The Cosmopolis

O Where, O Where is My…?

Posted in Nothings by majorcedar on June 26, 2011

Sure enough, O blog of blogs, I have left you unattended for some months. No worries, the traffic monitor tells me that lots of readers have treated you the same.  Peace for you and extra time for me!

Perhaps I will give blogging another try if for no other reason than to practice the discipline of discipline.  I picked up Janice Holt Giles 40 Acres and No Mule.  It is Giles’ story about spending a lifetime trying to learn and practice a story that she calls Appalachia.  I cannot say anything more at this point for I am only three chapters into the book.

She captivated me with the Prologue.  Here, she reflects on the culture, values and people called Appalachia.  She subtly scoffs at how this place and people have been (mis)represented by so many over the years.  To the outsider, she supposes, Appalachia looks like the forgotten world – the ‘left behind’ place.  But to the insider, it is a treasure trove rich in value, culture and wisdom.

Perhaps the one standout point she makes is how Appalachia resists institutionalization (sorry Mr. Webber!).  The Appalachian belongs only to place and people that Appalachia claims as her own.  She describes this reality in her observations of how Appalachians refuse to “join” churches in any way other than their presence and participation.  Why?  She holds that it is not the ‘two or three gathered’ that is threatening; rather, it is the framework that has evolved to encapsulate (poor word choice perhaps) the ‘two or three’.  Engrained in the Appalachian is the ethos of “loving the Lord”, which, as Giles holds, does not need further explication by an ecclesial hierarchy.  And so, the Appalachian carries this ethos to a place called ‘church’ to worship but not join.

Giles touches on, in her treatment of Appalachia, one aspect that is perplexing.  What role does the church play in shaping of Kingdom People?  Is it one of authority?  Is it one of mutual partnership and say?  Even more, are the two mutually exclusive?  Not that anyone reads these words but if they do, I’d appreciate any views shared.

Prayer & Luke’s Take on Jesus’ Baptism

Posted in New Testament Writings by majorcedar on January 11, 2010

Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism and the revelation from heaven is strikingly different than the other evangelists.  In Matthew and Mark, the revelation comes at Jesus’ baptism.  Jesus comes from Galilee seeking baptism from John (cf. Matt 3:13, Mark 1:9).  According to Matthew, John is reluctant to baptize Jesus saying, “I need to be baptized by you and you come to me?” (Matt 3:14).  John, however, consents and baptizes him.  As Jesus comes up out of the water the heavens open, the Spirit descends like a dove on Jesus and the heavenly voice sounds, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17; Mark 1:11).

For Matthew and Mark, Jesus’ baptism is uniquely related to the revelation.  It marks the transition from John’s preparatory ministry to the greater work of the Messiah.  (As much, too, can be said for John’s Gospel who remains silent about Jesus’ baptism and reports that John saw the Spirit descend on Jesus and was told by God that he was the Messiah, John 1:29-34).

For Luke, however, the revelation comes after the actual baptism itself.  He delineates this aspect of time with the use of aorist verb and participles: Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ βαπτισθῆναι ἅπαντα τὸν λαὸν καὶ Ἰησοῦ βαπτισθέντος (And it happened in this way, after all the people were baptized and after Jesus was baptized).  Luke, then, uses the present participle, προσευχομένου, (while he was praying), to denote a separate time.  The revelation occurred not at Jesus’ baptism but some time later when he was praying.

Luke’s narration leaves us with two questions.  First, why does he disassociate Jesus’ baptism with the revelation?  The answer to this question undoubtedly lies in the reason(s) why Jesus receives baptism in the first place, an issue that has stirred up not just a little theological controversy over years.  Unlike the people who received baptism at the hands of John, sinners needing to repent and be cleansed, Jesus was sinless.  So why does Jesus receive baptism?  Jerome, in Against the Pelagians 3.2, said Jesus agreed to baptism at the insistence of his family.  Others have argued that Jesus took upon himself the sin of humanity in this event.  Still others have argued that Jesus received baptism in order to identify with the people and endorse John’s ministry.  Luke seems to reflect that latter explanation, especially in light the way he separates the baptism and the revelation.  In separating these events, Luke is able to diminish the importance that Matthew and Mark ascribe to Jesus’ baptism, and hence disarm the theological problems associated with it.

The second and more important question (especially for our purposes) that Luke leaves us with deals with Luke’s focus on prayer.  Luke paints a picture of Jesus off to himself praying when the revelation takes place.  In fact, Luke describes Jesus praying at key moments in his life: 6:12 (choosing the Twelve), 9:18 (Peter’s confession), 9:29 (Jesus’ transfiguration), 11:1 (Lord’s prayer), 22:41 (Gethsemane), and 5:12 (when he goes off to pray).  Jesus’ prayerful activity does more than just add solemnity to the setting, as Bock suggests. I’m persuaded that perhaps Jesus’ prayer, here, sounded not too different from his prayer in 22:42, “πάτερ, εἰ βούλει παρένεγκε τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ· πλὴν μὴ τὸ θέλημά μου ἀλλὰ τὸ σὸν γινέσθω.”  However much Jesus sensed and understood his mission in this moment that would mark the beginning of his ministry, one that would lead to his death, Luke (maybe) wants to convey that Jesus was overwhelmed.  He was not only leaving the small town of Nazareth, a mother and father and friends, but he was taking upon himself the temporal fate of the world – sin and death.  Jesus was having one of those panic-like, “O God!” moments.

