The fourth in a series on the Lord’s Prayer, this sermon covers Matthew 6:9b.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Our Thanksgiving was rather ordinary. That is a good thing. I’m not too fond of surprises showing up on a holiday.
The day itself was fairly decent. The rains stopped. This was particularly fortunate because I grill my turkey on an outdoor, charcoal grill. There’s nothing (okay, I’m using a bit of hyperbole here) more miserable than trying to start a fire and tend to grilling in a downpour. This was (if recollection serves me correctly), the fourth time out of five years that I’ve grilled the turkey. Three Thanksgivings ago was the exception because we were in an apartment without a porch, so grilling wasn’t much of an option. Once again, the turkey turned out to perfection. Grilling it also frees up the oven for other things. Not everyone has a double oven.
Elise worked Wed. night, so prior to that she baked the dinner rolls and made the pumpkin pie. The pie recipe came from Cook’s Illustrated. The secret ingredient for the filling was the addition of canned yams (sweet potatoes). I thought the pie was quite good.
After seeing a few suggestions for cranberry sauce bandied about on Facebook, I had Shelley make the sauce with half the sugar, a little bit of orange juice concentrate, some nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. I think most of us liked how this turned out – not as sweet, much tarter, and some interesting flavors not usually found in cranberry sauce – especially not in the canned ones!
While Shelley was cooking the sauce, I was slicing cranberries for use in a spinach, cranberry, and mandarin orange salad. I accidentally slipped my fingers and sliced into a fingernail with, of all things, a paring knife – albeit a very sharp, Victorinox paring knife.
I also prepared some stuffed mushrooms. I baked it, and then promptly forgot to serve it. Not so with the stuffing. However, the vege-chicken slices suffered the same fate as the mushrooms. Not that we needed the two dishes that were forgotten.
I finally got the baked yams (sweet potatoes) to turn out like I saw in the photo accompanying the recipe. This also came from Cook’s Illustrated. The science behind yams is that the starch converts to sugar near 175F. Above that temperature, the conversion process stops. The trick is to try to keep the yams under that temperature for as long as possible to maximize the sugar content. (No extra sugar needed for candying using this method. It ends up plenty sweet without the added sugar.) Tricks include starting them in a cold oven and keeping them covered for the first half of the cooking time. The trouble I’ve had for four previous attempts was that the yams cooked too much on the surface and burned. What is desirable is browning and caramelization, but not burnt to a black crisp. I finally got the right degree of browning by following the recipe to the letter and tightly sealing the baking pan with the extra-wide, heavy-duty foil. In the past I was using regular width foil, and that didn’t seal the pan sufficiently, allowing too much of the steam to escape during the first part of cooking and allowing in too much dry heat (apparently). Anyway, I’m happy that I finally got it right.
For the dinner itself, we had a couple from our church over. We had a little party with Christmas music playing in the background.
As for today, no Black Friday for us. No malls, no shopping centers… No stores that open at the ridiculous hours of 3 and 4 a.m.! Just downtown Petersburg. I might wander down there later. We’ll see. I have a sermon to prepare.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Comments on Sabbath School Study Lesson 9, Metaphors of Salvation.
Why didn’t God just give us a single model that fully explains the Atonement and salvation? Wouldn’t that have saved a lot of trouble and controversy?
Rather what we have are multiple metaphors. Since the reality is that there is no single, comprehensive, complete model of the Atonement and salvation, there must be some reason, hopefully good, for it. There must be a reason why God allowed the different metaphors to be found and developed.
The Study Guide mentions a few: Redemption, Reconciliation, Justification, Expiation, Demonstration. The Good Word site lists a few more: Cleansing, Lost & Found, Love.
Could it be that for different people, different cultures, different experiences, different historical periods, there was and is a metaphor (or perhaps a few metaphors) that work better in understanding the Atonement than some others? Could this be yet another example of how God meets people where they are?
