Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Downs and Ups

Warning: this is a theological meandering…

I’ve been meditating recently on two parts of the Apostles’ Creed:
1.) …He descended into hell…
2.) …He ascended into heaven where he sitteth at the right hand of God the Father almighty…

First, I disagree strongly with the prevailing universalism that has done away with a concept of eternal punishment. This is not because I want anyone to be punished. However, I believe that universalism reduces God to philosophical principles that thereby eliminates the need for Christ and His Church. It argues our faith out of existence. If, however, scripture is true (which the opposite also argues our faith out of existence), and if there is a necessity for the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of the Second Person of the divine Trinity, then hell seems to make a hell of a lot of sense (even I am shaking my head at that pun).

What has this to do with the Ascension? Let me answer in the form of a question: How low can Christ go? The descent into hell, taking place between the cross and the empty tomb (and really only eluded to in 1 Peter 3:18-22) is the natural result of two fundamental statements about the atonement of Christ. First, “He was made sin who knew no sin,”–in other words Christ was perfect, yet he mysteriously took on all the sins of the world as he died on the cross, and “the wages of sin is death,” traditionally interpreted as spiritual death, eternity in hell.

In the silence of Holy Saturday, between the cross and the resurrection, Christ was storming the gates of hell. He submitted to the full penalty of our sins, which was not only death, but torment. However, even the flames of hell were not able to subdue the Savior. He not only rose from the dead, but ascended.

And so, I don’t know where this will lead between now and the feast of the Ascension in 2012, still a few weeks away, but it frames the Ascension in a whole new way.

Posted by coffee in 14:20:43 | Permalink | Comments Off

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Communion of the Saints in Xenia, OH

This sounds like it is either a church name, or a cult centered around the football team, but it is neither. I’ve written in times past about how church history brings to life the doctrine of “the communion of the saints,” a line that comes straight from the Apostles’ Creed. Basically, it means that all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ are connected, and that common union (common + union = communion) goes across the barrers of time and space, including those who are our forefathers (and foremothers) in the faith. Knowing me, more of this will be coming.

It is great when my work for the Center for the Evangelical United Brethren Heritage intersects with today, and it literally is happening today. Through the course of some completely unrelated research, I ran across two articles from 1925 that talk about the founding of Xenia United Brethren in Chrst. Today, that congregation is named Xenia Evangelical United Methodist Church, and it still in existence. So, our past and our present unite as I will be delivering copies of these important documents to them, cementing the fact that we are connected to the saints who go before us.

To quote the hymn:
For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest:
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Posted by coffee in 16:21:09 | Permalink | Comments Off

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

something coming…

It’s hard to believe that it’s been so long since I have blogged. Here’s a brief outline of the last year or so…

I went to Egypt and Israel a year ago January (got out right before Egypt went nuts).
I graduated from United Theological Seminary, where I now work for the archives in the library and the Center for Evangelical United Brethren Heritage.
I received my district license as a minister in the Church of the Nazarene.
I found out on All Saints Day (Nov. 1) that I’M GOING TO BE A FATHER!!! If anyone has read my previous entries, you’ll find it no surprise that his name will be Benjamin AUGUSTINE.
Somewhere prior to all of this, I also started preaching at a Hungarian Reformed Church in Huber Heights, OH.

So, it’s been busy, but I think I’m going to try to return to blogging.


Posted by coffee in 23:59:32 | Permalink | Comments Off

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I found myself…(not really a poem, but sort of)

I found myself behind the piano yesterday.

Eighty-Eight witnesses testified; voices, some short, others long. Some clambered on top of each other, shouting for attention. A few were shimmering echoes, conquering the embattlements of time’s forgetfulness.

They reminded me who I am.

I remembered.

I felt.

I breathed.

There were songs I hadn’t played in years, written by my own hand.
Playing the notes, feeling the draw of the music on my finger tips, attracting them to the keys.

