Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Ash Wednesday: I

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain

Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

--T.S. Elliot, 1963

posted by Peter at 2:04 PM
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School's back in, sucka

I live a full life. Busy? I'm trying to think of it less as a hectic busy-ness and more like a satisfying fullness. I like it this way. Those that know me well, know that I ama raving lunatic perfectionist.

We're entering week 4 now of the spring semester, and I'm looking at my first paper of the term--an exegesis of 1 Samuel 7:2-4.

I'm taking 11 credit hours, 4 different classes. I'm really loving all four of them so far. To be honest, I haven't had a semester where I looked forward to all my classes quite so much. Here's the schedule run-down for the next several months...

Exegesis of 1 & 2 Samuel
Tuesday/Thursday 8:00 am

Yes, it is very early in the morning to be parsing Hebrew verbs. There is a wide variety of people in this class, from those taking it because they have to fill a 600-level exegesis class at some point to those totally geeked out Hebrew nerds who can't wait to start filling out their doctoral apps for Old Testament studies. So, sometimes it's a little slow going when the former group starts asking simple grammar questions. I'm not complaining, though, because my Hebrew needs the practice.

Christian Ethics
Tuesday/Thursday 9:30 am

I'm told its taught by one of the three premier professors on the faculty. I believe it. This is good stuff. Here's some soundbytes from my notes last Thursday on ethics from the Old Testament...
"Worship divorced from social responsibility is no worship at all."
"When God frees people, he frees them to be responsible within community, not their own independence."

Church History II
Tuesday/Thursday 1:00 p.m.

That's right. Each Tuesday and Thursday, I'm in class from 8 in the morning until 2:30 in the afternoon (there's chapel in there, too). It's just like going back to elementary school. This one is a continuation from the first semester of church history. After three weeks, we've finally moved on from Martin Luther and the German reformation.

Old Testament Theology

Wednesday/Friday 9:30

This is the fun one. Biblical theology with a B.C. bent. Light on the writing side; heavy on the reading side. So far, its been lots of stuff on the fathers and the scholastics and the unique angles they took to the Old Testament. Just reading tonight a homily by Origen on the Song of Solomon. Pretty wacky ideas, that Origen.

So there is what I'm filling my brain with for the next three months.

To the glory of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

posted by Peter at 1:12 AM
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Thursday, February 23, 2006
A man of wisdom
Found this among my Old Testament theology reading:

He who devotes himself to studying the law of the Most High interprets the wisdom of the ancients and studies prophecies. He observes the words of men of renown, and penetrates the depths of proverbs. He interprets hidden meanings, and is familiar with parables. He serves among princes, and appears before the mighty. He travels to foreign nations, weighing good and evil among men. He rises early to worship his Maker, and pray to the Most High, opening his mouth in prayer and making supplication for his sins. If the Most High God so will, he will be filled with the spirit of understanding: he will utter words of wisdom, and give thanks to the Lord in prayer (Ecclus. 39:1-6).

This is the famous description of the sage by Ben Sira in the early second century BCE found in the deuterocanonical writing Ecclesiasticus.

It's important to remember that Jesus of Nazareth did not simply fall out of the sky. When he intersects human history he enters a specific cultural milieu. When Jesus comes on the scene, it would be to this specific tradition of wisdom teachers that he would have been associated. These were the standards for rabbis and teachers.

Now if only contemporary ministerial standards were so sapientially themed.

posted by Peter at 12:00 AM
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Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Mix tape

There is one thing that captures my imagination on the drive along I-64 in winter. Once upon a time dynamite sliced through the rolling Kentucky hills to make way for progress and civilzation and 16-wheelers. What grips me is the way the ice drips and stretches down over these rock hallways of the interstate.

It gives the rock face a menacingly toothy look. It really is mesmerizing. I just may succumb to tempation next time and pull off the side of the road to take pictures.

Well, here's the latest mix to comemerate such driving excursions:

1. Saeglopur by Sigor Ros
2. Flown Free by Over the Rhine
3. Clementine by The Decemberists
4. Mushaboom by Feist
5. Gospel Song by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
6. I Predict a Riot by Kaiser Chiefs
7. He Lays in the Reins by Iron & Wine and Calexico
8. Pecan Pie (live) by Jeff Tweedy
9. Comment (If All Men are Truly Brothers) by Wilco
10. The Ruling Class by Loose Fur
11. Come Back Alive by Ester Drang
12. I Want None of This by Radiohead
13. Gone are the Days by The Magic Numbers
14. How You See the World No. 2 by Coldplay
15. Secret Meeting by The National
16. Did you See the Word by Animal Collective
17. Good Friend, Yr Hunger by Castanets
18. Little Flowers by Denison Witmer
19. Opie's Funeral Song by Sufjan Stevens

posted by Peter at 12:05 AM
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Monday, February 20, 2006
So I had a chat Saturday with Jackie's dad about my long-term ambitions with our relationship. He's down with it. Very supporting and encouraging.

