A Pastor's Notes

notes, comments, and sermons — sometimes even mine

Archive for March 2011

Just got back…

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I just got back to town from our circuit’s monthly study of the Gospel readings for the next month. I am thankful for this opportunity to study with other pastors, for their insights into the texts, and for their knowledge of Greek.

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Written by pastor

29 March 2011 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Weekly Notice

From the back of the mind

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This post from John Gruber has, for whatever the reason, been sitting on a back burner in my mind since I read it. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is yet, but these seems to be a connection between the differing approaches described in the above-linked post and how we often do church, both on a local and a national level. Thoughts?

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21 March 2011 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Weekly Notice

Quick notes on Exodus

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Humans forget; Egypt forgets what it owes Israel. Yet Israel has not forgotten the Lord so much that they do not cry out to Him for help, and the Lord has not forgotten Israel: the midwives feared Him, and acted out of holy fear; the Lord has been with Israel the whole time, making them increase in number “so that the land was filled with them” (ESV).

Moses’ early biography is done in the same broad strokes as used later for Jesus: primary events are mentioned, but years and even decades are left unmentioned because they do not bear on the events/actions/focus at hand.

Does Moses face in Pharaoh his brother, cousin, or nephew by adoption?

Unpleasant critters and skin conditions abound.

The distance between the people of Israel and Pharaoh is not great; even foremen from amongst the slaves can visit him, even Moses can wander into court — he’s king, but his court breathes.

There is little to no hint of rebellion against Pharaoh by the Egyptians, even after they were pummeled with a few plagues. He speaks for Egypt, just as Moses speaks for the Lord.

The necessity of the blood on the doorposts for the safety of the firstborn of Israel (Ex 12), the application of the blood of the covenant on the people (Ex 24), as well as the establishment of a border around the holy mountain for the protection of individual Israelites (and even their animals; see esp. Ex 19.10–14, 21–25), shows just how frightful the God of Israel is in His holiness for those who are not holy, for those who have not been cleansed with the blood of the lamb.

Moses has learned patience in his years of watching sheep.

Design is at least as important as the particular laws given to Israel in Exodus.

God will not tolerate idols, even an idol which is supposedly of Him (esp. Ex 32.1, 4–5. Notice how in this first major bout of idolatry by Israel, the One God is possibly (let us stress possibly; most translations I have examined in this case translate ‏אֱלֹהִים in the plural; it seems to me that the singular is more likely) multiplied at once into at least two gods (Ex 32.1, ‏עֲשֵׂה־לָנוּ אֱלֹהִים, “make for us gods”; Ex 32.4, ‏אֵלֶּה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, “these gods”; these are in line with the LXX), even though there is but one calf).

God is with His people as they go through the desert; they see His presence, they see His acts, they have been rescued from slavery, they have His Law, and still how little any of those things matter or make a difference in their words or deeds.

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19 March 2011 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Weekly Notice

Varied Definitions of Law and Gospel

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This post by Peter Leithart shows the current great general gap in meaning for most who use theological terms. They have words, and they use them, but they either do not know or do not care to know how they have been used in the past, or to stick with some commonly agreed-upon meaning. It also demonstrates the great gap between Calvinism and Lutheranism: no Lutheran who has been paying attention would comfortably speak of the “age of the law” and the “age of the gospel”; yet still many Calvinists (though not just Calvinists, though they are the group of Christians I hear using Law and Gospel more than other non-Lutherans) think that we mean the same thing when they use these words. We really don’t.

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19 March 2011 at 5:31 pm

Posted in Weekly Notice

Quick notes on Mark

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Whatever the finer structure of the book may be, Mark has a teeter-totter structure: it begins on the run, works its way up to Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ in ch. 8, and then runs downhill from there to the empty tomb in ch. 16. Another way of putting it is this: the first half answers the question Who is Jesus? (yes, this is answered at the very start, but that is the case for the reader/hearer and not those there with Jesus), while the second focuses on the question What does it mean for Jesus to be the messiah? (which is kicked off nicely by Peter when he rebukes Jesus for telling them exactly what it means for him to be the messiah). The ending at 16.8 is consonant with the focus of the second half of the book, and drives the reader/hearer of Mark back to the beginning.

The Pharisees’ request for a sign in ch. 8 comes after Jesus had been giving sign after sign. No wonder he, as the ESV has it, “sighed deeply in his spirit”.

The eschatology of ch. 13 is right in line with the presentation of Mark; just as Jesus just shows up at the beginning of the book, and hits the ground running, so too will his return be swift and unexpected (except for those to whom he speaks, who should know the signs & be ready, as Israel ought to have been ready for the messiah’s arrival after John appeared in the wilderness).

Mark carefully names and identifies Jesus’ followers, whether disciples or in the larger group. These are in many cases people the writer may expect his audience would know by name (see 3:13-21; 13:46; 15.21; 15.40-41).

Written by pastor

7 March 2011 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Weekly Notice

That sort of sermon.

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Written by pastor

7 March 2011 at 9:34 am

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Quick notes on Romans

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Here Paul cuts away any claim to merit, innocence (actual or due to ignorance), or status which could be made in their favor by humans. This is done to drive home his chosen text, “The righteous shall live by faith”, and to set us up for chapter 10, “faith comes by hearing”. Having left no human claim in place or available (something he does early and continues to return to), Paul demonstrates that living can only be by faith (later in the book going deep into one of faith’s puzzles: some hear and believe, while others hear and do not), while at the same time spending much time on what it looks like to actually “live by faith”, and what it is to be someone who has been brought from death to life.

The stress in Romans on the exclusion of human works (of whatever sort) from having thing one to do with salvation shines brightest in Paul’s discussion of Adam and Christ: there is no gray area, there no no man’s land is to be found. The New Perspective’s constant gnawing on Paul’s use of the phrase, “the works of the law” (Rom 3.20, 28, ἔργων νόμου) simply misses that that is but one more patch of weeds cut away in Paul’s relentless scything away of human attempts at self-defense before God.

Even in the earliest days of the Church, life together as Christians was one of the greatest challenges.

Written by pastor

6 March 2011 at 7:04 pm

Posted in Weekly Notice