People have been obsessed with the end times pretty much since Jesus left this earth. Every generation has thought they were living in the “end times,” including this very moment. This blog/podcast addresses this topic head-on. Take a listen and dive a little deeper with us.
The book of Revelation belongs to the literary genre of apocalypse. It was a known genre at this time and is not the only example we have of apocalyptic writing.
Revelation was controversial even as the biblical canon was being developed. It was one of the last books to be accepted into the bible and some parts of the Eastern Christian Church still do not accept it.
Eschatology is a big word for the way we think about the “end times” or the end of life as we know it. The book of Revelation has been used to frame Christian eschatology (or expectations about how this world will end). However, understood as a work of the apocalyptic genre, it may not be reasonable to read it as predictive of the future. Rather, it tells a story about how people imagined a future in which God finally cleaned up the world and punished those who had caused them so much suffering.
A big chunk of Revelation tells a rather wacky story about beasts, trumpets, scrolls, angels, plagues, death and destruction on a massive scale. There is also a large portion that is quite beautiful in its description of a hoped-for future in which all nations and peoples join together in worship (ie. Rev. 7).
Can you think of ideas you have about the “end times” or things you have heard that might come from the book of Revelation? (mark of the beast, 666, rapture, 1000 year tribulation, etc) How do you respond to those ideas?
Revelation 14 describes a scene in which a figure like the Son of Man swings his sickle and “reaps the harvest” of the earth such that the blood runs as high as a horse’s bridle for a distance of 200 miles. This is death on a massive scale, arguably at the hand of Jesus… or a figure who is reminiscent of Jesus. What do we make of this?
Revelation 17 talks about the “great whore” named Babylon. Can you theorize as to who or what this metaphor might have meant to people at the time Revelation was written? Does that give us any clues as to the meaning or significance of the book in general?
Revelation 21 paints a beautiful picture, often read at funerals. How does that contrast with some of the earlier passages in our reading for this podcast, and what do we make of that contrast?
There is interesting food for discussion about the way we use scripture out of context sometimes. For example, a famous worship song of the 1990’s borrows text from Revelation 7. Does it change the meaning of a worship song to recognize that it comes from such a difficult and controversial part of scripture?
There was a book series called “Left Behind” that was popular in the early 2000’s. (There were also movies of the same title.) The series presented some very literal renderings of ideas that are presented in Revelation. The central tenet of the book was that, at some point, all the “genuine” Christians in the world will be raptured (taken up/away to somewhere else), and everyone else will be “left behind” to deal with tribulation. Is this thinking helpful or harmful? Why?
How does our eschatology shape the way we live and make decisions? Is there any danger in an eschatology that believes God will eventually come and “fix” everything for us? Is there any other way to imagine a hopeful eschatological future?
This blog and podcast will cover later New Testament writing (pastoral epistles) We discuss a popular verse that addresses gender roles.
1 Timothy 3:1-13
1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are referred to as the “pastoral epistles.” They were traditionally attributed to Paul, but most scholars now agree that they are not genuinely Pauline. These books date to the late 1st or early 2nd century. (Remember that Paul was writing in the mid-1st century.)
We can see in these readings that there is a shift in “tone” regarding what matters in the developing church. There is emerging concern about roles and positions and the attributes that are required to hold these roles within the church structure. It is in indicator that the church is growing and changing, creating a sort of infrastructure to guide their development.
We have talked before about some of the reasons that books might have been attributed to a particular person even though they were written by someone else. We may want to revisit that briefly.
We often group the epistles of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. However, scholars generally agree that Galatians and Philippians were written by Paul while Ephesians and Colossians were not and were probably written between 80-100 CE, after Paul’s death.
A good chunk of Ephesians contains instructions on everyday life, including the passage in our readings. This language about gender roles and the relationship between spouses has been a source of much discussion and disagreement.
How do the rules and regulations about elders and deacons “feel”? Does it sound like material Jesus would have said? Why or why not?
Why would a growing church feel the need to outline these guidelines?
Do we ever create rules and structures that serve one particular group of people? What effect does that have?
How do the roles of men and women described in Ephesians 5 sound to a modern reader? What do we do with this material now?
This passage (Ephesians 5) is still read at weddings fairly regularly. What do you think about that?
What do you remember Jesus having said about men and women? Or what do you remember about the way that Jesus treated men and women, respectively? How does that compare with this passage?
