A Christian (individual, family, couple, etc.) immigrates to a new country for work. They find a place to live.
- Trajectory One: They then begin to seek out a church that is right for them. Using search engines and map apps, they plan out which churches in their new city they will try out. They enjoy the preaching at some churches and the music at others, they are impressed at the apparent organisation and websites of a few others, and visit several churches that are obviously not what they are looking for. After a few months of visiting different churches, they visit a large church near the city centre, so the larger size meant that during the sermon as they looked down from the second-story seating area, they could spot plenty of people their own age. They felt pretty comfortable in the smoothly run service – no awkward pauses – and the church looked to be clearly successful and growing, so after a few weeks they decide to join. They then begin looking for a life group that is right for them, they find out what the church provides, what their options are, etc…
- Trajectory Two: They then begin to seek out a church to serve within. Within the first few days of settling into their house, getting groceries and suchlike, they notice that a church is just a few blocks away, so they go on Sunday morning and introduce themselves. Being a residentially-based church, it’s not too large, and naturally there aren’t too many people their own age, but they could see no reason why this church would hinder them in their desire to serve the community around where they lived, and after a few weeks, a kind older couple has them around for lunch. Meanwhile, they already have begun to learn about the surrounding community, not only discovering where the best restaurants and other ‘hot spots’ are, but also its needs and ministry opportunities. They discover that while the local church has a few ministries that bless the community, there are some needs currently unaddressed. So, they begin to think, pray and discuss with others what could be done…
If it’s not blatantly obvious, the two trajectories above couldn’t be more different. One reflects a ‘getting’ consumer-driven approach that seeks to find a church for me, and enjoyable sermons, music, attractive marketing that you can be proud of, a home group with people like me, etc. The other reflects a ‘giving’ kingdom-driven approach that seeks to find a church for ministry and mission to others.
I’m currently doing a research essay on how the parable of the Good Samaritan has been preached in different times and contexts. Interpretation and preaching have traditionally centred on how the story presents three characters, one of who is the exemplary Samaritan.
But in the research, I’ve found that some rightly point out that the Innkeeper is a fourth. Apparently innkeepers were known to at times over-charge, and so the greed of the innkeeper provides another contrast to the generosity of the Samaritan who offers to repay any expense the innkeeper incurs in caring for the man (whose nationality or race are – deliberately? – never revealed).
Now, I’m probably not the first to see yet another person in the story, and I’ll have to check the commentaries, but the following lines suggest it to me:
On the next day [most MSS include ‘when he departed’], he took out two denarii, and gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.”
It is the phrase “when I come again” that tipped me off. Was that a glimpse of the parousia just there tucked away? I wonder it we glimpse Jesus himself in the person of the Samaritan; and by implication the church in the Innkeeper. The ministry of the church is indeed (among other things) to welcome the lonely, to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to visit the imprisoned. Do we glimpse Jesus here, equipping the Church (giving of the Spirit?) to do their work, and promise a ‘repayment’ (reward according to deeds?) for how much extra they do?
Posted in bible, christianity, ethics, theology
Tagged church, deeds, good samaritan, grace, innkeeper, jesus, parable, reward, spirit, work
It’s a simple distinction.
When a panel of judges selects one competitor to be the champion, the others don’t benefit from the selection. They go home losers. (Cue Queen music…)
But when a nation elects a new leader, the entire nation benefits. He or she passes legislation that they elected him to pass, etc.
The biblical doctrine of election is no different. Israel in general, and Christ in particular, are God’s Beloved, not in the sense of being (randomly or otherwise) ‘selected’ out to win a prize that benefits nobody else, but so that the nations of the earth would be blessed through them (Genesis 12:1-3). Never in the Bible is it said that Israel was chosen so that she could have exclusive rights to God and salvation. On the contrary, she was chosen to pass on blessing and salvation – in all its forms – to all.
It is like a fire or police squad, or a hospital staff. They are not self-serving teams, simply to make sexy firemen calendars, etc. They have a mission and a calling to serve their community. A doctor tells her smoking patient to change his ways not because “I’m a doctor and you can’t be”, not because “I am perfect in all ways”, but because she is a good and caring doctor. That’s enough metaphor for one post. :)
Kim Fabricus recently offered twelve ripostes for ‘militant atheists’, one of which was about prayer.
