Subscribe to the Backstory
April 23rd, 2015
It’s been seven days since last we checked in with you. Don’t let the size of the number fool you though.
In seven days the earth has traveled 11.221 million miles.
In seven days, your blood has made a circuit of 84,000 miles; that’s 28 times from coast to coast in America.
In seven days, light has proceeded a mere 181,440,000,000 km (reminds you of national debt numbers, doesn’t it?)
So we’ve got seven items for you. Hopefully, you’ll find coherence to them. There’s value to each even if you don’t. So without further ado.
You may remember us sending four of our women to a ministry conference in Atlanta recently. They went on a fact-finding mission for imagining ways we can bring greater coherence and coordination to our ministry to, and by, women. The four ladies, Karla Pollock, Margaret Doria, Liesl Raikes, and Hanna Rice, have been processing all they gathered from the conference and will make presentations to all our women in the future.
But coming soon is a brief survey they’ve composed that’s designed to gauge CtK women’s interest in a variety of possibilities for ministry. So be on the lookout for an email in the coming weeks for that survey, and take the few moments it will require to complete it.
Our officer candidates are taking their exams this week on bible, theology, and our Book of Church Order. One realm in which they’re (sadly) not examined is in church history. (But considering all they have had to study, they surely deserve a pass on this field of study!)
If you’ve ever felt the itch to know more about the often astounding and, yes sometimes, sordid history of the church, there are resources galore for your perusal. One that’s come to my attention of late, and one given a high recommendation recently, is a series of free (woo hoo!) lectures given by Dr. Carl Trueman from Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia. You can listen to his eleven lectures on the medieval period here, and the thirty-three on the Reformation here.
Speaking of Reformation history, Martin Luther does most to rescue the distinction that Paul makes between being in the flesh or in the Spirit (part of our focus last Sunday) from purely ethical considerations. What matters in the life oriented either to the flesh or to the Spirit is the underlying motivation, and the premises upon which they are based. Luther helps us to make sense of that distinction by clarifying what those ultimate premises are. To live in the flesh is to make oneself the means of one’s ultimate good, while living in the Spirit looks to God for that means. It’s the difference between where one places ultimate trust–in the self or in God.
So as it pertains to, for instance, the doing of good works, one may be motivated to do them for their own intrinsic worth; or one may do them in order to ultimately obtain something by them. The latter acts on the belief that the self is the source of finding the good. The former is motivated by something other than the self. Luther makes that distinction clear in his Treatise on Good Works, saying
. . .there is not one in a thousand who does not set his confidence upon the works, expecting by them to win God’s favor and anticipate His grace; and so they make a fair of them, a thing which God cannot endure, since He has promised His grace freely, and wills that we begin by trusting that grace, and in it perform all works, whatever they may be.
In other words, the glory of the Gospel is that we may no longer look to ourselves to establish our own acceptance. And the challenge of the Gospel is that we must struggle to no longer look to ourselves to establish our own acceptance.
We’re in the next paragraph of Romans 8 this Sunday: vv. 9-11. It has to do with the nature of Christian spirituality. See you Sunday. (Oh, and for those of you still wondering if you can memorize any or all of Romans 8, watch Margaret Doria’s smoke this Sunday.)
We quoted him at the end of last week’s sermon (and at the beginning of Q&A for no good reason!), but Mark Helprin’s writings command attention. (The two quotes came from his book, The Pacific and Other Stories.) The column by Andy Crouch we pointed you to last week makes the case for why Helprin is worth your time.
We also included a poignant reference to the estranged daughter of famed author Pat Conroy. Here’s an interview with him from around the time of the release of the book dedicated to her.
During our last children’s sermon we heard the Gospel according to Baymax.
This Sunday the portly Artificial Intelligence will yield the floor to a humble, graceful, neglected stepchild.
Cinderella (and by way of cautionary-tale, her embittered stepmother) will let her story uniquely tell us The Story. (Polish your slippers–you shall go to the sermon.)
Finally, Newsweek reports more sobering news of still other Christians forced to flee the ruthlessly tentacular reach of ISIS. Among those displaced: monks who’ve inhabited ancient monasteries. These hermetic men and women have been bound by a common faith, but also (like all Christians) by common melody. But the songs they sing, the chants they incant, are as ancient as the havens from which they now flee.
What do their old, but by no means obsolete, worship odes sound like? Now you can listen to a sample of them (these from monasteries of Syriac Orthodox monasteries in Turkey) here: http://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Syriac-litu . . .
When you pray, remember to pray for
- the Syriac Christians fleeing ISIS
- the crises in Yemen, Iraq, and Tunisia
- our need of new coordinators for our vital nursery ministry
- our officer candidates coming for interviews next week, having completed their written exams this week
- our Community Group facilitators as the meet to plan in the coming weeks for the next season of preparation