PIETAS

Matthew’s Spiritual Journey

An Inversion

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God’s invasion of the world has wrought an inversion: God has reversed the positions of insiders and outsiders. Those who are in positions of authority and privilege reject Jesus and the message; even Jesus’ own disciples are slow to understand his teaching. Others, however—people of low or despised position in the social world of first-century Jewish culture—receive the gospel gladly. The lepers, the demon-possessed, the woman with a hemorrhage, the Syrophonecian woman, the little children, blind Bartimaeus, the nameless woman who anoints Jesus at Bethany for burial, the Gentile centurion at the cross—these are examples put forth by Mark of faithful response to Jesus. “Many who are the first will be the last, and the last will be first.” Those of us who are familiar with the story should not underestimate the shock of this inversion.

By Richard Hays, as quoted in the worship program (in pdf) at Redeemer Presbyterian Church on November 9

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Written by Matthew

November 15, 2008 at 11:41 pm

The Church’s One Foundation

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The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
she is his new creation by water and the Word:
from heav’n he came and sought her to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.

Elect from ev’ry nation yet one o’er all the earth;
her charter of salvation one Lord, one faith, one birth;
one holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses, with ev’ry grace endued.

‘Mid toil and tribultion and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation of peace forever more;
till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious shall be the church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union with God, the Three-in-One,
and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won;
O happy ones and holy, Lord give us grace that we,
like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with thee.

Words: Samuel J. Stone, 1866
Music: Samuel S. Wesley, 1864
Other Info: hymn details, sheet music and mp3

Sung at Redeemer Presbyterian Church on November 9

Written by Matthew

November 15, 2008 at 11:23 pm

To Be Remembered By A Meal

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Of all the means by which Jesus could have chosen to be remembered, he chose to be remembered by a meal…. The meal, one of humankind’s most basic and common practices, was transformed by Jesus into an occasion of divine encounter. It was in the sharing of food and drink that he invited his companions to share in the grace of God.

By C.T. McMahon, as quoted in the worship program (in pdf) at Redeemer Presbyterian Church on November 2

Written by Matthew

November 9, 2008 at 5:41 pm

Sharing the Father’s Welcome

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Thanks to blog posts by Keren and Dennis, I learned belatedly that you can read Edmund Clowney’s “Sharing the Father’s Welcome” on Crossway’s website (which is more useful than the link in my earlier post).

I am thankful to have access to this writing, especially because Tim Keller wrote that Dr. Clowney’s teaching influenced his understanding of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Also on Crossway’s blog, I found the link to free podcasts of “Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World,” a 18-session lecture series by Clowney and Keller. I had previously listened to the 21-minute introductory podcast and found it very useful in understanding the structure and goal of Tim Keller’s sermons each Sunday.

Written by Matthew

October 27, 2008 at 10:43 pm

The Prodigal God

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Rev. Tim Keller’s new book is now available. He explains what is in the book and why he wrote it.

It is an expansion of my sermon on the Prodigal Son parable in Luke 15. Kathy and I have long felt that this was the clearest and best single exposition of the gospel I’ve been able to do over the years. My interpretation of the parable was originally based on a sermon called “Sharing the Father’s Welcome” that I heard preached by Dr. Edmund P. Clowney over 35 years ago. That sermon had a profound impact on how I preached for the rest of my ministry. In some ways the teaching of this sermon is at the very foundation of Redeemer’s ministry.

What’s the book about? It’s about being ‘prodigal.’ The word ‘prodigal’ is an English word that means recklessly extravagant, spending to the point of poverty. The dictionaries tell us that the word can be understood in a more negative or a more positive sense. The more positive meaning is to be lavishly and sacrificially abundant in giving. The more negative sense is to be wasteful and irresponsible in one’s spending. (Some people think prodigal means ‘wayward,’ but there is no dictionary that indicates that the word means ‘immoral.’) The negative sense obviously applies to the actions of the younger brother in the Luke 15 parable. But is there any sense in which God can be called ‘prodigal’? I think so.

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Written by Matthew

October 27, 2008 at 4:47 pm

NYT: Finding Jesus on Facebook

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Saturday’s New York Times has an article about churches using up-to-date technology to cater to the younger generation. It mentions Redeemer Presbyterian Church and its Beta Groups, one of which Susan and I are leading this fall.

Redeemer is also bringing the Internet into the chapel. At a Redeemer service on the Upper West Side, a group of college graduates were in the back of the room tapping away on laptops.

They helped newcomers sign up for a “Beta group,” a seven-week fellowship group meeting in different parts of the city. Using a Google map, people could browse by neighborhood, check for a special focus, like all-women or artists-only groups, then sign up by clicking the group they wanted and entering their name and e-mail address.

“You know when you say ‘Sign up at home’ that people will forget between the church and their PC,” said Aaron Bjerke, an intern for Redeemer who was helping people sign up. “This takes care of it right away.”

And, Aaron Bjerke is none other than my fellowship group coach. A really nice guy. Congrats, Aaron!

Written by Matthew

October 26, 2008 at 10:09 pm

The Unforgiving Servant

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Inspired by this morning’s service at Redeemer, I searched WordPress blogs for Miroslav Volf and came across a sermon (posted in September) by Dave Faulkner, a Methodist minister in the UK.

Mr. Faulkner’s sermon looks at Matthew 18:21-35 (The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant) to discuss what and why of forgiveness. Below are couple of quotes from his post.

What is forgiveness?

Miroslav Volf is a Croatian theologian who has written much on forgiveness and reconciliation, especially in the light of his experiences through the wars in the Balkans after the collapse of communism. One of his books, ‘Free Of Charge‘, was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book in 2006. In it, he says that forgiveness means we blame but do not punish. We do not pretend about the offence. It is real. But we choose not to punish, or press for punishment.

That is rather like God’s treatment of us with regard to our own sin. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin so that we might repent and follow Jesus. The Spirit of God never pretends that the sin was a fiction. Otherwise, we could never repent and walk in the ways of God’s kingdom. But having convicted us, there is no sentence and we are treated as if we had never sinned, even though we have. If this is how God treats us, then it is also the goal we seek in our journey of forgiveness.

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Written by Matthew

October 26, 2008 at 9:36 pm