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With 10 titles to his name, and more on the way, his resources are down to earth, Australian, and to be watched! Add to Wishlist. Log In to sync your basket across devices. About Meet the Author Reviews Series. Paul Clark Paul Clark is married with two kids. Did you find this review helpful? Yes or No Report This Review. Paul Clark , Graham Preston. The Car Park Parable series are designed with boys in mind. Ever wanted to tell them a bible story, but they just want the car stories?

Try this series! More info. View Product Add eBook. Also available: Paperback. View All. Paul Clark , Graham Preston Illus. This Christ, Isaiah foreshadowed: would be girded with righteousness and faith. It was too heavy. The armor had to be put on you by another. The helmet laid on your head by another. The belt cinched tight behind you by another.

The armor of God faith, truth, righteousness is none other than Jesus Christ. To put on the armor of God is to clothe yourself with Christ. To put on the armor of God is to be baptized. His faith has reckoned to you as your own faith. You might keep your mom and dad awake at night in high school, Ryan, but nothing you do henceforth can erase what God has done to you with water and his word.

Maddie, you are now clothed with the armor that is Christ himself, and, as such, you will always forever be regarded by God as though you were Christ. And by baptism, what belongs to Christ is yours now his righteousness, all of it. That might not sound like a big deal to you now, kids. By dying with Christ in baptism, you never have to worry about how much faith or how little faith you have because by water you permanently possess the only faith God will ever count. Christ is the end of the Law. Only that grace, given to us by baptism, makes our works anything other than futile.

Hell yes, the wages of sin is death. But today, Sunday, September 2, in a grave of shallow water, you died. Thus, there are no wages left to be paid for any of your sins. As St. You can dishonor your father and your mother, if you like. You can begrudge a beggar your spare coin. You can cheat on your girlfriend or your boyfriend. You can persist in your prejudice. Of course, the world will be a more beautiful place and your life will be a whole lot happier if you forgive those who trespass against you and give to the poor, if your love is patient and kind, un-angry and absent boasting.

But turn the teaching around and you can hear the offense as Jesus intended it:. Paul says in Ephesians 5 that the Devil gets at us primarily through deceit. In the face of such attacks and second-guessing of our sins, Luther admonished us to remember our baptism. There is therefore now or ever any condemnation for you. All your sins are free. To those inoculated Christians I warned you about, this sort of freedom will sound like nihilism. Without the stick, the carrot of grace will just permit people to do whatever they want, to live prodigally without the need to ever come home from the far country.

For one thing, scripture itself testifies that the Law is powerless to produce what it commands Romans 7 ; in fact, all the oughts of the Law only elicit the opposite of their intent. Exhorting another to be more compassionate, for example, will only make them less compassionate. I guarrantee you, kids, your parents know this to be true.

The oughts of the Law only elicit the opposite of their intent. Only grace- only free, unconditional, for always, grace can create what the Law the compels. The hilarity of the Gospel, kids, is that the news that all your sins are free actually frees you from sinning. And his being convinced that God had no damns to give led him to what? To live a sinless life. Your dad is a chef and your mom a musician. Make it concrete.

What would you do? Adding anything else onto you just sounds…heavy, a burden. And even the poor and oppressed need this work of Christ gifted to them by water and the Word more than they need the good works of a Mother Theresa. You need only read the story that is your namesake, Aaron, to know that the world needs stronger medicine than our niceness and good works, particularly when our supposed goodness is a big part of the problem.

Your grandpa is obsessed with his Go-Pro so just check the pictures, Noah. Your parents stood right next to me, wearing grins, and acquiesced as we drowned you in water. God baptized you Noah. The Church was just his ark from which we watched as bystanders and then dragged you on board after it was all over. Take your name as a clue, Noah, the life of the baptized Christian is not about turning over ever more new leaves in your life. Who knew your parents, the shy and awkward high school kids I met my first day here at Aldersgate, would one day make me an accomplice to something so macabre.

