Easter is for children

We had yet another good Easter sermon from Pastor Douthwaite, with the texts Luke 24:36-49 (1 John 3:1-7; Acts 3:11-21).  (Remember that it is still Easter.  The lectionary focuses on the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, the season ending with Ascension and then Pentecost, which ushers in a new season.)

The thinking of the world and the thinking of the church don’t often agree, and it seems as if they are agreeing less and less these days, about all kinds of issues. But one thing we agree on is that Easter is for children. Yes, for children . . . we just disagree about who the children are! In the thinking of the world, Easter is for children because it’s about candy and bunnies and egg hunts and things like that. But for the church, Easter is for children because Easter is about baptism, and baptism – no matter what age you are – is where we are born anew as children of God. St. Paul tells us in Romans (chapter 6) that baptism unites us to Jesus’ death and resurrection – to Good Friday and to Easter – so that dying with Him, dying to sin, we rise with Him, to a new life of grace. A new life as children of God. And so as we heard from St. John today: “what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” And so we are. Children of God, loved by God.

But good parents don’t just have children, they raise children. And so it is with our Father in heaven. And so these weeks following our celebration of Easter are about what our baptism means for us; how we live and grow as children of God. Last Sunday in the Introit, we sang: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation.” Being a child of God is not the end of the story, but the beginning, of growing up to salvation; of growing in faith and love and righteousness; of not growing away from God – in independence, in freedom, in self-sufficiency – but rather into Him. To be like Him. Like Father, like son.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Easter 3 Sermon.

Pastor Douthwaite then goes on to explain how that happens.

In the beginning was the Voice

There is yet another Bible translation.  It’s called The Voice.  The publisher is Thomas Nelson, who also publishes its polar opposite, the King James version.  Here is a story about The Voice from USA Today

The name Jesus Christ doesn’t appear in The Voice, a new translation of the Bible.

The Voice translation is aimed at people who haven’t read the Bible much before and aren’t familiar with church jargon.

Nor do words such as angel or apostle. Instead, angel is rendered as messenger and apostle as emissary. Jesus Christ is Jesus the Anointed One or the liberating king.

That’s a more accurate translation for modern American readers, says David Capes, lead scholar for The Voice, a complete edition released this month by publishing company Thomas Nelson. Capes says that many people, even those who’ve gone to church for years, don’t realize that the word “Christ” is a title.

“They think that Jesus is his first name and Christ is his last name,” says Capes, who teaches the New Testament at Houston Baptist University in Texas.

Seven years in the making, The Voice is the latest entry into the crowded field of English Bible translations.

Unlike the updated New International Version and the Common English Bible — both released last year — much of The Voice is formatted like a screenplay or novel. Translators cut out the “he said” and “they said” and focused on dialogue.

So in Matthew 15, when Jesus walks on the water, scaring his followers, their reaction is immediate:

Disciple: “It’s a ghost!”

Another Disciple: “A ghost? What will we do?”

Jesus: “Be still. It is I; you have nothing to fear.”

“I hope we get people to see the Bible — not as an ancient text that’s worn out — but as a story that they participate in and find their lives in,” Capes says.

The title for The Voice came from the New Testament book of John and from the Greek word logos. It’s usually translated as “word” in verses such as John 1:1, which reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” in the New International Version, one of the most popular English translations.

In The Voice, that passage reads: “Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God.” Frank Couch, the executive editor and publisher of The Voice, says that translation better captures what logos means.

via New Bible translation focuses on dialogue, giving the Word a ‘Voice’ – USATODAY.com.

Does it really?  Not in the Greek that I learned.

I don’t think this translation is deliberately unorthodox, but the desire to avoid or recast theological language–thus eliminating concepts such as God’s “Word” and even “Christ”–suggest a brand of Christianity that recognizes no history, no continuity with the past, no Church as a corporate entity that transcends an individual’s personal piety.  And yet I’m pretty sure some of the people involved in this project aren’t that way.  Go to the  website, compare translations, and try to arrive at a fair assessment.

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven”

Our Scripture reading in church yesterday included this passage from John 20:

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[c] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

via John 20 ESV – The Resurrection – Now on the first day – Bible Gateway.

(1)  We Lutherans believe that this passage teaches that Christ gives the Holy Spirit to the Church, which includes the authority to forgive sins.  This is exercised in vocation–that is, God acting through human beings–when the called pastor gives absolution during individual or corporate confession (the latter of which is part of every worship service).   After the individual or congregation admits their sins, the pastor says that as a called and ordained servant of the Lord, “I forgive you your sins.”

(2)  But that authority is not just given to pastors, but to the whole congregation, which has called the pastor to exercise this gift on its behalf.  But laypeople too can forgive sins and absolve those who confess their sins to them.  Again, it is Christ who forgives, but He applies that forgiveness through individual Christians.  (Isn’t that right?  Perhaps someone can explain the parameters.)

(3)  So when we forgive someone, according to this Scripture, that affects not only our feelings about the person who has wronged us.  Rather, that actually does something to the person that is recognized in Heaven.  (Right, Lutheran pastors?)

(4)  I know this sounds outlandish to you non-Lutherans.  But how else can you account for these verses (especially John 20:23)?  Do you think that only the Disciples were given this power?  Or what?

Good Friday, Easter, and your Baptism

Baptism is what connects you to Good Friday and to Easter.  If you have been baptized, Christ’s death is your death, and Christ’s resurrection is your resurrection.  So says the Bible in words that I don’t understand how non-believers in baptism can get around:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  (Romans 6:3-5)

He made Himself nothing

What a sermon we had on Palm Sunday to introduce Holy Week!  Pastor Douthwaite preached on Philippians 2:5-8:  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

He made Himself nothing.

The word used there is the word ekenosen, which means He emptied Himself. Some Bibles translate it that way, and so its important to know what that means, and what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that the Son of God left His godness behind in heaven when He became a man. It doesn’t mean He left His power and glory in heaven when He became a man. It doesn’t mean that when He was arrested and manhandled by the Roman soldiers, when He stood before Pilate, and when He hung on the cross, He was helpless and couldn’t do anything about it. He could have. Easily. The same Son of God who healed folks of every disease and sickness, who knew the thoughts and hearts of men, who could command all creation by His Word, whose glory shone in His transfiguration, and who had power over death – that is the Jesus of the Passion. The Son of God who willingly didn’t use all that power when it came time to save Himself. He made Himself nothing.

Yet perhaps we could go even farther than that, if that’s possible – He made Himself less than nothing. Taking upon Himself the sin of the world, He was the greatest sinner ever. Whoever you usually think has that title, the most evilest person you can think of, you’re wrong – it’s Jesus. He is the worst idolater, the worst unbeliever, the worst hater, the worst scoundrel, the worst murderer, the worst adulterer, the worst thief, the worst liar, the worst cheat, the worst everything . . . because He’s got all your sins and all my sins and all the sin of all the people out there, on Him.

Unfair? No. He took them. He wanted them. So that they would be on Him and not on you. So that they would be held against Him and not against you. So that He would be forsaken for them and die for them and not you.

He made Himself nothing.

The king becomes a servant. God becomes man. The One subject to none makes Himself subject to all. The author of life dies. The glory of God is hung on a cross.

Why? For you.

That’s what this day, and all this week, is all about. With all that you hear today, all that you hear this week, the thought to put in your mind is this: He did all this for me. For me. Not just for the world. For me. He made Himself nothing, to make you something. To make you a child of God. And that was worth it. For the Father, that was worth sending His Son. For Jesus, that was worth all the pain and agony and death. You were worth it. You may not be anything in anybody’s eyes; maybe not even in your own eyes. But you are in God’s eyes.

Maybe you think you’re nothing and that’s why you spend so much time trying to make yourself something. But there is simply nothing greater you can do or make yourself than what Jesus has made you: a child of God. That gives you more value than anything else in this world. And God has done that. He said it to you when you were baptized: You are now My beloved Son.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Palmarum/Passion Sunday Sermon.

The new Ten Commandments

British evangelist J. John has re-formulated the Ten Commandments in an effort to make them more relevant for today.  His effort is getting some good press, and some 600 churches in England have bought into the program.  This article tells all about it.  You do have to, literally, buy into the program, because the commandments are presented, discussed, and taught in a DVD program called Just 10 for Churches (not available, at least yet, in the USA, as far as I can tell).

The article linked above tells about the new commandments but doesn’t give a list of the entire 10.  So thanks to the SOWER blog for digging them out, giving the traditional version (with Protestant numbering) followed by the new formulation:

1. You shall have no other gods before Me…“know God”

2 You shall not make for yourself a graven image…… “catch your breath”

3. You shall not use the Lord’s name in vain……..“take God seriously”

4. Remember the Sabbath…………..…“live by priorities”

5. Honor your father and mother……………..…..“keep the peace with your parents”

6. You shall not murder………………… .……..….“manage your anger”

7. You shall not commit adultery………….“affair-proof your relationships”

8. You shall not steal……………………………..“prosper with a clear conscience”

9. You shall not bear false witness……………….….“hold to the truth”

10. You shall not covet…………..“find contentment”

via S.O.W.E.R.: New 10 Commandments?.

What do you think about this?  A dynamic equivalent translation with the virtue of putting the law in positive terms rather than all of those negative “thou shalt not’s,” thereby removing obstacles to evangelism and church growth?  Or an attempt to defang God’s Law by turning it into easy to follow self-help principles that turn Christianity into a different religion?  Or what?


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