So that was cool. And Jackie was quite pleased.

Then in the church service Sunday morning, her dad had asked some couples to share their proposal stories. After several had shared, he asked if there were any others that he had asked and forgot about. I hear a female voice from the back of the church: "Ask your son-in-law!"

"Umm," he replies, his embarrassment showing in the tips of his ears. "I don't have a son-in-law."

So that was kinda awkward.

He did ask me to present the Word of the Lord at the evening service, where I set the record straight. I would have invited you all, but I pretty much repeated the "Messiah Looks Like a Tree" stuff from below. So you didn't miss much. I did add a tie-in to 1 Samuel 4, where the Israelites try to use the ark for their own benefit and wind up losing it. More on that limiting God to our expectations theme. A little old lady gave me a hug afterwards.

We'll be driving from northern Indiana back to Wilmore here in an hour or so.

posted by Peter at 10:32 AM
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Saturday, February 18, 2006
Kyle Potter:
Being right is not what theology is for. This work of thinking and talking about God (which is the work of all the baptized!) must be done in a posture of humble listening to God and listening to one another. If theology is good for anything, it is knowing God better. But knowing God isn't a matter of knowing right things about God, but responding in obedience and love to the things we hear, and I am beginning to understand that this requires learning to speak with a certain tentativeness about this nearly unspeakable love.

Mr. Hanson:
I'm not interested in defending what I believe. What I am interested in is learning how to live it.

posted by Peter at 11:34 AM
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Thursday, February 16, 2006

It snowed in Wilmore last Saturday morning. It was already a slushy mess once I got outside around 11. Today it was 65 and the snow is long gone. The blustery winds have brought a downpour at the moment. It's supposed to dip back below freezing by the end of the weekend.

This Kentucky weather is as wacky as Oklahoma.

Tonight I should have been getting caught up on some Christian Ethics reading. Instead I was loading music onto my new iPod. My special lady friend found me a new one for Valentine's. She certainly knows the way to my heart.

Maybe its finally time to get to that reading.

posted by Peter at 11:54 PM
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Wednesday, February 15, 2006
A messiah who looks like a tree
Bible study night at The Rock/La Roca. Sarah requested I get back to posting the recap. I'll do my best.

Last week we closed the second main block of material in the Gospel of Mark, 3:7-8:21. In that section we saw a Jesus full of riddles. We saw a Jesus telling a joke without a punchline. And nobody gets just what is going on. Least of all the disciples. We saw a kingdom of seeds. We saw a Jesus who conquers water both from a boat and also on his sandaled-feet. Where Jesus goes, crowds follow. Rejection follows. Misunderstanding follows. But he leaves in his wake a multitude of healed bodies. We saw 5,000 fed. We saw another 4,000 fed. And hearts are hard, and the disciples do not get it. Nobody knows who Jesus is, save a couple of raving loonies just before they get the demons cast out.

So tonight we turn a new chapter. From 8:22-10:45 we will shift focus ever slightly. The curtain pulls back. But just part way. The puzzle pieces of this charismatic carpenter from Nazareth start to fall together. The picture ever slowly is coming into focus.

Our discussion centered on 8:22-9:1. Essentially four things happen here. Jesus heals a blind man. Jesus finally pushes the identity question on the disciples, and surprise of surprises, they get it right. But maybe not completely, and Jesus comes down hard on Peter. Finally, Jesus draws a line in the sand, and for the first time in Mark articulates just what is involved in discipleship. This is what he meant this whole time when he first said "Follow me" back in chapter 1.

When I looked at it, I was struck with the way that the narrative regarding the blind man illustrates the present spiritual condition of the disciples. We've just seen the vast ineptitude of the disciples in 8:21. They are blind as bats and twice as dumb. There's a parralism in the questions Jesus asks - "Can you see anything?" and "Who do people say that I am?" What do you, my disciples, see in me? he seems to be asking.

The scene reminds of Monty Python and the Holy Grail as Sir Bedevere reasons the townfolk through the witch trial. "Cherries!" "Gravy! "John the Baptist!" "Elijah!" "One of the prophets!" And Peter brashly blurts out, "Messiah!" Christ. Anointed One. The one who brings the Kingdom of God behind him.

