Giveaway: Ten Walter Brueggemann Books

The good folks over at Homebrewed Christianity are giving away TEN books by renowned Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann. Whether you want to read them for yourself or give them to your nerdy friends (like me!), this is a giveaway worth entering.

Click here to enter the giveaway (you will be redirected to Homebrewed Christianity’s website). While you’re at it, subscribe to their podcast!

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A Pentecost Prayer

We are well on our way to Pentecost. Let us pray!

Oh God whose breath makes all things new, you whose rushing breath made something out of nothing, be with us today.

Oh God of Israel, you whose rushing breath like wind made a way through the sea, a way where there was no way, be with us today.

Oh God of Covenant, you who came down like fire upon Mount Sinai and filled with promises the people you had chosen, be with us today.

Oh God of Israel, you talkative God who gave words to the prophets and to psalmists, who called the four winds of the earth to raise dry bones in a low valley, be with us today.

Oh God of Pentecost, who swarmed into the room where Christ’s disciples were gathered and gave them tongues ablaze, be with us today.

We gather in these days of trial and confusion, humbled by your presence, as the united body of Christ in a world so divided, so fractured.

We ask for your grace so that we might be made whole. Help us to know that we are brothers and sisters. In our baptism, we belong to you and to one another. Through you, Holy Spirit, may it be so.

Amen.

We are always beginners: Barth on discipleship

For Barth, the Christian life is all grace from beginning to end, so the Christian is always a “beginner,” leaning upon God’s grace in all things.

[T]hose who through grace (because Jesus Christ became and is their Brother) karlbarthpipehave the freedom to call upon God as their Father will never once, when they make use of this freedom, encounter God except as those who are inept, inexperienced, unskilled, and immature, as children in this sense too – little children who are totally unprepared for it. The invocation “Our Father,” and all the Christian life and ethos implicit in this invocation, can never at any stage or in any form be anything but the work of beginners. Even at the most advanced stage and in the ripest form it can never be anything better, for in this field what is supposedly better can only be worse, indeed, it can only be evil. What Christians do becomes a self-contradiction when it takes the form of a trained and mastered routine, of a learned and practiced art. They may and can be masters and even virtuosos in many things, but never in what makes them Christians, God’s children. As masters and virtuosos they would not live by God’s grace. … In invocation of God the Father everything depends on whether or not it is done in sheer need (not self-won competence), in sheer readiness to learn (not schooled erudition), and in sheer helplessness (not the application of a technique of self-help). This can be the work only of very weak and very little and very poor children, of those who in the littleness, weakness, and poverty can only get up and run with empty hands to their Father (Church Dogmatics, IV.4, 79-80).

Our Strange Family: A Pentecost Sermon

“What does all of this mean?” That is the question folks gathered in Jerusalem were asking two centuries ago. Jews from all over had come to gather for the Feast of Weeks and found themselves a part of something rather unexpected. In May, Kevin at Anchor Community Church (Fort Wayne, IN) was kind enough to let me preach on the story of Pentecost in Acts 2. The whole sermon reflects on the question, “What does all of this mean?”

The answer to that question exceeds our grasp, in the same way the gusty wind that filled the disciples exceeded their grasp. Yet we have part of the answer. It means the Holy Spirit is on the loose — and is busy at work among us even still.

Continue reading

Weekender: May 27, 2017

Weekender: 05/27/2017

Welcome to the weekend! Each week, we like to offer a few quick highlights from our week that we think will give you something worthwhile to think about over the weekend. Enjoy this week’s Weekender and add to it in the comments below!

Quote Worth Repeating: “Preaching’s value is often in the subtle but powerful ways it forms us into people who have empathy for others, who assume responsibility for the needs of strangers, who feel that we are under judgment from a higher criterion than our own consciences, and who believe that, with the Holy Spirit set loose among us, we can be born again.” From Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism by Will Willimon (Abingdon Press, 2017: review forthcoming).

Blog Post to Read: “Fear” by Marilynne Robinson is a thought-provoking essay on what motivates us and what should motivate us. “Fear,” Robinson writes, “is not a Christian habit of mind.”

Interesting Insight: Christianity Today reports on a study by LifeWay Research that seeks “to discover [American’s] feelings about fear, shame, guilt, and other issues.” The results are interesting and, potentially, insightful for practitioners within the Church.

