Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Illustrating the Trinity

This past week, for Trinity Sunday, I preached a sermon on the Trinity from John 8.  During that sermon, I talked about how the common Trinity analogies are actually examples of anti-trinitarian heresies which have long-since been condemned by the Church.  Afterward, I was asked by one of our brightest young theologians if, after all my error bashing, I could go on the affirmative to provide maybe just one helpful analogy or illustration of the Trinity that wasn't, in the end, heretical.
I told her that most theologians teach that no natural analogue exists, but that I'd think and study further.
Well, after more thought and study, the answer is: more of the same.

One of the greatest theologians among the early Church Fathers, Gregory Nazianzen [a 4th-century contemporary of Augustine, who - though he seemed to have been aware of their shortcomings - was a bit more loosey-goosey with Trinitarian analogies] said these words after evaluating several of the common Trinity analogies:

I have concluded that there is no solid ground upon which to stand my mind in these analogies.  In order to consider the Object I am trying to better understand [God], I must completely accept one part of the analogy while rejecting the rest.  In the end, it seems best to me to abandon the images and shadows [analogies], because they are deceitful and fall very short of the truth.  Instead, clinging myself to the holier way of thinking, I rest upon few words and by the guidance of the Holy Ghost  I make the light which I have received from Him my final friend and companion.  
I journey through this world to persuade everyone else, to the best of my ability, to worship Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the One Godhead and Power.  To Him belongs all glory and honor and might for ever and ever.  Amen.

Both Melanchton and Calvin said: "We do better to adore the mysteries of Diety than to investigate them."  [Servetus take note.]

Friday, May 24, 2013

Ordination Charge by Pastor Emeritus Glen Knecht

Ordination Charge to Ben      (By Glen Knecht)

Today I want to charge you to approach your ministry with the eyes, the perspective of our Lord Jesus.
 Ever the Realist, Christ was also the Artist.  He is positive and creative in the way He sees people and God’s Kingdom.  We might call His “the artistic approach to the ministry of the Gospel”.  I refer to the way the artist frames his subject so that he can have the most light and beauty reflect on the whole.  He does not emphasize weakness or defects, but rather the radiant essence of his subject.
That is what the Lord Jesus did with Nathaniel.  The poor man was thinking of himself as a nobody from an obscure place who was utterly incapable of producing anything good.
But Jesus saw what careless eyes could never see.  They would pass over the mysterious connection between heaven and earth, but Jesus saw something else, something wonderful in Nathaniel’s face.  He penetrated the veil of the fig tree with which Nathaniel thought he could hide his nothingness. There Jesus saw the precious heart of faith which would cry out “You are the Son of God. You are the King of Israel.”
Jesus took the artistic view of Nathaniel that made of  him a faithful follower, a chosen Apostle, that stayed with Him through the Cross and the Resurrection and beyond -– all the way to Heaven itself.
Ben, I want to charge you to have these same eyes., the eyes of the artist as you come to your work -an ordained minister of the Gospel.  Have eyes that will see people differently, When others dismiss  them – you will delight  in them,
And  look at your Church through the prism of the artist.  Instead of seeing her deficiencies, her doubts, her divisions, you will see her glories, her greatness, her destiny to reign with Christ, her glorious groom.
And I call you to see yourself through these same glasses.  Overlook , if you can,  your fears and foibles, and failures, and search for the hidden talents God has placed within you. Go deep within your soul and mine the pure ore of the unique personality you are.
Most of all I charge you to take the artistic view of God Himself.  He is the Author of beauty and music, of great food and of a marvelously unimaginable future for His people.  Cast off any low constructions you may of Him. Always place the highest and most creative motive  on His acts of providence , even on the hard Providences which we experience.  God is always good. Bad things don’t happen to good people.   Everything that comes to us will work for our eternal good.  See God in this light and show this portrait of God to your people every Sunday. And you will be what they want you to be – a ministerial artist- and a happy pastor.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Form, Content, Design [and Worship]

As we approach the launch of our new church webpage, I have repeatedly been reminded of this fantastic TED talk by Design guru, John Maeda: How art, technology and design inform creative leaders.

Alongside a few other dear souls, I have spent several hours over the past few months agonizing  over font selection, tiny layout details, and nearly-unnoticeable design features.  Why?  Because they are NEARLY unnoticeable ... which is to say: noticeable.  And more important: something we all know instinctively, but somehow often forget, ignore, or even intellectually deny when we come to church life:
FORM SHAPES CONTENT as John Maeda so expertly demonstrates in this video clip.

APPLICATION:  There is more to a worship song than just the lyrics.  The MUSIC matters!  Sometimes how we sing matters more than what we sing [case in point: italics].  Things like instrumentation, the minister's apparel and appearance and demeanor, the lighting, the physical atmosphere [stained glass or neon night club] - all these things matter in our churches.  And all these "external" things shape the content ["words"] of our worship.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Prayer for Mother's Day

"Father, because our nation was founded upon Your Law, and in many ways still reflects this, for indeed it is impossible to live and thrive apart from obedience to You and Your will, we as a nation have set aside this day as a special day of honor to our mothers.
So we lift each of our mothers up before Your holy throne today. Shine the light of Your face upon them, for theirs – above every other station – follows after that of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who showed forth His greatness by washing the feet of the lowly and serving and caring for the little ones when the others would send them away.
We are so grateful for the priceless gift You have given to us in our mothers. God bless, guard, keep, and strengthen them. Encourage their hearts who the world despises, but who are precious in the sight of God, which is to be truly precious indeed."

Friday, May 10, 2013

Ascension Cookout Balloon Release

A few years ago after hearing this Ascension sermon, and trying to explain to my little ones what "ascended" means, our family started an Ascension Day tradition of releasing balloons to celebrate our Lord's Ascension to the Father's right hand.  This year we had the joy of continuing that tradition with many friends from Trinity.  Here is a glimpse.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

W.E.B. Griffin on Writing

I try to write in the mornings.  If I can write until noon, all morning, it's a good day of work.  I heard Shelby Foote once say that the trick is getting three days in a row.  Productivity depends on writing three days in a row and something always seems to come up and interrupt that.
The essence of a good story is drama.  A likable character always seems to triumph over threatening odds.  First and foremost, I am lucky. But, B: I work hard.  I have been at it a long time and I am a firm believer that the longer you do this, the better you will be at it, like cabinet making.

-W.E.B. Griffin [William Edmund Butterworth III]