Saturday, August 30, 2008

My son David and Thousand Year Star Productions

Some pictures by my son David and his new web site.

The first a sunflower from my garden. The next some of my tomatoes before they began to ripen.

Brothers; you can surely tell.

Roses from my garden; they bloomed like a wedding bouquet. Some members of a good Presbyterian family : ) Three are not pictured including a wonderful son-in-law. The mother of my great grand-child. She did design the pretty tattoo on her leg.

My son David is entering the world of film and photography. Here is his new web site. Thousand Year Star Productions. Be sure to visit this part of his site where he has a wedding highlights video on U-Tube.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Surprising thoughts of a ten year old

Up-date! Okay I am in trouble this child is ten! If you had seventeen grandchildren you might make that mistake too!

It’s surprising the concepts and understanding a TEN year old child can have, as well as the compassion. One of my granddaughters sent me a get well card she made today.

Like Sherman’s march to the sea the shingles have been marching steadily across the upper part of the right side of my face for the last several days coming a bit too close to one of my eyes for comfort. If any thing I write sounds strange just blame it on the steroids and the pain pills!

Anyway, the card: The front page has a beautiful traced leaf, and the words “life has good things.”

On the inside left page she has drawn pictures. There is a lightening streak with the word “pain,” and a broken ring with the words “divorce.” (No we are not getting a divorce no matter how badly I look at the moment!)

There is fire with the words “anger” and a person falling down into the middle of some water with the words “loneliness.”

There is a rose falling apart with the words “ended love” and a tear drop with “sadness.” There are a lot of dark lines and scary eyes with the word “scariness.” And finally right in the middle are the words “But Life has bad things.”

But on the right-hand page are the words “And I know God can help you through it all! Get well soon!

And just for fun on the backside it says Egg Cards.

So I would like to share. For anyone else out there that has a rebel Sherman marching through your life at the moment may the Lord bring comfort your way.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Confession of the Church 9

I remember when the Confessing Churches in the Presbyterian Church USA formed. That was around the time I started writing for renewal groups in the Church, in particular, for Voices of Orthodox Women. The Confessing Churches did not write a Confession of Faith.

They did ascribe to three statements they wanted to emphasize. But they were roundly criticized for their name and their statements. This is what the ninth character of a Confession of Faith is about. Arthur C. Cochrane in his book The Church’s Confession Under Hitler using his chapter on the nature of a Confession of faith explains:

“A genuine Confession of Faith invariably provokes opposition from the false church and from the world precisely because in its witness to God’s free grace for all people it constitutes a radical attack upon the false Church and the world. As a fighting action of the Church it runs against the stream. According to Matt., ch. 10, the confessors will be hated by all men. A man’s foes will be those of his own household, and he will be dragged before governors and kings for Christ’s sake.”

Of course in the United States you can only throw words not stones.

Cochrane points out that a Confession of Faith will not only affirm the faith but also condemn those prevailing heresies of the era.

He writes of the damnamus of a Confession:

“A genuine Confession, therefore, will not merely confess, declare, and teach; implicitly or explicitly, it will also condemn, reject, and anathematize the opposing error. … This feature of a Confession has often been lamented and denounced on the ground of its intolerance and lovelessness.

The truth is that the negative exists for the sake of the positive, for the sake of definiteness and clarity, Hitler had no objections to Christians who confessed that Jesus is Lord; but he was enraged when they confessed that Jesus is Lord and Hitler is not.

Moreover, the damnamus, like the woes Jesus pronounced upon the Pharisees, has to be uttered just for the sake of a genuine love for the erring brethren. To spare them the anathema would be neither loving nor truthful. Obviously the anathema ought not to be excised rashly or self-righteously. But if we do not have the confidence to say ‘we condemn,’ if we still want to indulge in innocuous sweet-sounding affirmations that can neither give offense nor engender strong loyalties, then it is a sure sign that we are not ready to confess at all.” (I have divided this paragraph up into three parts to make it easier reading.)

I have mostly quoted from Cochrane's book for this posting. I think what Cochrane has to say under his ninth point is so important, now, in the United States at a time when we are so careful not to offend. Diversity is a wonderful word when it is not used to undermine the faith of the church by placing untruths beside truth.

