2008-12-30

Holy holy - Wholly whole


Holy holy! Wholly whole!
Come consuming fire and burn down my soul!
Make me truly yours! Make me really me!
Form and shape this clay into what I can be!

But Love became bland. Holiness became boredom.
The Church clothed in tattered rags of whoredom.
Holy! Different! Beyond! Revolution!
Or socially-conditioned blank stares of confusion?

When did the fragrance of life become the stench of death?
When did incense on the altar make me hold my breath?
When did the Lion get chained to become our pet?
When did earth shattering faith become just a good bet?

Holy, holy, holy! Come restore what we lost!
Destroy our sameness, no matter the cost!
Make us different! Take us beyond! Bring the revolution!
Replace our anemic blood with your blazing infusion!

All consuming fire we see in Christ's consuming gaze:
Break through our mundane calculating consumer haze,
Where people become things, and things are made divine.
Shatter this fog of lies until we are truly thine!

Holy holy! Wholly whole!
Come consuming fire and burn down my soul!
Make me truly yours! Make me really me!
Form and shape this clay into what I can be!

Copyright © 2008 Nathan L. Bostian

2008-12-28

THEME SONGS, DARTH VADER, AND BABY JESUS


A Sermon For Year B, Christmas 1
Copyright © 2008 Nathan L. Bostian
Based on John 1:1-18; Isaiah 61:10-62:3

LET US PRAY: Come Lord Jesus: Fill us with your Spirit, and drive far from this place everything that distracts us from you. Let your Word transform our mind, reform our heart, and conform our will: That we may know you more clearly, and love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly. Amen+

SERMON: Well, I don't know what the day-after-Christmas ritual is in your house, but growing up, my family spent most of the day after Christmas in the movie theater, watching at least one, often two, and sometimes three movies in a row.

It was the perfect way to recover from the insulin-induced-lethargy that comes from overdosing on too much food and sweets.

And after the all-too-real reality of spending the last 36 hours with family members you spent all year avoiding, it was nice to slip into someone else's reality on the big screen for a while.

And the thing that always intrigued me about the movies was how each character had their own theme song. And in just a few bars of that song, you knew everything you needed to know about the character.

If the music was deep and brooding, you knew it was a villain. If it was light and funny, you knew it was the awkward sidekick. If it was eerie, you knew something bad was about to happen. And if it was powerful and victorious, you knew that the hero was coming to save the day.

So, that raises the question: If your life was a movie, what would your theme song be? When you entered the room, what music would play behind you?

Would it be a string quartet, or an old country song? Would it be a rock and roll power ballad, or full symphony? Would it be a sad song, a glad song, or a very very mad song? What music follows you through your life?

Now, I've got to be honest here: Ever since I was six years old, I knew what I wanted for my theme music. Ever since I saw that black shiny helmet leading an army of storm troopers through the death star: I knew I wanted the Imperial March!

Dum Dum Dum, Dum ta Dum, Dum ta Dum!

That music had to be my theme song, because that music says "I am important! I am powerful! Don't mess with me!"

You add that theme song to James Earl Jones' voice and you get one thing: Coolness.

Now, my dreams of dominating the universe by using my Jedi powers have long since faded, but the connection between movies, Christmas, and theme songs never has.

Because what always strikes me as so incredible about Christmas is that when God became human, he did not come using the theme music we all expect him to.

What I mean is this: Pretend you are God for a second. You are the Creator, and you are going to make your grand entrance into your own Creation, in person.

You are the Rightful King, and you are coming back to a Kingdom that is in rebellion against you. You are coming to rid the world of evil, and restore it to how you made it to be!

What theme music are you gonna use?

If I was God- let's be honest here- I am gonna choose the Imperial March. I am going to come in power and glory. I am going to show everyone who is boss. I am gonna have laser beams shooting from my eyes, and lightning from my fingers, and no one is ever going to mess up my world again!

And the entire time I am making my grand appearance, you are going to hear "Dum Dum Dum, Dum ta Dum, Dum ta Dum!"

And if we are going to be honest with ourselves, that's how many of us would do it to. If the world is broken, we fix it with force. Power overcoming power, might defeating might.

And we are not alone, because in first century Palestine many Jewish groups were looking for a Messiah to do just that: Come in power and glory, and smite the enemies of God, to establish God's Kingdom forever.

But what the Incarnation shows us is that- thank God- God is NOT like a lot of us. God is not a super-cosmic version of Darth Vader.

God's theme music on Christmas is not the "Imperial March", but "Silent Night".

God saves the world not by power-on-power conflicts that destroy evil and suffering. Rather, in Jesus the Messiah, God takes into Himself the fullness of human experience, the fullness of human suffering, the fullness of living in a world oppressed by evil. He takes all of that into Himself through his growth, life, suffering, and even death.

Then in the resurrection He raises it to new life, to glorified life, forever. And with Him, He raises US forever too.

In fact, if you will follow the movie metaphor a bit further with me, you will find out something amazing.

Because- in all honesty- the Story we find in Scripture, the Story we find written across all of History, is a lot more like a Movie, than a random string of meaningless events.

It is a movie written by a God who is the Author, the Plot, and the Director of History- or as we better know God: Father, Son, and Spirit. And this Three-in-One Author, Plot, and Director of History is knitting together a Story for the Ages.

This Triune Storyteller created a set for His Story to play out on: The Set of Creation. Then he allowed Actors to emerge from that Set who could "bear the image of God" as creative creatures who mirror their creative Creator.

That's us.

And God gave us the freedom receive or reject His love, to accept or deny our role in His Movie. And then God let the Story unfold, always directing and urging it toward Godself through His Holy Spirit, but never taking away the freedom of the actors to act.

And what a Story it has been!

It is a cosmic tale of the Lover seeking to save His Beloved. It is a saga of a King trying to defeat the tyranny that has enslaved the Kingdom. It is an epic of a Hero who gives everything to rescue those He loves.

But, at the same time, what God has done for us in Jesus Christ goes beyond ALL of those stories. The Apostle John says it this way in the poem that begins His Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Now, the word "Word" that John uses goes far beyond just the words we hear, or read on a page. What John is doing here is skillfully trying to tie together both the Greek and the Jewish worlds He inhabited by using the word "Word".

In Greek, the word is "Logos", where we derive the English word "logic". It is the root for all of those "-ology" words that mean "study of", like biology ("the study of life"), or theology ("the study of God").

Logos is a word that can refer to words we speak, but it also refers to the inner logic of what we say. It refers to the meaning, purpose, plan, and inner shape of something. The Logos is the inner reality that lies behind the outer reality.

if we are talking about our choices, then Logos would be the motive of our choice. If we are talking about a Movie, the Logos would be the Plot.

And for about five centuries before John, the philosophically-minded Greeks had used Logos as a shorthand to describe the Purpose, plan, and meaning of the Universe.

Across the Aegean sea, the Jewish people also had a concept for the "Word of God". In Hebrew, their word for Word was Dabar. While the Greek Word was abstract and theoretical, the Hebrew Word was concrete and active.

For the Jews, God's Word could be literal words that came from the mouth of a prophet, giving a message from God. But, often it also referred to actions: To deeds of power that God performed to save and redeem His people.

For the Jews, God's Word was God's self-disclosure through the "body language" of deliverance, redemption, and justice. It was not God communicating abstractly about meaning and purpose, but God getting dirty in concrete acts of salvation.

And for the Apostle John, who was a Jew, writing a gospel that would be largely read by Greeks, the idea of the "Word" connected both of these worlds.

It's as if John is saying to Greeks: Hey! You know that Divine Word of meaning and purpose you have been talking about in abstract ways for the last five centuries? Well, it is concretely embodied in Jesus the Lord!

And He is sayings to the Jews: Hey! You remember all of those acts of redemption that God's Word wrought for our matriarchs and patriarchs? Well, you ain't seen nothin' yet! That same Word of God is incarnate in Jesus the Messiah!

And for folks like you and I, who usually spend a lot more time watching movies than reading Greek philosophers or Jewish sages, John has the same message:

Hey! You know how you want to find a Purpose and a Plot to life? You know how you like to watch a great movie that unfolds into hope and redemption?

Well, what do you think all of that points to? The Plot of the Story of the Universe has become embodied in Jesus!

The Plot has stepped off of the page and entered into His own Story, to become the Hero, the Lover, and the King that fulfills all things!

God has not stayed in Heaven, far removed from you, like a playwright who only observes his plays from the audience! No, God has become the lead character in His own Story, and has taken upon Himself everything it means to be an actor: All the joy and pain, happiness and frustration.

He did it all to draw us into His Love. To show us what Love looks like truly embodied. To reveal to us how to really be human.

And with that said: You remember how I asked you what your theme song is?

How many of you are tired of that song? How many of you have a song that is too sad, or mad, or fearful, or frustrated?

How many of you long to have a new song?

You know, every actress or actor gets a new theme song when they enter into a new movie. With a new Plot comes a new role, and new theme music.

Maybe you are living in an old, worn out Plot that is not what God intended. Maybe you are living in a Plot that revolves around your own selfishness, or someone else's selfishness, or an old wound that won't heal.

In Jesus the Messiah, we can all find a new plot. A plot of grace and Truth. A Story of healing and hope.

