A Convergence of Thoughts on Forgiveness

For the last several months I have been drawn to a specific section of the liturgy we use on Sunday morning. I have found myself finding the Confession and Absolution to be especially profound, sovaldi to the point that the words of that liturgy bounce around in my head even as we do communion. We are called to confess our sins, try which we do, cheap and then we are told that God forgives us. I find myself needing to hear that on a weekly basis.

You’re forgiven. You’re forgiven. You’re forgiven.

And it’s not necessarily because of some current sin, that I need to hear it. I find that lately, past stuff, particularly attitudes I had before I became a Christian keep coming up in my memory. And I don’t get it. I could understand guilt or shame because of stuff I’ve done since I’ve been a Christian, but it’s this ‘old man’ stuff that keeps rehashing in my head.

I’m forgiven. I’m forgiven. I’m forgiven.

At the same time, I just took a class on the Theology of Forgiveness and Reconciliation. As I write my review paper on Donald Gowan’s The Bible on Forgiveness, I am struck by how many times Exodus 34:6-7 are either quoted or alluded to in the Old Testament. God forgives. He is a God who acts and his action is forgiveness. And we see it into the New Testament. God creates a way for us to receive forgiveness through the reconciliation wrought by His Son.

The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.

God forgives. God forgives. God forgives.

And I can’t help but wondering, in our debates about whether God is primarily holy or primarily love, if we’ve missed the point. I wonder if this tension that some people see between the God of wrath in the Old Testament and the God of love in the New Testament would be better reconciled if we focused instead on God’s action: God forgives. He forgives in the Old Testament. He forgives in the New Testament.

We’re forgiven. We’re forgiven. We’re forgiven.

I recently finished J.R. Daniel Kirk’s Jesus I Have Loved, but Paul? There, he writes of how the community of Christians is a community of forgiven people. A community that embodies forgiveness to each other and to the world, because God has forgiven us. Referring to the Lord’s Prayer, Dr. Kirk writes this:

“Wittingly or no, whenever we pray this prayer together in Christian communities we are inviting God to measure our own posture of forgiveness against his own character as a forgiving God. Even starker than mere comparison, however, is Jesus’ word of warning and promise. To a community that is to be defined as a forgiven people, Jesus proclaims that our ability to receive God’s forgiveness is contingent on our own ability to extend such forgiveness to others. (pg. 58)

We forgive. We forgive. We forgive.

And now it is Lent, a time of repentance and reflection. And I am overwhelmed by the reality that God forgives. It is that forgiveness that bends my knees, humbles me and draws me to repent. I repent because God’s gift of forgiveness is so huge, so powerful. And as I repent and pray and confess and worship, I am covered by and drowning in this reality:

God forgives. I’m forgiven. We’re forgiven. We forgive.

A Footnote Gem

I love footnotes.

I hate endnotes.

I hate having to flip to the back of the book, viagra and very often, I won’t. Well, today as I was reading Jim Payton’s Getting the Reformation Wrong, I came across a footnote that made me smile. In chapter four Dr. Payton discusses the personal conflicts between the reformers, in particular Luther in opposition to Bucer, Zwingli and Oecolampadius. He writes about how Luther was belligerent (irascible,grumpy, mean, a pain in the butt) and had a tendency to label those who disagreed with him the ‘minions of Satan.’ The footnote says this:

In a letter to Zwingli, Bucer sharply expressed his irritation, declaring that Luther’s doctrinal tyranny was worse than what the church had suffered under the bishops of Rome; in a later letter to friends in Strasbourg, Bucer urged them to recognize that God had granted a great gift in Luther, but that they had to accept him as he was. Working for peace in the church would require them all, he noted, to put up with a lot from Luther.” (pg. 113)

It made me smile. Don’t we all have that one person in our church, life, school, family that we have “to put up with a lot from” for the sake of peace? And isn’t it nice to know that there is a place for cantankerous people in the body of Christ? (because, let’s face it, some people would probably say that I’m irascible, though I don’t know that I’ve ever called anyone a minion of Satan)

Now if that had been tucked in an endnote I never would have read it!

