Monday, April 30, 2007

PROLEGOMENA: Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Sunday, April 29, 2007

I’d like to prepare us for worship this morning by turning your attention to one word, one word in the reflection quote printed on page one of your bulletin; and that word is the word peripety.

Now, the word peripety comes from the Greek word peripeteia, which is a word used in drama and literature to describe the turning point of a story. In other words, the peripety of a drama is the point where the story is: turned on its head, turned inside-out, flipped upside-down. It’s the point that the story goes from good to bad or bad to good. It’s the point that shifts the whole entire story; and that point in the biblical story is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Now, in Acts 2 Peter points this out when he says,

"[Jesus] was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But…God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him."

You see, the God we come to worship this morning; the God we come to sing praises to has interrupted history; has flipped everything upside-down; has turned everything we know inside-out the moment Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. So, are you ready to worship the God who had done this this morning? Welcome to worship.

The literary structure of peripety found in the book of Esther mirrors on a small scale the structure of all of redemptive history....We should expect nothing but death, but we have seen the ultimate peripety, the ultimate reversal of expected ends,in another seemingly ordinary human event: the birth of a baby in Bethlehem and the execution of that man on a cross. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our destiny has been reversed from death to life against all expectation.The cross of Jesus is the pivot of the great reversal of history, where our sorrow has been turned to joy.

— Karen Jobes, Esther

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Straw That Broke the Camel's Back:
Why I Switched to the NRSV

Beyond the fact that most noteworthy scholars today use the NRSV, I've got my own reasons too. Here's one:

Everyone has their theological pet-peeves. One of mine is paedo-baptism. I guess you can say that I'm just a good presbyterian working out his covenant theology to its rightful (logical) conclusion.

So, when I was counseling a diaconate candidate out of my NIV--a candiate who was struggling with paedo-baptism--and turned to Acts 16 where Paul baptizes the Philippian jailer's entire household (oikos) based on his belief, and saw that the NIV took the liberty of changing the pronoun to a plural (his to their faith, pepisteukos), and also found that there weren't any text-critical issues to speak of, well, that was "the straw that broke the camel's back." I picked up my leather-bound NRSV and put it in my backpack and took the NIV and buried it on my shelf. (Even though the NIV's proper place is in the trash, I cannot, for the life of me, chuck a Bible.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A War of Narratives: What the PCA Can Learn from NY Times Columnist David Brooks

David Brooks, an Op-Ed writer for the New York Times, has put his finger on what I believe is the problem with most disagreements today, especially those within the PCA. While at a conference that brought together Americans and moderate Arab reformers, Brooks recognized that the two groups just "passed each other without touching." That is to say, one group was talking about X, while the other group was talking about Y, and "never the twain met or shall meet." Why? Brooks noticed that each side "had a different narrative." That is, they told themselves different stories to make sense of the data.

Now, narratives make sense of reality for human-beings. We use them all the time to make sense of the data that life throws at us, especially the data that we don't quite have categories for. Thus, we tell ourselves stories in order to fit the data into categories so we can understand the world.

Within the current debates in the PCA on the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) and the Federal Vision (FV), each side of the debate has its own narrative to make sense of the data; and if each side has its own narrative, then it also has different vocabulary; and if different vocabulary, then, never the twain shall meet!

Therefore, if we (in the PCA) first recognize that we're talking beyond each other and that each group makes sense of what's going on by telling itself a different story, then we might (and I say, "might") make it beyond the (narratival) impasse.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Psalm 23: A Fresh Translation in Light of the Exodus Event (Part 1)

-1 A Psalm of David

1 YHWH my shepherd! I lack nothing!

2 He will make me lie down in green pastures;
he will lead me into calm waters;
3 he will restore my life.
He will lead me on the right path
for the sake of his reputation.

4 Even though I (currently) walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil,
because you are with me;
your rod and staff--they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and loving-kindness will follow me
all the days of my life
and I will dwell in the house of YHWH
my whole life long. (v. 6 follows the LXX)

Monday, April 16, 2007

PROLEGOMENA: Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Sunday, April 15, 2007

Well, just in case you forgot (or wanted to forget) what today is, I’m going to remind you: Today is April 15th. And we all know what April 15th is, right? It’s the day that Jackie Robinson played his first Major League baseball game, 60 years ago, in 1947, in the borough that Rev. Matt Brown says God loves: in Brooklyn! And on that day something special happened: People who were once separated, were now brought together; something that was once exclusive, now included all; and, the barrier that once divided, was now brought down. Sound familiar? Well, if not, then let me remind you of these words from the apostle Paul.

In Galatians 3 Paul writes: “There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

You see, the God we come to worship this morning, the God we come to sing praises to, has made a way for all people, all people everywhere, to worship Him as His people. So, are you ready to worship Him this morning as His people, a people that includes all people? Welcome to worship!

