Kingdom

What is Holy Saturday?

The Passion Week provides diverse theological emotions for the people of God. Palm Sunday commences with the entrance of a divine King riding on a donkey. He comes in ancient royal transportation. The royal procession illicit shouts of benediction, but concludes only a few days later with shouts of crucifixion as the king is hung on a tree.

The Church also celebrates Maundy Thursday as our Messiah provides a new commandment to love one another just as He loved us. The newness of the commandments is not an indication that love was not revealed prior (Lev. 19), but that love is now incarnate in the person of love, Jesus Christ. We then proceed to sing of the anguish of that Good Friday as our blessed Lord is humiliated by soldiers and scolded by the offensive words of the religious leaders of the day. As he walks to the Mount, his pain testifies to Paul’s words that he suffered even to the point of death (Phil. 2)But hidden in this glaringly distasteful mixture of blood, vinegar, and bruised flesh is the calmness of the day after our Lord’s crucifixion.

After fulfilling the great Davidic promise in Psalm 22, our Lord rests from his labors in the tomb. Whatever may have happened in those days before his resurrection, we know that Christ’s work as the unblemished offering of love was finished.

The Church calls this day Blessed Sabbath or more commonly, Holy Saturday. On this day, our Lord reposed (rested) from his accomplishments. Many throughout history also believe that Holy Saturday is a fulfillment of Moses’ words:

God blessed the seventh day. This is the blessed Sabbath. This is the day of rest, on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works . . .(Gen. 2:2)

The Church links this day with the creation account. On day seven Yahweh rested and enjoyed the fruit of his creation. Jesus Christ also rested in the rest given to him by the Father and enjoyed the fruits of the New Creation he began to establish and would be brought to light on the next day.

As Alexander Schmemann observed:

Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works.

Holy Saturday is a day of rest for God’s people; a foretaste of the true Rest that comes in the Risen Christ. The calmness of Holy Saturday makes room for the explosion of Easter Sunday. On this day, we remember that the darkness of the grave and the resting of the Son were only temporary for when a New Creation bursts into the scene the risen Lord of glory cannot contain his joy, and so he gives it to us.

10 Things to Expect in a Federal Vision Church

10 Things to Expect in a Federal Vision Church

I recently read a post by a frustrated woman on the outcome of some decisions made in different PCA Presbyteries. Among many things, this individual observed that she was deeply concerned for the well-being of the people who attend PCA churches. She urged them to leave the denomination. Many of them have bought into the “Federal Vision theology,” and are possibly doomed to a “Christ-less eternity,” she wrote. They also are grace-less, because they emphasize a robust faith that is not dead.  Among the other things mentioned, apparently Federal Vision advocates do not care about personal relationships, but only church business, because we put so much emphasis on the church. And to top off the list of accusations, we have traded “a relationship with Jesus for religion.”

I am not a PCA pastor, but as someone who served in the PCA for several years, I do want to defend those brothers who are referred to as Federal Vision. Suffice to say, these accusations are childish in every way.

At the same time, I know there is a lot of misunderstanding out there. And in case you are either curious or tempted to visit one of these so-called Federal Vision churches, I would like to prepare the bold visitor for ten things he/she is to expect as they enter into a typical one:

1) Apart from using the term to clarify ideas and misunderstandings in friendly conversations and the occasional men’s study, the term Federal Vision will most likely never be used in the pulpit.  Further, opponents and even advocates of the Federal (Covenant) Vision differ on many points. The closest thing to a consensus is found here, but there are still are sorts of distinctions and qualifications that need to be made.

2) Be prepared for that archaic practice of singing the Psalms. Yes, we confess to singing from Yahweh’s songbook, as well as some old time religion music from the 4th century. Expect very vibrant singing; the one that roars!

3) Be alerted that we are a very friendly congregation, and contrary to what you have heard (if you have ever heard such a thing) we will greet you and likely invite you to lunch after church.

4) Also, do not be alarmed by the little cries in the congregation (Ps. 8:2-3). We really love our little ones and we encourage parents to train them up in worship, and the best place to do that is…in worship.

5) You may be asked to kneel (Ps. 95:6). We believe posture is important to God. Obviously, you do not have to kneel. It is optional, though everyone will.

6) The pastor may get a bit theological at times, he may take the time to explain the text in detail, but he usually explains his theologizing and biblicizing and is very consistent in applying his text and theology to the life of the body.