When I play hymns or worship music, I find God.
I do it because it is praying through the keyboard.
I do it because God meets my heart as the sacrifice is lit ablaze and the people sing.
I do it because ten fingers can become ten little priests, helping people, almost mediating between the human and divine for a few moments before the divine tears away the curtain and reveals itself clothed in ancient words.

But yesterday,
something different happened.
You came when I was the only one in the room.
You danced between my fingers.
You blew upon the flickering embers
that so many storms threated to blow out.

I trembled at the presence, not just of you,
but realizing my own presence on the page,
my own voice speaking in eighty-eight tongues of flame
and the rushing wind of so many soundwaves.

And still, when I think it,
the room seems to shake,
and you ask me, “Who are you?
Who will stand up and be you?
Who will play for you?”

I hit all the wrong notes,
but when even angels attempt,
the Sanctus still rings in heaven.

And I reply,
“I don’t know.
But all I know is I have felt you,
though I am a person of unclean hands,
and seen you,
though my eyes be cloudy.
All I ask is that you help me be me.
Even after so long.

Posted by coffee in 22:26:24 | Permalink | Comments Off

Friday, January 22, 2010

Glory, Redefined

What does glory mean?

Some images that come to my mind are anything awe-inspiring.  I see wonders of nature, sunrises, canyons, mighty rivers.

I also imagine civil authority and strength.  The glory of Rome.  The glory of an emperor visiting a lowly province.  Displays of wealth and power.

Maybe God surfaces in my thoughts.  He thunders on Mt. Sinai, and everyone is scared witless.  Moses comes down from the Mountain, his face shining with the glory of the Lord so that no one can look at him. 

The glory of God was at the Temple in the Old Testament.  When God’s glory visibly and physically entered, even the priests had to bow at His majesty and power.  When God punished his people, Ezekial visibly watched the glory of God depart, and wrote the promise that it would return.

Fast Foward a Few Centuries…(with a more modern twist)

The happy young couple have been pronounced husband and wife.  Everyone “oohed” and “awed” at the kiss.  Rice was thrown.  The wedding party entered the reception hall.  The DJ played all the right songs, the food was impeccable, and the cake was to die for  (making me want to crash a wedding just writing this :) .  When the wine ran down, though, the party almost came to a screaching halt, except for the young rabbi, whose mother talked him into working a miracle for the newlyweds: Jesus turned the water into wine.  Not just any wine, but the top shelf, aged to perfection, straight from the heart of Italy or France, $200 a bottle, good stuff.

The miracle is over, right?  I’ve been stuck on one part of this, though.

John 2:11

     “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee.  He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.”

God’s glory did not visit the Temple, and was not seen when Jesus camped out on Mt. Sinai as a boy (just kidding, it’s not in the Bible).  God’s glory came at a wedding celebration.  Look in your local newspaper at the number of weddings and engagements that are announced.  Think about people who are at the Justice of the Peace right now, skipping the church part of marriage.  As special as weddings are, they are a common occurence, practically a cultural rite of passage.  Yet God’s glory was revealed in a common party.  God’s glory was not in a teaching, or the destruction of wickedness, or any other thing which is often described of His awesome power, but in a drink that people sipped from their glasses, many of them unaware of God’s work passing through their very lips. 

At the risk of sounding sentimental, God’s glory is present in the big and little things.  Quite frankly, if I only look for the big, I might see some spiritual fireworks, but in the end, the sparks of a spiritual experience fade, little warmth is added to the soul, and it gives a shallow Christian life. 

But when we see the water and taste the wine, we see Christ, and we join the disciples in putting our faith in Him.

Posted by coffee in 18:23:53 | Permalink | Comments Off

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pendulum and the Pit

No, I’m not about to plaigerize Edgar Allen Poe, but I have been doing two dangerous pastimes: reading and thinking.

Dr. Terry Cross, Dean of the School of Religion at Lee University once told his class, “Unfortunately much of our theology is made in the presence of our enemies.”  Just one unit into my “History of Christian Doctrine” class proves what often occurs. 