—Prayer plainly doesn’t work.
On a spectrum of immature to mature, understandings of Christian prayer will range from the anthropocentric and mechanistic notion that prayer is about us invoking God to do something we want for our world, to the more theocentric and relational conviction that prayer is about God involving us in what God wants to do for God’s world.
On this note, I wanted to post an example of this I heard last night in the last Romans lecture at Carey Baptist.
There are three agents ‘groaning’ in Romans 8:18-27; a) creation groaning as with birth pangs, b) the church groaning awaiting redemption, and c) the Spirit groaning in intercession for us and the world.
The world is not as it should be (creation groaning). God grieves that this is so (the Spirit groaning), and moves us to grief (church groaning) and action.
This parallels a scene from the Gospels.
Jesus’ groaning prayer in the Garden, overcome with grief. The triune God involved in groaning prayer – the Son praying to the Father in the power of the Spirit. Jesus’ words ‘not my will but Thy will’ reflects that his prayer is about the divine will for the world and Jesus’ human obedience to it.
And Jesus also had invited his disciples to ‘watch and pray’ with him. As George Wieland said last night, “To pray is to keep Jesus company as he agonises in the garden.”
I really enjoyed the research on this one. My continual struggle is starting early enough on an assignment so that I have time to drown myself in research and actually write the essay. There are 34 items in the bibliography (dictionaries, commentaries, journal articles and some topical monographs), and I really only dipped into things. Pretty late in the piece I was wow-ed by Karl Barth’s commentary on Romans 5:12, and really want to look into that more.
Anyway, hope it’s interesting reading (warning, it’s 4,000+ words)!
Posted in bible, christianity, science, theology
Tagged anthropology, christology, church, evolution, original sin, peccator originale originans, peccator originale originatum, pretending to be a scholar, research, scripture, soteriology, theology, world
Posted in bible, christianity, philosophy, science, theology, www
Tagged astronomy, atheism, church, creation, culture, current event, debate, ethics, evil, evolution, faith, god, heaven, Holy Spirit, hope, humanity, intelligent design, interpretation, learning, life, morals, order, philosophy, religion, science, spirituality, theism, theology, truth, web
Posted in ethics, www
Tagged change, church, community, creation, current event, dignity, ethics, evangelism, god, humanity, imagination, incarnational, porn, random, religion, temptation, web
By the way, this is NOT me… :) And they’re (hopefully) kidding…
Issues of culture, religion, politics and the like are of much interest to me.
This Friday, quite an interesting complex of issues will be focused in one event in which I’ll be taking part.
As a pastor of one of the churches in the Northcote area, I’ve been asked to take part in the ANZAC Day Commemorative Service, where we will (as the brochure will read) commemorate “those who have fallen in service of their Country.” My part in this event –which I will do gladly– will be (and I quote – again from the already printed order of service) to offer a “Call to Worship”, a “Prayer of Remembrance” and a “Benediction”.
Posted in christianity, politics
Tagged belief, christianity, church, community, conflict, culture, current event, faith, general, god, humanity, life, peace, politics, relationships, religion, theism
If only people in general –and Christians in particular– could grasp just a few key things that makes Jesus who He is… then I’m convinced not only that Christianity would have a better reputation, but –even further– those who aren’t Christians might be far less against the growth of Christianity…
People are scared about the growth of Christianity because they (often) think (and not without reason to) that this could eventually lead to a Christian state. All those voting Christians, voting in all those ‘religious’ laws, taking away our freedom, taking away our shopping on Sunday, etc. Many Christians are not at all hesitant to affirm that this is, in fact, precisely what they are working toward…
Now, this post is not directly about how Christians should relate to politics, but it does relate. I am convinced that the Christian faith is to be lived out in the public world, and not simply in private. However, the question is: “What does this look like?”
Posted in bible, christianity, theology
Tagged belief, christianity, church, conflict, discernment, discipleship, faith, god, gospel, heaven, interpretation, Israel, jesus, Jewish, kingdom of god, politics, prayer, religion, spirituality, suffering, theology