Hey everyone, If you have been wondering why you haven't seen very many posts here since last Spring, it's because I've been blogging over at redeemablepieces.com. I'm trying to write on a weekly basis thoughts about culture, faith, and pastoral life. Join the conversation!
A few people have asked for a copy of my apocalypse of the 2010 Olympics that I wrote for Sunday's sermon on Revelation 12. I thought I would post it on the blog for your convenience. For context: I was talking about how apocalyptic writing uses words and stories to surprise us, and to catch our attention. Like all good stories, it should grab a hold of our emotions. I suggested that people were starting to forget the joy of the 2010 Olympic hockey gold medal game won by Canada. I felt we all needed a jolt that could only come from a good dose of apocalyptic literature. So here it is:
I looked and I heard the nations of the earth gather before the red leaf. It was frozen from sea to shining sea, and circled with rings of every colour of the nations of the earth. And the nations cried, “Let’s contest! For glory and for honour”. And so it was.
And then I listened and saw the armies of the great nations of ice step forward and engage in battle. They chased an orb covered in black and victory or defeat was found in a bright red light. For time upon time the nations watched and trembled as one nation vanquished another, allowing only two to remain.
Then the red leaf and it’s army called forth it’s heroes. And there was a flame that lived on flat land, and there was also the man from Cole Harbour. And the people of their nation cried out, “Let it be so!” And they were dressed for battle, with 30 million faces, and 30 millions hearts, and 30 million red leafs emblazoned upon their chest.
But then I looked and saw a great beast from the south step forward onto the frozen land. It was clothed in blue, and encircled with 50 stars. It battled the red leaf with anger and contempt and pursued the orb as viciously as the red leaf, and the people of the red leaf grew much afraid.
And a three thirds of the time upon time had been destroyed. The nations knew that time was short.
But as the beast let bellow it’s victory call, the flame from flat land marched into the far corner of the earth and took ownership of the orb, declaring for all who had ears to hear: “the orb belongs to the 30 millions faces, and the 30 millions hearts.” Then the man from Cole Harbour screamed at the flame and the flame threw the orb at him, and he in turn hurled the orb towards the beast.
And there was thunder and lightning and a bright red light. The beast from the south was utterly defeated. And the nations of the earth rose to their feet, and with a great cry called out, “Glory and honor is established! Let the nations recognize the red leaf and the flame and the Cole Harbour, for they defeated the beast with the orb, and have brought fame and renown upon the earth.”
And in the heavens and on the earth, there arose a great peace, which lasted for four years.
It's awesome being 38. And in the spirit of the Book of Awesome, I'm going to write out my 38 awesomes commemorating 38 years of experiencing awesome things.
1. Realizing you're part of a bigger story, a story that includes not just you, your family, and all your relatives, but Peter and Paul and Jesus and the prophets and David and Moses and Abraham. Being cheered on by THAT crowd of witnesses? Awesome.
2. Finding someone to share your life with, someone that was a complete stranger to you throughout your childhood, and that you had only known for a few short years before committing to one another; sharing love, life, and laughter with a stranger that's willing and wanting to be your best friend, yet still carrying mysteries that take a life time to reveal. That's awesome.
3. Sticking with the theme of strangers, imagine knowing the lives of four kids from the moment they were born, watching every movement they make, every experience they have, and yet, knowing that you have know idea what they are thinking. Birthing and raising strangers that you'd give your life for? Awesome.
4. Getting a chance to watch your favorite team play hockey right in your family room. Sharing an experience like that from hundreds of miles away? Awesomeness.
5. Seeing your parents using skype instead of the telephone to chat with the grandkids, and thinking nothing of it. They are LIVE-STREAMING THEIR LIVES! TO US! How awesome is that?
6. Having a job that requires you to build relationships with people, pray, read the Bible, and study. Finding a job where you get paid to serve Jesus? Totally and completely awesome.
7. Coming out on the otherside of suffering and recognizing that God is in control? Awesome.
8. Going up to Big White but not skiing; just drinking tea and reading. What could be more awesome?
9. Booster Juice? Awesome.
10. Getting a chance to stare at Okanagan lake whenever I want to. Awesome.
11. Wrestling with my kids, and even though I'm outnumbered, knowing that, for now, I can still win. That's awesome.
12. Imagine not having to dread Mondays because they are your Sabbath. Now, with all the kids in school, they are also a day to spend with Nikki. Double awesome.
13. Being able to dance without rhythm, sing without tune, and beat on a grand piano at night. That's awesome.
14. Imagine having your valentine flipping her vehicle on valentine's day and coming out without a scratch. Totally awesome.
15. Having your kids lip-syncing, with passion, to some kind of punk/grunge music. Pretty awesome.
16. Getting hugs from the kids at the door when you come home, even if your kids came home with you, and getting a kiss goodbye, even if you're just taking out the garbage. Now that's awesome.
17. Getting a chance to connect with friends via a hockey pool that has lasted a decade. Awesome.
18. Having a breadmaker that makes the coolest bread ever, giving you a sense of domestic accomplishment. Way awesome.
19. Drinking green gunk in a mug and feeling really good about it afterwards? Yup. Awesome.
20. Imagine getting to work with some of your best friends, on a team, working towards a common goal, and getting a chance at least once a week to laugh together, pray together, and plan together. That's awesome.
21. Vanilla Roiboos tea. Awesome.
22. Watching your kids do things (skateboard, ski, snowboard, swim, skate, do the splits) that you simply couldn't do at their age -or any age! Awesomeness.
23. Imagine complaining about hairloss since you were 21 years old, and then waking up at age 38 and finding out that you outlasted more than a few of your peers. Awesome.
