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portrait of a kingdom

The kingdom of God is now and not yet. The kingdom of heaven is an upside down kingdom. These types of descriptions or tag-lines come up frequently when people talk about the kingdom of God, at least in my circles. This language of "now and not yet" reflects the idea that the realm where God reigns is not fully realized in our present context, but still accessible. Some refer to this dynamic as inaugurated eschatology, meaning that Jesus introduced or marked the beginning of the reign of God during his lifetime, but its final and full expression is still a future event. In other words, the kingdom is present but not yet pervasive.

The kingdom of heaven is also referred to as an upside-down or inside-out kingdom. These concepts are based on Jesus's indication that, in the kingdom of God, the first are last and the last are first, the one who is the greatest is the servant of all, and the law is not external, but written on people's hearts. All these ideas acknowledge…
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Discomfort, inadequacy, fear, and Jesus

How are you doing? All good? I am doing pretty well, thanks for asking. Well, to be honest, I do have a bit of discomfort. Not so much externally, but inside. I am sitting at my desk, staring at a calendar mottled with deadlines, meetings, events, and tasks. None of that screams relaxation. Quite the opposite. Putting myself out there on a regular basis as a teacher and writer means that much of the time I experience some level of discomfort.
Also, I have to admit that I feel inadequate a lot of the time. I have a good set of skills, but that is never enough when one is encountering people who need real comfort, real wisdom, and real friendship. What can I say or write that will be relevant? That will make any difference? That won’t be the same old trite words? That won’t be bordering on heresy? Many times, I feel like I am in over my head.
One more thing. I am a tiny bit afraid. Afraid to fail. Afraid that no one will like me or what I bring to the table. Afraid that I will hurt peo…

what's on your breastplate?

Who wants to be a priest? I asked this question in my faith community this past Sunday and a few eager hands went up. But there were also looks of puzzlement. Perhaps some people were thinking, "Maybe, but what exactly does a priest do?" I am so glad you asked.

The first mention of a priest in the Scriptures is Melchizedek in Genesis 14. Abram has just rescued Lot and his household from capture (they got caught in a war between rivalling kings), and when he returns, he is greeted by the grateful king of Sodom and a priest.

“And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’” (Genesis 14:18-20, NRSV)

So what does this tell us about what it means to be a priest? First, this priest was also a king. Subsequent priests were not kings, so this double role was unique to Melchized…

meal and battle

A group of us have been working through the fascinating book of Revelation. It has been enlightening in so many ways. I liken it to walking through an art gallery filled with images which, at first glance, seem bizarre and unrelated, but after spending some dedicated time with the works of art and taking in a guided tour with an art historian, you start to see how the pictures fit together and play off each other. In the visions and images of Revelation, Christ and the world are revealed in both new and yet familiar ways.

Revelation is divided into three sections: God speaks to the churches in the city (chapters 1-3), God judges the Great City (chapters 4-18), and God redeems the Holy City (chapters 19-22). [1] Each of these sections begins with a vision of Christ, a reminder to the hearer/readers that whatever strange and horrible visions may follow, the One who is, who was, and who is to come, the Lamb who was slain, remains on the throne, at the centre of it all. Revelation 19 is …

come (and leave)

"Come!" It's a positive word, connoting an invitation to join in a venture with someone. It is certainly more positive than the word, "Leave!" And yet, one cannot do one without also doing the other. In order to come, one has to leave. Leaving and coming are two parts of the same action.

We find this leave/come dynamic all through scripture, starting in the creation narrative. "A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one" (Genesis 2:24). In order to start a new family, one has, in some form or other, to leave the old one. The Abrahamic covenant begins with this directive: "Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father's family, and go to the land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). In order to establish a new nation, Abram had to leave his familial home. It is interesting to note that he was given no definitive destination. Abram was told exactly what and who to leave, but…

The 12 days of Christmas

I know the Christmas season is over, but it is not as far in the rear-view mirror as one might think. This past Saturday, Dean and I stopped in at our favourite nut store and the lady at the counter mentioned that she was celebrating Christmas that very day, January 6. For those of us in the Western church tradition, this might sound a bit strange, but for the first few centuries, the early church celebrated the birth of Christ and the manifestation of Christ as Messiah on Epiphany, January 6. Only later (4th century) was the celebration of the nativity separated from the celebration of the manifestation of Christ. The separation of the two events eventually resulted in commemorating the twelve days of Christmas, with the Twelfth Night feast falling on January 5.

That's right. The Twelve Days of Christmas is not just a song from the 18th century. The church has been celebrating various feast days following the birth of Christ for many centuries. To be honest, our Western Christma…

win or lose

Of late, debates on any subject tend to leave a bad taste in my mouth. I have observed my share of debates (in academic, political, and online settings) and engaged in a few myself. Debating societies have been around for a few centuries and the form goes all the way back to Ancient Greece. The idea is that debating helps people develop rhetorical skills and sound reasoning. However, I wonder if debate is really all that useful as a pedagogical tool. It seems to bring out hubris instead of humility. It encourages a defensive posture instead of active listening. Being proved right seems more important than seeking truth and people become reduced to their positions. Transformative engagement is rare.

In Luke 20, we find several interactions between Jesus and religious leaders. The religious leaders use what some might view as legitimate debate techniques in an attempt to undermine Jesus's authority. They pose trick questions and present convoluted hypothetical situations. They flat…