Ash Wednesday

Almighty and everlasting God, patient
you despise nothing you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent.
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, shop
that we, viagra worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our brokenness,
may obtain of you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(Book of Alternative Services)

The Place of Resurrection in Our Christian Tradition

A few years ago, cure my friends were teaching their four year old daughter about the meaning of Easter. On Easter Saturday, store my friend sat down with his daughter and they watched an age-appropriate cartoon about the Passion. The little girl cried when Jesus died, sovaldi so her dad paused the video and explained what was happening, and assured her that there was going to be a big surprise coming up. They resumed watching, and this video did a really good job of emphasizing the resurrection and the importance of the resurrection. The little girl’s face lit up. “He’s alive, daddy! He’s alive!” She danced around the house, proclaiming that she loved “’surrected Jesus.”
The next morning in Sunday school, the teacher was up at the flannelgraph board (ah, remember flannelgraph?) talking about Jesus’ tomb. She explained that Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb and a big rock was put over the entrance. The little girl couldn’t stop bouncing and fidgeting. The teacher asked the class, “so where is Jesus?” trying to make sure they understood that at this point in the story he was in the tomb. The little girl kept shaking her head. “He’s not there!” She said in a sing-song voice, and began laughing. The teacher turned to her and said, “where is he?”
The little girl laughed, ran up to the teacher and gave her a hug, and then at the top of her lungs, yelled “He’s not there! He’s alive!” The teacher was impressed. “And do you know what that means?” she asked the little girl.
“Yes, it means that he is awesome and powerful and can live in my heart.” She stopped her bouncing and stood very solemnly. “Teacher, I am a Christian and I love the ‘surrected Jesus.”
Meanwhile, upstairs in the main sanctuary the senior pastor was preaching. He preached on the importance of the cross, the seriousness of sin, and the sacrifice of Jesus. And not once did he preach on the Resurrection even though it was Easter Sunday. Not a single hymn or praise song spoke of the Resurrection, instead all focused on the cross and death.
At the end of the service, the little girl came tearing out of Sunday School and went to find her parents in the sanctuary. In her excitement, she ran smack into the legs of the senior pastor. “Pastor! Happy Easter! Jesus is alive!” And she was off again. The pastor stood shocked for a minute. The next Sunday he apologized to the congregation. “A little four year old girl knows what the gospel is better than I do.”

In his new book, J.R. Daniel Kirk talks about how in his tradition, the resurrection was often an ‘add-on’:

For many of us, when we start talking about the implications of resurrection we find ourselves on unfamiliar ground. I remember being struck by my own ignorance about resurrection just before Easter during my senior year of college. What was my problem? The story of salvation as I understood it did not need the resurrection in order for the narrative to come to its climactic conclusion. All it needed was the cross. So long as Jesus died for me, my soul could be in personal relationship with God. The resurrection was, at best, a tack-on, perhaps an empirical validation that God had accepted Jesus’ sacrifice. (pg. 41)

Kirk goes on to argue that for Paul and all the early Christians, the resurrection was central. “It meant that Jesus had become Lord, and it mean not only that God was going to renew the whole creation but also that the renewal of creation had already begun.” (pg. 41)

So I thought that today we could have a discussion about the place of the Resurrection in our Christian journey. Was proclaiming the Resurrection central in your Christian upbringing? Was the emphasis on the cross, with the resurrection being a mere add-on? What does it mean to live in the light of the Resurrection?

Random Blog Posts and Stuff

Scot McKnight asks professors about the efficacy of lectures. (For the record, help I’m a huge fan of lecture-style teaching mainly because I am an auditory learner).


Rachel Held Evans offers forty ideas for lent.


Sue reflects on some wedding memories. (I have added Sue’s blog to the Canadian Christian Blogs page. You can see the full list here).


Brian LePort points out the great irony of the complementarian-egalitarian debate.


Check out the HBC podcast on Mutants and Mystics. Yay for sci-fi!


And life is not complete without a dose of The Big Bang Theory:

Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul?

When I went to Bible College I was a brand-new baby Christian. I didn’t know hardly anything about Christianity, cialis other than Jesus had rocked my world at the age of 16 and I was forever changed. But off I went to Bible College, purchase excited and ready to learn. One of the first classes I had included a spirited discussion about the end of evangelicalism’s fascination with Paul. We had matured past Paul and it was time to ignore him and focus on the Gospels. (oh those poor catholic epistles and Revelation, look will they ever be cool?) It was interesting to hear some of the hate towards Paul coming from the students. Jesus preached freedom for the captives, but Paul endorsed slavery. Jesus gathered women around him, but Paul said women can’t teach. I didn’t get the anti-Paul hate. In fact I really liked and continue to like Paul. Sure, I may struggle with Paul’s teaching on women, but that doesn’t mean I hate him or see him as being antithetical to Jesus’ proclamation of Good News.