Back then, I often crossed lines and offended people. When they college students, your parents traveled with Ali and me to Taize, a monastery in the French countryside. During the day we prayed and we played, and at night we camped out on the monastery grounds in tents. Your Dad hid in one of those tents one night, specifically our tent, and scared the piss out of Ali. Not long after, Noah, I married your Mom and Dad, which makes your baptism a fitting bookend to my time at Aldersgate. They were the first two people I met at Aldersgate.

I celebrated their wedding, and now what we do to you with water, St. Paul says, is itself a betrothal. No amount of prodigal living can undo it. You might keep your grandmothers awake at night in high school, Noah, but nothing you do henceforth can erase what God does here with water and his word. You are now clothed with Christ, and, as such, will always forever be regarded by God as Christ. This is why St. What God does to you with water, killing and making alive, the Church has called it the great exchange, and it is great, good news. Christ died for all your sins. All of his perfect record has been reckoned as your own- all of it is yours.

There is no cost to any of your sins other than what they cost your neighbor. Someone named Noah should know better. In the face, of such attacks and second-guessing of our sins, Luther admonished us to remember our baptism. There is therefore no condemnation for you. Noah, to those inoculated Christians I warned you about, this sort of freedom will sound like nihilism.

And so I do damage, making others the object of my anxious attempts to make myself look better and be better than I am, in other words, to justify myself. I think this explains why the people against whom we sin the most are the people we most love. The hilarity of the Gospel, Noah, is that the news that all your sins are free actually frees you from sinning. Would you hop from bedroom to brothel, like a prodigal son or a certain president?

You need only read the story that is your namesake, Noah, to know that the world needs stronger medicine than our niceness and good works, particularly when our supposed goodness is a big part of the problem. Your baptism, therefore, is not like soap. It makes you new. After first making you dead. I had thought my purple crushed velvet tights and loose, flowing shirt- the sort worn by Meatloaf in the Bat Out of Hell video- gave me away as a dead-ringer for Hamlet, which, it occurs to me now, is just as gay.

And South Park had just gone viral the year before with an episode of the animated Olympian refereeing mortal combat between Jesus and Santa Claus. But this Winter Olympics a headline in the Washington Post grabbed me:. The Post article tells the story of Kim Hyon-hui, a former North Korean spy, who, 30 years ago, boarded South Korean Flight and got off in Baghdad during a layover, having left a bomb, disguised as a Panasonic radio, in the overhead bin. Recruited by the Party as a student, she received physical and ideological training for 10 years before she was given orders to disrupt the Winter Olympics in South Korea by blowing up a plane full of energy workers on their way home to Seoul to visit their husbands and their wives and their children.

Kim Hyon- hui attempted suicide again during her interrogation, and a year later a South Korean judge sentenced her to die. Kim Hyon-hui lives an ordinary life cooking and cleaning, raising her kids and going to church. By God. The headline is what grabbed me. All 4 Gospels tell us that Jesus was baptized alongside hypocrites and thieves and tax collectors colluding with the evil empire- a brood of vipers, John the Baptist calls them.

But all of the Gospels have got a baptism story. The water was a visible sign of your admission of guilt. In other words, the winnowing fork judgement that John the Baptist had preached, Christ takes on in his baptism. The winnowing is in the water. He dies with the ungodly in him, with thieves all over him.

Only this cross had a large, car dealership-sized American flag draped over it.

He puts them on him in his baptism into unrighteousness; so that, by a different baptism- the baptism of his death and resurrection- they may be made what the former baptism could never make them: righteous. Either headline could work as an alternative for what God declares with a dove through a hole in heaven. Probably not.

Baptism of Fire - Part 1

Our baptism is not an act of repentance. Our baptism incorporates us into the act by which God repented us into righteousness. By your baptism you are not in your sin- though a sinner you are- because, by your baptism, you are in Christ. And if you are in Christ, then there is now no condemnation. Because if so, whether as a baby or a born-again, your sins have already been pardoned.

Because by your baptism you are in Jesus Christ, who is himself the pardon of God. At his baptism, a hole in heaven declared him to be loved. And by your baptism into the holes of his hands and his side, heaven is opened to you- you, though you belong to a brood of vipers, are beloved. One of my friends, a member of my church, spends half his year in Florida. He messaged me that night to give me the names of his kids who were still in surgery and asked me to add them to the prayer list. She has a collapsed lung.

