For the Bride: On Break

“For the Bride” is on a Christmas break.  It resumes on January 9th.

Posted in For the Bride | Leave a comment

Advent In-Sight: Simeon & Anna’s Window

Jesus ‘ presentation in the Temple by Mary and Joseph gave two of God’s veteran servants an experience both of them had hoped for.  Simeon had been given a promise by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Christ before he died (Luke 2:26), Anna, too, lived night and day in the Temple with her own unique expectations (Luke 2:37).

Both were united in their desire to see “the consolation of Israel” (2:25) and “the redemption of Jerusalem” (2:38).

Simeon and Anna’s window is the window of celebration.  It included their personal joys, but extended beyond them to Jerusalem and Israel.  This kind if experience reveals that our best celebrations occur when through them we realize something larger than ourselves is going on.

Advent brings joy to individual hearts and homes.  But it is an experience of being gathered into a global consolation and a cosmic redemption.  Our lives and locations are annual confirmations that God is at work in ways we can experience, but never contain.  We are “lost in wonder, love and praise” (Charles Wesley’s way of putting it)–we are caught up into Mystery. 

The roots of celebration go back to the beginning of creation itself, and the branches of our joy reach into God’s new heaven and new earth. That’s what Simeon and Anna were part of the first Advent, and what we are part of now.

Posted in In-Sight | Leave a comment

Journey: The Impossible is Possible

Read: “Women on the Edge”

I have had occasion recently to become more familiar than ever before with ancient Jewish culture (and surrounding pagan cultures), seeing how dramatically and destructively it was a male-dominated culture, where women on a good day were invisible, and on a bad day were hardly human and could, therefore, be treated any way the man (or men) wanted to treat them.

By the close of the New Testament (thanks mostly to Jesus) we can see a redemption of women from male dominance dawning in early Christianity, but only the flicker of what–to this day in the USA and around the world–is still not all God would wish for women.  In stark and subtle ways, it is still “a man’s world.”

And so, I approached this week’s reading, intrigued by the title and wondering how McLaren would deal with it.  I am not disappointed.

Through Sarah, Mary, and Elizabeth, McLaren shows that God was speaking Truth about life (truth we still need to hear and enact) through women–God’s beloved who, by the very fact of their subjugation, know better than any man (ancient or modern) that the impossible is possible in God–not in machismo!

If we read and absorb this chapter, I believe we will find that McClaren has pulled a fast one on us–showing that the “edge” of culture is actually the Center of the Kingdom.  It takes women to know that, and it takes faith to believe it!

Posted in Journey | Leave a comment

For the Bride: Infrastructure

Buildings stand because of their infrastructure, what Jesus called “the good foundation.”  As we conclude our brief look at the place of hermeneutics in the human sexuality debate, I will stay with Wesley’s sermon “The Catholic Spirit” one more time.

In one of his recent ‘Vital Piety’ blogs (11/13), Dr. Kevin Watson rightly noted that “The Catholic Spirit” sermon is only the beginning in coming to understand Wesleyan theology.  He correctly invites us to read Wesley’s  “The Catholic Spirit” sermon and his “The Scripture Way of Salvation” sermon together.

Incorporating his idea into what I have been saying about hermeneutics, I would say that “The Catholic Spirit” is one element in the Wesleyan hermeneutic (along with some others), and that “The Scripture Way of Salvation” is one part of Wesleyan theology that is constructed out of it.  That is, the sermon “The Catholic Spirit” is a more infrastructural and invisible dimension, and “The Scripture Way of Salvation” is a more specific and visible expression.

So, what does this mean for this “For the Bride” series?  It means that our building (position) must have an infrastructure, but also that the infrastructure must have a building constructed around it. 

Here then are some infrastructural/hermeneutical elements that enable us to be “one who interprets the message of truth correctly” (2Tim 2:15. CEB).

First, we affirm creedal faith.  In the most ecumenical sense, these are our doctrines.  We will then (as Christians before us have done) necessarily move to the making of Rules, Constitutions, Articles, Confessions, and Catechisms. In these we will see the marks of our respective traditions, while keeping in step with the faith delivered to us by the saints through the Creeds.

Second, we will (as our first American Methodists did in 1784, and as Wesley’s Methodists in Great Britain did), use a theology of love (grace) as the paradigm  (order of salvation) for our detailed declarations.

Third, we will carry the Wine of the Gospel in the wineskin of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), always assessing the substance and spirit of our beliefs in relation to these virtues –virtues that for United Methodists were set down by Wesley himself in “The Character of a Methodist” and in “The General Rules of the United Societies.”

Fourth, we will never accept an attitude or action toward another person or group that hits below the belt of imago dei.

Fifth, we will gather the faithful to tables where respect will entone our discussions and embrace our differences, putting our ultimate trust not in our faithfulness, but in the One Who is Faithful (Jer 32:27).

Taking everything we have said in this “For the Bride” series, we will head into a Christmas break.  When we resume, I will focus upon the three pillars (the way of love, the practice of non-judgment, and the process of holy conferencing) and my ongoing reflections upon each since I wrote the book.