Confession time: if given a choice between reading the Synoptics and reading the Pauline Epistles, I’ll chose the Paul (note: The Gospel of John is better than all of them combined. That is my Jesus Gospel).

Now, here I am, years later in seminary, and I was so excited when I heard that Dr. Kirk was writing a book on the tension and struggle that evangelicals have in reading and reconciling the words (and deeds) of Jesus and those of Paul. Not only that, but he was taking a narrative approach to the discussion and I love narrative!

But, I struggle with how to interact with this book. Should I do a straight review? I could. I think what is more helpful is to incorporate elements of this book in the narrative here at Cheese-Wearing Theology. So for example, I’ll have a post up this weekend interacting with Dr. Kirk’s strong emphasis on the resurrection, as I tell my favourite story about one church’s Easter Sunday service and how kids are smarter than adults.

That being said, there do need to be a few ‘review’ type comments made about this book.

1) Who would benefit from reading this book?

Pastors who are working on trying to find ways to preach the “grand story” of the Gospel.
Christians who grew up in rugged individualistic North American evangelical churches.
A bible study with a group of mature Christians. There can be a lot of good discussion and questions come out from each of the chapters. (An example of this discussion can be seen in the recent blog tour of the book, where different bloggers were asked to interact with a specific chapter of the book.)
This book might also be a good secondary source for a graduate-level intro to NT class.

2) You may want to read William Webb’s Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals prior to reading this book. The narrative approach that Dr. Kirk presents incorporates the redemptive (trajectory) hermeneutic of Dr. Webb.

3)You don’t have to agree with everything in this book to appreciate it. I’m probably more theologically conservative than Dr. Kirk but that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate (while disagreeing with) his conclusions about hot-button issues.

4) A few minor nitpicks:
a)ENDNOTES. Publishers, please stop doing this. Especially in a book with only a handful of citations per chapter. Footnotes are better. I probably won’t ever win that fight with publishers, but I can dream.
b) While I appreciate the minimal number of citations in this book, there are a few places where the added citations would have been helpful. Example: pg. 42, Dr. Kirk writes, “In Romans 1:3-4 Paul says something so surprising that most of our Bible translations refuse to print it.” Refuse to print it? What does that mean? And have translation committees specifically said, “We won’t print this?” A citation to bring context to this comment would have been helpful.

5) You should absolutely check out Dr. Kirk’s blog.
There are some very good conversations going on over there, and most importantly, he writes about Barth on a weekly basis!

(I am grateful to the fine folks at Baker Academic for this review copy.)

The Coming of the Son of Man in Mark

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Despite his sometimes far-reaching emphasis on exile, and despite his rather hyperbolic insistence that the end-times does not mean “the end of space-time continuum,”(pg. 321) N.T. Wright is entirely correct in arguing that Mark 13 should not be read as an apocalyptic message about the Second Coming of Christ. Keeping Mark 13 in its context of Mark 11-14, and understanding it as part of Jesus’ overall pronouncement on the temple, means that we should understand Mark 13 as referencing and finding fulfillment in the destruction of the temple in AD 70.

Wright understands “Son of Man” to be a reference to Jesus being Israel’s representative, rather than as a title for Jesus’ humanity. As King David was a hologram of Israel, Jesus, as the Son of David, is a hologram of Israel. The “Son of Man” then, Wright argues, can be seen in Mark and in Daniel, as not necessarily a “super-hero” but as a representative of Israel. In Daniel, the prophetic visions of mighty animals warring against the Son of Man should be understood then as the epic battle of evil nation states against Yahweh’s people, Israel. The Son of Man ‘coming’ in Daniel 7:13 refers to an ascension to the Ancient of Days (Yahweh), and so it should be seen similarly in Mark 13:26. As Wright argues, ultimately Daniel 7 and Mark 13 are stories of vindication and exaltation, (pg. 361) not only of the Son of Man but ultimately of Israel.

