Archives for April 2014

Lectionary Reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter

This excerpt comes from Luke (BTCB) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 24:13-35:

Augustine put it this way: “The Teacher was walking with them along the way, and he himself was the way” (Sermon 235.1–2).

Somehow they intuit presciently what they cannot yet consciously grasp; Augustine, who loves this passage, introduces what now follows: “And because they observed hospitality, him who they knew not yet in the expounding of the Scriptures, they suddenly know in the breaking of bread” (Harmony of the Gospels 3.25).

The theological implications of this passage, as Augustine sees, are tremendous. First, had they, preoccupied with their own grief, not pressed Jesus to stop and stay overnight (24:29), this wonderful story might not be here for us.

Second, as Augustine says of Jesus on the way, “He was at one and the same time seen and concealed. . . . He was walking with them along the road like a companion, and was himself the leader. He was seen, and not recognized” (Sermon 235.2–3). It would be hard to find a theme that more clearly resonates through Luke’s narrative than this.

Now, a third and all-encompassing revelation: as the liturgy of the Orthodox church makes more apparent than liturgical language in the West, the “guest” is the host. Here, mysteriously, the Emmaus pair know it in the experience, for “as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and broke, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him, and he vanished out of their sight” (24:30–31 KJV).

Perhaps he had done this in their presence before; it is likely. Perhaps also the most familiar of words, following his exposition of the scriptures, and in his presence and prayer, took on a sudden sweep of meaning that opened their eyes as in an astonishing burst of light: “Baruch atah adonai [did the Lord say here Yhwh?] elohenu, melech haolam, hamotzeh lechem min haeretz” (“blessed are you Lord God, king of the cosmos, who brings forth bread from the earth” [author’s translation]).

Perhaps they saw his nail-pierced hands.

On level after level, new meaning must have sprung from this old blessing of the bread, for here, for them, the Bread of Life who had sprung from the earth had become at once their guest and host.

 

©2012 by David Lyle Jeffrey. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

“Where Do We Go from Here?” – an Excerpt from Christians at the Border by M. Daniel Carroll R.

The following is an excerpt from chapter 5 of Christians at the Border, Second Edition: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible by M. Daniel Carroll R.

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The church must regain the vision of being a distinct community, a distinct community made up of ordinary individuals (resident aliens) with a calling to be faithful to its Lord.

Christians are to display the life of Jesus, and this requires acquiring a set of virtues, like peaceableness, kindness, hospitality, and patience. Christians and the church need to be a certain kind of people with a particular way of looking at and living within society. For the church to be the church requires training in these virtues, the nurturing of Christian tradition through Word and sacrament, and the continual practice of the virtues.

Christians, both of the majority culture and Hispanic, are not to exclude the “other,” whether Christian or non-Christian. We are all called to embrace the “other.” We can embrace those who are different—and even those who have offended or wronged us—because we have embraced Jesus, who calls us to a self-sacrificing life for others. We embrace him, because he first embraced us. We take up that cross of forgiveness and hospitality because he took up his.

This embrace of the other—the majority culture by the Hispanic and the Hispanic by the majority culture—will be a “soft embrace.” The resident aliens of the majority culture (1 Pet. 2:11) will embrace the resident aliens from elsewhere. Both will be respectful and mindful of cultural differences, open to grow and change. This transformation will be reciprocal and mutual, personal and communal, in confidence of moving toward the common good, yet with great risk.

Assured of the teaching of the Word, the empowerment of the Spirit, the example of Jesus, and the blessing of the Father, Christians can be the light of the Triune God in this national confusion that sometimes can be so dark. Let the journey to reconciliation begin. May the church lead the way.

©2013 by M. Daniel Carroll R. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

The Weekly Hit List: April 25, 2014

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg was reviewed by Living with Faith.

“The author, who is Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, has written a book aimed not so much to refute sceptics as to guide believers into a balanced understanding and viewpoint of what the questions are and how we can best approach them.

Blomberg makes the point that we find two extremes – ranging from that of religious hardliners demanding unwavering concurrence at one end of the spectrum to unbelieving individuals who try to destroy the faith of believers at the other – and that both extremes are wrong.  Rather, the author shows, we can find a balance in which questions are not only fairly evaluated, but also settled in faith.”

Read the rest of the review here.

 

Quick Hits:

iGods by Craig Detweiler was reviewed by C.J. Stunkard.

Cross-Shattered Christ by Stanley Hauerwas was mentioned by Peter Ochs on Religion and Ethics.

QIdeas shared “Whatever Happened to the Common Good?” by Jim Wallis, author of On God’s Side.

Big Ideas (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) shared Miroslav Volf’s address for the Centre for Public Christianity at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on “A Public Faith – Serving the Common Good.”

Marlena Graves, author of the forthcoming book A Beautiful Disaster, wrote “Hanging On The Cross Alongside Jesus” for Missio Alliance.

Lectionary Reflection for the Second Sunday of Easter

This excerpt comes from Psalms for All Seasons, commenting on Psalm 16:

Psalm 16, like Ps. 23, is a psalm of trust that expresses utter dependence on God (vv. 1-2, 9), a love for God’s people (v. 3), and gratitude for God’s instruction (v. 7) and guidance (vv. 8, 11).

The psalm includes a compelling description of God as “portion” and “cup” (v. 5).

For Christians, it is an apt Easter testimony because of its poignant description of life in the face of death (vv. 10-11; see Acts 2:25-31, 13:35, Rom. 6:3-4).

 

Prayer for reflection:

God of unending abundance,
in you alone we find all we need in this life and even more in the life to come.
Open our eyes to see your glory and our ears to hear your Word
until our hearts burn with the joy of your presence
and our lives proclaim the power of your love.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

©2012 Faith Alive Christian Resources. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Between the Lines: A Conversation with Rev. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, PhD – Part 2

We recently had the chance to talk with Rev. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, PhD, about her book, Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness.

Kathryn Greene-McCreight (PhD., Yale University) is Priest Associate at The Episcopal Church at Yale. Her previous books include Ad Litteram: How Augustine, Calvin, and Barth Read the Plain Sense of Genesis 1–3 and Feminist Reconstructions of Christian Doctrine: A Narrative Analysis and Appraisal.  She also serves on the board of the Elm City Chapter of NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) and on the Patient and Advisory Council of Yale Psychiatric Hospital.

Part 1 of this interview is available here.

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3. You suggest that friendship is important for the mentally ill. Don’t we all need friendship?

Yes, we all need friendship. Ill people in general need friendship and companionship more than healthy people do. But mentally ill people especially need friends. The symptoms of mental illnesses themselves can be so isolating, both subjectively and objectively. The pain of mental illness is compounded by the isolation and stigma fueled by people’s fears of the symptoms.

 

4. You mention that feelings are relatively unimportant in our life before God. How can you say this when psychotherapy itself focuses mainly on feelings? Isn’t the exploration of feelings important in the healing process?

This is a good question. It is true that psychotherapy focuses in part on feelings. And that is important for healing, to learn how you feel and why. But you can’t leave it there. I think there is a misunderstanding of psychotherapy, or of good psychotherapy anyway. And I think this misunderstanding keeps many from seeking out psychotherapy. I actually had one person tell me that he did not need psychotherapy (although he clearly did) because he wasn’t a “feelings person.” As though feelings were the only thing psychotherapy would affect.

It is true that psychotherapy makes you face your feelings, learn to accept them, and learn how to act or not act on them. Most importantly, psychotherapy seeks to help the patient learn how to handle feelings so they don’t cause further pain, either to the patient or to those whom the patient loves or has to live with. Part of this goal is to keep the feelings from coming out in maladaptive actions rather than in healthy ways of relating.

To a certain extant, psychotherapy seeks to train the patient in proper communication. This can take the form of many kinds of therapy. Talk therapy and art therapy may be some of the most profound I have experienced. Art therapy, I must quickly add, is often mistaken for helping patients paste bits of construction paper and string and beads. Another caricature. The creative arts used in therapy can include painting, photography, writing, gardening, cooking, dance, etc. The goal is in part to bring the often denied or repressed negative feelings to the surface in a healthy way in order to short-circuit patterns of thinking and acting that might aggravate the symptoms of the mental illness.

But I think what I meant by saying that I mistrust feelings is in part this: feelings change so often and so dramatically. This is especially true for someone with poor mental health. Also, while you are of course right that psychotherapy deals (in part) with feelings, the Christian faith has to do with an action. That is, God’s action of healing the world in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Granted, much of Protestant Christianity rides on a tradition that would focus on feelings, whether the feeling of ultimate dependence on God, feeling of joy, feeling of love toward neighbor. These may make us feel good. They may not. But even if they don’t make us feel good, that doesn’t falsify the gospel. It doesn’t negate the faithfulness of our witness.