And in His Epic Story, we can receive a new name, a new role, and new theme music. If you are tired, and weary, and burdened, and need a new song, I encourage you: Give yourself to His Story today. Amen+

2008-11-27

Invitation to Nate's Ordination

God willing

The Right Reverend James Monte Stanton,
Bishop of Dallas

will ordain

Nathan Louis Bostian

to the Sacred Order of Deacons
In Christ's One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church

On Saturday, the Thirteenth of December
Two Thousand and Eight
Ten o'clock in the Morning
The Cathedral Church of Saint Matthew
5100 Ross Avenue
Dallas, Texas

Your Prayers and Presence are Requested


Clergy: White Stoles

Reception Following in Parish Hall

Get a map to the Cathedral HERE
Request card invitation HERE
[All Dallas Clergy are already recieving one]

2008-09-24

Bill Maher: Apostle of Religulous Fundamentalism


Tonight was an interesting night. A friend of mine snagged some free tickets to the sneak preview of Bill Maher's new movie which lampoons religion in America. The movie is named "Religulous", because in the words of its Lion's Gate Films website it "describes religious ideas, beliefs, or claims that are patently absurd, comical, or ridiculous". While the movie does some creative editing and video splicing to make religion look absurd, comical, and ridiculous, it also makes Bill Maher look like a bully who is ridiculous in his own right, and even worse, tedious and preachy. I will explain by filing my comments under three headings: "Amens", "Not-so-muches", and "Reallys".

AMEN!
Here are some places where Maher was right on target:

Greed, Guns, and God: Maher nailed it on the head in continually pointing out how religion- whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim- is either politicized or turned into a means to get rich quick. Over and over he pointed out the lamentable connection between God and Guns (using the Almighty as a mascot to hate, exclude, murder, and make war on one's opponents), and between God and Greed (using God as a vending machine to acquire wealth or power or both). I think Bill and Jesus are on the same page here. Amen, Bill!

Missing Jesus' Point: Several times in the course of the film, Maher pointed out that what Christianity has grown into- with its wealth, opulence, hierarchy, and power-mongering- radically misses the message that Christ intended. This is ironic, since Bill also says that Jesus "never existed", and thus could not have intended anything. But, despite the logical leap there, Bill is on target. Jesus would not live in a palace or wear a $2000 suit like some folks in the film. Amen, Bill!

Funny Fundamentalists: There are some drop dead, laugh-till-you-wet-yourself moments in the film. His deliciously awkward interview with the "ex-gay" minister is one such moment. Another happens when Bill suggests to a Hispanic would-be Messiah that he might be the second incarnation of Carmen Miranda. And then there is the interview with the prosperity preacher, and another dozen to boot. Amen, Bill!

NOT-SO-MUCH. Here are some places where Maher plays fast and loose with facts, logic, or both:

Signposts to nowhere? Several times in the movie Bill makes the amazingly uneducated statement that Jesus "never existed". This is something that not even a skeptical historian, or jaded Biblical scholar, would claim (as well as something that other historians like NT Wright easily refute). Luckily, Maher doesn't actually deal with historical facts, and instead focuses on funny rhetoric. The outdated strategy he uses several times is listing all of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian myths that speak of incarnate gods, virgin births, and dead-yet-risen saviors. He implies that since all of these myths were not historically true, then neither is Jesus. That's basically like saying "You see all these signs that point to God intervening in history? They point to nothing!" That is kind of like never going to Dallas, and then seeing hundreds of street signs pointing to Dallas, and saying "See all these signs! That proves it: There is no Dallas!" Nope. The more reasonable and probable explanation is that anytime we see a whole lot of signs pointing in the same direction, then there is likely a real, concrete destination that corresponds to the signs. God has been posting signs throughout history in stories, myths, hopes, and dreams, which point to a concrete, historical destination that is found in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Biblical Genre-bending? Several times Bill tries to dismiss Scripture by treating its non-historical texts as if it was modern history. Basically, while he rails against and debunks a Fundamentalist-six-day-creationist reading of Scripture, he also reads the Bible in the same way, and will not allow any other reading of it. He will not allow the Genesis creation story to be read as a poem, or Jonah to be read as a children's moral fable, or the Gospels to be read as persuasive rhetoric meant to convert people to Christ. Instead, like any Fundamentalist, he insists that they ALL be read and judged as if they were modern works of scientific historiography. This is as ridiculous as insisting that your spouse's love letters be read like a history book. He misses the point, because he misses the genre.

Anti-miraculousity? Maher assumes that our physical universe is a closed system, and that empirical methods of knowledge are the only way of knowing what is really real. He will not even seriously consider the concept of "miracle" or "divine intervention". This is an incredible- yet implicit- claim to human omniscience. The implied idea is that humans know completely that there is only one way to know anything, and that is by empirical methods. Yet, the claim that only empirical knowledge is real knowledge is itself a non-empirical claim (you can't physically test it in a controlled lab setup). Thus, he is self-refuting. Furthermore, he chides religion for selling an invisible product (God), while in the film he himself unabashedly sells his own invisible product (doubt). In fact, his movie is charging $8 a piece to "sell" people his own set of non-empirical, invisible, un-provable ideas. Yet, he has the nerve to criticize religion for selling invisible ideas. Not-so-much, Bill.

Religion = Evil? Not that I expected balance in the movie, but Bill was really lopsided here. He rightfully points out that religion is at the core of a great deal of inhumanity. We should deeply repent- and fix- religious sins such as crusades, inquisitions, jihads, abuse, and hatred in the Name of God. However, Bill paints an outdated picture of Enlightenment optimism when he says we have to "grow up", become rational, and put religion behind us, to survive and thrive as humans. Did he forget that it was the most educated, enlightened, technologically superior nations who killed each other in record numbers in the world wars and colonial conflicts of the last two centuries? Did he forget that it was modern secular rationalists such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, and Pol Pot who slaughtered people in numbers undreamed of by even the worst religious despots? Or did he forget that the modern movements for anti-slavery, women's rights, civil rights, children's rights, prison reform, and world peace were led by confessing Christians? Or, perhaps he forgot that- despite all the evil Christianity has caused- it has also caused more hospitals, charities, schools, and universities than any other movement in world history.

REALLY? Here are some places where Maher dips into his own Religulous fundamentalism:

Straw MAN arguments: We all know what a straw man is. A straw man argument is where you set up a cartoon, a caricature, or a "straw man" of your opponent's position, and then knock it down as if it was the real opponent. Furthermore, a "straw MAN" argument is when you do it by interviewing almost entirely men (and often dumb men at that), while excluding women from dialogue. This is where Bill really came off looking like the intellectual equivalent of a schoolyard bully. In order to "knock down" religion, he almost always chose men who represented the most extreme versions of the religions available: The most fundamentalist, most legalistic, easiest-to-mock versions. And, to top it off, he often picked people who were far below his intellectual level. Didn't someone ever tell Bill to "pick on someone your own size"? You don't prove you are tough by stealing lunch money from school kids, and you don't prove that your ideas are right by debating people who are half your IQ. Where are the moderate voices in religion? Excluded. Where are the female voices in the conversation? Excluded. To Bill's credit, he did actually listen to two Catholic priests and give them space to talk. Is that some kind of freudian respect for a father figure? To his detriment, when he actually talked to a thoughtful intellectual Christian (geneticist Francis Collins), he so butchered the tape of the interview that all you really heard was Bill. Really, Bill? Really?

Two-faced Bill: At one point in the film, Maher chides Muslims for being two-faced. He says that many Muslims expect the right of free speech in Western secular societies, while at the same time expecting to silence (or even kill) non-Muslims who disagree with them. He doesn't like it when religious people claim one stance outwardly, but another within their own faith community. And yet, Maher does a similar thing. At several points in the movie, he claims to the people he is interviewing that he is just an agnostic asking questions and seeking truth. However, at other points he proves just the opposite: He is a secular fundamentalist driven to promote his views of anti-religion. Behind the irony, sarcasm, quick-wit, and leading questions, he is every bit as dogmatic as the people he interviews. There is no objectivity. Like any fundamentalist preacher, he is firmly committed to "my way or the highway". Really, Bill? Really?

The Atheist turn-or-burn: Several times in the movie, Bill rightly criticizes the idea that we should believe in God just as fire insurance. Like myself, Bill does not find it persuasive to believe in God simply to avoid hell. He rightly perceives that this makes belief less-than-sincere, and God less-than-good. It's not good enough to believe in God just because you get something out of it. You should believe only for one reason: Because it is true. However, Bill DOES EXACTLY THE SAME THING! In the last 15 minutes of the movie, pictures of death and destruction are constantly interspersed with pictures of religious activity. Over and over he drives home the [false] connection between religion and destruction, and preaches that if we want to avoid destruction we must "grow up" and get beyond religion. He does not say "Accept my ideas because they are true". Instead, he implicitly says repeatedly "You must accept my dogma to avoid hell on Earth!". How is this any different than the religious claim that "You must accept my dogma to avoid hell after death!"? He is preaching the same turn-or-burn that he chides fundamentalists for preaching. Really, Bill? Really?

And, in the end, this is what turned me off to the movie. It could have been a great movie, if Bill had stayed away from the pulpit. But he had to preach. In the end, he came off as a shrill little tedious man who has forgotten his own sense of humor. If Bill could stay away from being a fundamentalist, he might make a heck of a comedian.

2008-06-30

ROWAN RESPONDS TO GAFCON

As usual, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has responded to GAFCON in a way that is more concise, more thoughtful, and more irenic than anything I could write. His statement brings up nearly every problem I noted in my blog about GAFCON, and then some (my meager article is posted below this one).

He is a brilliant, godly leader (but of course not without flaws, and huge eyebrows!). I hope all sides will listen to him, and work with him, before it is too late and this whole thing comes unhinged. You can read his entire statement below, or go to the communion website.
________________________________________
GAFCON affirmations and rebuttals by ++Rowan Williams:

The Final Statement from the GAFCON meeting in Jordan and Jerusalem contains much that is positive and encouraging about the priorities of those who met for prayer and pilgrimage in the last week. The ‘tenets of orthodoxy’ spelled out in the document will be acceptable to and shared by the vast majority of Anglicans in every province, even if there may be differences of emphasis and perspective on some issues. I agree that the Communion needs to be united in its commitments on these matters, and I have no doubt that the Lambeth Conference will wish to affirm all these positive aspects of GAFCON’s deliberations. Despite the claims of some, the conviction of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and God and the absolute imperative of evangelism are not in dispute in the common life of the Communion

However, GAFCON’s proposals for the way ahead are problematic in all sorts of ways, and I urge those who have outlined these to think very carefully about the risks entailed.

A ‘Primates’ Council’ which consists only of a self-selected group from among the Primates of the Communion will not pass the test of legitimacy for all in the Communion. And any claim to be free to operate across provincial boundaries is fraught with difficulties, both theological and practical – theological because of our historic commitments to mutual recognition of ministries in the Communion, practical because of the obvious strain of responsibly exercising episcopal or primatial authority across enormous geographical and cultural divides.

Two questions arise at once about what has been proposed. By what authority are Primates deemed acceptable or unacceptable members of any new primatial council? And how is effective discipline to be maintained in a situation of overlapping and competing jurisdictions?

No-one should for a moment impute selfish or malicious motives to those who have offered pastoral oversight to congregations in other provinces; these actions, however we judge them, arise from pastoral and spiritual concern. But one question has repeatedly been raised which is now becoming very serious: how is a bishop or primate in another continent able to discriminate effectively between a genuine crisis of pastoral relationship and theological integrity, and a situation where there are underlying non-theological motivations at work? We have seen instances of intervention in dioceses whose leadership is unquestionably orthodox simply because of local difficulties of a personal and administrative nature. We have also seen instances of clergy disciplined for scandalous behaviour in one jurisdiction accepted in another, apparently without due process. Some other Christian churches have unhappy experience of this problem and it needs to be addressed honestly.

It is not enough to dismiss the existing structures of the Communion. If they are not working effectively, the challenge is to renew them rather than to improvise solutions that may seem to be effective for some in the short term but will continue to create more problems than they solve. This challenge is one of the most significant focuses for the forthcoming Lambeth Conference. One of its major stated aims is to restore and deepen confidence in our Anglican identity. And this task will require all who care as deeply as the authors of the statement say they do about the future of Anglicanism to play their part.

The language of ‘colonialism’ has been freely used of existing patterns. No-one is likely to look back with complacency to the colonial legacy. But emerging from the legacy of colonialism must mean a new co-operation of equals, not a simple reversal of power. If those who speak for GAFCON are willing to share in a genuine renewal of all our patterns of reflection and decision-making in the Communion, they are welcome, especially in the shaping of an effective Covenant for our future together.

I believe that it is wrong to assume we are now so far apart that all those outside the GAFCON network are simply proclaiming another gospel. This is not the case; it is not the experience of millions of faithful and biblically focused Anglicans in every province. What is true is that, on all sides of our controversies, slogans, misrepresentations and caricatures abound. And they need to be challenged in the name of the respect and patience we owe to each other in Jesus Christ.

I have in the past quoted to some in the Communion who would call themselves radical the words of the Apostle in I Cor.11.33: ‘wait for one another’. I would say the same to those in whose name this statement has been issued. An impatience at all costs to clear the Lord’s field of the weeds that may appear among the shoots of true life (Matt.13.29) will put at risk our clarity and effectiveness in communicating just those evangelical and catholic truths which the GAFCON statement presents.

© Rowan Williams

GAFCON: Saving the Church one Acronym at a time?


For those of you who may not know, or may not care, what GAFCON is: It is an acronym for "Global Anglican Futures CONference". It is another in a long line of acronym-agencies (such as the AMiA, the AAC, CANA, and others) which were put together to separate "orthodox" Anglicans from the "apostate" Episcopal Church of the USA.

It was a conference consisting of over 1000 Anglicans, with 250+ bishops, from around the Anglican Communion, which was held in Jerusalem. Its purpose was to put together a plan for the Re-formation of the Anglican Communion, centering around Anglican bishops from the Global South, and their unique Anglo-Protestant brand of Christian "orthodoxy".

I put "orthodoxy" in quotes, not because I doubt that GAFCON is Biblical or Christian, but because their version of "orthodox" differs in significant ways from older Christian communions which have a better claim to "orthodoxy" (notably the Roman Catholic and/or Eastern Orthodox churches). It would be an interesting theological project for the members of GAFCON to provide a theological justification for how they can significantly revise older versions of Christian Orthodoxy, while at the same time claiming to be more "orthodox" than those who would seek to revise the Anglo-Protestant "orthodoxy" represented by GAFCON.

2008-06-20

THE BIBLE I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED

For all the Scripture snobs and Greek geeks out there:

I know you know the feeling. You get a new Bible, and use it for a couple of months, and then you are aware of all its foibles and inconsistencies. So, you go and buy another study Bible. And the same thing happens. And the addictive cycle happens over and over and over.

It's even worse when you are competent with the original languages, because you do not feel like you have really "read" Scripture until you have translated at least part of your reading out of the original text. And to do that, you have to have a separate original language NT or OT (or both!). Or you have to have an interlinear (which, by the way, can be very useful, but it can also be incredibly easy to cheat and just read the English text below the Greek).

So, you wind up carrying 2-3 Bibles with you in your knapsack (which can harm your spine over time, and make you look like the obsessive-compulsive Bibliophile you really are to everyone who sees inside your pack). Or you do something even more OCD: You bind together several Bibles into one volume, thus creating the dreaded "FrankenBible". OK, so maybe YOU wouldn't do it, but I did. I actually bound together a Greek English NT with a NRSV OT and Apocrypha, and then created 125 page introduction with topical resources and Book introductions. It is huge! So huge, in fact, it is quite hard to pull in and out of my pack, or fit other books around. And it isn't even my favorite English translation. The English Standard Version is.

So, dissatisfied with all of the options thus far, I decided to do something FAR more obsessive-compulsive. I decided to edit together and print my own Study Bible. Here are the parameters:

1. Since my daytimer and journal are in a standard 8.5" x 11" binder, and I take that binder with me on most occasions, the Bible had to measure 8.5" x 11" to snug up alongside the daytimer in my pack (not hard to do since paper is that size anyway).

2. It had to be less than 1.5 inches thick. Bigger than that, and it would weigh too much for carrying around on a regular basis. In terms of pages, that means that it had to be less than 300 pieces of paper or so (at the paper weight of 20-22 lb paper). That means that the total pages for the Bible would have to be 600 or less (since 2 pages are printed, front-and-back, on each piece of paper).

3. It had to have Greek-English parallel text for the New Testament. Having side-by-side text gives you just enough help to remind you what a Greek word is when you are rusty, but not so much help that you can completely cheat while reading Greek (like an Interlinear Bible).

4. At least part of the OT must have Hebrew-English parallel text, especially the Psalms. I read at least a Psalm a day, so it would be a good thing to have the Hebrew side-by-side to read a couple of verses in Hebrew on a daily basis.

On the other hand, a full-on parallel Hebrew-English OT would make the entire Bible too long (about 700-750 pages total). So, what I did was make the entire Psalter parallel, and then a scattering of my other favorite passages parallel.

5. It had to use the ESV text as the principal English text (although I did modify some passages where the translation is squirrely dealing with gender issues).

6. It had to have "the rest of the Bible that the Protestants threw out". So, I included the Catholic Deuterocanonicals in the NRSV version, ordered according to the Roman Catholic canonical ordering.

I know this could turn into a huge discussion, but basically I believe the Deuterocanonicals are fully as canonical as the rest of the OT, and were used up to the Reformation uniformly. Anglican and Episcopal lectionaries have always included Deuterocanonical readings (especially from the book of Wisdom!). Practically, I do not think any of the Deuterocanonicals present difficulties greater than the ideological problems we already find in the Hebrew OT (cf. the Jihad of Joshua, the pessimism of Ecclesiastes, the polygamy of Song of Songs, and the political "spin" of the Samuels, Kings, and Chronicles). And theologically, I think the Protestant willingness to revise the Canon of Scripture in the 1500's has led to a theological trajectory where Protestant revisionists of the 1800-2000's have been willing to revise EVERYTHING canonical about the Christian faith. Thus, as a small step at reversing the trajectory: I include the books in my canon.

7. It had to include my favorite maps and charts from the NIV Study Bible, the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (5 vol.), the New International Dictionary of the Bible, and the New Bible Atlas. All of the texts, charts, and maps were imported from Bibleworks ™, Zondervan Pradis ™, and Libronix ™ Bible software packages.

8. It had to have Bible book introductions that were short enough to jog the memory on dates, authorship, historical context, and major themes, WHILE at the same time taking seriously critical study of the Bible, WHILE at the same time taking seriously Divine Inspiration of the Scriptures, WHILE at the same time dealing with the Deuterocanonicals as well.

Thus, I used the Book introductions from the New American Bible. They fit all the criteria above AND they are available online: http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/

9. It had to include a number of charts I have developed myself, including my summary chart of the Seven Ecumenical Councils as a guide to Biblical interpretation.

Thus, at the end of the NT I have included a "Canonical Outline of the Faith" which includes a summary of the issues and solutions offered by the 7 ecumenical councils, a swell as the Nicene, Chalcedonian, and Apostle's Creeds in three languages (Greek, Latin, English). Finally, I have included my own "mini-systematic" theological-Scriptural outline based on the Creed.

10. So, I edited it all together. First, I exported the Bible texts from Bibleworks software into an excel spreadsheet, where I combined the text with the outline of Scripture found in Bibleworks software. Then I mail-merged the text into a series of Word documents, so the Bible text was formatted the way I wanted them. Then I created a series of publisher files for the final formatting and parallel-texting. After that, I exported it all into adobe pdf's. Then I printed them at Kinko's, bound them into a book, and put a cover on it!

I have posted it online. Since I own everything in them through buying the software, or have used free sources, they are legal copies of what is legally mine: And I am NOT selling this Bible [I say all of that for copyright reasons]. I am assuming, however, that downloading these files and printing them would be a violation of copyright. So I ask you please to not do this.

But, I do offer them as "fodder for the imagination" for people who might want to construct a Bible like this (or for Bible companies who might want to produce a product like this with a FULL Hebrew-English OT!).

You can find the pdf files here (the OT is 17 mb, and the NT is 14 mb):

Old Testament:
http://canter.s437.sureserver.com/teaching/NSB-1_OT.pdf

New Testament:
http://canter.s437.sureserver.com/teaching/NSB-2_NT.pdf

And just "The Canonical Faith" outline:
http://canter.s437.sureserver.com/teaching/The_Canonical_Faith.pdf

It is finally the Bible I have always wanted. Have fun!

NT Wright on The Colbert Report

WOW!

My favorite bishop, NT Wright, was on my favorite comedian's show, The Colbert Report.

This is no coincidence. This must be a sign of the end of the Ages.

2008-05-25

CORPUS CHRISTI: DISCERNING WHOSE BODY WE ARE

A Sermon For The Feast of Corpus Christi
For the Scarborough Renaissance Faire 1549 Eucharist
© 2008 Nathan L. Bostian
Based on 1 Corinthians 11:23-29; John 6:47-58

LET US PRAY: Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire / And lighten us with thy celestial fire / Hallow this place unto thyself / In Christ's Name all evil dispel / Enable with thy perpetual light / The dullness of our blinded sight / Teach us to know the Father and Son / And thee, Our God, the Three in One. AMEN+

Today we gather to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi! For those who do not know the tongue of the learned, this is the Feast of the Body of Christ: The Commemoration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I cannot think of a more appropriate Feast to celebrate this year of our Lord, fifteen hundred and forty nine. For it is in this year that ALL of the subjects of the English King FINALLY have a Book of COMMON Prayer, in which we ALL, in our own native tongue, can celebrate the liturgy of our Lord's Body TOGETHER.

No more half-uttered syllables, of poorly pronounced Latin, read by priests who barely understand the words they are saying, said to people who have no comprehension.

Even last year this was not so. But today, one year later, we celebrate this Feast on a day when we can call it not "Corpus Christi", but what it is in or native tongue: The Body of Christ.

But what IS this Body? Where is the Body to be found? For in regard to this Body, the followers of Luther say one thing. The followers of Calvin another. The followers of Zwingli yet another. The Roman Church still another. And a whole chorus of heretics chime in, each with their own distortions. Soon there may be as many Christs as there are Christians!

So, as we celebrate this feast today, I think it is proper to remind us of what the Body of Christ really is. For, in Scripture and the ancient Fathers of the Church, the Body of Christ was one Reality, expressed in three ways: One tapestry woven together of three threads.

First, the Body of Christ is of course that blessed, glorious Body of our Lord who became incarnate some fifteen centuries ago. In that Body, God Himself truly became man, born of the Blessed Virgin. In that Body, our Lord grew up into manhood, in which he taught and worked manifold miracles, and so displayed the Father's Glory.

In that Body, our blessed Lord suffered, and died, and was buried. And it was in that glorified, transfigured Body in which our Lord defeated death, and hell, and the devil. And it is in that Body that our Lord reigns from Heaven, and in which He shall return.

Yet, this does not mean that our Lord's Body exists merely in Heaven. For He is transfigured and glorious, and as Saint Paul saith to the Ephesians, "[Christ's] body is the fulness of him that filleth all in all" [1.23]. In speaking of that Body, Saint Paul says that we- Who have been joined with Christ in baptism and who cleave to Him in faith- We are His Body as well!

For every person who has Christ's Spirit coursing through them as their lifeblood, is incorporate as a member of Christ's mystical Body on earth. Do you hear that? We who are joined to Christ are verily and undeniably members of Christ Himself! We are His hands, His feet, and His voice calling out in a darkened world! We are His Body sent to fulfill His mission!

So, first the Body of Christ is an historical man. But secondly, this glorious man is also present in His people, who are extensions of His own glorious Body. Yet, there is a third facet to this Body which we can never forget, lest we endanger our very souls.

For, although Christ's Body is a man and Christ's Body is His Church: It is not MERELY an historical man or a mystical Church. For as we heard in our Gospel lesson today: His Body is also found in the meal that nourishes our souls!

For today our Lord Christ says "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world"

Again he says "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you."

And lest we be confused, Saint Paul clearly saith, in regard to the cup and the bread, that in these things we should worthily "discern the Body" of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we all know what food is. We all know what nourishment is. And by the looks of some of you who are shaped like me, some of us know more about nourishment than we should!

In our search for nourishment, none of us seek to eat the stones off the ground, or gnaw bark from the trees, or to drink the oil in our lamps! Truly, we know that nourishment corresponds to the Body which it nourishes.

Thus for our physical bodies, we bread and meat and steaks on a stake! We drink water, and wine, and plenty of ale. Indeed, fine ale is proof that God loves us and desires our happiness! We eat and drink them because they correspond our bodies which they nourish.

If this is how we nourish our physical bodies, how then should we nourish the mystical Body of Christ? To hear some tell it, you would think the Body of Christ is some ghost or phantasm unconnected with our world. For them, communion with our Lord is solely spiritual, completely disconnected with what we do with our hands, and feet, and eyes, and mouths.

But when I look out and see the Body of Christ gathered before me, I do not see ghosts. I see people. Bodily people. Tangible people. I see you, and you, and you, and you.

For all of you who are baptized and have Christ's Spirit living within you: You are physical, tangible extensions of the Lord Himself. We are not dealing with some sort of ghostly Body. Nay! We are dealing with a Physical Body, made of men and women, in whom Christ's Spirit dwells.

And a tangible body requires tangible nourishment!

How then should the Lord nourish such a Body? Should He nourish such a body with spirit alone? Or should He nourish it with spirit and matter? Verily I say, He uses material elements indwelt by the very presence of His Spirit to nourish us!

Thus, our Lord nourishes us with sacramental means, for a sacrament is nothing other than an "outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace".

For, when our faithful Lord promises to use things such as bread and wine and water to nourish his own people with His own presence, should we not expect that promise to be true?

In the case of this sacrament, we speak of Christ's Body now in its third sense. For we have already spoken of the historical Body of our Lord Christ, and we have spoken of the mystical corporate Body of our Lord Christ. But now we speak of the sacramental Body of our Lord Jesus Christ: The meal by which he nourishes His people with His own Body and Blood.

Some of our so-called reformers have denied that Christ is tangibly present in this sacred bread and wine. They want to say that Christ is present AROUND the altar in His gathered mystical Body, but they deny that He is present ON the altar in the meal which is offered.

But, by denying this, they are denying the very gift that God gives them to nourish them as the Body of Christ. For what good is it if we are made members of Christ's mystical Body through baptism and faith, and yet the Lord lets His mystical Body starve to death for lack of nourishment?

Verily I say: Not ONLY does Christ make us his Body, but he feeds us WITH His Body IN our communion meal! Not only is Christ present AROUND the altar in the gathered people, but truly He is present ON the altar as a lifegiving sacrifice that nourishes us, and strengthens us, and enables us to live for Him.

But I shall not go so far as the vain speculations of other reformers and the schoolmen of the Roman Church. For it is not prudent to define HOW this mystery comes to be. For some birdlike minds are easily put to flight with otherworldly speculation about realities which they cannot fathom.

Some apparently thinketh they have divine knowledge of the mechanics of the universe and the inscrutable workings of God's Holy Spirit, when they seek to specify exactly HOW Christ is truly present in the communion meal. They spill gallons of ink- and sometimes rivers of blood- defining and defending their pet theories of exactly how God works.

But what it more important: THAT God does something, or HOW God does something? Or, to put it another way: Must a small child know HOW his father harvests grain, and grinds grain, and mixes flour, and bakes bread, in order to be nourished by that bread?

No! The child cannot comprehend HOW this is so, in order to be nourished by the bread. All the child has to do is ACCEPT the gift of bread by FAITH in the goodness of his father.

In the same way, we know not HOW the bread and wine is also the sacramental Body and Blood of our Lord. We know not HOW His Spirit works to make this so. But, we do know that it IS so. And we take it by faith, in the goodness of our Father, who hath given us this gift of bread and wine.

If I may switch the image for a moment to take advantage of this sunny day: Imagine that the working of Christ's Spirit is like the sunlight which gives light and warmth to everything we see. As Saint Paul hath said: Christ is He who "filleth all in all".

If Christ is present all around us- above us, beneath us, and within the soul of every person joined to His Body- If Christ is present all around, how can he be MORE present in this communion meal than anywhere else?

He is more present in this meal in the same way the light of the Sun is made more present by a magnifying glass which was skillfully focused in one place. For, although the light and heat of the sun surrounds us completely, it is able to be focused, by the lens, on one place, in a tight, white-hot beam.

In the same way, through the gathering of Christ's mystical Body, led by the prayers of His priest, Christ's presence is focused on the sacrament of the Altar, in a tight, white-hot manner. We, his gathered Body, are the lens. By uttering the words of our Lord- "This is my body" and "This is my blood"- Christ's priest focuses that lens in such a way that the Light of the Son of God becomes uniquely present in the bread and wine.

We know not how this works. Theories are bound to come and go to explain what light is, and how the lens focuses it. But no matter what the theory is of HOW it works, it does not change the fact THAT it works.

Perhaps the wisest, most prudent thing we could do is confess the mystery: Christ is truly and tangibly present in this meal to nourish us, though we know not how.

And that is the mystery we are left with in the sacramental Body of Christ. We know not HOW it works, only THAT it works. And if we neglect it, or deny it, or treat it in a profane way, we endanger our very souls.

For if we starve ourselves of merely physical food, we only shall harm our physical bodies. But if we starve ourselves of this heavenly meal, we bring harm to our very souls.

And thus Saint Paul admonishes us to be careful to discern the Body of our Lord at the communion meal. But what does he mean? How shall we "discern" His Body?

Surely Saint Paul means first that we shall discern Christ's presence ON the altar: We shall see and know that this is no ordinary meal, but the sacramental Body of our Lord. We shall come to eat and drink and be nourished in the same manner in which the disciples themselves came before the Lord, to be nourished by His teaching and miracles.

For, to disrespect or deny Christ in the meal, is just as if we were a Pharisee or Sadducee or Scribe who denied our Lord Jesus to His face, those many centuries ago. We must discern our Lord in the meal, lest we cast ourselves into the same fate that they did when they hardened their hearts against Him.

But, this is not all that Saint Paul means in his admonishment: For elsewhere in the same chapter of this epistle he makes it clear that the Corinthians are under God's judgment for mistreating each other at the Communion meal. Saint Paul describeth how some go hungry, while others gorge themselves, some get drunk, while others are turned away empty.

And what point is He making? He means that discerning the Body of Christ means not only honoring the sacramental Body, but also honoring, cherishing, and serving the Mystical Body of His gathered people. For, as Saint John saith in another letter: It is IMPOSSIBLE to Love the Lord if we hate and mistreat our brothers.

For HOW we Love each member in the Body of Christ is HOW we Love Christ Himself. And to discern the Body of Christ is not only to see Christ ON the altar, but to see Christ AROUND the altar in His own people, the Church, His mystical Body.

And, when we discern Christ in His sacramental Body and in His mystical Body, then we are discerning Christ in His historical Body: Seated at the right hand of God, clothed in glory.

Do you realize? Can you see? Do you discern?

When we do something as simple, and as profound- as Loving one another in the Body, and faithfully partaking of Christ's Body in the sacrament- When we do this Christ makes us a partaker of His glory and majesty. When we do this, the Divine life courses through us, enlivening us, and setting us on fire with His Love!

When we do this, that power that raised our Lord from the dead: That power dwells in us, and we share in Christ's VICTORY over death, and sin, and hell, and the devil, and the demons, and all lesser powers raised up against the True God.

Will you today share in His victory with me? Will you today discern the Body of Christ in each other, in this sacrament, and seated in the Heavens, ruling supreme above all? Will you today faithfully partake of this meal with me, and as you receive the Lord's Body in your hand, so also receive Him in your heart?

I invite you! COME! Discern the Corpus Christi with me, that we may be joined with Him who rules all of Creation with His Love. Amen+

[NOTE: This is a little long- about 22 minutes, or 2500 words- but this is because I was asked to preach more in the style of 1549. Now, if one reads the "Book of Homilies" prescribed by the 39 Articles to be preached in English Churches, you will find sermons ranging from 3000 to 7000 words- half and hour, to an hour long. So, be thankful I am much shorter than they!]

2008-05-24

Oh, for another Athanasius!

In light of the constant whining and nay-saying and power-politicking in the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church right now, I just wanted to say:

May we be blessed with a horde of modern day Athanasiuses (Athanasius', Athanasii, what IS the plural of Athanasius anyway???).

When good ol' Ath was confronted with a Christendom "that woke up one day to find itself Arian", he did not create a new denomination... Or spout self-fulfilling prophesies about how it was inevitable that the Arians were going to take over the Church... Or say the Church as we know it is bankrupt and must be abandoned... blah, blah, blah.

Instead, he stood for the Truth of Christ loudly and proudly and did not back down. Though exiled five times, and abused in many ways: He did not back down.

He stayed IN the Church and STOOD for orthodoxy (note: Orthodoxy in the "keeping the main thing the main thing" sense, not in the "upholding the greatness of the 1950's Anglo-catholic movement" sense).

His orthodoxy was distinctly Creedal and Christocentric, and he did not let anything distract him from upholding that. He knew Who the Core issue was, and he stayed there.

And, by standing firm on the bedrock of Christ, he won the day.

Too often we make Christ our MASCOT and not our Lord. We do this in subtle ways. Often implicitly, we think and say things like:

"Well sure, Christ is of utmost importance, but the REAL issue here is whether we will have gay bishops"

or

"Well sure, Christ is the main thing, but we REALLY need to worry about who gets the property in this deal."

or even

"Well sure, Christ is our Lord, but we simply MUST restore the Church to its pristine status in the [insert favorite era of Church here]"

I hate to say it, but in all of these ways of thinking, Christ is NOT the main thing. The main thing is a secondary issue, and Christ is raised up as a mascot to validate that secondary issue. Both the Left and the Right does this.

But in the end, I think all heresies and schisms are ultimately Christological. Certainly the first seven Councils were! And at the root of it, I think THIS era in our Church's life is Christological as well. For, if Christ is truly Lord and God, and we truly receive and begin to live into his Lordship, things will change.

But, if someone has not been converted- deeply converted- to the Lordship of Christ, then it does not matter what type of ideological or political coercion you hurl at them: They will not change. They will probably retrench themselves instead.

I think ultimately that what we are dealing with is a whole bunch of partially converted, or unconverted people, on BOTH sides of this debate. Yes, BOTH sides.

Because just as surely as denying the historicity, divinity, and resurrection of Christ are signs that a person is not converted, SO ALSO being filled with fear and hate are signs of not being converted. In fact, all of that can be read out of the five chapters of the letter of first John. That one little letter says that those who "deny" that Jesus is the Christ and has come in the flesh are "antichrist". But it also says that those who hate their brother and who are filled with fear cannot be filled with the Love of God.

On the revisionist side, I see plenty of denying the identity and Lordship of Christ. I see plenty of hatred for the "right" as well. On the conservative side, I see fear, doom-talk, and outright hatred for those on the "left".

Perhaps if we worked harder at mission- at converting people and families and neighborhoods where we actually live and minister- perhaps if more people were genuinely converted to the Lordship of the Risen Christ, then this whole thing would look different.

But both sides have abandoned mission for power politics. Instead of focusing on our local parishes and our local dioceses, we are consumed with a power lust to make ALL dioceses and ALL parishes act the way WE think they should act. We have abandoned the one thing we CAN influence (local mission) for the thing we CANNOT do anything about (the entire communion).

Both sides have crucified their Jesus-mascot on the cross of power-politics. Pretty much what happened to Jesus the first go-round, isn't it?

My advice: Get back to the main thing. Get back to Christology. Get back to the local mission of converting ourselves, our parishes, our neighborhoods, and our cities to Jesus Christ.

Be Athanasius.

Because if we do that, the cultural "battle" over the Anglican Church will take care of itself. Wasn't it Gamaliel who said "If this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them-- in that case you may even be found fighting against God!" (Acts 5:38-39)

Those who are not doing God's will, will atrophy and die off over time. Those who are doing God's will, will convert people and bring them to follow Jesus, who in turn will bring others to follow Jesus, who in turn will grow, and grow, and grow.

And all of that can be done regardless of whether the "left" or the "right" take over the Episcopal Church (or the Anglican Communion). All of THAT can be done regardless of whether all of our property is taken away, or we keep it.

That can be done because we still have our bishop, Christ's vicar. We still have the ordered ministry. We still have sacramental means of grace. We still have God's Word in text and in flesh. We still have the local Body working together for mission.

And if you think you need property, or even pomp and circumstance, to accomplish mission: Ask the Chinese Catholic Church. They seem to have survived and thrived in the last 50 years, despite systematic persecution. Ask the Russian Orthodox Church, who has at least survived after 80 years of systematic persecution. Both are Apostolic and sacramental.

My Lord and God, Jesus Christ: Please raise up Athanasiuses for our age! Please convert all of our whiners and nay-sayers into Apostles. Please convert us again, O Lord, that we may convert the world to you. Amen+

2008-04-22

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE TRUTH

[A.K.A. Nate's Theology in a Nutshell]
A Sermon For Year A, Fifth Easter
Copyright © 2008 Nathan L. Bostian
Based on John 14.1-14

ONE PERENNIAL QUESTION, TWO TROUBLING ANSWERS: Some sermons challenge the heart to feel something new, whether new compassion for people, or new passion for God. Other sermons challenge the imagination to see ourselves and our Reality in a new way. Still other sermons challenge our will to act, to stand boldly for Christ, or to reach out to those in need.

But this sermon is here to challenge your mind, your way of thinking, your understanding of the Reality we live in.

And the mental challenge is the question that Jesus ANSWERS in this passage. Yet, this question isn't ASKED for another four chapters, by a very practical Roman governor named Pilate.

In asking this question, Pilate was in fact, the first "American" we find in the Gospels. Like many of us Americans, Pilate was a very busy, very active, very important person. Pilate had to get deals done, and make people happy.

Like many of us, Pilate had no time for the abstract pie-in-the-sky questioning that the nerdy Greek philosophers liked so much. Nor did he have a taste for the endless religious disputes of the legalistic Jewish scribes.

Like many Americans, Pilate only had time for one thing: Doing what works. Doing what accomplished what he needed when he needed it. Doing what benefited himself most directly.

So, like many Americans today, he summed up his pragmatic disdain for philosophy and religion in one, handy, three-word, sneering question: "What IS Truth?" [John 18.38]

This is, of course, the question that Jesus answered for his disciples in our Gospel for today: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father if not through me."

Now, unless we suffer the same fate of pragmatic Pilate, and crucify Jesus in our minds by misunderstanding what he said, we need to listen afresh to this saying of Jesus.

This text is at the top of the list for being misunderstood. And there seems to be two basic ways this text is misunderstood in our culture today. And, in fact, it is not two ways, but rather mirror images of the same misunderstanding.

On one side of the mirror is this common-sense reading: "Of course, Jesus is setting himself up as THE litmus test to get into heaven. Jesus is quite clear about it. He does not say I am A way, and A truth, and A lie. He says I am THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life. NO ONE gets to God if not THROUGH me."

And, of course, the subtext of this view is: If you do not know Jesus as MY sect knows him, approve OUR doctrines about him, and follow him on OUR path, then you are going to Hell. Period.

And we know what happens all too often to people and churches who hold this view: They start with compassion on all the poor ignorant people who do not know Jesus as they know Him. They patronizingly try to go out and save the heathen.

THEN they begin to look with disdain on others who do not know their jesus. They begin to use their jesus as a huge religious club to beat people into submission, and exclude them from their club. Finally, Jesus becomes the mascot for their view of "the good society", and they raise him up only to validate their political party.

They raise him up just like a man being crucified all over again.

The other unhealthy view of this passage is merely the inverted mirror image of the exclusionary Jesus I just spoke of. This view understands the text in almost the same way, and does the complete opposite with Jesus.

They RIGHTLY assume that the Love of God could not be as narrow as the exclusionary jesus preached by modern day Pharisees. BUT they WRONGLY assume that the ONLY way to view Jesus' exclusivity is to see him as exclusionary. So, they feel they must abandon the text altogether.

Soon, you have people finding ways to cut out the parts of the Bible they consider exclusionary, and only listening to parts of the Bible they consider inclusive. This eventually leads to ignoring whole chunks of Church tradition and Christian history to construct a Jesus we can agree with.

Soon people abandon Jesus and Scripture altogether, just like his own disciples abandoned him when he was crucified, because they were ALSO ashamed of his exclusivity.

THEORIES OF TRUTH: But does Jesus' exclusivity HAVE TO MEAN that Jesus is exclusionary? Does the fact that Jesus is the Truth Incarnate, mean that everyone is going to hell, who does not agree with MY version of Jesus?

I think the reason why many of us assume this is because we often hold unhealthy views of what Truth is. Now, this is kind of wading in deep water. And if what I am about to say confuses you, I want you to chunk it. Get rid of it.

Because the MAIN POINT I want you to get today is that God IS present in Jesus in an exclusive way, beyond how God has ever been present in any other person. Yet, we do not have to be exclusionary, because God is exclusively present in Jesus. In fact, just the opposite is true.

Because God emptied Himself, and entered into human history exclusively in Jesus, we have a reason to INCLUDE every person in God's Love. God included ALL of humanity in His Love, when He included Himself in humanity as Jesus. It is only on the basis of Jesus' exclusivity that we have a concrete, real, definite reason to say that God Loves everyone.

Now comes the DEEP water of WHY this is so. Ready to dive in?

There are several versions of Truth popular today, which are implicit in the way people think, and which cause many of our misunderstandings of what Jesus says in Scripture.

The first vision of the Truth is what is called "SET-BOUNDED" Truth. In this vision, Truth consists in a SET of factual statements about Reality, such as: Nate is almost 6 feet tall. Nate shaves his head. Nate is married to Kim.

Now, in this vision of reality, to know ALL of the Truth, one must collect the complete SET of factual statements about someone. If you could collect all of the right facts about Nate, you would know the full truth about Nate... Yeah, right.

When an entire church accepts this theory of Truth, they begin to have a very curious relationship with Jesus. Knowing Jesus becomes merely collecting, and proving, all of the right facts about Jesus. These facts are then expressed in precise doctrinal statements.

Once an absolutely air tight set of doctrinal statements are defined, then they are erected into a kind of fence around the community. Like any fence, this set of truth statements is used to define who is IN and who is OUT, who is INCLUDED and who is EXCLUDED.

Jesus ceases to be a living Lord, and becomes reduced to a dead definition. People must memorize and assent this definition, or else they are out of the club.

But, Jesus Himself does not seem to believe in this theory of Truth at all. In fact, when He speaks of Truth, he speaks of Truth being a PERSON not a set of PROPOSITIONS. He does not say "This doctrinal statement is the Truth", or even "This Book of Scripture is the Truth".

He says "I am the Truth". "I", the person speaking. "I", who am the Great "I AM" in human form. "I", the Lord who you have a relationship with. "I am the Truth".

So, it seems to miss the boat to codify this living PERSON into a set of dead PROPOSITIONS, and then to make those propositions the litmus test of true Christianity. And this is precisely what those who create an exclusionary Jesus do.

But, those who run screaming from the exclusionary Jesus also suffer from their own peculiar delusion of Truth as well:

They rightly refuse the set-bounded, fenced-off version of Truth as exclusionary, so they often embrace what I call a SELF BOUNDED version of Truth instead.

Self-bounded Truth is very hip, very cool, and very postmodern. Self-bounded Truth takes the insight that Truth is ultimately personal, and runs with it.

In Self-Bounded Truth, the boundary for what is True and what is false is your SELF. Those persons, situations, and ideas that you experience as true are the Truth. Those persons, situations, and ideas that you experience as hypocritical or deficient or distasteful are simply not Truth.

Self-Bounded Truth is exactly how the internet works. It is relational. It is web-like. Think about the web of interconnections generated on your facebook profile.

You are connected to some folks and organizations on facebook. I am connected to other folks and organizations on facebook. And when we connect together, you have access to all I have, and I have access to all you have.

Self-Bounded Truth creates a web of knowledge much like that.

Some see this as a major improvement from all of the bickering over doctrines and boundaries that have characterized Christian history. We replace "fences" of propositions with "webs" of people.

But, at least two problems arise from this view. First, where is Jesus? Is He just another friend on your facebook page? Is Jesus just another string in our web of knowledge?

If I say God is cheese, and you say God is Jesus, and another person says there is no God, is there any arbitration available?

Or is it all just relative? It seems like Self-Bounded Truth can ultimately be nothing more than believing what feels good to me. The Lordship of Jesus is left out entirely.

The other problem is that, despite all the talk of "webs" and "inclusivity", this view is ultimately just as exclusive as the Set-Bounded view.

It is exclusive for the same reason that a high school lunch room is exclusive: People only sit with the people hey feel good sitting with. They only listen to the ideas that make them feel included. They ultimately despise those who are outside of their little web of inclusivity.

And this is perhaps why so many of those who run screaming from the exclusionary Jesus often become so intolerant and exclusionary themselves.

A NEW-OLD VISION OF TRUTH: So, if Jesus is not speaking in Set-Bounded or Self-Bounded terms when He says "I am THE Truth", how is He talking? What does He mean?

I think the vision of Truth that best gets at what Jesus means is a "CENTER-BOUNDED" theory of Truth. Center-Bounded Truth tries to maintain the objectivity and realism of Set-Bounded Truth, WHILE ALSO maintaining the subjectivity and creativity of Self-Bounded Truth.

It does this by seeing Truth as a Person, not merely a set of propositions. It also does this by seeing this Person as the Core, the Center, the Purpose, and the Meaning of what it means to be a Person. In fact, to learn how to really be a person means to participate in, and revolve around, this Person who is at the Center of Reality.

When speaking to the Colossians, St. Paul spoke of this Person by saying: "[Christ] is the image of the invisible God... In him all things in heaven and on earth were created... All things have been created through him and for him... He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together." [Col 1:15-17]

In Center-Bounded Truth, Truth does not have an outer boundary, but an inner Core. Knowing Truth is not found memorizing propositions, but in remembering a Person. Encountering Truth is found in building a relationship, not building a "fence" or a "web".

In fact, Center-Bounded Truth is a lot like planets orbiting the Sun. Our lives are set in orbit around the Son of God. He is our Center of Gravity. The closer we orbit around Him, the more we are filled with His Light, and His Power, and His Divine Energy, just like a planet in close orbit to the Sun.

In fact, one analogy of the Holy Trinity is to see God like the Sun. Now every analogy falls apart somewhere, and so does this one, so only pay attention to it where it is helpful:

But God the Father is the inner Core, the inner Reality of a star. He is the fuel, the Divine Life, that gives the star the energy to shine.

Jesus is the outer surface of the Star. Jesus is God's inner reality made visible. Through Jesus we DIRECTLY feel the Light, the Heat, and the Love of the Divine Life.

He, in fact, is the only surface through which we can truly see, feel, know, and experience God. If anyone shines with God's Love and Light, it is only because they are reflecting Jesus (even if they are not aware that it is Jesus they are reflecting!).

And the Holy Spirit is the pull of gravity that draws all planets- all people, all created things- toward the Love of God that is visible in Jesus Christ. In fact, the Love of Christ's Spirit IS the spiritual gravity of the Universe. Think about that for a while...

And just as ONE star never exists without the THREE aspects of its inner reality, its outer surface, and its radiating gravity, light, and heat: So also God never exists without being ONE Reality existing forever in THREE persons of Father, Son, and Spirit.


FREESTYLE OBJECT LESSON:
  • The Purpose of Life is to be in as tight an orbit/relationship as possible with the Source of Life: Christ
  • Doctrines are helpful as signs that point to Truth. They are NOT the Truth they point to.
  • Relational webs are important as tools to draw us into Truth, but they are NOT the Truth either.
  • Some are way out of orbit, in the frozen deep-space of sin: We need to bring them closer.
  • Some are in close orbit in knowing Christ, but far away in living as Christ: We need to bring them closer.
  • Some are in close orbit in living as Christ, bat far away in knowing Christ: We need to bring them closer.
  • We can be in the same close orbit with Christ, but separate trajectories on X, Y, Z, axis (Sacramental, Evangelical, Mystical)
  • CHALLENGE: We can learn from each other's trajectory, and help each other grow closer and closer to Christ.

2008-04-21

Storm Damage Next Door

This blog is up to help us sort out some storm damage with neighbors. Simply click on an image to enlarge the picture.




2008-04-18

Campus Minister Receives Evangelism Award [Sat 19-Apr 11am]

The Late +Donis Patterson, Bishop of Dallas

Our Campus Minister, Nate Bostian, has received the "Bishop Donis Patterson" award for excellence in Evangelistic preaching. Part of his reward for the award is to preach Saturday at 11am at the Stanton School for Ministry, located at St. Matthew's Cathedral near downtown Dallas.

So, to come hear Nate preach at the Eucharist for the Stanton Center, show up at St. Matthew's Cathedral at 11am, Saturday April 19th. Lunch will follow. To find the Cathedral, go here:
http://www.episcopalcathedral.org

When contacted for comment, Nate said "Huh? I won what? You're kidding, right?"

Just joking. I am very grateful for the award, and hope that this award will be an encouragement for Episcopal Seminarians and Clergy to actively engage in evangelism, so that all those who come in contact with us and our ministries may come to know, love, and follow Jesus Christ as Lord.

The task of preaching, week-in and week-out, can be a daunting task for anyone. And the biggest temptations are to get in a comfort zone, and roll through our little hamster wheel of favorite topics in preaching. But, when we do that, we do not challenge ourselves nor our congregations.

For me, evangelistic preaching is essentially a challenge: A challenge to deeper conversion to Christ, and a challenge to more fervent love for the Lord Jesus. I think, in our culture, evangelism is often too tied with that one, big, initial decision to follow Christ, and too disconnected from the process of Christian formation and discipleship.

On one hand, I believe there is a moment in everyone's life- perhaps at baptism, or perhaps at a decisive conversion- when we cross from death-apart-from-Christ into eternal-life-in-Christ. On the other hand, I know from my own conversion, as well as ministry in several different "flavors" of Church, that no convert is fully "converted" at the moment of conversion. They may have crossed from death to life, but there is an ever deepening process of growing into that life, and converting every part of ourselves over to that new way of living.

While salvation happens in an instant, conversion is a lifetime process. It doesn't happen over night.

So, with that said, I see little difference between the "first" conversion that puts someone on the Road with Christ, and the hundreds or thousands of deeper conversions that happen in a person's Journey with Christ. All are conversions. All result in a greater surrender of one's entire being to the Risen Lord Jesus. All are challenges.

For me, evangelistic preaching challenges the hearer to deeper conversion. It may be the first conversion. It may be the five hundredth deeper conversion that happens after that first conversion. It may be a conversion of mind (how we think), a conversion of will (how we live), or a conversion of heart (how we feel). It may be a conversion of how we treat others (which in turn will influence how we see God), or a conversion of how we see God (which in turn will influence how we treat others).

For some, a challenge of worldview and mindset may trigger initial conversion to Christ (in a manner like CS Lewis). For others, a challenge of the emotions- such as guilt over sin and the existential need to have burdens lifted- may trigger initial conversion to Christ (in a manner like Martin Luther). And yet for others, the conversion may be a mixture of mental, emotional, and social factors (in a manner like Augustine).

And you never know which kind of "challenge" might "do the trick" of awakening the hearer's conscience and converting to Christ. Some put evangelistic preaching in the "formula" box, and say that it must always follow "four spiritual laws" or "five stages" or whatever. Others make it a kind of recipe: Take one funny story, follow it with a tear-jerker story, add in three ways we have sinned and are under God's judgment, put in a dash of guilt, and top it with a sentimental song and an altar call, and there you have it. Others think it must always be some kind of logical dissertation, where we take a false worldview, systematically refute it, show how only Christ is adequate, then push for a decision.

And, I think good evangelistic preaching can learn from each of these methods. Because, each of these methods (or some mixture of them with other methods) COULD be the tool that the Holy Spirit uses to bring about conversion. But not always, and not uniformly. So, to put evangelistic preaching in a box and say "It must always be done this way" is to both oversimplify it, and to ensure that your preaching is going to miss different types of people.

Instead, here is what I see as THE THREEFOLD CORE of Evangelistic Preaching:

FIRST, good evangelistic preaching should connect with felt needs of your congregation. This requires creativity. It is not enough to proclaim the Risen Christ if your people have no felt awareness of their need for Christ. It is not enough to urge conversion of our minds, our hearts, our relationships, or our work life to Christ if the congregation really feels OK with where they are at in these areas. So, you have got to dig and know your congregation. You have to know where they are feeling the struggles and the pains. Then you have to find a way to connect those problems to solutions in Christ.

SECOND, good evangelistic preaching should find ultimate resolution in personally knowing, loving, and following Jesus Christ. It is easy for sermons to degenerate into abstract ideas, a laundry list of ten things to do better this week, or a political party to vote for. It is easy for preaching to become merely academic, merely moralistic, or merely political and entirely miss connecting with the Person of Jesus Christ. Now, preaching cannot help but introducing new ideas, moral principals, and even political ramifications. Following Jesus means that ALL of these areas of life will be impacted. But, it is so very easy to think that following Jesus means JUST ideas, morals, and politics. We have to aim for a personal conversion to a personal relationship with Jesus who we personally know, love, and follow (just as we personally know and love our friend, spouse, or child). Without this dimension of personal relationship, all of these other things become meaningless and dispensable. So, aim to connect people personally with Jesus.

THIRD, good evangelistic preaching issues a challenge to do something definite with Jesus Christ. We can connect with people's felt needs, and then talk about how those felt needs find personal resolution in Jesus Christ. But, if we do not challenge people to DO SOMETHING with that knowledge, it profits no one. Good evangelistic sermons should leave us with the equivalent of: "Now that you have heard all of this stuff, here is what you can do about it". It may be something for people to sit and pray about right at the end of the sermon. It might be something to do upon leaving. It might even be a good old fashioned "altar call" like you would find at a Baptist Church. But, I think our Eucharistic liturgy provides more opportunities than you might think for evangelistic commitment.

Most "evangelicals" I know see liturgy as an impediment to evangelism. And, if you are only talking about evangelism of the tear-jerking kind, perhaps they are right. But, if you are talking about the evangelism I am speaking of, I think our liturgy actually gives us an "evangelical edge". Consider the following:
  • After every sermon we have an opportunity to affirm our faith in the Creed. You can challenge people to recite the Creed and really think about it, really mean it, and really use it as a prayer of conversion and belief in the Triune God.
  • After every sermon, we have prayers of the people. Have you ever thought about re-writing the prayers of the people to aim them toward a personal conversion, and a meditation upon what was just preached? Have you ever thought about adding in times of silence during the prayers for meditation and deeper conversion?
  • After every sermon, we literally have an "altar call" at Eucharist. Every Sunday, our people come up to receive Jesus in their hands. Encourage them to receive Him in their hearts and minds as well.
  • After every sermon, we are blessed and sent out to do God's work in the world. This could easily be adapted and expanded to be a concrete act of conversion for your congregants.
Now, I would never do more than one of these "adaptations" in a given week. And I would not use an "adaptation" of the Liturgy every Sunday (although I probably do something along these lines 2 out of 3 Sundays). But, I would try and aim EVERY SERMON to be evangelistic in the sense that EVERY SERMON should challenge our people to a deeper conversion to Christ. It may be a first conversion, or the five hundredth, but everyone has some part of their lives that needs to be personally transformed by the power of the Risen Lord Christ. Amen.

2008-04-06

PRACTICING CHRIST WITH THE EARLY CHURCH


A Sermon For Year A, Third Easter
Copyright © 2008 Nathan L. Bostian

Based on Acts 2:14a,36-47; John 21:1-14

MY FAVORITE RANDOM FACTOID: Tonight we heard in the Gospel one of my favorite random factoids in Scripture.

Did you catch it?

Nope. It wasn't the fact that St. Peter liked fishing naked. I mean, that is an INCREDIBLY interesting factoid. And the next time you get into a conversation with a Roman Catholic friend about the origin of the Church, I think you should mention that the first Pope liked casting his nets in the buff.

But it isn't my favorite factoid.

And while I love the factoid that Jesus actually cooked breakfast for his disciples, it is not my favorite either. Don't get me wrong. I love that Jesus not only comes back from the grave, but he cooks for his friends. Now THAT is full service resurrection:

"Pardon me, but would you like two eggs over easy with your victory over the grave?"

Yet, my FAVORITE random factoid is 153 fish: "Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them."

153 fish. How INCREDIBLY RANDOM is that?

