Category : Christology

(LA Times) ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’: The documentary that shows how Mister Rogers made goodness desirable

It had a simple set and minimal production values. As a host, it employed an ordained Presbyterian minister whose flashiest move was changing into a cardigan sweater. A likely candidate for legendary television success “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was not.

Yet for more than 30 years, Fred Rogers’ Pittsburgh-based public television half-hour was a small-screen powerhouse, entrancing generations of wee fans and even influencing public policy. Not bad for a man who believed “love is at the root of everything … love or the lack of it.”

Although Rogers died in 2003 at age 74, the excellent “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is the first documentary on him, and Morgan Neville is the ideal filmmaker to do the job.

A documentary veteran who won the Oscar for the entrancing “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” Neville is an experienced professional who knows what questions to ask and, working with editors Jeff Malmberg and Aaron Wickenden, how to assemble the answers.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Movies & Television, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(TGC) Samuel Alberry–Only Messy People Allowed: Toward a Culture of Grace

The problem, I suspect, is something of a misstep in our formula of what it means to live for Christ. We think we’re his PR agents: If I look good, then Jesus looks good.

So we hate the thought of not looking good. It’s Christian failure.

If this mindset permeates a whole church family, however, our life together becomes a matter of performance. We put on our best Christian mask, take a deep breath, and head to church. If Christian parents adopt this mindset, parenting becomes about trying to perform well in front of the kids, making sure they only see the highest standard of Christian behavior from us.

This may be a common way of thinking, but it’s disastrous. It leads to hypocrisy. The fact is, we’re not good, and we can only keep up the façade for a little while before the cracks begin to show. Our children see it right away. They know what we’re really like and can immediately tell when we try to put a Christian sheen over it. And when we really make a mess of things, the last place we want to go is church. We’re supposed to look Christian there, so when we know we can’t remotely pretend things are together, it’s easier simply not to go. Best to keep the mess away from the sanctuary.

All this is a sign that while we may be professing grace, we’re not actually inhabiting a culture of grace. We’re not Jesus’s PR agents, and he is not our client. We are broken men and women, and he is our Savior. It’s not the case that I need to look good so Jesus can look good; I need to be honest about my colossal spiritual need so he can look all-sufficient. I don’t increase so he can increase; I decrease so he can increase (John 3:30). That means being honest about my flaws, not embarrassed about them.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Ecclesiology, Pastoral Theology, Soteriology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

Rowan Williams–A Sermon for Ascension Day in 2011

Jesus hasn’t just gone away. He has gone deeper into the heart of reality–our reality and God’s. He has become far more than a visible friend and companion; he has shown himself to be the very centre of our life, the source of our loving energy in the world and the source of our prayerful, trustful waiting on God. He has made us able to be a new kind of human being, silently and patiently trusting God as a loving parent, actively and hopefully at work to make a difference in the world, to make the kind of difference love makes.

So if the world looks and feels like a world without God, the Christian doesn’t try to say, ‘It’s not as bad as all that’, or seek to point to clear signs of God’s presence that make everything all right. The Christian will acknowledge that the situation is harsh, even apparently unhopeful–but will dare to say that they are willing to bring hope by what they offer in terms of compassion and service. And their own willingness and capacity for this is nourished by the prayer that the Spirit of Jesus has made possible for them.

The friends of Jesus are called, in other words, to offer themselves as signs of God in the world–to live in such a way that the underlying all-pervading energy of God begins to come through them and make a difference.

Read it all.

Posted in --Rowan Williams, Ascension, Christology, Preaching / Homiletics

N.T. Wright on the Ascension and Second Coming of Jesus

Additionally, early Christians were not, as is commonly assumed, bound to a three-tier vision of the universe, i.e., heaven, hell, and earth.

