Archive for May, 2006

New Schedule

So one of the parts of being married to a teacher is adjusting to a whole new schedule. So here it is, 7:30 in the morning, and I can honestly say I’ve been awake for about a half hour. I’m sitting at Renee’s dining room table and preparing to start scanning photos for the slideshow. My goal, is to finish our slideshow today so that Renee and I can work on seating tonight.

Categories: Wedding/Marriage


After over a year and a half, the long distance relationship for Brian and Renee is over (the long distance part that is). Technically it ended on Thursday evening when Renee arrived (just in time for graduation) in Pittsburgh. But, it feels over because yesterday we drove back to Maryland together and will be together from now until the night before Wedding #2, and then from there after. While the long distance relationship was without a doubt worth it, I am glad it’s over. We both commented today as we were working that it was a lot easier to get work done when the other person is in the same room, and you’re not worried about talking to them on the phone.

Anyway, this week’s agenda includes finalizing table assignments for the wedding, printing table cards, scanning pictures, and making a video, all before we head back to Ohio this Thursday for the rehearsal, parties, and wedding this weekend. Then back to Maryland for about a week, before we move everything, for good, to our new house.

Also, pictures from Wedding #1 have been posted.

Categories: Wedding/Marriage


Well, there I am, hooded and officially graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary with my fancy Master of Divinity degree. For the first time in my life, I enter a summer without planning on returning to school in September. For now, its off for a weekend with Renee's family (as her grandmother passed away this week), a short week in Maryland, then Wedding #2 a week from tomorrow. Things keep happening fast! Posted by Picasa

Categories: Graduation


May 22, 2006 5 comments

I’m married.

From Left to Right:
Renee’s wedding ring, my wedding ring, Renee’s engagement ring

As some readers know, Renee grandmother has not been doing well lately. It became quite evident to us last week that she would be unable to attend the wedding on June 3rd even if she is still alive at that point. It was really important to both Renee and her grandmother that her grandmother is at the wedding (and I agree). So, we made a slight change in plans: we got married on Saturday.

Renee’s pastor from home came over to Renee’s grandmother’s house, we crowded into her room around her bed, we said our vows, exchanged rings, and had communion and were told “You are now husband and wife”

So now the question? What about June 3rd? (Our original wedding date). Nothing changes. We’re still celebrating our marriage on June 3rd as originally planned. But why you ask? Very simple: there’s a theological reason.

The service on the third has from the beginning been entitled “A Service of Christian Worship in Celebration of the Marriage of Marilyn Renee Barfay and Brian Robert Wallace.” Wedding ceremonies are by definition worship services and that’s what we had this past Saturday and that’s what we’re going to have on June 3rd. Also, while Renee and I consider ourselves married, weddings aren’t just about the couple, they’re also for the family and friends of the bride and groom. In a wedding ceremony the family and friends pledge to uphold and support the bride and room in their marriage. While some of Renee’s family was present on Saturday, a lot of her relatives, my entire family, and a lot of our friends weren’t at the wedding on Saturday. Needless to say, it’s important for us that they also witness our vows and pledge their love and support.

Finally, what constitues our marriage isn’t a ceremony, it’s the love that we share between us. A wedding ceremony as part of a worship service is a time for the husband and wife to make commitments to each other before the Triune God and their friends and family, and to ask God’s blessing upon the new couple. As they say with ordinations, the act of ordaining someone is merely making public and formal a decision that God made a long time ago. This isn’t to devalue the important of having wedding celebrations, but rather to put them in their appropriate context within worship services as well as to understand them and celebrations and formulations of something, rather a mechanic blessing that makes something a marriage. Hence, I don’t think it’s weird we’re going to have two but rather believe it was the “command of God in a limiting case” (for you Barth scholars). In other words, given the circumstances (which are unusual) I think we did the right thing – the thing that God would have us do.

(Leave it to me to make this into a theological issue)

Posted by Picasa

Categories: Wedding/Marriage

Brian and Renee: Wedding #1

Pictures from Brian and Renee's first wedding are available here

Categories: Pictures, Wedding/Marriage

Ephesians 2:4-10

Biblical Text
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:4-10, TNIV)

Commentary from the Early Church Fathers(1)
God Did Not Originally Desire That Any Should Perish. Ambrosiaster: These are the true riches of God’s mercy, that even when we did not seek it mercy was made known through his own initiative…. This is God’s love to us, that having made us he did not want us to perish. His reason for making us was that he might love what he had made, seeing that no one hates his own workmanship. Epistle to the Ephesians 2.4.

He Formed Us Anew as His Members. Ambrosiaster: God made us in Christ. So it is through Christ once again that he has formed us anew. We are his members; he our Head. Epistle to the Ephesians 2.5.

Already Exalted. Jerome: Above he said that God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand…. Some may ask how God who has saved us and raised us with him has also made us sit with Christ. A simple response would be indeed that, in the light of God’s foreknowledge, Paul is speaking of what is to come as though it had already been done. … One who understands the resurrection and the kingdom of Christ spiritually does not scruple to say that the saints already sit and reign with Christ! Just as a person may become truly holy even in the flesh, when he lives in the flesh and has his conversation in heaven, when he walks on earth and, ceasing to be flesh, is wholly converted into spirit, so he also is seated in heaven with Christ. For indeed “the kingdom of God is within us.” Epistle to the Ephesians 1.2.1 seq.

My Comments
These two comments from Ambrosiaster and Jerome stood out to me. In the past I've usually focused on the later part of this verse, especially Ephesians 2:8. Ephesians 2:8 is a verse that contradicts "faithism" – the idea that it is our decision for Jesus that saves us, thereby turning faith into a work that we do in order that God might have mercy.

Ambrosiaster clearly argues against this type of attitude toward salvation. God's love is shown that even when we did not seek his mercy he made it known through his own initiative. The act of God in, through, and as Jesus Christ was the embodiment of the mission of God to reconcile the whole world to himself. Ambosiaster continues that just as we were made through Christ (John 1:3 – all things were made through the Word of God) so too we are redeemed through Christ. The reconciliation and restoration of us is at God's initiatve. All that we can do is respond in faithful obedience, but this response is not the condition of salvation.

Finally, Jerome strikes an "eschatological" cord here. Paul writes this unusual line, "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." Taken literally, at the time of Jesus' ascension we too were taken into the heavenly realms. The interesting note here is that at the time of Jesus' ascension none of us were born. So what does Paul mean? I think Jerome gets at it well, "Paul is speaking of what is to come as though it had already been done." I agree with Jerome here but want to phrase it a little differently. Moltmann, in his introduction to Theology of Hope, talks about how Christians live in the tension of knowing that there is something more – the knowing anticipation of the full revelation of God's reign on earth. The telos, or end point, to which all of history is driving this will literally be true – those who are "In Christ" will be seated in the heavenly places with Christ. As for now, "in Christ" we too have been taken up into the heavenly places. What is a reality has not yet been revealed, but is real none the less. Christ, as our representative has taken us up into the heavenly places: we simply await the eschatological fulfillment of this.

Jerome (c. 347–420). Gifted exegete and exponent of a classical Latin style, now best known as the translator of the Latin Vulgate. He defended the perpetual virginity of Mary, attacked Origen and Pelagius and supported extreme ascetic practices.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366–384). Name given by Erasmus to the author of a work once thought to have been composed by Ambrose.

  1. All comments taken from: M. J. Edwards, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 8. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 131.
  2. Biographical information is from: ACCS Introduction and Bibliographic Information, Ancient Christian commentary on Scripture. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2005).

Words to Remember

May 15, 2006 1 comment

There are some day when you ask yourself, "Is ministry really worth it?" On those days (btw, today is not one of those days by any means) it's reading things like this that remind you

"… You've always been willing to talk to me when everyone else is sleeping and in these times you have taught me more than any religious book has. (And you know how much that means coming from me"

Categories: Youth Ministry