I know a small PCUSA church in my town whose diversity is amazing. People of many ethnic groups attend. There is a wide range of ages, and members include both those who are single and many families. There are many differing personalities that attend. I know this because my Daughter and Son-in-law and their large and "diverse" family attend. Yet, most members stand upon the firm foundation that includes faithfulness to Scripture, faithfulness to Jesus Christ as Lord and faithfulness to each other. This is a proper use of the word diversity for the Church of Jesus Christ. We have a choice to either offend the world or offend Jesus Christ.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Links to Organizations and Individuals who are providing a direction for faithfulness

Links to information for those who are concerned about the actions of the 2008 General Assembly.

Several renewal organizations and individuals are doing excellent work pointing out a direction for those in the PCUSA who are Evangelical, Reformed and orthodox. They are attempting to help individuals and Churches stay and in that staying be faithful to Jesus Christ. Since I have been part of one forum on the GA and will help with another Sunday night I want to place a group of links on my blog where others might find help. It is meant as a resource for others to use.

I am posting them here and will later put them on the side of my blog :

Presbyterians for Renewal: This site has many good articles and ideas.

The Presbyterian Coalition This is a group that has been faithful for many years. They still are with many great ideas and perseverance.

Rev Dr. Mark Roberts , Senior Director and Scholar in Residence at Laity Lodge in Tex, has been blogging on this subject since General Assembly. (with a few breaks)

Michael Walker, Theologian in Residence at Highland Presbyterian Church in Dallas Tex, at
Regula Fidei has just began an excellent series "What Way Ahead?"

New Wineskins Association of Churches, While some of the Churches belonging to this group have and are leaving the PCUSA there are many who are not. I know there is compassionate fellowship here.

In addition to this for news of the whole Church the best spot is Presbyweb whose founder and web master is
Hans Cornelder. This is a subscription site but not expensive and well worth it.

And finally here is a posting by
Robert Austell, Pastor of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Charlotte NC. I think his posting says all that can be said: some things are bigger than GA.

All of the renewal groups can be found here:

I will undoubtedly add more sites to this list.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Responding to the Moderator's Presbymeme

I saw a Moderator Monday: Presbymeme II put together by Bruce Reyes-Chow. The questions are very interesting and I decided to break into my blogging on the Church’s Confession and do the meme.

What is your favorite faith-based hymn, song or chorus.

There is a fountain filled with Blood.” I have loved this hymn ever since I became a Christian as a teenager. Here are two of the verses I particularly like.

“Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.”

When looking this up on Cyber Hymnal I found a last verse I had never seen before.

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!’
Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

(I'm thinking my husband a piano tuner, might enjoy that third line.)

What was the context, content and/or topic of the last sermon that truly touched, convicted, inspired, challenged, comforted and/or otherwise moved you?

Lately, I have listened to a lot of good sermons, at my church and other places. I think Robert Austell ‘s sermon “Dazed and Confused,” which he just recently posted is excellent and relevant for this time in our denomination. A sermon that I recently listened to on the internet was preached by Thabiti Anyabwile. He is an African American who pastors a Church in the Cayman Islands. His sermon “Bearing the Image: Identity, the Work of Christ, and the Church” is about race issues and is so very significant for the Presbyterian Church USA. To give you a hint he doesn’t believe in the word race. You can hear it here scroll all the way down.

If you could have all Presbyterians read just one of your previous posts, what would it be and why?

I think Paul Schneider: A Chestnut Tree and the Confessing Church, is one of my favorites for several reasons. It includes several of my passions, first of all Jesus Christ and the Church, second, history and that of a time I am extremely interested in, and finally it led to a discussion on anti-Semitism a subject that needs to be explored in all the mainline churches. (I also like the picture)

What are three PC(USA) flavored blogs you read on a regular basis?

This one is very hard because I read a lot of blogs. Bruce has already listed Toby Brown and Mark Roberts so I can’t list them : ) I do enjoy reading Michael Kruse, The Berkley Blog, and Taking the Ring.

