Wednesday, December 31, 2008

200 Words #5: Inwardly Digest his Holy Scriptures

DNA of a Maturing Church:

200 Words #5: Inwardly Digest his Holy Scriptures:
Anglicans use great verbs like ‘Hear’, 'Read’, ‘Mark’, ‘Learn’, and ‘Inwardly digest'?

The Bible says a lot about itself, but not for itself. It claims to be living, like your heart. And infallible, making the believer wise for salvation. It is more life-giving than bread. It’s a torch (guiding feet); a scalpel (dividing soul from spirit); rain (yielding crop). It is narrative; history; poetry; prophecy; each announcing (and sometimes questioning) bold truth. It is Revelation, from cover to cover revealing Jesus.

God doesn't merely dictate the Bible. He breathes it. It is Spiritual Food to be digested, sometimes bitter; sometimes sweet. If God removed his Prophetic Word, it would be worse than a sub-Saharan food crisis.

It is a risk from God: open to misinterpretation and twisting. It is ‘Christianity’s Dangerous Idea’. So we need to read it, more and everywhere. But most of all, in Church. Old and New Testaments. Psalm. Gospel. (Do we shamefully read it less than liturgical liberals do?)

The prayer is that the Word might dwell among us, richly.

Tell me, is 'inwardly digest' tautology? Is it possible to 'outwardly digest’? Perhaps the Ancients chose tautology as the only way to push past stubborn hearts.

NEXT: Promote Preaching with Gravitas.

Scripture references, either click on the yellow links, or by clicking HERE.
(Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:15, Deuteronomy 8:3, Psalm 119:105, Hebrews 4:12-13, Isaiah 55:10-11, Habakkuk 1:1-3, John 5:37-40, 2 Peter 1:19-21, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 5:12, Revelation 10:9-10, Psalm 119:103, Amos 8:11-12, 2 Peter 3:15-16, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Colossians 3:16.)
Pics on Flickr by YanivG.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Movie Review: Slumdog Millionaire.

Please see it. Now.

Thank you.

(P.S. I must send you to my friend Brandon Fibb's Review of Slumdog on Christianity Today, and also his own Movie Review website.)


Sermon Audio: A Sword will Pierce Your Soul (Simeon)

CLICK HERE (or right click to download) a Sermon from yesterday on Luke 2:22-38. My friend Jim does the reading, and then John Mason leads a creed, and the sermon starts 4 minutes in.

In that text, Simeon says to Mary, almost as an afterthought,
Behold, this child [Jesus] is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.
"A Sword will pierce your soul". Heavy. I explore those words. And hear why Comfort comes through Conflict; Peace through Pain, and Resurrection through Death.

Oh, and here is Frederick Buechner on Simeon in 'Peculiar Treasures':
Jesus was still in diapers when his parents brought him to the Temple in Jerusalem ‘to present him to the Lord’ (Luke 2:22), as the custom was, and offer a sacrifice, and that’s when old Simeon spotted him.

Years before, he’d been told he wouldn’t die till he’s seen the Messiah with his own two eyes, and time was running out. When the moment finally came, one look through his cataract lenses was all it took. He asked if it would be all right to hold the baby in his arms, and they told him to go ahead but be careful not to drop it.

‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation,’ he said, the baby playing with the fringes of his beard. The parents were pleased as punch, and so he blessed them too for good measure. Then something about the mother stopped him, and his expression changed.

What he saw in her face was a long way off, but it was there so plainly he couldn’t pretend. 'A sword will pierce through your soul,' he said.
He would rather have bitten off his tongue than said it, but in that holy place he felt he had no choice. Then he handed her back the baby and departed in something less than the perfect peace he’d dreamed of all the long years of his waiting.

Listen HERE.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

200 Words #4: Proclaim and Promote his Holy Gospel.

The DNA of a mature church in 200 Words:

#4: A Church that Proclaims and Promotes his Holy Gospel.

