Friday, February 25, 2011

A weird happening with an even weirder coincidence!

So, I accidentally bought the same book twice from half.com. I think it was cheap, don't tell my wife just in case. That is the weird happening.

The book is "Listen to Luther: Selections from Martin Luther's Table Talk" by a Free Methodist phenom named Donald Demaray. I bought the book(s?) because I have a meeting with him in Wilmore, KY this coming week and I wanted something to talk with him about (shhh... I also bought a book of his on homiletics and one about the denomination, I know, I'm a geek).

The weird coincidence part is that in the inside cover there were two notes written:

Left picture says, "Dear Ricki, We have shared so much the last year. I am glad you are here. I hope you will enjoy this book like I do. Its like a treasure chest f gems or a box of rich candy. A little is alot! It is fun to read & think about. May your heart be encouraged as you encourage so many!! Love, Sara <3"

Right picture says, "To my husband on our first Valentines Day. Love always (can't tell - Gina? Lisa?)"

Now, I know it is not uncommon for people to write well-wishings in books, but these (1) seem very intimate. Not sexually, but certainly on another level of friendship, maybe intellectually (2) given at a time that seems rather important.

I mean Ricki (girl?) obviously means alot to Sara. Sara is sharing a beloved intellectual comfort with her friend who seems relatively new but they have gotten to know each other rather quickly, which kind of seems like it might have been a hard time in one of their lives, I am thinking Sara's.

Lisa is giving her husband a book... for Valentines Day... their first Valentines Day together as a married couple. Either he is a book nerd and she is an awesome wife, or there is something else. I want to imagine a couple. He is going through seminary, maybe even a new pastor. Maybe both. He needs this book for some reason. School, job, ordination. They are poor. So she scrimps and saves and picks up pennies. She buys him this book for their first valentine's day.

But after both of those intimate, happy stories, all I can think about is that they are both over. I am admittedly a pack rat, and Erin knows that she can throw away all my clothes and child-hood memories but I want my books. I want them. We spent long nights together jumping over the miles of hurdles it took for me to graduate and I enjoy them and so thank you very much but I am keeping them. The Lord himself would have to audibly speak to me for them to part. But these books were sold for less than a buck a piece. One dollar. How poor do you have to be to trade priceless family memories and a great book for one dollar? All I can think is that the friendship/marriage has dissolved.

It is probably something more simple than this. It was probably a move that caused people to decide what they should bring and book weight and space was at a minimum.

So, to all of you, find these people and give them back their books. I will mail them free of charge. I am thinking that Sara or Ricki might have been a youth leader some years ago, maybe in a Lutheran church. Find them...

This post got really Unsolved Mysteries on me quickly. Didn't mean for that happen. RIP Robert Stack...

On the Didache...

I had to answer these questions:
  • What kind of a document is it? (A letter? A sermon?  A hymn?  A manual? A creed? A church law?)
  • What are the theological and/or practical issues at stake in the document?  What is the problem which God’s people are facing?
  • How does the author suggest that the problem be resolved?
  • How do these issues relate to today?  How can they shape or reshape my ideas of theology of ministry? 
The Didache was an early church document, considered for canonization, but ultimately rejected as unispired. It is still used by scholars today for historical and social meaning. Also, there is far more awesomeness in this short book about Christian life than these questions gave me room to explore, especially considering it was a 2-3 page paper double-spaced (hence my weak-sauce ending; I ran out of room, but I don't care because I am a rebel).

The Didache (which means 'teaching' as in the "The Teaching of the Apostle") needs to be explored more for its social and missional implications, especially involving poverty and a Christian's role.