[W]hen the Bible speaks of heaven and earth it is not talking about two localities related to each other within the same space-time continuum or about a nonphysical world contrasted with a physical one but about two different kinds of what we call space, two different kinds of what we call matter, and also quite possibly (though this does not necessarily follow from the other two) two different kinds of what we call time.

So heaven and earth, understood in this way, are two dimensions of the same reality. They “interlock and intersect in a whole variety of ways even while they retain, for the moment at least, their separate identities and roles.” Combine this with the doctrine of the ascension and we do not have a Jesus who floats up into a heaven “up there” but disappears into a reality we cannot yet see. Because heaven and earth are not yet joined Jesus is physically absent from us. At the same time he is present with us through the Holy Spirit and the sacraments, linkages where the two realities meet in the present age.

Read it all.

Posted in Ascension, Christology, Eschatology

Douglas Farrow on the Meaning of the Ascension for Ascension Day

Ascension theology turns at this point to the Eucharist, for in celebrating the eucharist the church professes to know how the divine presents itself in our time, and how the question of faithfulness is posed. Eucharistically, the church acknowledges that Jesus has heard and has answered the upward call; that, like Moses, he has ascended into that impenetrable cloud overhanging the mountain. Down below, rumours of glory emanate from the elders, but the master himself is nowhere to be seen. He is no longer with his people in the same way he used to be. Yet he is with them, in the Spirit.

–Douglas Farrow, Ascension Theology (New York: T and T Clark, 2011), p. 64

Posted in Ascension, Christology, Ecclesiology, Eucharist

Beth Moore–A Letter to My Brothers

I have accepted these kinds of challenges for all of these years because they were simply part of it and because opposition and difficulties are norms for servants of Christ. I’ve accepted them because I love Jesus with my whole heart and will serve Him to the death. God has worked all the challenges for good as He promises us He will and, even amid the frustrations and turmoil, I would not trade lives with a soul on earth. Even criticism, as much as we all hate it, is used by God to bring correction, endurance and humility and to curb our deadly addictions to the approval of man.

I accepted the peculiarities accompanying female leadership in a conservative Christian world because I chose to believe that, whether or not some of the actions and attitudes seemed godly to me, they were rooted in deep convictions based on passages from 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14.

Then early October 2016 surfaced attitudes among some key Christian leaders that smacked of misogyny, objectification and astonishing disesteem of women and it spread like wildfire. It was just the beginning. I came face to face with one of the most demoralizing realizations of my adult life: Scripture was not the reason for the colossal disregard and disrespect of women among many of these men. It was only the excuse. Sin was the reason. Ungodliness.

This is where I cry foul and not for my own sake. Most of my life is behind me. I do so for sake of my gender, for the sake of our sisters in Christ and for the sake of other female leaders who will be faced with similar challenges. I do so for the sake of my brothers because Christlikeness is at stake and many of you are in positions to foster Christlikeness in your sons and in the men under your influence. The dignity with which Christ treated women in the Gospels is fiercely beautiful and it was not conditional upon their understanding their place.

About a year ago I had an opportunity to meet a theologian I’d long respected. I’d read virtually every book he’d written. I’d looked so forward to getting to share a meal with him and talk theology. The instant I met him, he looked me up and down, smiled approvingly and said, “You are better looking than _________________________________.” He didn’t leave it blank. He filled it in with the name of another woman Bible teacher.

These examples may seem fairly benign in light of recent scandals of sexual abuse and assault coming to light but the attitudes are growing from the same dangerously malignant root.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Men, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Women