She was shot in the arm and the leg and the back. Her ribs are shattered. A message that makes sense, message that squares with the headlines, would be:. You can object. It is offensive. It is outrage-ous. After this week it sticks in my mouth too. And not to take the edge off of it, but I wonder if maybe the offense is also the antidote.

In a different interview, Kim Hyon-hui reflects on how overwhelmed she felt by the gratuitous her word pardon she received from the people of South Korea:. I was a robot. The only thing that might have been powerful enough to prevent me from committing my trespass would have been to know the possibility of such a pardon. Ruben Rosario Rodriguez. Click here to become a patron of the podcasts. I meant your grandmother but that probably goes for your mother at this point too. I know October 23 is not the day your mother gave birth to you. They stood right next to me, wearing shit-eating grins apologize to your grandmother for me , and acquiesced as we drowned you in water.

We destroyed you- well, not you but the Old Elijah. A sacrament, to put it plain, is a sign accompanied by a promise. The sign on the Table, that other sacrament, is the bread and the wine. The sign in the bowl-shaped-grave is the water. God takes his ginormous Gospel promise of grace in Jesus Christ and he sticks it on a creature called bread or water or wine, and he signs your name on it.

I talked him out it. Despite the junk you see on Cable TV Christianity, these sacraments are not ways you seek out a spiritual connection to God. In the sacraments. The sacraments, like your baptism Elijah, are more than signs affixed to promises. If your slice of eternity resembles at all the collective calendar that has come before you, then you will have already and you will henceforth experience plenty of people- maybe yourself included- wondering where God is in this broken world. Notice, Elijah, the questions we ask about God and the accusations we make at God, shaking our fist at the sky, all assume that God is there, up in the sky.

Even if we only think figuratively that God is up on the clouds we nevertheless believe God, literally, is not here. God does not want to be known as far off in the heaven, the subject of our speculations. God does not want to be known in general, the object of our manipulations. No matter what the religious marketplace tries to hawk you, the life of faith is not a journey of becoming a better you, ever upwards to God- have you been to the gym?!

Only a sadist enjoys the stair-master. No, the God who puts on skin to get too close for comfort in Christ is a God who never stops condescending. He comes to us. He meets us in the watery grave and the broken bread. I hope to God the Church will have taught you to look for the aforementioned in the muck of your life and not to blame him for it. I hope to God the Church has taught you so. Of course as Samuel L. The Church is the People who tell and hear the promise of God affixed to those signs we call sacraments. I promise to be yours in sickness and in health.

A promise makes the future not an obligation think: student debt, if you have any…you no doubt do. A promise makes the future not an object of dread think: sickness and health. A promise binds the future to a prior condition, to a past think: future love to past and present failure ; as such, a promise makes the past depend upon the future rather than vice versa think: the way of the world. You were baptized with people of the promise as happy bystanders. We made the promise that your future is not nor will it ever be determined by your past. Every promise in this life, no matter how unconditional we try to make it, is conditioned by Death.

Until we are parted by death I made your parents say when they made their vows to one another. Love, forgiveness, friendship…they can only be unconditional promises where Death, and the fear of it, is swallowed up in the past. The only Death that matters is behind you. Happy Birthday! The only Death that matters is behind you now and forever.

Freed from the fear of Death you can learn to love, forgive, and befriend. For the baptized, life follows death and so it can be a life lived without dread. In the same way the promises we make do something to others e. The promise of baptism is the means by which God creates faith in us to trust that promise for each of us every time we see someone like you drowned in the bowl-shaped-grave.

God comes at us in the sacrament, killing and making new and giving faith. Recently I presented on the Lordship of Christ at a retreat for ordinands. A friend presented on the sacraments. When she got to discussing the rite for baptism she mentioned how this second vow from the United Methodist liturgy about our freedom and power to resist evil, injustice, and oppression meant a lot more to her of late. I shrugged. Baptism, for Paul, is both a being put to death and an ongoing empowerment by God the Holy Spirit. Through baptism and the baptized, God contends against Another: Satan, whom Paul variously makes synonymous with the Power of Sin, the Power of Death, and the Principalities and Powers.