After seeing the results, you might want to read Kent’s posts on shame. You can find them here and here.

Questions to Ponder: At the church where I’m interning, I’m helping with a small group about the Bible and Christian theology. A member asked an important question: Why does it matter what we call God? The question was in response to me, perhaps arrogantly, correcting what I saw as a flaw in the curriculum a week earlier. Under “Great Doctrines of the Bible,” the author lists “God,” “Jesus,” and “Holy Spirit.” I suggested that a more helpful naming would be: “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit.” “Each of them,” I explained, “are God, and all together they are God. One is not God and the others something else.” This must have jostled his thoughts throughout the week, so I pose the question, and some follow ups, to you now:

  • Why does it matter what we call God? Or, I think, why does it matter that we call God the Trinity?
  • How would you respond to that question pastorally? How do you encourage congregants to see the significance (i.e. not telling them, “You’ll never understand so don’t worry too much about it.”) without frustrating them?
  • Are there helpful resources you’ve found to assist congregants and students with a fairly basic theological vocabulary to better understand the Trinity?

Recent Posts on Theology Forum:

  1. We Are Here to Love by Kent Eilers
  2. Dear Publishers by Kent Eilers
  3. Ascension Thursday: Salvador Dali and Karl Barth by Zen Hess
  4. Baptism, Preaching, and Politics by Zen Hess

“We are here to love” (Von Balthasar)

I stumbled onto these remarks by Von Balthasar while reading Edward Oakes this evening. Ponder this:

The calling to love is an absolute one, admitting of no exception, and so ineluctable that failure to observe it is tantamount to total corruption. Let there

be no doubt. We are here to love—to love God and love our neighbor. Whoever will unravel the meaning of existence must accept this fundamental principle from whose center light is shed on all the dark recesses of our loves. For this love to which we are called is no a circumscribed or limited love, not a love defined, as it were, by the measure of our human weaknesses. It does not allow us to submit just one part of our lives to its demands and leave the rest free for other pursuits; it does not allow us to dedicate just one period of our lives to it and the rest, if we will, to our own interests. The command to love is universal and unequivocal. It makes no allowances. It encompasses and makes demands upon everything in our nature: “with thy whole heart, with all they soul, and with all thy mind.” (Christian State of Mind, p. 27. Quoted in E. Oakes, A Theology of Grace in Six Controversies [Eerdmans, 2016], p. 45).

Oakes brings Balthasar into his treatment of grace to emphasis that grace is about love, but not in the romantic sense. And I must say, this just seems incredibly important to me at the moment. Continue reading

Dear Publishers

Dear publishers,

Please print more pocket-sized theology.

20170522_065301Sure, I see the argument: why print pock-sized books when I could carry thousands on my smart phone (Kindles seem so passé now, don’t they?). But I hate reading on my phone! The experience couldn’t be more sterile. Yes I’m probably the exception, I know this dear publishers, but I have no interest in digital reading unless I’m sitting next to a pool and my kids’ raucous splashing may dampen the pages. My hands want a finely bound little book of theology to slip in and out of my pocket, or from the corner of my briefcase. Little cracks of time populate my days and a few lines from Augustine could inspire, or a finely tuned quip from Jenson may set my mind reflecting.

Before this letter goes into the bin, consider how Penguin bound Augustine’s classic in a stylish, beautiful cover, or the many Fathers of the Church made accessible by St. Vladimir’s press, like St. Gregory’s theological poetry, On God and Man, or Gregory the Great’s Book of Pastoral Rule. My little copy of Pastoral Rule never crowded the coffee mugs at the small Starbucks table where I discussed Gregory’s sage advice with a young pastor, burned out on church-marketing and sexy church-growth strategies. And I can’t help mentioning Wiley’s gift of Pallasmaa’s classic essay The Eyes of the Skin in small format (even though its not theology). Thank you.

Please, print more theology that fits in my pocket, where an app or text or email alert won’t compete on the same screen for my attention in those little cracks in my day where I find myself in some in-between moment. Give me some little book that will lead me to pray, to remind me of God’s goodness through the voice of my brothers and sisters in faith, and to point my eyes back to Scripture’s witness of the victorious Christ.

Happy Ascension Day,

Kent