7) This may truly shock you, but we have the Lord’s Supper every week. And furthermore, we offer bread (real bread) and wine (real wine). This may take some adjustment, but I promise it will make sense after a while.

8) And I know the red flags are all over the place by now, and this is not going to help, but we also believe that baptized children are called to partake of the table of the Lord. Here is where we confess we have strayed from broad Reformed practices. But we have only done so because we believe that the early Christians practiced this. We further believe that I Corinthians 11 actually confirms our practice.

9) The ministers may wear an alb and a stole (though many others may simply wear a suit and tie). This practice serves to point out the unique role the man of God has in proclaiming God’s truth in Word and Sacrament. This may appear very Roman Catholic to you, and you are right. Of course, it is also very Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and yes, even Reformed (see data on clerical collars).

10) Finally, you are correct to assert that we love the Church. We love her because Christ died for her. Our Reformed forefathers were clear. But the Church is no substitute for Christ, the Church is called to build on her firm foundation, which is Christ. You cannot separate Groom and  Bride. And what does this Christ demand of his Church? He demands repentance, and in repentance you will find fullness of life.

I trust you will visit us, but if you do so, we want you to be prepared.

 

Saturday Night Live (SNL), DJesus Uncrossed, the Romans, the Jews and the God of the Bible

DJesus UnCrossed is SNL’s latest attempt to de-christ Christ. Of course, in our day, Jesus is easy to disrespect. One wonders if SNL would attempt a comedy journey through the life of Muhammad. No further comments needed.

David Flowers believes that the skit has something to teach us, and that we should begin to listen to our critics. He argues that the skit has hermeneutical problems, but that it shows our hypocrisy and inconsistency in our faith. Flowers argues that this is the result of an American-shaped Jesus. He is correct to assert that humor has a way of offending Christians and revealing weaknesses and hypocrisy. We should be aware of them.

The Jesus raised from the dead murdering Romans out of revenge seems bizarre in light of the biblical narrative. Flowers is correct to assert that it reveals the Jesus kick-ass motif portrayed by many in our evangelical culture. It is easy to object to the video’s false portrayals, but in what sense is this skit true, even with its exaggerative and faulty hermeneutics? There is something to be learned here. Flowers is correct that we are to listen to our critics. The point, however, is that our critics don’t go far enough.

Surely the 2nd Amendment Rights’ Jesus is very American and Neo-Conservative like. But that doesn’t even begin to describe the type of justice-driven Messiah we as Orthodox Christians believe.

For starters, we believe in a Messiah that is ascended to the right hand of the Father, and from that place of kingship rules and reigns over us and creation. He is not an unmoved Mover. Further, Jesus did not have the Romans in mind when He judged, He had the corrupt and idolatrous first century Jewish generation in mind. Upon them, He brought a profound tribulation (Mt. 24). The Gospel Lesson this Sunday is Luke 13:31-35 where Jesus laments over Jerusalem. He sought her with love, but she continued to kill and murder the prophets sent with a message of salvation and deliverance. The vengeful Jesus portrayed by SNL has no interest in context, but it should well observe that the Messiah who destroys is first the Messiah who shows mercy.

How Can we Learn from SNL?

First, Saturday Night Live is not a theology show. Its humor is devoid of accuracy, and frankly, that is not their interest. They have been on the air for 37 years because of their exaggerated (especially in the last ten years) view of current events. This is important to keep in mind.

Secondly, use these opportunities to correct false information. Bill Maher, the well-known HBO atheist host, does this better than anyone I know. He takes a portion of Scriptures and twists its meaning in a fashion that would make even the devil jealous. This is a good time for Christians to be hermeneutically savvy. In fact, go ahead and make a t-shirt with that slogan “I am hermeneutically savvy.”

Thirdly, do not allow an exclusively New Covenant narrative to shape your theology. As James Jordan observes: “The division of the Bible into “Old Testament” and “New Testament” is merely for convenience, for the Scriptures are one narrative from beginning to end.” It is important to note also that this one narrative portrays God as a God of justice who says all vengeance belongs to Him. The modern Marcionites have failed us just as much as SNL has.

Finally, remember that the life of Jesus–especially as we meditate upon it in this Lenten Season–is a life of cross before glory; suffering before resurrection. The Jesus that came out of the grave was first a Jesus that came riding on a donkey as the Prince of Peace. But that same Jesus has promised to come again riding a horse of judgment upon Jerusalem and upon all those who despise His Name.

