Our Easter Hope: Jesus Didn’t Rise from the Dead

statue-easter-bookHappy Easter! Let me greet all of you with the same Easter greeting that has been offered by generations upon generations of Christians before:

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

(And you respond with:)

Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Now I don’t know how many of you have grown up saying that or have eventually settled into traditions that do, but I wonder how many of us have noticed the grammar of that statement. Why has it never said, “Alleluia, Christ rose”, or “Alleluia, Christ has risen”?

There is an extremely important and immensely practical aspect of the Resurrection that, as I’ve moved in more and more church circles, I’ve realized has either become de-emphasized, forgotten, or never known in the first place:

Jesus did not rise from the dead.
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Reflections on Psalm 51: the People & their Fallen King [intro]

bathsheba-marc-chagallWhen it comes to talking about Repentance, there are few favorite passages to study than Psalm 51. As part of this year’s Lent series on Repentance, I’d like to spend the rest of this series exploring this Psalm verse-by-verse.

So today we begin. But not with verse 1. Instead we begin with that superscription found above it:

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

This is actually an important place to start. Most of the Hebrew writings we have outside of the Old Testament are pieces that were written to fill in gaps left in the biblical account. It seems the people of God have always had difficulties living with what God did not tell them.

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The Story of Repentance: believing vs. achieving

Van Gogh-Sower with Setting SunThis post is part of my 2013 Lent series: Reflections on Repentance.

I almost titled this post “theology in the service of real-life”.

The last time I wrote about repentance, I talked about the difficulties I have with some of the ways people in the Church talk about repentance. I then started researching the topic. And as I did, I found some amazingly helpful realizations about this in the Bible.

So today, I just wanted to take some time and explore this topic throughout the entire story of the scriptures. Hopefully, we can come to some conclusions about what repentance means for us today, and perhaps even some answers to our previous concerns in the last post.
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Barth: to Repent & Pray is to Die [QUOTE]

This post is part of my 2013 Lent series: Reflections on Repentance.

In the first book of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, as he is reflecting on God as Creator, Barth begins meditating on the fact that this Creating God is also our Father. He begins talking about what “Fatherly Lordship” might look like, and what impact this “Fatherly” dimension might have on how we look at his “Lord-ly” commands on us–like the command to “repent”. And so, as he is focusing on God’s Fatherhood in the Gospels, he writes these beautiful words on repentance:

Metanoien [the Greek verb for “repent”], to reverse one’s thinking, to think afresh, to think through to God and His kingdom, really means in the rest of the New Testament too, and here in the Gospels especially, to consider the fact that we must die. But it does not just mean this, but whatever else it might mean, it can mean only that if first and decisively it means this.

Further, note that “Thy name”, “Thy kingdom”, and “Thy will” are the objects of the first three petitions of the prayer directed to “our Father, which art in heaven” (Mt. 6:9f), and it is on these that the three which follow rest. In the context of the New Testament, then, the Thy makes these petitions absolutely equivalent to the saying : “Teach us to reflect that we must die.”

I’ve got some problems with repentance (and how you people talk about it)

belle-isle-bridge-long-walk This post is part of my 2013 Lent series: Reflections on Repentance.

Martin Luther famously kicked off the Reformation by saying the whole of the Christian life is one of repentance. In this, he was implying that it was not a singular moment, but rather a lifelong process. Yet, as I’ve lived life in the Church, I have found that this is not quite the way that most Christians talk about repentance, nor does it seem to be the way the Bible itself does.

If you ask your run-of-the-mill Christian convert, or even pastor or theologian, what repentance is, you will usually get some answer that involves the phrase “180 degrees” or talk about a change of your mind or turning away from a sin you do.

Good sermons and books on repentance will usually involve the Luther formula of using the Holy expectations of a Holy God to expose just how sinful we are, and then hitting us with just how radical God’s grace is in light of that. They will show us our need, trying to woo us to a God that forgives us. They try to expose even those sins hidden to ourselves or those that we hide from others or those that have beset us for years, and then invite us to “turn” from those things and instead trust God.

Sermons and books like this have contributed to beautiful moments in my life, drawing my heart to God and convicting me of my sins.

And yet, I have a problem with this. In these articulations of repentance, there seems to be a disconnect. A major, major disconnect.
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Intelligent Repentance: Hearing our Hearts

[This is part of my 2013 Lent series: Reflections on Repentance.]

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink— even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk— it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.

“Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
See how I used him to display my power among the peoples.
I made him a leader among the nations.
You also will command nations you do not know, and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey,
because I, the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”

Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

The writings of the Prophet Isaiah, Chappter 55, verses 1-9 Continue reading

Lent & Repentance: Come & Mourn with Me Awhile


This is part of my 2013 Lent series: Reflections on Repentance.]

Last week was Ash Wednesday, which begins the church season of Lent. On that day, hundreds of millions of people (perhaps even as much as a billion) went to quiet services and got ash crosses finger-painted on their foreheads.

It’s a strange act, but perhaps the most striking one in Christian tradition. It’s certainly my favorite.

No matter how widespread Christianity has been in the world, I can’t imagine there was ever a time in which the public mark of ashes on one’s face did not stir some sort of double-take from passers-by. Even to this day, it’s the most counter-cultural and outward thing many American Christians widely do.

Ashen forehead crosses are one of the few Christian traditions that is still ours, and hasn’t been co-opted by the wider culture, and thereby watered-down in its meaning or force.
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