2008-09-23 by Michael Usey





Chiasmic Preaching?
2008-09-23 by Michael Usey

The entire gospel is in the Philippians passage for this week.  This hymn (vv. 5-11) is, of course a chiasm, the ABCDCBA pattern drilled into us by our NT professors in seminary.  Would it be possible, then, to structure the sermon this week in the form of a chiasm?  I am not certain how this might sound.  How powerful would it be to have the emphasis of the sermon in the center, rather than, say, at the end? 

 The centerline, the one receiving the most emphasis, is this: “… even death on a cross.”   I am not fond of substitutionary theories of atonement; they are (in my opinion) the most widespread heresies in North American Christianity these day.  However, it is crucial that when we talk about Eucharist, for example, that we make it clear that someone died.  (The fact that his death was a result of torture gives rise to all sorts of possibilities in our sermons to engage issues such as torture and capital punishment.)  While I eschew substitutionary atonement, I also wish to avoid the opposite theological problem: that of not talking about Jesus’ death at all.  Jesus’ death need not be necessary for cosmic redemption for it to be pivotal.  The self-giving nature of God in Christ gives even to the point of death.  But death is not the final word: God has raised him from the death.  God in Christ is victorious over death.  I have sometimes wondered whether Jesus was more surprised than anyone when God raised him from the dead.

Of course, this centerline reminds us that the scandal of the message of the early church was not so much Jesus’ resurrection, but his death.  If Jesus was the messiah, then how could have God allowed him to die, and on such in a cursed manner?  This hymn addressed this question, with the answer, Jesus was being obedient to God in all things.  It’s a good answer then and now.

I realize that not all preachers have discarded substitutionary atonement as unhelpful at best or heresy at worst.  For those of us who have, here are a few questions: What Jesus’ death in any sense “necessary”?  What was accomplished, if anything, by his death?  Was his death inevitable?  How do we talk about Jesus’ death without substitionary language, especially at the table?  





Our guest preaching blogger this week is
2008-09-22 by CJ Teets

Michael Usey, senior pastor of College Park: An American Baptist Church in Greensboro, NC.  Born in Boston and raised in San Diego, he much prefers the Chargers over the Patriots, the Padres (of course) over the Red Sox.  He holds degrees from Baylor University, Southern Seminary in Louisville (before the fall), Emory University, and Baptist Theological in Richmond; none of these degrees were purchased online.  He has 3 children: Nathan, Zachariah, and Hannah, all named for holy troublemakers of the Hebrew Bible, and who live up to their names.  His wife, Ann, makes him look good and teaches English at the Quaker High School of New Garden Friends.  His church loves God most of the time, works diligently at loving people, and tries hard not to embarrass Jesus.  The best quality about Michael, his friends say, is that he has really good friends.




Thanks
2008-09-20 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to Jay Wallace and Tom Steagald for your blog entries this week. We are blessed to have such intelligent, thoughtful bloggers.

My sermon is up in the cafe. I pray people will provide responses.

Thanks be to the Holy Spirit for this tub of cyber-edification.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





THURSDAY'S BLOG
2008-09-20 by Jay Wallace

Good points Tom. It’s great when the Spirit engages the written word, bringing fresh and new revelations of the Christ! In my congregation right now there is a wave of fear about the economy. Some have recently lost their jobs, others have been looking for a long time, while the mainstay of the congregation, the retired folk (the ones keeping the place financially afloat) are worried sick about food and heat this winter.  All my folks, including me, wish the “owner of the vineyard” would fix everything that’s broken. However, the owner doesn’t seem to be in the business of “fixing all my specific problems.” Everyone is treated the same (your point, from the insider/outsider perspective). The guys who came early aren’t paid a bonus, whether they showed up early or late everyone got the same pay. “Equal pay for equal work” and any of the “fair practices” issues (stuff my buddies and I got caught upon when we were working the fields as teenagers) aren’t the point, as far as I can tell. The point concerns the bringing of everyone to the owner; come early, come late, but by all means enter the kingdom and take note “the kingdom” referenced is the “landowner,” not the land. We aren’t headed for a place but toward a person.Tom I especially appreciated your exegetical note from the historical perspective on the “insider/outsider” perspective. The original audience and how they might have heard this story is a major foundation in understanding this parable. This week the country (USA and perhaps the World) has experienced a major shift in the “whose in” and “whose out” perspective and from the perspective of my congregation “they” (the formerly “in”) have become “out.” My congregation has moved from a position of privilege in an “us vs them” paradigm to being the “them,” (they see themselves as out of work and at risk) and I suspect this vulnerability brings them closer to desiring the “the owner.” For me this is part of what makes this parable so powerful. The undercurrent in this passage is the disadvantaged come into a relationship of full blessing. Whether it is earned or not isn’t a consideration; for whether they came early or late the blessing was a full days pay. This is a powerful lesson and the correspondence of my congregation’s circumstances underlines God’s abundant blessing in the changing circumstances of life.



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