New Sermon Series Begins Sunday, January 5
In the first century world, it was no exaggeration to say that “all roads lead to Rome.” Rome was the center of the empire, the capital of commerce, and a symbol of power that still echoes in the modern world. One of those who took the road to Rome was the apostle Paul, but rather than go to marvel at the might of the empire, Paul confronted Rome with the news that the world’s true Lord didn’t live amidst the temples and marbled halls of Caesar’s palace. Instead, Paul preached that the true king of the world was a crucified Jew who was also God in the flesh. It was to a small community of Jewish and Gentile believers that Paul wrote his greatest exposition of the Christian faith: The Letter to the Romans.
Many of us learned read Romans more like a shortcut, using a few verses to construct a “Romans Road” theology of how individuals can get into heaven. But like any shortcut, taking out just a few verses of Paul’s great treatise on the Christian faith can cause us to miss the greater journey and destination of faith to which the gospel calls us. When we explore the whole map of Paul’s theology of Jesus, Israel, salvation, justification, and community, however, we discover a road that not only invites us to consider our own salvation, but also God’s saving plan for the whole creation. Romans was the key biblical text that brought John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, to a new and dynamic faith in Christ, and it can do the same for us. During this series we’ll discover how the truth of the gospel can call us to a new life and reconciliation with God and each other, just like it did to those in Rome and millions of other Christians since Paul put pen to paper.
Join us for an epic journey through the foundational truths of Christian faith as we take the Romans road less traveled beginning on Sunday, January 5 and running through March 2. You can read the sermon texts here on the blog, or listen to them here.
The STEP Bible: stepbible.com
Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending a little time with Dr. Peter Williams, who is the Warden of Tyndale House in Cambridge, UK. Tyndale House (not affiliated with the publisher of the same name) is a study center for biblical scholarship, with an extensive library and facilities for hosting a variety of scholars and pastors right on the doorstep of the University of Cambridge. Tyndale House has a mission of raising up a new generation of orthodox biblical scholars and I really enjoyed talking with Peter and hearing about their work (also considering that as a possible sabbatical location someday!).
One of the things that Peter talked about, however, was a Tyndale House-created online resource for students of the Bible. It’s called the STEP (Scripture Tools for Every Person) Bible site (stepbible.org). It’s a very flexible resource that allows scholars, pastors, and students of the Bible to do quick word studies, cross references, concordance and lexicon work, and original language work all for free. The STEP Bible site will bring up interlinear English and Greek or Hebrew passages, as well as interlinears with a variety of world languages that interface with the original languages of Scripture (ever seen an interlinear Bible in Chinese?). Need to know what an English word is in the Greek? Just hover over it and the site will pop up a quick lexical definition of the Greek equivalent. It’s a marvelous tool that enables people from a variety of backgrounds and locations to access tools for biblical study that may be too expensive or too unavailable to them depending on where they are in the world.
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We need to face death before we can celebrate resurrection.
Holy Saturday is one of the most ambivalent days on the Christian calendar, sitting between the pain and sorrow of Good Friday and the joy of Easter Sunday. Biblically speaking,the Gospels infer nothing happens on that original Holy Saturday–Jesus is in the tomb and the disciples and women were no doubt grieving through a very quiet Sabbath, hidden away from the authorities whom they no doubt thought would be at the door first thing Sunday morning (Sunday being the first century Jewish equivalent of Monday for us).
Some traditions begin the Easter vigil on Holy Saturday, looking toward Sunday, while others simply wait quietly for the Easter dawn. The Eastern Orthodox tradition, however, takes a more active theological viewpoint–that Jesus not only is in the grave but that he also descends into Hades or hell to liberate those who have died before his pivotal “victory” at the cross–a belief taken from references like 1 Peter 3:18-20. Some versions of the Apostle’s Creed reference this belief when we say, “he descended into hell” (which is not quite the same as “he descended to the dead”).
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Bible Stories vs. The Story of the Bible
A couple of months ago, my associate pastor, Joe Iovino, and I were invited to a rollout event for the new miniseries “The Bible” on History Channel which premiered this week. On first glance, the series didn’t look like the usual Christian-y kind of film with cheesy production values, lousy acting, and simplistic theology. We left the event with high hopes that this could be something we’d be excited to use as a teaching tool in the church, particularly for those who are more visual learners.
After watching the first episode of The Bible on History Channel, however, I have to admit that it’s really a mixed bag that leaves me somewhat disappointed (Note: as a historian, I am usually disappointed in historical dramas. My nitpicking drives my family nuts!) The production values for the series are ok, the acting is a little better than your typical biblical film, and no film or series can fully capture every story and nuance in the biblical text (unless, of course, it was written by biblical historians–in which case the movie would take as long to watch as the Bible’s own 3,000 year time line!). The main problem, as I see it, is that this “epic miniseries” suffers from the same problem that most people have when they read the Bible itself–the problem of reading Bible stories instead of reading the story of the Bible.
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first question that comes to mind when I read this text from Revelation is this: What
does a book taste like? Well, if you ever get lost in a Land Rover in the
middle of the desert in Dubai, you might get to find out.
Rover knows that getting stuck in the desert is a pretty serious situation,
which is why every vehicle comes with a desert survival manual in the glove
box—a book that talks about everything from making shelter to finding food and
water out there in the wasteland.
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