Thinking about Christian bumper stickers

So this is an unusual find this weekend. One of Alexander’s roommates shared this with me. You can ask for 10 random “Christian” bumper stickers from the website below, or select 10 that you want for free. I definitely do NOT agree with all the messages included in their bumper sticker menu, but I DO agree with many of them. In most cases, these short messages encourage some worthwhile, critical thinking. Some reference Bible verses, most do not.

As an example of a bumper sticker message with which I disagree: We don’t simply need to require / mandate prayer in public schools to remove all ills, like drug abuse or premarital sex from teen and adult culture. I happen to work at a school that mandates chapel for all students, and I can tell you this is not received well by many of the students. At some point I will write a blog post reflecting on mandatory chapel. I am definitely a fan, and I love having chapel services at our school, but it is recklessly naïve for people to think we simply need to mandate prayer and Bible reading in schools and this will heal all of our society’s ills like a magic wand. God has the power to heal any of us at any time, but the mechanism of his healing for our culture is not via a mandated school Bible curriculum in public or private schools. If you’re a little fuzzy on historic problems with mandated religion, refer to the English Wikipedia article for the “European Wars of Religion:”

It is true bumper stickers on our cars can provide an opportunity to encourage people to think about questions of faith, morality and propriety. I don’t think putting a bumper sticker on your car is going to realistically lead to immediate, life changing decisions for people to turn their lives over to God and reject evil, but it’s worth considering whether or not this is something you want to do. Check it out: www.christianbumpersticker.org

I think a more random selection of these bumper stickers could be used as a catalyst for excellent conversations in a Sunday school class, about our beliefs and the ways in which we are called to advocate for and work for God‘s kingdom on earth.

The Gospel Encounter of the Apostle Paul (Part 1)

Last week in our “Gospel Encounters” adult Sunday School class on February 3, 2019, we started a multi-part study on transformative experiences of the Apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, on the road to Damascus. These were the notes I took during our class discussion:

We started by using the KWL strategy about Paul’s life and conversion: What do we KNOW, what do we WANT to know, and what have we LEARNED?

Some of the things class members shared that they know about Paul, his life and his conversion to become a follower of Jesus were:

  1. Saul was a persecutor of the early Christian church
  2. Saul was highly schooled (reminded us of Pastor Mateen Elass)
  3. He was “a Pharisee’s Pharisee” (someone who ardently followed all the directives and prescriptions of Jewish law)
  4. He was born a Roman citizen
  5. He was zealous
  6. Paul wrote most of the letters included in the New Testament
  7. Paul had important arguments with the Apostle Peter, over the historic requirements of Jews to follow dietary restrictions and men to submit to circumcision
  8. Paul went on several important missionary journeys
  9. Saul was a tent maker by trade
  10. God annointed Paul as His missionary to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the Gentiles (non-Jews)
  11. Paul’s letter to the Galatians addresses the toxic organizational structure of that early church, and includes his teachings on how to properly handle church leadership and organization

Things we WANT to know include:

  1. Where was/is Tarsus? (a historic city in south-central Turkey)
  2. How did a person become a Roman citizen?

We read the 9th chapter of the Book of Acts from the New International Version, which is the first of three accounts of Paul’s conversion which are included in Acts. (The others are in Acts 22 and Acts 26.) After reading this chapter, we watched the 5.5 minute video, “The Road to Damascus – Saul Takes his Journey.” Since this video was published by the Mormon Church, I shared the same disclaimer I have before when sharing Mormon videos: Some of the videos shared by the LDS church (like this one) are outstanding, but my use of them in teaching does NOT constitute an endorsement or recommendation of LDS theology.

After watching the video, we discussed in small groups and then shared together things which stood out for us, after reading Acts 9 and watching this video. Some of the standouts were:

  1. Paul’s conversion experience was VERY dramatic
  2. The events detailed in scripture and depicted in the video required obedience on the part of both Paul and Ananias.
  3. The video did a good job portraying the tenderness of Paul after his conversion experience, it’s both understandable and reasonable that he was extremely humbled by this experience on the road to Damascus.
  4. In his communication to Ananias, God reveals his plan for Paul to be his missionary to the Gentiles, bring them the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  5. Paul’s response to his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus included baptism, an act in which his old identity (Saul) was washed away and he was reborn into his new identity (Paul)

This coming Sunday (tomorrow) we’ll continue our study of Paul, his conversion experience, and the lessons we can glean from this powerful Gospel encounter with Jesus Christ!