I think it is important to keep in mind that metaphors are just that: metaphors. No single metaphor is a complete, systematic explanation all by itself. I also believe that not every element or detail of a metaphor is applicable to the subject it is trying to explain. I think that attempts to apply non-applicable elements may only result in problems and errors entering into the attempted explanation.
Plenty of paper and ink have been spent over the years arguing for and against one metaphor or another. I think the important point from this week’s lesson is that there is more than one correct way to understand the Atonement; to not be too dogmatic about there being only one, right way to understand the Atonement; to be more charitable to those who don’t find “my” way of seeing the atonement as the “right” one; and to hold on loosely to the metaphors, because after all, they are just metaphors and not the reality.
This post is for Windows users. If you use something else, consider yourself fortunate, at least for now. :)
There are some nasty bits of malware (MAL-icious soft-WARE) out there. Even if you keep Windows patched and updated, how about all the other pieces of software that come into use as you browse the web? Or how about all the applications that access the Internet?
Secunia has a free (for personal use) vulnerability scanner that will identify vulnerable apps and help you secure your system. The scan could take a while on older/slower systems. It found quite a few unpatched apps on my XP system and found a couple of my Vista PC.
This app reminds me of work I did a decade ago for Symantec: Norton Systemworks and the LiveUpdate Pro feature. What you see in Secunia’s scanner isn’t really that much different in concept.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
This is commentary on Sabbath School Lesson 8, Born of a Woman—Atonement and the Incarnation.
David Runcorn, professor at Trinity College in Bristol, provides a unique interpretation of the Incarnation. In the first chapter of his book, Choice, Desire, and the Will of God: What More Do You Want?, Runcorn writes [emphases mine]:
… So what do you think the incarnation is all about then?
That’s easy. God made the world good. It has gone badly wrong. God loves it so much he sent his Son, Jesus, to save us from our sins and to bring us back to him.
OK. I believe that too. But are you saying we would have never met Jesus if things had not gone wrong? I mean, for the Creator to become a creature is such an amazing thing to do. Did he only come as a human being to put things right here and then leave again? Is the incarnation like God calling himself out as an earthly repairman?
A body like ours
What the incarnation tells us before anything else is that God is caught up in an unlikely, undying love affair with our humanity. To take flesh has been his hidden desire since before time began. The secret is now out. Rubem Alves puts it even more daringly: “What the doctrine of the incarnation whispers to us is that God, from all eternity, wants a body like ours.”
… We know that Jesus came into the world because of God’s love, but we still actually put the emphasis in the story firmly elsewhere. It is usually told in terms of a divine rescue mission… Through the cross he restores us to fellowship with God our Father.
All of which is wonderfully true. The cross is absolutely central to Christian faith and to salvation. But the story does not begin there. If that is our whole understanding of the incarnation, we are putting the needs of our sinful humanity in the centre instead of God. The coming of Jesus belongs to a much bigger, more mysterious and more glorious vision…
All creation is the work of Christ. The incarnation is the fulfilling of God’s original plan of and for creation. It is not a solution to a problem dreamed up in God’s merciful imagination (“I know, I’ll try this”). It is much more than God taking our humanity. In the end it is about the taking of our humanity in God.1
Runcorn then goes on to discuss the opening verses of Ephesians chapter 1, vv. 3-10 and cites these as evidence for his opening thesis, which I excerpted above. This is the passage that includes,
“Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ… making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (4, 5, 9, 10 ESV)
Runcorn’s thesis may be shocking at first, but I think that upon closer reflection, there is merit to it. You may not agree with all of it, and I may not. However, does the idea that God would have been incarnated regardless of sin’s existence, alter or devalue in any way the value of Christ’s death and resurrection? On the other hand, would it, as Runcorn suggests, increase the value placed upon Christ’s incarnated life, as well as his death and resurrection?
If the only thing needed for Atonement was that Christ die, then why did Jesus choose to become a human being; to be born as one, to grow up as one, to work as one, and to die as one? Why couldn’t God simply have come, died, and then gone back to heaven without becoming involved in life as a human? If the only thing needed for Atonement was that Christ die, then life as a human would have no value.
