Showing posts from March, 2013

Thoughts on Holy Saturday, Day 40, Lent 2013

Today is the last day of waiting, after forty days of preparation. Part of my preparation for Resurrection Day has been reading through the entire Bible. This afternoon I finished Peter's epistles and John's and Jude's as well as John's mind blowing vision at the end of the end, the Apocalypse.
16th century Russian icon of the Descent into Hades of Jesus Christ, which is the icon for Holy and Great Saturday. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Holy Saturday is the quiet, in between time, when Christ is hidden. I think most of my life has felt like Holy Saturday. Sometimes there is tragic pain, that Christ accompanies me in, a Good Friday, and sometimes there is a euphoric encounter with the risen Christ, but a lot of life is melancholic for me. I don't think I'm unusual in living life with a knapsack of pain slung over my shoulder. I've been through the slough of despair, the valley of the shadow of death, and I've been to the mountaintop. Resurrection day reminds …

Thoughts on Good Friday, Day 39, Lent 2013

Today's Lenten reading started in 1 Timothy and ended in James. Good Friday has narrowed my focus. There's this bloody passage in Hebrews 9:11-15
Icon of the Crucifixion, 16th century, by Theophanes the Cretan (Stavronikita Monastery, Mount Athos) (Photo credit: Wikipedia) 11 So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. 12 With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. 13 Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. 14 Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect…

Thoughts on Paul's epistles, Day 38, Lent 2013

Today's Lenten Bible reading covered 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians. Since it is Holy Week, my eyes and ears are tuned into the topic of the cross. Theological topics abound in the dense writing of Paul, so I am picking one topic, Good Friday and Resurrection Day. Here are some clips on that topic.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our s…

Thoughts on Romans and 1 Corinthians, Day 37, Lent 2013

Today's Lenten reading covers Romans and 1 Corinthians. Since Good Friday and Resurrection Day are fast approaching, these two passages from the letter to the church in Corinth caught my ear.
Christ icon in Taizé (Photo credit: lgambett) The first passage is from the beginning of the letter. God's ways do not make any sense of all. His victory comes through his death. The king gives himself up. Why would anyone be attracted to a man, wrongfully convicted, able to stop his execution at an time, writhing on a cross, suffocating to death? In what world does this make sense?

1 Corinthians 1:18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” 20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world loo…

Thoughts on the Acts of the Apostles, Day 36, Lent 2013

I listened to all of the Acts of the Apostles today in today's Lenten reading. I did not read a word. Nevertheless, it's a great aural experience. Luke tells a good story. He flashes back a little before the end of his gospel. Before Jesus departs to heaven, he tells the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit. While worshiping, the Holy Spirit comes on the community and crazy stuff happens. They worship God in new languages. Flames flicker over their heads. It's wild and it draws a crowd, to whom Peter preaches. Thousands are converted to following Jesus after this sermon and they start living communally like a bunch of hippies. But the religious establishment that tried to kill Jesus doesn't like it at all. So they commence the beatings and jailings. One of their chief Capos is a Pharisee named Saul. He presides over a spontaneous stoning of a Christian deacon named Stephen. But Jesus personally intervenes and confronts Saul on his way to Damascus. He also temporarily …

Thoughts on the Gospel of John , Day 35, Lent 2013

Maybe ten years ago I remember myself saying out loud that I couldn't stand John's gospel. It was too obtuse. I didn't get it. Now it is my favorite. Today's Lenten reading included all of John's gospel. I listened to most of it as I was working in the lab today.

John leaves golden eggs of the deity of Jesus throughout his gospel. He leaves them in every chapter. As I listened to chapter 5, I noticed something new to me. It's a minor assertion overshadowed by the mountains of theology all around it, but it's still important, especially when chatting with the Jehovah's Witnesses who come by, denying the deity of Jesus.
John 5:22-23 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. My question is can there be a way to honor God the Father that does not include worship? And isn't the only wors…

book response: The Rocks Don't Lie by Montgomery (2012)

David Montgomery is a geomorphologist at the University of Washington and has written a great historical explanation that any honest young earth creationists should read. Angry atheists should read this as well since Montgomery is a great model of irenic persuasion.

