Thursday, September 20, 2007

Out of Egypt

Have you ever wondered about what is not said? "But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." What a way to end a story. The door is left wide open for an imaginative narrative about the central figure in human history. Anne Rice decided to step through that door.

The only thing I knew about Rice, prior to reading this novel, was that she wrote about vampires, which caused me to be a bit hesitant in picking up her book. However, I must say that when I finally did I was pleasantly surprised. She did her homework - it's evident in her Author's Note that she explored some of the best biblical scholars out there before writing this novel. In fact, it was an endorsement by N. T. Wright that made me finally decide to read Rice's book. If you're looking for a unique read then I would recommend checking out Christ the Lord Out of Egypt. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Severe Mercy

Sheldon Vanauken poetically tells his story of finding love and discovering faith within the realities of this finite existence. I recently re-read this wonderful autobiography and was once again struck by the painful beauty of this powerful personal narrative. If you are looking for an incarnational story of love and faith, and especially if you are an avid C. S. Lewis reader, I would encourage you to explore A Severe Mercy, I promise you won't regret it. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Robert Jenson

The renowned theologian Robert Jenson will be coming to NTS October 9-11 to offer the Grider-Winget Lectures in theology. Not only is he a well known theologian these days, but he also advised the PhD work of an influential theologian in my own thinking, Colin E. Gunton. Jenson has a deep understanding of Christian doctrine and history and his unique articulation has fostered promising ecumenical dialogue. If you don't know anything about Jenson there are a couple of brief but informative articles here and here.

I've decided to take this opportunity to finally pull Jenson's two volume Systematic Theology off my bookshelf for a bit of exploration. Though I was familiar with his name and aspects of his theological articulation, I didn't have the opportunity to investigate his writing in any depth during my time at Seminary. However, the rigors of life in ministry and other necessary reading has distracted me from giving concentrated, prayerful attention to this important work. I'm hoping to compete both volumes before the lectures, but that may be wishful thinking.

I know that there may be a few people who read this blog (that may also be wishful thinking) and are much more familiar with Jenson than I am, but wouldn't be able to make it to the lectures for one reason or another. I thought I would give you the opportunity to live vicariously through me, but only in this instance, mind you. If you have a question that you've always wanted to ask Jenson but you've never been able to meet him - feel free to post it here and I'll try to find an opportunity to ask your questions and then I'll blog the results. Of course, if it is an inane or ridiculous question then I probably won't ask it...but using moderate discretion I'll try to bring results to the top questions...if you have any. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Deum glorificare

Quæstio. Quis hominis finis est præcipuus?

Responsio. Præcipuus hominis finis est, Deum glorificare, eodemque frui in æternum.

This may seem like a bunch of gibberish to you...but it is likely that you actually know what this says - even if you don't read Latin. It is the first and most well known question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism (which doesn't seem all that 'short' anymore.)

It is typically translated in this way: Question 1. What is the chief end of man?

Answer. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

In some sense this was the 1640's version of the 'purpose driven life'. What is our primary purpose in life? What gives life meaning? Why are we here?

I love the direct simplicity of this answer - our purpose in this life and our ultimate goal is to glorify God and enjoy His presence for all of eternity. That answer shaves away the meaningless fluff of life with a sharp razor getting all the way down to the life-blood of our existence.

James Torrance says that human beings were made to be the Priests of creation. He said it so well in his Didsbury Lectures in 1994: "God has made all creatures for His glory. Without knowing it, the lilies of the field in their beauty, glorify God with a glory greater than that of Solomon, the sparrow on the housetop glorifies God, and the universe in its vastness and remoteness is the theatre of God's glory. But God made men and women in His own image to be the priests of creation and to express on behalf of all creatures the praises of God, so that through human lips the heavens might declare the glory of God. When we, who know we are God's creatures, worship God together, we gather up the worship of all creation. Our chief end is to glorify God, and creation realizes its own creaturely glory in glorifying God through human lips" and lives.

"But nature fails in its realization because of our human failure. Instead of singing songs of joy, the whole creation groans in universal travail, waiting for the fulfillment of God's purposes in human lives. Does God then abandon His purposes for humanity and for all His creatures? Does God leave all nature to be subject to vanity and futility - to be ruthlessly exploited and abused - and forget He has made us in His image for a life of communion and shared stewardship?"

"The good news is that God comes to us in Jesus to stand in for us and bring to fulfillment His purposes of worship and communion. Jesus comes to be the Priest of creation to do for us, men and women, what we failed to do, to offer to the Father the worship and the praise we failed to offer, to glorify God by a life of perfect love and obedience, to be the one true servant of the Lord. In Him and through Him we are renewed by the Spirit in the image of God and in the worship of God in a life of shared communion."

What is our response to this? Thanksgiving (eucharistia) and praise! In response to the self-giving grace (charis) of God we offer our selves in body, mind and spirit. Christ is our High Priest, our true worship, our genuine sacrifice of obedience - He is the image of God who achieves our purpose and chief end to glorify God and enjoy Him forever! It is only as we abide in Him and as He abides in us that we are able to participate in authentic worship, live lives of significance moving toward our end goal in Him. If that is what it means to be 'purpose driven' then that is what I want - any other purpose is mist. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Just For Fun

If you want to see something funny and somewhat disturbing click here. This experiment is a tribute to moms everywhere!


Purity. This isn't a word that is heavily emphasized in the American lexicon. I often wonder why that is?

Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." I think that we often gloss over this so-called Beatitude - at least I know that I do. I've not spent much time in this short life reflecting on purity.

Is pollution such a part of our everyday existence that polluted hearts only seem natural? How do we maintain purity in a polluted world?

I'm not sure, but I have been reminded this week of the Collect for Purity found in the Common Book of Prayer. This has become a regular part of my prayer life: "Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You, and worthily magnify Your Holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen."

We get dirty - we need to be cleansed, purified. God knows our inward being. He knows our hearts, our desires, and all our secrets - we cannot hide from God, though we often duck behind a tree like Adam and Eve hoping that somehow He won't see us in the forest. He calls to us and we say, "How do you know me?" And only confirming our fears, He says, "I saw you when you were still under the fig tree." As if we could hide.

Recognizing the reality that God knows us inside and out is the beginning of purity. Following this revelation, we must seek cleansing by the Spirit for no other reason than to worship and love Him. For purity is grounded in relationship with the Creator.

Maybe if we Christ-followers began to talk about purity more, we would have the vocabulary to speak out against all kinds of pollution...those things which destroy God's good creation. It seems that very few groups have brought the two together - some seem only concerned with purity of the heart, while others only focus on social or environmental purity. Yet, our Story calls for the redemption and purity of all things - besides, what is purity other than restoring something to its intended purpose, function and place within the created order. It is a word that we need to spend a little more time reflecting on. Just thinkin'. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS