[caption id="attachment_3252" align="alignright" width="300"] Independence, MO, November 2, 1948[/caption] April 13, 2014 Patrick Laffert...
(What is the Backstory and why?) April 10th, 2014 ***** How many of you have read a book more than once? Why invest the ti...
April 6, 2014 Patrick Lafferty “The Practice of Repentance: Repentance toward Forgiveness” Luke 7:36-50 [caption id="attachment_3226" align="alignr...
(What is the Backstory and why?) April 3rd, 2014 Our favorite Northern Irishman, John Browne, walked us back down the Jericho ...
April 10th, 2014
How many of you have read a book more than once? Why invest the time when you know the outcome already? Why submit to the circuitous pilgrimage through a plot if the resolution has in a sense been predetermined by your prior knowledge? We all have our reasons; one might be that we find both the story and its resolution so compelling that the end warrants the endurance through the travails of the storyline.
For Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday (though it’s okay–you can say Easter), we’ll preach a short series: How’s it End? Why the “end” matters to our moment. On those two Sundays, we remember Jesus’ portentous arrival in Jerusalem and then celebrate His earth-splitting resurrection. But given how the momentousness of what happened then only anticipated something greater in time, we want to ask what both those days in Jesus’ life pointed unto. So we’re going to open that book where angels might not fear to tread but preachers may: John’s Revelation. What he speaks of is as dizzying as how he speaks of it.
The resurrection boggles the mind as it is; two things it anticipates will just about blow it. The end of the story means to tell us about the future reign of God and the future renewal of God. That pair of promises represents the narrative trajectory to which the fanfare of Palm Sunday and the unfathomableness of the resurrection allude. We want to connect the dots between them, but moreover we want to ask what it means, as John will say so often in his vision, to “patiently endure” the storyline we’re in. Read more
April 3rd, 2014
Our favorite Northern Irishman, John Browne, walked us back down the Jericho Road last Sunday through Jesus’ famous parable of the Good Samaritan. That parable is meant to scandalize its audience with the identity of its hero as much as exhort them to a commensurate compassion. Something I read at Christmastide brought me to tears as it reminded me of the parable. While the hero of this true story from 1986 may not share the same contemptible quality a Samaritan would have had in the minds of Jesus’ Jewish audience, he does represent a kind of social and emotional distance from the one in dire straits that he ends up sacrificially (and unexpectedly) serving. In a deep way this true story reflects the same repentance from self-interest, convenience, and glory Jesus’ parable does. I dare you to hold back tears.
Meanwhile we’ll conclude our series on practicing repentance this Sunday by listening to Jesus tell a story at a party, one thrown by an unlikely host and crashed by an even unlikelier guest. The passage is therefore rife with spectacle. Its theme deals with something we tend to let become an afterthought, but which must become a central feature of our being: forgiveness. We may think of it as only a transaction–a momentary matter from which we then move on. But I think this passage will argue that forgiveness is less something we do than something we are, as we both continually seek and grant the same. Luke 7:36-50 will be our focus from which I think we can find three things
- the problem with forgiveness
- the proof of forgiveness
- the power behind forgiveness
March 27th, 2014
“I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story, there is a story-teller” –G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
“Perhaps your best work comes when you side step your ego and (focus on) someone else’s story.” – Sting, TED Talk
At last we begin.
This Sunday we’ll take a short break from our regular time of Q&A (don’t worry it shall return), and turn to the larger Story into which fits our Q&A’s, sermons, and all else we do. Officer candidates will come as part of their training. But the subject has import for our whole Body because it is the Story that makes sense of our stories–especially when our stories seem to make no sense.
Over the next 12 weeks, the elders will seek to summarize the Story God has been writing–the Story that tells of His intentions, frustrations, and work of Redemption–past, present, and future.
In last week’s Backstory we made a brief case for why a class on this comprehensive subject is worth the whole church’s time. Vital to grasping and living out our vision for Faithful Presence is recapturing a vocabulary for faith. The Westminster Confession of Faith introduces and unspools that vocabulary for us as it outlines the foundational notions of our faith.
But another reason surfaced this week, and from one whom we’ve been glad to reference often recently: David Brooks (yes, him again–he’s on fire!) Read more
March 20th, 2014
Last Sunday we argued repentance had to do with something as deep as identity–repenting from the identities we project and those we conceal. Perhaps it’s over-psychologizing Jesus’ parable, but one could argue both the Pharisee and the tax-collector either put forth or ran from their respective self-appraisals out of fear of not being found qualified before God. The tendency is nevertheless well-attested in modern sensibilities, and something we’ve attended to in these pages.
While some might consider Jesus’ portrayal of the Pharisee in the parable a caricature, the apostle Paul likely would not have. Do you remember the appraisal he had of himself before he’d met the risen Jesus? It’s anything but modest:
If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
His resume was in his own mind matchless–his confidence in God’s pleasure toward one so shiningly devoted, unqualified. But Jesus found Paul’s armor against accusation as brittle as parchment. The Saul who would soon undergo more than a name change discovered the merit he thought his piety afforded him to be but worthless currency. Something else would be real gain and the ground of real acceptance before God:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith
So Paul represents perhaps the prototypical portrait of one who undergoes the deconstruction and reconstruction of identity we spoke of last Sunday. Paul’s view of himself, and of the meaning of his obedience to the law, was turned on its head. Whereas formerly in Paul’s mind holiness would be compelled in order to obtain the favor of God, Christ made clear that holiness would be compelled only by trust in a favor already obtained. Now living for Him who died and was raised would be compelled by the love already demonstrated by Him who’d gone to His cross (2 Cor 5:14ff).
