Monthly Archives: July 2008

Romans 8

So, over the past two Sundays, I’ve been preaching on Romans 8. It’s been fun to approach these things as a series. This Sunday, the Lectionary takes us to Romans 8:26-39 to finish the chapter. Trygve David Johnson has a nice look at this text at Theolog’s Blogging toward Sunday.

The end of Romans 8 is definitely in my top three favorite biblical texts. It’s just incredible stuff. Now normally I don’t turn to commentaries, especially this early in the week, but today I figured I might as well use that investment known as the New Interpreter’s Bible that sits on my bookshelf. I’m glad I did. This is quite possibly the longest commentary on fourteen verses in the whole twelve-volume set — in sum, this section covers about twenty pages.

As I read, though, I found the text illuminated in such an incredible way. There’s nothing quite like this — so many passages to fill so many sermons, so many inspiring words that illuminate a text that was already inspiring to begin with. Still, the end almost had me in tears.

We paraphrase, in conclusion, the final two verses of the section. Paul has spoken, and we must speak, of the love of the one true God. This love of God calls across the dark intervals of meaning, reaches into the depths of human despair, embraces those who live in the shadow of death or the overbright light of present life, challenges the rulers of the world and shows them up as a sham, looks at the present with clear faith and and the future with sure hope, overpowers all powers that might get in the way, fills the outer dimensions of the cosmos, and declares to the world that God is God, that Jesus the Messiah is the world’s true Lord, and that in him love has won the victory. This powerful, overmastering love grasps Paul, and sustains him in his praying, his preaching, his journeying, his writing, his pastoring, and his suffering, with the strong sense of the presence of the God who had loved him from the beginning and had put that love into action in Jesus. This is the love because of which there is no condemnation. This is the love because of which those justified are surely glorified. And this is the love, seen surpremely in the death of the Messiah, which reaches out to the whole world with the exodus message, the freedom message, the word of joy and justice, the word of the gospel of Jesus.

— N.T. Wright, “Romans,” The New Interpreter’s Bible

With that said, I’m not sure that there’s much more to be said. But anything you’d like to offer would still be appreciated!

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Wall-E: close to home?

I finally ventured out last night with a couple friends to see Wall-E. As usual, Pixar brings us a great movie, and I suspect I’ll be back to see it again in the theater. It was that good. And I’m not at all a movie person!

There are so many possibilities for thinking about allegory with Wall-E: the concern of global warming, the need for personal connection, even how the world pushes off the sacred. However, there’s something striking me about Wall-E’s commitment that bears some reflection.

Wall-E is, at his core, a faithful robot. He keeps doing what he was programmed to do (and no surprise, since he seems to be running some variant of Mac OS!) Even when all the other Wall-Es on Earth stop functioning properly, he keeps going. He scavenges parts off of other broken-down robots to keep himself running, and his ingenuity is something surely beyond his original design.

But Wall-E is something more than a faithful automaton, working beyond his scheduled useful life span. He recognizes that there is more to his world than just compacting the leftover trash of Earth. He is unafraid to collect things that strike him as interesting. You might say that Wall-E has a heart (as only Pixar can give). In the end, this ability to think outside the box leads him to incredible discoveries of love and life.

I have to wonder: Is Wall-E a good model for the life of a disciple? Is Wall-E’s faithfulness to his task while recognizing the things of beauty around him something we can learn from? Does Wall-E give us a little bit of the path toward a new creation that we so desperately long for?

There are surely countless other discussions that could emerge from watching Wall-E, but this is what struck me close to home.

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technology and the PCUSA General Assembly

Like many Presbyterians, I won’t ever forget my first General Assembly. The year was 1998. I had just finished my freshman year of college, and somehow I managed to be invited to attend GA as a volunteer with the Office of Communications. I flew to Charlotte a few days before the assembly began, checked into my hotel, and ventured over to the convention center, where I met people in person I had only spoken with online.

I was immediately put to work on the project of the day: helping to set up an Internet “cafe” for those attending the assembly. Although much of the convention center was brand new, we didn’t have a high speed connection (probably because of a high cost to set it up). We set up a local network of ten or so computers, then connected it to a couple special boxes that shared four dialup connections across the network. Even the newsroom and the web editing stations were set up in this way! Most news was posted first on PresbyNet before it made the PCUSA web site. Mountains of paper information never made it on the web, at least not during the assembly.

Flash forward to 2008. I’m on vacation, not at the assembly, but that didn’t matter. From a quiet village on the coast of Maine, I was able to watch live streaming video of the plenary sessions, read along with the committee reports, and chat live with other Presbyterians from around the country. I might as well have been there, if all that mattered was the business done! The chat room Presbyterians even started proposing a new group of “Web Advisory Delegates” to be polled before each vote! Bloggers from among the commissioners, advisory delegates, and observers took time to post often, and some old stalwart publications even brought in people to blog the assembly.

The technology behind GA this year, at least from a distance, was the best I’ve seen it. Everything just worked, almost well enough for me to wonder if we need to spend the time and money to get 1,000 people together to have these kinds of conversations that we could have at home.

But having been there before myself reminds me that there’s something about General Assembly that can’t be recreated on a computer screen. The people we encounter in person show us the breadth of the church that goes far beyond one congregation, and the worship services point us toward a new song of praise that seems beyond belief. Amidst all my memories of five assemblies, the one I can’t put out of my mind was opening worship in Charlotte – 13,000 Presbyterians gathered around the Word and the Table to worship.

The GA Junkie made an interesting point in his reflections on the assembly today:

We polity wonks and GA Junkies have an insight into how God, through the Holy Spirit, works in our covenant communities through these governing body meetings and our connectionalism. We need to recognize that the roughly 2000 people here at the General Assembly represent about 0.1% of the PC(USA).

Will technology help the church to understand this work of the Holy Spirit better? Only time will tell.

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