For Humiliation

We hate humiliation, but is clearly part of becoming Christ-like. 2 Cor 8:9; Php 2:8; Heb 12:2, etc., etc.

This dense paragraph from Karl Barth karl-barthreminds me that humiliation is displayed by Jesus because it is in his divine nature.  (This is pretty obvious, I guess, but I enjoyed remembering it.)

God does not first elect and determine man but Himself. In His eternal counsel, and then in its execution in time, He determines to address Himself to man, and to do so in such a way that He Himself becomes man. God elects and determines Himself to be the God of man.  And this undoubtedly means . . . that He elects and determines Himself for humiliation. In so doing He does not need to become alien to Himself, to change Himself. The Godhead of the true God is not a prison whose walls have first to be broken through if He is to elect and do what He has elected and done in becoming man. In distinction from that of false gods, and especially the god of Mohammed, His Godhead embraces both height and depth, both sovereignty and humility, both lordship and service. He is the Lord over life and death. He does not become a stranger to Himself when in His Son He also goes into a far country. He does not become another when in Jesus Christ He also becomes and is man.

—Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/2, 84 (thanks to Mark Galli).

Born at the Right Time

What the Incarnation Means for Us All

December 18, 2016 | Galatians 4 (“In the fullness of time . . .”)

born-at-the-right-timeTaiwan, it seems, has one of the highest rates of Caesarian births in the world, which leads to two questions.

“What are you talking about, Al?” and “Why is that?”

A Caesarian section is an operation whereby a baby is born by surgically opening the womb of the pregnant woman, usually because of some medical emergency. It was done in ancient times, nearly always at the cost of the life of the mother. I would have guessed that it was called a Caesarian birth because Julius Caesar was born that way, but that is apparently a myth. In any case, it is relatively common these days, and not terribly dangerous.

It is apparently very common in Taiwan, even when it is not medically indicated.

A study followed 150 women in Taiwan who were pregnant with their first child, and found that 93 of them had caesarean deliveries before 39 weeks, though none of them had any complications.

This seemed decidedly odd, since of course pre-term Caesarean births require more medical and surgical intervention, require longer hospital stays, cost more money and are somewhat more dangerous for mother and baby. To be clear, these were not emergency Caesareans, these were elective Caesareans by women who had never been through childbirth before. Continue reading Born at the Right Time

Solving for x

God’s surprising approach to outsiders
August 14, 2016 | John 4

Solving for x
Not to bring up unpleasant memories, but do you remember high school algebra? Do you remember “solving for x”?

The teacher would give you an equation like this

2x + 3 = 7

or

4 + 4x = 22 – 5x

or

3x2 + 12x + 6 = 42

or

15x3 – 100 = 20

Your job would be to “solve for x” in each of these different equations. It wasn’t always easy, was it? Once you got out of school, you may not have had so much opportunity to “solve for x,” but “x” still represented the unknown. Part of the reason why we use “x” for the unknown, is that xenos in Greek means strange or foreign. (There’s a TED talk which gives another reason.)

In math and in life, we always have trouble with the unknown.

The statistical website fivethirtyeight recently asked about people in the Northeast about baseball and politics:

In the survey, [we] asked 1,071 people which baseball team they supported (if any), how strongly they supported the team, and then . . . asked them this:

How upset would you feel if you had a son or daughter who married a Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees . . . fan?

Red Sox fans were asked about marriages to Yankees fans and vice versa.

Eitan Hersh, “What The Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry Can Teach us about Political Polarization” fivethirtyeight.com (Aug. 11, 2016).

It turns out that about 1 in 5 baseball fans would be upset if one of their children married a fan of a rival team. (Let me just be clear about one thing — if any of our kids gets married to a Red Sox fan, Katherine is going to be way beyond “upset.”)

Continue reading Solving for x

Courting with Camels

ScreenShot065A Pattern of Prayer, part 1: A Pattern of Need
February 14, 2016 | Genesis 24 (Praying for a wife for Isaac)

Today, you may have noticed, is Valentine’s Day. You can tell by all the pink and red hearts and the candies and cards.

Valentine’s Day has a spotty history, or supposed history, having been established in 496 by a pope who listed Valentinus as a martyr “whose name is justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God.”

Although the pope could not say anything about what Valentinus had done, there eventually grew up a variety of legends about a priest named Valentinus who was martyred about 270 AD. Most prominent was the idea that he was martyred for performing marriages for Christians, and that’s the idea that had the most market appeal, so that eventually “Saint Valentine’s Day,” February 14, became associated with romantic and courtly love.

It really has no spiritual significance whatsoever, and the Catholic Church has dropped it as a part of the General Roman Calendar, but it continues to sell cards, candy, and clothes.

As we were trying to figure out how we were going to approach this sermon series, I realized that we would be starting on February 14, and one of the very first specific instances of prayer in the Bible just happened to concern how God brought about a particular marriage in a particular place in time. You may be surprised that it involves camels.

I thought it might actually sanctify Valentine’s Day a bit.

It is no secret that our current view of love and marriage (even before the Supreme Court’s
decision last summer) is historically odd. We tend to think that marriage is the result of being struck by an overwhelming emotion that leads you to realize that THIS IS THE ONE FOR YOU.

But most marriages at most times and places were not romantically motivated — indeed many, many marriages have been arranged by families for various practical and political reasons.

As we look at today’s passage in Genesis 24, we will see an early arranged marriage which
proceeds along different lines — with camels playing an integral role.

Let’s pray.

* * *

Abraham was chosen to be the father of the nation which would enter the Promised Land and there worship God, and from who Messiah would come. God had called him out of Ur, which is a land far to the east of what would become Israel.

And “called him out” means invited him to walk with his wife and household 600 miles to the land of Canaan. And Abraham, in an amazing display of faith in God, does this thing.
Eventually he and Sarah have a son, Isaac (I’m leaving out some pretty big parts of the story), and Sarah passes away.

Continue reading Courting with Camels

“Son of God”

As we come to Matthew 14:15-36, we see two crucial miracles which have been much pondered.  The first, of course, is the feeding of the five thousand; and the second is Jesus walking on the water.

C.S. Lewis considered these miracles to be (in one sense) very different from each other.

Walker Feeding of the 5000
Dirk A. Walker, “Feeding of the 5000” [link].
The feeding of the five thousand was a miracle which repeated, at a specific time and a specific place, what God does everywhere, all the time:

[T]he two instances of miraculous feeding . . . . involve the multiplication of a little bread and a little fish into much bread and much fish. . . .  Every year God makes a little corn into much corn: the seed is sown and there is an increase. . . .

Look down into every bay and almost every river.  The swarming, undulating fecundity shows he is still at work “thronging the seas with spawn innumerable” . . . .  And now, that day, at the feeding of the thousands, incarnate God does the same: does close and small, under his human hands, a workman’s hands, what He has always been doing in the seas, the lakes and the little brooks.

C.S.Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study 164-65 (MacMillan 1947).

In the multiplication of the bread and the fishes, Jesus shows himself to be doing what God does all the time.  Lewis calls this a “Miracle of the Old Creation.”

Continue reading “Son of God”