Indirectly then, I believe Runcorn’s assertion and thesis has merit worth consideration. The incarnation wasn’t necessary, but it was God’s desire and God’s choice – it was God’s will for himself. If the Atonement was simply an act in a point in time, then all that was needed was the crucifixion or some other death. But if the Atonement was, is, and will be an ongoing process of bringing humans closer into fellowship with divinity, then the incarnation was something that God had purposed and chosen to accomplish since “before the foundation of the world.” Through the incarnation God identified himself with humankind, and humankind was able to see God in a way that no other way could have revealed him. Even in the perfection of the Garden of Eden, I believe there could have been certain aspects of God that they simply could not see as long as God remained just God. It’s always dangerous to project our preconceived ideas onto what is not absolutely clear. I think it’s important to keep what is ambiguous, ambiguous and allow for multiple interpretations.
A number of evangelistic and witnessing tools portray Jesus as the bridge that crosses the gap between God and humankind. In the past I thought it was a pretty decent illustration, but no longer. This illustration pictures Jesus and God as two distinct entities.
On the other hand, the incarnation tells us that Jesus is God. Jesus did not close the gap. He crossed over the gap to be with us. He chose to identify with us, to become one of us. He brought God over to us, because there was no way we could even begin to cross the gap, even if a bridge was provided. Jesus did not come to bridge the gap, but to close the gap. Through the incarnation, Jesus came “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” The Atonement brings unity between God and his creation.
1Runcorn, David. Choice, Desire, and the Will of God: What More Do You Want? Hendrickson Publishers, 2003; pp. 1-2.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The benefits of fibre optic are finally starting to show up. But in order to get the best deal and the unlimited Internet bandwidth, we had to go with a package that includes TV. Even with the added cost, it will end up costing less per month than paying for all the bandwidth we’ve been using the last few months. Last month was a whopper, costing us $160. The package runs just over $120/month before taxes and fees.
Shelley can be happy now that she can stream music from our Rhapsody service. I’m happy that I don’t have to monitor bandwidth usage anymore and try to figure out where each monthly bill might end up. The speed has also gone up to 5M/512K – nowhere near the FiOS speeds (or the price) available in Verizon territory in the Lower 48, but much improved over what we had before.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
“The seven deadly sins of evangelicals in politics.”
I am a political junkie. During a presidential campaign, I will often buy a couple of newspapers a day just to keep up. But it strikes me that presidential campaigns can often bring out the worst as well as the best in us.So I want to propose the “Seven Deadly Sins of Evangelicals and Politics.” You may have a few of your own to add. But the spirit of such lists in the past was not to add to our store of information but to contrition. So feel free to confess while you read.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Here the gallery link:
At the moment it’s just photos from the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau (and a Petersburg Harbor nighttime image). I’ll be adding the Inside Passage photos from yesterday as I get them processed.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
The winds last night calmed down somewhat and so that voyage over the waters was actually quite smooth. The lounge in which we were staying wasn’t quite as chilly as the observation deck on the Malaspina on the way over. That meant I was actually able to catch a little bit of sleep during the night. Once daylight came though, as it was so spectacularly beautiful, I was out and about the decks with my camera pretty much non-stop for the remainder of the voyage.
We didn’t have much in the way of quick preparation foods back home. We ended up having spaghetti and sauce. Afterwards it was the big job of unloading, sorting, organizing, and carrying everything to their proper places.
I downloaded all the photos to the computer and weeded out the obviously bad ones – out of focus, blurred, etc. Even with that I now have to go through over 200 images to determine which ones to keep. That will be something I do when I’m not quite as tired and sleepy. And then you’ll get to see what the scenery really looks like. The images from the BlackBerry camera don’t do the scenery justice.
For now, I’m heading off to bed to catch up on some sleep.
As the sun was coming up the light and colors changed, moment by moment, on the clouds and landscape. I captured some of them which will be seen here in a few days' time.
The Taku doesn't have WiFi like the Malaspina did. However there must be occasional cell towers because I get weak signal every now and then.
