancient conceptions of worship: the ancients viewed worship as an act whereas many moderns understand worship something said or heard.
Often we have a rather superficial view of tradition, not realizing the relative youth of some custom or the relative innovation of a particular way of doing things. Dix points out the posture of communion as one example. In the Anglican Church, it is almost universal to receive communion kneeling, while this custom, Dix says, was an innovation of the Medieval Latin Church. The early church “universally stood to receive communion, as in the East clergy and laity alike stand to this day; the apostolic church conceivably reclined in the oriental fashion, though this is uncertain.” Dix goes on to say, that there are many customs in our “devotional tradition” which Protestants take to be unique to Protestantism, which may easily be traced back to the Medieval Latin Church.
The second great distinction between ancient and modern conceptions of worship is the understanding of the public and private nature of worship. For the early church, “Christian worship was intensely corporate, but it was not ‘public’.” Interestingly, we have almost completely reversed this in the modern church. We have made worship intensely individualistic and anyone may come, in fact, we broadcast many of our services live on the radio and television 24 hours a day. If you can’t turn the TV on and find some suit and tie with a slick haircut going at it on a glitzy stage in front of thousands, you can surely find a priest loaded down with all his bling-bling behind some gaudy table mumbling quietly to himself while showing the Eucharist off to the blue-hued living rooms of the world. The liturgy of the early church, their “specifically Christian worship is from the first a domestic and private thing. They met in one another’s houses for the Breaking of Bread. There was no Christian public worship in our sense at all.” This was not because the Church was uninterested in ministering to their communities or seeking converts to the faith; the worship service just wasn’t the place for that. The early church did have meetings for jews and pagans to attend. “But propaganda meetings were rigidly separated from the ‘worship’, so that they were not even accompanied by prayer.” As I’ve read attested elsewhere, it was the common practice to allow catechumens or those interested in learning about the faith to come to a preliminary part of the service (the Synaxis) were Scriptures were read, Psalms might be sung and a sermon might be delivered. But non-Christians were not even allowed to pray with the Christians, and were asked to leave before the prayers and certainly before the offering of the Eucharist.
Round about here Dix makes the curious claim that “It was the indiscriminate admission to baptism and confirmation of the infant children of Christian parents when all society began to turn nominally Christian which was at the root of that decline of lay communion which set in during the fourth and fifth centuries.” While this is a rather loaded and only passing claim, I trust he might unpack what he means here later. But his conclusion is that “between the seventh century and the nineteenth all over Christendom the clergy were normally the only really frequent communicants.” Apparently the Protestant Reformation did not initially make much of a difference in this regard as far as Dix is concerned.
Thirdly, throughout the early church the word “church” or ecclesia universally referred to the people gathered together as opposed to a building or a place. And in particular, it was the gathering together of the Christians with the ordained ministers of God’s people: the bishop, the presbyters, and the deacons. Dix quotes St. Ignatius who wrote to the Christians of Magnesia, “as the Lord did nothing without the Father… so neither do you anything without the bishop and presbyters.” And in another letter to the church of Philadelphia he writes, “Be careful to observe one eucharist, for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one Cup unto union in His Blood; there is one altar, as there is one bishop together with the presbytery and the deacons.” Of course the growth of the church soon made it difficult for all of these offices to always be present at every gathering of the church and thus it was not long before bishops could authorize presbyters or deacons to oversee the Eucharist. But Dix notes that down until 1870 the oversight of the Bishop of Rome was still at least symbolically in place for all of the parish churches of Rome where fragments of the bread consecrated by the Pope were delivered to all of the local gatherings of the saints. The small token of bead was placed with the rest of the bread for the Eucharist as a sign of its relation to the bishop of the city.
There are several pages of descriptions about the gathering together of the saints and what that entailed. I’d like to follow up on some of that in a later post. Of particular interest to me is the relation of the offices of the Church to the worship of the Church and this as it relates to communion with and representation of the Trinity. I have often heard it said/ or read it said that the bishop/minister/priest represents Christ. He stands as an ambassador of Christ, a very real and authorized representative, the persona Christi. This point is relevant for a defense of the minister declaring the forgiveness of sins as well as benedictions. I have also seen it used to defend the office of minister against egalitarians who would ordain women to the priesthood or ministry. If the minister stands in the place of Christ in the local assembly, maleness, it is contended, is an essential part of that particular ministry. However that may be, Dix suggests that in the early church the minister or bishop was regularly conceived of as more properly representing God the Father and “it is the church as a whole, and not any one order in it, which not so much ‘represents’ as ‘is’ Christ on earth.” Dix continues: “The whole church prayed in the Person of Christ; the whole church was charged with the office of ‘proclaiming’ the revelation of Christ; the whole church offered the eucharist as the ‘re-calling’ before God and man of the offering of Christ.” The whole church is Christ on earth, and thus Ignatius writes to Smyrna: “Do you all follow your bishop as Jesus Christ followed the Father.” So if the bishop or minister is to be considered as a special representative, the early church would have considered him as the “father of the family of God.” Dix points out that this comports well with the Apostolic requirement that a bishop govern his family well, “for if a man known not how to preside over his own household, how shall he bear the care of the ecclesia of God?” (1 Tim 3:5)
Thus as the bishop or minister breaks and distributes the bread, he is imitating the Father: “My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven” Jesus is recorded as saying in John’s gospel. Thus the Eucharistic assembly by the Breaking of the Bread by the Bishop was itself an enactment of the Trinity and its redemption of the world. In the Breaking of the Bread the ecclesia was the Body of Christ, was the Incarnation for the salvation of the world.
Posted by Toby at 12:03 PM