Saturday, 13 July 2019

The Parables of the Bridegroom, Shrunk Cloth, and New Wine Skins

 “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
- Matthew 9:15-17

There was a problem in Jesus' day that everyone acknowledged. Israel was under occupation by Rome. Israel as a people were not yet free of the sort of behaviours that led to captivity to Babylon. Israel was not experiencing the blessing of the promised land. There was the problem of unfaithfulness among a people called to be faithful. 

Here in the context of Matthew 9, we are confronted by three different groups who take issue with Jesus. (Teachers of law -v3, the Pharisees v11, and John’s the baptists disciples v14). Each of these groups had a particular way of living out their righteousness and faithfulness to Torah. The teachers of the law practiced a righteousness that was deeply tied to the Temple’s sacrificial system. The Pharisees practiced a righteousness that excluded sinners. And John’s disciples practiced fasting as evidence that they were the sort of people whom were faithful. 

Jesus does not solve the problem of unfaithfulness with the same old dusty practices. Rather, he tells three parables with the central point: rethink everything. The question for us is this: Do we have the courage to trust that the Jesus way, is truly that way that brings life? Are we prepared to make new wine skins? Or are we—like the Pharisees, teachers of the law, and John’s disciples— content to look from the outside in?  

The Purpose of Parables

An Introduction to the video:

"The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it." - Matthew 13:10-17

There is no shortage of information in our age. We are surrounded by hashtags, Wikipedia articles, breaking news, fake news, and trending topics. We do not lack the ability to discover what is going on throughout the world. But, do we always fully understand? Do we truly perceive? 

This is the challenge of understanding Jesus’ good news announcement about the Kingdom here in Matthew 13. It was trending news! Large crowds gathered (13:2) to hear what Jesus taught! Yet, not everyone who heard Jesus fully grasped what he was trying to say. We discover that Jesus purposely chose to not teach plainly, but to speak in parables. When asked why he did this, Jesus spoke of the crowd saying, 

“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”-Matthew 13:13

This raises all sorts of questions for us today. Are we hearing at the surface, or do we hunger to understand? Are our hearts calloused or soft? Will we— like the disciples— long for deeper meaning? If we do, the promise is that “we will be given more”(v12), and “be healed” (v15)

For more on the purpose of parables, check out this sermon I preached on June 30, 2019 at The Meeting Place located in downtown Winnipeg. (139 Smith Street) 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Interview: Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God (Part 2)

Brian Zahnd joins me on the MennoNerds podcast to discuss his new book, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God. This is Part 2 of our ongoing discussion on the book.

Video Breakdown 

The idea tracing back to Anselm that God is satisfying his wrath, punishing Jesus, in order to gain the capital that allows God to forgive. (0:16)
The kind of justice which takes place at the cross. (6:42)
The view of wrath striking Jesus on the cross, and how we should see wrath instead. (14:11)
Hell and its various meanings which are not from Scripture. (23:16)
The parables of the sheep and the goats and of Lazarus and the rich man. (32:52)
How Brian preaches Hell. (36:48)
Interpreting the book of Revelation. (41:04)
The centrality of love. (45:31)
Brian’s hope for the book. (49:46)
Closing prayer. (50:42)

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Interview: Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God (Part 1)

Brian Zahnd joins me the podcast to discuss his new book, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God. In Part 1, we focus on Brian’s story and the nature of the Bible. 

Video Breakdown
  • Brian’s work with Word of Life Church in St. Joseph’s, Missouri. (1:09)
  • Writing theology at a pastoral level. (4:39)
  • The artwork on the cover of Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God. (9:21)
  • Brian’s fascination with the infamous sermon of Jonathan Edward, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, including how that sermon is not representative of Edward’s ministry. (12:59)
  • Why we should not see God as angry, spiteful and abhorring of sinners. (22:50)
  • How we got to this place where the Bible is understood the way it is. (29:26)
  • Interpreting the Transfiguration. (37:20)
  • What the Bible is, if it isn’t an end in itself. (44:44)

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Interview with Bruxy Cavey: (Re)Union

Bruxy Cavey joins me on the MennoNerds podcast to talk about his newest book, (Re)union: The Good News of Jesus for Seekers, Saints, and Sinners. 

Friday, 28 April 2017

Historical Reasons for the Resurrection?

This past Sunday I did something that I had never done before as a Pastor. I preached on the historical reasons for the resurrection. It was not an easy sermon to prepare. There is a lot of material to cover in such a short time. I found myself a bit apprehensive to give a list of reasons why one might believe in the resurrection. (You can listen to that sermon above in the video player) 

You may ask, "Why the apprehension?"

Certainly, that is a valid question. 

Why should any minister of the Gospel be apprehensive on sharing the historical case for the resurrection? I guess my apprehension could be narrowed to the fact that I did not want to build an entire case on reason alone. I think it's dangerous to base our faith on a post-enlightenment rationalism that declares, "I have empirically proven the answer, thus removing the need for faith."

 Jason Micheli captures my apprehension perfectly when he writes,
 "The Barthian in me bristles at the unexamined assumption that that which is ‘objective’ and true must be empirically verifiable, it’s nonetheless true that the same Barthian in me is allergic to rational apologetics."- 
And so all of this left me with an uneasy feeling about putting together a sermon that compiled a list of reasons for believing the resurrection. I was apprehensive about a "wooden rationalism" that called for undeniable verification. Thankfully, both Jason & N.T. Wright helped me provide a proper framing of where to put these arguments for the resurrection. 

Jason Micheili cleverly asserts this dialectical statement:
To say the resurrection of Christ is beyond historical verification is true, for we believe God intervenes from beyond history to raise Jesus from beyond the grave. But to say the resurrection of Christ is beyond historical verification is not also to suggest that the resurrection of Christ is beyond historical plausibility, for we believe God intervenes to raise Jesus from the grave within historyIn fact... I do think the resurrection is the best- or at least a compelling- historical explanation for the resurrection of Jesus.

N.T. Wright, in his popular book Surprised By Hope, (and elsewhere) spends endless chapters laying out the historical case for the plausibility of the resurrection. Yet, after tirelessly laying out his through argument, Wright explains to his readers exactly where these rationalistic based arguments belong for followers of Jesus. He writes, 
"[T]hough the historical arguments for Jesus’s bodily resurrection are truly strong, we must never suppose that they will do more than bring people to the questions faced by Thomas, Paul, and Peter, the questions of faith, hope, and love. We cannot use a supposedly objective historical epistemology as the ultimate ground for the truth of Easter. To do so would be like lighting a candle to see whether the sun had risen. What the candles of historical scholarship will do is to show that the room has been disturbed, that it doesn’t look like it did last night, and that would-be normal explanations for this won’t do. Maybe, we think after the historical arguments have done their work, maybe morning has come and the world has woken up. But to investigate whether this is so, we must take the risk and open the curtains to the rising sun. When we do so, we won’t rely on the candles anymore, not because we don’t believe in evidence and argument but because they will have been overtaken by the larger reality from which they borrow, to which they point, and in which they will find a new and larger home. All knowing is a gift from God, historical and scientific knowing no less than that of faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love."- N.T. WrightSurprised By Hope, pg. 74
So this is all to say, that while I find the various reasons for the resurrection compelling, I must always recognize that these reasons alone cannot form the basis of faith and trust in the resurrection. I must go deeper from reason to hope, faith, and love