He surveys throughout the book several flood myths, and notes their connections to historical events. He also notes how the myths change depending on the location around the world. For example, China does not have a world flooding story with a character like Noah who saves the animals. China's floods come from it's great rivers in deep valleys, not like Mesopotamia's great rivers through broad plains. Nor did China experience a great sea rising like the Black Sea's. He also goes into the development of the science of geology. It's an historical development that developed in the West alongside the influence of the rising Protestant church. As different hypotheses formed about how rocks formed while keepi…

Thoughts on Luke, Day 34, Lent 2013

In my edition of The Message, a Bible paraphrased by Eugene Peterson, he gives an introduction to each book. I don't normally read them, but today his introduction to Luke caught my eye. Luke, he notes, is the only non-Jewish writer of an entire book (two, including Acts) to the Bible. He's also the biggest contributor to the New Testament. Luke's concerns include the outcasts, the marginalized, and the lost causes. I read only the first couple chapters, then put on my headphones and listened to the rest of it while puttering around the yard and house. Only one more week to finish the entire Bible during Lent.
Peterson's introduction primed my eyes and ears to read and listen to those prayers, songs, and examples of God's concern for the weak. There is Mary's song.
 Luke 1:51 God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds. The proud in mind and heart, God has sent away in disarray. 52 The rulers from their high positions of power, God …

Thoughts on Mark, Day 33, Lent 2013

The gospels are my favorite part of the Bible. Last year I read them over and over again. I set a goal to read each gospel ten times. I used to like John's the least, now it's my favorite. Mark's is special to me because I learned with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship how to do manuscript study in it. My Lenten reading today is all of Mark.

Mark writes like a comic book author. I am not saying that his gospel is fanciful, but that his style prefers action over character. There are parables and dialogs, but no multi-chapter sermon on the mount as in Matthew. For both gospels, I didn't finish the reading before I left for work, so I listened to the latter half of each book. While doing that this morning, I was struck by how often I thought I was listening to Matthew again. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are called the synoptic gospels. They share lots of material. But they have different emphases. Matthew's focus is on Jesus's kingship, a fulfillment of the Messianic …

Thoughts on Matthew, Day 32, Lent 2013

The mega-Lenten-Bible-reading-plan enters the New Testament today. The gospel of Matthew is a great transition book from the Old Testament because he references the OT constantly. He's not just referencing the OT, but tells stories of Jesus fulfilling multiple predictions and allusions in the OT. Sometimes Matthew grabs verses which have nothing to do, in context, with the Messiah. Some verse-grabs are allusions to the nation of Israel (see Matt. 2:15). This tells me that Matthew wants us to see that Jesus represents God and humanity and Israel. Matthew's gospel is directed to Jews. His background is complicated. He's a Jew who collected taxes for Rome, a traitor to his people. Yet Jesus invited him to be part of his new people. Twelve students, disciples, who represent a new beginning, just as there were twelve sons of Israel.

There's so much symbolism and cool stuff going on, more than I can condense into one blog. A couple riffs then; the sermon on the mount is some…

Thoughts on the rest of the minor prophets, Day 31, Lent 2013

Today, I finished the Old Testament in this crazy Lenten reading schedule, one whole bible in 40 days.

Highlights from the end of the Bible.
Habakuk 2:4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.[This is a big topic in the New Testament. Paul points to this verse a couple times to show that God has always judged righteousness by faith, not by activities, which is why Abram was righteous before the 10 commandments were given.] 5 Moreover, wealth is treacherous; the arrogant do not endure. They open their throats wide as Sheol; like Death they never have enough. They gather all nations for themselves, and collect all peoples as their own. [In this context, where righteousness is found in the contrast between faith in God and faith and wealth, I agree with Paul's use of this verse.]

