Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bible Stories

In a few days I start preaching through the Bible in a year. My preparation has included Bible binge sessions and a steady diet of Bible Survey books. In recent weeks Abraham has usurped Batman as my hero of choice. I'd like to see the father of nations in a mask and cape.

The plan entails one week for each book of the Bible. Some minor prophets will live up to their 'minor' status, getting grouped together by date and purpose. Kings and Chronicles, likewise, will meld into a single, epic summary of Kingdoms divided and conquered. Finally, synoptic gospels and a few letters will be lumped together.

Each sermon will cover the Literary Flow, Redemptive Threads, and Practical Applications of a given book of the Bible. Part survey. Part Sermon. And it is the balance of these things--content and creativity--that will determine the effectiveness of such a project.

Certainly, I am not original in this endeavor.
Educators, too, have noticed a slide in biblical literacy. Their corrective has come in the form of theological readings of the biblical narrative, rather than background work on given books.

Both Christians and culture on the whole is losing connection to God's great redemptive story. Stories are not in demand; there is no shortage here. (Though we might argue what inherent value a third Focker movies adds to Western civilization?)

What the world needs is a fresh and full hearing of God's redemptive story. It begins with creation, stumbles tragically, and then finds fresh legs in the form of Abraham and his barren bride. God leads and sometimes lets go; God speaks and sometimes remains silent. God delivers and sometimes banishes.

Then God became flesh. The story does not end there, but finds a new beginning in the resurrection of the crucified Son. God's people find themselves in a long resolution as a called out people. An unfinished people in an unfinished story, living the Bible that they rarely read.

This year, though, I will read it. I hope some people join me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Carols and Faith Undone

"Jesus pooped," Margot sang from the backseat.

She rode home from church with me yesterday. My inquiry about her Sunday school class led to this chorus about Jesus. I do not blame the teachers. They were sharing the Christmas story, which is the remarkable tale about God in human flesh.

In the early church it was popular to deny Jesus lived in bodily form. Apparently the thought of him pooping, puking, or wetting his bed was too much for some Christians. They claimed He only seemed fleshly--later gaining the name Docetists from the Greek word dokeo, to seem. If Jesus pooped, as Margot chimed, He must have had a body. Bodies are of the essence for Virgin birth and death-by-cross, too.

The Sunday school teachers implied nothing about Jesus' bathroom practices. Margot's carol was the result of poor parenting. During one weak moment in my daughter's second year of life, I laughed when she said "Poopie." It has become her favorite word. Every secret, punchline, or adjective defaults to defecation.

What are you playing, Margot? Poopie game.

What do you want for breakfast, Margot? Poopie.

What did you learn in Sunday school, Margot? Jesus pooped.

I stopped laughing long ago, but the precedent was set.

Elders and effective teachers are called to control their children (1 Tim. 3:4-5). My child was flirting with heresy. Margot was on the opposite end of Docetism, treating Jesus as merely human. My attempt at correction was to avoid laughing and to assure Margot that songs about Jesus should be more respectful. Jesus did poop. That I could not argue. But if we were going to sing about Him, I'd prefer more traditional songs.

Take for example, Away in the Manger. The kids were learning that carol for our church's Christmas service. Surely an exposed infant sleeping in a feeding troth really enhances Jesus' image. My daughter Claire didn't think so. Last night she refused to sing it at our church. I should clarify: Claire did not want to sing it at our church, because the Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church sings better than ours. She told my wife this on the way to their Kids' Christmas Chorale.

Christmas carols were undoing the faith of my family. One daughter ignored the deity of Jesus; the other slandered the local church. Our Christology and Ecclesiology were under attack. Perhaps next year we'll stick to Jingle Bells.