Evangelical Christianity can sometimes fall into a distortion of Christian confession by telling us that if we don’t feel the joy of the Lord, we somehow have missed the mark, we are not saved, we don’t believe aright, we don’t pray enough. But this all locates the truth of the gospel in our interiority and subjectivity. This is dangerous. People struggling with poor mental health sometimes simply cannot feel pleasure. The technical term for this is anhedonia. But the fact that we may not be able to feel joy doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love us or that we are lost. I think it is especially important for Christians who live with mental illnesses to be reminded that God is “objective.” Being a Christian is not a matter of subjective experience of God but of God’s objective reality. God is objectively real, whether we feel His presence or not. We all need to be reminded of that, ill or healthy. We all need to remind each other of that.

The Weekly Hit List: April 18, 2014

Margaret Feinberg concluded her series of interviews with Craig Blomberg, author of Can We Still Believe the Bible?.

“Is This the Most Divisive Bible Passage of Our Age?”
“The ban on women speaking just seems so out of place in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, like it was inserted later. It just doesn’t seem to go with the rest of the book. Did Paul really tell women to keep quiet in churches? How do you interpret 1 Corinthians 14:34-35?”

“3 Bible Questions You’ve Asked Yourself Before”
On the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers; what it means to be “fill with the Spirit”; and how the epistles were delivered.

 

Upcoming interview: Craig will appear on The Bob Dutko Show on Tuesday, April 22, at 1:00 p.m. ET.

 

Quick Hits:

Speaking of Dying by Fred Craddock, Dale Goldsmith, and Joy V. Goldsmith was quoted by The Substance of Faith.

Nicole Baker Fulgham and her book, Educating All God’s Children, were included in “Real Family Values: Child Care and Early Childhood Education” in Center for American Progress.

Cross-Shattered Christ by Stanley Hauerwas was recommended by Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books.

 

Ebook Specials:

The Redemption of Love: Rescuing Marriage and Sexuality from the Economics of a Fallen World by Carrie A. Miles is only $3.99 (86% off) through April 22.

Lectionary Reflection for Palm Sunday

This excerpt comes from Matthew (BTCB) by Stanley Hauerwas, commenting on Matthew 21:1-11:

Jesus and the disciples come near to Jerusalem, reaching Bethphage and the Mount of Olives. This will be the staging area for Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

It is a triumphal entry, but one that parodies the entry of kings and their armies. This is the entry of the one who has come to serve, but that he has come to serve makes him no less a king.

The great King David went to the Mount of Olives in grief because of Absalom’s conspiracy against him (2 Sam. 15:30–31). Yet in Zech. 14:1–5 the Mount of Olives is the place where the Lord declares he will stand in order to defeat those who have gathered against Jerusalem. From that mount the Lord will become king over all the earth, forever securing Jerusalem from destruction.

Jesus stands on the Mount of Olives as one in mourning for Jerusalem, but also as its priest-king destined to bring all nations to the recognition of the God of David.

Accordingly, Jesus tells two of his disciples to “go” into the village ahead of them, where they will find a donkey tied with her colt. They are to untie the donkey and colt and bring them to Jesus. If anyone asks what they are doing, they are to say that “the Lord needs them,” and they will be sent with the donkey and colt back to Jesus.

Jesus identifies himself as the Lord, but one that will ride on an ass, a creature not normally associated with what it means to be a king. Victors in battle do not ride into their capital cities riding on asses, but rather they ride on fearsome horses.

But this king does not and will not triumph through force of arms.

 

©2006 by Stanley Hauerwas. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Ebook Special for The Redemption of Love by Carrie A. Miles

Now through April 22, the ebook of The Redemption of Love: Rescuing Marriage and Sexuality from the Economics of a Fallen World by Carrie A. Miles is only $3.99 (86% off) from the following participating retailers:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

CBD

 

“An interesting study of gender roles and marriage. . . . Timely and relevant.”
Christine M. Fletcher, Journal of Markets & Morality

Today’s society is saturated with competing answers to the dilemmas of love, sex, relationships, marriage, gender roles, and family. In The Redemption of Love, Carrie Miles resists the temptation to jump to solutions without first stepping back to understand the problem and its cause.

Meticulous in her arguments, Miles leads the reader in discovering what the Bible has to say about love in the twenty-first century by using the relatively new tools of socioeconomics. The result is a comprehensive, compelling approach considering economics not in terms of money but with reference to how we allocate our time and energy and how our beliefs and values shape our identities.

Miles outlines a consistent description of biblical love throughout scripture. The differences that divide men and women and set them up for conflict today were not created by God, she argues, but by sin. According to Miles, the Bible shows us that the love God envisioned for his people is a “soul-stirring, deep, and passionate” love—the only effective solution Christians can offer in today’s battle to save marriage and family. This will be a valuable text for courses on family, marriage, and gender issues, as well as for clergy and laypeople searching for answers.

