N. T. Wright on the Importance of Binaries in Genesis

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In my message this past weekend, “Creation and Embodied Sexuality,” I referenced an extended quotation from New Testament scholar N. T. Wright on the importance of the binaries in Genesis. As I mentioned, there is a structural symmetry throughout Genesis 1 that links pairs of differents one to another.  This symmetrical crescendo of creation reaches its high point in God’s creation of humanity and the pairing of sexual difference characterized by male and female. This biological sex difference is a creational goodness of God intended to reflect God’s greater good story in all of creation. Here is the quotation from N. T. Wright, found in a 2014 article in First Things, which is drawn from an interview with Wright:

The binaries in Genesis are so important—…heaven and earth…sea and dry land…male and female. It’s all about God making complementary pairs which are meant to work together. The last scene in the Bible is the new heaven and the new earth, and the symbol for that is the marriage of Christ and his church. It’s not just one or two verses here and there which say this or that. It’s an entire narrative which works with this complementarity … [as] a signpost or a signal about the goodness of the original creation and God’s intention for the eventual new heavens and new earth.

The differences within creation, including the sexual differences of human beings, all point to God’s Good Story, and the ultimate coming together of all things in the Restoration. Human sexuality is not only good, but is theologically significant.

Recovering the Wonder of Advent: Four pathways for preaching in Advent

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I had the privilege to write an article on preaching in Advent for Preaching Today, which was just recently released. You can read the entire article, “Recovering the Wonder of Advent: Four pathways for preaching in Advent,” at Preaching Today, but here’s a taste of what you will find there.

In my childhood, one of the greatest moments of anticipation was Christmas. I couldn’t wait for the chance to decorate, eat Christmas cookies, and, of course, open presents on Christmas Day. Every Christmas Eve I struggled to go to bed, and was usually the first one up to see what was waiting under the tree. The anticipation and wonder were like adrenaline coursing through my body.

As we grow older, most of us lose some of our wonder. The novelty of Christmas starts to wear off, at least a little bit. Along with that, our anticipation gets trampled down under the weight of responsibilities, the rush of preparations, and, at times, the heaviness that comes on those of us for whom the holidays bring sadness.

There is a remedy for lost wonder and trampled anticipation. That remedy is not getting more expensive presents, having flashier decorations, or inviting the right people to our parties. The remedy is stepping back enough to realize what we have lost it, and then going through a journey of recovery. Like a relationship that has lost its spark or a hobby that has lost our interest, we need to take time and effort to see what’s right in front of us with fresh eyes.

The church has a recovery program of sorts for lost wonder and trampled anticipation leading toward Christmas. That recovery program is called Advent, which means “appearing,” coming from the Latin word adventus. Advent looks back with wonder at Jesus’ birth over two-thousand years ago, while also looking forward with anticipation to his future return at the end of human history.

As preachers, we have a unique opportunity to help our congregations enter into that recovery of anticipation and wonder. My hope in this article is to offer four pathways for preaching in Advent so that our congregations both taste the longing that leads us to cry out, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” and savor the joy that sings, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”

Creation and Embodied Sexuality

Love Sex Body Series GFX-05I continued our series, “Love-Sex-Body: Toward a Biblical Theology of Embodied Sexuality,” this past weekend at at Eastbrook Church

This weekend, I turned our attention to the first chapter of God’s Good Story: Creation. The message draws upon many Scripture passages, but finds its footing in Genesis 1 and 2. My main point was basically that our bodies our good, our sexuality is good, and love is the good that holds that all together. In the midst of the message, I spent some time discussing the image of God in humanity, the nature of biological sex and gender, as well as some reflections on singleness and marriage.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.

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A Prayer of Martin Luther

Martin Luther

Behold, Lord,
An empty vessel that needs to be filled.
My Lord, fill it.

I am weak in faith;
Strengthen thou me.

I am cold in love;
Warm me and make me fervent
That my love may go out to my neighbor.

