Thursday, May 08, 2003

Here are a few more poems. They are a bit older, but check 'em out.

ONE child
An incandescent unit born
So some say
To connect all through this unity
Look at these squirrels
Plump dingy brown bodies tussling and whirling
That little unity must be motion
The very kinetic snap of wrestling and tilting
A connection like the earth’s axis
Swirl slightly as your continent
Splinters Hindu logic and spirit
Until it all is one
Or starts again.

IF I forget thee Jerusalem
I have forgot nothing
For life is forgetting
That whiff of timid frankincense blown away
Like something-dried brown
Cracking like cement pillars
Imitating holy spires
Giving way to the gag reflex of the mind
Further falling to the sun
A sinking orange parchment
Which in turn can not even
Remember your name

HER mouth moves in an orange cemetery
Sunlight careens off gravestones
Choking in the wet dew
Off a flower in the widow’s hand
A stiff stem scratches
Her lip
These are the questions for Dessert and Dogma, our local theological discussion group.

1. Should the washing of the feet be on par with the Holy Eucharist?
2. If Mary Magdalene were in love with Jesus how confusing would that be for her? (I watched JCSS yet again) If you met the Messiah and were of the opposite sex wouldn’t you be attracted? Think of how the death and resurrection would startle them!
3. What should be the point of a sermon? Telling a narrative? Explaining pertinence to every day life? Expanding upon the text (AKA Jesus’ rebukes water, Moses rebukes water)? Or something else?
4. Is the Song of Songs a metaphor for God’s relationship with humanity, or is it about two lovers? Or is it about two lovers, and their love is a metaphor for our relationship with God?
5. Early Judaism didn’t believe in life after death, they only began to believe in a “life after life” when they began to be martyred for their faith in the Maccabean revolt in 166-164BCE. Should it worry Christians that Moses didn’t believe in an afterlife?
6. People who have experienced more of life than we have, who have suffered greatly, and have seen the world don’t believe in God. How do we “witness” to them? How can we assure them of our “authority”?
7. Do pastors need, or should they even want Apostolic succession?
8. Is the sacrifice of one justified for the good of the many?
9. What is the best way for the Church to reach out to the community of Eugene Oregon?
10. Must we “Individually receive JC as Savior and Lord.” We will Jesus Christ to choose us?
11. Must the word of God be preached in different ways to different people? If so what are 2 ways for 2 different people you can think of?

Monday, May 05, 2003

This is a pamphlet I will be distributing about Eugene starting thursday or so! Check it out.
Chris Halverson

Eugene has a problem. This problem is not, as some I have spoken to in Eugene characterize it, that Eugene is a spiritual cesspool, crawling with people who hate Christianity and Jesus Christ. No, the problem of Eugene is that people have no foundation for faith in Jesus Christ. How can a man build a shelter if he has nothing to build with? He can not.
So this, I hope, is building material. Maybe it is sticks, or mortar or bricks. I don’t know. What I do know is that there are three major sections in Believe and two different ways you can read Believe. First, you can read it chronologically; the first section is a brief outline of the Bible, followed by practices and theology of the church, and finally my personal “testimony”. The second way to read this text is to start with the third section, and see what I believe. Then look at the second section and see the church that has formed these views of mine. Finally look at the book, the Bible that is, that formed these views the church now has. If you believe you are going to read this whole thing through start with 1 and go on, but if on the other hand you need a “hook” to get you interested in reading this whole thing start with section 3.
May Believe help you do just that, believe.

1.The Bible basics
To start off with there are multiple “Bibles,” or multiple Testaments, as well as multiple translations of the Bible. The Bible is not one big book, in fact it consists of 66 books. These 66 books are separated out into two sections, the Hebrew Bible, also known as the Old Testament, and the Greek Bible, also known as the New Testament. Seeing as these books of the Bible were originally wrote in either Hebrew or Greek the English translations we have are just that, translations. One of the earliest English translations out there is the “King James” translation. This translation is pretty and flowing, but it also reads like Shakespeare. There has been an update of the King James translation called the “New King James” edition. Other translations include the “New International Version” and the “New Revised Standard Version”. These are the ones I like, and the ones I will quote from. The NIV is, at times, more readable than the NRSV, but less literal. There are many other translations and even Bibles that are not based off of original Hebrew or Greek, but instead based off a translation. They are meant to be the easiest to read, and are wrote almost in slang at times, which I am not saying is bad, but they are not very literal. An example of one of these versions of the Bible would be the “Living Bible.”
