Chapter 6 and the Epilogue of Jesus Wants to Save Christians closes out the book as any Christian book should, with hope. The title of this chapter is Blood on the Doorposts of the Universe, an obvious reference to the Passover. Rob and Don connect the Passover Meal, to the last supper, to Jesus on the cross, to the mission of the Church. The solution to Exile, because of God’s grace is Eucharist. Eucharist (sounds like a body part that can be removed) is best translated and described as good gift. “Jesus is God’s good gift to the world.” The Eucharist is the meal that Jesus shared with his disciples before he was betrayed. Passover becomes Eucharist, it is the blood on the door. Jesus’ death is what brings all the world together. Just as Jesus is God’s good gift to the world, so are we to be God’s good gift to the world by dying with Christ. It is this death that unites us, which leads to resurrection and Pentecost.
The Blog of Gordon Pruitt the Pastor of St. Matthew's United Methodist Church in Richmond Virginia
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Our November book discussion will be Scot McKnight's new book, The Blue Parakeet. Scot is one of my favorite theologians and also the author of my favorite blog. We will do a few chapters a week starting next week. This is form the back cover.
Why Can't I Just Be a Christian?"
Parakeets make delightful pets. We cage them or clip their wings to keep them where we want them. Scot McKnight contends that many, conservatives and liberals alike, attempt the same thing with the Bible. We all try to tame it.
McKnight’s The Blue Parakeet has emerged at the perfect time to cool the flames of a world on fire with contention and controversy. It calls Christians to a way to read the Bible that leads beyond old debates and denominational battles. It calls Christians to stop taming the Bible and to let it speak anew for a new generation.
In The Blue Parakeet, McKnight again touches the hearts and minds of today’s Christians, this time challenging them to rethink how to read the Bible, not just to puzzle it together into some systematic theology but to see it as a Story that we’re summoned to enter and to carry forward in our day.
In his own inimitable style, McKnight sets traditional and liberal Christianity on its ear, leaving readers equipped, encouraged, and emboldened to be the people of faith they long to be.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Chapter 5 of Jesus Wants to Save Christians is not the feel good chapter of the book. Rob and Don start off reminding us of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus who were with Jesus everyday but still did not recognize him. They make the connection that Christianity in the West, particularly in America have fallen into this mindset. We think we are following Jesus, and in many ways we are, but are we missing the central message of Jesus? I believe Rob and Don think we are missing the central message of Jesus and they spend most of this chapter making their case and its convincing. We (America) are an Empire (like the Egyptian Empire, Babylonian Empire, Persian Empire, Assyrian, and the Roman Empire before) and most of us are not even aware of this.
“Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. It’s a book written from the underside of power. It’s and oppression narrative. The majority of the Bible was written by a minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires…”Rob and Don go on to teach about the Revelation of John and at least to me a new way of interpreting it (that was very thought provoking) which furthers the case for what we as Christians need to do to break from the pattern of Empire.
I want to conclude this summery with a few paragraphs from Scot McKnight’s review of the book. You can read the full review here. McKnight is able to put into words the issues that this chapter raised in my mind
Finally, this message addresses Empire. Here Rob plays the politics card, and I don’t think he does this as carefully as needs to be done. But, let’s begin with America as Empire: war, money, power, and the empire whose power creates poverty elsewhere. OK, I can live with critique of America. But there’s more to Empire than America: Is not Iraq empire? Is not Saudi Arabia empire? Is not Sudan empire? Is not South Africa empire? In other words, we take the blame that is ours but ours is not the blame of the world. I read this week that Sudan has enough supplies to care for its own, but it is shipping food supplies to other countries … and we need not get into all of where the money is going. The point is this: yes, oppression deserves to be denounced, but let’s be fair — if we want to use “empire” as an ideology to be denounced, let’s denounce wherever empire oppresses.
Comparing Empire then and Empire now must be done with care. We are dealing with a pagan powerful nation — Rome — and a post-Christian nation whose constitution embodies ideals hammered out through a Christian history. Is the problem for Paul or Jesus Rome? All secular kingdoms and governments are Empire to me; now what? Some who critique the USA as Empire are expecting a Constantinian reality from the State. I don’t. I expect all governments to be Empire-ish; my hope is in the God of the gospel and in the God of the church, local and global. My hope is that the Church will embody that countercultural and counter imperial gospel.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
One of the things I love about Rob Bell’s preaching is how he connects dots where you did not even know there were dots to be connect to, particularly dots from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The 4th chapter of Jesus Wants to Save Christians connects many dots and brings clarity, and deeper understanding to Biblical passages that I have read many times before but had often skipped important details about these stories.