(If you do not have my book ‘For the Sake of the Bride’ on which these weekly writings are based, here is the Amazon link for it: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product?ASIN=B00L5KW5HK&force-full-site=1&ref_=kin_tos_tate_appm_bk_sf_dp)

Posted in For the Bride

Advent In-Sight: Joseph’s Window

Imagine your fiance comes to tell you she is pregnant, and the baby is not yours.  But before you stop reeling from that news, she tells you that her impregnation is by the Holy Spirit!  Sit with this until you pass out from shock and disbelief, and you will be ready to view Advent from Joseph’s window.

There are only three words in Joseph’s story that keep things from falling completely apart.  Joseph was ” a righteous man” (Matt 3:19, CEB).  His righteousness was the single, slender thread that prevented chaos, but it was a steel thread, and it set in motion powerful responses in Joseph.

First, he was considerateEven though he would eventually be the butt of jokes and the object of glances, he refused to respond to Mary’s news in any way that would humiliate her (v 19).  He aimed to bring the relationship to an end quietly.  I think this is a clear sign of his deep love for Mary, but even that would have radically changed the Story.  Ah, but there is more.

Second, Joseph was contemplative.  He put things in a larger perspective than himself.  He paid attention to a dream–which he could so easily have dismissed as wishful thinking.  No, he understood that more was going on than his emotions could grasp.  I think that deep down, he trusted Mary to tell him the truth, even if it was a truth he could only ultimately accept from an angel.

And third, he was committed.  That may be obvious from the previous two points, but it is confirmed through three additional points:  he obeyed the angel, he married Mary, and he refrained from sexual intercourse with her until Jesus was born.

Nothing short of amazing–Joseph’s window.  But if we are willing to look through it, we may find that Advent can convey amazing things to us too.

Posted in In-Sight

Journey: Redefining the Edge

Read: “Women on the Edge”

I have had occasion recently to become more familiar than ever before with ancient Jewish culture (and surrounding pagan cultures), seeing how dramatically and destructively it was a male-dominated culture, where women on a good day were invisible, and on a bad day were hardly human and could, therefore, be treated any way the man (or men) wanted to treat them.

By the close of the New Testament (thanks mostly to Jesus) we can see a redemption of women from male dominance dawning in early Christianity, but only the flicker of what–to this day in the USA and around the world–is still not all God would wish for women.  In stark and subtle ways, it is still “a man’s world.”

And so, I approached this week’s reading, intrigued by the title and wondering how McLaren would deal with it.  I am not disappointed.

Through Sarah, Mary, and Elizabeth, McLaren shows that God was speaking Truth about life (truth we still need to hear and enact) through women–God’s beloved who, by the very fact of their subjugation, know better than any man (ancient or modern) that the impossible is possible in God–not machismo!

If we read and absorb this chapter, I believe we will find that McClaren has pulled a fast one on us–showing that the “edge” of culture is actually the Center of the Kingdom.  It takes women to know that, and it takes faith to believe it!

Posted in Journey | 1 Comment

For the Bride: The Critical Element

I want to continue to use Wesley’s sermon, “Catholic Spirit,” to shed further light on our continuing exploration of honoring and being the Bride of Christ today.

I repeat that the basis for all this is orthodoxy.  Not everyone will agree, but if you read, my post last week, you know why I am able to make this my stand, and why Wesley himself was (in the words of Dr. Albert Outler) “an orthodox Christian, if ever there were one.”

But far from being dead orthodoxy, it was a living faith–what Wesley so often described as “faith working by love.”  This is what I am calling the critical element: “faith working by love.” In Wesley’s life and in his sermon, we see illustrations of what this means.

First, it means entering into every relationship with the fruit of the Spirit in our heart and on our hands.  Along with other Christians before and since, Wesley saw love as the essence of the fruit, “the root of all the rest” (his comment on Galatians 5:22 in his ‘Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament’).  So, when Wesley led with love, it was with the other eight words as well: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Second, it means initiative.  When Wesley wrote, “If your heart is as my heart, give me your hand,” he was speaking the first word; he was taking initiative.  It is not enough to say,”Well, I am here, if ‘they’ (whoever ‘they’ is) want to come see me.”  Using Wesley as our historic example, we find multiplied examples of his taking initiative and going to others–many of whom were not being sought after by the Church.

Third, it means proximity.  We may be able to instruct or inspire from a distance, but we can only influence up close.  Resolutions have their place, but it is relationships which are transformative.  This is one reason why Jesus said “the Kingdom of God is at hand”–present in the here and now (not there and later)–close enough to see faces, join hands, listen to words, and receive blessings.

I offer you these three points as expressions of the critical element–“faith working by love”–the spirit of our fellowship.  We see them confirmed by Wesley himself–throughout his life, but also in his death.

He intentionally asked that his funeral be held at 5:30 a.m. so as not to create what we would today call a traffic jam in and  around the Methodist Chapel located in East London.  But his best laid plan didn’t work.  Even at that early hour, it is estimated that 5,000 people came to honor him in death.

That kind of response was not accidental.  It happened because the critical element–“faith working by love”–had flowed for decades from Wesley’s life.  And still today, it is the critical element the world is hungry for, and to which it will respond!

Posted in For the Bride