Monday Morning Brief 4.26.10

What I’ve Been Enjoying

1. Today is Nathan’s Second Birthday. Susan and I are so proud of our little boy. We had a little birthday party with his little brother and his little friends yesterday. It’s days like these when all is right with the world and we are thankful to the Lord for allowing the goodness to pierce through.
2. Had a great time at the Wheaton Theology Conference with NT Wright. I have so much to write about that and I tend to procrastinate on the things I want to articulate well. I’ll get over it soon. Also wanted to mention, while the theology conference itself was fantastic, I had an amazing time on this road trip with my friends.
3. My niece was baptized last week. She’s the best thing to happen to Phoenix since God created the sun.
4. Enjoyed our Invisible Children Benefit concert at the Back Door Cafe in Nyack. I’ll try to post on that too.
5. Enjoyed our Second Mile service this past week. Mark Allen (youth pastor from nearby Pascack Bible) taught on not losing our identity so that we do not make excuses. He used Daniel’s reliance on God as an example of how we can be courageous in times of trial.
6. One of our closest friends had a baby this weekend. Beautiful baby girl! Welcome Chloe and big congrats to Bassim and Miret.

What I’m Reading –
Beyond Empire: Post colonialism & Mission in a Global Context – by Jonathan Ingleby. To be honest it’s really good. I just don’t feel like reading it in light of “senioritis” (it’s contagious Evan).
Paul in Fresh Perspective – by NT Wright (our independent study that I am so far behind on)
Since my last posting, there have been a couple of books that I read for school. One was Culture Making by Andy Crouch – required reading for those Christians who inhabit the culture (so unless you are returning to your planet, you should get this) and Clemens Sedmak’s Doing Local Theology. Evan did a series of posts that you can check out on his blog.

What I’m Listening to –
Jazz music again. I listened a lot in the 90’s (when Rock ‘n Roll and Baseball were dead). Mostly Coltrane and the tunes of NPR.  Haven’t given up on my rock or indie, (or baseball) just listening to some classic jazz.
Also really enjoyed Homebrewed Christianity’s podcast with Phillip Cary. As listeners will discover, he’s the Teaching Company legend on a lot of their religious education audio. I particularly enjoyed his comparisons on Calvin and Luther.

Who I Never Will Do Business with Again –
Expedia. I’ve been a faithful customer of yours for almost 10 years.  I wish no ill will to those who work in your company but your lack of professionalism and disappointing customer service has led to this.  After my last itinerary is completed, I’m deleting my account and removing your app from my phone.
Fortunately for the online customer, there are many options.

Looking Forward to –
Well, there’s a whole lot. A few gatherings, Dylan’s Baby Dedication, our seminary Vietnam trip, preparing for our student mission trip to New Orleans … yeah there’s a lot.


Sorry it has taken a while to post the second half of this post (and there’s so much more to do), but it seems some of my drafts got lost. I must not have uploaded them properly to WordPress.

Here are my notes from the second half of NT Wright’s first lecture (Friday night 4.16.10). Read at your own risk though, I may not have heard it all correctly and he is a bit of a wordsmith so keep that in mind. This is for the skimmers who don’t have time to listen to the complete audio. This is also intended for newbies who are curious about NT Wright’s work but have not been able to read much. I suggest that you read a few books of his before passing a verdict.


It’s the western church that he has invented another Jesus and put it on top of the cannon.
(A Non-canonical Jesus)

The Traditional Church has invented Jesus’ and substitute of the cannon

When we read the canonical gospels (all 4, he inserted. For those who don’t get that, Jesus and the Victory of God only uses the Synoptics, Matthew, Mark & Luke) they are not through the identity of Jesus but through Jesus’ inauguration of the Kingdom of God.
The message bringer has been screened out the inaugural of God’s kingdom – forgetting what he was saying heaven on earth as it is in heaven.

The cannon was trying to say this (the inaugural of the Kingdom)

The Gospel does not say Jesus is divine, though He is. They are saying Jesus is bringing the kingdom. (This part confused me a bit and will need to re-listen and try to understand. Confusing bc I thought it was both. Of course I would, I love plurality).
His humanness was his Jewishness.
He mentioned that the Council of Chalcedon de-Judahizing (he tends to make up words) Jesus and Israel.