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Friday, November 14, 2008
I think the stresses of travel are catching up with me. I didn't sleep well last night, haven't felt that well much of the day, and I couldn't eat dinner because I felt so ill. I'm feeling a little better now as I sit inside the church. In addition to writing this, I'm debating whether or not to eat the dinner that I didn't touch.
If the storm keeps up like this, I wonder what the return voyage will be like. The voyage over to Juneau was quiet and calm. We'll find out in about 6 hours.
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At Costco we came out with a flatbed cart piled high, a regular cart filled high, and another cart filled single layer on the bottom. Total tab was well into 4-digits. Same things purchased back home would likely run twice as much.
While at Fred Meyer we ran into one of the staff at the homeschool district. Their office was nearby so we dropped in, took a look around and picked up a few books.
We made one more stop at a grocery store to pick up a few packages of miso and a few items of food to help tide us over until supper. (Costco samples just weren't enough for a full lunch!)
We then stopped at a music store and got a couple of things there.
Now we are sitting in a mall, watching the clock until it gets late enough to find some supper.
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Living out of a hotel and suitcases is getting a little old… I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m ready to go back home.
Yesterday I made arrangements to use the Adventist church during the night while we wait to go to the ferry terminal. Our ferry leaves at 3:15 a.m. The church is located on the road heading out to Mendenhall Glacier.
We went out to the glacier and looked at it, walked a bit on the frozen shores of the lake, and took some photos. Amy played with a sheet of ice floating near the shore. The clouds thinned out a bit, so even the light cooperated.
After wandering back near the airport, we found a quilt shop and went in where Elise purchased a piece of fabric. From there we went to Safeway and got some grocery items to take back home. We had lunch at Subway, saving part of the sandwiches for supper. And then we went back into Jo-Ann’s where we spent a rather lengthy time. I found some Christmas decorative items and purchased them. The rest of the family purchased more fabric and sewing patterns.
Today we will hit Costco and fill up our pickup with all sorts of things. And then back home.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Comments on Sabbath School Study Lesson 7: Atonement in Symbols, Part 2.
The author of Hebrews called the wilderness sanctuary and its services, rituals, and sacrifices a copy and a shadow. His main point is that however good the sanctuary may have been in trying to communicate the message of God’s desire to be with humankind, it is all eclipsed by the Incarnation and the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
A copy and a shadow is far from reality. In some cases, and from certain perspectives, it may bear little resemblance to reality. We might be able to approximate what reality is like from a copy and a shadow, but we can never derive reality from them.
Using the Hebrew sanctuary and its services to try to figure out the reality of salvation and atonement is similar to using copies and shadows to arrive at reality. Yet that’s what I think has been done from time to time.
I think it is best to come alongside the author of Hebrews in this matter. We ought to take the sanctuary as an imperfect metaphor that suggests some of the great themes of atonement that God has been working throughout history. We shouldn’t try to use the details of the sanctuary service, rituals, and symbols to arrive at some obscure points of soteriology. Just because God commanded the details, and Moses happened to preserve them doesn’t necessarily mean they have significance past the immediate historical and cultural period in which they were given. I believe, it is best to stick with the obvious and universal themes.
The main theme of the sanctuary was God’s desire to be with people, and for the people to be with Him. Ultimately, in whatever fashion Atonement played out, that was the purpose – for God and people to be restored into a relationship based upon choice and love, rather than fear and appeasement.
On Monday, still in a sleepless daze, we wandered about Costco where I basically walked all the aisles making notes on all the stuff we ought to get before we return. There was no sense in purchasing everything on Monday, and then hauling it about for the rest of the week. Our Costco invasion will take place on Friday.
While still in a daze we stopped at a small (by Lower 48 standards) mall near the airport, less than a mile from our hotel. The anchor store is Jo-Ann’s, if that tells you anything. Only about half the spaces are leased out, so it looks pretty empty. There is a decent book/toy store and a Radio Shack. There’s also a kitchen store.
