This year at Sojourn Community Church we are working through the entire Old Testament, the two-thirds of the Bible that is largely neglected and misinterpreted in evangelical churches.
In addition to the sermon series, which is working through the major narratives and redemptive movements, most of the congregation is following the same OT reading plan, so by the time 2010 rolls around we all will have read the entire Old Testament.
This has already proved challenging, not only in keeping up with the reading but also knowing what to do with many passages that seem to be contrary to many presuppositions I hold about God, humankind, and the Bible.
For instance, Psalm 18:20-24 reads,
"The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his rules were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me. I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt. So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight."
The writer of Psalm 18, David, seems to be suggesting that he has earned God's favor by being righteous, which is in direct opposition to a plethora of passages emphasizing that salvation comes through divine grace alone, such as Ephesians 2:8-9 or Galatians 3:11. Ostensibly, Psalm 18 seems to be an divinely inspired musician singing "I was good enough."
However, a careful examination of this passages prevents this interpretation. The Book of Psalms is a collection of collections- songs spanning throughout Israel's history. Psalm 18 is slightly modified from 2 Samuel 22, in which David composes this song of worship after God delivers him from being killed by Saul.
The significance? 2 Samuel is painfully blunt about David's numerous moral failures. Examined in its original literary context, it would be pretty difficult to believe that the people of God believed their King was morally blameless.
More so, later on in Psalm 18:31-32, the Psalmist reflects:
"For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?— the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless."
Clearly, in this verse David sees his own righteousness as a result of divine intervention. It is God who does the work of sanctification.
Ultimately this royal hymn can as be seen as Christological. It concludes in Psalms 18:49-50:
"For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing to your name. Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever."
Just as David was God's anointed ruler over his people, so Jesus, descended in the line of David, was God's anointed one - which in Greek is christos, or Christ. Amazingly, David's own salvation would ultimately be found in his descendant.
Hail to the Lord's anointed, great David's greater Son! Hail to the time appointed, His reign on earth begun! He comes to break opression, to set the captive free; To take away trangression and rule in equity.
I ended up reading one more novel before the beginning of my spring semester, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. The book is just as intense as motion picture, but surprisingly features very little fighting.
Palahniuk comments about his book, " Really what I was writing was justThe Great Gatsby, updated a little. It was 'apostolic' fiction- where a surviving apostle tells the story of his hero. There are two men and a woman. [spoiler alert] And one man, the hero, is shot to death. It was a classic, ancient romance but updated to compete with the espresso machine and ESPN."
I feel that even if Tyler Durden and Project Mayhem were successful in destroying the soulless infrastructure of contemporary society, they would find it did nothing to change who they were. We cannot simply speak of society and social evil as if it was something seperate and other than ourselves. There is a coorporate element to sin we cannot ignore: we are guilty as individuals and as a race.
With nothing left to tear down, self-destruction would be Tyler Durden's only viable option.
I conclude my winter reading list with A Good Man is Hard To Find, a collection of short stories by Flannery O'Connor. O'Connor's work is unique because she was a Roman Catholic from the Deep South, and wrote stories about the South from that perspective. Her stories both serve to illustrate the common grace of God as well as poke fun of the protestant fundamentalist majority of her homeland.
The following exert is from the short story that lends its name to the entire collection. Those who have read The Reason For God by Tim Keller will likewise recognize it, as he quotes from this short story fairly extensively.
The following paragraph is spoken by a stone-cold killer called The Misfit who has escaped from jail and is holding a family hostage:
"Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead," The Misfit continued, "and He shouldn't have done it. He thrown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it's nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn't, then it's nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can- by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him."
Here is an individual who has carefully thought through his worldview and is prepared to live out its implications. The common grace of God is seen in the killer's knowledge of Christ. As is explained later, the Misfit is well aware of Christ's atoning work on the cross, but is unable to place his faith in Him, citing that he needs proof of Christ's resurrection. Having rejected Jesus, his only option is to embrace darkness, and try to squeeze some sort of twisted pleasure out of it.
When you are the only white kids in a crowded Thai restaurant, you know you've hit the ethnic food jackpot. I will say I was glad we were rolling eight deep, seeing as uptown isn't the most tourist friendly neighborhood.
The Green Mill turned out to be completely legitimate jazz club. Senior citizens, local urbanites, and quasi-intellectual college students alike crowded into this standing room only venue to catch some hot Chicago jazz.
Early today the eight of us got coffee at Intelligentsia, a local chain that roasts their own beans. My latte was absolutely delicious- the milk had excellent texture. I was impressed to see a rosetta in my to go cup, especially since the downtown location is in the heart of the financial district (i.e. they are serving a lot of busy professionals).
While the six non-Butterworth members of the party went to the modern art museum this afternoon, Paul and I fulfilled our childhood dream of visiting the Art Institute of Chicago. The Institute unfortunately had part of its modern gallery closed but their collection of Impressionist paintings was just returned from loan- so it kind of balances out. I definitely felt a little like Cameron in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, starring into Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by George Seurat, getting lost in its Pointillistic beauty.
All things go in Chicago. Instead of staying in a van with my friends we are sleeping in the very plush Hampton Inn in the Majestic Theater District downtown. Today's goal is to find a good coffee shop. Tomorrow we are visiting the Chicago Art Institute we holds some of my all time favorite works of art.