I do not have a strong and firm faith;
At times I doubt and am unable to trust thee altogether.

O Lord, help me.
Strengthen my faith and trust in thee.

In thee I have sealed the treasures of all I have.

I am poor;
Thou art rich and didst come to be merciful to the poor.

I am a sinner;
Thou art upright.

With me there is an abundance of sin;
In thee is the fullness of righteousness.

Therefore, I will remain with thee of who I can receive
But to whom I may not give.

Amen.

By Martin Luther, Reformer of the church and founder of Lutheranism.

The Weekend Wanderer: 2 November 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

Kanye West“Kanye West, Heretic by Nature, Finds God” – Two confessions. First, I have never been a huge fan of hip hop. Sorry. My high school and college-age kids love it, but it’s not my first choice for listening. Second, one of the few exceptions to that is Kanye West’s 2008 album, 808s & Heartbreak. I enjoy listening to that album because of West’s vulnerability and the funky vibes. Last Friday, Kanye released his most recent musical project entitled Jesus is King. In a two-hour interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music, West claims to have undergone a conversion to Christianity, and wants to turn his life around and tell everyone about it. He even asked those participating in the album to abstain from premarital sex during the recording process. Critics abound, but something is happening here. West has been pulling together worship services during the past year, including an Easter Sunday morning worship service at Coachella. I can’t help but think of Bob Dylan’s conversion to Christianity in the late 1970s that brought about some of the most interesting “gospel” music of that era, including albums like Slow Train Coming and live performances with a gospel choir and invitations to receive Christ. Christian hip hop star, Lecrae, shares some of his thoughts on Kanye’s album and journey with Billboard. Time will tell what all of this really means in Kanye West’s life but in the meantime we can enjoy the music.

 

Kirk Franklin“Kirk Franklin Boycotts Dove Awards for Cutting His Prayers for Black Victims” – Loving others means hearing them, even when it hurts. This is true in friendship, marriage, parenting, and with others whose situation we don’t entirely understand. Listening to others is particularly important in situations fraught with tension, even though it can be difficult and painful. When he won Dove Awards in 2016 and now in 2019 Kirk Franklin called people to prayer for the killing of African Americans within our country. Both times, TBN cut that portion of Franklin’s awards speech out of their broadcast. In response, after seeking council and addressing this with the Dove Awards committee both times, Franklin is boycotting the Dove Awards until change happens. I encourage you to watch to Franklin address this in a pair of Twitter videos, and listen to his important words: “Not only did they edit my speech, they edited the African American experience.”

 

92447“The Cautionary Tale of Jerry Falwell Jr.” – Mark Galli writes a reflection on Jerry Falwell, Jr., and his leadership at Liberty University that quickly turns into a reflection on the crisis of evangelical “leadership.” This is something I have reflected on quite a bit over the last year, but Galli pulls it all together in quick form in a way that asks what it would look like to return to biblical characteristics of leadership. Along with Galli’s important thoughts, I also sense we need to evaluate not just job descriptions, but the culture of evangelical institutions, whether schools, church, or other, and why it might be that they often produce the sort of leaders we know do not look like Christ.

 

92693“There’s No One Christian View on Turks and Kurds” – A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the tensions in northeast Syria in which I called Christians to awareness of the plight of Christians in the Middle East more broadly and this latest situation. (“Standing with Christians in Northeast Syria“). I really appreciated this recent article in Christianity Today exploring the complexity of this situation and the variety of perspectives present even in the region about how to view it. The diversity of voices invited to speak to this issue makes the article invaluable.

 

C S Lewis“When C.S. Lewis Predicted Our Doom” – If you asked me what my favorite work by C. S. Lewis is, I would tend to point to The Great DivorceMere Christianity, or The Weight of Glory (worth the cost of the book for the title essay alone). Of course, I love the Narnia books and The Screwtape Letters, but they are not really my favorite. If you were to ask the same question of my wife, Kelly, you might be surprised to hear her, a high school English teacher and spiritual mentor to many, immediately say The Abolition of Man. That book, although not always as well known to a broad audience, is Lewis’ pointed critique of modern liberal culture and the loss of a sense of humanity and virtue in an attempt to re-order the world. Matt Purple’s essay here combines a reading of The Abolition of Man in tandem with the third book in Lewis’ space trilogy, That Hideous Strength, to draw attention to his insights into the coming dystopian world.