We drove around to locate the nearest Les Schwab where our pickup would get some work done on Tuesday. With all that accomplished we went to our hotel, a couple hours before check-in. Elise asked if a room was ready and it was. We unloaded, got to the room, and the three women took nice long naps. I decided to remain awake so as not to confuse my already confused body any more. Later, we went to the Mexican restaurant on the ground floor for dinner. Later in the evening I picked up a rental car for the next day.
Tuesday morning we awoke refreshed, dropped off the pickup, and then went to the downtown area of Juneau. We stopped in a used book store, where the proprietor sat all of us down and brought out a bunch of books. We ended up leaving with over $100 in nearly all used books. We had lunch at a nearby Japanese/Chinese restaurant. We wandered about a little more afterwards, stopping in a candy shop before returning towards the hotel.
We stopped back at Les Schwab to pay for the service and tires. In all, the total came to over $1100 – 4 new tires at $270/each, oil change, and tax. This whole trip and everything purchased is being paid out of our Dividend funds for this year.
We went to a different mall, about the same size as the other, anchored by Gottschalks and a grocery store. I’ve been looking for miso and of the three grocery stores I’ve searched so far, this one is the only one that has any. I’ll need to return here before we head back.
For supper we got a microwave lasagna from Fred Meyer and cooked it in our hotel room. Earlier we also purchased breakfast items. There’s no sense in eating out for every meal at a minimum of $40 per meal. Even with the costs of pre-packaged convenience foods it still comes to $10-20 per meal.
We had no plans today other than for Shelley to go ice skating. We got a late morning start, had an early lunch of calzone in downtown, then went to the skating rink where Shelley skated for around 1-1/2 hours.
On the way back, again we stopped at the first mall where the women spent all of their time in Jo-Ann’s picking up fabric, patterns, and candy corn. I went to the book/toy store and picked up a few items to be used for the children’s Christmas gifts.
We stopped at Fred Meyer and got some microwaveable mac' ‘n cheese and mashed potatoes. That with some leftovers from the Mexican restaurant constituted our supper.
I’ve been having nothing but recurring troubles with the wireless Internet connection at the hotel. They must have gotten tired of me bugging them to reset the access point every couple of hours, or they found something wrong, because when we returned from our outing today, the clerk told me that they were replacing all the routers/access points today. It must have happened sometime this evening because after an outage, all the old access points disappeared and I’m now connected to a new one.
The rain started falling in earnest this afternoon. Until then we’ve had fairly dry (for SE Alaska) weather. I think the new tires do run better than the nearly bald ones I had. I don’t seem to feel much, if any, slipping now. It better work after spending so much on them.
Monday, November 10, 2008
We drove into the city to see if anything was open at 6 am but nothing was open. We drove out to the airport area and found a restaraunt open. I was pleased to see soy sauce on the table next to the salt, pepper, jam, and tabasco. The establishment appears to be run by Filipinos. The menu contains some unusual items.
After killing some time there, we shopped at Fred Meyer. Then we drove out to Costco where we are still in the parking lot, waiting for 11 am to roll around. Amy is finally sleeping, and it appears Elise is also.
We saw a nice sunrise at about 8 am. This may be the only one as the forecast calls for snow and rain for the rest of the week.
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Sunday, November 09, 2008
I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing...
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The skies cleared up last night, the moon was clearly visible, and the air got rather cold. The sunset was quite picturesque. I only had my BlackBerry for a camera, so what you see is the best I could do.
We were at another house all day, and by the time we were ready to head home, all the water on the pickup had turned to ice. Now that we’ve been here two years, I’ve developed enough sense to not turn on the windshield wipers without first testing to see if they are frozen to the glass – which they were. It wasn’t too cold, so I got some water and poured it onto the glass to melt the ice and unfreeze the wipers. With that done it was an easy drive home.
We awoke this morning to clear skies and frosty ground. Our outside thermometer read 31. The airport weather station is reporting 27.