Carrie A. Miles (Ph.D., University of Chicago) works as an organizational psychologist and consultant in Fairfax, Virginia. She is a senior research fellow at the Consortium for the Economic Study of Religion at George Mason University, Virginia, and the executive officer of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture.

Between the Lines: A Conversation with Rev. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, PhD – Part 1

We recently had the chance to talk with Rev. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, PhD, about her book, Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness.

Kathryn Greene-McCreight (PhD., Yale University) is Priest Associate at The Episcopal Church at Yale. Her previous books include Ad Litteram: How Augustine, Calvin, and Barth Read the Plain Sense of Genesis 1–3 and Feminist Reconstructions of Christian Doctrine: A Narrative Analysis and Appraisal.  She also serves on the board of the Elm City Chapter of NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) and on the Patient and Advisory Council of Yale Psychiatric Hospital.

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1. What makes this book different from any other narrative of mental illness? You’ve written theological books before—how does this one differ from your other work?

A colleague once referred to the book as a memoir, but I corrected her. It is not a memoir. If it fits a genre, I might say it is a theodicy, but that doesn’t work either. Modern philosophical theodicy dwells on the level of theory. There is nothing wrong per se with theories about God’s relation to human suffering—unless you are in the midst of suffering, in which case theories are the last thing you need. Don’t try to give a theory to someone in the death throes of stage four cancer or to someone at the window ledge ready to jump.

Darkness asks questions about God’s relation to human suffering but from within a specific life, the life of a Christian trying to live faithfully with and in spite of a mental illness. The larger framework is not philosophical. The framework in which the questions are asked and lived out is orthodox Christian confession and practice.

I suppose I would say that, more properly, the book is a lament; it is a prayer; it is a testimony. It is an offering for the upbuilding of the Church in love of God and love of neighbor, especially in love of those neighbors who happen to live with mental illnesses.

 

2. Why did you title your book Darkness Is My Only Companion?

The phrase “Darkness is my only companion” is from the final verse of Psalm 88 in the 1979 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (BCP) psalter. Because I pray the psalms from the Book of Common Prayer, I memorized the verse as it is translated there: “My friend and neighbor you have put away from me, and darkness is my only companion.” When I prayed, it rang out to me. As hard as this may be for others to understand, it even reassured me. I could feel completely alone and in pain and in darkness, but that was okay. My complete despair was not a sign of my lack of faith. If the psalmist could cry out in such misery, then I felt it was okay for me to say it too.

But here is where things get muddy. You can blame the negativity of my title on the odd translation of the 1979 revision of the 1928 prayerbook’s psalter. The 1979 BCP modernized Coverdale’s long-cherished translation of the psalter, which had laid the foundation for the classical tradition of English psalmody from the sixteenth century onward. Here is Coverdale’s translation: “My lovers and friends hast thou put away from me, and hid mine acquaintance out of my sight.” Coverdale’s translation is closer, it seems to me, to the Hebrew, Septuagint, and Vulgate than is the 1979 BCP. In fact, I don’t quite see how or why the translators came to render the verse as they did. Here it is in the RSV: “Thou hast caused lover and friend to shun me; my companions are in darkness.” The NRSV is not much different. “You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me; my companions are in darkness.” The other English translations I checked do not understand darkness itself to be the psalmist’s companion.

If I were to have written it now, I think I would have entitled it using the first part of John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness.” Or maybe Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” I would choose these not so much because they are more uplifting than “Darkness is my only companion,” but because I don’t like the 1979 BCP translation of Psalm 88:19! But this didn’t occur to me at the time.

The Weekly Hit List: April 11, 2014

Two Brazos Press titles were selected as finalists in the 2014 Christian Retailing‘s Best Awards.

iGods by Craig Detweiler was nominated in the Church and Culture category.

 

 

On God’s Side by Jim Wallis was nominated in the Social Issues category.

 

 

The complete list of finalists is available here. Winners will be announced in June.

 

Quick Hits:

Craig Detweiler, author of iGods, appeared with Edward Blum on Religions & Ethics Newsweekly on PBS.

Nicole Baker Fulgham, author of Educating All God’s Children, wrote “School Equality as a Matter of Faith” with Aria Kirkland-Harris for PRISM Magazine.

Craig Blomberg, author of Can We Still Believe the Bible?, was interviewed by Margaret Feinberg: “The Most Misinterpreted Verse in The Bible Uncoded”

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg was recommended by Nate Claiborne.

Learning for the Love of God by Donald Opitz and Derek Melleby was recommended by Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books.

Generous Spaciousness (May 2014) by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter was mentioned by Publishers Weekly.