Monday, September 9, 2013

Faith and Ritual

All who have been baptized and are able to eat and drink are welcome to this Table.  That is our understanding of the Lord’s Supper.  You do not have to grow up in order to become big enough to eat.  You eat so that you grow up.  However, when we say this, we do not want to encourage an attitude towards a ritual like those who were rebuked throughout the OT, those who merely went through the rituals externally, but without faith and without obedience.

Faith is the key to the ritual, a lively faith that changes how you live, think, and talk.  Faith is the key to those who are blessed in coming to the Table and those who are not.  And so pause, not because you need to doubt your faith, but you need to remind yourself of the faith which has been given to you.  Do you know the Father?  Do you know Him through His Son?  Are you in Christ by faith alone?  Are you in need of Him for your salvation and in order to grow up in that faith.  Then welcome – you are welcome to come and partake.

The Eternal Father-Son Relationship

"Once the Arians implicitly introduce temporality into the Father-Son relations, they implicitly introduce temporality into the existence of the Father himself.  If there is an interval between Father and Son, and yet the Son is somehow "God," then God is subject to becoming (Discourses 1.17).  If the Triad emerges, then true religion is not fixed; piety is trying to hit a moving target (Discourses 1.18).  For the Arians, God becomes Father only after begetting the Son (Discourses 1;24).  The Arians imply in various ways that God is subject to time, that he is a God-in-process.
The point of the paradigm of sonship thus cannot be to highlight a temporal interval between Father and Son.  To be sure, there is such an interval in human life, but since God is beyond time, there can be no interval." - Leithart, Athanasius, p51.

Hence, the eternal Father-Son relationship and existence of God.

When Empathy Goes Awry

"This was Chamberlain's great  mistake at Munich in trying to empathize with Hitler.  Priding himself on is own reasonableness and his unwavering belief in the value of achieving consensus, Chamberlain was trying to "understand Hitler's needs."  He tried to project himself into, that is, feel for, Hitler's position, so that they could work out a mutual accommodation.  It never seems to have occurred to him that there are forces on this planet that, because of their inability or unwillingness to self-regulate, are by nature all take and no give." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p135.

Friedman is right on, except that the problem with the "forces on this planet" is not inability to self-regulate, it is that, by nature, we are sinners, in high rebellion against God and His Law.

But the Hitler-Chamberlain example may cause us to think that this only happens in extraordinary situations where nations and the world are on the brink.  Really, it happens in very mundane situations in the home and in community - but when it happens, the results can be devastating to that home or community - they are just not noticed as quickly on the nightly news.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Being And Then Doing

This morning we will begin a series of sermons through the book of Ephesians.  And as we gather to worship, let me summarize the entire book of Ephesians for you – Chs 1-3:  What you have been freely given in Christ.  Chs 4-6:  What you are able to therefore do in Christ.  This is the Gospel – the gracious Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Being – and then Doing.

Now, Christian, you think that you know the Gospel.  But you also know that you often fall into various temptations and sins.  Why?  At the heart of all stumbling there is the fault of not believing this truth.  We refuse to fully believe all that we have been given in Christ.  We fail to believe that we are fundamentally different because of Jesus Christ.  You are something you never could be because of Jesus Christ.  You are on a life journey you could never be on if it were not for Jesus Christ.  You are in Christ and you must come to know more and more of what that means – and your faith must be strengthened, deepened, widened, to comprehend, apprehend, and trust these things to be true.

All other religious systems preach doing in order to become something.  The Good News is this – you have become something – holy, righteous, blameless, spiritually-minded, truth-filled, Spirit-empowered – not because you did anything but because Someone did something for you.  Receive this, believe this, and the rest becomes just filling out the details of the life that is yours in Jesus Christ.  That is why you have been summoned to worship.  Come and worship.  Come and receive.  Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.

A Wordless God?

Athanasius's fourth example to prove the eternality of the Son is based on the relationship of Word and Wisdom.

"If the Son is not eternal to the Father, "proper" to his essence, then the Father at one time was powerless, wisdomless, and wordless.  But that cannot be.  How dare we slander God by saying that he was ever alogos?" - Leithart, Athanasius, p49.

Subsidizing Anxiety

"As lofty and noble as the concept of empathy may sound, and as well-intentioned as those may be who make it the linchpin idea of their theories of healing, education, or management, societal regression has too often perverted the use of empathy into a disguise for anxiety, a rationalization for the failure to define a position, and a power tool in the hands of the "sensitive"." - Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, p133.

Here Friedman takes a shot at one of the idols of modern therapy - empathetic listening.  It is more important, they say, to make a person feel heard and understood than it is to solve their problem.  A youtube clip went viral to make the same attack.