Praying for all of us

Thank you, Sky McCracken for this story. May those with ears, hear.

McCracken tells a story about some Methodists from Mexico visiting his district’s office, which is in a church that closed after a church split led to dwindling membership and finances.

When our Mexican friends arrived at our district office, we met to talk about the Hispanic population in our area, which is almost all Mexican. Some work at nearby poultry processing plants, others work on large farms. After some conversation (with a translator), I took them on a tour of our facilities, which includes a church/sanctuary that is currently not being used (pictured). As we went in, their eyes got wide. They asked if they could pray. One man brought in a guitar and they sang praise songs. And then some went into extemporaneous prayer. One woman, Sandra (in the foreground), was praying and weeping. My Spanish is close to nonexistent, but I was told she was asking God to forgive us for our not being faithful with this building, for whatever disagreement that led to its closing. She didn’t pray “them.” Or “others.” She prayed, “us.” As if they shared in the sin of this particular church of being more driven by disagreement and pride than being driven by the Christ who was God Among Us.

Read the full post here.

Paul on Easter

Some words from Paul on the significance of the resurrection.

Romans 1:1-4

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart fro the gospel of God — the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David and was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:3-5

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Romans 6:8-10

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

Romans 8:34

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died — more than that , who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Romans 10:9

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

1 Corinthians 15:12-14

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

1 Corinthians 15:20-21

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

Ephesians 2:4-6

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:9-11

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 3:10-11

I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

1 Thessalonians 4:14

For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep.

 

Acts on Easter

Some quotes from the Book of Acts about the significance of Easter.

Acts 2:32, 36

God has raised this Jesus to life; and we are all witnesses of it … Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.

Acts 4:10-12

then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is ‘the stone your builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in on one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

Acts 10:42-43

He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Acts 13: 32-33, 38-39

We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus … Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.

Acts 17:30-31

In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.

Binding and loosing

Jeremy Smith, an always engaging and frequently provocative United Methodist blogger, argues in this post that Matthew 16:9 and 18:18 give the church the authority to determine what is sin and what is not.

Smith bases his argument on New Testament scholar Mark Alan Powell’s assessment of the rabbinical meaning of binding and loosing and what it means in Matthew 16:9.

I would argue that Matthew 18 is the more helpful verse for interpreting this question since it is placed in a fuller context than 16:9. Using the principle that the Bible can help us interpret the Bible, I read Matthew 18 as offering little support for the notion that the language of binding and loosing is a wide grant of authority over the very definition of sin.

Here’s what I wrote on Smith’s blog:

Interesting post, Jeremy. My take, FWIW, is that you are over-reading the matter when you suggest that this is a process for defining what sin is.

The context is the parable in Matthew 18:10-14 about seeking wandering sheep, which itself is a comment on those who cause someone else to stumble (vv. 6-9).

In Matthew 18:15-20, the fact of a sin is not under negotiation. If someone sins, go point it out (like the one trying to bring back the wandering sheep.) If a person does not listen, then a process of widening attempts to bring the person back to the fold ensues, but if they will not listen, at last they are to be cut loose. Verse 18 about binding and loosing, after all, comes right after verse 17 about treating the one who will not listen like an outsider. That sounds more like saying that who the church sends away, so will God.

I think it is significant in reading these verses that the next section of the chapter is about forgiveness. When one who has caused others to stumble or wandered away is brought back, forgiveness is the order of the day. To refuse to forgive one who will not have mercy on a wandering sheep brought back to the fold [is a serious offense to God].

To my reading, at least, that language about binding and loosing needs to be set in the overall context of the chapter before we can conclude exactly what is being bound and what is being loosed. I can’t see how chapter 18 can be read as saying “the church determines what sin is.” I don’t see where the text supports that conclusion.

Why did Jesus die?

And this question, both infidels are accustomed to bring up against us, ridiculing Christian simplicity as absurd; and many believers ponder it in their hearts; for what cause or necessity, in sooth, God became man, and by his own death, as we believe and affirm, restored life to the world; when he might have done this, by means of some other being, angelic or human, or merely by his will.

– Anselm, Cur Deus Homo

The United Methodist News Service asks the question “Why did Jesus have to die?

For the most part, the story is a typical United Methodist one. The gist of it is that there are lots of ways to think about the atonement. The article does briefly describe Anselm’s theory of atonement for the purpose of explaining why so many people disagree with it.

In the comments, the UMNS editor suggests that Jesus did not have to die.

The story ends by offering up an Abelardian subjective explanation of the atonement.

Perhaps the greatest comfort the cross offers is the knowledge that there is no sorrow, pain or despair humans can undergo that God does not know and walk through with us. And because of the Resurrection, we know that sorrow and death do not have the last word.

For those who are interested, Article VIII of the Confession of Faith has this to say.

We believe God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. The offering Christ freely made on the cross is the perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, redeeming man from all sin, so that no other satisfaction is required.