If the PC(USA) were a movie, what would it be and why?

I am thinking of a movie from my teenage years, “The Robe.” The main character played by Richard Burton roams all over the country side of New Testament Israel looking for Jesus’ robe because he thinks it is causing his madness. (He is the soldier who was in command at Jesus’ crucifixion.) Instead he finds Jesus’ disciples who lead him to Christ. It seems to me our church is roaming in the wilderness looking for (robes) answers for our own particular form of madness. I pray we will all end up with Jesus Christ as our only Lord.

I tag Debbie Berkley at Taking the Ring.
And Barb Moody at I was just thinking..., which will mess up her weekly schedule, sorry.
Toby Brown.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Confession of the Church 8

The Confession of the Church must speak to the political and social issues of its historical time. Arthur Cochrane, in his book The Church’s Confession Under Hitler, writes about the moral focus of the Church’s Confession. His eighth character of a Confession of Faith:

“A Confession of faith not only is relevant for the Church’s own doctrine and life but bears definite implications for concrete social and political issues. This is the ethical character of a Confession. It possesses both ecclesiastical and secular significance. It is a witness to Christ before the Church and the World. It does not shrink from dealing with concrete issues such as racialism, anti-Semitism, nationalism, Fascism and Communism, militarism and economic exploitation. In short, it is relevant for social and political justice, freedom, and peace. A confession which lacked this dimension would not be a true Confession; a Church that neglected to draw the implications of its Confession for the social and political order and that was concerned only about the purity of its own teaching and piety would certainly not be a Confessing Church—not the one, holy, catholic Church of Christ. For then it would have denied that Christ died for the world, and that it has been elected and called to serve the world with its message of God’s grace for all people.”

This is a long statement, but I felt it was very important to draw Cochrane’s whole conclusions out.

The Church does not simply live within its own walls holding onto its tenets as a kind of quietist monastic community, but instead it brings to the world a message of good news. That good news of God’s grace is without question contained in the life, the redeeming death and the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

That is in fact Cochrane’s first characteristic of a Confession of Faith. “It confesses a Living Person who is the Lord and thus calls for a personal relationship of trust and obedience to him …” Such trust and obedience will shape the Church’s view of the world. And the Church’s view of the world will shape how she serves those in both the Church and the world. And that is both political and social.

Cochrane adds some historical information to show how this was worked out in the Confessing Church. Ten men drew up a memorandum which was sent to the Confessing Synods, to Hitler and to a person who leaked it to the foreign press before it was seen by Nazi government officials. Of the three men who made sure it was read outside of Germany, Dr. Friedrich Weissler was “the first martyr of the Confessing Church”

The Memorandum is an appendix in Cochrane’s book. The authors, among many other complaints, protest young people being sent to work camps where they are not allowed Christian literature. They protest the concentration camps in Germany. They protest the arbitrariness of the law courts and unchristian oaths of allegiance. They protest the attempt to dechristianize the German people.

They write, “When even high authorities in the State and in the Party publicly assail the Christian faith … Church members are more and more enmeshed in their unbelief, the waverers and the doubters are made completely uncertain and are driven to defection. Grave danger, as a matter of fact, exists that the Evangelical youth will be prevented from coming to Him who is the only Savior of German as will as other boys and girls.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Confession of the Church 7

These times in the Presbyterian Church (USA) require special attention to the word of God and the Confessions of the Church. In the introduction to his book, The Church’s Confession Under Hitler, Arthur C. Cochrane writes:

“First, a Confession of Faith involves a conflict not merely between theological schools within the Church but a conflict between the true and false Church, a conflict that divides the Churches. While love for the erring brethren may still prevail, the division is extremely painful and deep wounds are inflicted. … Secondly, a Confession of Faith is a decision in which ‘the first shall be last, and the last shall be first,’ and none may glory save in the Lord!”

At the end of March I wrote my last posting on the Confession of the Church with,
The Confession of the Church 6. I am now returning to that topic with four more postings. This is the first and covers the seventh point from the chapter “The nature of a confession of faith.”1

The seventh character of a Confession of Faith is:

It occurs when the Church is convinced that its faith and unity are ‘grievously imperiled’ by a heresy that has ripened and come to a head. This is the dogmatic character of a Confession.