24. I guess that would make Nioxin awesome. Give credit where credit is due.
25. Imagine having a friend who picks you up every Friday for years, except when you forget to wake up, just so you can have coffee together and talk about your relationship with God. Very awesome.
26. Having parents that modelled a kingdom culture over a salvation culture. That's culturally awesome.
27. Creating stuff. With computers. To display. That's awesome.
28. Vitamin B's and Deep breathing. Awesome.
29. Canada. With it's freedoms, it's not-so-hidden pride, it's quirkiness, and Stuart Maclean. Awesome.
30. India. With it's uniqueness, and warmth, it's boldness and ingenuity, and need. Awesome.
31. Friends that don't give up on you, who continue to initiate connection even when you are a bit tardy yourself. Awesome.
32. Growing older, seeing dreams getting accomplished, looking forward while starting to look back, looking in a mirror and seeing your dad. Awesome.
33. Connecting again with a sister I haven't seen in almost 20 years. Awesome.
34. Health. You know, breathing normally every day, thinking happy thoughts, being able to eat properly, live in your own home and function normally, and being aware that it's a gift of grace. Awesome.
35. Time. That it keeps on moving, wiping away one day and starting a new one with a clean slate, again and again and again. Having a purpose, moving towards something, the hope of new adventure, of things set right, of mysteries unveiled. Awesome.
36. Space. Finding great comfort in being who you are where you are. Practicing incarnational ministry by being alert and aware of where you are and what that means. Awesome.
37. Home. Digging in roots, building a life, finding grace in the familiar, trust in ongoing relationships, and peace in the sense of place. Joining people on their spiritual journey from birth to death. Awesome.
38. Life. Isn't it amazing to think that your soul is looking through your set of eyes, and no one else's? That your mind is operating inside your body and not in someone else's? That you get to experience your existence through your very own vehicle called your body? That you get to open your eyes after a good night of sleep, and register that a day has begun and it's yours to discover? That somehow all of this is what it means to be made in the image of God? And that it's been freed up for us to discover it "more and more abundantly"? Simply awesome.
N. T. Wright reserves his best wit and best arguments for when he is exasperated. His book “Justification” is a rebuttal to a critique of his studies on Paul over the years, often called the “New Perspective on Paul.” Although he specifically addresses John Piper’s critiques, his aim is to provide a counter argument to all his naysayers, most, apparently, coming from the reform theology camp.
These Reformers seem to be a grumpy group. I’ve mentioned it before: a lot of reform theology is really good, foundational stuff (we're talking about Luther and Calvin for crying out loud!), and the passion behind it is commendable. But, and it’s just my opinion, they seem to be a very angry lot, looking to pick a fight with those who seem to be a bit off kilter, away from what they believe, which, in recent years, is apparently pretty much everyone.
Presently, it would appear that they have in their sites biblical scholars who are parsing sentences, and digging up archaeological or historical tidbits, chewing on ancient languages and deciphering contexts. This is kind of ironic, in that all that hard exegetical work is something that I assume Reformers really value as important.
But it seems that when some of that digging around produces a fresh way to look at Scripture, a good exegete is not as important as long held traditional views. Wright and others actually make this point in the book a few times: How strange it is that it is the Reformers who are the ones holding on to tradition, even while arguing for being "people of the Book."
Piper critiques Wright’s Covenant Theology when it comes to describing what justification is all about. Wright (and I realize it’s very dangerous trying to sum up the argument in a sentence), is suggesting that Christ—another word for Messiah—not just saves us from our sins, but reconstitutes the people of God, broadening what it means to be the people of God, and who that all includes. Wright argues that righteousness in Paul’s passages on justification is not about our moral virtue (or Christ's), but about our new status that Christ brought about.
Piper doesn’t seem to like the direction this is going, suggesting that it is somehow removing the power or centrality of the cross and who Jesus is (aka, the Son of God, perfect, sinless, etc), and that Wright, in his emphasis on historical context and Paul's understanding of covenant, is moving beyond the biblical narrative. (A strange critique, as I mentioned above, coming from someone who allows tradition to trump Word).
As an aside, reading about this tension between moral virtue and status reminded me of a friend who changed the lyrics of a popular song we sometimes sing in church. For altar services, we often sing the song, "Holiness, Holiness", and one of the lines goes, “Righteousness is what you want from me.” My friend said, theologically speaking, we should be saying, “Righteousness is what you’ve given to me.” It’s not about something that we earn or about our moral ethic, saying you want right living from me (as much as that statement taken by itself is true) but about our new identity as part of the family of God, evidence that God has kept the covenant that he had originally laid out in the Torah to Abraham and brought to completion in Christ. I think he`s right, and I always make the change in my head when the song is sung.
Back to the book: Wright is just plain fun to read. Even in the second half of the book where he slogs through verse after verse in Pauline Literature to make his case, his presentation and style is memorizing. His chapter on Romans is particulalry fascinating, challenging, and encouraging. He does come across a bit romper room-ish, meaning it seems like he’s trying to dumb down his concepts so that his "child-like" critics will understand him better. This is a little patronizing, but good fun. You get the sense that this is how the British have a debate. The problem is, back here in North America, something may get lost in the translation. I can feel a “harrumph!” coming when Wright’s detractors finish the book, whether they think he won the debate or not.
Although Jeff is on staff at Emmanuel Church, the opinions expressed on this page are his own
and do not necessarily reflect the views of Emmanuel Church.
Copyright ©2010 Jeff Bjorgan jeff*Question from Redeemable Pieces