mgpcpastor's blog


Leave a comment

John The Baptist And Saying ‘Come Lord Jesus’ And Meaning It (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge writes about John the Baptist and what she terms “apocalyptic transvision — that vision given to the church that sees through the appearances of this world to the blazing power and holiness of the coming of the Lord.”

…. It has occurred to me that the image of Jesus as the cosmic Judge who will ultimately come again to put an end to all sin and wickedness forever is not so frightening to the poor and oppressed of the earth as it is to those who have a lot to lose.
If your loved one is in the habit of buying you expensive Christmas gifts, you might not be so crazy about the idea of Jesus coming back before Santa Claus gets here. But suppose you had been a Christian in prison in the Soviet Union. Or suppose you had been a black person in Apartheid-era South Africa directed to pack up your meager belongings and take them to a so-called homeland that wasn’t your home and that wouldn’t offer you dignified employment. Suppose you were elderly and handicapped in the South Bronx and had just been robbed and terrorized for the third time. In circumstances like those, you might say Maranatha and really mean it.
Even today, John the Baptist’s lonely, austere style of life bears witness to a reality that is coming, a reality that will expose all worldly realities, all earthly conditions, all human promises as fraudulent and transitory. His appearance on the scene at this time of year exposes our pretensions for what they really are. Never have we needed him more!

Read the whole post at Christianity Today.


Leave a comment

Resilient Relationships And Daily Repentance (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge writes about the final prophetic promise of the Christian Old Testament, and how that foreshadows the Gospel hope and the creation wide need for it.

The final words of the Christian Old Testament are quite amazing. The Hebrew Scriptures are arranged so that the prophetic literature is in the middle, but the Christian Old Testament has the prophets at the end. The last book is Malachi, and the next-to—last verses foresee a “great and terrible day,” the day of judgment and the second coming of the Lord. It will be a time when all that has been wrong will be set right. The example that Malachi gives is astonishing. At the last possible moment, he turns away from the language of wrath and flames to something very unexpected. This is the way the Old Testament ends: “Behold, I will send you the prophet Elijah [that would be John the Baptist] … He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.”
The worst thing in the world, the prophet seems to be saying, is estrangement within families. It is given as the sign of the final judgment of God, his worst curse upon the human race. If you are a young person here today feeling miserable about your parents, if you are parents here today worried about your children, then this message is for you. God does not desire this situation. His will is for reconciliation. Family breakdown is a sign of the old age of Sin and Death. Reconciliation between parents and children is the sign that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Maybe you don’t have these kinds of problems yet in your family, but every family, over generations, will have some kind of wrenching, heartbreaking trouble. In every case, the fracturing of the most basic human connection is the antithesis of what God intends for his people. And reconciliation, when it happens, is one of the clearest of all indications that God is at work. Therefore the most important way that we can participate in the life of God is to seek reconciliation. Reconciliation is hard work. It requires daily repentance. For a number of years, I have had two distinguished psychoanalysts as teachers. I asked both of them a fundamental question: What is the most important ingredient in a strong marriage? They gave the same answer. One of them is a secular Jew so I was very surprised to hear him say, “The most important ingredient is asking forgiveness.”
Fleming Rutledge, Advent – The Once & Future Coming Of Jesus Christ, Eerdmans, 2018, pp 291-292.


Leave a comment

Christian Resistance Is A Corporate Expression (via Fleming Rutledge)

Writing on 1 Peter, Fleming Rutledge identifies the theme of the letter as “the church among the nations as the people of the crucified, risen, and reigning Christ.”

The first epistle of Peter is a letter from a God’s—eye view, and the view it gives is of the church. We can never say it often enough: the Bible is addressed, for the most part, not to individuals, but to the people of God.7 We need to say still more. As Peter puts it in various ways over and over throughout the letter, the people of God have been constituted, not by their own preferences or choices, but by Gods’ prior choice, first of Israel, and then, through Jesus Christ, of the church. The church resists, endures, and conquers not through its own efforts, let alone its merits, but because of the call, the commission, and the continuing presence of God. “The God of all grace, Who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.” The church lives out of (not “into” but “out of”) its foundation upon the “living stone” (I Pet. 2:6), which is Christ, out of its baptism into his death and resurrection, out of its promised future guaranteed by his Holy Spirit. It is this certainty that gives courage for resistance.
Fleming Rutledge, Advent – The Once & Future Coming Of Jesus Christ, Eerdmans, 2018, pg 131.