Cochrane names the heresy. It belonged to the German Christians “who taught that in addition to God’s revelation in Christ attested by Scripture there is a natural revelation in nature and history …” For the German Christians that additional revelation in history and nature was found in “German blood, race, and soil, and in the event of the National Socialist revolution and rebirth of the German soul.”

Notice here the basic heresy was adding another revelation to the revelation that God had already given in Christ. This is a heresy whatever the additional revelation might be. And it has found a home in our own faith institutions. Our own heresy has its roots in the same errors that plagued the German Church during its modern history.

Cochrane points out that this was a heretical view that was “the culmination of the errors of the theology of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.” And then he goes on to quote Pastor Hans Asmussen who gave the address to those gathered at the Synod of Barmen:

We are raising a protest against the same phenomenon that has been slowly preparing the way for the devastation of the Church for more than two hundred years. For it is only a relative difference whether, beside Holy Scripture, in the Church historical events, or reason, culture, aesthetic feelings, progress, or other powers and figures are said to be binding claims upon the Church.”

When some in the Church, in any age including our own, lift up additional revelation not based in Scripture it is they who break the unity of the Church, because in appealing to other foundations they divide the Church’s loyalty between two masters. Neither reason nor historical events; neither culture nor progress; there is no other foundation but Jesus Christ.

Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 9)

1 Those who formulated the Declaration of Barmen also laid out some practical steps for being the Church in a time of division and crisis. This can be found under Barmen as “III. Resolution of the Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church,” found in The Church's Confession Under Hitler. I will write on some of their practicalities when I am finished with this series.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Called to Bigotry? No! Called to Faithfulness? Yes!

Having written about racism for many years I have observed a changing climate among organizations, writers and researchers doing important work on that subject. Over the years I have used and given research assistance to several groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Earlier this year Casey Sanchez who writes for that organization called me about some tapes I had that were made by an Identity Pastor, Arnold Murray. The tapes were the main proof that Murray is an Identity Pastor who rants against the Jews. (He calls them Kenites instead of Jews but sometimes he lets the truth slip.)

I helped Sanchez get the information and out of interest looked up other articles he had written.

I found the article, “Straight Like Me 'Ex-Gay' Movement Making Strides.” While I read important information in this article and agreed with some of Sanchez’s thoughts there was a total misunderstanding about the orthodox Christian viewpoint that Christians must abstain from sexual immorality. Also, there were errors in the article which are pointed out by Dr. Warren Throckmorton in his excellent critique, Southern Poverty Law Center article on ex-gay movement: Were the facts straight?.

And, there was no acknowledgement at all that the Christian Church has always held homosexual sex to be sin. Nor does Sanchez understand the Church’s teaching that all are sinners and only Jesus Christ can transform the sinner, not into a sinless person, but into one who does not habitually practice sin.

But my question here is how did hate and Christian beliefs about sin get so wrapped up together?

One Presbyterian pastor has decided to call Christian belief about homosexuality hate. Quoting from the 1978 General Assembly statement about homosexuality he calls the statements hate speech. The quotes include “…homosexuality is not God’s wish for humanity” and “...Even where the homosexual orientation has not been consciously sought or chosen, it is neither a gift from God nor a state nor a condition like race; it is a result of our living in a fallen world.”

Yet, the difference between hate speech and Christian concerns over sinful behavior is as wide as the difference between darkness and light.

The racist desires to destroy another human; she insists that the other should no longer exist. But the Christian is called to care for each individual; to bring them to Christ, to disciple them in the Christian faith, to live together with them and before them a life of holiness.

Although the secular world may not understand that Jesus Christ came to give new life to the sinner that is the supreme good news.

Jesus describes both the hater and his own gift of life in one statement, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10: 10) It isn’t a new sexuality that is offered here but a transformed life that is united with the lord of the universe. As Augustine and others have explained it is the empty place within the repentant human heart filled with God’s presence.

