Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Story of Scripture: Out of the Flood

The Story of Scripture: Out of the Flood
Chapter 4: the Flood

Genesis 6:5-22, Genesis 9:7-17, Luke 24:1-12

In various religious and cultural literature, there are multiple accounts of a major flood that filled the earth. But today’s story is not about history, rather, its value is as a story about God. What do we learn about God in this story?

The tragedy of the flood
--tragic because of the expansion of wickedness
--Tragic because the Lord was grieved that he had made man, and his heart was
filled with pain.
--tragic that this event God said needed to happen. (6:7, 6:13)
--hopeful and holy in that God will fulfill his purposes for creation.

The Flood is not the end of the story. What comes out of the flood?
Out of the Flood: A new beginning. New life. A new humanity. New respect for human life. A New covenant. A new promise never to leave.

This idea of God declaring in new ways his faithfulness to humankind helps us understand some earlier references in the story of Scripture.
In the Garden of Eden; humans were placed out of the presence of the Lord.
In the story of Cain: he is cast out of the presence of the Lord.
Post-flood, we no longer hear or read of stories of people out of the presence of God. The template for God's patience and dealings with humankind are summed up by the biblical promise:
Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.
Another example, comes to us in Paul's Romans 8 passage, where we are reminded that things like angels, demons, heights and depths do not have the power to separate us from the love of God.

Our stories today focus us on two people: Noah and Peter:
“It is ironic that at the moment of passion and impending death, embodied faith first appears in the world” (Walter Brueggeman, pg. 80). Noah, in a time of extreme darkness, becomes a light that God sees. Peter, when the moments are darkest for the disciples, wonders about the news the women tell him and his fellow disciples.

These two stories tell of a New humanity that emerges out of judged humanity.

Noah: I’m sure he must have wondered as he built his boat.
Peter: he wondered too. Later in his life, he wrote some letters.

Noah in the New Testament: speaks to
Baptism I Peter 3:13-22
Second Coming II Peter 2:4-10, 3:3-15

God’s ultimate expression of never leaving us was through Jesus coming to us, being God in human flesh. And after sacrifice for sin, the new life of Christ.

Resurrection: another type of never again.
In the Resurrection story, we find: new life, new humanity, God’s care for all life, communion as the new cup and bread.

What do you do when the whole world has changed before your eyes?
--you come before God.
--you come to see what was promised.
--a rainbow
--a promise of never again.
--a promise for you and for those around you.
--a promise for those around you and for all creation.

Chaos is not the last word. God has the last word. And what is that word: the power, faithfulness, kindness and grace of the Lord. In the middle of the flood story, we read in 8:1: "And God remembered Noah."
Out of the flood, we find grace and mercy. Praise be to God.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Story of Scripture: Family Systems

The Story of Scripture
Chapter 3: Family Systems: Cain & Abel

Has something ever come out of your mouth, and you think to yourself, "Did I just say that?".
This also happened to the people in Scripture.

Did I Say That?
1. Peter: I will never deny you Lord.
2. Disciples: Which One of Us is the Greatest?
3. Mother of James and John: I’d like my one son to rule at your right hand.
4. Sarah: I did not laugh.
5. Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

We continue of Story of Scripture. So far we have learned about
Creation: God said it was good.
Fall: The purpose and permission for humanity is compromised.

Today, we see some dynamics from the 'first family.' The human family expands, as do the problems for humanity.

In the story of Cain and Abel, we see the
Randomness of offerings: the rejection by God of Cain's offering. Why was this offering rejected?
Cain’s choice: anger or righteousness (James 1)
The power of sin: Lurking, desiring.
You must rule over it is a command, while some see it as a promise.
Original intent: rule over creation
Post-fall: rule over sin

When God first approaches Cain after his murder, two things happen.
Lies: I don’t know
Misdirection: Am I my brother's keeper?

The short answer for humanity is 'yes', we are called to care for our brother. Each person is an individual, but we are connected as children of God.

The power of judgment:
More toil, fruitless
Restlessness, wandering
Hidden from God’s presence
Death and vengeance
Mark: Protected, and exemplified. Shame and security Walter Brueggeman writes about Cain, “He is protected, but far from home and without the promise of homecoming.”

Matthew 5:21-26 is a passage where Jesus picks up on this theme of the murder of brother/or sister.

In today's Gospel Parable
Peter feels the power to forgive 7 times is generous: Jesus expands that greatly, by saying that 77 times where one forgives is the new standard.
The parable is about God's kingdom: A kingdom where God demands justice, righteousness, neighborliness, forgiveness and mercy

Cain Interpreted: I John

How do we know we are right? Love that flows from faith
What is love?
Jesus Christ laid down his life. And we do the same.
Actions and truth more than words

Walter Brueggeman writes:
Most days we would choose {anything} rather than face the brother. But the gospel is uncompromising. The promises are linked to the brother and will be had no other way. It is a mystery that the gift of new life is so close at hand, present in the neighbor. So close at hand but so resisted. We do not readily embrace such a mystery. Perhaps that is the reason sin waits so eagerly.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

To Be Fair

I realized that in my last two posts, I did not give appropriate reference to the enjoyable commentary I am reading.