The Hebrew Bible
In the Beginning
The first book of the Bible, Genesis, starts off, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was formless and void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.” (Gen. 1:1-3) This is the beginning of the creation story, actually it is the beginning of one of two creation stories. Genesis Chapter 1 to Genesis Chapter 2 verse 3 is the first creation story. In this story God creates the earth by his pure will. On the first day God creates light, the second the sky and the seas, and the third He creates dry land. On the forth day God creates the sun, moon, and stars, the fifth sea creatures and birds, the sixth land animals and humankind. He created Humankind “in his image”(Gen.27). Then on the seventh day God rests. An interesting thing to note is that the first day corresponds to the fourth, the second to the fifth and the third to the sixth. By this I mean the celestial bodies inhabit the heavens, the birds the sky, the sea creatures the sea, and the land animals and humans the land.
In the second creation story, Genesis 2:4- 25, God seems to create everything in one day. In this story God creates man, not humankind. To create this man he, “formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” (Gen. 2:7) God then realizes he “goofed”; the man has no partner. God quickly parades around all of his animals for the man to pick an appropriate mate from. None of the animals work for the man, so God puts him to sleep and takes a rib from him and makes a woman out of the rib.
In the first version of the creation both men and women were created “in his image,” but the second creation story has man first, and kind of makes women in the image of man. Another definite difference between these two versions of creation is that in the first God creates simply by His word, whereas in the later story God fashions man from dust. The later version of God is in general a lot more hands on.
There are some overall points these opening chapters of the Bible are making. God existed even before the world. God is omnipotent, and omnipresent, meaning He is all-powerful and everywhere. He was able to create with pure will, He simply spoke, and the world was created. Another part of this is that God created people in His image. In the second story God went so far as to breath His breath into mankind. I would say all this points to the fact that God cares for us. What the story of creation tells us is that the God of the Universe cares for humanity.
Original sin and the expansion thereof
After God created the world and its inhabitants things kind of went down hill. The two first humans, Adam and Eve, were living in a beautiful garden that is pretty much paradise on earth. The only condition for allowing them to stay there was that they do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A serpent comes along and tells Eve, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Eve and Adam eat the fruit and God kicks them out of the garden, and He also hands down a couple of curses. He curses the snake by removing it’s legs, made child bearing hurt a lot more, and now humans have to work for their food (Gen. 3:14-19).
After that Adam and Eve’s two sons, Cain and Abel, both give an offering to God. Cain, a farmer, sacrificed fruit to God, and Abel, a shepherd, sacrificed a lamb. God, “had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.” (Gen. 4:4-5) This really angered Cain, so he took Abel out into a field and killed him. God responded by punishing Cain, by forcing him to becoming a wanderer.
So what the heck is going on here? Is this not a very strange turn of events? Yeah. This is the foundation of what we like to call “Original Sin.” There is something fundamentally flawed about humanity. Something about how humans are, how we interact with one another, how we interact with God, isn’t quite right. The events of Genesis 3-4 show first the original sin of Adam and Eve. They only had one law to live by, which was not to eat the fruit. They ate it. They, because of their hubris (overwhelming self-pride) wanted to be like God. Second we see an escalation of this flawedness/sinfulness in Cain’s killing of Abel. I personally think Cain had a right to be angry with God, but I don’t think he had the right to kill Abel out of that anger.
To sum up the theological meaning of these two Biblical happenings God has given humanity everything. God gave us perfection, but we, being imperfect, wanted more, we wanted to be like God. We are imperfect, and therefore what can we do except cling to the perfect that is God.
