Friday, August 9, 2013

Fleming Rutledge on Wrath

In light of the hullabaloo over the PCUSA's decision to reject the contemporary hymn/praise song "In Christ Alone," I give you Fleming Rutledge's reflection on the Wrath of God.

*Note: when Rutledge says (capital-S) Sin she is not talking about individual (lower-case-s) sins. She's speaking of the power of Sin and Death that is in opposition to God.

"God's Wrath is against Sin, not against us.  We experience the Wrath of God in the form of all the terrible things that happen, but if we listen carefully to Paul's story, we learn that this Wrath is not God's bad temper, as if he were an irritable parent prone to rages, but his implacable opposition to the evil Power that holds his creatures in bondage.  God's enmity toward Sin is not capricious or malign.  It is the face of God turned steadily and with unshakable purpose toward the Enemy of his creation.  Thus it is possible for us to acknowledge our own identity as sinful creatures and yet, at the same time, rejoice to know that God is on our side against our common Foe."

Fleming Rutledge in Not Ashamed of the Gospel, "But Now..." 72, 73.

Update: For a more complete view of her understanding of the Wrath of God, check out:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Kohelet: Eccentric Sage of Pleasure and Pain (Ecclesiastes 1;2,12-14; 2:18-23 & Luke 12:13-21)

"Kohelet: Eccentric Sage of Pleasure and Pain"
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23 and Luke 12:13-21
Church of the Nativity, Episcopal
August 4, 2013

“Vanity of vanities...
all is vanity.”

“Absurdity of absurdities...
all is absurd.”

“Transience. Transience...
all is transient.”

The Christian tradition does not have much to say about the book of Ecclesiastes. This is not so hard to believe as I would wager that most contemporary Christians continue to avoid it. How are preachers to give their people good vibes with an opening verse like, “Vanity of vanities... all is vanity.” How are we supposed to pump people up saying, “Absurdity of absurdities!... All is absurd!”?

The Teacher, or Kohelet in the Hebrew, is the most eccentric of the sages. The more popular Old Testament book of wisdom--the book of Proverbs--was written by wise men that are more in tune with our religious sensibilities. The sayings that are found in Proverbs are often profound, even at times surprising, but they never shock the pious. Kohelet, on the other hand, is provocative. One can imagine people walking away from a session with him shaking their heads, no longer certain just what to believe. Kohelet is the sage of shock and awe--in your face, offensive, profound.        

With that said, for obvious reasons this book has had a special appeal to young people. Some of you may have seen a CNN article this week about why young people--or, Millennials--are quitting the church. Rachel Held Evans, the author of the piece, says that one of reasons youth are staying away is because of the inauthenticity in church culture. There may be something to her diagnosis, maybe not, but if there’s one thing the book of Ecclesiastes has never been faulted for it’s lack of authenticity.