 

Music: Vampire Weekend, “Sunflower,” (ft Steve Lacy) from Father of the Bride

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Jemar Tisby on “What is the Color of Compromise?”

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Yesterday I traveled down to Wheaton College to hear Jemar Tisby deliver a lecture, “What is the Color of Compromise?”, as part of a series hosted by the Center for Applied Christian Ethics. Tisby is the author of The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism and one of the primary drivers behind The Witness, a black Christian collective that engages issues of religion, race, justice, and culture from a biblical perspective.

If you have not read The Color of Compromise, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It is one of the clearest presentations of the historical account of how the Christian church, no matter the geographical location, contributed to the racialized narrative in the USA. It is not an easy read, but if we want to understand the tensions within our nation around race and move toward biblical justice, such hard work is necessary.

While Tisby’s lecture is not yet uploaded, I’m including my own notes from the lecture here.

The Color of Compromise is:

  • Green – for the greed that sustains racism
  • White – for white supremacy within the church
  • Red – for the blood that accompanies that greed and white supremacy

Green

  • “The being of slavery, its soul and its body, lives and moves in the chattel principle, the property principle, the bill of sale principle: the cart whip, starvation, and nakedness are its inevitable consequences.” – J. W. C. Pennington
  • commodification of the person as property to be bought and sold; reducing the image of God and the value of human life
  • “Some people say slavery was America’s original sin. I would suggest something else. Slavery was America’s original symptom. America’s original sin was greed.”
  • Olaudah Equiano‘s story about being pulled from his sister in his work, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African.
  • Politics and economic gain set the direction in the country, not faith
  • The discussion of reparations has caused a lot of consternation
  • “You cannot have a serious conversation about racial justice without talking about economic justice.”

White

  • White supremacy is built upon a narrative of racial difference
  • Racism never goes away, it just adapts; the movement from overt racism in slavery through segregation/Jim Crow era to covert racism in the civil rights era up to the present
  • This is not really about the amount of melanin in one’s skin, but about the creation of system of racial difference with idealized “whiteness” at the top and “blackness” on the bottom; everyone else is in-between
  • Whiteness in this sense obscures ethnicity (even for white people), creates “blackness,” and maintains power through violence
  • The Second Coming of the Ku Klux Klan (1915) [Tisby talks about three iterations of the KKK in his book] – spurred by D. W. Griffith’s epic film, The Birth of a Nation (1915), it led to a rebirth of the KKK specifically linked with white Christian nationalism by William Joseph Simmons

Red

  • The greed of racism linked with white nationalism was enforced through violence upon the body
  • “But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between the World and Me
  • The story of the lynching of Luther and Mary Holbert and the history of lynching in America
  • The story of Recy Taylor, gang raped by a group of white men

What Do We Do?: “The Fierce Urgency of Now”

  • Clip from Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s “I Have a Dream,” speech with the line “the fierce urgency of now…now is time”
  • The ARC of racial justice: awareness (head)  / relationship (hands) / commitment (heart)
  • Awareness:
  • Relationship:
    • Have relationships with people who are different than us
    • Incarnation of being together
    • However, relationships alone will not change systems of injustice
  • Commitment:
    • Find out who your local District Attorney is; find out their platform; and push for reforms in the realm of justice
    • Find out about voters rights and promote the vote
    • Look at your own institutions – schools, workplaces, churches, organizations – and see how you can be a voice for racial justice
    • We don’t have a “can do” problem but a “want to” problem

You can also watch the chapel message Tisby delivered yesterday morning at Wheaton College, “Do Not Despise the Prophetic Voice of the Black Experience.”