My People
From Genesis 4 we see as more people appear on the earth sinfulness expands. In Genesis 6:7 humankind has become so flawed that, “the LORD said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But then God sees Noah, a “righteous man, blameless in his generation,” (Gen. 6:9) and decides to spare him and his family. God floods the world but Noah with his family and animals of every kind hang out on an ark until the waters recede. Unfortunately this isn’t the end of sin, by chapter 11 people plan to build a tower all the way to heaven to prove how cool humanity is. God sees this as hubris and befuddles the builders by making them all speak different languages. The major idea is that things are not working. People, as a whole, are not doing God’s will. They are still in a broken relationship with God. God had even tried wiping humanity out with a flood and restarting with Moses. It didn’t work. So what is God’s solution? He is going to make a people for himself and bless them and have a right relationship with them. Through this chosen people, the Jews, He is going to rope in the rest of the world. God finds Abram and tells him, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”(Gen. 12:1-3) God reaffirms these blessings to Abram on several occasions. On one of these occasions, Genesis 17, God renames Abram, which meant exalted father, Abraham, meaning father of a multitude. God’s sign for these promises (Land, Descendants, and Blessing) was circumcision. What follows in Genesis are various threats to God’s three promises to Abram. In one case Sarai, Abraham’s wife, is barren (can’t become pregnant) which is a threat to the promise of Descendants. Another example is a famine in Canaan (the land God promised Abraham). The book of Genesis concludes with Abraham’s great grandson, Joseph along with his 11 brothers, living in Egypt. Thus ends the Book of Genesis.
That was quite a few chapters packed into a very small space, but what I’d like to emphasize is that God doesn’t give up on us humans, no matter how sinful/broken/evil we are. No matter how strange things are going in the world, God cares for us, and He will find a way to touch our lives, whether He heals a barren women, or gives the whole world a second, third, fourth, or even fifth chance. Even if humanity closes its eyes God will find a way to let His loving light shine in.
My People part 2
The book of Exodus continues where Genesis left off. The Jews are in Egypt and have become slaves to the Pharaoh of Egypt. Moses, one of the most important figures in the Bible, is a Jew who frees his fellow Jews from their servitude to Pharaoh. Moses confronts Pharaoh and calls down ten plagues from God, and each time Pharaoh agrees to let the Jews go, then refuses at the last moment. The last plague is a plague to kill every first born in Egypt. God made sure this plague didn’t harm the Jews. He told them to, “take a lamb for each family… the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it… It is the Passover of the LORD. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human being and animals…The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”(Exodus 12:3-13) Moses then leads the Jews out of Egypt, but Pharaoh and his army follow them. This is where the famous crossing of the Red Sea takes place. Moses parts the Red Sea, and the Jews cross it, Pharaoh follows with his army, but the sea comes crashing down upon them. To sum up the story of Moses he and the Jews wander around looking for the land of Canaan which God had promised them through his promise with Abraham. Every once in a while the people get riled up and say they would have had it better if they were still slaves in Egypt. God usually responds to their pleas with some sort of merciful gift, such as Manna (wafers that taste like honey that fell from the sky in Exodus 16) from heaven. A major event in this Moses saga is the gift of the 10 commandments. God starts off saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”(Exodus 20:1-2) then he sets out 10 commands, they are 1.Have no other God before the Lord 2. Don’t worship Idols 3. Don’t use the Lord’s name in vain 4. Keep the Sabbath holy 5. Honor your father and your mother 6. Don’t kill 7. Don’t commit adultery 8.Don’t steal 9. Don’t lie 10. Don’t covet. Eventually the Jewish people reach the Promised Land Canaan.
All I’d like to elaborate upon is the idea of the Ten Commandments. Often times people make out the Ten Commandments to mean, “If you follow these 10 rules you can be my people,” when it really is saying, “You are my people, therefore you will do these things.” This is really a big difference and these two ideologies still separate Christians. Many Christians are stuck with the idea, “Because I’m a ‘good Christian’ Jesus Christ is saving me.” I see it, “Because Jesus Christ has saved the whole world I will respond by being a good Christian.” It may seem like there is very little difference between these two ideas, but it makes a world of difference. It is the difference between a church that responds to sinners by ostracizing and damning them and a church that responds to sinner with compassion and mercy.
From Judges to Kings to a Kingdom divided
After reaching Canaan God’s people live with a decentralized government of tribes. The only ruling authority is God. Whenever the Jewish people are threatened God calls up a “Judge” to handle the crisis. These Judges don’t have anything to do with courts, instead they are generally military leaders who defend the Jewish people. This lasts for quite a while, but when Samuel, a Judge, made his corrupt sons judges the Jewish people start to complain, they ask Samuel to, “Give us a king to govern us.”(Samuel 8:6) Samuel asks God what to do, and God replies, “It is not you (Samuel) they have rejected; they have rejected me from ruling over them.” (Sam. 8:8) But God still gives the Jews their first king. His name is Saul. Saul attempts to take over the job of the priests, so God raises up David to take Saul out of power and replace him. David is given the kingship over Israel and God promises that his heirs would continue to rule after him. His son Solomon takes over, then things get kind of hairy. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, asks his advisors as well as his friends if he should be hard on his people or nice. His advisors say he should be nice, but his friends say he should be even more oppressive. He chooses to be oppressive. (1st Kings 12:7-11) This caused the Israeli kingdom to split in two, the South staying loyal to the Davidic Dynasty and the North seceding.
