Archive for February 2012

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, 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, which we do, 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, 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,
you despise nothing you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent.
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we, 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, my friends were teaching their four year old daughter about the meaning of Easter. On Easter Saturday, my friend sat down with his daughter and they watched an age-appropriate cartoon about the Passion. The little girl cried when Jesus died, 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?

Motivational Monday

Announcement: Anglican Week At Cheese-Wearing Theology

I am organizing another theme week here at Cheese-Wearing Theology, much like the Advent project last year, and the Girly-Girl week. The second week of March will be Anglican Week.

I am looking for submissions for guest posts. If you are attending an Anglican church (Mainstream or Network, doesn’t matter) I would love for you to contribute. The theme is What I Like About Anglicanism.

Some suggestions for reflection:

You could write about how you began attending an Anglican church (especially if you came to Anglicanism from another tradition).
You could write about an element of the service that is profoundly meaningful to you.
You could write about your local parish.
You could write about being a part of the larger Anglican community.
You could write about an Anglican who inspires you (N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis, your priest, a deacon, an active lay person, etc).
You could write about liturgy.
You could give a shout out to a ministry in your parish that is being salt and light to the community.
You could write about Anglican theology, Anglican praxis, Anglican values.

Deadline for submissions is March 1st. Submissions should be 500-1000 words long. You can email your submission to [[[cdntheologianscholar]]]]] at [[[[mac]]]] dot [[[com]]]]

You can see some of my Adventures in Anglicanism reflections here.

Random Blog Posts and Stuff

Scot McKnight asks professors about the efficacy of lectures. (For the record, 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:

Six Years Ago Today…

…during the freakiest Hamilton snowstorm of all time, the inconceivable happened. In the midst of snow, rain, sleet, ice, ice-fog, thunder, and lightning (yeah lightning in a February storm, weird, huh?), we were married. I was so sick, and ended up toasting our wedding with shots of Nyquil instead of a glass of wine. Mere hours before the wedding, my diamond engagement ring disappeared. Could we have had worse luck? And yet, here we are.

Six years married. It can’t be only six years because we’ve been together forever. On the other hand, six years already?! Where did the time go?

In six, short years, we’ve had a wild ride haven’t we?

We went to Disney for our honeymoon. (We need to go back for our 10th anniversary!)

A psychotic cat found our engagement ring months after the wedding.

You wrote a book, and every time we’re in a bookstore we run to see if it is on the shelf.

We had marathon Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Star Trek/Angel/Firefly/Criminal Minds/Bones/Big Bang Theory) weekends. We would curl up on the couch to watch an episode, only to say, “let’s watch another one.” Two days, and five discs later, we’d finally uncurl ourselves from the couch and snuggles.

We had a road trip adventure down to Georgia in your noisy, clunky green pickup truck. Our lesson from that trip, the bucket seats in that car were not designed for long-term travel.

We struggled with the news that we probably couldn’t have kids, and endured the agony of a miscarriage.

And then, just when we had begun to accept and embrace the reality of infertility, we became pregnant.

I’ve watched you delight in being a daddy, as well as becoming the master diaper changer.

And then, miracle upon miracle, we became pregnant again. Our lives will never be the same, and we are so blessed.

We moved across the country in the middle of winter (who’s idea was it to move when it was -40?)

We’re learning to juggle family and life and work while I finish up my master’s degree.

We’ve filled up all our bookshelves. We won’t get rid of books, so it’s time to buy more shelves. At this rate, by our 12th anniversary we’re going to need to have a separate house just for our books!

We’ve grown theologically and spiritually.

I have discovered Karl Barth and N.T. Wright, and dragged you along on that journey (“Chuck! You have to read this! Chuck! Look! Asymmetric Dialectic!”).

We have plugged ourselves into an Anglican church, and are learning the rhythms of the Christian calendar.

We’ve laughed.

We’ve cried.

We’ve fed off each other’s geekiness.

We speak in the language of Whedon and Star Trek, and people look at us sideways. And that’s okay, in fact we sometimes delight in people thinking that we’re weird.

Six years.

I love you, my husband.

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, other than Jesus had rocked my world at the age of 16 and I was forever changed. But off I went to Bible College, 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, 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.)

Motivational Monday