Not only does God put us to death in Christ through baptism, transferring us from the Lordship of Death to the Lordship of Grace, prior to baptism we are slaves to Death and after, Paul says, slaves to righteousness. Or, as Paul puts elsewhere, apart from the righteousness of God in Christ, Sin is a Power who we are all under and from whom not one of us has the freedom or the power to liberate ourselves.

Issi's Baptism (Car Park Parables Series)

Christians then have peculiar definitions for freedom and power, and we have a more specific set of names for evil and injustice. Prior to our baptism in to Christ, we have no freedom or power at all, as we are captives to the anti-God Powers, and proceeding baptism freedom is slavery to the righteousness of God. It makes no sense to tell prisoners to repent their way out of captivity; they can only be delivered.

While God has defeated the Power of Satan through Cross and Resurrection, once for all, this defeat, though real, is not yet realized. God is yet contending against a Power whose defeat is sure if not surrendered. Here, evil, injustice, and oppression present themselves in varying forms in our world. There is no acknowledged agency behind them. When it comes to resisting evil and injustice, God never stops being the subject of the verbs.

It is not that God begins this process of transformation in Christ and then hands it off to us to resist evil and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. Indeed apart from the activity of God in and upon us, we cannot be trusted to identify evil or rightly to resist injustice for the insidious Power of Sin is such that in can corrupt even our best religious impulses.

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God is the acting agent of our transformation into conformity to Christ from beginning to end, acting against the agency of the Enemy. The priest performs an exorcism, blowing 3 times, on the child. And all his works? And all his pomps? In fact, the shift from God as acting subject responsible for faith to acted upon object of our faith, from theo logy to anthropo logy, in modern Enlightenment theology is mirrored in worship.

Ludwig Feuerbach famously and correctly diagnosed most Christian speech about God as really being speech about ourselves. We could not turn to some of our liturgical texts to disprove him. In the act of baptism and in the life of the baptized thereafter, God is the acting agent, overturning the world. Such astonishment at the agency of God is either muted or altogether missing in any question where we are the answer: I do.

Jesus Christ, the Predestined One, is the only fully free human being. Christ is so liberated as to free others from their captivities and deliver them into the divine freedom we call Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Wombat Books: Australian children's books - Car Park Parables

Yet everything that exists exists- at every moment of its existence- because of the creative act of God. God is the Source of our free actions; therefore, there is no such thing as a human action independent of God. This does not constrain us; it is by them that we are ourselves. Free will then cannot mean our acting apart from or independent of God acting upon us.

Do you have to be born again to be a Christian? Do you? Does the wind blow where it chooses only because Chuck Norris gives it permission? According to our last church-wide survey, nearly half of you came here from a Roman Catholic background. Can we really be Christian at all and not be the Chuck Norris kind? No one else. Follow me. He talks about camels and needles. Go and sin no more. So, we could argue, this applies only to Nicodemus, and to make being born again an over the counter prescription for everyone, is to make of it something Jesus does not do.

Nicodemus comes to Jesus not as a seeker but as a representative. Of his people. Nicodemus approaches Jesus armed with the plural. He preaches about good news to the poor and release to the captives. It cannot be achieved by people like you or orchestrated by preachers like me. What is flesh, i.

Only God can connect us with God. We get so hung up on what Jesus says to Nicodemus in the dark of night that we close our eyes to what John tries to show us. All things came into being through him and not one thing came into being without him. From above. By water and the spirit. Jesus, beaten and flogged and spat upon, wearing a crown of thorns twisted into his scalp and arrayed with a purple robe, next to Pontius Pilate.

Water pouring out onto those executioners and betraying bystanders, pouring out- in other words- onto sinful humanity. And then Saturday, the seventh day of the week, the day of that first week in Genesis when God rests in the Garden from his creative work- what does John show you? And having been raised from the grave, John shows you a tear-stained Mary mistaking Jesus, as naked and unashamed as Adam before the Fall, for the what? Later that Easter day, John shows you the disciples hiding behind locked doors. This New Adam comes to them from the garden grave and like a mighty, rushing wind he breathes on them.

