Advent means Christ dressed himself in human flesh and became man for us that we might become true humans for him. But Advent also entails a fuller picture. The Advent signifies past, present, and future comings. Christ came under the law, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin Mary, but He also promises to come triumphantly for us each Lord’s Day gathering, and to come again at the end of history. Advent needs to keep all these comings in mind.
Robert Letham writes that we are addressed not merely as “discrete individuals; instead, we are placed by God in solidaristic groups or teams.” Adam was our head and so plunged us into sin, death, and condemnation. What Christ did for us was also as captain and head of a team of which we are part. Our justification is grounded in our union with our captain.
I have argued before–as have others–that the Church needs to develop a theology of patience. After all, the Edenic sin of impatience– that of taking something without being prepared–has plunged us into innumerable other sins. We are a future-oriented people, which means we can afford to be patient.
Robert Jenson observes that Church must regard “waiting as the most creative of activities…theology is itself a form of the waiting we must practice (viii).” The Church needs to carefully work through a host of issues in this phase of history. Thus, an incremental approach may suit us at this stage. Not that we compromise on non-essentials, but that we take the Augustinian principle of theologizing first and foremost on creedal/essential matters. The lack of didactic creedal theology is the source of much division in this day. Trinitarian thinking has become a mere footnote in the minds of many when in reality it should shape our very being and life.
Patience is a theological dogma. May we learn it and practice it.
In preparation for this Sunday’s sermon on Genesis 3 I am reading James Hamilton excellent and lengthy essay The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman. In it he observes that a proper biblical hermeneutic would mean that” from start to finish the OT is a messianic document, written from a messianic perspective, to sustain a messianic hope.” Hamilton later observes that we need to do careful textual work before looking for Jesus under every rock. Fair enough. However, if Jesus is temple, sacrifice, priest, prophet, and king, what else is there in the Old Creation that is not messianic in nature? For the record, Jesus may not be under the rock, but he is the true Rock.
A theology of Bridal maturation would not dichotomize, but rather strengthen the spiritual and fleshly nature of the covenant under a new creation.
Also, covenant theology is also expansion theology. By making limitations to the New Creation one is decreasing the glory of the new. Hebrews makes the point that the New Creation is more glorious and greater than the Old Creation by making it more inclusive.
The authority and power Jesus receives at the Right Hand of the Father is the certainty we have that all the nations of the earth will conquered by the power of the gospel; that our evangelism is not in vain. –Sermon Excerpt for Ascension
Alexander Schmemann devotes a section in his splendid For the Life of the World to the subject of joy. For the Christian, joy is a way of life. In fact, Schemann writes:
Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy.
A joyless faith is evidence of a weak faith. But what would lead a Christian to be joyless? Living in habitual sin takes away. It replaces it with cynicism and bitterness. Joy is the result of faithfulness.
Another element present in joyless Christians is a low ecclesiology. Those who are least interested in the work of the Bride find little reason to be joyful. Their joy is merely temporary. Biblical joy means entering into the mission of the Church in all her endeavors. It means embracing the wisdom of God, which flows from the Church. Those who do not long for Sunday find satisfaction and pleasure through ungodly means.
The Christian faith is an eucharistic faith; a faith that delights in thanksgiving. In the Church, the Christian learns that his joy comes primarily through the service of God to His people. We find joy at the table He has prepared for us. We find joy when bread and wine are tasted. In the Sacrament of the Lord’s Table we discover our joy in knowing that the Lord is good.
Joy is also the fruit of liturgy. The Lord’s Day liturgy establishes a pattern for living weekly. It provides for us a gospel model to work, to live, and to love. As Schmemann elaborates, the liturgy is a ministerial function of a group in the interest of the whole community. In liturgy, we are celebrating the imago dei. We are delighting in the humanity of others in the body. We are feasting in the work of creation. We are bearing testimony to the world that God has not forgotten His mission, and that He is calling all peoples to enter into His joy by embracing His Bride.
Gil Bailie’s book Violence Unveiled quotes René Girard as saying that,
The tomb is where the “father of lies” and the “murderer from the beginning” can be counted on to issue his solemn reassurances and conjure into existence another of the “kingdoms” of “this world” or revive a flagging one.
In Jesus’ resurrection that kingdom was short-lived; it only lasted three days.
Jesus’ declaration to Lazarus in John 11:44 “Unbind him, and let him go,” is what the tomb heard that Easter morning from the Father.
A friend urged caution on the repetitive use of terms like “worldview” and “sacramental.” I concur that there is certainly an overuse of these terms. But is it possible that these words are still not familiar enough? In theo-speak circles they are used as often as conjunctions, but in most of the evangelical circles terms like worldview and sacramental are quite odd and if ever defined. So, are they still useful? do they still have function in modern evangelical grammar? I tend to think that they are still helpful.
A worldview still describes a way of thinking about the world; thus, a Christian worldview still conveys the sense the word attempts to convey– that of comprehensiveness and exhaustiveness. Likewise, sacramental is still helpful. Something sacramental, to quote James Jordan, can refer “to things sacred or to rituals.” For instance, God’s world is sacramental; it displays the majesty and sacredness of God. On the other hand, God’s means of grace in His Church are sacramental. They are distinct rituals given to the body to convey grace and truth.
Perhaps a better way of considering these terms is to desire qualification, nuances, and specifications. How does your worldview handle the question of gay marriage? How does your worldview handle the question of assurance? etc. etc. Similarly, “when you use the term sacramental, are you referring to the sacredness of language, art, etc.? or are you referring to the liturgy of the church where we eat and drink Christ’s body by faith?
We still need some level of general vocabulary to convey grand ideas, though we also need to specify and qualify these terms when needed.