I empathize with the belief to live and let live, and all faiths lead to the same God, but over and over again, he trashes idol worshi…

Thoughts on the minor prophets, Day 30, Lent 2013

Today's big gulp of Bible reading covers Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, and Nahum. There is plenty to like in these books. I wanted to highlight a few morsels.
Joel has this great promise from God, which was seen in Job's story and in Jesus' promise that whatever is given up for him will be returned a hundredfold (Mark 10:28-31). The quotes below are from The Voice Bible translation that lays things out like a screenplay.
Joel 2:25 Eternal One: I will compensate you for the years that the locusts have eaten—the swarming locusts, The creeping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts— My great army that I unleashed against you. 26 In that day, you will eat plenty of food and always have enough, so you will praise My name, The Eternal One, your God who is merciful to you. Never again will My people be shamed among the nations. 27 Return to Me and you will know that I live among My people Israel and tha…

Thoughts on Daniel and Hosea, Day 29, Lent 2013

Today's reading plan is relatively easy compared to the recent trip though the major prophets. Daniel is the story of Jews in exile, not unlike Esther.In the latter book, God hides in the background, but in the former heaven spills onto earth repeatedly. The first chapter is about God's protection of Daniel and his friends in their attempt to remain kosher in Babylon's court. They ask to only have vegetables and water for 10 days, Daniel 1:12. I'm actually trying this as a vegan fast for Lent (except for Sundays which are feast days). In Daniel 2, he gets a revelation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream and an interpretation of it, which leads to a big promotion for him. Daniel 3 does not involve Daniel but his three friends. They get busted for not worshiping an idol. Where's Daniel? Did he go along? Probably not. But this Daniel-less story makes the book seem like   a collection of Jewish hero stories, which brings up the two apocyrphal stories, not found in the Protes…

Thoughts on Ezekiel, Day 28, Lent 2013

Ezekiel is one of the weirdest and raunchiest books in the Bible. In the mega-Lenten-Bible-reading-plan, I
Vision of Ezekiel (Photo credit: Wikipedia) started Ezekiel yesterday and finished it today. I listened to most of it. His visions are trippy and barely comprehensible. Ezekiel seems to reflect on Numbers, like Jeremiah reflects on Deuteronomy. In the New Testament John's Revelation reflects on Ezekiel and Hebrews reflects on Leviticus. The book of Ezekiel ends with a prophecy of a new temple and a new division of the land between the tribes, that will never be fulfilled materially. Interestingly, the dimensions of the temple, equal on every side, a perfect cube, shows up again in John's Revelation enlarged by an order of magnitude or two. Both books also have a river flowing out of the temple that brings life. There's tons of symbolism in this book. I don't think the end times Bible prophecy aficianados (think Left Behind) who see Russia and Syria in chapters 37 a…

Thoughts on Lamentations 3, Day 27, Lent 2013

Today's mega-Lenten-Bible-reading-plan included all of Lamentations and 20 chapters of Ezekiel. I read Lamentations and listened to Ezekiel. As the NET translation below indicates, Lamentations is a massive acrostic based on the Hebrew alphabet. This section is the center of the six chapter poem. It is terribly sad and despondent before and after this section, but this is the center. In the midst of "why God?" faith still remains.

ז (Zayin)19 Remember my impoverished and homeless condition,
which is a bitter poison.
20 I continually think about this,
and I am depressed.
21 But this I call to mind;
therefore I have hope: ח (Khet)22 The Lord’s loyal kindness never ceases;
his compassions never end.
23 They are fresh every morning;
your faithfulness is abundant!
24 “My portion is the Lord,” I have said to myself,
so I will put my hope in him. ט (Tet)25 The Lord is good to those who trust in him,
to the one who seeks him.
26 It is good to wait patiently
for deliverance from the Lord.
27 It i…