Here is the news…

This week I have been reading and listening to three of my favourite theologians, two great articles by Stanley Hauerwas and N.T. Wright, and an awesome sermon by Greg Boyd, that I want to share with you to make a point about politics and Jesus.

First Haurewas explains that…

Jesus was put to death because he embodied a politics that threatened all worldly regimes based on the fear of death. It is quite instructive to read any of the crucifixion narratives from this point of view, but the account of Jesus’s trial and crucifixion in the Gospel of John makes the political character of Jesus’s work unavoidable.

Consider, for example, how the arrest of Jesus makes clear the political character of Jesus’s ministry. His arrest is often thought to represent the apolitical character of Jesus because he commands Peter to put away the sword Peter had used to cut off the ear of the priest’s slave. To be sure, Jesus rebukes Peter, but he does so because that is not the “cup” the father has given him. But the cup from which Jesus must drink is no less political for being nonviolent. Indeed, Jesus’s command to Peter is one of the clearest indications that Jesus’s challenge to the powers of this age is not only political, but also a transformation of what most mean by “politics.”

Wright is right there with him…

It was the powers of the world – spiritual but also political – that put Jesus on the cross, and the resurrection of Jesus is therefore the victory of Jesus over all the powers of the world. On Good Friday morning, in John 18 and 19, he argued with Pontius Pilate about kingdom, truth and power, and when John goes on to tell the story of the resurrection he wants us to see that kingdom, truth and power are reborn in Jesus in a new form. It is then part of the church’s task to work out what that will mean.

That is why Paul, our earliest written witness, links the resurrection directly and messianically to the world sovereignty that is now claimed by Jesus. At the climax of the theological argument of the letter to the Romans, he quotes Isaiah 11: the root of Jesse rises to rule the nations, and in him the nations shall hope. And that looks back to, and confirms the interpretation of, the very opening of Romans, in which the resurrection has publicly established Jesus, the Davidic Messiah, as “son of God in power” – in a world where “son of God” meant, unambiguously, Caesar himself.

Greg can explain how this new “politics” should look like…

And Wright agrees…

Of course, to our secular contemporaries it makes no sense to suggest that Jesus is in charge of the world, and has been since Easter. Most people look at the continuation of violence, deceit and chaos over the last two thousand years and say it’s ridiculous to say that Jesus is in charge. But when we read the gospels we get a different sense.

Think of the Beatitudes, not primarily as offering a blessing to those who are described, but through them to the world. This is how Jesus wants to run the world: by calling people to be peacemakers, gentle, lowly, hungry for justice. When God wants to change the world, he doesn’t send in the tanks; he sends in the meek, the pure in heart, those who weep for the world’s sorrows and ache for its wrongs.

And by the time the power-brokers notice what’s going on, Jesus’s followers have set up schools and hospitals, they have fed the hungry and cared for the orphans and the widows. That’s what the early church was known for, and it’s why they turned the world upside down. In the early centuries the main thing that emperors knew about bishops was that they were always taking the side of the poor. Wouldn’t it be good if it were the same today?

Death is the last enemy, according to Paul in this chapter, and we live in a world that still deals in death as its main currency. If we claim Jesus as our contemporary, we claim to know and love the one who has defeated death itself, not with more death, not with superior killing power, but with the power of love and new creation.

Do read the full articles, the one by Stanley Hauerwas here, and N.T Wright here and listen to the full sermon by Greg Boyd here.

By our love…

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus. Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself. Then he came to Simon Peter. Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not understand what I am doing now, but you will understand after these things.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus replied, “The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not every one of you.” (For Jesus knew the one who was going to betray him. For this reason he said, “Not every one of you is clean.”) So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me’ Teacher ‘and’ Lord, ‘and do so correctly, for that is what I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, you should do just as I have done for you. … “I give you a new commandment, to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone a will know by this that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

From John chapter 13.

Let everything that You are not decrease…

It irks me that Brave Saint Saturn’s last album Anti-Meridian isn’t on Spotify. But thanks to YouTube, here is one slice of the master piece that the album is.

