Resurrection Sunday

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Χριστός Ανέστη! – Ἀληθῶς Ανέστη!; Christós Anésti! – Alithós Anésti!; Christ is risen! – He Has Risen Indeed!

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οὐκ ἔστιν ὧδε, ἠγέρθη γὰρ καθὼς εἶπεν· δεῦτε ἴδετε τὸν τόπον ὅπου ἔκειτο. καὶ ταχὺ πορευθεῖσαι εἴπατε τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ ὅτι ἠγέρθη ἀπὸ τῶν νεκρῶν, καὶ ἰδοὺ προάγει ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν, ἐκεῖ αὐτὸν ὄψεσθε· ἰδοὺ εἶπον ὑμῖν. (Matthew 28:6-7)

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ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐταῖς· μὴ ἐκθαμβεῖσθε· Ἰησοῦν ζητεῖτε τὸν Ναζαρηνὸν τὸν ἐσταυρωμένον· ἠγέρθη, οὐκ ἔστιν ὧδε· ἴδε ὁ τόπος ὅπου ἔθηκαν αὐτόν. (Mark 16:6)

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οὐκ ἔστιν ὧδε, ἀλλ’ ἠγέρθη. μνήσθητε ὡς ἐλάλησεν ὑμῖν ἔτι ὢν ἐν τῇ Γαλιλαίᾳ (Luke 24:6)

N.T. Wright on the meaning of Easter

Three collects or prayers from The Book of Common Prayer for Resurrection Sunday:

O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

or

O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord’s resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

or

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

“So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 CEB)

Greek text from Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece 28th Edition

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Being ‘Knit’ Together ‘in Christ’: Communion Reflections for the Seventh Sunday of Pentecost

Yesterday, Sunday July 15th, my family and I had the privilege to lead our church community, Crosspoint Fellowship, in the celebration of the Eucharist or Communion – something we do weekly as a community.

First, I read the Epistles text for the seventh Sunday of Pentecost – Ephesians 1:3-14 (CEB),

Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing that comes from heaven. God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world. God destined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan and to honor his glorious grace that he has given to us freely through the Son whom he loves. We have been ransomed through his Son’s blood, and we have forgiveness for our failures based on his overflowing grace, which he poured over us with wisdom and understanding. God revealed his hidden design to us, which is according to his goodwill and the plan that he intended to accomplish through his Son10 This is what God planned for the climax of all times: to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth. 11 We have also received an inheritance in Christ. We were destined by the plan of God, who accomplishes everything according to his design.12 We are called to be an honor to God’s glory because we were the first to hope in Christ.13 You too heard the word of truth in Christ, which is the good news of your salvation. You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit because you believed in Christ14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment on our inheritance, which is applied toward our redemption as God’s own people, resulting in the honor of God’s glory.

And then Christie (C.C.) read this brief reflection (in which we tried to tie together the text and Communion with the theme of knitting – since Christie knits … A LOT!),

You may not know it, but the God and Father of our liberating King Jesus is a knitter. We find in Ephesians 1 that we are adopted ‘through the son’…that we have received grace ‘through Jesus Christ’. And seven times the phrase ‘in Christ’ is used: for example we are blessed ‘in Christ’; chosen ‘in Christ’; our hope is ‘in Christ’; and we find that ultimately all things in heaven and on earth are brought, or knit, together ‘in Christ’. The table of our Lord is set with the broken body and shed blood of our Lord which sustains us. It is Christ himself who has invited us to his table. At this table, as we serve the bread and juice to one another in mutual submission, we are knit together in community. At this table we are knit into the story of our liberating King as a cruciform, cross shaped people. As we submit ourselves together to the table of our Lord, we are constituted; we are knit together, as the body of Christ for the sake of Abilene and the world.

Then Damaris read this introduction to how we practice Communion (we tried to get her to do the prayer too, but she was a bit gun shy on the speaking in public thing),

At Crosspoint we serve the Eucharist, or Communion, every week to each other by intinction. This means when it is your turn to partake of the bread and juice your neighbor will hold the plate while you take a piece of the bread and dip it in the cup. And then you, in turn, hold the plate for the next person as they partake of the bread and juice.