Didache Reflection
            In reading the Didache, I fell in love. It is exactly what I wanted it to be and more. Admittedly I struggle with law over grace and love rules. But as I see a church, time and time again, forgetting her mission and diakonia, my heart is gladdened by this teaching.
            I see this document as primarily a manual. It seems to be giving practical advice for Christian life. Noll says in his book on Church history called Turning Points, “The Didache was used for teaching converts the basics of Christian faith and practice as the church moved out of the Mediterranean World” (p. 45). We can also gather this evidence internally when it gives instructions on routine to its readers. After the Lord’s prayer, the Didache instructs, “Pray this way three times a day” (VIII, v. 3). This conveys a manual style teaching that is instructing basic behavior to its audience. We see a similar event on weekly practices, “Let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on Mondays and Thursdays, but do you fast on Wednesdays and Fridays” (VIII, v. 1). Even outside of chapter 8 we have similar occurrences, “On the Lord's Day of the Lord come together, break bread and hold Eucharist, after confessing your transgressions that your offering may be pure” (XIV, v. 1). These two weekly observances are instructions for the new believers life.
            The Theological issues at stake seem to be of vital importance, literally, at least in the metaphysical sense. The first six chapters, out of 16, contain ways to attain life and avoid death. The book begins, “There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death and there is a great difference between the two Ways” (I, v. 1). The next 4 chapters are how to attain life. It is summed up in what is popularly called the “greatest commandment” with an addendum of the Jesus’ version on the golden rule, “The Way of Life is this: ‘First, you shall love the God who made you, secondly, your neighbor as yourself; and whatsoever you would not have done to yourself, do not do to another" (I, v. 2). Then a list of rules and observances are listed. A lot are scriptural taking a lot from the Sermon on the Mount and the OT. The “way of death” is much shorter but follows a similar pattern.
            Some problems this book attempts to correct Church praxis and leadership. In the Didache, we get a great view of the practice of church by the early church. We have in detail readings about how the Lord’s supper should go, the words to be recited, and who could partake (IX). We even have the post-meal blessing to be said (X). As far as baptism goes, we get a great picture of the churches practice, and even “back-up” plans incase certain elements aren’t available. We are told to baptize, “in running water, but if you have no running water, baptize in other water, and if you cannot in cold, then in warm. But if you have neither, pour water three times on the head…” all of which is to be done in the name of the Trinity and with fasting for baptizer and baptizee (VII). This passage is only on of many that highlights the detail in which this manual goes to teach churches and early believers the way of the church.
            As far as leadership goes, this book is solving the problem of how to learn, who from and how they are set apart. Though there is a lot of spiritual elements to these processes (i.e. “Do not test or examine any prophet who is speaking in a spirit… [XI, v.7]) there are some rather practical steps of how to decide who is a teacher and how to honor them. “Whosoever then comes and teaches you all these things aforesaid, receive” (XI, v. 1). More specifically, if someone is preaching this gospel with this teaching, they are reliable. This serves a double function of reinforcing the legitimacy of this document as well as selecting good teachers. Their pay was to be different than mere travelers, who were to take up a craft (XII, v. 3), a teacher/prophet/apostles pay was to be from the people he taught, “Therefore you shall take the firstfruits… and give them as firstfruits to the prophets, for they are you highpriest” (XIII, v.3). Earlier we receive this bit about honoring the prophet, “My child, you shall remember, day and night, him who speaks the word of God to you, and you shall honor him as the Lord…” (IV, v. 1). The prophets, the organizers and teachers of the early church, were to be honored and cared for, commended highly by the people.
            One of my favorite lines comes when there is an absence of a teacher, “But if you have not a prophet, give to the poor” (XIII, v. 4). It is probably a straight forward line about looking out for the “least of these” but it can be taken so much deeper in spiritual way when compared to the rest of the Didache’s teachings about the believer and poverty. Almost as if the poor are the teacher and the teachers are to be poor.
            As far these issues relate to us today, there are many. I think the debate about praxis in baptism can be quenched a little bit with the witness of the early church. For me personally, it has cleared some questions I had about prophets and apostles carrying on beyond the book of acts, and more specifically, what is the role of prophets in the modern church, after Christ.
            I think it stresses on us the importance of works of compassion to the early church and how we should be moving back to that path as the richest church on earth here in America.
            But most importantly, I think it demonstrates that church praxis was a fluid thing, not exactly like the book of Acts and not exactly like now and that’s ok. That God’s story is still being written and his people have room to explore what he desires from us as far as liturgy goes.


Works Cited
Readings in World Christian History, John W. Coakley & Andrea Sterk, eds. (Maryknoll, New
            York: Orbis Books, 2004)

Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity, Mark A. Noll. (Grand Rapids:
Baker Academic, 2000)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Preaching...

"... is to proclaim a Mystery before which, before whom, even our most exalted ideas turn to straw. It is also to proclaim this Mystery with a passion that ideas alone have little to do with. It is to try to put the Gospel into words not the way you would compose an essay but the way you would write a poem or a love letter - putting your heart into it, your own excitement, most of all your own life. It is to speak words that you hope may, by grace, be bearers not simply of new understanding but of new life both for the ones you are speaking to and also for you"
(Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets, 1991 quoted in James Hampton's book Worship Centered Teaching)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Americans and Entitlement! / Church In-fighting and Know it alls!

Love my professors. Here is one rant. I could listen to him teach all day:
Another great blog (from Don Miller) about people wanting to get real and relevant but being subject to know-it-alls with a dash of uncomfortableness going on:
It seems like cheating to keep linking to other people's blogs, but really, when they say it better, I will be their messenger; so don't shoot!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

A beatiful glimpse...

Christians protesters in Egypt protecting their Muslim countryfolk's prayer time...

http://www.good.is/post/protesters-are-awesome-look-at-this-beautiful-photo-of-christians-protecting-praying-muslims-in-egypt/
 Got this from another good blog by another M. Div student named Kurt Willems.

Moving and Seminary

Erin, Titus and I are thinking about moving for my schooling. Currently I am attending Asbury Theological Seminary online but we are getting ready to make the move to a physical campus.

We have boiled it down (for now) to two schools. Seattle Pacific University and Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY. We are going to be physically visiting both in the next month.

I am interested in Seattle for the city. The M.Div program is relatively new but the city life is attractive. I have always wanted to live in a big city. We would also be closer to home. Driving distance at that. One of the pluses of the newness of the program is that could lend a sense of more contemporary ministry training. The school is also much more Free Methodist and I do like the idea of being apart of the heritage. I choose this one for the city and Free Methodism.

Asbury definitely has the long-standing tradition of excellence that I know I can bank on. I have seen the fruits of the program and am blown away. I have been attending there for a year already. I know some of the professors and greatly respect them. Erin really enjoys an activist/author who lives in the same town. But it is sooooo far away. Kentucky is a long ways away. We would be 3 hours difference time zone wise. I choose this one for the excellence in academics and I am already enrolled and have fulfilled classes.

Be praying for us! We visit Seattle February 7 through the 9 and Asbury February 27th through March 3rd!

Excited and sad at the same time, with the realization that God is working in mighty ways!

Obama's Faith

Interesting article on Obama, his faith, and the National Prayer Breakfast from one of my professors:
A great line from the article... “It was through that experience, working with pastors and laypeople, trying to heal the wounds of hurting neighborhoods, that I came to know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace him as my Lord and Savior” -Obama

Whatever your view, this is a thoughtful article from a brilliant scholar of the New Testament.


P.S. Edit: Scot McKnight did a similar article today (2/4/11): http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2011/02/04/the-presidents-faith/