I am not sure I want to pray for anything

No, I did not say I do not want to pray. The “get things through prayer” is not so attractive to me, feels cold to me, leaves me alienated when I do it, not liking me so much, wondering what Christ thinks, wondering if I am at Sears instead of in heavenly realms.

Yes, I know that God is the ground of all, the Father of lights and the giver of all good gifts. Yes, I know that Jesus says “you have not because you ask not”. And again, Jesus often asks of those who seek him, “what do you want me to do for you?” And then there is the Lord’s prayer – give us this day our daily bread.

But everytime I see the big-teethed, teased-hair televangelists trying to coax me to get God to open up his big bag of gifts for me, I literally scream at the TV. I do. I scream. It reminds me of those daytime game shows where everybody is jumping up and down in excitement about the gifts on the stage. And I scream at the TV then, too. I do. I scream.

Prayer has become much more of what I want to say to God, to hit the ball back across the net, the ball he first hit my way by putting his Son on the cross. Prayer is much more about romancing him, reflecting back a borrowed glory, taking aim at him to give him my heart. If I can just have that moment with him….

Maybe I do not see how needy I am. Maybe I should have more stuff and am not willing to risk faith. Maybe I haven’t bottomed out and desperation is only a word but not a circumstance. I am willing to admit that. And I am willing to say that at some point the missing of some thing or one will make me pray “for” and not just “to”.

And, just in case you are my friend and wondering if I pray for you, I do. I am not sure “for” is the right word. Maybe “present” comes closer to the reality. I gather you up in my palms and hold you before God and say “here he is” or “here she is”.  I want to see God seeing you. Then I can rest.

I am listening to the Bruce McCormack 2011 Kantzer Lectures -well worth your time

Here is the link.

These lectures are not for the theologically faint of heart, but they are for those who want to grapple with the more modern developments on the doctrine of God. Thinking about God didn’t stop at the Reformation. There are questions the orthodox doctrine of God raises which remain for reflection and require some kind of approach that keeps the other doctrines to which we are committed grounded. Perhaps some realize this, and in order to keep the old doctrines in place, such as forensic justification, essentially shut down any wider thinking on the doctrine of God.

These lectures open up the new territory being traversed, all within a commitment to evangelicalism, or at least McCormack says so. I have listened to one of the seven lectures.

If I understand this right, McCormick is a Karl Barth scholar and a Barth fan. That makes him unique today. Barth was so 1950’s. But not so quick, McCormick seems to be asserting. At Westminster Barth was dismissed without a reading, as was Arminius. The biggest mistake of my seminary education was taking professors’ word for it. But there is only so much time, and cranking out papers and getting grades loomed large.

This kind of Calvinism makes me shake my head

Here’s John Piper’s quote:  That bullet, that devil, took my baby. When the Lord picked that flower, he picked that flower. Both!

Here’s the story it refers to.  http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/136269143.html?page=1&c=y

We surely end up with a God who is in control. But this kind of response comes too close to the god of the stoics and does not breathe the metanarrative of Scripture.

High Calvinists look for all kinds of good things to say about very evil things. It might make their worship look tough, manly, LLBeanish, but it ends up on the wrong side of cruel.

This Has Been the Year of Hell

At least NPR thinks it is. Here is a 6 minute audio clip of hell in the news. Of course, Rob Bell figures prominently. Bell left the pastoral ministry soon after he suggested that eventually hell would be emptied through the love of God. This is not a novel suggestion. It has always been around the edges of orthodoxy but has never made it into orthodoxy.

Most Christians conveniently forget that Jesus put hell on the map. The Old Testament is rather quiet on the subject, even to the point that some suggest it can’t be found there. But turn to the New Testament and things turn a bit hotter, so to speak. Just at the point where salvation breaks through with power in the person of Jesus, hell breaks out in technicolor. Jesus is the producer of this movie. He is the wonderful Savior. But he talks of horrors that are almost unmentionable in normal society. I wonder if we are so easy talking about Jesus so much because we don’t talk about what he talked a lot about.

Bottom line: in this life we are making huge choices, gigantic choices, never to be reversed choices. There is no such thing as a small life because each life participates in the drama of selection, picking and walking the road our spirit takes, what shapes us now, what forms us now into what we will become forever. You can’t be small when the results of your life are so forever.

Actually, this is the bottom line: the love of God, who woos us to the narrow way and teaches us how to live a forever life beginning now. I sometimes wish so much wasn’t up for grabs, but we know it in our soul. We feel the drama inside, that there is something that wants to own us, enslave us, have us. If you have ever fought an addiction, faced an insurmountably destructive temptation, brought down upon yourself a consequence that doesn’t quit, then you know what it means to be chased. Something wicked this way comes. And into this dread, this darkness, this foreboding awareness of a hole opening up, comes good news of redeeming love. Destruction is not the final word. Love is, the love of a saving God who looks upon our miserable condition in mercy.

So hell is a pretty big word in our vocabulary. But grace is bigger, so big we can forget how small hell is. Grace did more abound, as the Apostle Paul puts it.

It’s still Christmas – this is the second day of the Twelve Days of Christmas

The twelve days of Christmas are more than a song. They are the keeping, the remaining, the staying, of Christmas. It is not moving on, but staying and gazing, wondering, worshiping.

Christmas, in the church year, begins on Christmas Day, and completes on Jan 5. Jan 6 is Epiphany. The observance had its origins in the Eastern Christian Churches and was a general celebration of the manifestation of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. It included the commemoration of his birth; the visit of the Magi (“Wise Men”, as Magi were Persian wisemen) to Bethlehem; all of Jesus’s childhood events, up to and including his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist; and even the miracle at the Wedding of Cana in Galilee. It seems fairly clear that the Baptism was the primary event being commemorated.

God in flesh is the burden of the twelve days of Christmas. God one of us. God as us. God among us.

In the liturgical communions, the Twelve Days of Christmas include three feasts, that of St. Stephen (12/26), the first Christian martyr. In remembering his death, we are recalling that Jesus himself came to die and that many who have followed him have given their lives in witness to his light. There is also the Feast of St. John(12/27), who reminds us in chapter one of his gospel that the Word became flesh and we beheld his glory. On 12/28 there is the Commemoration of the Holy Innocents, those infants slaughtered by King Herod in a fit of paranoia.

And then there is the Feast of the Holy Name on 1/1, on the eighth day after the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the day our Lord was circumcised. This reminds us of the Jewishness of Jesus and that salvation is of the Jews, as Jesus himself said. This is a fitting way to start the New Year, reminding ourselves that Jesus has the name which is above all names.

1/6 is Epiphany. Here we remember the visit of the Magi to worship the Christ. There is a completeness to the nativity, for even the Gentile nations come to worship the Christ child. Jesus is Jewish and the fulfillment of promises made to Israel, but he has come for all peoples.

Thus we complete the Christmas season. Soon we will be on our way to the cross with Ash Wednesday and Lent beginning on Feb 22. Cradle and Cross. These are poles around which the Christ story turns. We embed these stories in time, on calendar, year by year, lest we forget that Christ has entered time and changed days and weeks and months and years into the Last Days, the visitation of our God, who will return again.