And on that same first day John shows you Jesus telling these disciples for the very first time, in his Gospel, that his Father in Heaven, is their Father too. Chuck Norris is right. What Jesus says to Nicodemus here in the night is true. You must be born again. You have to be born again. You could never see the Kingdom of God apart from being born again. We get so hung up on what Jesus says in this part of John about being born again that we shut our eyes to what John shows us with his whole Gospel. And all of us, in the Second Adam, have been restored. What God does in Christ through cradle and cross transforms all of humanity.

In him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through him God was was pleased to reconcile all things to himself, Paul says. The death he died he died to Sin, once for all, so you all can consider yourselves dead to Sin and alive to God. Whether or not you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, in the person of Jesus Christ, our Lord, you have already been accepted by God. What Jesus says here to Nicodemus about the Kingdom of God is true. For us born agains, the Kingdom is mainly about sight.

Chuck Norris may be able to sneeze with his eyes open, but for us born agains and the Kingdom of God a different sort of seeing is required. As I usually do at funeral homes, I wore my clergy collar, which costumes me, to Christians and non-Christians alike, as a Catholic priest. There you are, trapped in a room full of strangers who desperately do not want to talk to a professional Christian.

He was wrong though to imagine this subversive message is not to be found in the Gospels. As Jesus comes up out of the water, Mark says the sky tears violently apart and the Holy Spirit appears as a dove and descends into Jesus. And so when Mark identifies the Holy Spirit as a dove, he expects you to know that no where in the Old Testament is the Spirit ever depicted as such.

Instead Mark expects you to remember that the image of a dove is from the Book of Genesis, where God promises never to redeem his creation through violence. Mark expects you to know that applying the image of a dove to the Holy Spirit means something new and different. So when Mark depicts the Holy Spirit as a dove, he expects those first Christians to think immediately of another, different bird. The Romans, Mark assumes you know, symbolized the strength and ferocity of their Kingdom with the King of the birds: the eagle.

Just as Mark assumes you know that the prophet Isaiah quotes it too when God reveals to him that the Messiah will upend kingdoms not through violence but through self-giving love. And next, the very first thing Jesus does is what any revolutionary does, he enlists followers to that Kingdom. Not soldiers but the poor. That the Gospels you have have been rendered safe and sanitized for the status quo. For Episode 48 50 is fast approaching , we talked with our 1 Fan, Kenneth Tanner. Ken is best known for his Facebook memes.

No, they are not memes about cats playing a piano but instead are of the theological flavor. Ken has found a way to utilize what is normally a means of poking fun or ridiculing someone, to now be a way of sharing theological ideas in a way that is more accessible than most blogs. This is from my podcasting partner Teer Hardy. Before meeting Ken on Facebook a few months ago, I had no clue there was such as a thing as a Charismatic Episcopal.

Having grandparents who are and were Episcopalian, and even taken a class at an Episcopal seminary, a Charismatic Priest in the Episcopal church is like a Millennial walking into a mainline church. Ken has found a way to utilize what is normally a means of poking fun or ridiculing someone, to now be a way of sharing theological ideas in a way that is more accessible than most blogs including this one.

Ken wrote the following as a response to a video showing what can only be described as a WWE-style baptism. A sad mockery, which exposes what must be a total misunderstanding of the sacrament. Baptism is a participation in the death of Christ, a reenactment of the cross. Yes, it is to be celebrated but this practice loses connection with the hard wood realities of the cross.

We will talk about what a Charismatic Episcopalian is, he will dive into this video a little more, and I even attempt a Fleming Rutledge podcast prayer. Use the links below to subscribe to the podcast so you do not miss our conversation with Ken and our other great guests. Stewart looked top heavy with his mop of curly white hair on top of his short, heavyset body. After class one day, I walked up to Dr Stewart as he was stuffing papers into his leather satchel and I asked him for advice on beginning in my first congregation.

He slid more papers into his satchel as I processed what sounded to me like an insult in the form of advice. Dr Stewart looked up and smiled and said:. So, in the United Methodist Church new clergy are making just their first or second impressions over Independence Day weekend, a time when most folks are not in church and others come to church with a diversity of expectations.

