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The Threat of a Chicken Sandwich

The Threat of a Chicken Sandwich

Writing for the New Yorker, Dan Piepenbring claims that the presence of Chick-fil-A in New York City is creepy in its “pervasive Christian traditionalism.” He cites the restaurant’s policies on closing on Sundays and its explicit Christian social views. In other words, Chick-fil-A is a symbol of that archaic institution called Christendom.

I note these things to affirm just how easily threatened the world is of good chicken served in the name of Jesus. How much more should they be threatened by bread and wine served by Jesus himself? If someone says that symbols don’t matter or don’t convey ideas, point them to a spicy chicken sandwich served at your local Chick-fil-A. And then point them to the elements of Christendom given by Jesus to memorialize his name. That’ll show them just how pervasive Jesus’ kingdom truly is.

A Letter to the Episcopalian Conservative

A Letter to the Episcopalian Conservative

My dearest conservative, Episcopalian, Evangelical friend,
It has come to my attention that there may still be some of you who have not bowed down to Baal or Beyonce. However, the very structure that you have loved and the very articles that you have cherished have been completely abandoned by your priests. They have left you out to be slaughtered by wolves. I would like to make a simple invitation. You are invited to join our small communion of churches. It treasures your 39 articles and believes and affirms your Evangelical roots. If you would like to taste of it, and live here in Pensacola, you are welcome to join us this Sunday at 9:30. We are liturgically minded and avoid the kind of silliness you despise in modern evangelicalism. We look forward to meeting you.
Yours truly,
Reverend Uriesou Brito

 

Detective Work in Sin Patterns

Detective Work in Sin Patterns

Overcoming sin patterns is an incredibly arduous task. It is primarily difficult because we are terrific analyzers of patterns in others, but remarkably inefficient when it comes to discovering sin patterns in our own. But we should be in the business of pattern detecting.

Say you have a tendency to overreact to situations in your life. A pickle jar falls to the floor and shatters into millions of pickle-flavored crystallized pieces of glass. You then look to the heavens and declare that Zeus and Apollos have betrayed you and perhaps even the God of Abraham was in on the conspiracy. Those around you look in amazement at just how much that pickle jar meant to you. After all, no one would weep and cuss if the pickle jar didn’t have sentimental value.

After you come to your senses, you realize that the pickle jar wasn’t really that valuable and that you wept in vain. You may even feel embarrassed by the scene you caused. What do you do now? You can begin by asking God to forgive you. And he does. He is slow to anger. But then what? Well, you must begin with an analysis of those patterns. If you need help you can even ask your friends or family if they see a pattern. If so, you may need to do an autopsy of the event examining the body of evidence left in those patterns in the last few days and weeks and determine why things cause you to overact so easily. Be so familiar with that particular sin pattern that you become highly self-aware of the need to avoid repeating that action and pattern the next time. Say to yourself: “Self, I need to kill this pattern before it kills me.” Keep thinking and examining that sin pattern until you become so tired of its affect that you learn to despise it.

The Emmaus Road Hermeneutic

The Emmaus Road Hermeneutic

Vespers’ Homily at Providence Church

This is the Easter season! Easter is the Gospel’s exclamation point to the question mark of the crucifixion. We are only on the 11th day. We still have 39 to go.

But in this season of celebration, the resurrection answers more questions than merely “Is Jesus still in the tomb?” It also answers questions about how the Bible is to be interpreted. The Book of Luke tells us that two men were on the road to Emmaus and encountered the resurrected Lord. The Bible says their faces were downcast. Jesus inquires and Cleopas asks Jesus if he was aware of the things that happened in Jerusalem. Jesus plays along with their inquiry. He says: “What things?”

And so, they explain in detail all what happened.

Then Jesus breaks into the scene and gives them a lesson in Bible interpretation.

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

From this statement we gain at least two interpretive principles that we need to keep in mind when we read or hear the Bible in whatever season of the Church.

