When Mary Magdalene
Saw Christ at dawn
In the tomb-haunted grove
She thought he was
The gardener
Then saw he was the Christ.
But still she was mistaken
Not seeing that
The gnarled, deep-rooted olives,
The flowers in the rock,
The rock itself
Were rooted in his flesh.

For Christ was gardener of that place
But hid his workman’s hands,
The flowers of his flesh,
Lest the young church see
Persephone, Osiris,
Or only wild Pan,

And not the God
Beyond the world
Who made it
For His flesh, and ours,
And tends in each new Adam
The garden of His earth.

—Loren Wilkinson, April, 1980

which atonement?

The dominant view of atonement for the first 300 years of the Church was Christus Victor. Jesus death and resurrection made him Lord, and established him as sole victor over the forces of death and destruction. Jesus death was a ransom paid to the devil. The Penal Substitution view was there in Scripture, but for some reason the early church was less interested in that view. It wasn’t until Anselm in the 11th century that the Church substantially changed position, and began to put its weight on the other foot. It was the legal and forensic climate of those times that provoked the switch.

In other words, it was a cultural shift that provoked a theological shift. That’s a pretty important point, because we are in a time when culture is changing dramatically, and here we are having a lot of theological debates. Maybe Phyllis Tickle is right, that every five hundred years the Church has a great rummage sale and old questions suddenly have new answers.

We could conclude from this that every time the culture changes, the church becomes unfaithful. Or, more positively, and more wisely, we could conclude that when the culture shifts God speaks in new language. God speaks to a new culture in new ways through the Scripture because a new culture asks new questions and also HEARS in new ways.

More.. (PDF)

Is God Angry?

imageI spoke this sermon last year, and it needed to come back again this year and hopefully I’ve made it even clearer. This is controversial for some. I argue that “wrath” needs to be seen differently than we have done. I also take it into the Greek to look at one particular word – hilasmos – and ask what this word really means.

Is God Angry?

Scripture: John 3:13-21 / John 9:1-5

what is church?

Scot McKnight proposes three biblical words that lead in different directions –Leitourgia, Ekklesia and Koinonia. I summarize…

1. Leitourgia

That is, church is worship service. The Germans calls this Gottesdienst, and many Americans when they say “church” mean “going to a church building on Sunday morning for a worship and sermon service.” The life that flows from this is individual and in practice tends to feed the consumptive spirit.

2. Ekklesia

Church is gathered on Sunday morning. The central idea here is not just worship but gathering together.
For some in this camp of thinking, “church” is about separation from the world (called out from the world) while for others it moves toward formation and pedagogy. It can become sectarian, but it tends to break down individualism.

Both of the above terms work for the church, but each needs to be bolted into a unit by grabbing the next term.

3. Koinonia

That is, church is a group of people who live with one another through the power of the Spirit under the sign of King Jesus. The central idea is that it is a fellowship of people, who know and love one another and who seek to grow into Christlikeness both personally and corporately with one another, who know and care about one another’s children — to nurture them as they can alongside parents. They also share life’s ordinaries with one another: food and table and wisdom and cars and time and dinners and even holidays.

This idea leads us to see the church as a micro-society inside a larger society (our communities, our cities, our states, our nation). As a society it looks after one another holistically. As koinonia, it must gather; as a Christian koinonia, it must worship; but as a koinonia it knows the others as ones with whom one journeys in this life.

This idea leads us to see the church as a family. The most common word Paul uses for the people of the church is “brothers [and sisters].” That tells a story — the church is a fictive kinship, a new family.

Koinonia churches care more about diversity because they care about one another more than most models of the church. Furthermore, because church is seen here as a koinonia this kind of thinking presses us into crossing borders and boundaries into greater diversity and a deeper embrace of differents.

Individualism comes to an end in this approach to church.


a theology of research

Bob Lupton does a practical study of Nehemiah in his book Renewing the City, and Nehemiah becomes the poster child for a research methodology.

Nehemiah first conducts research into the state of Jerusalem and her walls (2:13,15). Then he builds community (remainder of ch 2), assembles a team around a common vision (ch 3), and gets to work in the face of consistent opposition (4-6).

In A Heart for the Community the authors note that the most explicit blueprint for community analysis is in Numbers 13-14, where the spies are sent to “exegete” the land of Canaan. “Selected leaders are chosen to form the survey team (13:1-16), and they are given specific research criteria (13:17-20). After a forty day analysis, they return and report their finds “to all the congregation.” The response is not enthusiastic. The venture is seen as too risky. Godly leaders mitigate the negativity (14:5-21) as they call on God to forgive their fear. (Fuder and Castellanos, Eds. Moody Press, 2009. 72).

1959 Fairlane

It was the first car I bought – I was 16 and it was almost twenty years old. But there were no dents or rust and it ran great. I paid, I believe, $225. It sported a 350 V8 with Holley carburetor and dual exhaust (around 260 HP I believe). I intended to put a four barrel on it, but somehow never got there.

Ford Fairlane 500


But praxis is actually the whole cycle of reflection and study on one hand and engagement and action on the other. Brazilian educator Paulo Freire envisioned praxis as the way to bring significant social change to people. He contrasted praxis with what he called the “banking” approach to education, in which the teacher simply pours information into the student, and the student’s role is to receive the information and act on it or pass it on to another person. Thus, for students education is passive (they are not supposed to be creative thinkers), and it only perpetuates the cultural norms of those who determine what is to be passed on.

Instead, Freire wanted men and women to become “culture-creators”-persons who actually shape their own culture and context-by gaining, through praxis, a more thorough and more meaningful relationship with the world. He wanted knowledge to be more than banked information; he wanted knowledge to serve a life-giving role in nurturing persons and communities to change their contexts as they themselves were being changed through the reflection-action cycle… So in a church, praxis is the constant rhythm that includes study and reflection (including working with theology and other theoretical material) in continual interaction with engagement and action.

Mark Lau Branson;Juan F. Martinez. Churches, Cultures and Leadership: A Practical Theology of Congregations and Ethnicities (Kindle Locations 390-392). Kindle Edition.