The central passage for this chapter was Acts 8:26-40 commonly called Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. This Ethiopian and his story is central to what the New Exodus is all about. First the Ethiopian was not Jewish, second he was a eunuch which means practicing Jewish people would see him as damaged goods and according to the law would not have been allowed into the assembly. Third after Philip explained the Isaiah passage the Ethiopian desired to be and was baptized. These are important because under the old system the man would not have been allowed simply because of who he was, but because of what Jesus did, the bringing of the New Exodus everyone now has the opportunity to become a new creation. Lastly the Ethiopian is leaving Jerusalem and is headed back to Ethiopia and is taking with him the Gospel. Some of Jesus last words were to take the gospel to the “ends of the earth” and that is what this man is doing. My favorite chapter so far.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Last night St. Matthew's had a table at the Goochland County Chamber of Commerce Business Expo. I went to this event last year and i thought what a cool thing it would be for us to be represented. There were over 60 businesses there and we were the only church. For me the main objective was to get our name out and let people in our community know what St. Matthew's is doing and i believe we did this. Though our church has been around since the 1850's most people in this small county (17,000) have no idea where we are, (we don't have a visible church or highly trafficked street). We handed out several fliers about the Neighbors Food Pantry and I must have told 20 people where we are located.
We also met a few people who for whatever reason have dropped out of church but were looking to get back to going. We gave them information about the church and also some sermons i had downloaded to cds which i said were good if you were having trouble sleeping.
Posted by Gordon Pruitt at 10:29 AM
Monday, October 13, 2008
We are continuing our discussion of the new book Jesus Wants to Save Christians. Chapter 3 starts with the Israelites back in Jerusalem, but things are not well. The current superpower, the Rome Empire is the occupying force. The Israelites are in Jerusalem but are captive like they were in Egypt and Babylon. After 400 years or so like this, Jesus is born and he fulfills all the prophecies of the prophets, he is a Son of David, he knows what he is doing, he is a servant, he heals, and he debates the religious leaders. The scripture that Rob and Don use is the Walk to Emmaus story found in Luke 24:13-35. The key verses for them is v25-27, "Jesus said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." Everything that Israel has been looking and waiting for is found in Jesus. This quote sticks out to me,
"In Jesus' day, people could read, study, and discuss the Scriptures their entire lives and still miss its central message. In Jesus' day, people could follow him, learn from him, drop everything to be his disciples, and yet find themselves returning home, thinking Jesus had failed."Our world has changed a lot in 2000 years, but in many ways it is still the same.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Chapter 2 of Jesus wants to Save Christians begins with the Israelites in exile in Babylon. They cry out and God as God always does hears their cry. They write "because it's when we're fully present in our pain, when we're willing to sit in our tears, that we're ready to imagine a different kind of tomorrow." This is what happens in exile. They start to reimagine a new exile, like the ones they had from Egypt, a new exodus. Only this new exodus would be different, it would be a new way, a new marriage with a new covenant, a new city, with a new temple that would be big enough for everyone, not just the Israelites. Moses was the leader of the first exodus, who or what would the leader of the new exodus look like? This person would be a prophet like Moses, a servant, a prince of peace, and a son of David.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Here we go. Chapter 1 of Jesus Wants to Save Christians starts with an introduction to New Exodus theology. The chapter is broken into 4 parts:Egypt, Sinai, Jerusalem, Babylon.
Egypt- The Jewish people are in Egypt, enslaved and oppressed to the superpower of their time. They cry out and God hears their cry. This is central to this book and is central to the character of God. "God always hears the cry of the oppressed." God not only hears, God acts.
"Think about your life. What are the moments that have shaped you the most? If you were to pick just a couple, what would they be? Periods of transformation, times when your eyes were opened, decisions you made that affected the rest of your life. How many of them came when you reached the end of your rope?"
God, as God always does, hears the cry of the oppressed, and sends Moses to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt. The Jewish people are lead out of Egypt and freed. But the story does not end here.
At Sinai, God speaks. Though Moses, God tells the people "you yourselves have seen what i did to Egypt, and how i carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself." It is by God's love and grace that they were delivered, redeemed, freed, from Egypt. God calls the people to be a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation". To be a priest is to show the world who God is and what God is like. I like how Rob and Don (no i don't know them) say "God is looking for a body" and this is what the 10 commandments is about. They have a choice, to obey God fully or not.
Jerusalem. Many years later, the group of former slaves are now living in the land that they were promised. Things are posh as my daughters like to say. Jerusalem gains a global reputation. They have been blessed, but do they remember Egypt, and how they were delivered? How God's grace brought them out? Do they remember God's words at Sinai? Before long the king, Solomon is building a temple to the God who freed the slaves, WITH SLAVES. "In just a few generations the oppressed have become the oppressors." They have completely forgot their own story.
Babylon. When you forget that God hears the cry of the oppressed, when you forget that God is searching for a body, when you forget this you miss what God had in mind. "At the height of their power, Israel misconstrued God's blessings as favoritism and entitlement. They became indifferent to God and to their Priestly calling to bring liberation to others."
This is exile. When you forget your story, when you find yourself a stranger to the purposes of God. Israel is no longer interested in being God's body as they chose not to listen to God's prophets. Jerusalem falls apart and before you know it, the people that were slaves in Egypt, and became slave owners in Jerusalem, were once again slaves in Babylon.