The Political Discourse and the Kingdom of God

no preview“There is not one square inch that Jesus does not claim ‘Mine,’ ” wrote the great Dutch theologian, Abraham Kuyper. Many of us agree with this universal claim, but at the same time we also differ in how this particular claim is to be applied. The political discourse of our day provides us with a challenging example of how the Lordship of Christ can be applied in different ways.  People that I deeply admire and have gained tremendous theological insights over the years are diametrically at odds with each other’s proposals. Kuyperians, we may all be, but our strategizing differs rather sharply at times.

One of my mentors, James B. Jordan, has argued that Mitt Romney is the only option for conservatives. The possibility of another Obama term is frightening, and should settle the issue. Jordan–and others—makes the valid point that politics is messy. Thus, politics cannot be perfectionistic. It is not hard to see the implications of Jim’s assessment. He is pointing to Ron Paul, and the perception that many have that he is the perfect candidate.   Paul is a Constitutionalist who has refused to compromise in principle throughout his career. He is a rare gem indeed. Jordan–as he has informed me–finds Ron Paul appealing on many levels, but for Jordan, Ron Paul is not the nominee.  Jordan’s theological acumen and remarkably insightful  analysis of the Bible and its application to all of life should give even the most committed supporter of the Texas Congressman some pause to consider. Jim Jordan is no dummy when it comes to the political environment, and he is well aware of Christian libertarians, since many of his fellow Reconstructionists–Gary North and R.J. Rushdoony– in the 70’s and 80’s were ardent disciples of Misean economics (it is worth noting that they did not imbibe of Misean theology in the process).

On the other hand, one of the wisest pastors I have had the privilege of meeting and interacting over the years takes a different approach. Douglas Wilson, known for his titanic intellect and ability to make the likes of Christopher Hitchens weep intellectually, will not endorse Mitt Romney. Doug is no stranger to the political scene. He breathes Kuyperianism, and both his books and blog posts (however pugilistic they may appear to some) express an unashamedly Biblical viewpoint. Wilson believes we have left the door open too many times to Republicans over the years, and they have not only entered our open doors, but also re-arranged the furniture and expected our full approval of the new design. Wilson argues that we should be more cautious before tattooing the big “R” on our right arm.

These distinctions aside, as I mentioned to my dear friend Andrew Sandlin recently, “we all desire the same goal.” Our goal as Kuyperians/Old/New School Reconstructionists/Theocrats/Theonomists, or whatever term you attach to those who love the reign of King Jesus is to alert the world that Jesus is Lord and Caesar and Barack Obama are not. We all share the view that worshipping in the Name of the Triune God trumps our political allegiances. We all affirm that the kingdom of God does not report to the left or the right, but above where its headquarters reside.

I am instinctively fearful of these political brouhahas. I have witnessed strong and faithful Reformed groups split because of their differing political strategies; men who held virtually every position in common, except their political candidates. As a result, their roads parted, and fruitful ministry opportunities disappeared.

I offer no profound new insight into these discussions, except the pastoral and Kuyperian hope that we maintain our priorities; that we would maintain a kingdom vision that is far greater than the elections of November. My hope is not that these discussions should cease for they are the very fabric of the American culture, but that they would be viewed as a small part, and not the center of the agenda of the Kingdom of God.

Being a Disciple

“Being a disciple of Jesus is not primarily a matter of getting the right ideas and doctrines and beliefs into your head in order to guarantee proper behavior; rather, it’s a matter of being the kind of person wholoves rightly—who loves God and neighbor and is oriented to the world by the primacy of that love. We are made to be such people by our immersion in the material practices of Christian worship—though affective impact, over time, of sights and smell in water and wine.”

– James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom

{HT: Steve Wilkins}

Andrew Sandlin on the nature of the Kingdom

John 18:36 is often misunderstood. When Jesus said before Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world,” He did not mean that He is only concerned about heavenly and not earthly things. He meant that the source of His kingdom was not the Roman Empire or any other human political system.

Jesus’ Kingdom is His Father’s heavenly Kingdom that invades the earth with claims of truth versus all lies. That truth may not be domesticated by politics (Republican or Democrat!) but it stands above and judges all human systems and actions. It demands allegiance of all people.

Everyone who is of the truth hears Jesus Christ (v. 37), and to stand for Jesus is to stand for the truth amid a world of lies.