The first is the principle of cross before glory. The Messiah had to suffer in order to enter glory. The Bible emphasizes this theme again and again. It’s also stated as the death and resurrection principle. In other words, when we read the Bible we should expect things to die and be raised again. As you read the Scriptures and find death and violence and blood, remember that these are preludes to the resurrections moments; moments of triumph and victory.

The second is the principle of Christo-centrism. Jesus says from Genesis to Malachi, Jesus is the central figure. The Bible is a rich book that cannot be exhausted. The Church will continue to find new and fresh ways of applying the text of the Bible for the next thousand years. The Bible is a Christo-centered book. Jesus is present in the creation of the world, in the crushing of Sisera’s head, in the fire of Pentecost, and in the ultimate destruction of the devil. We are not merely New Testament Christians; we are whole Bible Christians, because everything from beginning to end breathes the glory of the resurrected Christ.

So, the resurrection is more than just an event. It has profound implications for how we read the Bible. It teaches us that God raised his Son from the dead, but also put thousands of resurrection events in His Word to build the expectation for the Resurrection.

And even though the resurrection of Jesus has occurred, it is only the first fruits of the final resurrection–the resurrection of the living and the dead at the end of History. That resurrection will be unparalleled by any previous resurrections.

 

Maundy Thursday Reflection

Maundy Thursday Reflection

I believe that one of the greatest harms we can cause as Christians is to treat Jesus as a passion-less Lord. We tend to view him as a first-century philosopher who merely “informs our intellect…deposits new ideas into our mind, touching only the calm, cool, collected space of reflection and contemplation.” And add to that, we actually feel we are so distant from him that our wants, loves, and longings have nothing to do with our faith. Those things we so desperately desire are too trivial for this first-century rabbi to concern himself.

But what if I told you that Jesus Christ died for your desires and passions and longings? What if I told you that Jesus is infinitely hungrier to fulfill your desires than you are? What if on this Maundy Thursday Jesus says: “Dine with me and the kingdom will be yours!” The God of passion sacrifices his Son so that our sins are forgiven and our true passions restored.

The Seduction of Slogans

It’s important to grasp that political parties need slogans to seduce our attention. Let’s consider the famous conservative slogan “End Abortion.” When it comes to ending abortion, millions are given to accentuate the slogan; to make the slogan an identity marker of a political agenda so that when one looks at the party they say, “Behold, that’s the ‘End Abortion party.'” In fact, since 1973 we have had the artistic ardor to perfect that slogan. Yes, millions and millions over many years have been spent to inculcate that idea into the public mind. Politicians proudly stand in front of these signs showing their support for life and their disdain for Margaret Sanger.

It is true that perhaps one party will desire fewer abortions than others, but the slogan deceives us into thinking that every politician in a party will work vociferously to end abortion. The evidence, however, reveals that when the opportunity arises to show the world our disgust for the practice, the “End Abortion” agenda becomes secondary. “Yes, we will end abortion, but there are conditions outside ourselves that we must submit to before we can achieve that final goal. We are working to that end, but before we get there we must take several detours; it’s a complex issue, after all.”

So, what we see, is that slogans in the context of political discourse serve simply to distract us. They persuade us that everything is being done behind the scenes to secure such an outcome. But what continues to happen is that wicked men make their deals in the dark. They distract us from our main duty of worship and ultimate trust in the God of life.

God’s Communication in Worship

God’s Communication in Worship

God communicates his Gospel in many ways this morning. God’s language is his service to us. He could have focused exclusively on our sin. “You are sinners! Remember your sinfulness, confess your sinfulness, be ashamed of your sinfulness and the sinfulness of your sin!” But that language, though critical to the Gospel, is a small part of his conversation. He also communicates in explanations, in absolution, in singing, food, and drink and with his presence. Aren’t you glad God’s language is not one-sided; aren’t you glad that He serves you in more than one way? Aren’t you glad that His Gospel is yours to be heard, embraced, cherished, absorbed and eaten? Prepare for God’s Gospel through his many ways of communication.

