Pastoral Backstory 1.9.14

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(What is the Backstory and why?)

 

 

January 9th, 2014

jenny_pan_samuel_ryan_and_sydney_berstein-millerOften an older generation will lament how the rising one no longer has much appreciation for older art forms.  At other times the younger folk surprise their elders with the embrace of ostensibly outmoded expressions–even if the interest tends to be short-lived (remember the resurgence of swing dancing a few years ago? Neither do I.)

My kids surprised me over the holiday with their enjoyment of Lerner and Loewe’s musical version of My Fair Lady, starring Rex Harrison and the incomparable Audrey Hepburn.

You remember the plot: an accomplished ethnolinguist (know any?) named Henry Higgins encounters a feisty and unrefined flower-girl named Eliza Doolittle whose brutalization of the English language, in Higgins’ elitist eyes, inspires a challenge in him as much as it incenses him to hear her speak.  He places a bet with his friend and colleague, Colonel Pickering (played by Wilfrid Hyde White–whom I’d only known previously in a far less eminent role), that he can replace Eliza’s gracelessness and linguistic dishevelment with enough elegance to fool the highest of high-brows.

In the end Dr Higgins’ transformation is no less dramatic as Eliza’s.  His redemption pivots on how he both perceives, and in turn, treats his subject who will soon get under his skin.  But the redemption is not so easily wrought (what one is?) given how deep his prejudices to those he categorizes as the Great Unwashed.  While sharing a cup of tea with Higgins’ mother one day, Eliza summarizes–and laments–Higgins’ inner darkness:

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I should never have known how ladies and gentlemen behave if it hadn’t been for Colonel Pickering. He showed me that he felt and thought about me as if I were something better than a common flower girl.  You see, Mrs. Higgins, apart from the things one can pick up the difference between a lady and a flower girl isn’t how she behaves but how she is treated.  I’ll always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins because he always treats me as a flower girl and always will.

This simple girl discerns a profound truth: there may be few more powerful transformative forces than how one is regarded by another.  Training her in the art (and affectation) of aristocracy notwithstanding, the “new” Eliza would always be to Professor Higgins the same “old” one, but with only pinkies turned up with teacup in hand. Unless he came to see her as more than his project, her real transformation would depend on the graces of others.

Last Sunday we argued from Psalm 8 that the God responsible for the existence and sustenance of all things paid humanity the highest compliment by endowing him with so much of Himself thereby confirming His singular regard.  God the Son amplified that respect by setting aside so much that was Divine in order to enter into the limitation of humanity, and by dying to restore the estrangement from God.  Such was the most sacrificial and loving form of treatment humanity ever received.

The recognition of God’s unparalleled treatment of humanity is what we might call conversion.  It’s the repeated reflection upon His treatment that serves to refine even the most unwashed parts of us.  To those He came to rescue they will always be His children.  As His children they will always be treated with dignity–cherished, disciplined, and welcomed by Him.

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bluemondayformulaA former, and now somewhat discredited, tutor at Cardiff University in Wales developed a formula to project what tends to be the saddest day of the year for most people–a day that’s come to be known as Blue Monday.  It’s when all our resolutions to make drastic changes for the better have fallen into the dustbin of good intentions.  Some ideas that shone luminous for a time may soon become as dingy and indistinguishable from all else we regret and can’t seem to shake.

One idea you might’ve entertained even before the turning of the year was to take up the challenge I gave you (and myself) toward the end of our series on Faithful Presence–specifically the sermon from 1 Peter 3 about being present to the world with a gospel-centered message.  I brandished a book from the pulpit, John Stott’s Basic Christianity, and encouraged you to grab a copy for $5 and read it in preparation for the seminar on evangelism we’ll hold February 1st, 8:30-noon. Well that seminar is fast approaching.  And whatever diminution of enthusiasm you may have suffered in the intervening weeks I’m here to rekindle.