And Christie then finished off with this Communion Prayer:

Loving God,

through your goodness

we have this bread and fruit of the vine to offer,

which has come forth from the earth

and human hands have made.

May we know your presence

in the sharing,

so that we know your touch

and presence of all things.

We celebrate the life that Jesus has shared

among his community through the centuries,

and shares with us now.

Made one in Christ

and one with each other,

we offer these gifts and with them ourselves,

a single, living act of praise.

We pray this in the name of our liberating King Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.

I can’t adequately express how excited I was to be able to lead our community in Communion along with my family in this manner. Firstly, I absolutely loved that the voice of my wife and daughter were heard. Not only am I a supporter of the full inclusion and ordaining of women in ministry as a whole, but I am most fully a supporter of one ordained woman in particular – my wife. And my hope is that as Damaris grows up she will find her own voice as well. We are blessed to be a part of a community that values the hearing and leadership of female voices as well as male voices – and most importantly I think, the hearing of male and female voices alongside each other.

But this was also something I needed, a counter liturgy to what I did all day at work on Friday. If I’m honest, I have to admit the difficulty of working in Christian retail and trying to be authentically kingdom centered and missional. This is because Christian retail represents the commodification of the kingdom and the subversion of anything missional to the liturgies of consumerism. Some of this (but not a lot) is ameliorated working in the books section. Sometimes I have a good and productive chat with people about Bible translations … sometimes. And sometimes I get to talk to someone who has good things to say about N.T. Wright (for example) … sometimes. I feel these consumer liturgies even more when I have to cashier … a liturgy which I had to repeat all day on Friday (I must confess that, as a result, I came home Friday evening in a very bad mood and feeling very defeated and displaced, wanting very much for this current season to be over with).

James K.A. Smith remarks on these sort of consumer liturgies (HT: – of Paper, Pints, and Tweed),

Marketing understands that we are liturgical animals, that we are lovers, that we are longers, that we are shaped and primed by stories that capture our imagination. But we should know that, the church should be the centre that understands and appreciates that. So, if something like this model or argument is right, it will actually become a way to account for Christian assimilation to cultural forces. It actually helps you to understand Christian assimilation to consumerism, nationalism and all kinds of egoisms, because these –isms have had all the best stories. The devil has had all the best liturgies.

The proper response to that situation is to change our practice. It’s not just knowledge, right? I mean, I do think intellectual reflection on these matters is important; that’s kind of what we’re doing tonight. But what the impetus for that intellectual reflection should do then is prompt us to immerse ourselves in practices that will form us otherwise, to reactivate and renew those liturgies and rituals and disciplines that intentionally embody the story of the gospel and enact a vision of the coming kingdom of God in such a way that they’ll seep into our bones and become part of the background of our perceptions, the very baseline for our dispositions.

Quote from Smith’s interview with Encounter, where he talks about the power of storied formation, liturgy, and marketing.

The weekly observance of the Eucharist or Communion is a vital practice that I believe has the ability to ‘form us otherwise’, ‘embody the story of the gospel’, and ‘enact a vision of the coming kingdom of God’. It is at the Lord’s Table that we are drawn into the story of Christ and the triune theo-drama of Father, Son, and Spirit. It is at the Lord’s Table that we are drawn into community with Christians from the whole sweep of Christian history (yes, even the ones we don’t like) and sustained. But Eucharist and Communion is not only about the feeling of community. It is also about being formed into a specific type of community – a cruciform, incarnational, and missional people. In fact, as the reflection above states, I believe that it is at the Table of the Lord’s broken body and spilled blood that we are constituted as Christ’s ecclesia – his cruciform, missional body for the sake of our local contexts and the world alike. Yes, I think Communion is really that important. And to be honest, in leading our community in this sort of counter liturgy is where I felt at home and at peace.

May we seek liturgies that form us otherwise as a kingdom, cruciform people of the liberating King.