Biblical Interpretation and the Role of Women

For our “Gospel Encounters” adult Sunday School class on January 27, 2019, Pastor Dave Moore led us in a verse packed overview of Biblical Interpretation and specifically a deep dive into the roles of women in the church and society, as highlighted primarily in the New Testament. These are the whiteboard notes and Bible verses from which Dave taught:

A friend of mine on Facebook had asked me some excellent questions regarding the role of women, and specifically some of the verses from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians this past January. After seeking direction and counsel from both our lead pastor (Eric Laverentz@ericlav) as well as Dave, I recorded and shared a 10.5 minute video for him of my best understanding of these passages and the overall perspectives of Christians on the roles of women in the church.

Women have and continue to play extremely important roles of leadership, service, teaching, and prophesy in the Christian church. If you are seeking answers yourself to questions about this topic, I hope this video and the verses Dave Moore shared with our Sunday School class are helpful and instructive to you.

‘“ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. ‘

Acts 2:17-18 (NIV)

Gospel Encounter: The Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-35)

Tomorrow in our adult Sunday School class, “Gospel Encounters,” we will be reading and discussing The Last Supper as recounted in the 26th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, in verses 17-35. These are the slides we’ll use during our lesson. Please feel free to use them and any of the ideas/resources which are included for your own Christian teaching and learning. (My slides are licensed CC-BY. Linked video content, however, is shared by others under varying license terms.)

After reading this scripture together, we will watch this six minute depiction of the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples, focusing specifically on what Jesus SAID and DID during this time.

If we have time, we may watch The Lumos Project’s video about Matthew 26:1-35. (It’s free to watch from the previous link, but not embeddable or readily downloadable.) In the Lumos Project version, a narrator reads the words of the scripture while actors re-enact the scenes. Both are powerful and valuable for better understanding this pivotal episode in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. I’m choosing to share the LDS website version (the video embedded above) because it is a more detailed and theatrical presentation, which seems to provide a more immersive peek into the world and life of Christ. (As noted in my slides, the use of this LDS video should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the Mormon Church or LDS beliefs.)

I plan to focus some of our discussion on both the Old Testament and New Testament contexts for “atonement,” and will show The Bible Project’s excellent six minute video, “Sacrifice and Atonement.” Note a freely downloadable version of this video is available on their project website, which does not include the request for project donations included in the YouTube version.

If you live in Edmond, Oklahoma, or the Oklahoma City area and are able, please visit our church (First Presbyterian of Edmond) and consider attending our Sunday School class! You can check out past lessons as well as our upcoming schedule, continuing our focus on “Gospel Encounters” both historical and contemporary, by visiting pocketshare.speedofcreativity.org/ge/.

Sketchnoting the reality of Christ’s Resurrection

Today in our church service Carl Bosteels preached about the reality of Christ’s resurrection from death on the cross, and read Luke 24:1-12. This was the week’s lesson in our ongoing congregational study of the book, “The Story.” Since Shelly continues to serve on our pastor nominating committee, which meets on Sunday mornings during the early service, I attended both church services today and made sketchnotes during each. I exported both from the iPad app ProCreate as videos, slowed them down by a factor of two, and then narrated them in iMovie for iPad. The narrated video, embedded below, is 29 seconds long. I added both to my Flickr Sketchnotes album, which now has 38 creations in it.

 

 

Christ Died Once For All Sins

Hebrews 9 includes a great explanation of how the new covenant sealed in the blood of Jesus replaces the old covenant established by God through Moses. The writer ends with these words:

And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:27, 28 NLT

Ray Vander Laan on Jesus and Biblical History in the Holy Land

This summer at our church for adult Sunday School, we are watching DVD segments from the fantastic faith lesson video series, “That The World May Know.” These are narrated by Ray Vander Laan. His website for this series is:

http://www.followtherabbi.com/Brix?pageID=1687

We used a DVD series last summer too, but I found it very frustrating because no discussion time was provided. This year one of our pastors each week IS facilitating a time of discussion following each segment, and it has been wonderful! I am taking notes each week on my iPad using Evernote, and sharing them via the following website:

http://www.evernote.com/pub/wfryer/notes

I am not taking time to edit these thoroughly so please forgive typos. This is a great video series and opportunity to learn more about Christianity from both historical and contemporary perspectives.

Sent from my iPad

Posted via email from wesley fryer’s posterous

The Abolition of the Clergy

This past Wednesday night, I had the pleasure and good fortune to attend John Gruel’s presentation “The Good Life: Vocation” at our church’s Wednesday night class offering time for adults. John used R. Paul Stevens’ book “The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective” as the basis for his reflective lesson. According to John, Stevens had wanted to call his book “The Abolition of the Laity,” but John stated he thought a better title would be “The Abolition of the Clergy.” John is sharing a two-part series on this book. MY THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS HERE ARE IN ALL CAPS. EVERYTHING IN LOWER CASE IS A PARAPHRASE OF HIS POINTS FROM HIS TALK AND HANDOUT/NOTES.