What do you think accounts for an emerging emphasis on defining gender roles more clearly?
The Class of 2020 will go down in history. They will be forever bonded because of their experiences they have shared being quarantined this spring. As the parents of these young people, we, too, share a special bond that others can’t understand. In this blog and podcast, three moms talk about our different experiences being in the same situation.
Bishop Tracy Malone has a daughter graduating high school and one graduating college. Lillian has a son in the class of 2020, a son in 8th grade and a daughter in 7th. My youngest is a daughter graduating high school this spring. So, we are all experiencing the circumstances of having our kids go through the disappointments of missing out on all sorts of important experiences. In the podcast, we talk about the phases of grief we have witnessed in our children as well as the emotions we have felt as we walk through this time with them.
We share our thoughts from our experience. As we watch our graduates process their emotions, we have had to ride this roller coaster along the way. But giving them time and space seems to have helped our own kids. We have also see that finding new or different ways to celebrate these milestones with them helps us all. Ways to allow the seniors to be a part of the discussion and decisions will help them feel more in control of their chaotic life right now.
All three moms agree that it is also vital to look for the blessings in the situation we are in currently. What have you learned? What is something new you are doing? Who is someone you’ve come to know during the quarantine? (Or someone you know better, even a family member.) Focusing on the positives helps us get through tough times. Also, find ways to be a blessing to others. We have made cookies to deliver. I know other families have made cards to take to shut-ins. There are all kinds of ways to reach out to others.
Three months ago, no one would believe where we would be right now. Our seniors dreamed of all the “lasts” they were going to get to encounter. All the fun that comes with being a senior, especially the last few months. But that isn’t how our lives played out. It has been a difficult season, but we have managed to pull through it together. As parents of the class of 2020, we, too, will be forever bounded with one another through our common experiences with our children. Together we will be stronger because of it. Congratulations parents and a special congratulations to the Class of 2020!
A quick look at the 13 books historically attributed to Paul, recognition of which probably were and were not actually written by Paul, and a focus on those that are “authentic.” This is the other “side” of the Pauline story.
Galatians 1:11-17 (Paul’s conversion, per his own description)
Romans 3:21-31 (it’s interesting to read the entire chapter for context)
Romans 6:1-14 (again, would suggest reading the whole chapter)
Traditionally, 13 books (letters) were attributed to Paul: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon. (Hebrews was sometimes included as a 14th attribution.)
In modern scholarship, only 7 letters are agreed upon as authentically Pauline: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon. The remaining 6 (or 7, if you include Hebrews) were probably not written by Paul, though debate remains about some more than others.
When I preach to my congregation about Pauline authorship, I include only the 7 books known to be Pauline.
We want listeners to understand that writing under the pseudonym of one’s mentor/teacher was a common practice at that time and was seen as an honor to the teacher (Paul, in this case). Authors were not trying to be intentionally misleading or trip us up.
That said, it is really helpful to know which books are Pauline and which are not, because they are quite different in theme, style and content… and can give confusing messages if we are not clear on their context and timeline.
Paul describes his own conversation in much less detail than does the author of Acts. Paul was writing earlier and, obviously, knew his own story. What do we make of that?
The letter to the Romans is a deeply theological (and complex) book in which Paul articulates his understanding of concepts like sin, grace, justification, and righteousness. These passages from chapters 3 and 6 articulate some of his thinking. How do we make sense of the idea of justification today?
How does Paul seem to explain grace in relationship to our responsibility to avoid sin? This has been a real point of contention in the church over the years! How do we understand it today?
Paul loves to use the metaphors of dying and rising, in conjunction with the idea of baptism, to talk about how we are transformed as Christians. How does this use of metaphor help us understand the way Paul writes?
Though they are not included in our readings, the authentic Pauline letters (like the letters to the Corinthians and Philemon) seek to address some very real problems and conflicts in the church at the time. Who is writing the “contemporary epistles” of our own time and attempting to address and unravel conflict in the church?
This week we are talking about Paul and one “side” of the Pauline story. This also introduces some of the attributes of the early church (communal, house churches, etc) and controversies that developed early on.
Acts 9:1-9 (Paul’s conversion, per the author of Luke-Acts)
The same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke authors the book of Acts. We might think of Acts as a continuation of the story of Jesus as begun in Luke. As such, there is a cohesive writing style and some consistent themes throughout. We refer to this as Luke-Acts.