The footnote indicated in the passage above expands the idea:

7. Therefore resistance is not largely a matter of individuals but of the corporate body. “Peter does not issue a general call to become a Christian and then, as a subsequent and perhaps optional move, for individual Christians to join togetherinto a voluntary association that might serve our projects of being individual Christians.” God precedes the people; the people precedes the person; the person is constituted by being incorporated into the people (Harink, 1&2 Peter, 73).


Leave a comment

Living At Midnight (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge reflects on Christian life as a time of waiting, doubt, and preparation.

In the last week of his life, Jesus went to the temple every day to teach. He was engaged in a fight to the death, literally, with the religious leaders. This whole section of the Gospel of Matthew is always read toward the end of the church year; it projects an atmosphere of impending crisis. The parable of the ten Virgins, or bridesmaids, is one of the very last that Jesus told. We are meant to see ourselves in this story. Ten young women with lamps and oil are waiting for a wedding procession. It is midnight, and the bridegroom has not come. The lamps are burning low. Maybe he is never coming. Maybe the whole thing was a mistake.
Midnight is the time of the church year that we are in. This is the time for asking if there is some mistake, for, as W. H. Auden wrote, “Unless you exclaim — ‘There must be some mistake’ — you must be mistaken.”

Fleming Rutledge, Advent – The Once & Future Coming Of Jesus Christ, Eerdmans, 2018, pg 91.


Leave a comment

The Theological Profundity Of Considering The First Coming Of Jesus After Considering The Second Coming (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge on the value of considering the incarnation of Jesus after considering the second coming:

Does Advent run backwards? The movement is from the second coming to the first coming; it doesn’t seem to make sense. The season begins with the last things and ends with the nativity in Bethlehem. Shouldn’t it be the other way round?
Not really. The rhythm of the church’s seasons turns out, in this as in so many other ways, to be theologically profound. If we began with the nativity and then moved to the last judgment, we would be so softened up by that little baby in the manger that we wouldn’t be able to take the second coming of Christ in power seriously. The solemnity and awe do not lie in the fact that the baby becomes the eternal judge. What strikes us to the heart is this: the eternal Judge, very God of very God, Creator of the worlds, the Alpha and the Omega, has become that little baby.

Fleming Rutledge, Advent – The Once & Future Coming Of Jesus Christ, Eerdmans, 2018, pg 60.


Leave a comment

All The Advent Preparation In The World Would Not Be Enough Unless God Were Favourably Disposed To Us In The First Place (via Fleming Rutledge)

I’ll be working through Fleming Rutledge’s just released collection of materials gathered together in book form and titled Advent.
From her introductory essay:

Because the church in modern times has turned away from the proclamation of the second coming, which Jesus repeatedly says will come by God’s decision at an hour we do not expect, is the Advent emphasis on the agency of God as contrasted with the “works” of human beings. An exclusive emphasis on Advent as a season of preparation risks putting human endeavor in the spotlight for all four weeks of the season. All the Advent preparation in the world would not be enough unless God were favourably disposed to us in the first place.

Fleming Rutledge, Advent – The Once & Future Coming Of Jesus Christ, Eerdmans, 2018, pg 5.


Leave a comment

Neither Spirituality Or Religion Is Ever Enough (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge skewers the central conceit behind the supposed superiority of being ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘religious’: they’re both manifestations of the same condition.
Humans need neither.
What they need is justification through Christ.
From Rutledge:

Spirituality, too, like religion, is essentially a human activity or trait that stands in stark contrast to faith. To put it in the simplest terms possible, spirituality is all too easily understood as human religious attainment, whereas faith itself is pure gift, without conditions, and nothing can be done from our side to increase it or improve upon it. On the contrary, we throw ourselves upon the mercy of God, saying, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
++++
…Human potential—which often takes the guise of “spirituality”—has itself become the object of worship.
So what is the antidote to the situation we find ourselves in, where in some places, attendance at “Celtic” services on Sunday evenings—with candles and chants and eclectic liturgies—far outnumbers church attendance on Sunday morning? Where so often, sermons are little more than assorted reflections having little to do with the biblical text? Where the high Christology of the creeds and councils has become mere “Jesus-ology”?
In today’s context, it is more crucial than ever to make a sufficiently sharp distinction between self-justification and self-sanctification on the one hand, and on the other, the utterly gratuitous, prevenient action of God in justifying humanity through his Son. The answer to our problem, then, is both simple and difficult: We need substantive, biblical preaching that drives home our need for justification through Christ.

Read the whole article at Christianity Today.