In this broken place where I was born
It seems there is no peace
And the very soil that we walk upon
Is filled with tears that never cease
And you can trace the scars of hopelessness
Like sweat upon the backs
Of all the outcast and downtrodden
Water slipped through cracks
Hold on, Hold tight

And I am overwhelmed with grief
To see such suffering
For those who lack the voice to speak
For those of us left stuttering

May this not prevail
Dear Lord Your love will never fail

And these frail hands
They tremble as they pen perhaps their last
And these weak words
Can never say what cannot be surpassed

When the concrete of the world
Becomes too cumbersome to lift
And the cataracts of fear and doubt
Cloak truth beyond what we can sift
And darkness, darkness bleeds its way
When crippling anguish clouds our sight
The ghosts of dusk have bared their teeth
Set their claws to bring the night
Hold on, Hold tight

Darkness can’t perceive the light
Though lightlessness has chilled us numb
And though its wings may cloud the skies
The dark shall never overcome

Light of the world
Your love has never failed

And these frail hands
They tremble as they pen perhaps their last
And these weak words
Can never say what cannot be surpassed

I need Your love
And most of all I want to feel Your peace
I need Your love
Let everything that You are not decrease

It was a dark and stormy night…

Well actually it was a rather cold and grey day for me. I was playing around with my playlists in Spotify. To my disgrace I noticed I didn’t have a playlist with all Five Iron Frenzy’s songs. They do clutter and fill my “Best songs ever” and starred list and so on. But I didn’t have one dedicated only to them. Shame on me.

Anyways, as I added their albums to my newly created list, I scrolled down and noticed something strange, a single. It used to only be the “Quantity is Job 1″ EP down there. Even more strange I couldn’t recognize the title, and believe me, I know all their songs. Well, maybe not all on the “Cheeses” album, but still. I would recognize them.

I felt this cold chill creeping down my neck. Like when a ghost pass by. Shivering I quickly went to their Facebook page and read the words:

“We are officially back!”

I leaped up from my seat, sending my chair flying! I could not believe it! Then I saw that this was not news, it was announced two months ago! Damnit! I kept watch over Reese Roper’s other projects, The Thieves Guild, Brave Saint Saturn, and such. But I never thought that this would happen. I didn’t dare to hope for it.

It’s with dreamy tear filled eyes I say that this is the best thing to happen since… well, I can’t think of anything that trumps it right now!

You’ve got to listen to it:

The newest single from Five Iron Frenzy

Get it for free, or give them everything for it, on the best music site ever, NoiseTrade:

It was a dark and stormy night last night
Bitter dark
Rain fell in torrents
Stabbing it’s ghosts through the cold
and straight through our hearts

I’ve been waiting, in halfhearted sleep
For a promise I half meant to keep
Just for hoping that hope still flies
Wipe the sleep out of our sleeping eyes

Fog that is lifting
The spectre of dreams we once had
Speaks into the night
Slumber is over
Sunlight is streaming through
Come into the light

I know, hope has not forgotten me
I know, I’m waking from the longest dream

Gone is not the word…

Another Showbread video. Not as spectacular and strange as the last one I posted but still awesome.

Save us from ourselves…

I like twitter. I get spammed with great short bursts of wisdom and good links all day long. Like this one from @elsander6 + 2 questions for the hell debate. Read it and read the article it in turn links too. Here are my answers to the eight questions.

1. Is God a being or the source of our being?

I would say both, and understood like Morgan (the author of the first article) describes the “ancient christian view”.

God was the source of all being, expressed most  succinctly in Colossians 1:17: ”In Him all things hold together.”

He outlines this idea more in the comments.

As far as the ontological question about God’s relation to our being, I really think that the problem with Western Christianity is nominalism, the idea that God is just another being in the universe which is held in place by His externally-imposed will, instead of the sacramental view from the first half of Christian history that God is the only “real” thing in the universe and all other things are contingent upon God for their being.

All of the arguments about free will vs. determinism, etc, disappear under the sacramental ontology, because if God is the source of our existence, then following God’s will for our lives is not submitting to some arbitrary omnipotent bully completely outside of us, but instead connecting fully with the source of our being instead of getting tossed around by idolatrous fetishes that don’t represent our true desires.

And I really like and more or less completely agree with the conclusions he puts forth.

If all things depend on God for existence and hell is eternal separation from God, then hell is the non-existence that results from rejecting the source of our being. The punitive nature of hell becomes literal rather than metaphorical only in modernity when it becomes possible to imagine existence independent of the presence of God.

2. Is God’s primary agenda to love His creation or defend His glory?

What a great source of mistakes and violence this has been. Thinking that God needs to defend His glory or Himself in any way. Especially when we from it derive that we need to help Him in that!

The God who did anything but defend Himself, not even with words, to the amazement of the authorities.

Then Pilate said to Him, “Don’t You hear how much they are testifying against You?” But He didn’t answer him on even one charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. – Matt 27:13-14

Who instead humbled Himself, and let Himself be killed!