Things started off with God being king, then when the people rejected Him, it would seem God just grabbed the first king-like guy He could find, Saul, and gave him to the Jews as a king. When God replaced Saul he went out of his way and chose a better king.
Even though the Jewish people are God’s people they are still fallible. Even though Rehoboam was a Davidic heir he still isn’t perfect.
Destruction, Exile and a rethinking of things
To go strait to the point Assyria destroyed the Northern Kingdom. About 100 years latter the Southern Kingdom was destroyed by the Babylonians, the Jew’s temple where they believed God dwelled was also destroyed and the upper class of the Jews was taken into exile in Babylon. After about 50 years the Persians defeated the Babylonians and the exiled Jews got to return home.
Before I get to the main point of this section an interesting note is that it wasn’t a Judge or an heir of David that freed the exiled Jews, but in fact a Pagan king, Cyrus of Persia. This event universalized God to an extent. God was not just a God that hung out in a temple, but He was a God who influences all people at all times.
The general consensus before the exile was that God punishes the wicked and rewards the good. But the Jews for the most part didn’t see themselves as doing bad; after all they are God’s people. Overall they were asking why would God allow these evil things to take place? (This question is called Theodicy) Or to redefine the question into a cliché “Why do bad things happen to good people?
The Book of Job, has Job, a “blameless and upright man, one who feared God and turned away from evil,”(Job 1:1) lose his family, his home and his health. He is indignant toward God. He rages against God, saying he is innocent, therefore it is God’s responsibility to take care of him. God responds with “you can’t judge God,” and then he asks if Job things a human could do a better job. Job concludes that, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”(Job 42:2-3) Job decides that the ways of God are too amazing to be understood by the likes of him.
The Book of Ecclesiastes, one of my favorite biblical books, tries to tackle Theodicy, and come up with the famous line, “meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.” The author of Ecclesiastes sees that no matter what you are able to do, no matter how far you stride forward, no matter what “great works” you accomplish, you are going to die. He writes, “All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again.”(Ecc. 3:20) You can’t find an absolute meaning to life beyond worship of God.
The biggest innovation of these post-exilic writings is “Apocalypticism." This basically says, “We may be suffering now but when God intervenes in the world it will be big.” The current world is the old age, and the one after this entrance of God into the world will be so different that it can be called “the age to come.”
The Greek Bible
This thing was written after Jesus had already died and rose again. In fact the earliest writings of the Greek Bible were wrote around 20 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The Greek Bible, or New Testament, begins with the Gospels. Gospel means Good news in Greek. These Gospels are four different accounts of the Life Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, or as some call it, “The Jesus incident.” In this section I’m going to create a composite sketch of all four of the Gospels, a “Super Gospel” if you will.
The Synoptics and John
The first three Gospels, Matthew Mark and Luke, are called the Synoptic Gospels. If someone were to lay these three gospels out together they would see many of the happenings in these Gospels would line up. An example would be when Jesus Resuscitates the Daughter of Jairus in Matthew 9:18-27, Mark 5:35-43 and Luke 8:49-56. Most people think the book of Mark was written first; the authors of Matthew and Luke used Mark as a reference. In these Gospels Jesus is generally taught in parables (simple stories used to illustrate a point) about what God’s kingdom is like.
John is the wild card of the Gospels. Most people think it was wrote quite a while after the Synoptics. John does not follow the patters of the other three gospels. It has Jesus talking in long philosophical terms about who He is in relationship to God.
The life of Jesus
Jesus was born to a woman Mary and a man Joseph. All right so far right? Well the tricky part is that she was a virgin (Luke 1:27). Joseph was planning to, “dismiss her (Mary) quietly,”(Matthew 1:19) because having a wife with child that wasn’t his was grounds for divorce. This didn’t happen because an angel came to him and told him not to. Joseph is then told Mary’s child was conceived by power of the Holy Spirit. There isn’t much known about Jesus’ childhood. In Luke 2:41-52 there is a brief hint. Jesus went with his family to Jerusalem for the festival of Passover. When it was all done Joseph and Mary accidentally left the young Jesus in Jerusalem. They furiously search for him, and find him the temple, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.”