I don’t remember who said it, but there’s one word that both Christians and non-Christians despise with almost indistinguishable hatred: evangelism.  Several reasons are adduced to explain the disdain from the Christian perspective.  You might add some new ones yourself.  One reason stems from a particular assumption about how evangelism is supposed to happen.

Casting no blind eye on the public scrutiny Mark Driscoll’s been under recently, there’s still something very helpful here in his retelling of the frequent encounters he has with those of another faith.

In his letter to a widow from a wealthy Roman family, St Augustine wrote, “we love ourselves if we love God; and we truly love our neighbors as ourselves, according to the second great commandment, if, so far as in our power, we persuade them to a similar love of God.” (Letter 130)

Driscoll and the Bishop of Hippo concur that true love arcs toward evangelism because it’s always and only about bearing testimony to the same love of which you’ve become convinced.  And that where there is no true love there is no true evangelism, for then it becomes merely an act of salesmanship, or worse, coercion.

I’m hoping you’ll all come to the seminar on February 1st.  You can click here to register.  The morning together will not be about amassing a set of tricks or preparing a speech, but of trying to give some thought, prayer, and discussion to how best to summarize the love of Jesus in a way that loves our neighbor.  If you haven’t got the short book yet, we’ll have more copies this Sunday.  And as we’ve said before, there is no cost to come save the price of the book ($5) and the time it takes to read it. 

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Love your father, but not more than you love your God. Love your mother, but not more than the mother that gave you birth to eternal life.  Furthermore, from this same love of your parents see how much you ought to love God and the Church. For if so much love is owed to those who begot you to a life that must end with your death, how much more grateful love is owed to those who begot you for an eternal destiny!  —Augustine, Sermon 344.2

The True Church can never fail. For it is based upon a rock. – T.S. Eliot

The following twenty five people will be participating in our 3rd Introduction to Membership Class this weekend.  I’d like to ask all of you, member and regular attender alike, to pray for these by name.

Jeremy Batts,   David & Gloria Farah,  Margarita Harris,  Tom & Janet Headland,  Don & Sandi Holzwarth,  Helen Johnson

Kathy McCartney,  Ron & Diane Morren, Robert  & Bev Nichols,  Jane Pappenhagen,  Jane Peterson,  Calvin & Katie Pitts

Cal Ramage,  David & Kim Rawdon (Robin and Lindsey), Phil & Sheila Stevens

If Jesus is Lord and He obtained the church by His own blood (Acts 20:28) then the community of whom He is the head is the most crucial set of relationships. Would you pray that this weekend would bind us together as much as it explains the essence and purpose of membership?

 If you say that the history of the Church is a long succession of scandals, you are telling the truth, though if that is all you say, you are distorting the truth.  –Gerald Vann

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As we announced last week, Thursday, January 23rd, from 9-4p at Fellowship Bible Church Dallas, Redeemer Seminary is hosting a Winter Pastor’s Conference.  Speakers will include Dr Sinclair Ferguson, Rev. Todd Hunter, Dr. Tim Keller, and Pastor Bruce Wesley.  Tickets are $45.  You can register by clicking here.  The elders and I will be in attendance; others from our community plan to be there, too.  If you have the time and would like to be part of our larger discussion about implementing our vision, join us.

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And while you’re praying for those attending the Membership Class, would you also pray

  • DonandHelenfor Helen Johnson as she mourns the loss of her beloved, Don
  • for our newly constituted session which will take time out later this month for a concerted time of prayer and planning
  • for all the ways the Lord might help us to be faithfully present to Him, one another, and wherever we find ourselves

See you Sunday at 9:30,

Patrick

 

 

2 comments on “Pastoral Backstory 1.9.14

  1. Dave Oltrogge says:

    In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis refers to ‘the intolerable compliment’.

    Re evangelism, are you acquainted with Paul Little’s ‘How to Give Away Your Faith’?

  2. Wanda Williams says:

    I really liked Driscoll’s clip on evangelism and the Witnesses. We will be celebrating our anniversary the weekend of the class, but are definitely interested in evangelizing as mentioned in our interview with you. We will pray for the class and participants.

    Blessings

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