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Unlearning Christian Amnesia (via Winn Collier)

Every Christian has experienced God’s gracious power at work in their lives.
As disciples we consistently evaluate situations as if we’re supposed to navigate them in our own power.

From Winn Collier who is reflecting on Jesus’ interactions with the disciples as he intends to feed a large crowd (again).

…with the dilemma out in the open, only Jesus possessed the imagination to consider any outrageous solution. The disciples had seen Jesus raise corpses and cleanse lepers and cast a herd of demons into a herd of swine. Even more ironic, if this account is seperate from the miraculous feeding of an even larger crowd just a few days before, the disciples had already seen Jesus work a miracle to answer the same quandary. Theologian Frederick Bruner says that here Matthew teaches a “doctrine of Christian amnesia.” In a crisis we seldom remember the many ways God’s grace has flowed to us. The disciples only inclination was to organise a quick exit, hoping to minimise the damage. Jesus, on the other hand intended to arrange a feast.
God knows our pain better than we do. He sees our calamity and feels, even with greater awareness than we, how near we are to ruin. The Gospel narrative is the unfolding of a rescue operation, for those of us unaware of how much we need it and naive in the face of our complete dissolution.

Winn Collier, Holy Curiosity, Baker Books, 2008, pg 62-63.


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Jesus Doesn’t Dismiss Our Fears, He Experienced Them And Overcame Them (via Winn Collier)

Jesus doesn’t dismiss our fears.
He spends much time telling his disciples that we’ll experience much that drives to the hearts of our anxieties.
And he goes to the very heart of fear itself, experiences it all, and emerges victorious, for us.

From Winn Collier.

“Incarnation is the place,” says Kathleen Norris, “where hope contends with fear.” Perhaps this hints at the reason, if Jesus was familiar with fear, he was not distraught in the boat that was battered by the ferocious storm. He was not afraid because he was aware of God the Father with him. Perhaps this also tells us why the cross evoked such a different, disquieted response from Jesus. There, as the sky turned black and as Jesus cried out as only a forsaken man could, God was nowhere to be found. That is a place of terror.
Christ has known ultimate fear. He has known fear in ways we never will. It is not that Jesus is unable to understand the range of our fears; it is that we are unable to understand the depth of his. We must resist any easy notion that Jesus never knew fear. This does injustice to his humanity, and it offers little hope when fear engulfs us. How can we say God is truly “with us” if he has not been at times immersed, like us, in the torrent of fear?
This God-incarnated, this blood—and—bone God—in-Jesus, came to “contend with fear.” He did not come only to face nobly fear’s blunt force … and die. Jesus’ face—off with fear did not conclude on a darkened Friday when hope was lost and hell quivered with pleasure. After cross came resur— rection, and in the mysterious hours between the two, Jesus took death and sin—all that makes up the foul side of fear—and placed them squarely under his crushing heel. Fear unleashed all it possessed on Jesus, a torrent of death and shame and abandonment and sin, enough to finish even the strongest of men. But fear did not destroy Jesus; Jesus destroyed fear.
Our comfort and courage do not come from a Jesus who was unmolested by fear; our Comfort comes from a Jesus who went into fear’s very bowels … for us. He drank in every acidic ounce of fright and distress and vexation. For us, he drank it in. And now, as he stands leaning toward us, Immanuel asks, “Why are you afraid?”.

Winn Collier, Holy Curiosity, Baker Books, 2008, pg 53-54.


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The Subversive Questioner (via Winn Collier)

When God asks questions its not because he needs information.
It’s because we need to learn something about ourselves and our circumstances that we’re hiding from ourselves.
The question reframes our insistence on control and self-reliance and reveals our need.
This is also true of Jesus’ questions, with the added reality that his human nature was not omniscient.
From Winn Collier.

After the tragedy of the fall, Adam and Eve hid. They hid their bodies and they hid their hearts. This is our introduction to sin. What began as Adam and Eve’s stiff-necked rebellion quickly morphed into their rabid fear of being found out and a panic over their complete inability to decelerate the meltdown they had initiated. So Adam and Eve’s response was to stick their fingers in their ears, close their eyes, and hum a s loud as they could in the bushes, pretending they could hide from the truth. God stepped into the tragedy, though, and he posed a question: “Adam, where are you?” It was a question intended to unnerve them, to reveal their desperation, to call them out of their hiding.
God asked a question to the tow hiding in the garden, and he has been asking questions to us ever since. His questions urge us out of our self-absorption and pull us into something far bigger: God. God’s questions are subversive. They reframe the discussion. They are always at work pulling us out of ourselves and drawing us into himself.

Winn Collier, Holy Curiosity, Baker Books, 2008, pg 17.


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The Problem Of Judging The Church’s Now By The Church’s Not Yet (via Trevin Wax)

Trevin Wax unpacks a few thoughts provoked by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Scot McKnight.

Here’s a quote from Bonhoeffer:

“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial.”

And a taste of Wax’s reflections:

Why does it matter to see the church as both “now” and “not yet?” Because many evangelicals are quick to judge and condemn the church by holding it up to the standard of the kingdom’s “not yet.” We take the church “now” and compare it to the kingdom’s “not yet” and then use the kingdom as a sword that judges and condemns our own Christian communities – the vanguard of the kingdom we pray God will bring!
Instead of using the kingdom to judge the church, we should see the kingdom’s reality mirrored in God’s people. We shouldn’t be surprised that the local churches we belong to are communities where we see vibrant manifestations of God’s power and perplexing messiness at the same time.

Read more here.