He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross. – Phil 2:8

Who’s primary agenda was indeed to love His creation.

For God so loved the world… – John 3:16

3. Is God’s justice primarily retributive or restorative?

I’d go with restorative. This is what sets it apart. It is not about punishment, or settling debts, or vengence. God’s justice brings shalom, the peace that is when everything is restored, healed, reconciled, and re-created in the way it was intended to be.

… if hell serves the purpose of restorative justice, then it isn’t a punishment measured out in proportion to the offensiveness of sin, but the denial of eternal communion to sinners who have refused the means by which God offers to heal and reconcile them with the people hurt by their sin.

4. Is God’s holiness an intolerance for imperfection or an intolerable perfection?

I’ll go with Morgan’s explaination in the comments on his article for this one.

Holiness is of course more than just “intolerable.” It’s also awe-inspiring, beautiful, wonderful, etc. In the context of describing hell as a product of God’s holiness, the question would be whether God cannot tolerate sin or sin cannot tolerate God. I like to say it the second way because it preserves God’s sovereignty and perfect benevolence. God doesn’t need to “react” to sin with wrath. Being entirely self-sufficient, God’s God-ness simply IS wrath to sin, which cannot survive its encounter with His holiness.

5. When we escape hell, is it because God changed His mind about us or because we changed our minds about God?

This:

Jesus’ death on the cross is often presented as the reason Jesus’ wrathful Father changes His mind about damning all humanity to hell. The objection to this is to point out that it breaks the Son and Father into two separate gods, rather than one single triune God. If God is truly both Son and Father, then He does not need to be persuaded by His own actions, which would seem to indicate that the cross is supposed to change our minds about God instead.

I think he nailed it there. But I also make the same interjection as Bram. There is more to it than a change of mind.

I would say there also is an ontological change in the universe due to the incarnation, cross, and resurrection (death, evil and sin being defeated Christus Victor-wise).

6. Are we saved by proving something to God or does God save us from having something to prove?

We are, as I implied with the title of this post, saved from ourselves. Saved from our ambition to show how great we are, our need to succeed by our own might, our striving to stand on our own, our longing to have everything under our own control, our inhibition to grasp that God doesn’t demand anything for His love, our failure to trust in His grace.

If on the other hand, salvation describes how God liberates us from thinking that we need to earn His approval, then hell could be our delusional imprisonment to the need to prove our worth to God…

7. Is the scope of salvation focused on saving single persons of on saving the cosmos as a whole?

When we make it about the single person, or even just about people, we make the scope way too small. The scope is the cosmos, all creation will be reconciled and saved, the whole universe. But that includes every single person. I am convinced that Jonah33, even if their song is cast in the mainstream evangelical mold, had it right when they sang:

You know that even if you were the only one… His reason was simply you…  it was all for you…

The single person matters as much to God as the whole cosmos. He is the shepard who would leave the 99 to find that one lost sheep.

8. Is the gospel centered on the saved person or in the reign of Jesus and the Kingdom of God?

As with the previous question, the problem of our age is individualism, so I would focus on proclaiming the wider scope of a salvation that is for the whole cosmos. Therefore I will go with the gospel being about the Kingdom of God. The good news is the proclaimation that Christ is Lord of all, that the Kingdom has come, that Jesus is the risen king, and he will reign for ever and ever. But as Kingdom people, as citizens of Heaven, as followers of Christ our king, the good news are centered on us serving every individual, to love them, each one, as we love ourselves.

I want to go with something like a communal indiviualism. Where we are included in a greater scope and purpose. We are brought out of our individual deaths into the communal life that is the Kingdom of God. Not for our own sake, but for our own worth. If that makes any sense. If it doesn’t, I’ll have to expand on it later.

Anyways, that’s my answers.

Title taken from, my all time favorites, Jars of Clay’s song Hero.

I remember a year…

They’re awesome. Nothing more to say really, it is as simple as that!

A Christmas Story – Epilogue…

A Christmas Story… is a playlist I’ve (re)made from a collection of the best christmas songs and hymns me and my friends could find on Spotify. I arranged the songs to let the lyrics do the telling of the greatest story ever told.

Epilogue – Love Came Down

O Holy Night

Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, with all our hearts we praise His holy name.

Love Came Down At Christmas

Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love divine. Love was born at Christmas, star and angels gave the sign. Love will be our token, Love be yours and love be mine. Love from God to all of us, Love for plea and gift and sign.