Monday, April 09, 2007

PROLEGOMENA: Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007

This morning, in thousands and thousands of churches around the world, and in every tradition of the Christian faith, Christians will join their voices together to welcome the risen Lord. So, let’s join in the celebration this morning, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. And let’s welcome the Risen One with the words that all Christians, all Christians everywhere, will be saying throughout the world:

Minister: Alleluia! Christ is risen!

All: The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

[The artwork in the upper left hand corner of the post is entitled Lazarus. It was used on the bulletin for Redeemer's Easter Sunday services. The artist is Barbra Februar. She lives in Vancouver, B.C.]

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday Meditation 2007: Redeemer Presbyterian Church

Every Good Friday at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, we host four services where we reflect on the death of Jesus Christ with four readings and three meditations--each meditation given by a member of the pastoral staff. In years past, these meditation sought to answer one of the following questions: (1) Why did He come? (2) Who was He? (3) What did He do? This year, however, we changed the format to "Jesus: Our Prophet, Priest and King." The passage that we have chosen to highlight the three offices of Jesus Christ is, Luke 19:37-48 (and then a final reading of Luke 23:44-49 without a reflection, leaving the congregation to reflect of Jesus' death). My meditation is on Luke 19:37-40 and is entitled, "Jesus Our King."

37When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives…the whole crowd of disciples…began joyfully…to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38”Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

In the ancient world, especially in Rome, when a king was about to enter the imperial city, the citizens beneath his rule, would have rushed out to meet his procession. This means that thousands of people would gather to celebrate the homecoming of their king. And as the king’s procession would draw near the imperial city, the celebration, well, the celebration would grow more and more intense: The cheers would become thunderous; the hands of all the people would be raised in the air; and all those who were present would praise the coming of their king. Yet interestingly, you didn’t have to like the king, or agree with the king to be there to greet him--since not showing up to greet him would demonstrate a great disrespect for the king

There’s a great picture of this in the movie The Gladiator. When Commodus the king--the king that no one cared for and the king that no one respected—well, when he entered the imperial city, thousands of people still turned out to greet him, whether they loved him or not. And I think that’s something like the picture that Luke has painted for us in this passage.

You see, as Jesus entered the holy city, he was met by cheering crowds who recognized him as the coming King. But he was also met by those who weren’t too happy that the celebration was taking place.

Now, if you’re anything like me, when you heard the answer that Jesus gave the Pharisees (those people in the narrative who were less than celebratory and the people who wanted to see the celebration come to an end) well, Jesus’ answer probably through you for a loop. I mean, it probably made you scratch your head and ask yourself, “What do crying stones or shouting rocks have to do with Jesus being the King? Quite honestly, EVERYTHING!

You see, ever since the beginning of time, the world, the cosmos, the universe, recognized its Creator-King. But what’s more, the cosmos always knew, and had little doubt, that there would come a day, a day that would be unlike any other day: The day that all things would be renewed. And that day would be the same day that the universe’s King would take his throne.

You see, today we’re here to celebrate the enthronement of the King. Except this King’s crown would be made of thorns; and this King’s throne, would be nailed to him, and he would hang on it for six long hours. And at the very last moment of this King’s life, the rocks would indeed cry out.

Now, Matthew tells us about that moment at the end of his Gospel where we read this: “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. And at that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And the earth shook and the rocks split.

You see, at the very moment when the King of the Universe breathed his last breath, the universe, the cosmos, the created realm screamed at the top of its lungs when the earth shook and the rocks split.

Yet somehow I don’t think that those screams were wales of mourning. Instead, I believe that they were the first shouts of joy, the first celebratory cries, as the universe began to realize--at that very moment--that everything was beginning to be set free from its bondage to decay! Amen.

[The artwork on the top left hand corner of the post was used on Redeemer's bulletin for the service. It is entitled, Tetelestai! (It Is Finished!): Charcoal on paper, 2005 (36" x 24"). The artist is my father, Paul Buccheri. It was his gift to me for my ordination and it hangs on my living room wall. My father told me that when he was working on the piece, he kept Isaiah 53:2 in the front of his mind: "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." Yet interestingly, the piece is a loose self-portrait of my father, which in turn, makes it theologically profound: that when Jesus died, so died my father.]

Monday, April 02, 2007

PROLEGOMENA: Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Sunday, April 1, 2007

If you’re the kind of person that calls themselves a true New Yorker, then anytime the president comes to town, you just want to run for the hills. I mean, you just want to avoid him and his motorcade like the plague--a quarter of mile of limousines; scores of police cars, screwing up traffic all over the city; shutting down the subway system; making it impossible to cross town...I mean, this is not the kind of stuff that New Yorkers care deal with. Yet, this is the way that all presidents and all kings in all times and all places have chosen to travel. They have always surrounded themselves with loads of pomp and loads of circumstance. That is to say, all but ONE!

You see, today we celebrate the King’s arrival. Except this King--King Jesus--entered the city, lacking the pomp, lacking the circumstance and lacking the fanfare of every other king, because the fanfare that would surround him would have to wait another week.

So, are you ready to worship the coming of this King this morning? Welcome to worship!