And for the disciples of Jesus Christ, for the Church which follows the Lord, there is a calling to have mercy on those who are in bondage to the decadence in our society. Jude writes to the Church that they are to “have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” (Jude 22-23)

The Apostle Paul reminds the Church that their past included such sins as thievery, drunkenness, homosexuality and swindling. But now, and here he lays out the whole of Christian transformation, by God’s transforming grace “they were washed” and “sanctified” and “justified” all in the name of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

This means that they have been cleansed by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. They are continually being renewed in their relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit. They are holy with the righteousness of Christ and justified in the sight of God the Father.

So always the Church is called to be transformed and to proclaim the transforming power of Jesus Christ. And that is not hate.

Christians have always had to deal with the particular sins that are the most troublesome in their own time. Sexual sin is one of the great problems of post-modern western Christianity. But it is not a unique time. The Church has passed this way before, and society has looked on her with far greater contempt in other ages and places. The Church of Uganda celebrates its martyrs who died resisting a sexually deviant king.

Eusebius, the early Church historian, quoting Justin, wrote of a Roman woman who had practiced debauchery with both her husband and their servants. Eusebius writes how after becoming a Christian she attempted to lead her husband to Christ and away from their sinful life style. Finally she had to divorce him to protect her own sanctity. In the end the one who taught her the Christian faith, having been denounced by the lady’s ex-husband, was killed because he was a Christian.

Closer to contemporary times Dietrich Bonheoffer in his Ethics, in his confession for the Church, confessed that the church of his country and his time had failed to speak to the sexual problems plaguing his culture. He wrote:

“The Church confesses that she has found no word of advice and assistance in the face of the dissolution of all order in the relation between the sexes. She has found no strong and effective answer to the contempt for chastity and to the proclamation of sexual libertinism. All she has achieved has been an occasional expression of moral indignation. She has rendered herself guilty of the loss of the purity and soundness of youth. She has failed to proclaim with sufficient emphasis that our bodies belong to the Body of Christ.”(114)

Called to bigotry? No, but called to proclaim that Jesus Christ provides transforming life to the sinner. Called to proclaim that Christ’s death on the cross is sufficient for all our sins; that his resurrection brings new life. Called to confess our own sins and reach out to those suffering in bondage. Simply, called to be faithful.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Guidelines for Communal Discernment: A Critique

During General Assembly two of the committees used a guide for what is often thought of as consensus decision making . The one guide offered was written by Victoria G. Curtiss and was entitled Guidelines for Communal Discernment. Before GA I wrote a paper on the Guidelines which was used by a few people in a shorter form.

After reading a posting on Presbyweb, "Discernment as committee assignment: GA groups struggle to try it out" by Leslie Scanlon at the Presbyterian Outlook, I am posting the paper on my web site, Naming the Grace.

The paper, "Guidelines for Communal Discernment: A Critique" begins:

"Reading the Guidelines for Communal Discernment, a resource for the 218 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), I am reminded of C.S. Lewis's Narnia book, The Silver Chair. In that story Prince Rilian, Jill, Scrubb and the Marsh-Wiggle, Puddleglum, face the witch-queen of the Underland.

The Scene is set. With a bit of magic powder, the queen provides a sweet and drowsy smell from the fire. She takes “a musical instrument rather like a mandolin,” and begins to “play with her fingers-a steady, monotonous thrumming,” that will become unnoticeable after awhile. The queen uses 'a soothing voice,” as though she is “humoring a child…'

Only the Puddleglum can change the situation by stepping on the fire so the whole room will be filled with the smell of burnt Marsh-wiggle. It's hard to manipulate the outcome of a situation with burnt Marsh-wiggle waking everyone up, but in the real world of Presbyterian decision making understanding the difference between “communal discernment” and parliamentary procedures will help. So will knowledge of how spirituality can be used to manipulate people.