They say one must 'preach the gospel to yourself’, since the ‘eu-angel’ removes my guilt through Jesus my Saviour, evoking in me both humility and confidence. ‘We are more sinful than we imagined, more loved than we dreamed’.

However, the Scriptures reveal a Gospel about Jesus, not me. The earliest preachers preached thus: ‘This Jesus (whom you crucified) has been raised as Lord’. This is eu-angelion: Grand News. Jesus (not Caesar) is Lord and Judge of the quick and the dead. He is the image of the invisible God, through whom and for whom all things were created and will find their sum.

What makes this grand news, good news? There will be peace and justice. What makes this grand news, personal news? That in love, this Messiah died for me, to bring me to God. Yes, the one to whom I submit loves with an everlasting love.

Not everyone is an Evangelist, but the global plan is that the Church spreads this evangel. She hopes in Jesus, preaches him crucified, declares him Lord, calls for repentance. She prays and pays its way. She walks worthy of and acts in line with its truth.

Try preaching that only to yourself.

Scripture references can be read by clicking on the yellow links, or on one page by clicking HERE. (Acts 2:36, Colossians 1:15, 1:16, Ephesians 1:9-10, Isaiah 9:7, Galatians 2:20, 1 Peter 3:18, Jeremiah 31:3, 1 Timothy 1:1, 1 Corinthians 2:2, Colossians 4:3, 1 Timothy 5:17-18, Philippians 1:27, Galatians 2:14.)
Pic on Flickr by SeenyaRita.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

200 Words #3: Born of and Empowered by the Spirit.

The DNA of a mature church in 200 Words:

#3: A Church Born of and Empowered by the Spirit.

Go outside, and feel the wind against your face.

What happened? Chances are you felt a breeze and saw trees swaying. But you neither saw the wind, nor had any power over it.

Let’s be bold: If you do not belong to Christ, then that breeze is as close to the Holy Spirit as you are

That’s how Jesus explained ‘The New Start’ to Nicodemus. Alluding to Ezekiel, Jesus declared God as the agent of salvation: breathing life into the dead; giving new starts to sinful lives; bringing hope to those ‘cut off’. You can’t see him, nor control his grace, but his work is evident.

The Spirit is God, and yet he proceedeth from the Father and the Son. God does not orphan children. So he convicts. He intercedes. He comforts. He teaches. He empowers. He slices the heart. He decants God’s Love in Christ.

Consider another wind-like moment: Pentecost, the birth of the Church. There, typical of the Spirit, the crucified Jesus is proclaimed ‘Lord’, sinners convicted and called to repentance.

If a church is not empowered, proclaiming Christ as Lord, then it should meet outside. The breeze will be as close to God as it will.ever.get.

Scripture references can be read by clicking on the yellow links, or on one page by clicking HERE. (Romans 8:9, John 3:1-8, Ezekiel 36:22-32, Ezekiel 37:8-10, Ezekiel 37:11-12, Ezekiel 37:23, 1 Corinthians 2:9-11, John 14:16-18, John 16:7-11, Romans 8:26-27, Acts 9:31, 1 Corinthians 12:11, Ephesians 6:16-17, Romans 5:5, Acts 2:1-3, Acts 2:36-38).
Pic on Flickr by Ben.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

200 Words #2: Love and Serve Jesus.

The DNA of a mature church in 200 Words:

#2: A Mature Church will grow to Love and Serve Jesus.
'Decisions are made by those who show up.' Presence, according to Jed Bartlett, counts.

From ancient times, God promised to 'show up', (with gravitas, naturally: 'The LORD your God will come.')

God promised to come to his temple; to ‘bare his holy arm, bringing salvation’; and that his feet would 'stand on the Mount of Olives'. The ancients believed that God would come to his temple, but not on an actual donkey. Nor that his holy arm, bared, could have actual hands. Nor that he his feet, standing, could be pierced.