Athanasius on the Incarnation for his Feast Day

For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God comes to our realm, howbeit he was not far from us Acts 17:27 before. For no part of Creation is left void of Him: He has filled all things everywhere, remaining present with His own Father. But He comes in condescension to show loving-kindness upon us, and to visit us. And seeing the race of rational creatures in the way to perish, and death reigning over them by corruption; seeing, too, that the threat against transgression gave a firm hold to the corruption which was upon us, and that it was monstrous that before the law was fulfilled it should fall through: seeing, once more, the unseemliness of what was come to pass: that the things whereof He Himself was Artificer were passing away: seeing, further, the exceeding wickedness of men, and how by little and little they had increased it to an intolerable pitch against themselves: and seeing, lastly, how all men were under penalty of death: He took pity on our race, and had mercy on our infirmity, and condescended to our corruption, and, unable to bear that death should have the mastery””lest the creature should perish, and His Father’s handiwork in men be spent for nought””He takes unto Himself a body, and that of no different sort from ours. For He did not simply will to become embodied, or will merely to appear. For if He willed merely to appear, He was able to effect His divine appearance by some other and higher means as well. But He takes a body of our kind, and not merely so, but from a spotless and stainless virgin, knowing not a man, a body clean and in very truth pure from intercourse of men. For being Himself mighty, and Artificer of everything, He prepares the body in the Virgin as a temple unto Himself, and makes it His very own as an instrument, in it manifested, and in it dwelling. And thus taking from our bodies one of like nature, because all were under penalty of the corruption of death He gave it over to death in the stead of all, and offered it to the Father””doing this, moreover, of His loving-kindness, to the end that, firstly, all being held to have died in Him, the law involving the ruin of men might be undone (inasmuch as its power was fully spent in the Lord’s body, and had no longer holding-ground against men, his peers), and that, secondly, whereas men had turned toward corruption, He might turn them again toward incorruption, and quicken them from death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of the Resurrection, banishing death from them like straw from the fire.

–Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word

Posted in Christology, Church History

(CT) Bruce Fields–When He Died Upon the Tree: James Cone’s seminal book gives a theological response to the dark history of lynchings in America

These are signposts that can be passed together as there is much that is mutually informing between the cross and the lynching tree, and Cone makes a strong case on the horizontal, human plane. When it comes to the vertical plane between God and the human community, however, reflection on the Scriptures may call for walking along another pathway.

For African Americans, Cone’s vision may involve the empowerment of lament and forgiveness, ideas he does not address directly in his book. The reality of lament is illustrated by the parable of the servant who owed 10,000 talents (Matt. 18:24–35). There was no way that the servant could pay that amount. His master could sell him and his family as slaves to obtain some payment, but it would never be enough. But the master chose to forgive the debt, astronomical as it was.

There is a similar reality when it comes to the debt accumulated in the United States because of its racist heritage. Some crimes are so overwhelming to the senses and reason itself—inflicting pain and sorrow of unimaginable proportions—that no real restitution can be made for them. Repentance for the sin of racism is appropriate, but much damage has been done. Recognition of this reality through the practice of lament is necessary for healing to begin.

In his book, Born from Lament: The Theology and Politics of Hope in Africa, Emmanuel Katongole conceives of lament as “a complex set of practices or disciplines—a way of seeing, standing, and wrestling or arguing with God, and thus a way of hoping in the midst of ruins.” Lament argues with God, but then leaves matters to him, paving the way for eventual forgiveness. Forgiveness is foundational to the gospel. For the dehumanized, it can bring healing to the soul, particularly to the memory. It can also prevent the dehumanized from becoming dehumanizers. It may take the biblical practice of lament and the difficult discipline of forgiveness for Cone’s vision of hope to be realized.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Christology, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture, Violence

An Anglican Theological resource: Why the Battle? Different God and Gospel?

In March 2018, the Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon, Canon Theologian for the Diocese, and the Rev. Al Zadig, Jr., Rector of St. Michael’s, Charleston, teamed up for six teachings exploring the theological divide that exists between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of North America. The course showed why the problem many mainline churches have today stems from a failure of discipleship. The course is not about politics and sexuality; it is about core beliefs, theology, and discipleship.

The sessions included: Over-Under; Christology; Sin and Salvation; Anthropology; Marriage; The Church.