Then we switch to John the Baptist for a brief while. He is considered, “…the messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the LORD, make his paths straight.” (Mark 1:1-3) John was a guy who, “wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.”(Matthew 3:4) He would hang out by the river Jordan and Baptized people (dunked people in the water), symbolizing the washing away of sins. Eventually Jesus comes and asks to be Baptized. John responds, “I need to be baptized by you.”(Matthew 3:14) Jesus insists on being baptized. When Jesus does get baptized John sees, “the Spirit descending form heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.” (John 1:32) After this happened, “the spirit immediately drove him (Jesus) out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”(Mark 1:12-13)
Jesus then begins to gather 12 disciples, teach, heal the sick and possessed, and even raise people from the dead. Jesus wanders throughout Israel and preaches with an affinity toward the disenfranchised. In the Beatitudes Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure of in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, or in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”(Matthew 5:3-12).
Jesus quickly gains a following. At one point he has a whole beach full of people to preach to. Eventually it gets really late and they didn’t have food. Jesus responds by, “taking the five loaves and the two fish,” and, “looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.”(Mark 6:41-44) After this Jesus hangs out with the crowd and the disciples leave by boat, accidentally leaving him behind. Jesus walks on the sea and catches up with them.
One of Jesus’ biggest beefs with the Jewish “powers that be” of the time was that they were following the letter of God’s law without its spirit. They would view Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath as blasphemy, yet Jesus’ overall response was, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.” (John 13:31). Often times these “powers that be” would try and trip Jesus up. An example of this, from Mark 12:13-17 is that of paying taxes. At the time of Jesus Israel was under the control of the Romans. They ask Jesus if it is right to pay taxes to Rome. The reason it is such a big deal is because the emperor was kind of deified, and paying taxes to him was like offering a temple tax. So if Jesus answered yes, pay taxes, he would lose all credibility, but if he said, “No, don’t pay taxes,” the Romans would quickly swoop in and kill him. Jesus deals with this problem really well. He asks to see a piece of money. It had the emperor’s picture on it, so Jesus says, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
The fact that Jesus, the Son of God, yet at the same time God God’s self, came down to earth and was fully human is the overall theme of Jesus’ life. If we want to know what is God like all we need to do is look at the gospel and say, “Okay, kind of like Jesus.”
Jesus’ death
After teaching for quite a while Jesus decides to head to Jerusalem for the festival of Passover. There he enters the temple and, “began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple." He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’ But you have made it a den of robbers,” (Mark 11:15-17) This sounds like a crazy action, assaulting the main center of worship for all of Judaism. The reason Jesus kicked out the moneychangers and sacrifice sellers was because the moneychangers were not using the proper exchange rate when they traded foreign coin for Israeli coin. The people selling sacrifices were also overcharging for the doves they sold. On top of this it seems just plain irreverent to be selling and taking advantage of people in a house of worship. A final reason for Jesus’ anger was that the temple was, “for all nations” but there were various sections of the church that non-Jews could worship in, as well as places where only priests could be.
Jesus is then asked for a sign that he is the Messiah and he says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:18) In this phrase Jesus is foreshadowing his death and resurrection.
The response to this outburst by Jesus was that the, “chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him.” (Luke 19:47) Jesus keeps doing things that the powers that be in Jerusalem believed were a threat to their power, or that might cause Rome to think the Jews are not being loyal enough, and attack again. Eventually, “Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him (Jesus) to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.” (Luke 22:3-6)
At Jesus’ last meal, it was the Passover meal, he, “took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”(Matthew 26:26-29) Jesus is hinting very strongly about His death. He is hinting that his death will be something at least as big as Passover. Beyond that His death will also be a new covenant, like the covenant of the 10 commandments, or the covenant of circumcision.
In the Gospel of John there is no covenant of bread and wine, instead he, “got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head.” (John 13:4-9) Jesus goes on to explain this action saying, “You call me Teacher and Lord—you are right, for that is who I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (13:13-17) To paraphrase the reformer Martin Luther, “Because of Jesus’ death for us we are freed from the slavery of works to become servants of all.”