Doctrinally, Christianity tends to be full of pendulums.  For instance, some Christians fear that focusing on grace might lead to chaos, so they focus so much on the extremes of “working out” their “own salvation” that they annihilate the gospel.  Some Christians look at works of any kind and feel that they lead too easily to working for salvation.  Suddenly, works become evil in their minds, and their teachings swing the pendulum in the opposite direction.

For further example look at Christ, who is the most debated person in all of Christian theology (and rightly so).  In 381, the Council of Chalcedon basically declared him to be 100% God and 100% man.  I stink at math, but I’m pretty sure the end result equals more than 100%, making Christ a philosophical anomoly as well as a mathematical impossibility.  Before someone says, “with God all things are possible,” let me say that math teachers do NOT take that as an excuse for an impossible answer to an algebra equation!

The problem of 100% and 100% is that it is balanced.  Look around at other humans.  How many of us are truly balanced? 

We go a little here, a little there.  Maybe we slip more towards one opinion when it suits our scriptural interpretation.  Maybe in times of grief we go overboard in exasperation.  When you get down to it, it’s really hard to hold 100/100 in mind. 


Oftentimes Christianity has paid lipservice to this doctrine.  Prior to Chalcedon, the famous heretic Nestorious was teaching that Mary bore both God and man in her womb.  Sounds a lot like Chalcedon, right?  He was practically black-listed in Christianity for his stand.  What happened?  The pendulum was swinging the wrong way.  People had fought so hard to defend Christ’s divinity that they believed the central (later deemed “orthodox”) position was sinful. 

If you are so gung-ho about whatever your battle cry of faith is, I encourage you to do one thing:
TEST EVERYTHING!  The Apostle Paul said to “test everything, cleave to that which is good.”  It’s great if you’re already cleaving to what is good, but is it because you have tested the fact, or because someone else has already said, “it’s good?”  Such a practice is great for learning, but testing is needed for growing. 

The danger is that one day, regardless of where our pendulum takes us,
we will realize we became disconnected from our Source,
and the gravity of our idolatrous convictions,
sends us crashing to the Pit.

May the Father of All Truth,
cast down every lie through the Son who is the Way, Life and Truth,
and test us by the fire of His Spirit of Truth.

Posted by coffee in 00:42:19 | Permalink | Comments Off

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Omarosa is at my seminary…

    By now the local news, newspaper, and the national TV program Inside Edition have already covered the fact that Omarosa has started the doctoral program at United Theological Seminary, Dayton, OH, where I’m working on an MDiv.

     I confess, I was very skeptical about this.  I honestly did not know her when I met her.  I only saw the TV camera and microphone hovering around her on her first day.  When someone told me she had been on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice,” I kind of shrugged, only having watched it very sparingly.  Googling her, I found out she was famous as the “villain” of a number of “reality TV” shows (which I agree with the sentiment that most of it is neither real nor TV). 

     My first thoughts (which stayed for about 24 hours) were all cynical.  What in heaven’s name did we do?  Doesn’t anyone know her reputation?  Is this just a publicity stunt?  Unfortunately, I’ve also heard some of these thoughts from other people.


     Isn’t the good news of the gospel I claim to follow that God takes in everyone?  Isn’t the power of the Holy Spirit supposed to be strong enough to change us into a new creation?  Did God ask us who to call to ministry?  If God uses the “weak” and “foolish things of the world” for His purposes, why is it so easy to discredit someone who has shown professional prowess, been a very educated individual, and who has gained a following in modern media culture?