The online resources include: a video and transcript of each presentation, an outline, and a transcript of the Q&A sessions. There is also a closing video and transcription of the sermon given by The Rev. Dr. Peter Moore, Director of the Anglican Leadership Institute on Sunday, March 18, 2018, entitled “Jesus and His Opponents: Are We at Liberty to Change Jesus?”

Check it all out there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anthropology, Christology, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Salvation (Soteriology), Theology: Scripture

(DP) At Princeton, Prominent South Baptist Russell Moore argues politics has altered US evangelicalism

“God does not need the evangelical movement; the evangelical movement desperately needs God,” Moore said.

Moore explained that there is conflation between the evangelical church and politics in modern America.

“So often in 2018 America, evangelicalism is associated more with Iowa caucuses than the good news of Jesus Christ,” Moore said.

He defined evangelicalism as “the link of renewal and revival movements which unite historic, conventional orthodoxy with the necessity of personal conversion and evangelism.”

Additionally, Moore said he believes that any true evangelical movement must be focused upon the Cross.

“An emphasis on the Cross is one of the hardest thing to maintain in any Christian group, and that includes American evangelicalism,” Moore said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)

Kendall Harmon for Easter–Cry Freedom

How shall we understand freedom? Perhaps because I am in a state, South Carolina, where candidates….[not long ago] were running around saying “you are free so vote for me!” this has been much in mind.

There is a lot of sloppy thinking about freedom these days. For too many it only means the ability to choose a candidate or a product. Or it is understood to be the removal of external constraints, as in I need the government out of my—then fill in the blank: my business, my body, and on and on.

Christian thinking about freedom is a totally different animal.

For one thing, in the Scriptures, freedom has an interesting relationship to time. Freedom is something which was present in creation, and which will be fully present again at the end of history when God brings it to its conclusion. But what about the present? The people Jesus spends time with—say, for example, the woman at the well (John 4), or Zaccheus (Luke 19) are not free but constrained, imprisoned, and encased. When Jesus rescues them, freedom begins, but even then it is lived out in the tension between the already of new life in Christ and the not yet of the fullness of the eschaton.

So apart from Christ people who think they are free need to hear the bad news that their perceived freedom is an illusion. One would like to hear more from preachers these days on this score, since they are addressing parishioners who are workaholics or poweraholics or sexaholics and/or addicts to heaven knows what else. Why is it that a group like AA seems to know more about real freedom than so many churches? Because they begin with the premise which says their members are enslaved—that is the first of the twelve steps.

And there is so much more to freedom then even this. In the Bible, real freedom moves in not one or two but three directions.

Freedom from is one piece of the puzzle—freedom from sin, from the demands of the law, from the tyranny of the urgent, from whatever constricts us from being the people God intended us to be.

Equally important, however, is freedom for, freedom for Christ, for service, for God’s justice, for ministry. Paul wonderfully describes himself as a bondservant of Christ Jesus, and the Prayer Book has it right when it says God’s service is “perfect freedom.”

Freedom with should not be missed, however. For Paul in Galatians Christian freedom is not the Christian by herself changed by the gospel. This has too much in common with the individual shopper in Walmart deciding exactly what kind of popcorn or yogurt she wants. No, real freedom is to be liberated to live for Christ with the new pilgrim people of God who reflect back a little of heaven’s light on earth. A real church is one where people enjoy koinonia, fellowship, the richness of God’s life shared into them which they then share out in Christ’s name by the power of the Holy Spirit to the world.

Paul says it wonderfully in Galatians: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Do not settle for anything less than this real freedom, freedom from bondage, freedom with our fellow pilgrims, and freedom for the God who made the heavens and the earth.

–The Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall Harmon is the convenor of this blog

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Easter, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

(CT) Theologian Jack Deere Went Through Hell to Come to Faith

Mere paragraphs from the conclusion of his story, Deere is not saying, “This was something I dealt with,” but “This is something I deal with.”

