The Cost & the Life

April 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Pulse

This week’s pulse comes from Becky Luoh, Convergence Women’s Ministry Leader and Greek IV Director at Cal:

As a church we’ve begun this journey of studying the book of Romans. I’ve been looking forward to this as this particular book of the Bible is a meaty one– a delicious meat that’s even better shared with a group of people. The last two weeks of hearing sermons on Sunday and then talking with my life group about the same passages has felt a lot like a satisfying meal: special meals, one where you laugh and share stories but also manage to learn something and have newfound appreciation for something that wasn’t previously there before. Upon further reflection, this may be how my dad got me to appreciate red wine…

This week in particular, I was struck by our life group’s discussion around Paul’s fervor and passion for the Good News of Jesus Christ, and how that produces a deep love and sense of obligation for his fellow man. It got me thinking: does my own faith in the Gospel produce a kind of love for others that cannot be contained?

I think one of the hardest things is admitting that I don’t like to love on anyone’s terms but my own. It’s far easier to choose my friends, to show someone I care when I feel like it, to be in control. When I love on my own terms, I can protect myself from hurt and there’s no messiness involved.

But Paul is willing to get into the mess. He embodies the Good News he’s sharing by living his life for the sake of others– he loves on God’s terms instead of his own. His love comes from truly understanding Jesus’ faithfulness on the cross. His letter to the Roman church helps me realize that it’s in both the joy of relationship and all the mess and brokenness that comes with it that Jesus’ resurrection power comes to life, and in that we experience the depth and width of His love over ours.

Perhaps that’s why studying Scripture with life group and church community has been so rich as of late. Over the past few years of committing to this group of friends, we’ve seen a lot together (marriages, new & lost jobs, scary moments of unknown, growing families, disagreements, discernment about calling, and all the little things in between). Though it’s been incredibly uncomfortable at times: feeling like the only extravert in a room of introverts, or just thinking that our differences in communication, lifestyle, and values just won’t mesh, even entertaining thoughts about leaving for an “easier” church where it just won’t be so “hard”, or just plain not liking someone– this life group and church has been one of the deepest places of growth and maturity for me. By staying in the messiness, I’ve grown to appreciate and love beyond myself, beyond my limited selfish terms. A sense of obligation to my church family and the larger community has grown by the power of Jesus, because I couldn’t do it on my own terms. In a place of fear and death of being hurt and being uncomfortable, I’ve tasted how resurrection power brings life to a place we so easily give up on. It is in the lives of those around us– not just those we choose, but even those that God chooses for us– that the Good News comes to life.

Becky

Empire then & now…

April 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Pulse

This week’s post comes from Pastor Dominique

As I’ve been immersing myself in the book of Romans, I’ve also been doing some light reading (light is relative!) alongside of Scripture in order to gain additional clarity around the sociopolitical context in which Romans was written. I’ve been reading three different books and I’m going to share a quote or two from each, with a brief contextualization of them at the end, to share with the community a little of what I’ve gleaned.

1. John Dominic Crossan’s God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now.

“There was a human being in the first century who was called ‘Divine,’ ‘Son of God,’ ‘God,’ and ‘God from God,’ whose titles were ‘Lord,’ ‘Redeemer,’ ‘Liberator,’ and ‘Savior of the World.’ Who was that person? Caesar Augustus. Most Christians probably think that those titles were originally created and uniquely applied to Christ. But before Jesus ever existed, all of those terms belonged to Caesar Augustus. [Therefore within the time Romans was written and Paul’s ministry to the Rome] to proclaim them [the above titles] of Jesus the Christ was to thereby deny them of Caesar the Augustus” (28).

 2. Daniel Groody’s Globalization, Spirituality, and Justice: Theology in Global Perspective (2 quotes)

“In the Bible, Egypt is the first in a series of empires, including Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, that embody power structures that benefit the elite, enslave the poor, and dominate the weak. The notion of empire often describes political entities, but it is not limited to them. Symbolically, the empire represents any power that arrogates to itself the power that belongs to God alone, or any group or institution that subjugates the poor and needy for its own advantage” (34).

“The opening accounts of the New Testament begin with a clash between empire & gospel, between the reign of Caesar Augustus and the reign of God, between a king who seeks to save his own power even at the cost of others’ lives (Matthew 2:16), and the king who lays down his own power so he might save the lives of all who are open to his reign (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45)” (48).

3.  Michael Gorman’s Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross.

“For early believers the temptation to continue t acknowledge [and worship] Caesar, rather than Jesus as Savior (Philippians 3:20) would have been great indeed, with social, economic, and other forms of pressure pushing them in that direction. Paul, however, urges his readers from Thessalonica to Corinth to Philippi and to Rome to accept an alternative hope [not the propagated one of the Roman Empire but] one grounded in love and cruciform (self-giving/denying/abasing) power rather than violence, one offering true peace and security (1 Thessalonians 5:3) through loyalty to God in Jesus rather than to the emperor. This, for Paul, is a certain hope, a confidence that the sufferings of the present are mysteriously the firstfruits and guarantor of the true glory to come, (in the second coming, when Christ returns) the glory not of Rome, but of God” (346).

I fundamentally believe that in order to understand Romans, Paul, and most of the New Testament-if not the Bible in its entirety- we have to take the time to unpack and comprehend the significance of empire. We have to know what they (empires) represent, the evils inherent in them, and their spiritual & theological significance. Comprehending this will assist in our own realization concerning the reality that we too live within the confines of an empire, the U.S. Empire, frequently referred to as the greatest empire ever, surpassing Rome for this title.  Furthermore, this should help unearth the relevance of Paul’s message for us today as readers because his cautionary warnings about, descriptions of, & prophetic witness against empire are just as applicable for us today as they were within the time of the composition of his words within Scripture.

Pastor Dominique