After this Jesus goes to the garden of Gethsemane and tells his disciples to, “Sit here while I pray.”(Mark 14:32) and then he throws Himself on the ground and begins to pray. He says, “ Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” (Mark 36) He goes back to the disciples and sees that they have fallen asleep so he utters the well-known words, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38) He prays some more, and when he comes back His disciples are asleep again so he says, “Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
He knows he is about to die, he knows he will suffer betrayal by Judas, and be nailed to a cross to die. He doesn’t want this fate, but he says, “not what I want, but what you want.” This also talks to the humanness and frailty of the disciples. As humans we are not perfect. No matter our good intentions, the “spirit” of what we plan, our “flesh is weak” and without God our plans will come to not.
Next comes the betrayal of Jesus. Judas arrives with the backup of a mob, the chief priests and the elders. He had told them, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.”(Matthew 26:48) Judus comes up to Jesus, greets him, and kisses him. When Jesus is arrested his disciples are about to take up their swords and fight for Jesus, but Jesus tells them, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?”(Matthew 26:52-54)
After this Jesus is sent to Pilate, the Roman official in Jerusalem. Pilate goes out and tells the masses who the chief priests have riled up, “He has done nothing to deserve death, I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” (Luke 23:16) The crowd responds, “Crucify, crucify him.” Eventually Pilate buckles under the pressure and agrees to have Jesus Crucified. Jesus is taken up to mount Galgatha, also known as “the Skull” and is crucified. This means he was put on a cross. His wrists were spread out and pounded into the boards on each side of him. Then his legs were also nailed into the board beneath him. In theory he was to die when a Roman soldier came up and broke his legs, thus somehow flattening his lungs and suffocating him. But to fulfill the requirement that the Passover lamb’s bones wouldn’t be broken (Exodus 12:46) Jesus dies before his legs can be broken. An interesting thing is the Gospels diverge on Jesus’ last words. In Matthew and Mark Jesus concludes His life saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In Luke he says, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” John has Jesus say, “It is finished.”
In most of the Gospels it is mentioned that, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom”(Mat. 27:51) This curtain was what separated the people from the inner sanctuary of the temple. In theory this was a division between God and humanity. With Jesus’ death it is ripped.
Looking at Jesus’ death in light of Passover we see that Jesus was the lamb. Because of his death we are passed over. Just as the Jews eat a lamb on Passover to remember their salvation from the slavery of Egypt Jesus commanded us to eat him as bread and drink him as wine in remembrance of his death to save us from our slavery to sin.
Jesus’ Resurrection
The beautiful part of this “Good news” is that it doesn’t end with Jesus’ death as a sacrifice, it continues on. In three days Jesus rose again! Mary Magdalene, a close follower of Jesus, visits Jesus’ tomb to find it empty. Then Jesus appears to her. At first she doesn’t recognize Him, then He speaks her name, and she recognizes him. Then Jesus appears to the 11 remaining disciples (Judas has killed himself by this time) and he tells them that, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 27:18-20)
Jesus wasn’t just God come human to sacrifice himself, He also was God dying and rising again; we are saved from both sin and death. The end of humanity is not death, therefore how can we do anything except go out into the world proclaiming this wonderful news that Jesus lived died and rose again.
The Acts of the Apostles is kind of a “sequel” to the Gospel of Luke, wrote by the same author. It is the story of what happened directly after the events in the Gospels. I would say the overarching story of this book can be squished into the words of Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This book is the story of how the Church grew. In fact Acts ends when Paul reaches Rome, which to the average Judean of the time would seem like the end of the earth. One nifty thing about Acts is that it has the story of Paul (he is also known as Saul). He was a guy persecuting followers of Jesus Christ, and then he has a total change of views. He is going to Damascus and, “suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”(Acts 9:4-6) Eventually Paul becomes a major player in the church. The other big event in Acts is that Gentiles (non-Jews) are accepted into the Christian community along with the Jews.
Paul, as mentioned before, was a Jew who persecuted the early Christian church until he had “a revelation of Jesus Christ.” He was the guy who really went to bat for the idea that Jews and Gentiles are both saved by Jesus. He thought it is not through the Laws that we are saved but instead by faith in Jesus Christ. The best metaphor I’ve heard for this is the metaphor of the courtroom. God is sitting as the Judge. We humans are the accused. The Law is the prosecutor. Jesus is the defense attorney. We are in fact guilty, and we can not fulfill the Law. God passes Judgement, but as God does this, Jesus steps in and says, “I’ll take the punishment for whatever crime my client has committed.” The penalty was Jesus’ death on the cross.
There is more symbolism in this book than I can shake a stick at, and I can shake a stick at some hefty symbolism. I’m not even going to touch this section of the Bible beyond saying the image of God upon His heavenly throne alternates with Jesus on the same throne. This suggests a oneness between God and Jesus.
