Earth Quaking Prayer

Prayers of the Saints

I remember a time in my younger spiritual life when I was quick to wed together imagination and prayer. I would often imagine myself as a warrior robed in purple cloth, clad over with armor, kneeling at the throne of God. I would offer words of spiritual battle and stand poised in attention for any directive that His Majesty would send my way. God has significantly rooted pride out of my life of prayer since then. Unfortunately that means that I have left behind some of the imagination.  When I try to come back to that spiritual battle gear, it can sometimes seem like fantasy. I’d like to grow more into my prayer life, but I’m not sure that that means going back to armor and robes. I sense rather there is more of sackcloth and ashes ahead instead.

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Book Recommendation: A Glorious Dark by AJ Swoboda

We are all of us passing through cycles of resurrection. Old patterns of life die. We linger in the dust of the grave. And we wake up one day and find ourselves finally new. God is working on us, even if we can’t see it. We can imagine our faith, as A.J. Swoboda has recently suggested, as a frozen river with a current raging beneath.

Just in time for Holy Week (2015), this good book on the pattern of death and resurrection in the Christian life,  A Glorious Dark, offers a fresh accounting of faith in the contemporary world. In this book, author, pastor, theologian, Swoboda guides us through the story of Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection.  Throughout Swoboda teaches us to embrace the Christian life with all of its mysterious discomforts.

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Moving by the Spirit

For the New Testament writers, especially for Paul, conversion leads to transformation. Mind, Will, Heart, Body, and Relationships all get an extreme home makeover.

For Paul, especially in Romans 8 and Galatians 5, he speaks of this total-lifestyle conversion as moving from flesh to spirit. Paul is very careful to spell this out for his readers: by talking about flesh he is not talking about skin, organs, and bones but old patterns of thinking and living. He even gives us lists of how flesh and spirit are different in order to point us in the right direction.

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The Heart of Social Presence

An excerpt from “A Spirituality of Social Presence”, by Keith Jagger. (Epiphany Academy Dissertation). This post works like an introduction to what I would consider Discipleship 101. This is what I would tell a new Christian to spend their first five years practicing. 

At the center of the Judeo-Christian worldview towers one stubborn conviction: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it and all who live in it” (Psalm 24.1). Yet our headlines fill themselves daily with news of genocide, corruption, rising global temperatures, widespread extinction of species, violence, wasting of resources, and evils far more insidious. The world seems to spin out of control. If this entire place is God’s, then  something is very wrong.

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Thoughts from the Greats: Martin Hengel

Many are the sages that have come before us in the study of the New Testament. Here are a few excerpts worthy of consideration from Martin Hengel.  He offers us some important thoughts as he peered into the misty future of New Testament scholarship, from the vantage point of 1996, nearly twenty years before this posting.
From Martin Hengel (1996). “Tasks of New Testament Scholarship.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 6: 85-86.

Through a flood of literature that has become impossible to survey and the immense number of hypotheses associated with this, the limited framework of our discipline, concentrated as it is on one little book, threatens to become too constructed and to overwhelm our datum, the New Testament.

Therefore, within this framework that has become too restricted, we must exercise a certain self-restraint and, for its sake, broaden our field of study, into the Old Testament and Judaism, the ancient church and the Hellenistic-Roman world, as also in the area of history of exegesis, and not only within the modern period. Every New Testament scholar should seek to find one or more areas of competence outside the New Testament. In view of what has become the threat of pernicious overspecialization, we may all be permitted as a counterweight to risk a certain amount of ‘dilettantism.’ For all that, the New Testament ought to remain the center our work. Thereby, this will receive new impulses and become more productive.

Moreover, in the interest of truth of the faith that encounters us in the New Testament, it behoves us to guard against overspecialization and to lay down bridges toward a biblical theology, to church and history, and to systematic theology, so that something of the ecumenical unity of theology as a whole may again become apparent in our work. The conversation with Judaism must also be a part of this bridge-building.

Much more than we are conscious, texts newly discovered since the days of the Tübingen school have furthered progress in our discipline and have forced us to correct mistaken judgments. The great library finds from the second half of this century have fundamentally altered the picture of early Christianity. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to such small and large finds in the future and to seek to have them published and made known quickly.

It belongs to the ecumenical task of our discipline to defend the necessity of clear-headed philological-historical criticism over against both fundamentalist retrenchments and fanciful pseudo-criticism. The questions of historical and theological truth, rightly understood, are bound together and may not be rent asunder without injury—fides quaerens intellectum. Together, they are the salt that seasons the work of exegesis.

Top Ten Spotlight

Of the many great books on the New Testament, there are some major works that have defined contemporary study.   See my top ten list here.  In spotlight today is Albert Schweitzer’s classic “The Quest of the Historical Jesus”
  1. Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus

After a tidal wave of of books in the 18th and 19th centuries swept across Europe, Albert Schweitzer built a dam at the turn of the 20th. He attempted to put an apparent end to the popular mistake of making Jesus into our own image. More so he recovered what was already made clear a century before but had been forgotten: Jesus can only be understood in his Jewish context. After completing this sweeping critique, Schweitzer then portrayed Jesus in the framework of thoroughgoing eschatology, in which Jesus appears to us as an introverted man who came to believe that he was the Messiah and needed to suffer and die to bring about God’s new age. And suffer and die he did. Jesus’s sprit lives on in the world as the central example of urgent eschatological living and suffering.   Schweitzer has provided us, even a century later, with a solid foundation for studying Jesus historically, even if his own portrait of Jesus has been significantly undercut. Here are some of his famous conclusions:

 The betrayal and the trial can be rightly understood only when it is realized that the public suspected nothing whatever of the messianic secret.

The same is true of the scene in the presence of Pilate. The people on that morning knew nothing of the trial of Jesus, but came to Pilate with the sole object of asking the release of a prisoner, as was the custom at the feast (Mark 15.6-8). The idea then occurred to Pilate, who was just about to hand over, willingly enough, this troublesome fellow and prophet to the priestly faction, to play off the people against the priests and work on the multitude to petition for the release of Jesus.

In this way he would have safeguarded himself on both sides. He would have condemned Jesus to please the priests, and after condemning him would have released him to please the people. The priests were greatly embarrassed by the presence of the multitude. They had done everything so quickly and quietly that they might well have hoped to get Jesus crucified before anyone knew what was happening or had had time to wonder at his non-appearance in the temple.

The priests therefore go among the people and induce them not to agree to the procurator’s proposal.

How? By telling them why he was condemned, by revealing to them the messianic secret. That changes him at once from a prophet worthy of honour into a deluded enthusiast and blasphemer.   But it could also be that the ‘people’ before Pilate’s house were the mob of which the priests were certain, and whom they directed there early in the morning in order to put pressure on the governor and secure confirmation of the verdict as soon as possible.

At midday of the same day – it was 14 Nisan, and in the evening the Passover lamb would be eaten – Jesus cried aloud and expired. He had refused the sedative drink (Mark 15.23) in order to remain fully conscious to the last.” 1906 (2001). QHJ 353-54.