On Day 1, my secretary first walked me through the church directory. Second, she gave me the skinny on church gossip, and third she informed me that, as the new pastor in town, I was scheduled to preach the sermon at the annual, ecumenical Independence Day Service.

Like all things 4th of July, the ecumenical service was held outdoors, in a city park. I arrived early. I walked up to a guy who looked like the master of ceremonies- a Pentecostal preacher, it turned out. I introduced myself and then I said:. This is the Independence Day Service after all. And I was about to respond at least as colorfully as the stars and stripes, but then I saw Dr Stewart appear in an angelic haze, like Obi Wan to young Luke, and I heard Dr Stewart say:.

A couple hundred people gathered for the ecumenical Independence Day Service, which began with a greeting by a Brethren pastor. His prayer was a confession, a lament, of all the ways America has absconded from the Christian values of its founding. His lament was exhaustive and exhausting, and all the while I gripped my bible and sighed, trying to conjure the image of Dr Stewart.

Again, I sighed and death-gripped my bible, waiting for some mention of Jesus to make its way into the prayer. But it never did. Next, the Master of Ceremonies, the Pentecostal preacher, stood in front of the flag-draped-cross and read the Declaration of Independence, and when he finished, he said:. But walking up to the flag-draped-cross, I decided a different message was needed.


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I decided to change gears and improvise. I decided I should trust the Holy Spirit not to let me crash and burn. God raised Jesus Christ from the dead and exalted him to sit at the right hand of the Father and given him the name that is above every name; so that, at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.


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I know a lot of you are expecting me to speak about America or politics or patriotism. The bishop laid hands on me to proclaim not America but the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I looked out in the crowd and saw Dr Stewart sitting on a lawn chair near the 3rd row. But it was too late. And in their day the Gospel announcement had a counter-cultural correlative: Jesus is Lord, and Caesar is not.

I could tell from the crinkled brows in the crowd that they could yet tell if or how I was subverting their expectations. The crinkled brows in the crowd had turned to crossed arms and angry faces, and a few people got up and left. I knew I had to steer this wreck of a sermon off the road as quickly as possible. Independence Day Weekend is as good a time as any to remember that as baptized Christians we carry 2 passports. Independence Day is as good a time as any to remember that as baptized Christians, our politics are not determined by Caesar or Rome or Washington. As baptized Christians, our politics- our way being in the world- are conformed to the one whom God raised from the dead.

Independence Day is as good a time as any to remember that you can be a proud American. You can be thankful for your country. You can serve your country. Though its harder to decipher, in Romans 6 Paul makes the same point as that passage I read a dozen years ago. Paul builds on his argument by showing you how Jesus is the 2nd Moses, how Christ has delivered us from the domain of Sin and Death so that we might walk in newness of life.

For Paul, the resurrection inaugurates a new reality in the world; so that, baptism is for us what the Red Sea was for the Israelites: a doorway into a new Kingdom, a new and different and distinct People in the world. After the service ended, the pastors formed a receiving line to shake hands with folks as they left. I was at the far end of the line. Not wanting any guilt by association, the other pastors had left ample buffer space between them and me.

He had a high and tight haircut and was wearing a Hawaiian print shirt and a Marine Corps tattoo on his forearm. You do know me. You know that even when I sound flip my faith is sincere. Part of my frustration that we cannot affirm the basic humanity of homosexuals is due to my belief that we should already be on to other topics as it relates to homosexuality. In his about-face on infant baptism,. More urgent for Barth was his belief that infant baptism had led to the malignant assumption that one is a Christian from birth, by virtue of having been baptized- quite apart from any appreciation of conversion.

Too often debates about adult and infant baptism focus on the individual baptismal candidate and obscure what was central to the early Christians: baptism is initiation into a People. Christ intends the gathered baptized community to be a social and political reality. We neither baptize to encourage sentimentality about babies nor do we baptize to secure private, individual salvation. This is what Paul conveys when he writes about how those who are one in Christ through baptism are now no longer Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free.