     Two cases resemble this.  One person sought to persecute Christians, “breathing murderous things” against them.  He was present at the death of the first Christian martyr.  Upon encountering Jesus Christ, hsi whole identity changed.  And, in the process it took many Christians some time to realize he was not trying to still destroy them.  He went on to write most of the New Testament and influence our views of Jesus Christ for the past two millenia: the Apostle Paul.
     Another person was most likely raised by a heretical form of Christianity (using the designation the Catholic church gave it).  Even that he left in pursuit of philosophy, eventually leading him to what I would call a cult that was even more heretical than the church he was raised in.  He freely wrote about his many sins later in life, including sexual issues (that ought to get people’s attention).  Yet, St. Augustine went on to be such an influential theologian for the 1700 years since that it has been argued that all modern theology is in some way either based off his work or made by contradicting it. 

     In the presence of such great a cloud of witnesses to the work of Christ, it will be exciting to see what the same God who brought about such works can do in anyone today. 

     Furthermore, it is often seen in scripture that when people are considered enemies of God’s people, they are also described as enemies of God.  This post is both to give food for thought, and also an act of repentance for my own attitude the beginning of this week. 

     Finally, to build up the body of Christ, God can also use you, no matter how you have disqualified yourself.

Posted by coffee in 16:46:42 | Permalink | Comments Off

Friday, July 31, 2009

Tim Binkley

Most readers probably have no idea who Tim Binkley is.  He has been the archivist at United Theological Seminary since before I started grad school.  He is preparing to leave UTS to work at the library for Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. 

He and his wife are two of the most peaceful and gracious people I know.  Through her work in our bookstore and his work in our archives, they have truly lived in the “Communion of the Saints,” and have helped me along in my own journey.  Even if we were able to find someone with all of the archival skill, I am afraid we will never find anybody with the heart Tim has for the heritage in our archives.  This may sound mushy, but we had a campus farewell luncheon for them earlier today, and we in the library had our celebration for them on Tuesday.  Be in prayer for them and for we who remain in the library.  As the “Communion of the Saints” has proved, we who follow Christ are brothers and sisters in His family no matter the distance or the difference in our work for God.

Posted by coffee in 00:28:44 | Permalink | Comments Off

Autumn’s colors are but moments away…

A lot has happened in the last few months. 

Since my last post…

1.  My wife and I have moved to a new apartment.  This is the first time we’ve lived on our own in about        1/2 years or so.

2.  We’ve bought a second car.

3.  Work at the library has continued.  I helped clean our replica of the 1903 Wright Glider.  We’ve been closed to the public in order to do a sort of inventory of our shelves. 

4.  My reading for this summer has been slow, but I’ve read a book on pioneer female preachers (1740′s to 1840′s), “Gender and the Social Gospel Movement,” and am working on “Dietrich Bonhoffer and the Resistance,” by Sabine Dramm.  

5.  I finally got on Facebook.

     It feels like summer has almost slipped away, yet in the middle of all I have done and have yet to do, I feel God’s peace.  I do honestly feel I am where he wants me for the moment.  But “for the moment” is the key.  In the 12 Steps of addiction recovery, Step 3 has always been my most difficult.  “We made a conscious decision to turn our lives and our will over to the care of God as we understand him.”  The temporary moment I’m living in makes this all the more necessary, because my understanding of God changes from moment to moment.  True, I always believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  However, my openness to know God more means my understanding changes, meaning that conscious decision is “one day at a time, one moment at a time.” 

May the Father of time grant us to be in this moment.

May the Son who divided all of time help us redeem it.

May the Spirit, “the Lord and Giver of life” strengthen us to do it in the next moment.


Posted by coffee in 00:22:15 | Permalink | Comments Off

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Longest Poem Title Yet

This is a reflection on the event I wrote about yesterday.

The Icons of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception through Stained Glass Saints

Eyes of fire
     light the present in the flames of eternity,
     not punishment, darkness, death,
     by energy of what was and could yet be.

Time converges
     in a gaze of joy
     on the beloved faces
     with sin unalloyed.

Radiant beams
     on their holy faces
     call forth my dawn
     giving me their graces

     to stand in their presence,
          dance in their glow
               of the illuminating family
                    through whom the Light flows.

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