The booklet, Guidelines for Communal Discernment, written by Victoria G. Curtiss, is meant as a guide to be used with or instead of the normal parliamentary procedures in some General Assembly committees as well as other official meetings of the PCUSA. Communal discernment in its most basic and simplified form consists of discussion about and discernment of an issue until a particular group arrives at a decision. "

Another part of my article:

Definitions of communal discernment and consensus as manipulation: Under the sub-title, “What is Communal Discernment?,” Curtiss gives many definitions and many of them, in this section, could also be applied to parliamentary procedures. For instance, she writes, “Communal discernment engages a group of people to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. It involves prayer, a humble surrendering of control, reflection on Scripture, and listening carefully to one another as together we seek to hear God's voice.”

Yet, in the gathered Body of Christ any kind of action involving decision making, when not used manipulatively, could possess these same qualities. A presbytery that worships before addressing motions and then offers time through parliamentary procedures for members to speak to a motion is also encouraging them to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Surrendering control, reflecting on Scripture and listening carefully to one another is always a matter of the individual's attitude toward Christ and other Christians and has nothing to do with the procedure used.

Curtiss also writes, “Discernment seeks more than group agreement. The goal is to recognize when `it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us' (Acts 15:28).” But this is also a goal of parliamentary procedure. The difference here between the two is that the author suggests some rather subjective ways of knowing if a decision is the will of the Holy Spirit. Such subjective feelings and emotions as “God's presence settling over the group in silence,” and a “joyous convergence of direction that brings a sense of peace and rightness,” are her indicators for a final decision.

On the other hand, the use of parliamentary procedures offers a concrete vote. This is not to say that the vote is always the will of the Lord, but at least it is outside the bounds of spiritual manipulation. And it is important to note, as Marianne L. Wolfe, author of the booklet, Parliamentary Procedures in the Presbyterian Church (USA) states:

'Majority rule is not a mystical or arbitrary concept. It is highly pragmatic, reflecting the reality that the whole church, as it acts, can do only that which most of the church is willing to do. Hence, the majority vote is a function of unity. Decisions taken by majority vote do not reflect “truth” but, rather, the search for truth.' (4-5)

Wolfe, goes on to explain that consensus decision making “at its worst” is “manipulative and overpowering to the rights of the minority because it compels the minority to `break the unity of the body' in order to disagree.”

To read the whole article go here.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Emerging Worship and Jesus--Up-Date

I now have an up-date to this post. I received an e-mail from Charles A. Wiley III coordinator of the Office of Theology and Worship. Here is his e-mail:

"FYI, the emerging worship page you cited on your website is about 4-5 years old (at least the first version of it was—I’m not sure about that particular piece). Chip Andrus left our office 2 years ago to become pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Harrisonville, Arkansas. Thanks for the heads up, since it looks like that page has been orphaned with the original material still there.


Hans Cornelder of Presbyweb linked to a paper on the web site Emerging Worship , a new section of the Office of Theology and Worship for the Presbyterian Church (USA). In the paper, “The Emerging Worship Initiative,” Chip Andrus, of the Office of Theology and Worship asks the question "What is emerging worship." One of his categories is theocentric. Andrus’ explanation of this is:

“This also means Trinitarian. Therefore, being focused on only one person of the Trinity is not a suggested liturgical practice. A popular example would be music or liturgy that exclusively addresses Jesus. The communion of fellowship and mission of the church is an incarnational expression of the Trinity. By limiting the focus of worship to Jesus Christ exclusively, there is a tendency to accentuate a “personal” relationship, at the expense of a communal identity in the Body of Christ. An identity we accept through our Baptism (which is done in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit).”

This seems to me to be a straw man. The only church I am aware of that focuses exclusively on Jesus would be the “Jesus Only” Pentecostal groups who are not Trinitarian. However, I don’t believe that theocentric is properly defined by the word Trinitarian; it simply means God centered.

Nonetheless, truly the biblical God is Trinitarian; that is an essential doctrine of the Christian faith. But we know God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit because of the Incarnation, because of Jesus Christ.

With this statement, Andrus doesn’t seem to be so much interested in lifting up the Trinity but rather an incarnational and “communal identity” of the Church. He writes that the “Church is an incarnational expression of the Trinity.” I believe that incarnational is a bad choice of words because having eliminated Jesus Christ as the central focus of worship the emerging worshipers seem to be lifting up community rather than Jesus Christ. And this is undoubtedly a misunderstanding of the Incarnation and the Christian's relationship to Christ.