2. Theology and workings of the “Modern” church
I’m basing this almost exclusively upon the workings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. A lot of the ideas here will overlap with the ideas of many other Christian Churches, both Protestant and otherwise, but in the end it is slanted in a Lutheran way.
There are three creeds, basic statements of faith, in the Lutheran Church. The first two, Nicene creed and Apostle’s creed, I will mention here. The third, the Athanasian Creed, I won’t mention because it is way long.
The Nicene Creed states,
“We believe in one God, the Father the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
The only clarifying point I would see here would be to mention the “catholic” church isn’t referring to Catholicism, instead it simply means a united church. A church of all believers in Jesus Christ united together with the Holy Spirit.
The Apostles’ Creed reads,
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen
As you can see these first two Creeds are quite similar
Lord’s Prayer
The Lord’s prayer states;
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”
This comes from Matthew 6, where Jesus answers the question, How should one pray.
This ceremony involves pouring water on a person, or dunking them in water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On the one hand this represents the washing away of sins, but at the same time it also represents the drowning of the person’s old life and the emergence of a new one. In the Lutheran Church this is done when children are really young. It is a ceremony more for the parents to promise to raise their children to know Christ. Other churches baptize when a child has chosen to accept Jesus Christ. I don’t like the later baptism because I think it puts to much pressure on the child to choose to be baptized. Any baptism is fine in my book as long as the Baptism happens. As you remember John baptized Jesus.
This is the eating of bread and the drinking of wine as a covenant with God through Jesus Christ. At Lutheran churches pastors pray to Jesus to be present in the bread and wine before we eat and drink. Communion is a very contrivisial thing in the Christian church. The Catholic tradition views the bread and wine as literally becoming Jesus’ blood and body. The Lutherans see it as Jesus really in the bread and wine, but the bread and wine are still bread and wine. Other churches such as Presbyterians see communion as purely symbolic.
This is tough stuff. I’m not going to tell you I understand the doctrine of the trinity perfectly. The two creeds above explain the concept better than I can. God is God the creator of the universe, but is also Jesus Christ, but is also the Holy Spirit. There is one God, but that one God is the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
Already not Yet
This is a more or less Lutheran concept, or at least a Lutheran phrase. Through Jesus Christ’s coming the kingdom of God is already here, yet at the same time as you can clearly tell looking around you God’s kingdom is not yet here.
The metaphor I like to use to flesh out this idea is the idea of addiction. Humanity is addicted to sin, in fact we have both a physical and spiritual craving for it. When Jesus came he destroyed humanities spiritual craving for sin. So there is no spiritual reason for us to want to sin, all that is left is the residue of sin, and therefore we still sin. But fear not, the kingdom of God is coming, our physical craving for sin shall be gone as well.
100% Saint, 100% Sinner
No matter how good a human tries to be on their own power they are still sinners. No matter how bad a human tries to be they are still saints through Jesus.
Once again, I will use a metaphor. It is in fact a metaphor I used the very first time I ever preached. The idea of 100% saint 100% sinner is like a bunge-cord no matter how far you pull upon on the saint side of the hook you are still connected to sin. But by the same token no matter how far you pull the sinner hook the sainthood hook is grounded in Jesus Christ.
What this says is that humans can do nothing to save themselves, yet at the same time God has already saved us.
Confession and Forgiveness
Humans sin constantly. We sin both when we do something bad, or when we forget to do something good. Jesus said even by thinking of a sin we have committed that sin. So humans need constant forgiveness. Most Lutheran services start out with confession and forgiveness.
(Ppastor (Ccongregation)
The “Brief order for confession and forgiveness” goes like this
P:Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
C: Amen
P: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Most merciful God,
P+C: we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen
P: Almighty God, in his mercy, has given his Son to die for us and, for his sake, forgives us all our sins. As a called and ordained minister of the Church of Christ, and by his authority, I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
P+C: Amen.
Pastoral Duty
The Lutheran church defines the duty of a pastor as giving out, “word and sacrament.” Word refers to preach what is in the Bible. Sacrament, for Lutherans, refers to baptizing and giving out communion.
3. My “Testimony”
Why am I a Christian? Why do I believe these things?