All that sounds almost too exalted for its own good. Unless the transformation that overcame Paul can make discernible difference in those seeking the same, the theology here remains too remote to human experience. That’s why we ended last Sunday’s sermon with a few marks of an identity reconstructed into that humble frame.
We said a humility wrought by Jesus translates into:
- striving without obsessing
- confessing without despairing
- and becoming a friend to sinners–both because you are one and because Christ did
Reproving without condemning. Jesus doesn’t dispense with the category for sin in order to magnify His grace. He only assures that sin will not preclude the penitent from that grace. The Jesus who said to Peter, “get behind me, Satan” is the same who later said, “feed my sheep.” The grace of the latter did not negate the force of the former. So there’s still a place for calling a person to account, so long as there’s a preceding inquiry of soul (Mt 7:3,4) and a corresponding recognition of a truth larger than the offense (Rom 8:1)
Neither avoiding nor inciting conflict. For some it’s like downing milk of magnesia to face conflict; for others, provoking conflict is like delicious honey. We are either too afraid or take too much pleasure in friction, whether necessary or not. The promise of God’s acceptance means we don’t fear what might we might experience, or even lose, in entering into conflict. And if we are nothing apart from grace, then we beware of the tendency to stir things up in order to outwit and outlast. The new identity characterized by humility puts righteousness before protecting oneself while it also keeps our aggressive tendencies in check.
Making your wealth, of whatever sort, work for those without it. That people can tend to define their worth by their net worth, or by some other index the community affirms, is no news. The disposition leads them to hold onto rather than give away what they have because it means too much to their sense of worthiness. But the new identity, the one whose foundation rests upon His not our work, learns a new freedom to make what they have serve others rather than themselves.
Everything changes when your deepest sense of identity derives from answering, not who, but whose you are.
Just to make sure we’re clear, Storyline, which begins March 30th, is for anyone and everyone who might want to hear a summary of our faith as the Westminster Confession understands it. Future officers must participate, but all are highly encouraged to participate.
If you need more than an invitation, here’s an additional rationale for coming: in one sense what we’ll cover is foundational to the realization of our young church’s vision for “Faithful Presence.” James Hunter, from whom we’ve lifted the phrase, explains how FP depends in no small measure on acquiring a framework for our theological thinking.
At the foundation of this task are the fundamental preparations of the catechesis—instruction into central truths of Christian belief, the development of the spiritual disciplines, and the observance of the basic sacraments. It will also include teaching a new language rooted in Scripture. . . .Words such as covenant, grace, gift, sin, mercy, forgiveness, love, hope, blessing, the flesh, glory, creation, resurrection, sacrament, and the like must be learned anew. . . within the context of the social, political, and cultural realities of one’s own time.
The Westminster Confession is just that vehicle for catechesis, instructing us in the vocabulary that both orders and moreover deepens our sense of God’s way and will. We hope you’ll all attend.
We continue our series in the Practice of Repentance this Sunday by listening to Jesus’ perhaps most famous parable, that of the two sons in Luke 15:11-32.
So many have said so much about this provocative parable. But despite its age, the pointed story still resonates. Even New York Times columnists find it both wondrous and instructive for a modern age.
I found this little gem this week: a short vignette on some of the history behind Rembrandt’s final painting of the parable, now hanging famously in The Hermitage in St Petersburg. The folks that composed this painting’s backstory may have projected a bit of drama upon its feature. Rather than obscure the message of the parable, Rembrandt may have let understatement actually accentuate Jesus’ meaning. But to learn that this painting–and not his first rendition of the parable–was on his easel when he died adds to the drama of the painting itself. Our moment shapes all our expressions, and Rembrandt’s paintings are no exception.
Stop what you’re doing. Do not pass go. Take a moment to RSVP Sue Akovenko to register your attendance at the celebration for our new members this Sunday evening, March 23rd from 6-8p at the Lafferty’s. As we said last week CtK will provide the main dish (Pork BBQ), but we’d ask everyone to bring a side dish. Suggested dishes are:
- Baked Beans,
- Vegetable Plate,
- BBQ Buns,
- Desserts, Chips, and Tea (sweet & unsweet)
When you RSVP, please mention what you might bring so we can ensure equal measure of everything. One can eat only so many baked beans. If you know what I mean.
Finally, please continue to pray
- for our CtK sick list of Margarita Harris, Helen Johnson, Imelda Ottmers
- for Mark and Rachel Kull as they move his aging father here, all the way from Idaho
- for resolution in what’s befallen the Malaysian airline
- for the church in hostile places like Syria, N Korea, the Ukraine, and elsewhere
See you Sunday at 9:30,
On a final note, repentance began for the younger son of Jesus’ famous parable when, as verse 17 says, he “came to his senses.” It was as if he’d woken up from the longest dream. Keith Green might just tip his hat to this new and lilting rendition of his song.
March 13th, 2014
Peter ends his second letter with a prayer of exhortation, calling the church to “grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” In only a few words, he summarizes what the life in Christ envisions: a growing grasp of Jesus that manifests in the same graces He exhibited. The grasp is not without content, but it aspires to far more than a command of ideas. It’s about maturing that is both a work of God and a work to which we give ourselves. It is parallel to Paul’s admonition to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, to work and to will according to His good pleasure.”
Starting March 30th during 2nd hour we’ll begin something that’s ordered unto the end Peter and Paul (and I suppose Mary, too) prescribe. As we mentioned in these pages a couple weeks back, your Session will use the time we typically reserve for Q&A to teach a series of classes we’re calling Storyline. The title alludes to a fundamental belief of our faith that God has written in the pages of Scripture not a manual as such but a story which documents His intention, frustration, and restoration of all He has made. Since they constitute in part the constitution of our denomination’s faith, we will appeal to the Westminster Confession of Faith for the Story’s outline.