This book is theologically in line with the “missional church” movement, which John has studied in his doctoral program with Fuller Theological Seminary and often teaches about in our Wednesday night classes for adults. In the message, John mentioned the world “Allelon,” which means:

All members of the people of God belong to one another, minister to one another, need one another and contribute to the rich unity and ministry of the whole.

A Google search for “Allelon” brought up the website Allelon.org. The mission of Allelon is:

…to educate and encourage the church to become a people among whom God can live, as sign, symbol, and foretaste of his redeeming love and grace in their neighborhoods and the whole of society- ordinary women and men endeavoring to participate in God’s mission to reclaim and restore the whole of creation and to bear witness to the world of a new way of being human.

I didn’t bring my laptop to this class session, so I took rather copious notes by hand on the paper handout which John provided those in attendance. (Class learning sessions like this would be perfect for using a Netbook with a reasonably large-sized keyboard, but I don’t have one yet.) I found this presentation and discussion to be both interesting and personally relevant, as I think it provides excellent guidelines for how we should view the Protestant Reformation as “not over” and understand our need to act as members of the Church universal in our daily lives. In his teachings, Jesus did not distinguish between laity and clergy. The hierarchical church structures which have existed historically and continue to be maintained in varying forms today are not an inheritance of Jesus’ teaching, but rather of the Roman influence on the early church after Christianity was accepted by Constantine I and later mandated (upon pain of death) by other Roman Caesars.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: A Rickmann

Stevens’ thesis in his book and one to which John also ascribes is this: The Bible presents a theology of the people, for the people and by the people of God. Ordinary people should be able to understand “our” theology which is presented in the church. There are neither laypersons (laity) nor clergy in the New Testament, and it is potentially counterproductive to focus on the ministries and mission of the Church today as being carried out primarily by “the clergy” rather than by everyone who comprises the church throughout the world. This “us versus them” mentality is often counterproductive when members of the church as well as non-members look to formally ordained clergy to carry out acts of ministry rather than seeing us all as Jesus’ hands and feet empowered and equipped to do God’s work on earth.

This perspective does not discount or ignore the need for LEADERSHIP in the church, both historically and in today’s world, but does note that it was the Roman and worldly emphasis on hierarchy and position which brought the use and focus on “clergy” versus “layperson” roles in the church which we find commonly in virtually all Christian denominations today. The missional view is that we need to consider not only the life of the people gathered (ekklesia, or ‘the ones called out’) but also those dispersed in the world (diaspora) in the marketplace, government, professional offices, homes and schools.”

Major branches within Christianity

Unapplied theology is more speculative and theoretical. Missional theology seeks to be “beyond academic theology” and instead be practical and applicable, addressing REAL life issues everyday people can both understand and apply.

The New Testament vision of the people of God (laos) was and is ONE people comprised (miraculously) of Jews and Gentiles, men and women, rich and poor, slave and free, all being together as the chosen inheritance of God.

We must focus on right ways of LIVING and not just thinking
– we must strive for wisdom, and not merely knowledge

John has worked with others here in the Oklahoma medical community (he is a former orthopedic surgeon) to offer a “Spirituality in Medicine” course for both doctors and nurses
– so many “theological” issues and situations are faced regularly by medical professionals, yet many have not had any type of formal preparation to address and deal with these contexts

Our dependence on the clergy in the West traces back to the Dark Ages when monks preserved the church traditions
– in the Western church, traditional emphasis is VERY hierarchical
– the term “clergy” did not appear until the third century, and was simultaneous with the appearance of the word “laity”
– The Old Testament (OT) traditions were very hierarchical, established, and formal
– OT world: all the people were called to be God’s people, but only a few (prophets, priests, wise men, royalty) experienced a special call to leadership to God’s people
– in the NT world under the Lordship of Christ, formal leaders were universalized or abolished: the outpouring of the Spirit: the whole church becomes the new ministerium, a community of prophets, priests, royalty, serving God

The emergence of the Clergy arose largely because of three influences:
1- Imitation of the secular structures of the Greco-Roman world
— After Constantine, the Roman Empire permeated the Church rather than the Church permeating the Empire

2- Transference of the OT priesthood model to the leadership of the church (led to the role of priests and bishops, as well as the Pope in the Catholic church)

3- Popular piety elevated the Lord’s Supper to a mystery requiring priestly administration
— originally communion may have been more like a “potluck” experience
— eventually in some Catholic church traditions, the people were able to partake of the bread but only the priest was able to partake of the wine, it was reserved for him to do on behalf of the people who were not able/worthy to partake directly of it
— this model contrasts very sharply with the Jewish tradition of celebrating the Passover meal, which is delegated authority to the male head of each household