Jesus is Israel’s God coming to his kingdom and to his world.
Much more powerful than simply saying Jesus is God.
(he did miracles, said great things. … reading through the Bible you will see many people doing amazing things but it does not mean they are God. They may not be divine).

We need to retrieve the canonical Jesus of Israel.

It matters because this stuff actually happened once.
If you don’t have the historical rootedeness , you will turn the message of Jesus into your own version of the truth – how you can have a particular spirituality.

We shrink the story of God and of Israel

We shrink the power of the cross (or the kingdom).
Many churches are kingdom churches but don’t know what the cross is there for.
And many churches that are cross churches that don’t know what the kingdom is there for.
Some people say odd things about Jesus like,
“What a shame his career was cut short .. he was a roll with that stuff.” haha

Some atonement theologies do not affirm the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

It’s not that Jesus was just walking around doing stuff aimlessly and the evangelists were the brilliant theologians adding value and brilliance to it.
Jesus was the brilliant innovator, the disciples were the witnesses doing their best to describe it. Anything else should be counter-intuitive.

Jesus is both sovereign and vulnerable.
There is not directly the proof of Jesus.
It first demonstrates that He is Israel’s Messiah.
Do not short circuit the Israel dimension
Which means his death is the messianic death
He was doing the messianic thing that had enslaved Israel

Resurrection means a new creation.
Jesus is raised bodily from the dead, therefore he is the Messiah, therefore God’s new creation has been launched.
It is not that we just have a future heaven.
Jesus has been raised from the dead, a new creation has begun, and therefore we have a job to do (proclamation).

When Jesus wanted to convey the Kingdom he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal.

Frustration with Barth is that he does not allow any natural theology.
It only works in a closed charm system. No point of contact outside of it.
No point of connection with reality.
Thus, Paul should have even bothered with the Areopagus (Acts 17)

We need to be transformed by the resurrected Jesus
There is an epistemological bridge
For Thomas
For Peter. Each time he asks Peter if he loves him, he uses a lesser intimate word. Jesus comes to Peter on his level.
For us.

NT Wright at Wheaton Conference Notes Post 1

As mentioned on my here and on my Facebook page, i have the good fortune of being at the Wheaton Theology Conference. This year’s focus is the theology of NT Wright and he has been joined by his friends (llike Richard Hays, Syliva Keesmat, Brian Walsjh and many more) to share, add, critique and discuss on great theological matters. It would take an enormous amount of time to summarize all of today’s comments so this post will just focus on tonight’s session which was entitled: “Jesus and the People of God: Whence and Whither Historical Jesus Studies and the Life of the Church”

He began by picking up from an earlier conversation that stated it is better to engage in the historic theological study of Jesus than not to. He then added that we as a church have been content to live with a split level of reality and that has led to a split level view of Jesus. He mentioned the work of Rudolf Bultmann and while he sharply disagreed, he enjoyed reading him. But one thing was for sure it is/was time to get back to genuine history.

What so many people like about the great theolgians is that they can inspire and discuss great theology and the great ones can make it pastoral. He mentioned that it used to be said, that it is not enough that we know who Jesus is the Savior but is he the Savior for you and me? Tonight he wanted to reverse that thought and say that it wasn’t enough that Jesus was the savior for you and me but further, who is Jesus and what he really come here to do.

Recalling his undergraduate and seminary days, he mentioned that he studied under numerous theologians who were on the one extreme and really did not believe in the historical Jesus.
They taight their students/seminarianas that Jesus could not have said this or that. Many clergy either turned off their mind and just preached a very simple gospel (which is better than nothing) and others conveyed these dangerous and terrible ideas to their congregations and asked them to help reconstruct bits and pieces of Jesus. Quoting Gazeman(?), he said, We must do the history of theology otherwise the church can be deceived.” Even more brilliant was the line from Calvin – “The human mind is a constant machine of creating idols.” This also led to the result of the Nazi’s Jesus. German theologians started creating a theology for the state, created a non-Jewish Jesus, and the bible represented their ideologies.

Oddly enough, he revaled that one of the biggest things that got him interested in the Historical Jesus literature was Jesus Christ Superstar – 1971. He was fascinated and everone in the room (like 1500) tried to picture Tom Wright not just watching JCS but loving it!! Who would have thought but it’s a good story. But this eld to the first time that he asked the question what was Jesus actually thinking about? Before considering that, he saw Jesus more like a super-natual root.