Imagine, the God of the Universe Incarnate in the man Jesus taking pause as he considers the gravity of the course of his life and the fate of the world.  It’s not like he’s unprepared for lies ahead of him.  He’s the godman Jesus; he’s been circumcised on the eighth day, has made the pilgrimage to the temple, has been maturing and increasing in wisdom and he’s just been baptized.  None of these accomplishments (save the first), however, can ground and settle him like prayer – one on one intimate sharing and communion with God.

On the week we celebrate the “Baptism of the Lord,” Christians need to not only take stock of their prayerful activity but also spend more time doing it.

An Apocalyptic Friday With Paul

Posted in About a Day by majorcedar on January 8, 2010

Snow covers the place where I live.  From the window and with a hot cup of black coffee, the snow looks pretty.  It’s not too deep, maybe two or three inches.  Let’s face it, though, once you start shoveling it and dragging it into the house, the delightful blanket of snow loses its delight in a hurry.  The kids, home from school, however, are excited just the same, the kind that contagiously rubs off on a dad like me.  (It looks like sledding for me.)

A quick read through the news this morning makes me realize why news should be read first thing in the morning.  Because of the affects of night’s sleep, coupled with the slow morning wake up time, one’s sensibilities are anything but acute.  The fact that the jobless rate continues rise, George W. Bush’s former attorney is in big trouble, and the TSA wants to make air travel something like club night experience is less daunting at 6:00.

It’s about this time that the book beside me, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification (by D. Campbell) brings an added sense of joy and curiosity to the morning.  I just started the book a few days ago and have hardly moved beyond the first section where Campbell puts under the scope the justification theory of salvation, which, for him, hinges on a retributive understanding of God’s judgment.  I’m not sure I have an opinion on the book as yet but am enjoying it thus far.

This brings me to my final thought for Friday morning, one I’m posting on this unread and author-neglected blog site called The Cosmopolis (incidentally, the book by Toulmin from which this title derives is worth the attention).  What would a book like, “The Deliverance of America, An Apocalyptic Rereading of Democracy,” read like?  Perhaps like the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, or Augustine’s City of God, or maybe like the above comic.  I don’t have an answer for this one, save that I think it would be humorous as well as painful, or at least uncomfortable.  Not too worry, elected leaders around the world are writing as we speak.

Silas House’s “Eli the Good”

Posted in Book of the Month by majorcedar on October 25, 2009

A few weeks ago Silas House was in the area reading excerpts from his new book Eli the Good.  Unfortunately my schedule did not allow me to attend but some friends of my went and brought back a good report of the evening along with the book – signed.  I’m rather fond of House’s books, having read Clay’s Quilt and A Parchment of Leaves.  I like the way House tells stories – the words he uses and how he uses them.  That his stories are about persons and places in rural Kentucky helps me identify with his characters and, a real sense, the author himself.

Eli the Good is a book unlike any of the others I’ve read by House.  He is more generous with his words, offering descriptions about descriptions.  His language is poetic and reflective.  Trees have heart beats and remember, the earth moves and breathes and ‘places’ tell stories.  Some readers would say House is plain wordy in this book, but I sensed him intent on doing more than just telling the story of a young boy who struggled with his parents and hence himself.  He seemed to be engaging in a public discourse on the moral nature of war and freedom and their affect on persons/families (saying something about our times).

Eli’s father, Stanton, fought in Vietnam and, years later after his return, he continued to struggle to understand the strangeness of his war-torn life.  Nightmares plagued him, to the point that he screamed and even attacked his sleeping wife.  The memories of his experiences all but consumed him, and he opened himself only to his wife, Loretta.  This is clear from the loving, even playful relationship they shared.

Josie is Eli’s sister.  She learns that Stanton is not her father; he adopted her after Loretta and he married.  It is of little consequence to Josie at this point in her life that her ‘step’ father has loved and cared for her as if she was his own.  She is hurt that her parents have kept this secret from her until her adolescent years.  She wears her rebellion and hurt in the flag decorated pants that she wears, which her mother despises because, in Loretta’s mind (and perhaps Josie’s), they bring insult to Stanton’s war efforts in Vietnam.

Nell is another character who figures into Eli’s story.  Nell is Stanton’s sister who, while Stanton was away fighting the war, she was home protesting it.  She comes to Eli’s home sick with cancer, but however much Stanton disapproves of Nell’s life of protest, he opens his home and care to her.

Nell gives Eli the name: Eli the Good.  This is interesting given that Eli spends the book reading and reflecting on the letters his father wrote to Loretta from Vietnam, which he takes in secret and even deception.  He comes to know his father by intruding into the life his father finds to painful to reveal, yet too real to forget.  Eli learns how to talk to his father and how to keep his distance.  He comes to know his mother as more than a lifelong partner in marriage; she is in fact Stanton’s ‘Sabrina’.  He realizes that Nell is not an adversary but Stanton’s lost voice, one he no longer has any claim to.