Jesus prayed for the Father’s will to be ‘done on earth, as in heaven’. It turns out that Jesus is God’s will embodied ‘on earth, as in heaven’. He preached the Kingdom, bound the brokenhearted, and promised wrath for the faithless.

Like Father, like Son.

John says God ‘pitched his tent among us’. But we are not happy campers: ‘he came to his own, and his own disowned him’.

And yet there is method in the madness: In giving his life, he beat the path to an impossible door: His Kingdom, with justice met and grace received.

And raised as Messiah, he requires one thing: YOU. (And your knees!)


  • Scripture references can be read by clicking on the yellow links, or in one page by clicking HERE. (Isaiah 35:4, Malachi 3:1, Isaiah 52:10, Zechariah 14:3-4, Matthew 6:10, Matthew 4:17, John 3:36, John 1:11-14, Mark 10:23-27, Philippians 2:8-11)
  • Pic on Flickr by Yousef Al-Asfour

Friday, December 19, 2008

200 Words #1: Glorify and Fear the One True God

Just some kite flying on what the DNA of a mature church might be. So in 200 Words:

#1: A Mature Church will grow to Glorify and Fear the One True God
Jesus doesn't tell us what the Pearl of Great Price actually is. All we know is that when a merchant saw one 'of great value’ he put all his eggs into one basket. We are not told if the merchant is God (who gave his son), or one of his followers. But we know that the Kingdom is made up of those who sell everything when they witness great value.

God is of supreme value.

God is Father, Son and Spirit. We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, and he invites us into this relationship. God is fierce; you’d be smart to fear him who can bring hell to both body and soul. God is tender, healing legs, and teaching his people to walk. God is Spirit, and will be worshiped in Spirit and in Truth.

No one in John's Heaven is bored day and night singing: Holy, holy, holy. No one joining the myriads of myriads of angels complain that the Lord God (and not them) is worthy to receive glory, honour and power. And there is one reason: They did not create Heaven and Earth.

We are not the Pearl of Greatest Price.

God is.
Discuss, with reference to the church.

  • These are 200 words about God, and his church in his world. As I said before, these posts are not about not about cultural engagement, and this is not a vision statement for York St. I'll need to touch down in Sydney before I start that!
  • Scripture references can be read by clicking on the yellow links, or in one page by clicking HERE. (Matthew 13:45-46, Romans 8:32, Matthew 10:28, Matthew 11:5-6, Hosea 11:3-4, John 4:24, Revelation 4:1-11).
  • Pic on Flickr by Will Humes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

200 Words: What's in the DNA of a healthy Church?

I have been thinking, and talking, and praying. And now I wish to start blogging about a possible way forward for the northern end of the city of Sydney, for those who live and work somewhere near York St. That way, my gentle readers might help me in my planning and praying for this stunning city. Some may even wish to join us in this adventure.

I'm calling the series: 200 Words. You can read the series as it unfolds HERE.

And think of these posts like kites: let's just see if any fly.

First, if you are out of the loop, then read my post about moving from ├╝ber-urban Manhattan to downtown Sydney.

Now, I know that no one really can, but I would like to start a vision from scratch. I'd like a Tabula Rasa if ever one existed, so that we could write only new and fresh things on it, trying to reach the lost as we love the city.

But (and here is a trustworthy saying and worthy of full acceptance), none of us start from scratch. Not even the church planters. None of us have a Tabula Rasa. The slate is not blank. Jesus has already written on the slate in his gospel. It is his church, not ours. And he has revealed his will in the Holy Scripture.

And more, the saints who are already serving in York St have been planning, and praying, and serving and reaching the city long before I will arrive, and long after I go (God willing). And so I will need to listen closely to those who are already serving Jesus from York St.

And even more, though some of my readers struggle with this, many of you are not a blank slate denominationally either: you are Anglican. And York St is Anglican, and I am one too. There are things we do, and its worth embracing what we have been given.

That having been said, I am beginning to conceptualize what a mature and vital church might look like and be like in the city of Sydney. Partly for my own benefit, and partly so that I will have good things to discuss when I arrive in Sydney.