It’s a false dichotomy to go behind the text and reconstruct it and assemble a Jesus that

Not a private individual who hid away from the world. It’s not a form of gnosticism. It’s creational theology – God is coming to rescue and create it!

More later.

You Heard It Here Seocnd Last – April 16, 2010

I have a different excuse every week of why I don’t blog regularly. Today I have the good fortune to be at the Wheaton Theology Conference with some fellow Biblical students and a professor. Hope to find some time to blog about some of these excellent presentations but in the meantime, here’s a few links and thoughts that I have enjoyed and been challenged by recently.

Jennifer Knapp discusses her career-break, new album and that she is happy in a same-sex relationship in an interview called, “Jennifer Knapp Comes Out” with Christianity Today.
Another article here in the NY Times.

And of course, one by NT Wright, “Abandon Studying the Historical Jesus? No, We Need History”

How Great Is Your Youth Pastor – a fun one for the good guys.

Hope you enjoy.

Why Go to Conferences?

I’ve been known to attend a few conferences in my day. A couple of friends have a variety of nicknames for that – “conference junky”, “gathering groupie”, “event addict” and “brilliant mind” (no one remembers saying the last one but I’m pretty sure it was said or thought – whatever). Truth is, I do try to attend live events as time and responsibility allow. Some of these events are provided for by our church and a number of them, I pay out of my own pocket. Fortunately most lectures are free and now even more events are becoming free. Like the Transform East Coast Gathering that will be in DC May 1 and 2 or Lusanne’s 12 Conversations that will be in NYC this Thursday. (There are other dates and other cities, you should check them out).

I worked with someone who explained to me that attending conferences was “just part of the fake show of everything, even in the church ministry world.” He continued, “You go, tell everybody how big your church is, they tell you that their church is bigger, they say what exciting things God is doing and then you need to keep up so you exaggerate about how exciting your ministry is … I stopped going to these stupid things.” While we all know there is truth in that (regardless of vocation), I am so glad I did not heed the advice. It could be because I attend better events ;-)

I’ll admit that I get awestruck. Yes, I did tweet that I shared an elevator with Dallas Willard (and if I get my picture taken with NT Wright again, I’ll show that off too. He’s like the Derek Jeter of theology you know). People chase down actors, rock stars, and various celebrities, I get excited over Bible nerds – I’m comfortable with that. Truth is, most of these people are really down to earth. I have found pastors of mid-size churches (not ours, he’s awesome) to carry bigger egos than some of these men and women who speak to thousands and have best selling books. But that’s another story.

For me, I want to listen to speakers, pastors, writers, theologians, and various other personalties. Some of these minds are discussing some of the most important topics of the day. Some of them are engaged in some cutting edge ideas and contexts. Some of their words have been life-changing. I will never forget listening to Mike Yaconelli say, “You always get what you get when you do what you always do.” It’ not because he passed away three days after I heard him say that, I wrote that down the second after he said it. I’ll also never forget some of moments on our seminary retreats with Andy Crouch, Larry Walker and Brian McLaren. Then there are personal encounters that won’t be mentioned because of name-dropping is a sin in these parts ;-) But there is something incredible when someone you admire gives you advice regarding your ministry and you leave the conversation knowing there was a very real possibility that they really cared about you and what they told you.

Further, I want to gather with like-minded people and hear their stories, share mine, and leave encouraged, inspired, and maybe even encourage someone else (dare I say). Though I certainly know there can be a snobbiness and a consumer mentality at some of these gatherings, you also get to bump into some truly amazing people. It’s hard to keep in touch with people and build life-long relationships (although Facebook has made things easier), but for me, it’s so good to sit next to a fellow youth pastor who believes in the importance of communicating good theology to teenagers. It’s good to sit next to another pastor that understands that our self-absorption is in part, contributing to some terrible global crisis.

Anyway, conferences, lectures, and other gatherings have proven to be a very good thing for my soul, marriage and family, and ministry. I look forward to future gatherings and maybe even meeting you there. It’s not become a normal occurrence to say or be told, “Hey, I follow you on Twitter…”

Next for me is the NT Wright Conference in Wheaton and Q in Chicago. Aside from connecting in O’Hare, I’ve never been to the great land of Sufjan (Come on Feel the IlliNoise!).  This month, I’ll be there twice. Looking forward to it.