Baptism is a social reordering. Baptism sets apart a community that challenges and critiques the social hierarchies of this world. Baptism makes Church a community where the class distinctions of Rome no longer matter and where the familial distinctions of Israel no longer matter. Baptism not only relativizes cultural and religious hierarchies, it relativizes- or it should and once did- blood lines. Those who do the will of God the Father. Sunday is Ascension Day , the ancient Christian holy day that is the climax of the Easter season where we learn that Jesus is not only risen from the dead but he is Lord of Heaven and Earth too.

Every bit of you laid bare, even the naughty bits. Then, leaving that old world behind, you would turn and face East, the direction whence Light comes, and you would affirm your faith in Jesus and everything that new way of life would demand. A few hundred years after Paul wrote his letters, the Caesar of that day, Constantine, discovered that it would behoove his hold on power to become a Christian and make the Empire Christian too. Whereas prior to Constantine it took significant conviction to become a Christian, after Constantine it took considerable courage NOT to become a Christian.

Consequently, what it meant to be a Christian changed. It moved inside, to our heads and hearts. What had been an alternative way in the world became a religion that awaited the world to come. And for Paul everything God had heretofore revealed to his People telegraphs the way of Christ. All those strange kosher laws in Leviticus? They anticipated the day when Christ would call his disciples to be a different and distinct People in the world. The grain of the universe is revealed in the pattern of life that led to the pounding of nails into wood through flesh and bone.

Because if Jesus reveals the grain, the telos , of the universe, if he is now the ascendant Lord of all the nations, then that means:. And the way to deal with a world that runs against the grain is to live on Earth as though you were in Heaven. Or just believe in the freedom to believe.

And ultimately the fruit of your labor will not be beautiful. This past weekend was my official return to Aldersgate after a year on medical leave. I think the greatest trick Sin plays on us is convincing us that it still has power over us. A year ago this week, I woke up from abdominal surgery to a doctor telling me I had something called Mantle Cell Lymphoma, this incredibly rare, aggressive cancer with long odds for a happy ending.

I daydreamed a lot about my funeral. I visualized the whole service, starting with the bouquets. I know its popular nowadays to request that, in lieu of flowers, money be sent to this or that charity. Not me. In the funeral in my mind, this room is wearing more fauna than Brooke Shields in Blue Lagoon , like each and every one of you took out a line of credit at FTD. I mean- charity is about other people.

And so in my daydream you all send so many flowers the sanctuary looks like American Pharaoh exploded all over it. And back in the narthex, for one last prank on the service, Hedy sets up a toilet and, next to it, a roll of appropriately mournful black toilet paper. Its standing room only in the lobby. In the funeral in my mind, when it comes time for the processional, Dennis, his voice cracked and ragged from raging Job-like at the heavens, invites everyone to stand.

And in that moment my boys stop playing on their iPads and they carry in my casket. As they bear my casket forward towards the altar, on the organ Liz plays the music from Star Wars Episode IV, the score from the scene when Han and Luke but not Chewy, for some ethnocentric reason receive their medals.

In the funeral in my mind, as Dennis begins with his lines about the resurrection and the life, the bishop slinks into the sanctuary embarrassed to be running late and second-guessing his decision to show solidarity with me by wearing a bandana and booty shorts. But as he squeezes into a spot in the back corner, Stephen Hawking assures the bishop in his Speak-N-Spell voice that the booty shorts look quite nice with his clergy collar.

When Andreas finishes, Dennis gets up to preach. After the sermon, which in my daydream, does a thorough job of quoting my own sermons, the choir comes to the front, wearing brand-new robes that have my likeness on the back in sequins. After the applause dies down, Ali chokes back her tears and anguish, and she steps up to the lectern to eugugolate me.

She starts by pointing out how she knew me longer than anyone, from the time she saw me in my speedo at swim practice, which is to say it was love at first sight. Of me. I felt so thankful that I promised a vow to God. I swore an oath to God. For the gift of my life, I would offer the gift of my faithfulness. I stared at myself in the mirror and I swore, from here on out, I would be a perfect Christian. No more snark or sarcasm.