This rawness is rare in the church today. We are often told by leaders that they sin, but Deere’s memoir is refreshingly full of his sin. It is not gratuitous in any form. We never get the sense that he wants to gain our pity or empathy to manipulate us into thinking he’s better or worse than he is. He is simply factual (to our knowledge) and unapologetic to his reader, while increasingly more repentant toward those against whom he has sinned—God foremost among them.

In a world where, all too often, leaders present themselves as one-dimensional characters (primarily speakers, teachers, pastors, musicians, or writers), Deere shows us we are irreducibly complex beings. Our bodies matter. Our souls matter. Our minds matter. Our emotions matter. Our histories matter. These together form the whole of who we are, and any true ministry we do out of the whole is going to be wholly complex. Otherwise, it will be anemic, one-dimensional, and devoid of power. Deere recognizes this now. But it took hell to get him there. I haven’t even mentioned the half of it in this review.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Children, Christology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Marriage & Family, Soteriology, Suicide, Theology, Violence

Kendall Harmon’s 2018 Maundy Thursday Sermon

You can listen directly here and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Atonement, Christology, Holy Week, Ministry of the Ordained, Sermons & Teachings, Soteriology, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Bishop of Sheffield’s Easter 2018 Sermon

We’ve just heard how, when the women arrive at the empty tomb, early on the first day of the week, hoping to anoint the dead body of Jesus, they’re shocked to find the tomb open and a young man sitting inside, dressed in white.  This angel speaks to them: ’Do not be alarmed.  You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has been raised.  He is not here: look there is the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples – and Peter – that he is going ahead of you to Galilee: there you will see him, just as he told you’.

Go and tell his disciples, and Peter.  It’s those two words ‘and Peter’ that catch my attention.  Why are they added?  You won’t find them on the lips of the angel in the version of this story told by Matthew, Luke or John.  Why do they matter to Mark?  Well, I think there are two reasons, both of which might encourage us this morning as we celebrate afresh our Lord’s resurrection from the dead: the first reason has to do with what the Risen Lord wants for Peter; the second, with what he wants from Peter.

Let me say something about what the Lord might want for Peter to start with.  This is the first reference to Peter in the Gospel of Mark since the moment about 48 hours before, when the cock had crowed a second time and he had broken down and wept.  Our last glimpse of Peter is of his sobbing remorse at the realisation that he had indeed denied Jesus, as his Master had prophesied that he would.  This is a more catastrophic fall from grace than that of any Australian cricketer: as the curtain falls on his active participation in the Gospel story, Peter has failed.

So those two words ‘and Peter’ on the lips of the angel are full of hope.  They suggest that the Risen Jesus, far from having given up on Peter, far from having written him off, is intent on // re-establishing // a relationship with him.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Easter, Eschatology, Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Scripture

Albert Mohler–The Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Reality of the Gospel

As the disciples preached in the earliest Christian sermons, “This Jesus God has raised up, of whom we are all witnesses . . . . Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” [Acts 2:32,36].

The Resurrection was not a dawning awareness of Christ’s continuing presence among the disciples, it was the literal, physical raising of Jesus’ body from the dead. The Church is founded upon the resurrected Lord, who appeared among His disciples and was seen by hundreds of others.

The Church does not have mere permission to celebrate the Resurrection, it has a mandate to proclaim the truth that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrected Lord gave the Church a sacred commission to take the gospel throughout the world. As Paul made clear, the resurrection of Christ also comes as a comfort to the believer, for His defeat of death is a foretaste and promise of our own resurrection by His power. “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” [1 Corinthians 15:53].

So, as the Church gathers to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we should look backward in thankfulness to that empty tomb and forward to the fulfillment of Christ’s promises in us. For Resurrection Day is not merely a celebration”“it is truly preparation as well. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the promise of our resurrection from the dead, and of Christ’s total victory over sin and death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the very center of the Christian gospel. The empty tomb is full of power.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology