The Mission of Confession: the World needs the Church to Confess


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And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!
Genesis 4.10

I was taking another look at the verses I wrote about earlier this week, and was struck by a few more thoughts I wanted to share. As I said then, the passage is structured liturgically. The story of Cain and Abel follows the flow of liturgy that God’s people have used for the duration of their existence. (It’s usually something like this: Call to Worship–>Call to Confession–>Passing the Peace–>Word–>Sacrament–>Benediction)

I pointed out that the blood-soaked soil “crying out” was the first instance of lament in the Bible, and it appears in the “Call to Confession” section of this odd liturgy-story, and it shows us how the world bears the weight of our own sin. Looking at it again, though, I see it means much more than just that.

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Moses the Levite? | Exodus 2:12


Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman.
Exodus 2.12

These are Moses’ unnamed parents. It’s interesting that the text makes a point to say they are both Levitra, the priesthood branch of the family. Notice that both Aaron and Miriam, Moses is siblings, would have also come from the priesthood side of the family. I wonder if this gives Miriam a certain Priestley role in the community as well? Either way, I never noticed that Moses and Aaron are both Levites. This gives Moses a much more priestly, rather than prophetic, role in what he does, and the function he serves in the story and the community.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The Liturgy of Cain & the Tears of the Earth


de Goya-fight with cudgels"Our Lent series this year is “The Weeping Word“, where we’re meditating on key places in the Scriptures where Lament, crying, tears, and weeping happen. Today, we look at the first instance of this in the Bible.

There is a particular rhythm that God’s people have always used in their liturgy. If you pay attention, you’ll see this rhythm pop up in lots of different places throughout the Christian Scriptures. My favorite unexpected place where this shows up is in the story of Cain and Abel.

Worship

The story opens with these two brothers coming to worship, answering an implied Call to Worship that issues from God. This is where the liturgical rhythm begins. God calls us to worship him, and we respond by offering him this worship to him.

But everyone comes to worship from different places, and not everyone’s heart and offering is pure.

And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Our worship gets twisted and directed towards the wrong things, and this is what we call sin. Offering worship wrongly and to the wrong things. Wrong worship produces wickedness within us.

“Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him.

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The most succinct defense of infant baptism I’ve ever read.


“It might be argued that there is not one explicit reference in the New Testament to a child being baptized. Have we any warrant then for doing it? If we require explicit texts for our practice, then there would be no warrant for women to come to the Lord’s Table. There is no single explicit reference to that in the New Testament. Our warrant is not in isolated texts or precedents, but in the Gospel itself. Christ died for men and women, adults and infants, and we acknowledge that in faith in baptism…”

— from James B. Torrance’s beautiful book Worship, Communion, and the Triune God of Grace 

Lent begins tomorrow. (Will you just give it a try?)


Jesus & The Cross

I grew up in a church tradition that did not take seriously the Christian Church Calendar. Even as I went to college and moved into communities that took some level of tradition more seriously (which was usually limited to quoting Puritans and Reformers in sermons), the Church Calendar wasn’t that big of a deal. It was seen as something sort-of cool that could be incorporated into the already established life of the Church; a buffet from which leaders could pick and choose some aspects that might be helpful in organizing some sermon series or songs. But it certainly wasn’t seen as something that a church should actually incorporate itself into, or build it’s own rhythm around.

I’ve had the privilege of having this paradigm rocked the past several years at my church, and have fallen in love with the Church calendar. It influences much of the rhythm and timbre of my everyday life–both ecclesial and otherwise. I find such life in living within a stream of thought that was not simply created within the past generation by baptizing modern Western American cultural ideas.

I love finding myself as embedded within the cloud of witnesses that have gone before me as possible–even those I may disagree with passionately and fundamentally. Because, at the end of the day, they are my family, and families have traditions. Sure, you can be “that guy” that does his own thing and doesn’t participate in the family rhythms, but where’s the life in that?

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Male Headship & Societal Injustice | Esther 1:17-22


Queen_Vashti_Refuses_to_Obey_Ahasuerus_CommandToday’s post falls into both our new section of the site called Marginalia and our on-going series on Women in the Church.

For this deed of the queen will be made known to all women, causing them to look with contempt on their husbands, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will rebel against the king’s officials, and there will be no end of contempt and wrath! If it pleases the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be altered, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, vast as it is, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.”

This advice pleased the king and the officials, and the king did as Memucan proposed; he sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, declaring that every man should be master in his own house.
Esther 1.17–22

I can imagine a conservative evangelical looking at this and saying to themselves, “Now, the king’s court is recognizing a natural order in the way God has made a marital relationship to work, even though they go about reinforcing this biblically-supported picture in the wrong way–through force and not love”. I hope that’s a fair representation.

