Counterfeit Books: Be on the lookout!

LOTOEarlier this week, Christianity Today reported that both Amazon and several of its third-party sellers sold counterfeit copies of Tish Harrison Warren’s Liturgy of the Ordinary. Warren issued a statement on her blog, as well as photos to help identify counterfeit copies of her book. According to Christianity Today, it is estimated that IVP Press has lost around $240,000 in retail sales over the past nine months as a result of these illegal sales—which also means no royalties for Warren.

Check out the links above for all the ugly (albeit informative) details, and head over to IVP Press to purchase the real version of Liturgy of the Ordinary at its current 40% off sale price of $9.60.  It’s an amazing piece of writing—one that Tish Harrison Warren and her publisher deserve to get paid for.

5 AM Theology

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Since the recent passing of a beloved Christian writer, a lot has been written in articles, blogs, and opinion columns about her theology, both in agreement and dissent. Her passing—and particularly the ensuing battle of beliefs—has led me to take a long look at my own theology, my own religious practices, and try to articulate the framework I operate in when I conceive of and talk about God. I’ve also reached the end of my Master’s coursework in theological studies. All combined, I’ve had a few things to think about lately.

My brain has been busily pulling out aspects of Christianity and sorting them into piles of “yeah, I believe that” and “no, I can’t go there.” It’s a healthy exercise, if tiring, and it’s one that everyone probably needs to do every few years. Like author Sarah Bessey says, “If our theology doesn’t shift and change over our lifetimes, then I have to wonder if we’re paying attention.”

I believe in a Holy Trinitarian God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three entities in perfect union with each other, mysteriously one. There are days, however, when I don’t believe God is triune. Honestly, some days it feels more like an idea cooked up by the Church Fathers than something revealed in Scripture. But as strange as it sounds, and as much Scripture and as many theological rabbit holes I have to dive into for a full explanation, I always return to an acceptance of God as three in one.

I do not believe God is male. I did, however, grow up in a church where God was referred to using only male pronouns and that is how I formed a vision of my relationship with God. I am not opposed to using the female pronouns to refer to God, I simply choose not to use them myself (as you’ve probably noticed). I am also not opposed to the neutral “Godself.” As with most things, I believe everyone should use whatever pronoun they’re most comfortable with when they speak of God. I choose to use male pronouns. Don’t hate me for it.

And don’t think it means I’m a complementarian. I do not believe God forbids women to preach to men in the church, be it from the pulpit or on the front steps. I’ve met too many women called by God to do both things.  In much the same way, I’ve met too many LGBTQ people who were called to preach for me to ever say that God doesn’t want them in the pulpit. People who are truly called to serve God–no matter who or where they are–will live out that call to God’s glory, and not for my (or anyone else’s) worldly approval.

I believe in Scripture. I believe that God inspired the writers of works included in the Bible and because of that, it should be viewed as holy. I believe the writers of Scripture wrote from Godly inspiration, but I also believe their writings reflect their distinctly male experience in an ancient society as part of a patriarchal culture. Holy? Most assuredly.  Completely devoid of gender and cultural biases? Um, no.

I believe Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection were an act of salvific grace. I believe if I have genuine faith in God, Jesus, and the Spirit, I will show that faith through my actions. I do not believe that I will never act wrongly or badly, nor do I believe I can complete any activities to earn my forgiveness. My forgiveness was given through the death and resurrection of Christ. If there was anything I could do to earn God’s grace or lose God’s grace, then the death of Jesus on the cross was pointless.

I believe God longs for human beings to choose to live in love and peace with each other, and we’ve chosen the path of hatred and war instead. I believe God longs for a relationship with us, but he wants us to freely choose him. God doesn’t want us to love him because he’s our Father or because we think we’re supposed to; he wants us to love him because we feel love in our hearts for him.

Which is what all of this boils down to for me, really:  God is love. God is grace. God is forgiveness. God is relationship. Jesus said the two most important commandments were to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. He didn’t give any exceptions to those two commandments.  And he most certainly did not say for us to love the sinner, but hate the sin.

He didn’t.  He didn’t have to issue any qualifiers like that because he knew ALL were going to continue to sin in thought or action, in one way or another, big or small. In my church, we acknowledge that fact every time we come to the table for the Eucharist when we pray:  Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We haven’t done your will, we’ve broken your law, rebelled against your love, not loved our neighbors, and ignored the cry of the needy. Forgive us, we pray.

I believe God tells us to just love people the best we can.  Let him be concerned with their (and our) sinful nature and need for forgiveness.  Just love him and each other well.

My theology is actually pretty simple:  Look around you. If it isn’t of love, it isn’t of God. So try to leave everything with a little more love.

 

Want me to write more about these or other topics? Drop me a note in the comments, and we’ll see what happens!