Walter Brueggeman, Genesis: The Interpretation Series, John Knox Press, 1982.

This is a very enjoyable commentary. I find the whole Intepretation Series a beneficial read. It is a nice balance of scholarly, pastoral and informative reading.

Thanks for your patience in this matter.

Kean students, sorry folks, despite my mistake, you will need to source your research for your papers appropriately!

The Story of Scripture: The Fall

The Story of Scripture
Chapter 2: The Fall

Genesis 2 and 3, John 3:16-21, Romans 5:12-21

Today's story is about the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. We still live with a fair amount of uncertainty when it comes to what we must know in this world.

On the one hand, they say, Ignorance is bliss.
But on the other, Knowledge is power.
Is there a middle way for the people of faith?
Trust is our calling.
Trust knows and knows when it doesn’t know.
Trust in the Lord is our calling.

Brueggeman (40):
Delightful creation is finished. Sabbath is celebrated as a sign of new life. Now human destiny in that world must be faced. The destiny of the human creature is to live in God’s world, not a world of his/her own making. The human creation is to live with God’s other creatures, some of which are dangerous, but all of which are to be ruled and cared for. The destiny of the human creation is to live in God’s world, with God’s other creatures, on God’s terms.

Last week: we began our series on the Story of Scripture. We read of creation and God's reaction to the creation: it was good, it was very good. And it was so.
This week: The story of beginnings continues. Both good and bad.
Interesting enough, when it comes to Evil: The narrative gives no explanation for evil. The OT is not concerned with origins, but with faithful responses and effective coping. (Brueggeman, 41)
The anxiety of life

Brueggeman’s 4 Dramas
1. man in the garden
2. the formation of a helper
3. the disruption in the garden
4. judgment and expulsion

Purpose: take care of the garden
Permission eat from the fruit
Prohibition don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good/evil

The succumbing to the serpent:
Loses purpose, abuses permission and violates the prohibition.
The result of which is sin, death and an anxiety-filled life.

Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (no other place in Scripture)
Be careful what you wish for.
“They now know more than they could have wanted to know, and there is no place to run” (49)

5 Questions That I Have
1. Why do we add to God’s words 3:3?

2. Why do we blame 3:12?

3. Why is God making clothes 3:21?

4. Who is God talking to 3:22?

5. Why is living forever bad in 3: 22?
Because we were marred by sin. And sin cannot dwell in the presence of God. It reminds me of the series finale of the TV show Alias. The bad guy (Sloan) had been searching for the formula to everlasting life, and he found it. The good guy (Jack), is trying to get the formula away from his maddened friend. Sloan takes the formula, and will now live forever. But Sloan had been doing evil. So Jack throws an explosive into the cave in which cave in which Sloan is, and the boulders come crashing around him. Sloan got what he wanted: to live forever, but at what price? And was there a better way?

John: Jesus Answers for Us
We learn in the gospel that God has a plan for us to live forever, in Christ-like bodies. We learn that we are not to perish. We learn that God does not desire to condemn

God loves the world, despite its state of fallenness. The perfection that he places upon fallen creatures is his perfection.

Romans: The Two Man Group.
The first man is Adam, the prototype of humanity.
1 man + 1 sin=death in this world (for all have sinned)
The second man is Jesus, God’s desire for humanity.
1 man + 1 free gift=life (for all justified by faith)

There was a fall. But God will get us up. It is called salvation. It is resurrection to new life.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Story of Scripture: Creation

The Story of Scripture: It’s All Good
Chapter 1: Creation

Genesis 1:1-2:3, Mark 4:35-41, II Corinthians 5:16-21

Every story has a beginning.

As I was preparing to write my sermon about the Creation, my eyes moved toward the latest news on my webpage. In bold lettering, in the corner of the screen was the headline:

Hawking Says God Did Not Create Universe.

Boy, I am glad that I read that before sitting down to write my sermon.

First of all, the article wasn’t that bad. Hawking is not denying the existence of God, but rather, if God is needed for creation to occur. But the interesting part was reading some of the comments in response to the article.

You know posted comments are like potato chips. You can’t eat just one. And you can’t read just one.

Well, these posts had it all. People were sending Mr. Hawking to hell (as if that is in their power). Others were mocking religion. There were bible quotes from Revelation about the end of time. I could have spent hours.

We have a story that captivates our attention, in addition to provoking debates and chat room name calling. In part, the story is so captivating because of its simplicity. But the world we live in today is not that simple.

