Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

I’m not a huge fan of certain segments of Christendom attempting arbitrarily to add dates to the church calendar. Usually the attempts represent pet doctrines and hobby horses representing small segments of the church which will likely be gone within a generation. Additionally, it is usually the case that such attempts are so culturally specific that it’s impossible for them to applied to the millions of Christians not residing in the Unites States. For example, not many years ago a group proposed making one Sunday Pulpit Freedom Sunday, a Sunday when politics and pertinent political issues were to be freely spoken of in the church’s divine service.

In my opinion there are a number of problems with attempting to single out certain cultural issues on a particular Sunday, but one irony is worth highlighting. It is ironic that special Sundays are … Read More »

Ordinary Time

You perhaps noticed that the bulletins changed colors last week from the gold of Christmastide to the familiar green of ordinary time. While some regard the brief period beginning with Epiphany and ending with the Feast of the Presentation on February 2 as Epiphanytide, most, however, see the Sunday after Epiphany as being part of Ordinary time.

The calendar is structured around three cycles: preparation (Advent, Lent), celebration (Christmas, Easter), and realization (the time after Pentecost and Epiphany). During preparation, we do just that. We fast and pray. We spiritually prepare for the coming reality. During celebration, we do just that. We feast and play. We spiritually exult in the fulfillment of what we have been waiting for. During realization we practice all of the implication of the reality we have experience.

Unfortunately, some hear the words, Ordinary time, and think of … Read More »

Epiphany

Last Friday was Epiphany and it is celebrated by many churches today. Epiphany is a loanword from Greek. It is used several times in the NT and it means appearance. It was used outside of the NT to refer to a manifestation of the gods. So appearance, manifestation, and revelation are all good words to think of when we use the word epiphany.

More specifically, Epiphany is a fixed feast day on the church calendar. Since it is a fixed day it is always celebrated on January 6th. When it doesn’t fall on Sunday some churches celebrate it on the Sunday between January 2-8. As suggested by the definitions above, Epiphany is the celebration of Christ’s manifestation, but more specifically his manifestation to the gentiles. This manifestation is codified for us in the story of the Magi—sometimes called Wise Men—from the … Read More »

Understanding Scripture

The concept of the covenant is highly important for understanding Scripture.  It is the key to interpreting and appreciating the Scriptures. When we understand the covenants and what their purpose, design and functions are then it helps us understand what is happening in the big picture of the Bible. Covenants are often compared to marriage. However, this is one type of covenant that is not the type of covenant upon which all of Scripture is built. In Redemptive History there are three major covenants (Covenant of Redemption, Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace). These covenants are not all alike. Marriage is a parity covenant. A covenant of two equal parties coming together. This is not the type of covenant Adam was in nor is it the type of covenant Abram entered into. This was more in the form … Read More »

Christmastide

What is the meaning of Christmas? That is, what is it that we highlight and celebrate during Christmastide—the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany? We hear the annual refrain and exhortation to keep Christ in Christmas. But what does that mean? What about Christ are we keeping in Christmas? What is it about Christ that we highlight and proclaim during Christmas?

It is during this time that we remember that God is with us in the person of Christ and that he is with us to save us from our sins. As Paul would put it, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us…” (Titus 3:4-5a). But is it possible that there is more to the story than just that? I am thinking of texts like Isaiah 9:6-7:

For to us a child … Read More »

Advent, Part 4

The older I get the more I am amazed at how quickly time passes. Once again I can’t believe that Christmas is so close. But it has not always been like this for me. When I was a kid it seemed like Christmas was never going to come. The waiting and anxiety were almost painful. I remember Christmas Eve being particularly taxing. It was hard to fall asleep. All I wanted was for Christmas to come.

While not exactly a one-to-one correspondence, this is how we should feel during Advent. During Advent we experience the promise and fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan in the person and incarnation of Jesus. During Advent we look forward too, longing and hoping and waiting for the second coming of Christ.

The anxious waiting of Advent is only intensified on this fourth and final Sunday.

So we find … Read More »

Advent, Part 3

…our true joy lies in the work of God and … very often this joy is found in repentance and faith.

We have considered the way that our cultural calendars are often at odds with the church calendar and how this is especially the case during Advent. And it is especially the case when we consider the theme of Advent which is repentance and preparation. Laurence Stookey calls it a, “little lent.” In support of this, the church has historically appealed to the ministry of John the Baptist who came to prepare the way for the birth of Christ. John’s message was fundamentally a message of repentance. Thus we have prayed with the church,

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our … Read More »

Advent, Part 2

Living in a post-Christian world means that often our cultural calendars are in conflict with the church calendar. One such example of this happens every year after Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving most Americans begin to celebrate Christmas or the Christmas season as it is often called. You hear familiar carols in the mall, sales and advertising are in full swing, and gatherings of friends and families and co-workers abound. Then December 26 comes and all the decorations and Christmas talk are put away until next year. This is how we generally celebrate Christmas in our culture.

This is not how the church celebrates Christmas. Christmas on the church calendar begins December 25 and runs for 12 days after that. Think here, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…” Now you know where the 12 days of Christmas … Read More »

Advent

Happy New Year! This is the first Sunday in Advent, which is regarded by Western Christianity as the beginning of the liturgical year. Sometimes Christians mistakenly think of Advent as being synonymous with the birth of Christ or with Christmas. But it really isn’t. In fact, Advent’s primary focus is on what we usually call the second coming of Christ. It’s for this reason that you will find the lectionary readings of the church focusing on this topic, this year. (Psalm 25; Luke 21, for example.)

I like what Laurence Stookey says about this:

What may seem to be an anomaly is a very important theological point: The beginning of the liturgical year takes our thinking to the very end of things (Christ’s Time for the Church, 121).

Advent is a time for repentance and preparation.

This is important because beginning at … Read More »

Read through the Bible, Part 31

Last week we finished reading through the book of Hebrews. Toward the end, in the last couple of verses of Hebrews 12, a serious note is struck: let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire (12:28b-29). The writer’s statement shines a spotlight on the seriousness and importance of worship. Worship is not something to be taken or treated lightly.

The reason reverence and awe are required is because of what is at stake. The goal of worship is just that: worship. That is, the goal of worship is that God is worshiped. And, evidently, there is worship that is acceptable as well as worship that is unacceptable. Penultimate, but still very important, is the inner transformation of the worshipper. In other words, there is a pastoral concern at working hard to … Read More »