I want to start my thinking, though, not with pragmatics, nor with a plan, nor with a profile of a city worker or dweller. This is not yet about cultural engagement. And this is not a vision statement for York St, or anything so specific.

I want to start with the broad vision of truths that matter.

I scribed these 20 points fairly quickly a few days ago. It's not exhaustive, and there is overlap. And I'll want to bring them down to only a few things in the end.

But this is kite flying, right?

I plan to write 20 posts (200 words a post) on the following 20 matters in the lead up to Christmas. Would that interest you? Would that be worth a read?

So, my question: what needs to be in the DNA of a church like York St? I'd say that a mature church needs to:
  1. Glorify and Fear the One True God
  2. Love and Serve Jesus.
  3. Be Born of and Empowered by the Spirit.
  4. Proclaim and Promote his Holy Gospel
  5. Inwardly Digest his Holy Scriptures
  6. Promote Preaching with Gravitas.
  7. Provide for both Sacraments
  8. Build and Serve Christ's Body
  9. Have a outward Kingdom Orientation
  10. Passionately Worship God.
  11. Appreciate Historic Anglicanism
  12. Submit to Discipline and Holiness
  13. Be Informed by Hope
  14. Love and Engage God's World
  15. Take Joy in Creation
  16. Live Generously and Hospitably
  17. Bind the poor and brokenhearted
  18. Express Joy
  19. Value Art, Literature, Music and Creativity
  20. Promote Productivity and Work
I know prayer isn't explicit there (but it is implicit). But then I liked what Packer said about prayer.


What's missing? What should be taken out? Say your piece now, before I write on each topic.

You can read the series as it unfolds HERE.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar

It's been busy season for us, as you can imagine: hence my cut'n'paste Blog posts. But I want my gentle readers to know that we are still here. So, in that spirit, I offer you the Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar 2008.

Click HERE.

How majestic is our God? And how kind, that he would notice a man at all?
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
And more on Advent: From Whistling in the Dark, writer Frederick Buechner shares his idea of Advent -
The house lights go off and the footlights come on. Even the chattiest stop chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise. In the orchestra pit, the violin bows are poised. The conductor has raised his baton. In the silence of a midwinter dusk, there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart…

The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens.

Advent is the name of that moment.
There you go.

H/T Lent and Beyond.

Pic if from the Boston Globe.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Micheal Jensen wrote the book YOU: An Introduction.

Jensen is now writing a book about HIM. Its all about God.

He'd appreciate your thoughts -- just click HERE.

Who knows? Your comments may end up in a book.

Pic is a score to Handel's Messiah. I couldn't think of a Graphic to describe the one 'who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see'.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

ADVENT: 'I do wish Jesus would come back, preferably in a massive ball of fire through the ceiling of the church.'

Tucker Carlson, American political commentator, once said on his Sunday church experience:
You'll never meet nicer people. If you needed someone to hold your wallet, or if you were lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood and had to duck into a stranger's house to use the bathroom, you could do a whole lot worse...No one has better manners.

And that may be the problem. There's a notable lack of urgency...Jesus may have promised he'd come back someday, but in [my church] you don't get the feeling he really meant it. Nor do you hear a lot about sin. Lust, hatred, gluttony, pride, envy -- those are dramatic emotions. ...

The typical sermon leaves the impression that all would be well in this world if only people could manage to be reasonable with each other. Gentlemanly. Thoughtful.

There's nothing necessarily bad about any of this. (I remain [a member], with no plans to change.) But every once in a while, as I shift in my pew listening to one of our unusually well-educated preachers expand on the Aramaic understanding of discipleship, I do wish Jesus would come back, preferably in a massive ball of fire through the ceiling of the church.

Spiritually, I'm nowhere near ready to face something like that. But it'd be worth it for the shock value....Dead religions don't give people the creeps...But Christianity still does. What a relief. It's nice to see that our faith still scares people.
He is an Episcopalian, apparently.