There are more things to say about the book that maybe I will say later or at least to myself.  House’s writing in this book reminded of Wendell Berry’s.  I recommend it.

For the View

Posted in Nothings, Uncategorized by majorcedar on October 22, 2009

A New Chapter

Posted in Latin Musings by majorcedar on August 8, 2008

In two weeks, I will begin working on Ph. D. in history at University of Kentucky.  Since I hardly post on this site with any regularity now, I cannot imagine I will do any more once school starts.  Though, from time to time, I will run across something worth sharing and will post away.  The subject matter, no doubt, will move in the direction of the history of early Christianity and Byzantium.  This morning, working on Latin, I translated a passage worth sharing.  Enjoy.

Martial 10.47 :
Haec sunt, amice iucundissime, quae vitam faciunt beatiorem: res non facta labore sed a patre relicta, ager felix, parvum fori et satis otii, mens aequa, vires et corpus sanum, sapientia, amici veri, sine arte mensa, nox non ebria sed soluta curis, non tristis torus et tamen pudicus, somnus facilis. Desidera tantum quod habes, cupe nihil; noli timere ultimum diem aut sperare.

A Unique Portrayal of the Body

Posted in Uncategorized by majorcedar on April 17, 2008

I would like to think the role I play in the church – Christ’s body – is different than the one being talked about here.

A New Look for Abraham

Posted in Nothings by majorcedar on April 3, 2008

For the longest time, the hair on my head has been surrendering to the passing years. Or to say it differently, I’m going bald! Since I have always kept my hair short (practically shaved), I’m not too upset. Today, while looking at my mug in the mirror, I noticed I have one lone hair that has fallen away from the group. In the front, where my hairline used to be some years ago, one hair remains. He grows and bends forward, never looking back at the family of hairs he leaves behind. He is my Abraham (cf. Genesis 12).

A Community Called Atonement

Posted in Book of the Month by majorcedar on March 29, 2008

acommunity-called-atonement.jpgYesterday I finished Scot McNight’s A Community Called Atonement. He offers a good, holistic treatment of the subject. Unlike most writers, he does not approach it with the traditional theories of atonement (i.e., satisfaction, penal/substitution, Christus Victor, recapitulation, etc.). He says that these theories are helpful in identifying particular theological aspects of the atonement but are ill equipped to speak to the subject in a comprehensive way. One thing these theories do is to establish a very narrow precedent for viewing the subject of atonement and ultimately God. So, for instance, if you come to the subject of atonement with a satisfaction view, your conception of God will be different if you view atonement, say, in terms of a penal/substitution view.

McKnight treats atonement from the perspective of the kingdom or community God creates through the atoning work of Christ. Using his golf bag analogy, he talks about Christ’s atonement using the language and ideas from the traditional theories saying each theory is like a golf club that is needed to play the entire hole. These different clubs help describe and help us understand the overarching principle at work in God’s atoning work in the world and in our lives, that is, through the creation of a new kingdom – the kingdom in the Gospel of Luke (to site one example), that Mary sings about, Zachariah emphasizes in his Benedictus, and Jesus’ preaches about in his Sermon on the Mount.

God’s atonement community offers to cracked Eikons (or a “Fallen” people) redemption, restoration and a context for growth and maturity. Humanity, in the state of being cracked Eikons, cannot (and do not) bear God’s image in the way God intended. For this reason, not only do humans suffer the personal pitfalls of sin but they do so because they are unable to share relationality with the world, which, as God’s Eikons, humans were created to do. Through God’s atonement, Eikons are restored to relationship with God, self, others and the world.

He shows how any treatment of atonement necessarily will deal with not only the Incarnation and the death and resurrection of Christ but also Pentecost, the event where the community formed by Christ in empowered by the Holy Spirit. This aspect of atonement is often ignored or relegated to another discussion. On Pentecost, the vision of God realized in Christ becomes available to God’s present kingdom/community through the Holy Spirit. In this way, the community can experience atonement and become co-participants (even co-creators) with God in seeing God’s kingdom come about in the world.

There is more to say about the book but because I do not have it before me, I will conclude by talking about the story he tells at the beginning of the book. He talks about a nurse who says she sees Jesus while working a busy shift in the ER at a hospital in the Chicagoland area. A man with rotting feet was brought in by the paramedics about the same time she came on shift. The doctors quickly assessed him and order a shower and betadine scrub for his feet. The task falls to this nurse. At first, she is disgusted by the thought of what she must do, that is, scrub mold encrusted, puss oozing feet. The thought of caring for this man is almost unbearable. When she looks at the broken man before her, she sees Jesus and is overcome with a desire to treat the man like a king. After briefly describing what she does, she quotes Matthew 24:31-46:

34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

Sunday…Sunday

Posted in Uncategorized by majorcedar on September 30, 2007

Why didn’t The Mamas and the Papas write a song called “Sunday…Sunday?” Today is Sunday. Rain is falling and gray clouds cover the sky. I might be tempted to be depressed if I were not a Christian. I have no depression only celebration.