Friday, April 25, 2008

This week's Sabbath School lesson: Jesus the teacher

Roy Adams has been kidnapped!

Nothing else explains this week's lesson -- a lesson in which one of the Adventist Review's best writers and editors supposedly asked us to imagine "millions drooling in the palm of our hand."

As the members of my Freshman Bible class would say upon reading this, "Ewwww!!!"

Then too, Roy knows how to write a Sabbath School lesson that we can actually teach; he's proven this in previous weeks. But this week's lesson boils down to the idea that "Jesus was a great teacher -- and that means he taught a lot of great stuff."

And as any self-respecting Sabbath School teacher would say upon being asked to teach such a vapid lesson, "Arggghhh!!!"

So . . . given the discrepancy between this week's lesson and the kind of thing Roy Adams would actually write, it's clear that:
  • He's been kidnapped.
  • his attackers have attempted to conceal their perfidious crime by hiring an imposter to write this week's Sabbath School lesson,
  • and it's time to unleash the All-Adventist Ninja Strike Force so they can find Roy and bring him home to write a proper Sabbath School lesson -- one we could actually teach.
Meanwhile, I'd suggest you focus on one aspect of the Sermon on the Mount -- the Beatitudes, say, or the Lord's Prayer . . .
  • but focus on that one, specific, manageable chunk of text,
  • develop its meaning,
  • and ask the members of your class how they could apply it to their lives in the coming week.
Meanwhile, we need to pray for Roy's safe return -- and we can only hope he does so before next week's lesson!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

One nation under God

Disturbing article in The New York Times about Protestants in Russia -- a resurgent Orthodox Church is making it difficult for them to meet, own property, or even hold Sunday School classes for children. And no, it's not as bad as it was under the Communists . . . but it's getting kind of chilly over there.

(Click on the title of this post for a link to the article.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

This week's Sabbath School lesson: the humanity of Christ

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need -- Hebrews 4:14-16, NIV.
This week's lesson would be a lot easier to teach if Jesus was like Superman, i.e.
  • If he looked human,
  • and he acted human,
  • but he really wasn't human -- not like you and me.
No, if you believed this, you'd eliminate the embarrassing idea that The God Who Created the Universe also did time as a 33-year-old Jewish male -- and as such, he ate, drank, blew his nose, and excused himself every now and then to go looking for the nearest restroom.

Sounds downright blasphemous, doesn't it?

Then too, we all know how much our choices are shaped by what's going on in our bodies. As a diabetic, for instance, my moods can vary with the amount of glucose in my blood.
  • Too much sugar, and I get sleepy.
  • Not enough sugar, and I turn cranky and irritable.
Now add all those other chemicals that affect our behavior -- hormones such as cortisol and testosterone, or neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin -- and there are times you wonder how much we really control just exactly who we are.

Yet Jesus never sinned, never slipped, never "lost it" -- not even when he was hungry, sleepy, stressed, or angry with his followers. In short, Jesus had the kind of self-control that seems . . .

Well, it seems downright "superhuman."

That's why so many church members are really Docetists -- in their heart of hearts, they believe Jesus never got hungry, never got lonely, and was never, ever tempted to doubt God the way we so often do.

Yes, it's easy to believe Jesus was some kind of Superman.

But then we'd never know what it's like to be really human.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I'm speechless

Hat-tip to Doug Clayville for pointing out this response by pastors' wives to all those times we've used them for sermon illustrations.

And yes, my wife thinks it's hilarious, though I don't know why . . .

(Click on the title of this post for the link.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Jesus wept.

Click on the title of this post for Foreign Policy magazine's list of the World's Worst Religious Leaders.

Friday, April 11, 2008

This week's Sabbath School lesson: the deity of Christ

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted" -- Matthew 28:16-17, NIV.
Robert Johnston once pointed out that all Christology can be boiled down to two statements:
  • Jesus prayed.
  • And Jesus' followers prayed to him.
The first statement is the basis for our belief that Jesus is human -- and as such, he was forced to rely upon God just as much as we do.

The second statement is the basis for our belief that Jesus is divine -- and as such, he is the source of every blessing in our lives.

Now obviously, we've had a difficult time explaining how both statements could be true -- and over the years, believers have tried to simplify matters by getting rid of one or the other.
  • Docetists and other Gnostics, for instance, said Jesus was divine -- but not really human,
  • While Ebionites and Arians said Jesus was human -- but not really divine.
  • And then you had Nestorians and Apollonarians, both of whom said Jesus was not fully one or the other, but a hybrid of the two.
The result is our belief in the Trinity -- and no, it is not an easy doctrine to understand.

But it beats the alternatives.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

CEU Stuff: Martin Marty & Son in Portland

Martin Marty and his son Peter will give a three-day seminar, June 18-20, at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon. The cost for clergy is $180 if you register by May 25.

Myself, I'm going to try and shake loose some CEU money so that I can attend. Marty Sr. is not only the dean of American church historians, he's also a sharp observer of contemporary religion -- and an absolute hoot as a speaker.

(Click on the title of this post for a link to the Cathedral's website, and registration information.)

Friday, April 04, 2008

This week's Sabbath School lesson: Who was Jesus?

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" -- Mark 8:27-29, NIV.

Just prior to these words, Christ had performed one of his most puzzling miracles: the healing of a blind man in Bethsaida. Rather than heal him outright, however, Jesus had spit on the man's eyes, placed hands on him, and then asked, "Do you see anything?"

"I see people," the man replied, "but they look like trees walking around."

And so, like a TV repairman fiddling with the picture until it looks right, Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes once again -- and only then was the man's sight restored; only then does the Bible say "he saw everything clearly."

As I said, it's a strange story; it's often made me wonder why Jesus could not have healed both sight and understanding at one and the same time.

Then again, it's no more puzzling than what follows . . . for in the verses quoted above, Peter sees who Jesus really is. "You are the Christ," Peter says -- and as Matthew 16:16ff points out, this declaration was just as much a gift from God as any miracle Jesus ever performed.

Yet just like the blind man from Bethsaida, Peter sees but he does not understand; he knows Jesus is the Christ, but he has no idea of the cross.
[Jesus] then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men" -- Mark 8:31-33, NIV.

It is only with time that Peter -- like the blind man -- will both see and understand.

Likewise, this week's lesson asks, "Who is Jesus?" And just like Peter, the members of your class will be quick to answer: "He is the Christ -- the Son of the Living God."

No, they will see the right answer, sure enough.

But learning to understand this answer . . . that takes time.

And that's what this quarter's lessons are all about.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Job Opening

Friend-of-a-friend told me about a big church (400+ members) in the Midwest that's having a hard time finding a pastor -- it's a college town, and they're looking for "a young pastor who is going somewhere."

Send me your name if you're interested, and I'll pass it along.