Archive for August, 2009

Goldilocks and Jesus

August 22, 2009

There are many ways in which our abundance here in America has had a negative affect on the American church as a whole.  It transcends denominations (in all but a few cases) and it is probably not noticed by many.  As I started to write this, the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears popped into my head.  Here we have a cute little girl who stumbles upon a house while she is walking through the forest.  She decides to enter the house and finds three bowls of porridge sitting on the table.  So she decides to eat the porridge.  Unfortunately the first two bowls don’t meet with her approval.  The first bowl she tastes is “too hot” and the second is “too cold.”  Finally she finds on that is “just right.”  And isn’t that how we function here in America a lot?  Things have to be “just right.”  We are not usually content to wait for something to cool down or watch the water impatiently as we wait for it to boil.  It’s a stretch, you say?  Here’s another example: temperature.  The very moment the air conditioning goes out it is an emergency.  “It’s too hot,” we say.  For thousands of years, people lived without A/C but now because we are accustomed to it, we are not able to envision life without it.  Our standards of comfort in life seem to be on our non-negotiable list.  We can’t imagine living without heat or A/C, memory foam pillows and mattress pads, warm food and cold drinks…the list goes on.  I do not believe in ascetiscism and I don’t believe that God would have us give up all the measures of comfort in our lives just to ensure we are not experiencing any comfort or joy, but I do believe that God is calling us to serve not the god of comfort, but the God of Comfort.  There are many people in this world who would take a bowl of porridge that was starting to mold on the top and eat it thankfully.  That bowl of porridge may help them make it one more day in the struggle that is their life.  So let us live as Jesus calls us to live and sacrifice our comforts for the benefit of the kingdom of God.  Let us give our of our abundance of comfort that others might know of the comfort of God’s provision and that we might remember the provision of God’s comfort.

Reflections on Summer Language @ PTS: Summer 2009

August 21, 2009

So I haven’t been blogging much since before I moved, but there has been lots going on.  This post might be boring to some but I have to start somewhere so bear with me.

In some ways, it still hasn’t quite sunk in that I am here at Princeton Seminary.  I am mostly settled in, have met quite a few great people, and am 3/4 of the way through my summer language course.  The reality of being a student again is strange and wonderful.  My internal clock still seems to be functioning on the 8-5 mentality though I have taken my fair share of afternoon naps.  While I am taking Biblical (or Koine) Greek, some are taking Hebrew.  There are advantages to be immersed in a language, but there are also disadvantages (as with everything in life).  About half way through, it was much harder to spend time studying after enduring 3 hours of class.  I found myself wanting to take a break from it which often lasted longer than I wanted it to (insert nap here).  I then spent the evenings studying and often woke up at 5 or 6am to finish those last few sentences or study vocab and grammatical structures (aka paradigms) for the daily quizzes.  While the other section of Greek still has one more test to go, my class took the last big exam this morning.  What a relief.  We have a handful of quizzes on a few odds and ends of grammar that are left to be covered and then a bunch of reading and a few translation quizzes, but it is great to have completed a large portion of the course.  I have done pretty well in the class scoring a B+ on the first two of the major exams, a B on the third and fourth exam, and have done well on most of the quizzes.  Yeah…there were a few doozies…but nothing to worry about.  I won’t know what I got on today’s test until Monday but I am VERY okay with that.

The language itself is frustrating.  For me the moments of encouragement came through points of theological significance that the prof pointed out as we read through various chapters of the Greek New Testament translating it as best we could.  Some were able to do this better than others and I must admit, I am one of the others.  While I have been able to do well on the tests, there is quite a bit that hasn’t “clicked” for me yet.  I can tell it is coming gradually so I have tried to give my brain space to process and keep the self-expectations present but yet no overwhelming.  I wanted to do well, but realized that doing well doesn’t necessarily mean doing things perfectly.  I think I am finally at a place where I am more comfortable making mistakes.  In the past, I my expectation of myself would have been to learn everything at the same pace it was presented and just “get it.”  And if I didn’t get it right away, there was a certain sense of failure that I felt even in the midst of success.  It’s hard to enjoy life that way.  The beauty of leaving room for failure and growth is that it makes much more room for people.  And I have met quite a few friends who will undoubtedly remain a part of my life well past seminary.

The cliche “The more I learn, the more I don’t understand.” has once again proved itself to be true.  Each new fact leads to countless questions some with answers and others that will remain mysteries.  When I was in college, I spoke with a good friend of mine from high school who informed me he had turned away from his faith in Christ.  He was taking Koine Greek at the time and declared to me that the New Testament didn’t really say what everyone claimed it did.  I was perplexed and deeply saddened by his decision and his words have been lodged in my head all these years.  I can understand, to a certain extent, why someone might question their faith while studying the Biblical languages as well as theology in general.  Those unanswered questions can become stumbling blocks.  I am thankful to be able to say that for me, they are stepping stones.  It seems to me when I embrace the mystery of God, it is as if a little bit of the fog lifts.  It is as if the mystery provides clarity somehow.

I will end with a thought from chapel a few weeks back.  When God send Moses to speak to the Pharaoh of Egypt on behalf of the Israelites, Moses asked God who he should say sent him when people asked the question.  As it is normally translated, God’s answer is “I am who I am.”  This probably wasn’t the concrete answer Moses was hoping for.  Another proposed interpretation of the Hebrew words that make up this phrase are “I will be who I will be.”  This is most interesting when it is preceded by “I will be with you.”  So God is telling Moses “I will be what I will be” and “I will be with you.”  Could it be that God will be who God will be through Moses?  Could it be that God will be who God will be through me?  Could it be that God will be who God will be through you?  I believe the answer is yes…and that is most humbling of all.

Oh, that God can be who God will be through me.