Browsing articles tagged with " 1 Corinthians"
Aug 1, 2017

On Evolution and how not to read the Bible

I am a huge fan of the Big Bang Theory, both the TV show and the actual theory. On the TV show Dr. Sheldon Cooper is a theoretical physicist who at times has to deal with his Bible-thumping mother from Texas. Sheldon’s mom represents a character that only exists in pockets of American society that in many ways disconnect from contemporary discourse. No, creationism, young Earth theory, intelligent design or whatever name people may give their brainchild is not based on Biblical theology or scientific reality.

As a theologian I am most interested in how people approach the Bible and I guess that is really at the core of the creationism debate. Let me be clear: The Bible is not a handbook! It does not tell you how to live your life. It does not tell you how the world came to be and it most certainly does not replace scientific research and study. When you want to find out how the universe came to be, you should ask Dr. Sheldon Cooper and not his mother.

Let’s start in the beginning: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,” (Genesis 1:1 NRSV). Of course, children take this literally and I cannot blame them. I did as an eight-year-old. I also had a He-Man action figure that could literally fly. The story of the seven days of creation to a child may well be about how the world came to be. But as critical thinking evolves in our brains it should be the latest in adolescence that we leave our childish thinking behind, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11 NRSV).

Hopefully our youth get a decent Christian education that enlightens them that the Bible is not one book but rather a library of all kinds of literary products that has evolved over 1,000 years in three different languages on two different continents. The seven day narrative at the beginning was written by priests during the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BCE. The narrative has a very clear purpose: Its climax is to set aside the seventh day as a Sabbath to God. Or in modern English: Pastors are telling their flock to go to church on Sunday.

Priests are really good at doing religious stuff. Scientists are really good and doing scientific stuff. They can talk to each and find differences and similarities in their respective fields. After all modern science is a brainchild of middle age scholasticism. But the truth is that God wants us to be experts in our field and respect other experts in their fields, “Let every man abide in the same vocation wherein he was called.” (1 Corinthians 7:20 GNV). An argumentative shortcut does not do justice to either Biblical theology or scientific reality.

Mar 3, 2015

The Foolishness of the Cross

“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
(1 Corinthians 1:18 – Watchword for the Week of Sunday 8 March 2015)

There are so many spots in my life that are marked with the sign of the cross.
Let me share with y’all what some of them are about:

When she first saw me in the uniform of an Army Chaplain my mother started crying. Yes, of course there was this whole “my son is a Soldier” thing but what disturbed her most was the cross on my chest. The love of God and a combat uniform do not naturally go together. The Army Chaplain Branch Cross is one of five insignia besides the Jewish tabloids, the Muslim crescent, the Buddhist wheel of life and the Hindu ”Om” syllable. They tell Soldiers where their Chaplains are coming from not where they are taking them. Luckily my mom understands that the love of God is greater than all religious distinctions and Christ has called me to be a servant to all.

Whenever our family has moved we have posted a cross over our front-door. You may call it a talisman or good luck charm. I think of it as a blessing of our home and everybody who lives and visits in it. A symbol of Christ’s presence. Maybe not so much through the symbol of the cross itself but very much so by the spirit which we strive to live. The crosses we have used over our doorposts over the years have always been very modest you may even say tiny. That way they have also been great reminders of humility. I wish the cross were used that way more often. Around Houston highways crosses are being abused as symbols of power and dominance towering up to 200 feet tall. The “emblem of suffering and shame” should not be used as a phallic symbol that strives to be bigger and stronger than everybody else.

The roadside crosses that I respect are the ones that remind us of our mortality. After the deadly crash of a loved one family and friends sometimes try to keep the memory alive at the scene of death – with a cross and candles or flowers. By that not only do they support their own grief process but they also help others in a similar situation. Driving past such a memorial site can work like a support group: I am not alone in my mourning. And on a pragmatic note it warns all motorists: A deadly crash happened here. This spot may require more attention and lower speeds. The cross gets that across more powerfully to me than any speed limit sign could.

In the parish hall at St. John’s United Church of Christ we have close to one hundred crosses on the wall. No, this is not bragging by numbers. This is a sign of diversity. Not two are the same. They are kids crafts, cowboy scenes, crucifixes, clothespins, artsy, rustic, kitsch and ancient, you name it, we got it. The blessing here is in the variety of the multitude. There is not the one correct cross. Our journeys are all different, our approaches to Jesus’ suffering and the season of Lent are all different. What is your cross style?

Oct 2, 2011

One Body

Reports of some getting drunk and others going away hungry at the Lord’s Supper have reached Paul. What a great reading for World Communion Sunday from 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. Check out the reflection from Enter the Bible:

Sep 17, 2011

You are the Scum of the Earh and this World’s Garbage

Most people have Jesus’ saying memorized that Your are Salt of the Earth and Light of the World.
What Paul says is equally true though: We are no more than this world’s garbage; we are the scum of the earth to this very moment!
How does that make you feel?

Sep 16, 2011

Spiritual Growth

One’s spiritual life is often compared to a plant. Paul describes a three-step: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow.”
Who was your Paul?
Who was your Apollos?
Who is the God who makes you grow?
Whose Paul are you?
Whose Apollos are you?
Who is the God who makes you plant and water?

Sep 15, 2011

Homiletics 101

How does the art of preaching work?
Here is a lesson from Paul (1 Corinthians 2:1-16):
– Do not use big words.
– Forget everything except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross.
– Do not deliver your teaching and message with skillful words of human wisdom.
– Allow room for convincing proof of the power of God’s Spirit.
– Yet DO proclaim a message of wisdom to those who are spiritually mature.
– Accept that it is only our own spirit within us that knows all about us; in the same way, only God’s Spirit knows all about God.

Sep 14, 2011

Fides quaerens intellectum

Paul knows: “God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise, and he chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful.”
Faith cannot be argued for or achieved through a thought process. But faith seeks understanding and rational expression once found, as Anselm of Canterbury put it.

Sep 13, 2011

What makes a Christian?

There is totally no reason for being proud of being a Christian. As a matter of fact the term started out as a swear word that was first applied to this particular Jewish sect in Antioch (Acts 11:26).
Paul struggles with the congregation in Corinth because one says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Peter”; and another, “I follow Christ.”
“Christian” is a very limited term that only refers to the second person of the Holy Trinity, omitting the Father and the Holy Spirit, yet rightfully focusing on the center. What do you think makes a Christian?

Feb 14, 2011

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Today’s Reading is 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.
Since today happens to be Valentine’s Day it is tempting to read “love” as “eros” as in the Song of Songs. Here the Greek word is ἀγάπη (agápē). King James even tried to moralize it but translating it as charity.

Feb 13, 2011

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Today’s Reading is 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.
Two brief observations: “Christ Has No Hands But Ours”.
And: “In the church God has put all in place.”
Oh, and then there is the Cartman Song Lyrics as well.