Yes, Peter, but... Jesus immediately proceeds to talk about suffering, rejection, death and resurrection. This is too much. Messiah won't suffer. Who in their right mind rejects Messiah? What pagan would dare kill Messiah? This is not the Messiah Peter was talking about. Maybe this isn't exactly what Peter signed up for back in the beginning? Peter's blind eyes have been opened, but only partially. He sees a shadow of Messiah now. He sees a Messiah that looks like a tree walking around.

And this leads to all sorts of questions: What are our expectations of Jesus? What box have I been conditioned to put Jesus in? Have I made a Jesus in my own image? Am I submissive to the rule of Messiah in my life, or am I rebuking him, arrogantly bossing Messiah around? Is my mind on divine things? Ultimately, will I deny myself, that is, deny my preconceived notions? Will I take up my cross, that is, accept the hard reality that discipleship is not about my preferences or convenience or spiritual fetishes? Will I follow Jesus, or ask Jesus to follow me?

Jesus touched the blind man a second time, "and he saw everything clearly." In a few short chapters, so will the disciples. And so will we.

posted by Peter at 11:46 PM
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Tuesday, February 14, 2006
New skins
So does everybody like +Alan's new design of the blog here?

I think it's flippin' amazing.

Thanks, dude.

posted by Peter at 11:28 PM
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Thursday, February 09, 2006
God's familiar

The following is a quote my OT theology professor used to kick off our class. Its from Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Read it out loud if you can. Let the words sink in. It's some crazy, good stuff:

In so far as God sends forth his word in omnipotence, this word has the power to take to itself and keep the person whom it has struck: his creatureliness quakes to its foundation and, so threatened, he would like to flee from the spot with closed eyes. But the word has the power to bring him to give the answer required by obedience. However, the first impact of divinity can never be spared him, a shock which will then penetrate and affect all succeeding speeches and replies. One may become God’s familiar, but one can never get used to Him.

posted by Peter at 11:38 PM
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Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Thanks to Jeana, I have been tagged. I believe I shall play along.

Four jobs I've had:
1. Between the ages of 11 and 13 I had two paper routes for the Sand Springs Leader. It was a Wednesday/Friday/Sunday paper. It funded my baseball card addiction.

2. Once during a summer in college I worked for a temp agency in Virginia. For one week, I was assigned to work stocking a brandnew Bed, Bath and Beyond store. Somehow I got paired with an elderly, special-needs gentleman who was with another temp agency. Every time a supervisor gave us another assignment to work on, my partner would reply, "Awww, sheeyiiitt."

3. Prior to seminary I served as Associate Editor at Ad Fontes, where I proofread XML versions of 16th and 17th century theological documents. For some reason people still come up to me and say, "Hey, I hear you translate Greek and Hebrew books!" Nope. Proofreading is not the same as translation. I hope that's clear.

4. Presently, I am employed as a student worker in the IT department of the seminary. Mostly I make updates to the website. Did you know you can now subscribe to the chapel RSS through iTunes?

Four movies I can watch over and over:
1. The Empire Strikes Back (and if you are the one who "borrowed" it from my room and forgot to leave a note, I would like it back now) - Do or do not. There is no try.
2. Fight Club - Its not until you lose everything that you are free to do anything.
3. The Big Lebowski - Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax...
4. Rushmore - I guess you've just gotta find something you love to do and then... do it for the rest of your life. For me, it's going to Rushmore.

Four places I have lived:
1. Sand Springs, OK - from the day was brought home from the hospital until the day I left for college.
2. Everett, WA - 2001 to 2003
3. Chantilly, VA - March - August 2004
4. Wilmore, KY - August 2004 - present

Four TV shows I love to watch:
1. 24 - I believe in Bauer.
2. Arrested Development - this is what family-values television is all about.
3. Seinfeld - not that there's anything wrong with that.
4. The X-Files - the scariest thing I allow myself to watch.

Four places I've vacationed:
1. Boston, MA - Fenway Park is a holy shrine, and my favorite T-shirt I saw: "Derek Jeter Drinks Winecoolers."
2. Anacortes, WA - a cabin in the San Juan Islands would make a nice retirement home.
3. Estes Park, CO - the fam' has made Rocky Mountain National Park a yearly tradition.
4. Branson, MO - childhood family vacations to Silver Dollar City cannot be beat.

Four of my favourite dishes:
1. Papa John's pizza (sausage/mushroom)
2. General Tsao's chicken
3. Cheese fries from Outback.
4. An unlimited bowl of chips and salsa.

Four sites I visit daily:
1. Asbury Theological Seminary
2. USS Mariner
3. Daily Dose of Imagery
4. Pitchfork

Four places I would rather be right now:
I'm rather content with where I am, thank you.

Four bloggers I am tagging:
1. Jackie
2. Kyle
3. Scott
4. J-Jack

posted by Peter at 3:52 PM
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