From the 4th to the 16th centuries the clergy-lay distinction deepened and become institutionalized
– clergy were (and still today are in many traditions) expected to vicariously “do ministry” on behalf of the church (for example, go visit people in the hospital)
– clerus meant “portion” (part of ministry)
– there wasn’t a Pope in Rome until Gregory in the 4th Century, when as the bishop of Rome he become the #1 church leader and it was asserted that his line went back to Peter who was “the first Pope”

I THINK IT IS SO RIDICULOUS THAT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ATTEMPTED AND STILL ATTEMPTS TO PORTRAY THAT APOSTOLIC LINE OF PAPAL SUCCESSION BACK TO PETER, WHEN THAT IS NOT AT ALL WHAT THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST ESTABLISHED OR WANTED TO ESTABLISH!

The Protestant Reformation was essentially incomplete in changing this model of a clergy-led church

St Jerome translated the NT into Latin in the 3rd Century, in the Eastern church they still used the Greek version for many years

In the NT the qualifications for leadership are all characteristics and gifts

Community is the only biblical way of relating leaders to the rest of the people: One God, One People
– One God: 3 persons
– One people, not two (clergy and laity)
– no individual members and no hierarchy of ministries

HOW SAD THAT AS FALLEN HUMANS, WE HAD TO IMPOSE THIS HIERARCHICAL VIEW AND PARADIGM ON THE CHURCH. THIS REMINDS ME OF SOME FEMINIST CRITIQUES OF PATRIARCHY I’VE READ IN THE PAST. IT ALSO MAKES THE ENTIRE SITUATION WITH “SAINTHOOD” SEEM RIDICULOUS AND HOPELESSLY COUNTERPRODUCTIVE IN TERMS OF THE REAL WORK OF THE CHURCH. ESTABLISHING SAINTS MAKES IT SEEM LIKE OUR ULTIMATE PURPOSE AS CHRISTIANS SHOULD BE TO STAND OUT AS INDIVIDUALS IN THE CHURCH AS THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN RECOGNIZED AS “SAINTS” DID, WHEN THE EXACT OPPOSITE IS TRUE: OUR ROLE IS TO SERVE AS MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH, LEADERS YET, BUT NOT LEADERS WHO WIN GLORY AND INDIVIDUAL RECOGNITION / ACCOLADES FOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND DEEDS.

We should be “one anothering” each other regularly in the Church

Celibacy was not a requirement for priests until the 6th century

In the Reformation, the priest was replaced by the pastor
– the sermon became emphasized over the sacrament of communion (in weekly services, as the purpose and focus of attending worship)
– the clothes of priests were replaced, when Reformed leaders become “pastors,” by the academic black gowns

A call is placed on all of us as Christians
– to belong to God: the call of discipleship
– to be God’s people in life: the call to holiness (to be set apart)
– to do God’s work: the call to service

The above are all “Christian vocations”
– personal / individual as well as corporate

Primary task of Adam and Eve before the fall: dwelling with and communing with God

1st thing in the book of Genesis that was not “good” – Adam being alone

In our world, work has become the defining experience of a person’s identity

THIS IS WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO TRY AND AVOID ASKING SOMEONE, WHEN YOU FIRST MEET THEM, “SO WHAT DO YOU DO?” ASKING THAT QUESTION TENDS TO IMPLY THAT THEIR VALUE AND YOUR JUDGEMENT OF THEIR VALUE IS INHERENTLY TIED INTO THE WAY THEY PRESENTLY EARN A LIVING.

the nature of work today has become more amorphous

Human work is a blessing and a curse
– SO WERE THERE WEEDS BEFORE GENESIS 3?!

Jesus is depicted as a worker (tekton: someone who works with their hands to make things) – a carpenter or stone mason

While the NT has no place for clergy as a separate category of believer, there are many references to leaders within God’s people
– a basic question of church leadership is: Should leadership be considered a function or an office
– the traditional view is to make it an office: clergy
– John’s view is that leadership should be a function

Interestingly and troublingly, a minister in the Presbyterian church can’t be a member of the church
– instead, pastors are considered members of a presbytery

Homework:
1- Consider your home, neighborhood, and workplace as arenas for ministry exploring opportunities for discipleshiop, holiness and service in your everyday life
2- Think of the ways you distinguish between clergy and laity and examine them for validity

JOHN IS GOING TO CONTINUE THIS STUDY NEXT WEEK. I LOOK FORWARD TO IT! I THINK THE MISSIONAL FOCUS “IS” THE APPROPRIATE FOCUS WE SHOULD HAVE IN THE CHURCH TODAY, USING THE BIBLE AS OUR GUIDE.

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