Lectionary Reflection for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Matthew (BTCB) by Stanley Hauerwas, commenting on Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52:

Jesus’s great sermon on the parables can be read as a commentary on his claim that those who do the will of the Father are his brother, sister, and mother. You do not become a brother or sister to Christ through birth, but you become his brother and sister by learning to be his disciple.

As we shall see, the parables become one of the ways in which Jesus trains his disciples to constitute this new family. In particular, he uses parables to help the disciples discern how the kingdom of heaven is established.

The parables, therefore, like the Sermon on the Mount, have always been crucial for the church to imagine the kind of community that we must be in order to survive in a world that assumes that biological kinship is more determinative than our kinship with Christ. The boat on which Jesus sits to deliver his parabolic sermon on the parables is the church that the parables bring into being.

Matthew does not tell us when or why Jesus is in a house, but only that on the same day in which his disciples are accused of breaking the Sabbath Jesus leaves the house and sits beside the sea. As soon as he leaves the house a great crowd gathers around him.

Indeed, the crowd was so great that Jesus must get into a boat in order to address the crowd, who stand on the beach while he sits in the boat to instruct them. We have, therefore, a situation quite similar to that in which Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.

When Jesus delivers the sermon, the crowd hears Jesus, but the disciples are the ones to whom Jesus directs the sermon. In a like manner, Jesus instructs the crowd through some of the parables, but he explains the parables to the disciples because they are the ones who must learn to live in the light of the world revealed by the parables.

 

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

“The Sin of Gluttony” – an Excerpt from Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins by Dennis Okholm

The following is an excerpt from “Gluttony: Thought for Food,” chapter 2 from Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins: Learning from the Psychology of Ancient Monks by Dennis Okholm.

——————————————————

Gluttony is more than simply overeating and it is not merely fatness. Nor does gluttony merely consist of our desire for food, the consumption of it, or the pleasure we derive from eating it.

The sin of gluttony has to do with the manner in which we consume food, involving inordinate desire and immoderate pleasure. To be more specific, Evagrius, Cassian, Gregory, and Aquinas all delineate several aspects of gluttony that we can reduce to six. They involve both acts and thoughts (or attitudes).

One has to do with what we commonly think of as gluttony: gorging ourselves and not savoring a reasonable amount of food.

A second involves timing: eating at any other time than the appointed hour. For the eremitic monk this usually involved the one meal at none (i.e., 3:00 p.m.) or later. For the cenobite this involved eating with the community at the prescribed times.

The third aspect is anticipating eating with preoccupied, eager longing. The hermit who had his desires under control would not be checking the angle of the sun every fifteen minutes.

A fourth aspect was eating expensively—consuming costly foods.

A fifth aspect of gluttony involved discontent with common food—seeking after delicacies. Since nutritional values of foods were not known, it was considered unnecessary and distracting to seek variety in one’s diet. Being a “fussy eater” who is not satisfied with three varieties of cereal at hand might be a modern variation of this. These last two aspects are especially concerned with being content with what we have (cf. Phil. 4:11).

The final aspect of gluttony involved paying too much attention to food. While this last is not what we typically equate with gluttony, it certainly applies to our contemporary situation, perhaps even more so than gorging ourselves, for it informs us that it is as gluttonous to be overscrupulous about the food we eat (and how our body looks) as it is to overindulge ourselves. In fact, this overconcern can become idolatry of the creation.

One can see, then, that the evil of gluttony lies not in food itself nor in our need to eat it (with accompanying sensations of the palate), but in how we go about our eating and in the thought (or lack of thought) we give to our eating.

©2014 by Dennis Okholm. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

The Weekly Hit List: July 18, 2014

Generous Spaciousness by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter was reviewed by Dr. Conrade Yap.

This is a remarkable book that tries to build bridges of understanding instead of fences of distrust. VanderWal-Gritter tries to encourage us to adopt the attitude of humility, hospitality, and honesty. 

“There are already many hurts and hurting people. The Church has already been divided and people are causing unnecessary harm and hurt on people when what they need is healing and a loving heart.

In an age where people often see the homosexuality issue as black and white, or with binary clarity, VanderWal-Gritter reminds us that we are to love our neighbour regardless of their sexuality.”

Read the rest of the review here.

 

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg was reviewed by Michael J. Kruger for The Gospel Coalition.

“Blomberg has produced a deeply valuable and much-needed defense of the authority of Scripture in our modern age. While I disagree here and there, I appreciated his willingness to engage modern scholarship head-on over a wide range of significant issues.

“In a world where evangelicals are regularly denigrated in the academy, Blomberg has offered a helpful tool to encourage Christians that God’s Word really can be trusted.”

Read the rest of the review here.

 

Quick Hits:

Congratulations to Craig Detweiler! iGods won Silver in the Popular Culture category of Foreword Reviews‘ IndieFab Book of the Year Awards.

iGods was also recommended by Pastor Jason Esposito.

Jim Wallis, author of The (Un)Common Good, was reviewed on the Every Child podcast, which was linked to on Bill Blacquiere’s Christian Post blog.

Jim Wallis was also written about in Christian Today: “Jim Wallis at Synod: ‘Politics and markets are riddled with sin’”

Nicole Baker Fulgham, author of Educating All God’s Children, was interviewed by Faith & Leadership.

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg was reviewed by Merv Budd.

A Beautiful Disaster by Marlena Graves was reviewed by Dan McDonald.

A Beautiful Disaster was excerpted on Litfuse, who are also giving away a copy.

Christians at the Border by M. Daniel Carroll R. was recommended on Sizemores in Honduras.

 

Ebook Specials:

Finding Your Plot in a Plotless World: A Little Direction by Daniel de Roulet is on sale for $3.99 (50% off) through July 31.

Ebook Special for Finding Your Plot in a Plotless World by Daniel de Roulet

Now through July 31, the ebook for Finding Your Plot in a Plotless World: A Little Direction by Daniel de Roulet is on sale for $3.99 (50% off) from the following participating retailers:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

CBD

“Instead of offering consolation for those with doubt, de Roulet alters the landscape by offering consolation to those who struggle with plotlessness or perhaps even meaninglessness. . . . [He has] a gifted pen dipped in the inkwell of graceful prose; [he is] pastoral enough that [he doesn't] scandalize. Instead, [he] offer[s] not some simple answer but the genuine Christian solidity called hope. The hope that sustains a struggle of faith. . . . To lead us into his journey, de Roulet explores the theme of struggling to find a plot within plotlessness by dipping in and out of both biblical plots (Jacob is a favorite of mine in this book) and literary plots. . . . I’d love to see some folks read this and blog about it. It surely deserves it. Maybe my top pick for book of the year on this blog.”
Scot McKnight, jesuscreed.org

“[The author] presents many solid propositions as well as wearied insights from his journey of discovering his son’s autism. . . . The authenticity of his journey and suggestions will undoubtedly resonate with postmoderns.”
YouthWorker Journal

The world fell apart for author Daniel de Roulet the moment his son was diagnosed with autism. In Finding Your Plot in a Plotless World, de Roulet takes a closer look at those devastating moments in everyone’s lives and the journey that follows. What do we do when our sense of God’s plan for our lives crumbles around us? How do we find our plots in a seemingly plotless world?

For answers, de Roulet looks to stories—those of our own culture and the Bible. Along the way, de Roulet encourages readers to be authentic as they tell their own stories and leaves them with hope that God reveals himself through our messy lives. 

Lectionary Reflection for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Psalms for All Seasons, commenting on Psalm 139:

Psalm 139 is a psalm of testimony about the limitless capacity for God to know us (v. 1) and to be present throughout all creation (vv. 7-12).

It includes a poignant testimony about God’s mysterious and majestic role in human conception and birth (vv. 13-16).

The psalm then features a dramatic change, asking for God’s vengeance on faithless people (v. 19) and guidance in the way of truth (v. 24).

The opening sections of the psalm are the most often used; the concluding section, however, makes it clear that the psalm is about the choice for righteousness (cf. Ps. 1) and expression of awareness not only of God’s pervasive knowledge about us, but also readiness for God to examine and test us (vv. 23-24).

Prayer for reflection:

Almighty God, creator of all things, you know each of us so intimately
that no thought in our minds or cell in our bodies is hide from your eyes.
Secure in the loving embrace of our brother, Jesus Christ,
we open our hearts and lives to your searching gaze. Amen.

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

Ebook Special for Finding Your Plot in a Plotless World by Daniel de Roulet

Now through July 17, the ebook for Finding Your Plot in a Plotless World: A Little Direction by Daniel de Roulet is only $0.99 (88% off) from the following participating retailers:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

CBD

“Instead of offering consolation for those with doubt, de Roulet alters the landscape by offering consolation to those who struggle with plotlessness or perhaps even meaninglessness. . . . [He has] a gifted pen dipped in the inkwell of graceful prose; [he is] pastoral enough that [he doesn't] scandalize. Instead, [he] offer[s] not some simple answer but the genuine Christian solidity called hope. The hope that sustains a struggle of faith. . . . To lead us into his journey, de Roulet explores the theme of struggling to find a plot within plotlessness by dipping in and out of both biblical plots (Jacob is a favorite of mine in this book) and literary plots. . . . I’d love to see some folks read this and blog about it. It surely deserves it. Maybe my top pick for book of the year on this blog.”
Scot McKnight, jesuscreed.org

“[The author] presents many solid propositions as well as wearied insights from his journey of discovering his son’s autism. . . . The authenticity of his journey and suggestions will undoubtedly resonate with postmoderns.”
YouthWorker Journal

The world fell apart for author Daniel de Roulet the moment his son was diagnosed with autism. In Finding Your Plot in a Plotless World, de Roulet takes a closer look at those devastating moments in everyone’s lives and the journey that follows. What do we do when our sense of God’s plan for our lives crumbles around us? How do we find our plots in a seemingly plotless world?

For answers, de Roulet looks to stories—those of our own culture and the Bible. Along the way, de Roulet encourages readers to be authentic as they tell their own stories and leaves them with hope that God reveals himself through our messy lives. 

The Weekly Hit List: July 11, 2014

iGods by Craig Detweiler was recommended by Neil Stavem on Connecting Faith.

Today the world is literally at our fingertips through amazing technology, but what is all this access and information doing to us?

“Craig Detweiler, professor, filmmaker, cultural commentator and author says how we use technology shapes our faith in more ways than we realize.

In Craig’s book, iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives, he gives an overview of the impact of 21st-century technology.”

Read the rest of “How technology shapes our faith” here.

 

Quick Hits:

iGods was recommended by Joy J. Moore on Catalyst.

A Beautiful Disaster by Marlena Graves was recommended on Urban Faith.

Marlena Graves co-wrote “Faith Unsettled: Pushing beyond the easy-believism of evangelicalism” for Her.meneutics.

Generous Spaciousness by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter was mentioned in an article by Jonathan Merritt for The Week.

Generous Spaciousness by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter was reviewed by Guylou.

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg was reviewed on Conversation in Faith.

A Life Observed by Devin Brown was reviewed by Michele Morin.

Spirituality and the Awakening Self by David G. Benner was quoted on Richer by Far.

Lectionary Reflection for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Genesis (BTCB) by R. R. Reno, commenting on Genesis 25:19-34:

This episode is rich with irony. The elder brother has been chosen to serve the younger, and yet, with his bowl of soup, the younger brother is poised to serve the hungry elder. And precisely because ready to serve, Jacob finds himself at an advantage: the mighty elder brother is about to be put down from his throne (Luke 1:52).

Yet, more than a pattern of reversal is at work. God’s prophecies are not mechanically fulfilled. Human reality corresponds to what God ordains. In this case, Esau seems culpably negligent. Perhaps he has failed to make provisions for an unsuccessful hunt, or perhaps his account of his hunger is hyperbolic. In any event, Jacob’s bargain should strike him as ridiculous: a bowl of soup for Abraham’s birthright!

But Esau’s hunger makes him feel as though he is on the brink of death, so he readily takes an oath to hand over his rights as the firstborn son. Esau seems a man so controlled by his bodily desires that the precious things of God are of no moment to him.

Other passages in scripture seem to support this reading. In Obad. 10 and Amos 1:11, the children of Esau are depicted as rightly punished by God because of the sins of their forefather. Hebrews 12:16 portrays Esau as an immoral and irreligious man and uses his example to warn against the perils of a lax, undisciplined faith. Yet it is important to recognize that Esau’s wickedness flows from the choice of election rather than motivating or triggering it. God’s intervention into history forces the issue of sin.

Esau is drawn into the ever intensifying drama of antagonism between good and evil, between truth and the lie. God invades space and time through the particularity of his chosen people, and this action brings forth the spirit of resistance. Elected to serve the younger, Esau no more willingly plays his role in God’s purposes than Adam and Eve wished obediently to play their roles. The powers of the world coil around him and draw him into their purposes. Unable to participate in the divine plan on his own terms, he falls more deeply into the counterplan of the devil. There is no third way.

Human sinfulness has a role in the divine plan. Esau is wrong to bargain away the blessings of God, but because of his sinful fixation on his bodily hunger the way is clear for the promise to flow toward Jacob.

This is one of many moments throughout Genesis when human sins are quite real but nonetheless providential. It is a felix culpa, a happy fault. Foreshadowing the story of Joseph and his brothers, Esau does evil, but God puts it to good use.

 

©2010 by R. R. Reno. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

This Just In: Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins by Dennis Okholm

Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins:
Learning from the Psychology of Ancient Monks

by Dennis Okholm

This volume unpacks the psychological insights found in the writings of three early monks—Evagrius Ponticus (fourth century), John Cassian (fifth century), and Gregory the Great (sixth century)—to help us appreciate the relevance of these monastic writers and apply their wisdom to our own spiritual and psychological well-being. The book addresses each of the seven deadly sins, offering practical guidance from the early monastic tradition for overcoming these dangerous passions.

As Dennis Okholm introduces key monastic figures, literature, and thought of the early church, he relates early Christian writings to modern studies in psychology. He shows how ancient monks often anticipated the insights of contemporary psychology and sociology, exploring, for example, how their discussions of gluttony compare with current discussions regarding eating disorders. This book will appeal to readers interested in spirituality, early monastic resources, and ancient wisdom for human flourishing, as well as students of spirituality and spiritual formation.


Dennis Okholm
 
(PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary), a Benedictine oblate, speaks frequently in church and youth group settings and serves as assistant pastor at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Costa Mesa, California. He is also professor of theology at Azusa Pacific University and adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. Okholm is the author or editor of many books, including Monk Habits for Everyday People.

Praise for Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins:

“Dennis Okholm’s Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins is a welcome addition to the growing Christian psychology corpus. Christian counseling needs better roots, and Dennis Okholm reminds us of the classic nature of what is at the heart of humans—a tendency to move away from the heart of God—and the fact that some of the best Christian psychologists lived before modern psychology was born.”
Gary W. Moon, executive director, Martin Institute and Dallas Willard Center, Westmont College; author of Apprenticeship with Jesus

“Okholm is both a careful and a broadly informed student of his subject, and the result of that happy combination is as intriguing and informing an overview of human foibles as I have ever seen. Pastoral as well as informative—in places even gentle—Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins gives us a theology both of human frailty and of the full panoply of yearnings resident in us as a species. In effect, it also gives contemporary psychology and especially Christian counseling their deep history by paralleling the contemporary with the ancients of the faith.”
Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great EmergenceEmergence Christianity, and Greed

“Okholm’s book is a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on the deadly sins. He is a close reader of the ancient sources and puts them into conversation with modern psychology without being reductive. A perceptive study, engagingly written, with a nice pastoral tone.”
Lawrence S. Cunningham, John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology (emeritus), University of Note Dame

“Dennis Okholm sets his treatment of the seven deadly sins in conversation with ancient monastic wisdom, godly psychological principles, and biblical truth. In so doing, he does not merely condemn vice but gently commends virtue and prayer to accompany us on a journey to the heart’s true home: a life derived from and lived in the kingdom of God. It only takes a quick look at the news headlines or our interpersonal relationships to know that a fresh word on ethics is needed. I recommend Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins to anyone searching for such a word.”
Todd Hunter, Anglican bishop; author of Our Favorite Sins

“Dennis Okholm’s Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins is a tour de force of early Christian monastic psychology and theology. Okholm does not ride roughshod over the modern psychological movement but instead shows the ways in which it has failed to truly find its rootedness in the historic Christian tradition. Okholm knows that there is much to learn from the likes of John Cassian, Evagrius of Pontus, and Gregory the Great, and he has judiciously analyzed aspects of this heritage and engagingly presented them to the modern reader. This book should certainly be read by every psychologist, theologian, and practitioner of spiritual formation.”
Rev. Greg Peters, associate professor of medieval and spiritual theology, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University

“Dennis Okholm—scholar, teacher, pastor, and spiritual guide—humbly and clearly brings the psychology of ancient Christian monks into conversation with contemporary psychological science and ordinary experience, inviting his readers to a disciplined, grace-reliant life. Evagrius, Cassian, and Gregory the Great prove to be wise interlocutors for those who want to live reasonably and faithfully in today’s sex-saturated, self-esteem-fixated, consumerist society, which forms and informs us with thoughts very much like those that Evagrius wrote about. It is fashionable to make light of the ‘seven deadlies,’ but they are still lethal. This book offers antidotes.”
Hugh Feiss, OSB, Monastery of the Ascension

Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins is written by a theologian and should be read by theologians, but psychologists ought to read this book also. Dennis Okholm both informs and critiques contemporary psychology by exploring the rich wisdom found throughout centuries of Christian thought. He challenges psychologists to consider that morality has a place in contemporary discourse about mental health and does so in a way that brings hope and inspires us toward virtuous living.”
Mark R. McMinn, professor of psychology, George Fox University; author of Sin and Grace in Christian Counseling

“According to the Christian tradition, sin has seven deadly forms. Okholm has written a wise, accessible introduction to these forms that brims with insights from the church fathers and enough anecdotes and personal transparency to make it a practical and profitable read. This is a terrific example of Christian psychology.”
Eric L. Johnson, Lawrence and Charlotte Hoover Professor of Pastoral Care, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; director of the Society for Christian Psychology

The Weekly Hit List: July 04, 2014

Christianity Today published an excerpt from A Beautiful Disaster in their July/August 2014 issue.

There is a silence we choose. Our retreats into our cells of silence and solitude still the noise pollution in our lives so that we might eventually be still. Quieted enough to hear the whispers of God. Still enough to feel the Holy Spirit winds blowing through our lives and to observe the effects of the Spirit winds all around us.

“We retreat in hopes of delight, in hopes of tasting the good, the true, and the beautiful.

“Our eyes adjust. We acquire night vision so that even on the darkest of nights, we’re eventually able to see the glory and faithfulness of God. We’re able to clearly see the beautiful truths concealed by the helter-skelter of a too-busy, disintegrated daily life.”

Read the rest of “The Spiritual Blessings of Seeking Solitude” here.

 

 

Other A Beautiful Disaster media:

Nastasha Sistrunk Robinson reviewed A Beautiful Disaster.

Suzannah Paul shared an excerpt from A Beautiful Disaster.

The Blade wrote about A Beautiful Disaster.

Little House on the Circle recommended A Beautiful Disaster.

 

Quick Hits:

Craig Detweiler, author of iGods, was quoted in The Washington Times.

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg was reviewed by Dr. Conrade Yap.

iGods by Craig Detweiler was quoted in Corsicana Daily Sun.

 

Ebook Specials:

Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have to Do by Phillip Cary is on sale for $6.99 (59% off) through July 12.