Because we’re in Pennsylvania and tomorrow is the first day of deer season, our kids don’t have school. So, Sean wisely planned an activity that not surprisingly, drew about 40 kids. Here’s what I got paid to do tonight
1) Be the “DVD” Master for game of Disney Scene-It
2) Eat Pizza
3) Watch Finding Nemo
4) Hang out with a really great group of kids
You’ll notice in the photos that I now have two tattoos, care of Mia. The one says “Newbie loves Mrs. Newbie”. When I first started at Northmont, back in October of 2003 I was given the nickname of “Newbie” and to this day it has stuck. The other one says “Mother” since they decided I was an “English Biker” with two tattoos… but you know what? They pay me to do this job!
So I took a quiz on Christian traditions tonight and not surprisingly, here are my results.
(100%) 1: Eastern Orthodox
(89%) 2: Presbyterian/Reformed
(87%) 3: Anglican/Episcopal/Church of England
(80%) 4: Roman Catholic
(75%) 5: Lutheran
(68%) 6: Congregational/United Church of Christ
(49%) 7: Baptist (Reformed/Particular/Calvinistic)
(41%) 8: Methodist/Wesleyan/Nazarene
(36%) 9: Seventh-Day Adventist
(24%) 10: Church of Christ/Campbellite
(22%) 11: Pentecostal/Charismatic/Assemblies of God
(20%) 12: Anabaptist (Mennonite/Quaker etc.)
(10%) 13: Baptist (non-Calvinistic)/Plymouth Brethren/Fundamentalist
It look my study of Athanasius and T.F. Torrance is rubbing off?
I’m actually not at all suprised by how the rankings came out. The quiz was designed to peg the Presbyterian/Reformed view as unconditional election/limited atonement, where as with my more Athanasian view its not surprise I ended up being Easter Orthodox.
So last spring I had about $215 left over on my Cokesbury account. Northmont paid me for preaching Sunday nights in Cokesbury gift cards (hey, I got all my books paid for, I wasn’t complaining). At the time Cokesbury ran a sale on Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics @ 35% off. Given the fact that when the paperback editions came out they were 39.99, and less than a year later TandTClark had raised them to 49.99 I figured that I should finish off my collection while I could get the discount. So I did. Since September I’ve been putting contact paper on them to help them stay together and this morning I finished putting the contact paper on IV.4 and the Index. So there they are, all 13 volumes and the index.
I also figured out I’ve read a little over 16% of the church dogmatics. I’ve read all of IV.1 (779 pages), some of IV.2 (114 pages), some of 1.1 (74 pages), and some of III.4 (210 pages) for a grand total of 1177 pages out of the whole 7000 page work. Yes, I’m a dork and you can keep laughing at me…
So this term I did a one-credit independent study with Dr. Burgess studying the work of Karl Barth. I read sections of III.4, which is where Barth lays out his ethics based on his doctrine of creation. The one section I was really taken with was what he called “The Active Life”, so for my paper for this class I wrote on that section. All told, its just a shade over 13 pages, not too bad for a one-credit class eh? Well, the title should give you an ideas of what I was going for
Evangelism Through Service: Karl Barth’s Theology of the Active Life as a Paradigm for Evangelism in the Postmodern/Post-Christendom Context.
Anyway, if you’re bored during Thanksgiving, I’ve posted it on my website here
Tonight at Northmont I preached on a passage that I’ve been spending quite a bit of time thinking about. Matthew 25:31-46 is an often-quoted passage where Jesus tells everyone that as they did to the “least of these” they did to him. Their treatment of the least of these is then the criteria at the final judgment. This passage was especially brought to my attention during the Generous Orthodoxy Conference when Jim Wallis mentioned that this was “conversation passage”. After he said John Franke and I had a discussion about that, because both of us were under the assumption that Jesus was specifically referring to Christian missionaries when he said “the least of these”, not just anyone. But John made an interesting comment, “Even if that wasn’t the intent, I wonder if it’s an appropriate use of the text”.