Prayer for the Week:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Deconstruction, New Creation, and Ordinary Time: Reflections for the Sixth Week of Pentecost

Pentecost Sunday marks the last Sunday of the season of Easter. After Pentecost there are twenty-six Sundays till the beginning of the next season of Advent. Pentecost is not a sprint, its more like a marathon. These reflections (posted late) represent the sixth Sunday after Pentecost or about a quarter of the way through. For a runner this might be just about the time their legs go numb. For some it might be just about the time the season seems a bit too long to finish. It seems appropriate here to take a deep breath and refocus on the importance of the kingdom, new creation, and what is called ordinary time.

Deconstruction and the Kingdom

The gospel texts thus far for Pentecost have come from the Gospel of Mark. The focus has been on the identity of Jesus as liberating King and Messiah and the nature of the kingdom. All this is predicated on the account of Jesus’ baptism, wilderness testing, and announcement of the kingdom in Mark 1:9-15. (CEB)

About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10 While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him. 11 And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”

12 At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him.

14 After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, 15 saying,“Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”

What are we to make of this kingdom that Jesus, empowered by the Spirit, inaugurates? I propose that we might say that the kingdom deconstructs and calls us into question. The length of the season of Pentecost disabuses us of confidence in the longevity of our own personal kingdoms. If we have trouble making it through twenty-six weeks, is there any way to hope for the endurance of our own kingdoms?

John Caputo writes in reference to the kingdom and the question What Would Jesus Deconstruct?,

In the view I am advancing here, deconstruction is treated as the hermeneutics of the kingdom of God, as an interpretive style that helps get at the prophetic spirit of Jesus – who was a surprising and sometimes strident outsider, who took a stand with the ‘other’ … deconstruction is good news because it delivers the shock of the other to the forces of the same, the shock of the good (the ‘ought’) to the forces of being (‘what is’), which is why I think it bears good news to the church. (26-27)

Ok, wait just a minute. Deconstruction as ‘good news’ for the church? This sounds strange. Does not deconstruction in actuality represent the danger of (so-called) ‘postmodern relativism’? Is it not simply destruction of all we hold dear and the practice of untruth of those that oppose God?

Well, not really. This very likely posits a misunderstanding of deconstruction and the kingdom. Caputo continues,

Things get deconstructed by the event of truth they harbor, an event that sets off unforeseeable and disruptive consequences … in a deconstruction our lives, our beliefs, and our practices are not destroyed but forced to reform and reconfigure – which is risky business. In the New Testament this is called metanoia [Greek for repentance], or the undergoing of a fundamental change of heart. Our hearts are turned inside out not by a vandal but by an angel or evangel of the truth… (27)

Deconstuction is organized around the idea that things contain a kind of uncontainable truth, that they contain what they cannot contain … The truth will set you free, but it does so by turning your life upside down … deconstruction is a hermeneutics of truth, of the truth of the event [of the kingdom], which is not deconstructable…

What would Jesus do? He would deconstruct a very great deal of what people do in the name of Jesus… (29-31)

There it is. In the process of deconstruction we are called into question by the kingdom of the liberating King himself. This is not simple destruction as is often claimed of deconstruction. The reason for this is that the event of deconstruction, the event of the kingdom, contains within it a corresponding reconstruction, reform, and refigurement by a surplus of truth that is uncontainable. Central to this is repentance – the orientation of hands, head, and heart towards the kingdom.

Easter and New Creation

The corresponding Pentecost texts from the Epistles thus far have come from 2 Corinthians 4, 5, and 6. While Jesus is the master of deconstruction, I would contend the Apostle Paul isn’t shabby himself. We might even call Paul the ‘deconstructive theologian of the new creation.’ Indeed, while a full exegesis isn’t in order here, I would say that many if not most miss the deconstructive use of the household codes in Ephesians for instance. Paul uses the commonly known codes for family structures of his day but with key changes and omissions. If we miss Paul’s methodology here we can easily skip over the deconstructive force of the passage and seriously get ‘headship’ wrong in a way that actually neutralizes the deconstructive force of the passage. I think much the same goes for Paul methodology in his sermon at the Areopagus in the book of Acts – deconstruction.

