Monthly Archives: September 2012

Engage the Word: Can the Gospel Be Preached?


As our church moves into the Engage the Word series we invite you to Pray, Read, Reflect, and Respond. On Sundays we want the worship experiences, including the sermon, to evoke a God-moment in you. But if that’s all that happens, it won’t make much of a difference…
I was part of a great conversation today about making progress in our life journey. We were looking at inspiring moments of special insight or revelation that either changed our lives or remained just moments. That led to a discussion of the role we can play in those outcomes. If we talked about it with someone else, reflected on it, made a plan, had someone hold us accountable, and actually worked on it, we probably produced some results which made it more than a moment. The moment became a life-changing catalyst.
This got me thinking about preaching. How many people have inspiring moments while listening to a sermon? Across the ages there have easily been billions of moments full of inspiration. Of course we need to filter for fleeting moments that aren’t even really of God. But if a fair percentage of what remained really bore fruit, the world would probably be a different place. This is what is so thrilling, terrifying, and fragile about preaching.
In Romans 1:1 the Apostle Paul says he was “set apart for the gospel”. In verse 5 he says his calling is “to bring about the obedience of faith…”. In vv 16-17 Paul says “For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith…as it is written, the one who is righteous will live by faith.” (NRSV) The gospel is meant to bring about obedience that comes from faith, producing a righteous life that is lived out in faith.
Preaching alone cannot produce all of that. Sitting and listening to sermons and going back to life as usual doesn’t accomplish much of this either. Preaching can boldly proclaim the truth about God’s transforming grace. Preaching can invite us to respond to grace, living into this new reality in the power of the Holy Spirit. But something more must be in place. The goal of the preacher cannot just be to perform well. The goal of the preacher can be to bring about the obedience of faith… The Holy Spirit takes mere words and can create a moment of insight for people and prompt them to obey. But without a space to share the insight, make a plan, and be encouraged to see it through, the Christian may not fully experience the righteousness of God. And it may not change their world.
Preaching is very important as a catalyst. But without a discipleship structure a sermon is asked to do more than it can. And the results will not be measurable. Can the gospel be preached? Well, certainly a grace-infused vision of it can be. And the Holy Spirit can empower those words creating moments of opportunity. So we must preach. But we also must teach people who can teach others how to help each other truly respond with our lives. Nothing can replace the power of intentional community. Here, good news proclaimed becomes good news embodied becomes a transformed life.
God can do all that. At NewHope we believe in the Radical Optimism of Grace. And we believe in preaching. But we believe in the fullness of the gospel. And this can only be lived with others.
What can we have in place to help people take the next steps?  We want you to check out small groups where you can explore with others how these moments make a real difference. May you do more than listen to sermons. May you experience more than just Bible readings. May you experience the gospel. May your life be transformed in-community. May your world never be the same…


Aw, shucks…Neutrinos now respecting the speed limit!

Just another reason we can’t hitch our faith to0 tightly the posts of archaeology or science. Last year, scientists reported that tiny neutrinos (sub-atomic particles) sent from CERN to Gran Sasso had arrived faster than the speed of light! This implied all kinds of mind-blowing possibilities about the universe. I even thought it might have some relevance toward N.T. Wright’s view of eschatology (described in Surprised by Hope) and the body of the Risen Jesus passing through walls, etc…
They presented the research, which has been peer reviewed and not duplicated. The differences have been attributed to not plugging in a cable properly. (Isn’t that always the problem?) I still think we may some day make amazing discoveries along the lines of Colossians 1:15-20 “…in Him all things hold together…” But that day will have to wait. And truth is, science is not capable of proving faith at all. A saving relationship with the divine will always require a leap of faith! To be changed, we must trust. And we can only come to trust by the Grace of a loving God empowering us to do so.
For those who haven’t already read the Press Release from this summer, I have included the text below…

Neutrinos sent from CERN to Gran Sasso respect the cosmic speed limit

At the 25th International Conference on Neutrino Physics and Astrophysics in Kyoto today, CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci presented results on the time of flight of neutrinos from CERN to the INFN Gran Sasso Laboratory on behalf of four experiments situated at Gran Sasso. The four, Borexino, ICARUS, LVD and OPERA all measure a neutrino time of flight consistent with the speed of light. This is at odds with a measurement that the OPERA collaboration put up for scrutiny last September, indicating that the original OPERA measurement can be attributed to a faulty element of the experiment’s fibre optic timing system.

“Although this result isn’t as exciting as some would have liked,” said Bertolucci, “it is what we all expected deep down. The story captured the public imagination, and has given people the opportunity to see the scientific method in action – an unexpected result was put up for scrutiny, thoroughly investigated and resolved in part thanks to collaboration between normally competing experiments. That’s how science moves forward.”

In another development reported in Kyoto, the OPERA experiment showed evidence for the appearance of a second tau-neutrino in the CERN muon-neutrino beam, this is an important step towards understanding the science of neutrino oscillations.


CERN Press Office,

via CERN Press Release.