So, I took a look at the passage. I read five commentators on the passage, all of whom I respect: Donald Hagner, Craig Bloomberg, Craig Keener, Doug Hare, and Karl Barth (probably the biggest name missing from that list is Dale Allison, but I don’t have his ICC Commentary in electronic format (yet!)). Hagner, Bloomberg, and Keener all adopted the interpretation that Jesus was referring specifically to Christian missionaries when he said “the least of these”, while Barth and Hare argued that Jesus was referring to anyone. (Actually, Hare seemed to give arguments on both sides). I honestly couldn’t figure out which one was right so I decided to adopt neither and instead have the community take it up tonight. So, I preached for about 12 minutes guiding them through the passage slowly and then I stopped, and asked them to turn to their neighbor and talk about the passage and who they thought “the least of these” is for our church community. Then, after about a minute or two of discussion I shared with them quotes from Hare and Barth and let the discussion begin. Not surprisingly, everyone agreed with Barth and Hare.
What happened though was truly amazing, because what came out of that discussion was better than anything I could have preached. People picked up on different things and took different angles on the text. For some reason the part about visiting people in prison jumped out to a couple people, so we got going on that for a bit. I never would have taken it in that direction if I had preached the whole way through.
The biblical text isn’t trapped in the 1st Century; the Spirit was speaking loud and clear tonight at Northmont. Even if this wasn’t the original intent of the author, the Spirit can still use it. Now, part of the reason why I feel comfortable with this is this: the interpretation arrived at was grounded in the community. This wasn’t just me talking; this was the whole community talking. Second, the interpretation we arrived at, that the Spirit is telling us today that we will be judged based on how we treated the naked, the hungry, the thirsty, the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned is well within the (I’m struggling for the right word here) framework of the biblical message. This isn’t heresy, and it may not be a universal for all communities, but at least for Northmont, that was what the Spirit said to us tonight. So to answer John Franke’s question about whether Jim Wallis’ use of the text is appropriate and suitable, I would say yes.
I think part of what I’m learning this year especially is that the role of the preacher should be to facilitate interpretation amongst the community. It was important that I do the exegetical work of reading commentaries, doing the word studies, etc. But ultimately those became tools which enabled the community to seek to understand the Word of God’s Command for our community tonight. The other thing is that this method of preaching is more engaging for people because it involves them, the sermon isn’t something they receive; they participate in its creation.
If you want to take a look at my outline I worked with you can go to http://wbmthoughts.blogspot.com or http://www.wallyandnay.net/Brian/Sermons where you can get either the outline in PDF format, the PowerPoint slides in either PDF or PowerPoint format, or hear the audio of the sermon in mp3 format (yes, I’m a dork). I’ve also posted my other three sermons from earlier in the year there.
Location: Northmont SON Service
Texts: Matthew 25:31-46
Sermon Text: PDF
So I am finished with finals for my seventh term of seminary. I took my Hebrew final this morning to finish off three finals in three days. I also finished drafts of both my papers that are due on Monday, and got a start on the liturgy for Sunday evening’s service. The only bad part, Syracuse lost to Florida in what was an otherwise awesome game (well, the first half was great)
So now it is a week off, which will really be nice. Tuesday Renee is arriving and Wednesday we’re headed over to her families’ for Thanksgiving. During the break I am going to try and get some sort of ministry resume put together until I’m clearer to circulate my PIF (Personal Information Form – fancy Presbyterian name for a long resume). I have also started reading Beyond Foundationalism by Stanley Grenz and John Franke. I’ve decided that I want to keep reading something academic besides my assigned readings for classes because it keeps me sharp and can often help me get ideas for papers. I think there will be a lot of similarities between The Character of Theology and Beyond Foundationalism but I think Beyond Foundationalism will go deeper into the subject.
My other project that I’ve been working on is an event in February with John Franke and some Emerging Church leaders from here in Pittsburgh. February ninth is the day. Dr. Franke is going to speak at ESF (Evangelical Student Fellowship), give a talk in the afternoon, and then take part in a conversation about the Emerging Church with some of the EC-types from here in Pittsburgh. That evening he’s going to meet with the Emergent Cohort in a small group to discuss some of his recent articles. All in all, I think it’s going to be a good day. I hope to record most of the day and make it available in .mp3 format when all is done.
But for now its off to enjoy my first stress-free sleep since Monday.