And in 2 Corinthians I would suggest that a great deal of confusion can be avoided if we see Paul deploying a method of deconstruction. Much of what Paul says seems on the surface to support a typical Greek dualism between the ‘spiritual’ (which is good) and the material/physical (which is bad). But I suggest that Paul, in writing into a context ripe with Greek think, is using this type of thinking to deconstruct itself. Ultimately, Paul is a Jewish theologian that places priority on embodiment contra the typical Greek dualisms of his day. But for Paul this emphasis on embodiment has necessarily been rethought and reworked into a theology of the new creation which is intrinsically tied to the person and kingship of Jesus – his life, crucifixion and resurrection. Daniel Kirk observes in Jesus Have I Loved but Paul?,

Jesus’ occupying a position over the world entails something much more comprehensive than persons in a restored relationship with God, that something more on the order of new creation is in view. Paul uses the phrase ‘new creation’ to describe the effects of Jesus’ resurrection and suggests that this itself is the world that Christians inhabit and called to bring to existence (2 Cor. 5:17).

The idea that new creation begins with Jesus’ resurrection is tied, in part, to the fact that the resurrected Jesus has a body. The life that Jesus lives now is embodied; the hope that Jesus’ resurrection therefore holds out for his followers is an embodied life. This itself spells the beginning of the end for stereotypical views of our souls going to heaven when we die. No, our ultimate hope for salvation is to live a re-embodied life on a new earth. (45)

Paul carries the gospel by literally embodying the message of the crucified Christ. [This] means giving up one’s own life so that others may live. Or, closer to Paul’s own words, to have death be put on display in our own lives so that Jesus’ life might be realized in others (2 Cor 4:12, 15). (83)

Paul viewed himself as a ‘living narration of the gospel of Christ crucified [and resurrected].’ (84)

I want to suggest that in Pentecost we find that each day in which we are empowered by the Spirit of Resurrected One is Easter. Easter calls us into question. We might evens say that Easter deconstructs us with its surplus of cruciform and resurrection truth. Easter opens our eyes to the need for more than self help. Only an Easter faith offers us what we really need … resurrection – an inaugurated reality now awaiting fulfillment at the final coming of our liberating King. But resurrection doesn’t come without the rest of the story. The Jesus story of resurrection requires participation in the cruciform sufferings and death of Christ. Such a sustained participation only comes from the empowerment of the Spirit of the Cruciform One himself. But such a sustained empowerment again deconstructs us and disabuses us of any notions of bringing about new creation on our own terms.

Ordinary Time and the Slow Work of God

The season of Pentecost doubles in the liturgical calendar as what is called ‘ordinary time’. There are actually two periods of ordinary time – the period after Christmas and the period of Pentecost until the start of Advent. It is during these times that we learn the ‘wisdom of enoughness’ and the ‘wisdom of routine’ (Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year, see chapters 15 and 29). These seasons are not ordinary in the sense that they don’t matter or are unimportant. In fact this may do a disservice and insult to what ‘ordinary’ is all about. Properly speaking these seasons are called ‘ordinary’ from the word ‘ordinal’ which means ‘counted time’ and because there are no major feast days to celebrate. But I think we can also call these seasons ‘ordinary’ because it is during these times that we have the occasion to decide if we are going to trust in the slow work of God.

It is during these times that we have the occasion if we are really going to take Christmas and Easter seriously – if we are really going to live like the birth and resurrection of Jesus has radical yet deeply ordinary ramifications for our everyday lives down to the smallest details. Ordinary time teaches us that it is the mundane realities of living that reveal who we really are and that mediate to us the sacramental grace of God. Contrary to the ‘go big or go home’ mentality of much of contemporary evangelicalism genuine incarnation is slow work and relational (ie, inefficient). It is the ordinary and slow work of God that again, calls us into question. In the seasons of ordinary time we learn that we can’t rush God and we can’t rush incarnation. May we trust in and allow ourselves to be deconstructed by the ordinary and slow work of God … and in the process be shaped into a kingdom oriented, slow people of new creation.

Prayer for the Week:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.