Recovering

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Is it just me, or did anyone else experience an Easter hangover this year? It could’ve been the consequences of too much country ham or corn pudding.  Maybe it was that second helping of broccoli casserole with a third yeast-roll chaser?  Yep!  I’m fairly certain I can blame carb loading for at least a small part of my post-Easter melancholia.

I also think there’s the tiniest bit of a letdown when a big project comes to a close, and Easter was the finish line for my Blog-Every-Day Challenge for Lent. I worked long hours at times to pull it off, but I’m proud of myself for staying with it (considering my penchant for quitting). To be honest, sitting down every day with my marked-up Bible and MacBook felt like reuniting with a long lost home. To borrow a well-worn phrase from John Wesley… I felt my heart “strangely warmed.”

So while Lent 2019 is now officially in the books, you’ll still find me hanging around here at 5 A.M. Thoughts, carb hangover notwithstanding!  In the meantime, I’m including a couple of interesting links below.

The first is an explanation of the Christian Year, including the current liturgical season of Easter (also referred to as Eastertide and more than just one Sunday). If you’ve never been affiliated with a church that follows the liturgical calendar, it can be a little overwhelming. This resource from College Wesleyan Church is extremely helpful.

Secondly, for all you Biblical Greek fans (or exegetical wannabes), an article from Christianity Today about who the New Testament writers had in mind when they wrote all those “you” verses.

From Relevant Magazine, an article by theologian N.T. Wright on Easter, Atonement, and the Real Message of the Cross.

Lastly, but of utmost importance, a link to the official GoFundMe page for Rachel Held Evans if you feel led to help with medical expenses. RHE is the author of Searching for Sunday and Inspired, as well as serving as co-curator for the Evolving Faith Conference.  Recently, she was hospitalized with flu and has had serious, unexpected complications.  She is currently in ICU in a medically-induced coma.  This talented author, wife, and mom (as well as her family) needs your prayers for strength.

Thanks for reading! I’ll see you back here in a day or two with more 5 A.M. Thoughts. Until then, here’s a little something from N.T. Wright for you to ponder…

Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven, but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about. ― N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope

 

Lent – Holy Saturday

Luke 23:50-56

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.

On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Lent – Good Friday

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When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:33-34, 44-46)

You are indeed my rock and my fortress;
    for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
take me out of the net that is hidden for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
    you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

Psalm 31:3-5

“A new sort of power will be let loose upon the world, and it will be the power of self-giving love. This is the heart of the revolution that was launched on Good Friday. You cannot defeat the usual sort of power by the usual sort of means. If one force overcomes another, it is still ‘force’ that wins. Rather, at the heart of the victory of God over all the powers of the world there lies self-giving love, which, in obedience to the ancient prophetic vocation, will give its life ‘as a ransom for many.’” (N.T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion)

Lent – Maundy Thursday

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When the hour came, [Jesus] took his place at the table, and the apostles with him.  He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer….” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:14-15, 19-20)

And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

“You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” (John 13:2-5, 13-17, 31)

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood:  Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.   (Book of Common Prayer)

Lent – Holy Tuesday

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Today’s Thought:  The greatest commandments.

Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. (Mark 12:13)

Jesus is accumulating followers, making the Romans and church leaders nervous. He’s been attracting large crowds when teaching at the temple, so Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians begin gathering there as well. They inundate Jesus with questions in an effort to catch him in a lie or blasphemy.

They ask who gave him authority to teach in the temple; whether or not the religious should pay taxes to Caesar; and quiz him on hypothetical situations dealing with the resurrection. (Those last questions were from the Sadducees who didn’t even believe in resurrection.)  And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that [Jesus] answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” (v28)

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ [Deuteronomy 6:4-5].  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ [Leviticus 19:18]. There is no other commandment greater than these.”  And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher….”  And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions (v29-34).

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you turned an instrument of shameful death into a means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  (Book of Common Prayer)

 

Lent – Holy Monday

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Today’s Thought:  Are we good caretakers?

Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.” Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him. (Luke 19:45-47)

I can tell you several bits of information about this scripture. I can tell you it was the day after Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt. That this particular scene took place during Passover, so there were thousands of pilgrims descending on the temple plaza. (Which, by the way, was the size of 29 football fields.) I can tell you how Jesus quoted from the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and how that challenged the powerful.

But the most important thing I can tell you about these words from Luke is how they were merely a precursor to the profound change Jesus would usher in as the Messiah. In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth he, like Jesus that day, reminds them to take good care of the holy temple of God. But now, because of the sacrifice Jesus would make within a week of his arrival, the temple is no longer standing in Jerusalem. Now, it’s within each of us.

Paul writes, Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (3:16-17).

So… What’s going on in the Temple, that holy place of God where the Spirit dwells? Do thoughts about money take up 29 football fields? Does hatred, or bitterness, or self-destruction? Is there space for Jesus to teach or will he be forced to flip a few tables first? Is there room for you to learn? You are God’s holy temple. Are you caring for it?

Monday’s Meditation: Those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God’s new Temple. They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet. ― N.T. Wright