Matters of the Heart

Matters of the Heart

It needs to be stressed that our goal is not well-behaved children, but godly children. Godliness produces biblical joy and spontaneous smiles through life. There is a certain kind of well-behaved child that displays every sign of life but lack genuine interest in life. They smile at the mechanics of day-to-day interactions but within express a disdain for relationships. Parents, don’t confuse both. Cultivate what the Puritans referred as “heart religion;” an intense digging into your child’s emotions and imaginations. Bring out in daily conversations the heart of the matter so that the matters of the heart can be discussed and engaged. It’s a worthy pursuit.

The Meaning of Lent

What is Lent? we may ask. Every year as we enter into this season, we need to look at it afresh. It’s a season of profound healing to many; a season filled with echoes of forgiveness. Lent is the penitential season of the Church. Lent is the purple of royalty. Lent is the desert before the promised land of the Resurrection. Lent is the wilderness prison for Israel and simultaneously the way out of the wilderness. Lent teaches of the incurable disease of sin and yet the cure for sin. Lent is the long wait Jacob endured for Rachel. Lent is the “Thus saith the Lord,” when the devil whispers, “Who said ye shall be like God?” Lent is the sacrifices of incomplete priests and the exile of a perfect man so that we might be set free. Lent is the love of injustice poured on a just Man. Lent is fasting with hope. Lent is giving up idols and turning to the true icon of God, Jesus Christ. Lent is finding joy in the midst of suffering. Lent is loving without expecting to be loved. Lent is death. Lent is death to us. Lent is repenting and being forgiven. Lent is exploring your weakness. Lent is judging yourself first. Lent is John the Baptist preparing the way of the Lord with locusts for the unjust and honey for the just.

Lent is a pattern for redemption. Lent is God moving his people from desert to city, from ruin to a new civilization. Lent is obedience through sacrifice, love through death.

And in this season, we are called to do life together in these next 40 days not because we wish to earn Christ’s sacrifice but because Christ’s sacrifice took away our ability to earn him. If Jesus had not died, we would still be 2,000 years later seeking to earn the way to the Father. But we cannot earn what has been earned for us. If fasting or ashes or any such thing made us acceptable, Lent would be a wasteful experience. Lent is fruitful for us because Jesus has been fruitful and multiplied in his death.

Lent is active. Are we invested in destroying evil or being deceived by evil? Killing sin so that sin does not kill us? In actively seeking Jesus or sitting passively waiting for a mystical experience? In waiting to serve or seeking to serve? Pursuing righteousness or waiting for righteousness to bump into you? Lent is actively pursuing the relief of others. Lent is giving up childish ways and embracing the ways of Calvary.

Lent is contemplative. How often have we meditated on the truth that God is for us because of the cross? He is for us. Like a father is for his child; like a mother who praises her daughter; like a satisfied teacher with his student; yes, in those ways, but so much more. He is for us even though it cost his life; he is for us even though it would shake the very universe he created. He is for us even though we were not for him: while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

Contemplate the God-is-with-us theme of Lent. For God so loved the world that he sent his son to be for us.

Why Lent? Because Lent takes away our arrogance. It instills a sense of need. It builds a habit of dependence. It prepares our wounds to be healed by Another. Lent is the power of Another to do what we cannot do for ourselves. We need Lent because without it Christ is no king, we are no people, and life is no gift. We all must take up our cross and follow the Christ of the cross. In Him we move, and live and have our being.

 

 

Exhortation for Communion

This table means that help has come; that we are not left to wander alone in agony and grief, but that Christ has provided a rich banquet for his people. The evil of Adam’s banquet is replaced with the good food of Christ’s accomplishments. In him we have freedom from bondage and deliverance through his blood. The bondage of the first Adam has been undone through the final Adam, Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God!