Monthly Archives: August 2010

Learning our way into heaven

More to chew on …. Christian discipleship is …

  • Perfective
  • Paradoxical

… and these are fundamental differences with Old Testament discipleship.

We cannot simply learn the rules and follow them, earning our way into heaven. (The Pharisees and the rich young man in Luke 18:18-23 practiced preceptive discipleship.) Following Jesus means constant renewal, lifelong learning, a striving toward perfection. Or as Gene put it the other day, Salvation is a gift from God. If our hands are full, we can’t open them to receive the gift.

And therein lies just one of the paradoxes in Christianity—constant striving and renewal, but it’s all about receiving.

What are some of the other paradoxes?

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The lavish love of God

Wonderful metaphor here: God’s love “is as gracious, indiscriminate, and lavish as the sunshine and the rainfall.” The author uses it to explain the motivation for loving our enemies. We should not retaliate when hurt, but wish good for those intent on harming us, because God does no less for us.

Another interesting point: If any saying of Jesus recorded in the gospels can lay claim to being unaltered, it is the statement to love the enemy.

In search of clarity

Finding this book, “ Jesus: A Gospel Portrait,” rich with insight. The context of Jesus’ world (Chapter 2) is quite helpful – especially the nationalist feelings after the Maccabean revolt. And I now understand and respect the role of Pharisees in preserving Jewish religious life.

However, I’ve always had trouble understanding the concept of “the kingdom of God.” This book addresses it in several ways, starting in Chapter 3, but clarity still escapes me. For the moment, at least …

How the gospels developed

Here’s a valuable concept: The three stages in transmission of gospel material.

  1. Jesus and the disciples
  2. The disciples and the early church
  3. The early church and the evangelists

As I understand it … memories of Jesus –His words, His works, His mission—were kept alive and used as illustrations in preaching in the early church. That material was touched by the faith and experience of the early Christians. Best preserved were those moments of His life that meant the most to a believer. The evangelists drew on this living tradition and organized it to speak to the problems and hopes of later communities of Christians. The power of the Spirit was present from the beginning.

Hungering for God’s Word

Author Donald Senior C.P. wrote “Jesus: A Gospel Portrait” in 1975. But his words still ring true to me: “Many adult Christians hunger today for the word of God.” They sense their faith is improperly nourished. Wouldn’t you agree this is especially true for Catholics? Senior’s book is our summer assignment for Year 2 of Catholic Biblical School, foundations of the New Testament. For such Christians, Senior continues, “scripture is food. It nourishes, it satisfies, it gives life.”  Hmmm … “feasting on God’s word” is a great way to describe Bible study, and a lot less intimidating to cradle Catholics.