Jesus Christ is the Incarnation. He is fully God and fully human. And his two natures cannot be separated. He didn’t become the Christ; he is from conception the Christ. That is settled in Scripture (John1:1, 14) and explained with The Definition of the Council of Chalcedon. Part of the definition states:

“…recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; …not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.”

Because Christians are united to the resurrected Lord by the Holy Spirit they are adopted Sons and Daughters of the Father. That hardly makes them an expression of the Trinity in the same way that Jesus Christ is the “exact representation” of the Father. (Heb 1:3)

But more important is Andrus’ concern that “limiting the focus of worship to Jesus Christ exclusively” leads to “a tendency to accentuate a ‘personal’ relationship, at the expense of a communal identity in the Body of Christ. This is a misunderstanding of what it means to be a Christian. (And here I am going to ignore the word “exclusively” because it doesn't make sense.) Having a "personal "relationship with Jesus Christ is called for if one wants to be a member of the body of Christ. Having a "personal" relationship with Jesus Christ is called for if one wants to have fellowship with the Triune God.

But of course what does that mean? Well it isn't like having the next door neighbor for a best friend. No, first, it's having the Son of the Father die on the cross for our sins. It's understanding that the blood of the lamb has cleansed and made us whole. It's allowing Jesus Christ to be the Lord of our life. And we each one come to this individually. We may be baptized as infants and then walk into that relation as we grow and as the Holy Spirit draws us into a clearer understanding of our relationship with Christ.

Or we may come to Jesus Christ as adults, but however we come it is always because of the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is always the Father and the Holy Spirit drawing us to the Son.

Frederica Matthews-Green writes of her unexpected experience of meeting Jesus Christ beneath a statue of him in a church in Ireland. She writes of how that affected her, how it shaped her life. What her focus became:

"In that explosive moment I found that Jesus was realer than anything I’d ever encountered, the touchstone of reality. It left me with a great hunger for more, so that my whole life is leaning toward him, questing for him, striving to break down the walls inside that shelter me from his gaze. I am looking for him all my life, an addict."

The whole Hebrew Bible foreshadows his coming. The whole New Testament proclaims he is Lord, Redeemer and coming King. The Father tells us to listen to the words of his Son. (Matt. 17: 5) The Holy Spirit reveals the living Word through the written word, Scripture. (2 Peter 1: 16-21) The book of Revelation presents him standing in the midst of the Churches. (Rev. 1:12-20)

And it is in fact, to the Father's glory when we confess Jesus Christ. "For this reason also, [because Jesus was obedient to die on the cross] God highly exulted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil 2:9-11)

It is not less of a focus on Jesus that we need but more. As Sylvia Dooling, head of Voices of Orthodox Women recently asked, Has Jesus become an embarrassment? The Presbyterian Church (USA) has failed so many times to lift up Jesus. In publications, in sermons, in articles on web sites Jesus is often missing. Indeed, may the emerging church break forth into that place where Jesus Christ is truly Lord.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Aleksandr I Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)

Aleksandr I Solzhenitsyn, (1918-2008)

"One artist imagines himself the creator of an independent spiritual world and takes on his shoulders the act of creating that world and its population, assuming total responsibility for it--but he stumbles and breaks down because there is no mortal genius capable of bearing such a load; just like man, who once declared himself the center of all existence but was incapable of creating a balanced spiritual system. And then, when failure occurs, it is all blamed on the eternal disharmony of the world, on the complexity of the shattered contemporary soul, or the stupidity of the public.

Another artist realizes that there is a supreme force above him and works away gladly as a small apprentice beneath God's heaven, even though his responsibility for everything he writes or draws and for the souls which perceive it is all the more strict. But still: it was not he who created this world, nor is it he who provides it with direction, and he has no doubts of its foundations. The artist is only given to sense more keenly than others the harmony of the world and all the beauty and savagery of man's contributions to it--and to communicate this poignantly to people. And even in the midst of failure and down at the lowest depths of existence--in poverty, prison, illness--the sensation of a stable harmony will never leave him." (The Nobel Lecture on Literature)