H/T My new friend and colleague at Christ Church NYC, Clifford Swartz. Clifford quoted this in his sermon on Sunday night, and I thought: that's totally worth stealing. :)


Sermon Help: The (subversive) Parable of the Whistle-blower

You may already know this reading of Jesus' Parable of the Talents. But I came across it first about 2 years ago: That the Parable upholds as a hero a man who creatively subverts the systemic injustices in a corrupt society by burying his talent, rather than making it grow. He is a Whistle Blower.

I'm preaching on this text on Sunday. I'd like your help. Because I can cut'n'paste it, here is the Wiki entry on the alternative reading:

William Herzog offers an alternative interpretation of the parables of Jesus. According to his interpretive scheme, Jesus employed parables in his verbal engagement with his contemporaries for the purpose of getting them to think about God's justice and their social responsibility. His stories expose the social inequities in Palestinian society that violate the teachings of the Torah and motivate the hearers to live and work for peace and justice.

Herzog's analysis of the parable of the talents focuses on the fact that the "man" of the story is not described as an exemplary person. Much rather, this wealthy man does not deny the claim of the third servant: "thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown". The parable suggests that he is an aristocrat, a rapacious absentee-landlord, whose sole interest is maximizing his financial gain. Only the third servant refuses to participate in the game of increasing his lord's financial wealth "at the costs of the poor."

When he upbraids the third servant, the aristocrat's remark shows that he himself is in violation of the Old Testament laws that Jesus seeks to defend: the third servant has willfully refused to invest the money, which would have resulted in the aristocrat regaining his capital "with interest" (Matt. 25:27). This kind of financial transaction is forbidden in the Torah; see the biblical teaching on usury.

The servant's frank remark shows him to be a 'whistle-blower'. He calls the aristocrat harsh and merciless (which are not God-like qualities). He exposes the sham of what has occurred: the other servants have allowed themselves to be used for exploitative purposes, for which they will also be rewarded by the wicked aristocrat.

According to Herzog's reading, the point of the parable is to show how much it can cost for an underling to expose the truth about injustice in society. Jesus' hearers, for the most part poor villagers, would have asked themselves the difficult question about how they would behave toward an aristocrat's former helper who had become a whistle-blower and had been thrown out of rich man's household ("wailing and gnashing of teeth"). They would also learn from the parable the necessity of not isolating themselves, so as not to play into the hands of the ruling elite.

That is, the parable is not, as it is often read, a parable about doing something positive with what has been given to you, nor even an indictment on the scribes who buried what was given them (the word of God). On those traditional readings, the man who buries the talent is a scoundrel who deserved his punishment.

But on the alternative reading, the servant is a hero, the master a scoundrel, and the 'punishment' a further injustice for any who oppose the evil inherent in the system. The servant stands up, by sitting down. He does something, by doing nothing.

I'm not agreeing with the alternative reading. But I want to hear from you as to your thoughts. So...

  • Discuss.
  • And if you disagree, why?
  • What, then, is the parable about?

YouTube is Monty Python's Constitutional Peasant. I am in no way disparaging the view by posting the skit. I just laugh very loudly every time I see this. :)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Kingdom Ethics 101

This exchange took place today between Dr Laurel and The Little Man (4):
The Little Man: "I just prayed to God that He would bring the Kingdom of Fast. So, now this world is the Kingdom of Fast. Look how quickly I can walk now."
[He walks very quickly away]

...[about an hour later, Dr Laurel is getting him to clean the bathroom mirrors with Windex, which is not going so well]...

The Little Man: "Look how fast I can spray Mommy." [very fast spraying with maximum Windex and mess]
Dr Laurel: "That is fast, but it might be better if we did it slow and steady, like this [demonstrating effective wiping of bathroom mirrors].

The Little Man: "There are no snails in the Kingdom of Fast." [fast spraying and wiping continues]
Love Kingdom ethics.