Jesus’ prediction of the fall of the temple was a risk, but if it came to pass, it would be his vindication. As Wright argues, if the temple was not destroyed within the generation as Jesus predicted, then Jesus’ whole ministry and message would have been that of “a charlatan, a false prophet, maybe even a blasphemer.” (pg. 361) And while there is the possibility of prophetic telescoping happening in Mark 13, where the prophesy can have multiple fulfillments, it is important to understand it first and foremost in its historical fulfillment. As Wright says, “this is how the story must end. If Jesus is not the last prophet, he is a false prophet.” (pg. 362)

Through Jesus’ messianic mission, Israel was being redefined. Israel would no longer be a community defined by ethnicity. It would now be a community defined by repentance. If the people did not heed Jesus’ message, they would become Babylon, the arch-type of oppression and exile. The leaders and the people who rejected and railed against Jesus’ radical teaching would inevitably “discover themselves in the position that they had thought was reserved for the pagans,” namely, judgment. (pg. 329)

Jesus’ message, while radical, was not revolutionary. As Wright rightly points out, it was the Pharisees who were looking for revolution. Jesus’ message was consistent with a classic prophetic profile. Jesus, as prophet and Messiah, was standing in a long tradition of prophetic critiques from within Judaism. He was following in the way of the prophets. As such, his message was in no way anti-Jewish. It was a message for a specific people in a specific moment in history.

If, following Wright, Mark 13 is understood not as part of the doctrine of the Second Coming, but as temple discourse, there is still the question as to whether or not the early church understood it as Wright presents it. Dale Allison suggests that 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is Paul’s interpretation of Mark 13, or a tradition closely associated with it. (Allison, 135) While Wright’s interpretation works while looking at Mark 13, Paul’s adaptation, as well as Matthew’s in Matthew 24, seems to suggest that the early church understood it to be referencing Jesus’ Second Coming.

Wright does address the parallel passage in Matthew 24, and argues that the disciples’ question is “when will you be physically installed as king?” Jesus’ response (Matthew 24:4-51) is that he will be installed when the temple is destroyed. (pg. 342) Part of the problem, Wright argues, lies in the fact that the Church has not understood the fall of Jerusalem as theologically significant.

The question then is, how do academics and pastors communicate Wright’s presentation of Mark 13 to the church at large? How do we teach about the theological significance of the fall of Jerusalem? And how do we show the proper separation of Mark 13 from the overall doctrine of the Second Coming, given that the North American evangelical culture is held captive by Left Behind (and Zionist) eschatology?

Cage-Fighting, Women Who Kick Ass and Violence: One Woman’s Perspective

Last week I wrote about the new movie Haywire and how there is a new female superhero to add to the ranks of Buffy, see Faith and Sydney Bristow. One person asked me via Twitter if there is a way to celebrate strong women without violence. This month, Christianity Today has an article looking at how Christians should respond to cage-fighting (mixed martial arts). Add all of these things together and I find myself needing to explore my thoughts on violence, martial arts and female superheroes.

I write this as both an outsider and an insider. I am outsider because I am not a martial artist. I have never formally trained in any martial art, nor have I participated in related sports such as wrestling or boxing. I am an insider because my husband is a martial artist. He has trained in jujitsu (the main martial art used in cage-fighting), sword-fighting (through AEMMA), and bujinkan. He is the founder of Caronport’s Bartitsu Society. He has written a book on cultivating the warrior virtues and has written about how training in a martial art cultivates virtues that extend to other areas of life (for example, at risk youth greatly benefit from martial arts training). He has, casually, taught me various stances, holds, and blocks.

Sport violence vs. real violence

Through Chuck’s interest in martial arts I have learned that at the highest levels of training, these sports are not done for the sake of doing violence. Indeed, jujitsu masters like the Gracie family would abhor such a notion. True, there are the punk wannabes who watch UFC and think that its the perfect way to “beat the crap out of someone”, but those who have trained hard know that it is not about violence. Yes, while there may be times where your opponent bloodies and bruises you, at the end of the match, most competitors shake hands and respect each others talents.

Grappling vs. Striking

That being said, I find the grappling easier to watch than the striking. Watching a person hit another in the head over and over again so that they fall over, makes my stomach queasy. Watching grappling, I find myself impressed with the ‘human knot’ — “Now how do I get out of this?” Twist a shoulder here, move a knee, and voila, the knot unties and the two opponents start again. While the grappling may not be ‘showy’ and tends to be a lot more tiny moves that are hard to see on television, the tenacity and patience that is required to get out of an attempted choke is impressive. And though I don’t like the striking aspect, I have to respect fighters like Jon Bones Jones who has an amazing wing span and makes even punching someone in the head look graceful.

