Grace Is Life

Today I had a student that I am mentoring who mentioned something I said in one of my classes: “Grace is life”. I had said this as part of my response to a student’s sermon addressing grace, but never defining it in any sort of substantial sense. It seemed taken for granted. I had offered that the preaching student consider “Grace is life”. I only briefly added to this a few comments about that life being the life of God in and for us. Then I moved on with the class. This student in my office, however, wondered just what I meant by it.
Being a dad I’m good at giving far more than someone asks for. 🙂
I opened with clarifying that for me this statement flows from my readings and reflections on the work of Karl Barth. I walked the student through the basic idea of God’s freedom for, to, through, and in (and even against) us. This, for me, is grace. God remains always free in his own self-giving. We find ourselves taken up into this in God’s own self-giving in Jesus the Christ. Here is Man given freely to and for God and to and for creation. Here is God given freely to and for God and to and for creation. And always and forever this freely flowing life of God is given in God’s own love for God and our being taken up into that movement by the Spirit of Jesus.
And then tonight as I sat down to do some evening reading I happened upon this statement by Barth regarding election that seemed related to my discussion with my student:

… in the name and person of Jesus Christ we are called upon to recognize the word of God, the decree of God and the election of God at the beginning of all things, at the beginning of our own being and thinking, at the basis of our faith in the ways and works of God. (CD 2/2 p. 99)

For myself (and I pray for my students as well), I find tremendous help in these ideas for pastoral care and praxis. Grace becomes both the opportunity and possibility of life … and that life is in God’s own life. What do you think?

A Dirty Secret About Me

Here it is…
Wait for it…Secret
I LOVE pastoring and I love my congregation and I love my community!  Okay.  So that isn’t “dirty,” nor a “secret,” but it is about me. 🙂  I have found too often when speaking with pastors in an intimate setting that they either don’t love pastoring, or their church, or their community (or all of the above).  This is a sad state of affairs and my word to them is, “Get out of the ministry, because you aren’t doing anyone a favor by continuing.” Too often a pastor will remain a pastor just because that’s what they do and they don’t know what else to do.  I do go on to tell such “pastors” that they need to either quit their churches or find God’s love for what they are, where they are and what they are doing.
On the other hand, I meet pastors who genuinely enjoy what they are doing and could never see themselves doing anything else.  They love the folks who gather with them in worship, discipleship and mission.  They even love their community.  It’s a beautiful thing to behold…and I am encouraged by such faithful ministers of the good news.
So I guess I just wanted to share that “dirty secret about me”.  I really do love what I do, where I am…and even who I am (warts and all)!
[originally blogged July 12, 2012 at]
As an update, I also LOVE teaching at Trinity now three years after I first blogged this. Just in case anyone missed that in my status updates over the last two years. 😉

Cambria: The Hebrew Poet


חבקני אם (Mom hugs me)
שקני אם (Mom kisses me)
שקני אב (Dad kisses me)
חבקני אב (Dad hugs me)
כי בי אהבו רב מאד (And they love me very much)
Note the chiastic structure of the first four lines where the verb in line one matches line four,* and line two matches line three. And the subjects of line one and two are coordinate, like the lines of lines three and four. And the final line climaxes (though lying outside the chiasm) the whole poem with a lively summation of the whole as an epexegetical crescendo.
Okay, so Cambria (my eight year old daughter who is very intelligent — I’m obviously not biased) never wrote this poem in Hebrew, but the English is all hers. I added the Hebrew, because, well, it just seemed like fun (sick, I know). I thought it was fascinating how she chose to write these lines of hers with this sort of structure (and all without training as a scholar of Hebrew poetry…fascinating isn’t it??? 🙂 ). I may be spending a bit too much  time thinking about such things.
My wife’s rhetorical response to me about the poem was, “I wonder what her love language is?” I’ll give you one guess…
* A curiosity is the energic nun in the verbs of lines one and four. 🙂

Beyond the Historical Grammatical Malaise

English: Icon of Jesus Christ
English: Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the things which has long bothered me about “historical-grammatical” (HG) methods of interpretation is the sense that it presupposes itself to offer a “scientific” approach to Scripture.  While the methods of HG can not simply be ignored in the context we find ourselves in (nor should they be)…they simply can not be allowed to dominate our study and exposition of Scripture.  What one needs is to be conformed into the image of Christ by the hearing of the Word.  It is the making of the “virtuous reader” who is formed by this text through the enabling of the Spirit who inspired and now illuminates these words.  Two particular things come to mind:
There must be humility in our hermeneutics that simply doesn’t seem present (or at least dominant) in the HG methods. It is the openness not simply to hear the text, but to be changed by the text, and by being changed to re-hear the text anew.  This is not to be confused with the notion of unthinking embrace, but to genuinely take great care in hearing and therefore being transformed in that hearing.  We are not to “check our brains at the door” of interpretation…we are to use all we have been given (knowledge, wisdom, experience) for the purpose of interpretation.  In the giving of our whole selves to the Spirit we can then be remade (wholly) by that same Spirit.
Love must define our hermeneutic.  This is another component that just seems lacking in the HG methodology. If our interpretation does not drive us to love God and neighbor more fully, than we are not interpreting in a manner befitting the revelation of Scripture. Too often the HG school of interpretation would have us believe that we must be “objective” (as in removed from the text), but we are subjects both confronted and embraced by the subject of the text as the living voice of the living God. This is a hermeneutics of relationality, not of scientific abstractions.  Our affections are called to the obedience of Christ…to the sanctifying work of Christ’s Spirit in and through us by this Word.  To interpret correctly is to respond correctly is to love correctly.