There is a reason that in these chat rooms believers are feeling overly defensive and self-described rational beings are mocking faith as a viable explanation of how things came to be.

In the Medieval world, theology was the Queen of the Sciences. Now by sciences, we mean intellectual fields of study, or disciplines. Scholars considered theology as the umbrella which covered all human learning and where all other fields of learning found their place.

In the Modern world, and now in the post-modern world, Science and Mathematics are the Queen of the Sciences. And this is because in the last 300 years, humans have moved toward wanted to define determine and describe. Knowledge is king. And those who know yield the power.

And those who know demand that the words of Genesis 1 cannot describe how the beginning came to be. Meanwhile, believers want to defend Genesis 1 as a viable way, and have tried to force the story into something it is not.


Now please understand. I do not believe science and faith are enemies. But the story before us today is a beautiful beginning to a majestic book. It is not the first page of a “How to Build a Car Engine” manual. It is not technical language, but an invitation to see Creator, watching creating, be creation. Have you ever opened a book, and then it loses you within the first page or two. You don’t want to read it because you are lost shortly upon beginning the story. What if the Bible were to do this?

Problems arise when people force this story to be something it is not, and in doing so, ruin the original beauty of the story. Growing up, I was a huge Star Wars fan. I watched the movies, played with the action figures, the whole nine yards. But then the original three movies weren’t enough for the Star Wars enterprise. And the idea of a “prequel” came to be. “Let’s make a movie about the time and events that happened before the first movie”. And one of the horrible outcomes of this idea was a character named Jar-Jar Binks. I shudder to even mention the name. But folks, the truth is SOMETIMES, you can’t improve on the original. And when you force something onto the original, it can get ugly…fast. I wonder about forcing science into a story that had other purposes. Let us let it be, and stand for what it is worth.

So really, those chat rooms are a larger question about Scripture and Science (science being, human fields of learning). Can they work together? If so, how?

Well, I’m glad you came today, because I want to tell you four possible combinations that I believe are incorrect. And then I’ll present the correct relationship to you.

1. Scripture alone, with no regard for other fields
2. Other fields, with no regard for Scripture
3. Scripture and other fields as equals, as if there is no difference to any of them.

4. Scripture and other fields competing against each other.

I believe all fields of learning tell truth. And all truth belongs to God. How do we balance Faith and fields of human learning? Scripture and Science? Other fields interpret and support the premise of Scripture. That is, God is King, Theology is the Queen and mystery is our spirit.

We remember God. God is. God is attested to in Scripture, and Scripture is interpreted by knowledge of sciences. In short, we have a faith that seeks understanding.

As Stanley Hauerwas declares, Where the theology is true and the science is accurate, there is no discontinuity between the two.

So I would respectfully disagree with Stephen Hawking: God did create the universe. I would also affirm Mr. Hawkings contributions and attempts to help people understand how that might have happened.

In this story, which is the first of our year long pursuit of understanding the Story of Scripture, we quickly and clearly see God established in the story, a God who was, and is, and is to come. We see purpose and a plan for human beings, readers and hearers and participants of this story. We see the Creator. We see the Creator creating. We see the creation.

Why did the writer write Genesis 1?
1. It is a memory devise. This story was written in a world with no kindles and no Gideons. The story is one to be repeated and remembered. Days 4-6 mirror and complete Days 1-3.
2. To identify who is the most important character in this story
3. All creation bows to one more superior (and the idea of humans subduing the earth is a pre-fall call)
4. Male and female are made in image of God (though God is not made in our image, that is idolatry)
5. God’s intent for the creation: Be fruitful and multiply.
6. To show that God liked the original creation (in fact, there is more than liking, there is delight)
7. God’s work and God’s rest is a pattern for us
As Walter Brueggeman writes, “The creator did not spend his six days of work in coercion but in faithful invitation. God does not spend the seventh day in exhaustion but in serenity and peace.”

What is God trying to say to us in Genesis 1 and today’s scriptures?
1. Sin is not the ultimate definition of who we are. God is.
2. The earth around us is not our enemy, but rather a partner in the worship and service of God
3. There is a divide between the first chapter, and the other 1100 chapters of the Bible…this is the way it was supposed to be (One of the more clever book titles was a theological book on sin by an author named Plantinga: Not the Way it was Supposed to be)
4. If the world isn’t the way it was supposed to be: then how do we get back to what is right? (This is where the passage of II Corinthians comes in. God reconciles the world to himself through Christ.)
5. Jesus modeled God to us: he was surprised when the disciples did not believe in him as the authority over the waves. (Jesus also shows us the closeness and distance between Creator and Created)
6. The creation is moving toward new creation.
7. Little new creations (you and I) bear witness to the big new creation.

At the end of the Day: It is as simple as three words.
Creator creates creation.

We believe in God, the Maker of heaven and earth.
We affirm the goodness of creating.
We are creatures who answer to the Creator.