Marveling At Our Bodies:
I watch the cagefighters, and am shocked at the things their bodies can do. It’s not CGI. It’s not special effects. It’s years of training and endurance. We can train to do amazing feats of strengths, and yet one well-positioned hit will cause bones to break. Our bodies bend and are flexible, and yet at the same time they are inflexible and non-bendy.
The elbow is extremely flexible with a great range of motion. Except for one angle. If you hyper-extend it, it is extremely painful and could snap. If you kick the knee cap from the front it will shatter, but if you kick it from behind, your leg will buckle and you’ll fall to the ground. If you apply enough pressure on the throat, you’ll pass out, but as soon as you go limp and your opponent lets go, you wake back up again immediately, a little dazed but none the worse for wear. If you hit a person in the shoulder it doesn’t really do anything. On the other hand, if you hit a person in the kidneys, they’ll drop to the ground.
It’s the marvel of our bodies: they are both incredibly strong and incredibly weak.

Learning Self-defense:
Like it or not, it is necessary for every woman to learn how to defend herself. And while we can pray that self-defense techniques never have to be used, the world we live in requires that we prepare to defend ourselves, because we are not damsels in distress. There won’t always be a big strong man around to come to our defense. We need to be ‘Gracie Lou Freebush’ and know how to SING.

Women Who Kick Ass:
But of course watching cagefighting, and learning self-defense techniques are not the same as watching Buffy, Faith, Sydney or Mallory. Some people are uncomfortable with the storied violence in shows like Buffy and Alias. Sometimes it is because people argue that women aren’t supposed to fight. I call this the ‘double standard’ position, because the same people who argue that women shouldn’t fight are the same ones who will go see The Expendables twelve times to see a bunch of over the hill old guys try to reclaim the glory days of the action hero movies of the 80’s.
Other times it’s because people argue that violence serves no narrative or redeeming purpose.
Buffy and Faith fight fairytale monsters, not real people, and we cheer when they dust the uber-bad-vamp of the week. Sydney fights in three-inch heels while napalm explodes around her. It’s not real. And yet it serves to tell a story. What would Buffy be if she didn’t slay vampires? Can you imagine a show about a teenaged girl who is shallow and fashion-obsessed and who hangs out with her friends trading witty dialogue? Oh wait. That would be “generic teen comedy”. What would Alias be if Sydney just sat behind a desk reading intelligence reports? Pretty darn boring.

And of course this is where the issue of the Christian ethic comes in. We are called to suffer, to not retaliate, to ‘turn the other cheek.’ And yet, is it possible to have Christianity without violence?. The violence that Christ endured at the hands of the Roman soldiers and on the cross was horrendous. To sanitize it and romanticize it cheapens the sacrifice that Christ made on behalf of the world in his quest to bring reconciliation and redemption to humanity. The violence, whether we like it or not, is part of THE story.

So maybe just as cagefighting is not violence for violence sake, Buffy, Alias, and Haywire aren’t either. An example of violence for violence sake would be torture-intensive horror films that try to find new ways to shock and sicken their audience without the need for a story. The reason why I can uphold Buffy, Faith, Sydney and Mallory as heroes and examples of women who kick ass, is because their kicking ass tells a story and is not the story in and of itself. And part of that story is that women are strong, beautiful, resourceful and don’t need to be rescued by men who think they are white knights in search of stranded damsels. These stories tell us that in the face of adversity women don’t have to sit back and just watch from the sidelines, as window-dressing, eye candy and ego boosts for the macho guys. These female characters actively participate in, and lead in the struggle against evil by using their gifts and talents of not only karate chops and vampire stakings, but also of situational assessment and creative “strategery”.

“I’ve been through more battles with Buffy than you all can ever imagine. She’s stopped everything that’s ever come up against her. She’s laid down her life -— literally -— to protect the people around her. This girl has died two times, and she’s still standing. You’re scared? That’s smart. You got questions? You should. But you doubt her motives, you think Buffy’s all about the kill, then you take the little bus to battle… I’ve seen her heart, and this time, not literally. And I’m telling you, right now, she cares more about your lives than you will ever know. You gotta trust her. She’s earned it.”
Xander (BtVS — Season 7 ‘Dirty Girls’)