First I believe these things because they are the tradition handed down to me. When I was born I was baptized into the Lutheran Church. Although I was born to a dissenting Lutheran mother and an Atheist father my grandmother implanted vague ideas of Christianity in me. Then after nine years with out a church I explored Baptist and Nazarene churches for three years, then for another three years I was a Presbyterian. After seeing horrible and destructive acts committed against a very close friend and his family I left the Presbyters and found a Lutheran church. In all these placed I have heard the Good news of God preached, and have believed the things spoken in these churches to be truth, or at very least to be based on a truth.
Secondly I believe these things because of my personal experience with God. Within a year of entering the Lutheran Church God called me to serve God as a pastor. It came first as an overall overwhelming feeling that I needed to become a minister. At the time I planned to be a schoolteacher and an author on the side, so I rejected the call. Then one night about a month later I was reading the end of the book of John. I read Jesus’ words to Peter, “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”(John 21:15-17) As I read the words, “Feed my sheep” the whole rest of my vocabulary disappeared. Those where the only three words within me. They echoed around in my head, and that was that. I’m to be a pastor. Peter rejected Jesus three times, so Jesus ordered him to feed his sheep three times, I had rejected Jesus’ calling once, so I only received the final, “Feed my sheep.” Finally, about a year later I was pretty confident in the idea of me becoming a pastor. I thought it would be an easy matter, I had received the same call that Peter had received, and hell the Catholics consider him the first Pope, so I should have an easy time being a Lutheran Pastor. I was in Christ Lutheran Church and we were singing “Sing out Earth and Sky” when I had a vision. I don’t know how else to describe it. I was a sheepdog, and there were sheep everywhere and wolves as well. I ran back and forth herding the sheep away from the wolves. In the end the wolves ate me. Then came the cool part. God allowed me into his house and let me hop up on his sofa. Then the vision was done. I was still at Christ Lutheran singing no time had passed. I don’t know; it was really a weird experience. Humbling.
These “mystical experiences” are all well and good, but then what of the question how do we reconcile life in this 21st century with the things in this Bible? How can someone believe all this in a modern age? How can we believe in the creation stories when there is strong and compelling evidence to support evolution? How can someone believe in resurrection when some people hypothesize that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, but instead his body was ate by wolves? How can we believe in what the Bible has to say when there are so many contradictions?
Sorry, no sage advice all I can say is we do the best we can.
We say, look, the first creation story begins with a formless and void universe. God starts the big bang, or maybe even is the big bang. The earth begins as a watery place, then atmosphere happens. Then dry land appears, and vegetation begins to grow on it. The cloudy sky parts and the sun appears. Then from the sea comes “living creatures.” Then animals begin to show up on the land. Finally God makes man. Did God grab one of the land animals and do something to it to qualify it as being in God’s image? We respond to an eaten Jesus saying, “If the Son of God will feed Himself to passive sheep, how much more shall He feed the wolves, who actively hunger after His flesh?” Our reply to contradictory statements in the Bible is that God is too big to be fully defined by any one view of God.
Believe that there is a God. This God is merciful and just. He is concerned with humankind. Believe He came to earth as His son Jesus, becoming human. He lived, died, and rose again so that we may do the same. Believe that God is at work in the world today through the Holy Spirit. Remember Jesus’ words to Timothy, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”(John 20:29)
Amen and Alleluia.
Personal contact info:
Hmmm... I guess that hardly should constitute a post. Here are a few of my favorite webpages
"religious" stuff
Well, now that I've bled my favorite places out into cyberspace I should get studying. Goodnight.
Hello. I'm Chris Halverson, a Sophmore at the University of Oregon. I'm majoring in Religious studies and history. After the U of O I plan to go off to Seminary and become a Lutheran pastor. I also would like to be a writer one day. Speaking of which check out this poem.
By Chris Halverson

THE stress, of the shift, of the blue back of the black bird flashes
A snap, through the twelve titans at attention, clothed in rumpled brown
Their green swords are bowed low, a procession of swordsmen
Branches inviting in second

TWO old and new mirror dogs kneel
At the granite feet of the bridegroom’s marriage arches
Three synoptic squires, brothers, chatter in the afterglow
After them, one monolith, states aloud, what the three euphemized in private

WHAT, even low, the groundsman has greater glories than the titans
He dwells with punchy grey squirrels, full of faith
He bows lower still, to press ahead
What is dying for a day, three, a month, ten, or even a year

HE continues ahead, ahead, here, and then
Where are the graves, sepulcher?
All that remains, concrete squares