Acts has two key structural principles.
The movement from Jerusalem, core location for the Jews, to Rome, core location for the Gentile world.
The roles of Peter and Paul – Peter deals with the Jewish Christian church; Paul embraces the mission to the Gentiles
Thus, the first half (or so) of the book focuses on Peter’s work and the early church (including Paul’s conversion), and the second half of the book focuses on Paul and his missionary work.
There are three missionary journeys described in Acts (ch.13-14, 16-20), although a few people assert a possible fourth journey or sometimes the voyage to Rome (ch.27-28) is included as a fourth trip.
Acts presents a very different picture of the early church than is presented in Pauline writing. For example, Acts presents a very harmonious church and a peaceful relationship between Peter and Paul. Paul’s own (earlier) writings signal discord in early faith communities and significant disagreement between Peter and Paul.
We could spend—and people have spent—an enormous amount of time trying to understand and detail Paul’s various missionary journeys and the development of the early Christian church. Undoubtedly, we have some of it correct and some of it totally wrong. What do we make of this account of Peter and Paul, their relationship, and their movements that is so very different from what Paul describes himself? What are the overarching themes and principles that we might draw out of such complex stories and narratives?
What might have motivated the author of Luke-Acts to present a cohesive-looking vision of the early church?
Acts presents a communal picture of the early church, in which every shares what they have and gives large sums of money (even selling off property) to support the mission. What do we make of this?
We are talking about the new church and what the followers of Christ were going through after his death. It’s interesting to take a look at bodily resurrection, ways to understand and interpret Jesus’ various appearances and the words he shares with followers post-resurrection.
We are coming into the home stretch with our podcast series! These final podcasts address some of the remaining “hot button” questions that we know young people ask and also address (as best we can) the remaining parts of the bible that we have not yet talked about.
Since these podcasts cover broader swaths of scripture, we’ll try to focus in on a few passages here and there as representative of the genre we are discussing.
We want to remain cognizant of the time frame in which these stories were written. The Gospels were written between about 70-110 CE, or 2-3 generations after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Luke, in particular, was probably written around 90 CE. John was the last gospel written, sometime after 100 CE.
It’s important to remember that the authors were writing down parts of the historical memory of Jesus, not necessarily eyewitness accounts that were meant to be taken literally.
We sometimes gloss over the sadness and despair that Jesus’ followers experienced after his death. But they didn’t know how the story was going to end. How do you think they were feeling? What do you they were talking about?
How might this be helpful for us to remember in our own walk of faith?
How does remembering the sadness of the community around Jesus help to frame the Emmaus story? What jumps out in this narrative and what is the author trying to tell us about Jesus?
Luke commonly tells stories about Jesus in lengthy parables. There has been some assertion that the Walk to Emmaus is, in fact, one of those parables. Does this change our understanding of the story?
The idea of a bodily resurrection is one of the theological assertions with which some people struggle. How important is it to believe that Jesus’ physical body was reanimated? Are there other ways to understand resurrection that are equally helpful and valid?
The story of Thomas’ encounter with Jesus in the upper room is often preached as a story about doubt/belief. What do we do with our own doubt? How does Jesus respond to it?
This might be a neat place to talk about the various Greek words that we translate “faith.” (assensus, fidelitas, fiducia, visio)
We are talking about the effects of the quarantine in our lives and how relying on technology has impacted has changed ministry. This discussion also addresses how we will live into the future given these experiences. This particular podcast does not specifically address youth and young adult ministries, although it does affect these ministry areas.
We have been forced into using technology in new and exciting ways, but we miss gathering face to face. How will this change our future in ministry? While we may not have all the answers, offer some interesting questions that churches should be asking themselves.
How have we changed our definition of “community”?
Who have we reached while social distancing?
How can we make the worship experience more engaging?
How can we get more people involved in the worship experience? (beyond the pastor and musicians)
What do we want to continue after the quarantine?
What risks have we taken?
What successes have we encountered?
What improvements do we still need to make?
Ultimately, we have all been changed because of this quarantine. “Going back” is not an option for the church. We must figure out how we will lean into tomorrow taking all that we have learned with us as we serve our communities and engage others in our worship and discipleship experiences.