He Has Come For Us (God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen)

He has come for us this Jesus, He’s the hope for all mankind. He has come for us the Messiah, Born to give us life.

Go, Tell It On The Mountain

Down in a lowly manger the humble Christ was born. And God sent us salvation that blessèd Christmas morn. Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere. Go, tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna, In the highest!

 

Now that our celebration is over, we might still wonder what it was all about. Christmas gets far more attention than its role in the New Testament warrants, as Professor Wright put it in an article I recently read. But it’s the start of the climax of the greatest story ever told I’d say. A story of a broken, lost world, gone so far from the way its creator had planned for it. But not far from its creator. Because, as Wright writes, He is not a god who watches from the distance, and  intervenes from the outside. He  is always present and active within His world. He is always trying to bring it back to him. This is why one time, roughly 2000 years ago, the Creator became flesh, became a human, became a child. In the words of St. Augustine.

He wished to become one of our children in order to make us His Children.

For further reading on the subject of Jesus’ birth, I’d recommend the article by N.T. Wright that I mentioned.

A Christmas Story – Act 3…

A Christmas Story… is a playlist I’ve (re)made from a collection of the best christmas songs and hymns me and my friends could find on Spotify. I arranged the songs to let the lyrics do the telling of the greatest story ever told.

Act 3 – Mary’s Contemplation

Silent Night 

Son of God, Love’s pure light radiant beams from Thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace. Jesus Lord, at Thy birth, Heaven is coming to earth.

Bethlehem Town

Oh, Mary, Joseph, rest your eyes. Try not to think of the ending. World full of empty, He will die, but tonight He is still just a child. The silent night drifts all away, and the angels are dancing around you. There’s the joy of knowing He’ll save the world, overshadowing the pain that He’ll go through. Have you cursed at the wind? Have you cried to the heavens? Have you fought with this mercy you don’t understand? When the wise men kneel down to kiss the hand of this king they found, in Bethlehem town.

What Child Is This

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, come peasant, king to own Him; The King of kings salvation brings, Let loving hearts enthrone Him. This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing; Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Mary Did You Know

Mary did you know that your baby boy, is Lord of all creation? Mary did you know that your baby boy, will one day rule the nations? Did you know that your baby boy, Has come to make you new? This child that you’ve delivered. Did you know that your baby boy, Is heaven’s perfect Lamb? This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I Am!

 

I just love the last song. Almost every time I listen to it, I’m struck with this profound amazement and bewilderment at the last words. The baby is the great “I am”, YHWH, God. As one of my pastors said, the incarnation is the greatest mystery of all. You have to wonder what Mary and Joseph were thinking. Did they know? Did they believe it? Did they understand that this was the child the prophets spoke of, their Messiah, God incarnate?

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness   a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,  you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,  and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. – Isaiah 9:2-7

A Christmas Story – Act 2…

A Christmas Story… is a playlist I’ve (re)made from a collection of the best christmas songs and hymns me and my friends could find on Spotify. I arranged the songs to let the lyrics do the telling of the greatest story ever told.

Act 2 – Onwards to Bethlehem

Angels We Have Heard On High

Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong? What the gladsome tidings be which inspire your heavenly song?

O Come All Ye Faithful

O sing, choirs of angels, O sing in exultation. O sing all ye bright hosts of heaven above, glory to God, sing. O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Little Drummer Boy

Come they told me, a new born King to see. Our finest gifts we bring, to lay before the King. So to honor Him, when we come. Little Baby, I am a poor boy too. I have no gift to bring, that’s fit to give the King. Shall I play for you on my drum? Mary nodded, the ox and lamb kept time. I played my drum for Him, I played my best for Him! Pa rum pum pum pum!

Away In A Manger 

Away in a manger, no crib for His bed. The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head. The stars in the bright sky, looked down where He lay. The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

 

Is this the Messiah? In a country, occupied by a tyrannical military nation, a bastard child is born to a young teenage girl. A girl whom most people would call an adulteress (who would buy that conceived by a holy spirit thing anyways?). He is put on some left over hay, in a stable. The first who hears about his birth are the shepherds, some of the lowest ranking members of society, some of the poorest. The only other visitors are three gentile magi, strangers from another country, of another religion. Somehow it all kinda fits nicely with Jesus’ mission statement.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. – Luke 4:18, 19

He comes for the poor, the oppressed, the sick, the sinners, the uncool, the unwanted, the outcasts, the strangers, the unloved… well, I think you get the idea.