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
In our first week of Storyline, we referenced the Confession’s guidance for how to interpret the Bible. The next to last section of the first chapter explained something intuitive about interpretation but nonetheless essential to mention:
The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly
In other words, if, as we argued earlier in the first lecture, that Scripture is the confluence of God’s intentions expressed through human thought-forms, cultures, and idiom, then the best arbiter over the meaning of any part of Holy Scripture is what the rest of Holy Scripture says. The particular is to be interpreted by the whole.
You might think that either so obvious as to go without saying, or so esoteric as to follow your eyes’ instinct to glaze over. But that interpretive principle surfaced even this week.
Our periodic (but unofficial) contributor to these pages, Wesley Hill, added his own review of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. (HT: Debby Comer) The outpouring (ha) of comment on this film–both admiration and excoriation–is a study in itself. But while Hill had little expectation of tight alignment between text and film, he explains how Aronofsky’s depiction of the divinely co-opted boatswain lacks a critical interpretive element that a fuller reading of the whole Scripture would’ve supplied (spoiler alert):
. . .near the end of the film, Emma Watson’s character, Ila, gives up the game. She says to Noah that perhaps God preserved him because God knew that he had a merciful heart. Perhaps, she speculates, that’s exactly the sort of person God could count on to renew the world non-violently, peaceably, and responsibly after the flood. And in this way, the film ends up locating the rationale for God’s mercy in some native spark of goodness in Noah that will, viewers hope, make the new, post-flood world more livable than the antediluvian one
In other words, Aronofsky preferred a vision for Noah (one shared by some Christian traditions to be sure) that rested humanity’s fate on the likes of him and those like him, which is a fairly modern vision for its optimism. One central subtext of the whole canon of Scripture is the very inhumanity of man which God dramatically seeks to rectify in the Flood Narrative. While Noah heeded the call of God, his full story sees him no less in need of something more than what naturally existed within. Grace would have to abound for him, too.
Hill writes not to nitpick or tut-tut Aronofsky’s rendition–only to remind those who, in their appreciation for the director’s work, might lose sight of the necessary Grace that pervades the whole of Scripture. The same Grace that chose to rescue a remnant (6:8), that shut them safely in the ark (7:17), that made a covenant to preserve what He created notwithstanding humanity’s incorrigibleness (8:21). The whole explains the part and thereby rescues the part from a deeply discordant misinterpretation.
We’ll turn this Sunday in class to the simple and uncontroversial theological concepts of the Trinity and Divine Providence–with hopes you noted the irony. It’s chapters 2 and 5 in the Confession, but it wouldn’t hurt for you to reacquaint yourself with the story of Joseph in Genesis 36-50 and the pithy passage in Acts 2:22-24.
Justin Welby had worked in the oil industry in England for eleven years when he sensed a call from God to ordained ministry. At first rejected for ordination with the unequivocal words, “There is no place for you in the Church of England,” Welby nevertheless went on to study for the priesthood and become a curate in 1992.
But in 2011, at the age of 56, Welby was ordained as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest ecclesial office in the Church of England.
Though one so elevated to such towering responsibility, Welby speaks with a commensurate humility (in welcome departure to some of the mendacity with which some of his predecessors acted). Such humility is immediately evident in this clip about one of the most heartbreaking moments of his life, and taken shortly after his consecration to his latest post.
You hear his brokenness and the faith that rose up in him in that darkest hour. You also hear the centrality of prayer to his life–one you can hear more of in an interview he gave on leadership last year.
We’re going to gather again on Sunday night, April 13th, from 6-8pm at the home of Nathan and Virginia Vandermeer for our monthly time of corporate prayer. We may pray for those facing tragedies, both sudden and protracted. We will pray for God to lead us as we seek to become “living stones.”
If praying in public makes you sweat, just read our recap from a couple months back. Taking C.S. Lewis’ axiom to heart, “We must lay before him what is in us; not what ought to be in us,” we’ll strive to forsake the fear that leads to pretense and just pray what comes to mind, without regard for eloquence or exactitude. Join us.
This Good Friday, April 18th, 6pm at Fairmeadows Baptist, we’ll gather for a brief service–“a service in shadow.” We’ll remember the crucified Jesus in a fittingly spare way with word and prayer, song and silence, light and shadow.
Though won’t be providing childcare so that all may attend, the sober atmosphere notwithstanding, we hope families with small children will feel every freedom to participate. We’re a family and kids will be kids. So don’t let the subdued atmosphere discourage you from worshipping with us. There was far more bedlam outside Jerusalem on that dark dusky day.
Finally, please continue to pray
- for those who mourn: Malaysia and China, Washington State, Chile, and Ft Hood
- for your elders and pastor as they seek to be faithful shepherds
- for our search for a part-time temporary administrative assistant, a job description of which may be found here
- for those among us who struggle: with fear, with doubt, with anger
- and for a renewed sense of our being fully and finally forgiven–and that such might liberate a love in us like what we find in Jesus’ parable this Sunday
See you Sunday at 9:30,