cornucopia

Eucharistic life (more than just “being thankful”)

It seemed appropriate to write about the word Eucharist since it means “thanksgiving” in Greek. As part of writing my ordination papers recently, I flipped back through Alexander Schmemann’s For the Life of the World, which talks about Eucharist not just in the sense of the church ritual but as a way of life. To Schmemann, it is much more than just “being thankful.” He writes: “”We were created as celebrants of the sacrament of life, of its transformation into life in God, communion with God. We know that real life is ‘eucharist,’ a movement of love and adoration toward God, the movement in which alone the meaning and the value of all that exists can be revealed and fulfilled” (34). Continue Reading

The painter’s studio: a metaphor for thinking about worship

PBS Remix-Happy PainterI’m at the semiannual Five Talent Academy gathering. It’s an initiative of the Virginia Methodist conference among churches who have covenanted around a set of goals for congregational vitality. Our topic today is worship, led by Rev. Dr. Constance Cherry. I’m seeing a lot of intersection between what is being said here and a book I just started reading by Andy Crouch called Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. And it put a metaphor in my head for thinking about worship that seems helpful to me. Continue Reading

Feminism, sex, and virtue in Margaret Farley’s Just Love

I have been reading Margaret Farley’s Just Love: A Framework for Christian Ethics, the book that got the Vatican in a tizzy over renegade nuns several years ago under the grand inquisitor pope. To be fair, Just Love is more a feminist critique of Christian sexual ethics than it is a Christian sexual ethics, but the critique is apt and worth listening to. While Farley doesn’t fortify herself with Biblical chapter verse citations, her perspective makes sense to me when I consider sexuality under the lens of “I desire mercy not sacrifice.”

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Is the gospel the invitation to a party or a get out of hell card?

inviting to the feastFor the first 1500 years of Christianity, the high point of every worship gathering was Eucharist. The sermon served to prepare the hearts of the congregation to receive the body and blood of Christ. In today’s Protestantism, the sermon has replaced Eucharist as the focal point of our worship. And the individualistic altar call has replaced the communal table as the congregation’s standard response to the proclaimed word. I wonder if this change is the reason that the Protestant gospel became more about hell than the heavenly banquet that Eucharist proclaims. Continue Reading

A brilliant rebuttal to my attack on suburbia

So I thought some of you who are tired of my blogomaniac hubris would get a kick out of watching me get owned by one of my friends in a response that he sent to my critique of suburban culture. He gave me permission to share it as long as he could remain anonymous. He’s absolutely right that “suburbia” ends up being a scapegoat depository where hipsters like me project everything we don’t like about America or even just modern culture. Anyway, what I really love is the way he shows how different aspects of worship are the antidote to the social problems I described. So it’s an excellent application of James K.A. Smith’s liturgical theory. It’s way better than what I originally wrote, so enjoy. Continue Reading

Jonathan Martin’s Prototype: Salvation as the Restoration of Humanity

It’s a strange and beautiful thing to hear someone preaching your own thoughts in a sermon. That’s what happened for me last summer when I heard Pentecostal preacher Jonathan Martin‘s sermon series “The Songs of Ascent” about King David and the Psalms. My whole life, I have been on a journey of trying to understand the nature of worship. Growing up Baptist, I was instilled with a zeal for sincerity in worship. What is the difference between truly worshiping God and putting on a performance? In one sermon last summer, Jonathan said that King David’s worship was to delight in the discovery of God’s delight in him. This beautiful way of framing things is at the heart of Jonathan’s new book Prototype, which I would buy and ship to every Christian who has been wounded or disillusioned by the church if I had the money. Continue Reading

James KA Smith summarizes the battle of the 21st century

I’ve just started reading James KA Smith’s new book Imagining the Kingdom. Smith’s basic argument is that our actions are not really based on conscious rational choices but rather on how ritual behaviors have caused us to imagine the world around us. Most Christian thinkers from the beginning have unconsciously bought into a Platonic “rationalist” conception of human nature in which our behavior is supposed to be regulated by our conscious rationality, and the fact that it isn’t reflects our fallenness rather than a condition innate to our humanity. Continue Reading

Is Jesus saving the world from us?

Is Jesus saving the world from us? It’s a different way to talk about salvation, but honestly it’s the gospel that I’m hoping to be true as an evangelical afflicted by what Rachel Held Evans calls “the scandal of the evangelical heart.” When did we become the Pharisees Jesus came to Earth to stop us from being? How many of us have been secretly asking that question in our minds? How many of us need to be saved from a toxic salvation? I really feel that we are in the midst of a great awakening. The legion of demons that poisoned our gospel for so long is running off a cliff in a herd of hateful pigs, leaving us to wake up in the graveyard where we chained ourselves. We are discovering that Satan is our accuser and oppressor, not God.  We are realizing that our need to be right and justify ourselves has kept us inside a tomb whose stone was rolled away by Jesus. So I wanted to share five things God has been teaching me over the past few years about what Jesus saves us from and what He saves us for. Continue Reading

Kayal ta-arog (Psalm 42 in hip-hop)

Kayal ta-arog al afike mayim is how you write “As the deer panteth for the water” phonetically in Hebrew. That familiar heartwarming hymn has its place to be sure, but if you read the remainder of Psalm 42 from which it draws the first line, then you see that its tone is off. The psalmist says tears have been his food and his enemies’ taunts are crushing his bones. Those sorts of images call for a hip-hop song rather than a churchy sounding hymn. I’m preaching on this psalm this weekend. I will be rapping my own adaptation of it too. Lyrics are below. Here’s the recording: Continue Reading

Father Hopko vs. Wheaton College: Who gets to be orthodox?

Eastern Orthodox priest Father Thomas Hopko has a featured podcast on Ancient Faith Radio that I have recently started listening to. Recently he triggered quite a bit of controversy for a commentary about a visit he made to Wheaton College in which he talked about why Eastern Orthodoxy cannot endorse evangelical Christianity as being orthodox. It was very interesting to process the very different criteria by which Hopko defines orthodoxy. I would like to review several of the points he made and then offer how I would chart out a possible ecumenical relationship between evangelicalism and Orthodoxy. I think that the apostolic succession and traditioned ground of Orthodoxy is what a true conservatism looks like; the problem with the sola scriptura priesthood of the believer in evangelicalism occurs when we farcically try to make a conservatism out of what is inherently progressive. A progressive evangelicalism can relate to the genuinely conservative Orthodoxy the way that a saxophone relates to the steady bass-line of a jazz improvisational piece. Continue Reading