Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"And whenever you fast ..."

Jesus said, "And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matt. 6:17-18)

UPDATED: So it's not just me ...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hell's Bells

If the debate over Rob Bell's view of hell and whether the blood of Jesus is a metaphor according to God's method of tailor-made but culturally relative accommodation sounds familiar, well, perhaps that's because history is rhyming once again, this time on the 100-year cycle.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cognitive Dissonance in the World of Jim Wallis

If you are waiting for Jim Wallis' Orange Revolution, "no longer just an ad; it's a campaign," to spread to the Huffington Post, well, it could be a long wait. 

Hunter Baker writes: "What Jim Wallis is saying comes from a good heart. He is worried about things like fairness and, of course, about helping people. But the reasoning he employs in doing so assumes that federal programs actually achieve what they set out to do, which is far from obvious, and that they don’t create incentives for behavior that results in greater problems ..." I'm enough of a Calvinist to wonder at this estimation of Wallis' or anyone's "good heart," including my own, but the "real" realism of Baker's point seems to be inexplicably lost on certain self-designated doves among us.

It is worth remembering that Jesus did not simply say, "just as you did it to the least of these;" he qualified this by adding, "who are members of my family" (Matthew 25:40). Furthermore, he did not say, "just as your state or national government did it;" he said, "just as you did it ..."

In short, preachers should not promote the idea that political action for the government to act as a moral surrogate for the church is a suitable substitute for personal responsibility. Neither should we perpetuate the shallow, moralistic assumption that Jesus makes no distinction between the pagans who are the ones being judged in this oft-quoted oracle and the members of Jesus' family (his baptized brothers and sisters who are born of the will and the Spirit of God), whose treatment at the hands of the pagans is the criteria by which the pagans are deemed sheep or goats. In other words, the kingdom and the family of God do not operate according to the humanistic ideal of "the brotherhood of man," but according to clear (and superior) spiritual criteria laid out for us in scripture.

Surely, those who do the will of the heavenly Father are Jesus' brothers and sisters and mother (Matt 12:50), and it is by all means the will of God that his family members show compassion for the poor. But apparently even "God's preferential option for the poor" has its limits (see Ex 23:2-3; Lev 19:15). 

It is tempting to say that, once again, the lectionary has failed us, but for the fact that at least Leviticus 19:15 is actually in the RCL! What is failing is rather our ability to exercise wise, careful, and judicious discernment, to "judge with right judgement" (Jn 7:24). 

UPDATE: Umm, evidently Jim has never read Joel 3:10.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Triune God is author of the historical drama unfolding before our eyes, and ours is not to recast or reconcile the divine players

In light of the way Miroslav Volf frames his perhaps too simplistic ultimatum at the end of this article, it seems he speaks in the spirit of those who "say, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace" (Jer 6:14; 8:11; cf. Ezek 13:10). But when will we finally begin to listen to what Jesus has to say (see, e.g., John 16:1-4) about where history is going? 

What "would" Jesus cut? (Part III)

Perhaps anything that does not hallow the name of our Father in heaven, which would be just about everything in the national budget, you know, with "separation of church and state" and all that.

Maybe the question we should ask is: Why are we asking such silly questions, as though Jesus "would" be hoping for an appointment (by whom, exactly?) to the OMB, or the Federal Reserve, or the US Treasury, "if" he were here with us, that is.

Good grief! What presuppositions lie behind all permutations of the question, "What 'would' Jesus do?"

No, the question is: What is the risen Jesus already doing, and what is he about to do in our midst? And isn't it a shame that we so quickly forget "the gospel of God with us"? 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What "would" Jesus cut? (Part II)

I'm pretty sure Jesus is not in favor of fraud. From Politico:

"The (GAO) report, issued at the request of a House subcommittee investigating Medicare and Medicaid fraud, estimates that the federal government is losing $48 billion on the improper payments – a significant amount for a program that 'is fiscally unsustainable in the long term' unless action is taken."

So, that's $48 billion + $510 billion ... Hey! If we would permit him to "round up," Jesus "would" soon be on his way to trimming one of those 14 trillions of dollars that we have spent but do not have. But thank God he is quick to give the gift of repentance to those who ask him!

What "would" Jesus cut?

Tony Campolo, Ron Sider, and Jim Wallis, "super star" preachers all, are asking in the budget debates, "What would Jesus cut?"

Um, perhaps he "would" begin with waste? (John 6:12)

"All told, the GAO targeted as much as $510 billion on 583 potentially duplicative, wasteful programs overseen by roughly 182 government agencies and offices, stretching across the federal government ..."

Is the Church in need of super stars?

I appreciate the conciliatory intent of this article, but I confess I tend to disembark whenever any pastor is deemed a "super star." Much as I think the term cheesy and trivializing when applied to Jesus, it seems pretty clear the church already has the only one she needs.

UPDATE: Here's another call for calm.