Monday Brief – 4.10.10

What Was Enjoyable –
– Easter. Love its meaning, enjoy its celebration and am moved by the Lent preparation leading up to it. In a world marred by tragedy, evil, sin, despair, the meaning of Easter changes everything.
– Not as theologically and metaphysically profound but fun for me – our Florida vacation! Lol – It was great to spend a few days visiting with Susan’s family and catching up with other relatives and friends. There’s a lot I like about the area we get to live but it’s always good to be out of the zip code. Life always looks different.
– Really proud of my wife and boys. Grateful for such a fantastic family (Most of the time i am but wrestling with a two year old and stressing the importance of airplane safety by being buckled in during take-off and landings gets a bit frustrating. But it’s better than being annoyed by other people’s kids (Just kidding, “other people” ;-)
– Also grateful that my niece Lina was dedicated yesterday. My parents and brother got to fly out and be with my sister and brother-in-law.

What’s Going on in Seminary –
– While in FL, I realized again that this Mdiv is finished in June. Only a few papers and books left. Granted a lot is due tomorrow (a paper, a journal and a few chapters left in Andy Crouch’s excellent book, Culture Making) but the end of the tunnel is near. It’s been a really great experience but really looking forward to the break. Also, I’ve been very grateful for the support of my family and church.
– This last class has been on understanding culture. It’s been one of my favorites of the program.

What’ I’ve Been Reading –
Justification by NT Wright. And I just won a copy from Englewood Books.
Culture Marking by Andy Crouch – brilliant. I read most of it last year, and took it slower last week, and it’s absolutely fantastic.
Doing Local Theology by Clemens Sedmak. Excellent also. I really liked it – wanted to underline the whole thing. Working on my response paper. I liked it but there’s something that kept bugging me as I read. Ever read a book that you like but can’t place your finger on what is bothering you about it? Well until I can put my finger on it, my response paper is a bit boring.

What I’ve Been Watching –
LOST. As I saw on numerous Tweets, “I don’t know what’s going on but I like it.”
Missed 24 last week, but I’m pretty sure the opening seconds will bring me up to speed. Oh and I just saw that Simpsons episode that was like 24. Where Lisa is Chole, Bart is Jack and Homer is …, well he’s Homer.

What I Have Been Listening to –
Spoon’s Transference – very good, as you would expect Spoon to be.
Broken Bells – Everyone’s right – it’s excellent.
Just started Denison Witmer’s Carry the Weight. I like his voice, I like his poetry, I’m going to keep listening.
U2’s Artificial Horizon – It’s their technotronic versions to recent hits like City of Blinding Lights, Magnificent, if God Will Send His Angels … I like it, it’s fun but back when No Line on the Horizon was first released, I thought the followup album that they mentioned was going to be more B-sides then the “Move This” versions of their stadium anthems.
And a mix one of my friends made. I have no idea what’s on it. I think most of it is new except for a song by Dakota Motor Company (anyone remember them?).
The music is so indie that Shazam and SoundHound do not work. Well, I like tracks 6, 9, 13 … (I know you are reading brother, thanks again).
Finally finished Jim Belcher’s Deep Church. Enjoyed it. May one day blog about it but until then, I think it’s the fairest non-emergent book there is. For those who have questions/concerns about emerging church/emergent/etc, don’t bother with Why We’re Not Emergent …. If you want to try to understand, Belcher does a good job.
Homebrewed Christianity podcast when I’m feeling up for it.
The Relevant Magazine podcast when I’m in the mood for a laugh.

What’s Going on in Youth Ministry –
– I am really pleased that we are have 17 students signed up to go to New Orleans this summer. We’re working with the Gathering Church (which is actually in Chalmatte, St. Bernard Parish) and people we really miss like our friends Aaron and Lucas.
– Had a really good series baed on LifeChurch’s Practical Atheist. Good stuff, especially their media. You get it, customize/personalize your lesson, add your stories, illustrations – it saves a lot of time – thanks LifeChurch.
– Our Invisible Children Benefit concert that was cancelled because of snow is being held next weekend. We are all looking forward to it.