We are heading up to Juneau tonight. The ferry leaves this evening and will arrive in Juneau early tomorrow morning. We’ll have to find a place to park – probably at the terminal – for a few hours until things open up.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Some comments on Sabbath School Study lesson 6, Atonement in Symbols: Part 1.
This week, the study guide discusses the Old Testament sacrifices and how one could interpret them as pointing to Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death upon the cross. The lesson suggests that because the Old Testament sacrifices were a requirement for the cleansing of ritual impurities, that sacrifice is necessary for the ultimate cleansing of sin.
I’m going to make the conclusion that Jesus’ sacrificial death and His blood were necessary. But my question is, in what way were they necessary? Another way of asking this is, for whose benefit was Jesus’ death? Did Jesus’ death somehow change the Father’s view of sin and sinful humans? Did Jesus’ death somehow “pay the price” as is frequently (at least in Western Christianity) ascribed? Did Jesus’ death change the human perspective of God? None of the above? Some of the above? All of the above?
Did God require the blood before forgiveness could be offered? An affirmative to this question would seem to contradict the many instances prior to the crucifixion where God and Jesus forgave sins. For that matter, let’s suppose Jesus didn’t go through with the cross nor did he shed his blood: what would happen to Enoch, Moses, and Elijah, who are believed to be with God in heaven? Was the forgiveness and cleansing offered to them contingent upon some future event? Would they have somehow been “sent back” to earth to die?
Or could it be that Jesus’ sacrifice and blood now somehow obligates God to forgive and to save?
In either case, if the sacrifice and blood are required in order for forgiveness to be granted, then forgiveness is a result of some kind of merit, such as Jesus’ super-abundant merit (as some medieval theologians theorized). If forgiveness is due to merit, then it is no longer because of grace. And so I find this line of reasoning highly problematic and contrary to my understanding of grace as found in the Bible.
My belief and position is that Jesus’ death and blood are necessary because we humans are too stupid to understand anything else. God didn’t need either. Forgiveness demands neither. Atonement demands neither. They were simply object lessons for our benefit. It demonstrated that God’s love is much greater than any human can possibly imagine. It demonstrated that God’s love can bridge the gap of sin and defeat even death itself. Many ancients believed that life was in the blood. What better example and demonstration could there be than of God Himself offering His eternal life to replace our finite life? Jesus’ death demonstrated that even God’s hatred of sin could not prevent His love from offering life and forgiveness to sinners. It demonstrated that human conception of God, where God could not approach sinful people until they got their act together, was entirely wrong. God came to reach sinners while they were still in the midst of sin. In this way, it was proof that love is the greatest power in the universe.
God demonstrated that Divine Love transcends law and justice.1
1Aulen, Gustaf. Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement, WIPF an STOCK Publishers, 2003 edition, Chapter 6, “Luther,” esp. 109, 112-113.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Well, a few days late, but I thought I should mention it.
If you’ve read my past posts on Halloween, you know that our city defines 6 to 8 p.m. as trick-or-treating time, and the street we’re on is one of the most popular ones. Families drive their kids to our street for the annual fest.
A few months ago, I decided to add something a little different to what we pass out. I purchased 8 dozen glow-in-the-dark pens from CTA (Christian Tools for Affirmation), Inc. I thought that for the price, the quality my be wanting, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they are of good quality.
On Halloween, Elise and Amy taped and tied a piece of candy to each pen, and then we waited for the kids to come around. There was less candy than pens – about 80 total.
When the kids were told that the pens glowed in the dark, many seemed quite intrigued and excited about them. By the end of the night, almost all of the candy was gone.
The next day when Elise was at work, she heard from one of her coworkers that her child thought the pen was one of the best “treats” of the night.
I thought I’d mention this before it slipped my mind completely, so that if you’re looking to do something a little different next Halloween, this might be an idea.
Monday, November 03, 2008
This is part 2 of the series on the Lord’s Prayer. This week I look at the more immediate context surrounding the Lord’s Prayer: that of piety. I discuss the repeated phrase, “in secret,” that appears throughout Matthew 6:1-18 and how that possibly hold a key to unlocking Jesus’ teachings in this passage.