Update: Jesus’ Wife Papyrus Authenticity Questioned By Scholars

Well, the more we know the less we know. Scholars in ever widening circles are questioning the authenticity of the so-called Gospel of Jesus’ wife, which appears to be a late forgery using quotes from the Gospel of Thomas. The ethical questions abound beginning with the “owner” desiring to sell the document. I agree with those who wonder why we didn’t learn of this document while it was still in Egypt if it’s legitimate.

Karen King reveals her bias against logic when she states:

Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was unmarried, although there is no reliable historical evidence to support that, King said.

via Jesus’ Wife Papyrus Authenticity Questioned By Scholars.

The more accurate statement is that no reliable evidence exists to suggest that Jesus was married. It’s clear some scholars want Jesus to have been married for a variety of reasons. We keep hearing of bone boxes and tiny fragments which always turn out to have little value. If Jesus was married it would have been a big deal and any children would have been celebrities of divine status. In short, we would know. Those who claim it would be a theological problem therefore it would have been covered up are wrong. If Jesus was going to be a manufactured and managed image he would look more like the Gnostic image of a god only seeming to be present on earth. The twisted logic that produces a married Jesus from a Coptic gnostic fragment boggles my mind. The biblical gospels have a fully human Jesus with a functioning body and close relationships. Even after the resurrection he eats and gives and receives touch. The early church insisted that people remember he was in a physical body and fully human. If any gospel was going to have Jesus married it would have been the  canonical gospels. But he most likely wasn’t because despite mentioning all this other normal human relationship stuff, they don’t mention it. If you can accept that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, what’s the stretch to say he had children? The medieval Roman church might have had a reason to support celibate clergy through a celibate Jesus, but that was a later development. The unmarried Jesus had already been with us for centuries.
To summarize: I don’t think Jesus was married to an individual woman. I think he has always been married to his mission and to God’s people, the church. He blessed marriage and affirmed it as a celebration of the miracle of life. I don’t think I believe that because the church has something to hide. There is nothing simple about the Trinity or Christology. A married Jesus would be no more difficult to teach than many other difficult doctrines. As usual, we project our cultural dilemmas onto the ancient world and ancient texts. I don’t even think the likely forged text is actually saying Jesus had an earthly, physical wife for reasons I explained last time. One has to supply a lot of missing letters to come up with that! But gnostics had a much greater theological motive for having a celibate Jesus than orthodox believers did. Their motive simply seems to be telling the truth. He wasn’t married.
In this case, ironically, it doesn’t seem to be the church that has something to hide…

Jesus Has a Wife (or at least a bride…)

Newly revealed Coptic fragment has Jesus making reference to ‘my wife’ – CNN Belief Blog – Blogs.

The 4 Century Coptic fragment pictured above has been in the news the last few days. Coptics are Egyptian Christians who have been known for slightly different theology than most Western and Eastern Christian Traditions. All the attention is swirling around the idea that this is representing a discovery that early Coptic Christians believed Jesus was married on earth. What amazes me is the silence on the fact that we know for sure Jesus did in fact have a wife (and still does!)
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
(Ephesians 5:25–32 NIV)

Intertwined in Paul’s discussion of husbands and wives is Christ as husband to the Church. That the two become one and Christ lays down his life for her. It’s a metaphor for the loving relationship God has not only with individuals but with the church as a whole.

These may have been Coptic Christians, but they were Christians which means they first of all valued the earliest writings of the faith. Even the Gnostic gospels essentially appear to be devotional reflections on the more authoritative accounts. So the first thought of any historian or interpreter should be to compare the language with that of the New Testament. So it would seem his mentioning of a wife and dwelling with her would be building on this biblical image of the Bride of Christ being the Church. Since this is a much later work for a unique group, I suppose anything is possible. But why not start with the most obvious connection? Maybe because you desire controversy?
And it’s not just the New Testament. The Old Testament is filled with images of Israel as the LORD’s spouse. Hosea and other prophets use this image repeatedly. So there is strong evidence to support what I’m suggesting.
It’s always fascinating and interesting to discover ancient documents. But the simplest connections and explanations are usually the best in my view… So let’s live into the reality of the church, God’s people, living as the bride of Christ. Let’s walk closely with God and live together in harmony as we work and worship and anticipate the great day of His appearing!

Engage the Word!

Engage the Word!

September 30-November 11 Let the Word get into You!

This is a post from my friend and fellow pastor, Greg Arthur. It links to a great article in the American Conservative. The article makes you think. It does seem that our nation is systematically being gutted of its strongest spiritual and intellectual resources. Neither party seems poised to actually do much about it…

Holiness Reeducation

I just came across this article in The American Conservative by Mike Lofgren. It is entitled Revolt of the Rich and it looks at the history of super-rich Americans and their politics today and throughout history. There are even some interesting theological perspectives about American Christianity. It is well written and well worth the read. Feel free to stop back by and offer some thoughts.

Here is an interesting section.

If a morally acceptable American conservatism is ever to extricate itself from a pseudo-scientific inverted Marxist economic theory, it must grasp that order, tradition, and stability are not coterminous with an uncritical worship of the Almighty Dollar, nor with obeisance to the demands of the wealthy. Conservatives need to think about the world they want: do they really desire a social Darwinist dystopia?

The objective of the predatory super-rich and their political handmaidens is to discredit and destroy the traditional…

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