What’s Going on at the Montvale Church –
– We had a wonderful Easter week. I thought Sam preached a very excellent message and I was really blessed by the Emmaus Worshp Team. Homeboy Glenn and crew are so good – so good.
– We have had these monthly fellowship luncheons for the purpose of providing a space for newer people to connect and create further community amongst us. A wonderful family had this on their heart and they recruited other wonderful people to help and here we are. The ideas come but the execution of them is where the commitment and labor is and we as a church are blessed. We also had a missionary family that our church supports share during this time. They are a young couple serving in the United Kingdom and I’m a fan of what they do. I love it when they come back and share with us.
– Our next Second Mile Service is next Saturday, April 24th. Pastor Mark Allen from Pascack Bible Church is bringing the heat! Well, he’s not fire and brimstone but I’m sure it will be insightful and Spirit-led. More info here.

What I Am Looking Forward to –
NT Wright Conference in Wheaton this week! So excited. I’m going with a few friends and a NT Wright expert AND one of our best professors, Derek Cooper should be helpful as well ;-)
Also, looking forward in seeing a couple of our students who attend Wheaton.
Q Conference.
Staying home in May til our Vietnam/Cambodia Seminary trip.

You Heard It Here Second Last – Favorite Recent Links

If you have been following this blog for a while you know I used to this fairly regularly. While the Twitter culture almost makes posts like these obsolete, there are still some wonderful people who as one person told me, “not on the Twitter”. Well, rotary phone users, fear not, these are some excellent links I’ve read, bookmarked and wish to share.

First off is a Christianity Today article from Daniel Kirk, author of Romans Unlocked, professor at Fuller Seminary in North California, husband, father and all around good guy. He blogs daily at His piece on the resurrection was fantastic and here’s the first paragraph –

In the spring of my senior year in college, I was deeply immersed in the rhythms of Christian life. I was a leader in InterVarsity, participated regularly in a Bible study with other seminary-bound friends, set my Sundays aside for worship and rest, and read more than my fair share of extracurricular Christian books. As Easter approached, I began rehearsing the importance of Jesus’ resurrection. I knew that for Paul and the other New Testament writers, there could be no Christianity without it. Yet one day as I was walking back to my dorm, it dawned on me that the gospel as I understood it had no need for Jesus to be raised from the dead.

More here.

Because this blog is read by some alleged Piper fans and in the event that you didn’t get the Desiring God text message a couple weeks back – Dr. Piper is taking a seventh month leave. He wrote a classy blog post that expressed he needs the leave because “I see several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me…” Again, it’s a classy move, all of us can gain somethhing from it. My previous post had a Doug Pagitt’s words of encouragement and call to prayer. If you don’t know the context, you should know that while they are not the best of friends (to say it least), they are brothers in Christ, and live in the Minneapolis area. If you missed it, you can check it out here.

It’s hard to really know who reads this blog, I’ll keep refining these posts. I think the first post should interest all Christians and the second for the “Pipettes”.

Reading Wright's Justification & Thinking About Piper From Sunny Florida

My family and I are on a sorta vacation this week in Florida. My in-laws living here is a good thing as it’s guilt-free time away. Though Susan has visited recently, it’s my first trip to the Sunshine State in two years. On the plane I mentioned to Susan the last time I flew to FL (to adopt Nathan), we didn’t have any children, this time, we are flying down with two. As we all know a lot can change in two years. Anyway, it’s a sorta-vacation because I have a lot of school work and a bit of church work to do but it’s nice to be here.

I’ve got a couple books to read. I started re-reading Justification because I really want to absorb this huge discussion. This summer, I intend on reading Piper’s The Future of Justification: A Response to NT Wright.. Anyway my second time through, I have become really enamored by the good Bishop of Durham and I am truly excited about listening to him and the many fine minds at Wheaton in two weeks. Further, I am really grateful for the fellas that I will be traveling with. This Florida air and the sounds of baby boys has me all nostalgic.

As I have been reading, I have had a couple of thoughts floating in my head. Among them, we evangelicals have made our theology too narrow. It may turn out that NT Wright is wrong (afterall he already jokingly admits that he knows he’s wrong about 20% of everything, he just doesn’t know which part it is. What if it’s the 20 that governs the 80? Yep, that adds up to being completely wrong. It’s actually hard to do that but I digress). The real thought I have is so much of my evangelical community, throughout my upbringing to my undergrad years has seemed to dismiss too many things as “liberal”. The Aramaic in Daniel written (or even edited) in the 2nd century – liberal. NRSV – liberal, eschatology that challenges dispensationalism – liberal, liberal, liberal.

I am aware that there are indeed more formal arguments made against those aforementioned topics in academic circles but they rarely trickle down to local evangelical churches. Generally, our congregations get the conclusion (“Be careful, that’s dangerous theology; it’s liberal”). We need to work on that, not to please NT Wright, not to please “the liberals” but to be informed, Biblically faithful, Spirit-led followers of Jesus who desire to learn and practice the calling and mission the Father has called His children to be. I mean, if you are in to that sort of thing.

On a smaller note but important relationally, I find myself really feeling for John Piper. Over the years I have gone from great admiration to him, to great concern with his fight with cancer, to joy with his remission, to frustration with his second wave on life, to and outright dismissing certain soundbytes. I mean for a while I was pretty sure Pat Robertson hacked into his twitter account. Don’t put it past Robertson, the dude can leg press a ton!, he can hack into Twitter ;-) All this left me having this paradoxical position of appreciating some of his past work but at best, tolerating his current positions out of Christian respect (another virtue of the postmodern posture btw).

But his recent announcement about taking an 8 month leave has moved me. From where I sit (and I’m just a youth pastor from Jersey), this seems quite normal to how we Christian conservatives operate. Fight a big fight, take a leave. Or retire from the organization, but have a personal ministry or resign from Focus on the Family but still be on the radio show, resign from that, take a break and now want two million dollars for your own show separate from the organization that granted, you founded and may have been forced out of, but now left. I know this sounds like an emergent version of Jim Rome Is Burning and that I began the paragraph talking about Piper, not Dobson, but you have to admit, there is a pattern here.

Two humble suggestions from the lowly youth pastor with the beautiful wife and the two adorable little boys who are all soaking in the Florida rays. As the next generation conservatives (post-conservative?), let’s stop the radio shows whose overarching theme is, “America is being taken away from you! And now they are coming after your families! And let’s stop with the books that leave people saying, “The liberal anglican guy who arrogantly uses initials for his name is trying to take away your justification … and your rapture! (Now we’ll be stuck here forever!).” Let’s stop imitating the rhythm of a boxer’s life who trains, fights the big bout, then takes a leave to heal in victory or defeat. Rather, let’s invite the alleged liberal over for tea. Let’s invite the atheist for lunch. I mean is it too much to ask for Dobson to invite Howard Sterns over? Too unrealistic? Even Jerry Falwell invited Larry Flynt over after the infamous Campari ad in Hustler Magazine that said his first sexual encounter was with his mom in an outhouse. (Yes, I did learn a few things at Liberty).

While Piper and Wright’s discussion has tried to be polite, it seems to have taken a toll on both men. The bishop writes with an exhausted tone (“How many times do I have to say this?”) while the Reformed Pastor takes a leave “I was just trying to guard the sheep.” The truth is, while I feel that Wright is getting the better of the exchanges, I feel for Piper and his family and I wish his body and soul rest from the Lord, my prayers are with him – I mean that seriously. But we need to find better ways of communicating our differences in the future. By the way, I thought Doug Pagit wrote a nice piece concerning Piper’s leave.

Well, I have written quite enough but marrying a FL girl was a real bright move on my part.
Grace and peace friends.

Forgive Us Father, (because we still don't know what we're doing) – A humble Good Friday Reflection

Betrayed, abandoned, ridiculed, beaten, stripped naked and humiliated in every possible way, Jesus asks God the Father to forgive. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).

For years, I felt a promise attached to Jesus’ words. Almost as if he said, “They don’t know what they’re doing now. But they will, so let’s be patient.” or something. Looking at it today, it seems appropriate that we continue to ask the Lord to forgive us because we still do not know what to do and never will be fully realize.  This is not to give us excuse, but humility instead.

Though I am very concerned with many global crises (and this blog reflects that), I am also very concerned with the status of our souls – our pride specifically. (I know my pride is worse than yours ;-) Our pride leads us to our self-indulgence, our entitlement, and our constant need for gratification. Traditionally, we use the term “sin” but that’s a tricky word to be discussed on another day but its use seems quite appropriate on Good Friday.

When reflecting on Good Friday, you come to the conclusion that it really is the scariest day of the year. A day that observes God bleeding, groaning from thirst, dying. What kind of a “god” dies?   And what’s so good about it?  We call it “Good” not out of enthusiastic glee of divine suffering, but good because through this work, God offers forgiveness, redemption, and love for all.

Perhaps that’s one of the most beautiful features – this forgiveness is for all. NT Wright offers a few words on the private and public nature of the Holy Week events:

“That rhythm of private and public is what we find, sharply and starkly, in the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Today, Jesus takes the disciples into a private room, and the door is shut. Nobody else knows what’s going on. But the words he says there in private, and still more the small but earth-shattering actions he performs, will turn within twenty-four hours into the most ghastly and shocking display of God in public: God shamed and mocked, God beaten up and humiliated, God stripped naked and hung up to die. You can’t get more public than crucifixion by the main west road out of Jerusalem. And, as in fact you can observe throughout Jesus’ ministry, you need that rhythm of private and public at every stage. The private without the public becomes gnosticism, escapism, a safe and narcissistic spirituality. But the public without the private becomes political posturing, meaningless gestures, catching the eye without engaging the heart. We need both; and the events through which we live today enable us to inhabit both, and be strengthened thereby for the ministries both private and public to which we are called.

And the events of Good Friday tells us something we urgently need to know about doing God in public. If it is the true God we are talking about – the God we see and know in Jesus Christ and him crucified – then we should expect that following him, speaking for him, and living out the life of his spirit, will sometimes make the crowds shout ‘Hosanna!’ and sometimes make them shout ‘Crucify!’
You can read the rest here.

Just like the many who shouted for his death did not understand, I know my ignorance and pride has blinded me as well. Truly, I am humbled by the One who forgave his executioners and the One who still offers forgiveness today.

Reflecting on April Fool's and Maundy Thursday

Some people wake up this day each year instinctively knowing that it’s April Fool’s. Now a good prank is a good prank and should be enjoyed by all but we all know some people that take this day a bit too seriously. In fact, they could be in coma but would break back into the realm of consciousness because they have a prank they have been preparing all year to execute. For those people, today is their Christmas, it is their Easter, it is their Holy Day. Happy April Fool’s to you.

For others, this is a day to tolerate those who take April Fool’s too seriously. They walk through the day with a suspended enthusiasm knowing that the mysterious box that was shipped to their home last month was probably some type of slime or goo from an old Nickeloldian show (like “You Can’t Do That on Television”. Which was awesome … when I was 7).

But more importantly, to others, today is Maundy Thursday. Which is very confusing to many of my fellow evangelical friends, because when said aloud (“Monday-Thursday – what God wants another Monday? Oh come on.”) sounds like a day that needs to be forgotten or ignored. However, Maundy Thursday is a beautiful day to observe in the Holy Week. “Maundy’s” origin is Latin, from “Mandatum” which means “mandate”, “command”.

Maundy Thursday is cherished as the evening of the Last Supper. Dare I say, it is the most famous meal of human history. So many powerful moments from Jesus washing his disciples’ feet to him sharing the symbols of profound words and symbols of bread and wine that would reenacted millions of times by priests and pastors as Christians come together to observe and reflect on the holy sacrament of communion.

It is also the moment when Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

New command? It is always been powerful and odd to me the last words Jesus offers to his disciples. No master plan of evangelism, no condensed “gospel”, no formula, no real strategy, no long-winded pastoral summary beginning with the infamous words, “So in conclusion…”. But instead a new command which in honesty, isn’t really so new. It’s not as if Jesus actually invented love. Right?

It’s been a beautiful Holy week for me reading through John especially John 13-17 which as you may know is Jesus’ last evening with the disciples. We call it Maundy Thursday. I have also been reading NT Wright’s Justification. And I cannot help but be overwhelmed the love Jesus has for his disciples and for the world, “I pray for also those who will believe in me through their message, that all may them be one” … “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (from the end of John 17).

I can devote a significant amount of attention to the idea of sacrificial love, how we show love, how we have perverted and how we must repent and abide in it the way Jesus did. But one, most people know quite a bit about it, and we know it’s hard. And two, being a person of the type of love that Jesus describes is part of a process, a relational process between the Father, and between our neighbors. What’s new is that it’s never been demonstrated to humanity before. That God would become the man Jesus, suffer for the sins and the evil of the world so that we can be forgiven and all creation reconciled. And then the best part, – the Resurrection – the grand demonstration of life conquering death, good triumphing over evil, God reclaiming creation, Love conquering all. And in his goodness, he sent us another, the Holy Spirit to guide and empower. Indeed, we have never seen love like this.

To some, today is April Fool’s but to many people like me, it’s Maundy Thursday.


You can read more about its history from this Christianity Today piece by Elesha Coffman, “The Other Holy Day”.