But either way, (1) they would not want us to pull from this text any lessons about how male headship itself is wrong, just how it’s done badly here, and (2) they would still think the concern of these males is justified (and perhaps even right), as we’ve seen similar dynamics play out in our culture in the aftermath of feminism.

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Weekly Must-Reads {2.12.14} | Creation, Masturbation, & Communism


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Well, it’s been a good long while since I’ve posted a Reading List for you all to enjoy–too long, in fact. These were some of my favorite things I read this week. What were some of yours?

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In defense of creationists | The Week
Michael Brendan Dougherty

I referenced this at the end of my post yesterday, but this is a stunningly beautiful piece that wrestles with humanizing those that frustrate us the most in the Christian family. A must-read for sure.

Escaping the Prison of the Self: C.S. Lewis on Masturbation | First Things
Wesley Hill

Don’t overlook this piece too quickly. It is an incredibly powerful piece that speaks to how all of us–married, single, gay, straight–engage our sexuality in this world. It showed me how having celibate unmarried people in the world is necessary for healthy marriages, as well as how masturbation ruins even good friendships.

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Crazy thought of the day: God Died. [QUOTE]


“The task of witnessing to the gospel is to vitalize the astonishing fact of the gospel. The message “the Son of God has died” is indeed most astonishing…. God has died! If this does not startle us, what will? The church must keep this astonishment alive. The church ceases to exist when she loses this astonishment. Theology, the precise understanding of the gospel, must be seized by this astonishment more than anyone else. It is said that philosophy begins with wonder; so theology begins with wonder. The wonder of philosophy pales before the wonder of theology. The person astonished by the tidings “God has died” can no longer be astonished at anything else.”

Kazoh Kitamori, Theology of the Pain of God

Why my soul is glad to have feminists around me


wwii-woman-we-can-do-it-feminismThis is a post in our on-going series on Women in the Church.

As I wrote last week, I was at my in-person seminary intensive the past two weeks. While there, I met a woman who is about to be ordained a minister in my denomination. We were all sharing our stories and I told her I was raised a Southern Baptist. Having been raised in area where they have little to no foothold, she had only had one experience with a Southern Baptist.

She was working a table at a conference where an older gentleman carrying a large briefcase approached, telling her how excited he was about the next speaker–a “fellow Southern Baptist”. Not being familiar with the speaker’s work, this woman asked the gentleman what the work was on. He put his briefcase on the table, opened it up and pulled out a large tome, saying “this is his book, and it is wonderful.” He almost began to summarize its contents, but stopped short, instead pulling out a much smaller paperback, saying “but that book may be too hard for you to understand. Here, look at this one. It’s much simpler.”

He then realized he had no idea why a woman would be at this conference in the first place. He asked, “and so what do you do?”

She told him that she was at seminary studying for her Masters of Divinity.

This gentleman quietly put the books back in his suitcase, shut it, locked the clasps, looked at her, and solemnly said, “you know you’re going to burn for that, right?” And he walked away.

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Welcome to Epiphany. (And a free Mixtape to celebrate!)


epiphany-mixtape-coverIf you’re just looking for the mixtape, click here for the official Epiphany Mixtape page.

From now until Lent, the Church Calendar is in the season of Epiphany.

Basically, this season seems like it’s sort of a Church Calendar “junk drawer” to meditate and celebrate on all the other parts of Jesus’ life that happened between his Advent/Birth and his Death.

And don’t misread that. In describing it that way, I hope that doesn’t diminish this season for anyone.

Perhaps the most precious doctrine of the Christian faith for me is that of the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness. That’s a fancy way of saying that Jesus lived out a righteous life, and his very own righteousness is given to me as my own. And so, with a complete and perfect righteousness in hand, I don’t have to bear the weight of shame or condemnation. This is so beautiful to me.

But this Righteousness in which I am dressed was not created out of thin air, nor was it created by Christ at the Cross, or even at his Resurrection. It was built throughout his life of obedience to His Father, as the light of his character and life grew brighter and brighter in the midst of our darkened world. It’s this part of his life that we celebrate and meditate upon in this season.

And this is amazing. As I’ve written before, if Herod had been successful in killing the infant Jesus, there would be an essential aspect of our salvation that’s missing. This is why Epiphany is so important.

And so, to try and help me spend some time meditating on this season, the best way I knew to think deeply about all this was to re-post Epiphany mixtape I first posted last year.

To read more about the specifics of Epiphany, the mixtape, and to listen/download it yourself, you can either read below or just go to the official Epiphany Mixtape page.

[cover image credit: the photo on the mixtape cover is used with the gracious permission of photographer and friend of the blog, David Schrott]