Through the ages many great sages have tried to fathom the mystery of WHY St. John chose to include random factoid of 153 fish. Here are some ideas they came up with:

Some sages once said that there were only 153 species of fish in the sea, and therefore this symbolically means that Christ has sent his disciples as "fishers of humanity" to "catch" every type of human on Earth.

Other sages have said that this refers to all of Noah's progeny through his sons Ham, Shem, and Japheth. One refers to Shem's race, three refers to Ham's race, and five refers to Japheth's race. Again, it supposed to mean that Christ sent His disciples out to reach every race.

Yet others have said that 153 is the number of people Jesus ministers to in the Gospel of John.

Still others say that Jesus lived for 12,240 days which equals 80 x 153; And Jesus ministered for 918 days which equals 6 x 153. Apparently, St. John must have kept a backup copy of Jesus' daytimer to keep up with all the statistics.

And these are just the reasonably sane theories. There are mystical theories that 153 is symbolic language for deep spiritual secrets. And there are geometric theories that 153 is the surface area of shapes that give us deep insight into God's nature.

I don't know about you, but all of these theories strike me as bending over backwards to explain away the obvious. It's not as if St. John was sitting up late one night, with his graphing calculator, to figure out a way to insert an inane secret message into his version of the Jesus Story.

In fact, in the verse before this Story, John says: "These [things] are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name."

I think all of the speculation simply misses the point. I think the point is that the person who authored this Story was THERE, present AT the actual event. And since they were THERE, they wrote little details that showed they were there: Little details that no one would have thought of, if they were just making this stuff up.

Little details like the fact that St. Peter was a nudist fisherman, Jesus cooks a mean breakfast, and there were, in fact, one hundred fifty three fish in the net. They all lead me to believe that this isn't fiction. Jesus is actually alive.

WHAT THEY DID NOT DO ABOUT IT: So, Jesus is alive. Death has been put to death. The captivity of sin has been held captive. In the face of the Risen Lord Jesus we see the Love stronger than death.

So, what did the early disciples do about it?

When we look at our reading from Acts, we see a snapshot of the Church within the first months after the Risen Christ cooked breakfast for his naked friends.

What do we see the Church DOING about this momentous event? What was their REACTION to Christ's resurrection?

Well, let me tell you some things their reaction was NOT:

First, their reaction was not that of the ivory tower academic. They did not spend their time debating over the precise meaning of the resurrection. They did not commission a lecture series, write a thesis, or start and new academic journal, to discuss the ramification of 153 fish.

But, their reaction was also not that of a mystical guru. They did not merely sit and meditate on the resurrection, while chanting "OOOM". They did not go hide out in caves and become hermits, hiding out from the world. Instead, the early Church chose to be active IN the world.

Yet, their reaction was not that of the left-wing social activist, or the right-wing fundamentalist. Have you ever noticed how- even though they are frequently on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum- they often pursue their goals in the same way, and have the same type of personality?

Both the left-wing activist and the right-wing fundamentalist seeks to impose their Truth on everybody through the use of politics and propaganda. But, this isn’t what the early Church did.

In fact, the early Church's reaction is ALSO completely different than the reaction of God's people in the Old Testament. When God brought Israel out of Egypt, what was their reaction? They created Laws and a political system to insure everyone did EXACTLY what the priestly authorities thought they needed to do to stay in God's good graces.

But the early Church was different from the high priests of Israel's past, as well as the political high priests of America's present. The early Church was completely uninterested in making all of society follow Jesus by using legal and political coercion.

The Church, in fact, reacted in a way completely different from the modern academic, the spiritual guru, and the social activist. This is because the Church had a different model to follow: Jesus Christ.

Christ never reacted in the way the world expected, because Christ was someone that the world couldn’t comprehend. And it makes sense that the Church would mimic Christ, because we ARE His Body. We are his hands and feet. He is OUR head.

So, it is no wonder that the Church would practice Christ, and not fit into the social models that the world provides. Should we expect anything less from a Risen Lord who gives us 153 fish?

WHAT THEY DID DO ABOUT IT: So, when we look at the reaction of the early Church to the resurrection, we notice the following characteristics:

First, we notice that they were passionate about Christ and serious about connecting with Him. Our text said they "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching". They devoted themselves. They drank it up. They immersed themselves in it. They took it seriously.

They knew the Apostles had been with the Risen Christ, and they knew that they had things to learn about Christ from them. They believed that God worked in their life through their teaching.

This means that the Early Church did what we would call "Bible Study". The main difference, of course, was that their Bible was primarily spoken from the lips of the Apostles themselves, while our Bible is a handed down book compiled from their teachings.

When was the last time you read the Bible expecting God to speak to you through the text? When was the last time you really listened to those life-changing teachings that are found in Scripture? When is the last time you let the Bible READ YOU and tell you things about your life?

And when is the last time you discussed all of that with people who are trying to grow in God as well? Let me challenge you: If you are not currently in a group of people who discuss the Apostle's teaching in Scripture, then find such a group.

It may be a Canterbury Bible Study, but even if it isn't: Find a group of people who read Scripture, and seriously discuss what it says, expecting God to change and transform them through the interaction.

We also notice that the early Church "devoted themselves... to the breaking of bread". They connected with the Risen Christ regularly in worship and sacrament.

They realized that this meal we do- this meal where we break bread and drink wine- they realized that this meal is more than just a fun get-together, or a sentimental symbol.

They realized that the Risen Christ is somehow present IN this meal. That He is really Present. That this bread IS His Body, and this wine IS His Blood. They realized that as they ate and drank this food to nourish their body, that the Real Presence of Christ in the meal also nourished their soul.

They didn't just come to break bread out of some vague religious guilt that if they didn't do it, they were a bad person. NO! They came to break bread in JOY that they were going to encounter their Risen Lord IN the meal.

They didn't know HOW Christ is present any more than we do. It's a mystery. But, the important thing is not HOW Christ is present, but THAT He is present.

When is the last time you came to eat this bread and drink this cup, EXPECTING to encounter the Risen Lord Christ? I encourage you to join the early Church and come with JOY and EXPECTATION to break bread with Christ tonight.

We also see that the early Church connected to Christ by "devot[ing] themselves to... the prayers". The early Church was a praying people. The early Church believed that by praying, they connected with Christ, and were changed and transformed into His image.

Furthermore, they believed that prayer was powerful. Through prayer, God DOES THINGS in the world. Now, I do not know exactly how this works any more than I know exactly how Jesus is present in the Communion meal.

All I know is THAT prayer works.

Prayer changes us. Prayer changes the world. Prayer opens doors that were closed. Prayer closes doors that God doesn't want open.

Through prayer, God gently guides us to His will. This involves God saying "NO" to many of our requests. But it also involves Him saying "YES" in ways we cannot predict.

Prayer is a mystery that draws us up into the life of the Risen Christ, and opens a conduit for His Spirit to work through us.

When is the last time you really prayed? When is the last time you really opened yourself to the presence and power of Christ's Spirit flowing through you? How often do you open yourself in prayer to God's will for your life?

I invite you tonight: Pray. Set aside time every day to open yourself to Christ's life flowing through you.

So, we see how the early Church reacted to Christ's resurrection by connecting with Him in the Apostle's teaching, in the Communion Meal, and in regular prayer.

But this is not the only way the Church reacted.

The Church also reacted by connecting with each other. Our Story tonight tells us they devoted themselves to "fellowship". Yet, fellowship is a term much-abused in our culture today.

Fellowship brings up images of happy, smiley people enjoying each other's company. Fellowship describes parties and laughter and excitement. And, that is definitely part of what fellowship meant for the early Church.

Our Story tells us: "They spent much time together... they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts". So, one side of fellowship is the fun side.

But that's not all. The word fellowship in Greek could probably better be translated by "Deep, interwoven, sharing". Fellowship means that they not only shared the good times, but the hard times as well.

Notice that they not only had fun together, but they sold their goods and sacrificed for each other, so that everyone would have what they needed.

Perhaps the most incredible reaction to the Resurrection was that it created a community of people who sacrificially loved each other, and shared in each other's life.

And, our Story says this was a day-in, day-out thing. "Day by Day" they were there for each other. "Day by Day" they shared joy and pain with each other. "Day by Day..."

Are you devoted to daily fellowship- deep, interwoven sharing- with people who are seeking to follow Christ? Do you make daily time for those relationships which will help you grow to be more like Jesus, more filled with Jesus?

I invite us all to form here at Canterbury the type of fellowship- the type of deep, interwoven sharing- that will enable us all to grow into the image of Christ.

The final thing I want you to notice about the early Church's reaction to the Risen Christ was how they dealt with the world outside of the Church. They impacted the world around them, but not through politics, propaganda, or legal coercion.

Instead, they self-sacrificially shared what they had. They prayed, and miracles happened. People were healed. They preached the Good News of Christ's resurrection. People were saved and transformed.

In short, they loved. They Loved the Lord Jesus first and foremost, through teaching, sacrament, and prayer. They Loved each other in a deep interconnected fellowship. And they Loved the world around them, and shared the power of the Risen Christ through their preaching and service to that world.

Another way to say this is to say that their reaction to Christ's resurrection was to FULFILL HIS GREAT COMMANDMENTS: They Loved Him above all, and they Loved their neighbors, as they Loved each other.

This Love was not an abstract concept, or a sentimental feeling, or a political program. This Love was practiced in specific acts of Love, such as worship, sacrament, discussion, prayer, service, fellowship, preaching, and healing.

Ultimately, we become like Christ by practicing Christ: By living how He lived and doing what He did. What we practice is what we become. It was true for them, then. It is true for us, now.

What you practice is what you become. I invite you tonight to practice Christ with me. Amen+
This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.