Pastoral Backstory 07.18.13




(What is this and why?)


July 18th, 2013

I haven’t made comment on what’s transpired in recent weeks concerning the debate in America over marriage.  For one, you haven’t asked, and secondly, while it’s negligent to remain aloof to what rages around us, the world doesn’t set our agenda.

The nature of this column doesn’t allow for any respectable treatment about how Christians might think and respond to this cultural moment.  But I think what we said last Sunday has eminent relevance.  If the conversation had between scribe and Jesus is the conversation we all must have, then the answer Jesus gives the scribe is not only crucial to understanding ourselves and our mission, but also crucial to how we respond to this complex, layered, and, yes, visceral issue.

One voice you might consider this week is Ron Beglau whose post I link here brings the threads of identity, love, and calling together, and from the perspective of one who lives celibately as one with same-sex attraction.  It’s no summary of how we’ve gotten to this moment, what this moment is, or how to respond to it.  But Beglau does offer us some helpful, if introductory, thoughts about how to hold tightly to Jesus’ synthesis of loving God with our entirety as we love our neighbor as ourselves.  I don’t suggest that the precise applications of Jesus’ greatest commandment are self-evident from the commandment itself.  But for us to provide a fruitful way forward, we will have to run all our responses through that grid.

UPDATE: Another voice with which I think you should become acquainted is Rosaria Butterfield.  Her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, tells a rather

Rosaria Butterfield

Rosaria Butterfield

extraordinary personal story.  I would be remiss in having us cling to the Greatest Commandment for our guide in this issue without mentioning her unique and poignant perspective.  I promise I’m not guilty of plagiarism in choosing last week’s sermon title as “a Crucial Conversation,” but here is Mrs Butterfield’s lecture Conversations that Matter.



Stanley Hauerwas

Stanley Hauerwas

Stanley Hauerwas is a theologian at Duke University who wonders if we’re not witnessing the end of Protestantism.  I’ll let you read his thoughts yourself but his most basic point as I see it is that one feature of Protestantism’s personality, if I can put it that way, is what’s to blame for her very demise.  Like a genetic mutation that doesn’t present until later in life, Hauerwas argues Protestantism’s appreciation of freedom, one of her most attractive qualities at “birth,” has become responsible for her untimely death only now.  The idea of freedom she so championed is now, he argues, what’s sealing her fate.

David Bentley Hart sounds a similar death knell, not just of the Protestant branch of the church, but of the Church herself–or more precisely of

David Bentley Hart

David Bentley Hart

Christendom, that political and cultural dominance the Church has enjoyed for centuries wherever the Gospel has taken root.  Like Hauerwas, Hart attributes the implosion of the Church’s earlier glory not to an inherent quality of the Gospel, but to some other idea the Church has seen fit to embrace.  In Hart’s estimation, it’s the Church’s decision to align herself with authorities–kings, presidents, premiers, and prime ministers–that has come home to roost.  Her bedfellow in power has now betrayed her.

On both counts, the authors identify certain ideas grafted into the spiritual genome of the church that led to grievous results.  And those results resemble if not reflect a kind of judgment thereupon.

This Sunday’s sermon is in one sense a prelude to what comes right after.  We’ll turn to Mark 13 in two Sunday’s which is Jesus’ foreboding anticipation of judgment, both near and far.  Our passage this Sunday, Mark 12:35-44, is in part an explanation for why that judgment awaits.

And as we’ll see, it’s certain ideas Israel’s spiritual brain-trust had come to embrace that in time would lead Israel to suffer loss.

The question is, can we unwittingly embrace similar ideas and thereby suffer loss as well?


If you would, pray for:

  • our borrowed session’s efforts to prepare men for serving our community as elders
  • our search committee’s efforts to find a suitable location to accommodate our new growth
  • Kevin Calcote as he heads to Chattanooga next week for a conference on Multi-Ethnic Worship; he goes as our emissary and fact-finder
  • for those who serve the littlest among us–that their labor of love would be of joy to them and goodness to those they serve in the nursery
  • for visitors to our community–that they would find warmth and welcome as well as hope and mission
  • and as Paul asks in Colossians 4:4, I ask that you pray for me as I seek to “declare the mystery of Christ” and “that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak”

Peace be with you,


Author: Glenn Machlan

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