Daily Archives: 18 Mar 2017

If You’re a Christian You’re Supposed to Be In Church. Period. It’s Time To End The Excuses

From an essay in the Raleigh News and Observer:

Here are the reasons why, all things being equal, Christians must go to church:

Christianity is a team sport. Permit me a humble analogy. You might see yourself as a terrific baseball pitcher. But if you only throw baseballs in your backyard at a plywood cutout, you won’t progress. You’re not even really playing baseball.

To discover the full extent of your abilities, to understand the true game, you need a catcher, a coach, infielders and outfielders — and even someone standing in the batter’s box ready to swat your best fastball right back at you.

Same with being a Christian. You can’t do it well by yourself.

Communion is among our faith’s central sacraments, a ritual that celebrates Christians as members of a spiritual, God-ordained community. We’re many individuals who, joined together with Jesus and each other, form one great cosmic body. It’s in our spiritual DNA that we rely on one another; no one stands alone.

Attendance is commanded. The writer of Hebrews, for instance, warns us never to forsake assembling together with our brothers and sisters.

It’s not all about you. We’re sent to church to serve others as much as we’re sent there to be served. Believe it or not, you possess gifts and talents your brothers and sisters need. If you’re not present, you’re denying them benefits God intended them to enjoy.

Your fellow parishioners, including your pastor, will make you mad, hurt your feelings and get on your last nerve. This is exactly what’s supposed to happen. Finding ourselves offended and disappointed lets us see just how shallow and petty we are. It sands down our rough edges. We discover that, by gosh, we’re no better than all those other hymn-warbling yahoos!

Also, watching God work miracles through the smelly, imperfect, hypocritical men and women who make up a congregation reveals to us the unfathomable depths of God’s grace and love. It renews our faith. We realize he can use anybody — even us.

Your fellow Christians will reveal aspects of the Lord you’ve never seen. As we get to know our fellow pilgrims, as we hear them tell and retell their sordid stories while they’re bumbling along, we find they’ve experienced God in ways we haven’t. They’ve seen revelations we’ve never imagined. Over time, all these very different visions merge into a greater portrait of him than we’d ever otherwise behold.

Your fellow churchgoers will inspire and comfort you. Sure, some Christians will let you down, because they’re human and that’s what humans do. But you’ll also find disciples who’ll sit beside you in court when your kid’s up on drug charges, and who’ll hold your hand when your spouse is lying in a coffin, and who’ll bring you soup when you’re sick with the flu. When everything’s going wrong, they’ll assure you it’s going to be OK in the end, because they — and God — have your back.

To the extent you honor your church, you honor Christ. “In as much as you’ve done it to the least of these my brothers and sisters,” Jesus said, “you’ve done it unto me.” When you dishonor or ignore his church, you’re dishonoring or ignoring him.

You’ll get plenty of laughs. You’ll sing and pray, sure. You’ll snore. You’ll grow fidgety. But as much as anything, you’ll experience joy — and mirth. Each church is a microcosm of the human comedy. When you’re not cussing about it, the sheer surreal madness of it just leaves you clutching your rib cage, shaking with laughter, tears of gratitude streaming down your cheeks.

Signs of the Times

An Introduction to the Study of Jeremiah

9780567665720C. L. Crouch provides a clear and concise introduction to the complex text of Jeremiah. Readers are introduced to the diverse approaches to the book, with attention paid to the way that these approaches differ from but also relate to one another. After a brief introduction, Crouch addresses the formation of the book, especially in relation to its Hebrew and Greek versions; the theological interests of the book and the challenges posed by attempts to link these to an actual man ‘Jeremiah’; and the relationship of Jeremiah to other biblical prophets. Crouch focuses clearly on method and on approaches to the text, as is the mark of this series. This makes the book especially useful for students in the quest to navigate the diverse body of scholarly literature that surrounds this troublesome biblical book.

This volume is part of a quite extensive series, the several volumes of which you can examine here.

Crouch begins her introduction to Jeremiah in the first two chapters of the present book in the way in which students of biblical studies will be most familiar: i.e., by addressing the historical questions.  First she places Jeremiah in its historical setting and then she addresses the question of the two recensions of Jeremiah which we have in its Masoretic and its Greek form, by summarizing the contents of the book.

At this point Crouch abandons the usual introductory questions and turns instead to a reception-historical discussion of Jeremiah as the book has been studied in the 20th century.  The fourth chapter naturally follows from this and is a very fine discussion of Historical Criticism and the methods which have sprung from it and been somewhat hostile to it.

Chapter five is the heart of the book.  In it, Crouch illustrates, by means of the exposition of selected passages, how it is precisely that recent approaches handle the text of Jeremiah.  She analyzes the call of Jeremiah, the laments of Jeremiah, God’s judgement on Judah, Jeremiah’s purchase of a field, and Jeremiah’s friend Baruch and his scroll.

Crouch brings her intro to an end in the usual post-postmodern fashion by expressing the open-endedness of her own conclusions, titling the chapter In(-)Conclusions; thereby opening the door and even inviting both challenge and further work.

Readers will benefit immensely from the two appendices (on versification in the Hebrew and Greek traditions and a list of ancient kings) and even more from the very detailed bibliographies presented.

This is a fine little volume and it fits perfectly in a series which describes itself as ‘approaches to biblical studies’.  Anyone, whether seasoned veteran scholar or graduate student working on Jeremiah or interested layperson, will profit from a reading of it.  I heartily recommend it.

 

The Best Kind of Surveillance

In an effort to increase security and reduce costs of surveillance, the city of Lancaster has voted to remove all security cameras and replace them with nosy Mennonite ladies.

“Basically they’ll just do what they already do,” said Lancaster spokesperson Susanna Yoder. “Peer out their windows, watch what’s happening, and tell all their friends at the quilting bee. Eventually it’ll get around to us.”

Yoder says that Mennonite ladies are renowned as a reliable source of information throughout Pennsylvania.

“They always seem to know what’s going on,” said Yoder. “If something’s happening that shouldn’t be happening, they’re bound to take note of it.”

The new measure is estimated to save the state more than $5 billion in security costs, although those savings will be slightly dampened by the increased cost in knitting needles.

“You get three names for a knitting needle. Ten names for two,” said Yoder. “These Mennonite ladies drive a hard bargain, but it’s still cheaper than hiring some dude to watch surveillance tape all day.”

That’ll get the job done.

Theologians You’ve Never Heard Of

Christopher Koerner was born at Buchen, in Franconia, in the year 1518. In his thirteenth year he began the study of the languages and of theology under his relative, Conrad Wimpina. In the year 1540 he began to teach in the University of Frankfort-on-the-Oder. In the year 1564 he was made ordinary professor in the University, and in 1581 he became General Superintendent of Mark Brandenburg. He died March 18, 1594. Because of his learning he was called “the eye of the University.” He was at the Torgau Convention in 1576, at Bergen in May, 1577, at Tangermünde, March, 1578, at Schmalkald in October, 1578, and at Jüterbogk in January, 1579. He was a true Lutheran, but was by no means so passionate, so controversial, so one-sided, as was his colleague, Musculus. In 1568 he was in essential agreement with George Major and Victorine Strigel, whom he called sound teachers.*

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*James W. Richard, The Confessional History of the Lutheran Church (Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1909), 451.

Signs of the Times

Three Bibliographic Sites Useful for Theological Research

La sélection bibliographique fait partie des étapes indispensables pour toute étude sérieuse. Pourtant, il n’est pas toujours simple de s’y retrouver au sein de la littérature théologique de plus en plus abondante. De plus, rares sont les catalogues de bibliothèque qui répertorient chaque article de revue, ou chaque chapitre d’ouvrage collectif. Heureusement, certaines bases de données bibliographiques peuvent nous faciliter la tâche. Dans cet article, j’en vous présent trois d’entre elles, les deux premières en accès libre, et la troisième uniquement accessible via certaines grandes bibliothèques.

Etc.