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“Consider the ravens,” says Jesus (here).
Ravens are popular in Alaska, and for much of the year, they’re the bird we see the most, possibly because their obnoxious croaking attracts one’s attention.
That croaking may be how they got their Greek name. The Greek word for “raven” is korax, –akos. If you’ve heard them, you have to wonder if their Greek name is onomatopoeiac. (From a Greek word that means what Greeks mean when they say echomimetico, which would probably be a better word than onomatopoeia.) I don’t know that, and BDAG is silent, but it seems likely to me.
Certainly, Jesus is right that God feeds them. Ravens in Alaska are huge, like our deer and bears. I routinely see ravens as big as chickens—or maybe turkeys. What I’ve seen them eating isn’t very appealing, however. In the zoo (pictured right) it’s revolting, but in a parking lot, it’s worse.
Scavenging carrion may be one reason ravens were unpopular (judging from the Hebrew Scriptures) in ancient Near Eastern culture. Leviticus declares them unclean, Proverbs points to them as a caution, and Isaiah uses them in a curse. Only two references to ravens are neutral or positive: Noah initially sent out a raven, but we hear no more about it. Subsequently, Noah used only doves. In the Song of Songs, the woman compares her lover’s wavy hair to a raven.
Two references in the Hebrew Scriptures suggest that Jesus was alluding to proverbial wisdom about ravens’ foraging ability: Psalm 147 credits God with feeding them. Job 38 uses this idea to illustrate how far God’s wisdom is above men’s.
But as Jesus’ audience considered ravens, they would surely have remembered how God provided for Elijah in the wilderness (1 Kings 17). Not only does God feed the ravens, but sometimes, God uses ravens to feed people. That was the point Jesus was making, that you don’t have to be anxious, since God will take care of his children. Maybe even by means of ravens.
Good grief. The brain trust at World HQ published the PC(USA) Book of Confessions as a PDF without a table of contents. Way to move (cautiously) into the 1990s!
In view of all the changes to the PC(USA)’s Book of Order, it’s worthwhile to look at what its Book of Confessions says it believes. We wouldn’t want our practice to get ahead of our theology, after all:
That’s pretty good. But it goes on to explain this problem as follows:
There’s as much wrong as right with the list of reasons. (1) and (3) are obviously true; (2) has some truth in it, and (4) might be true if it weren’t for people like Norman Borlaug who solve problems instead of whining about nebulous potential dangers whenever the status quo is challenged.
Another problem with this list is that by lumping everything until about WWII together and calling them “perrennial” problems, backward views about sexual relationships like those of Boko Haram and ISIL don’t rate a mention, for all the violence and sorrow they’re causing.
In other words, our confusion about the meaning of sex was reflected in the very documents that tried to address it, almost fifty years ago.
Yet it reads like a breath of fresh air in today’s climate. The last two generations have not fared well (by any metric) as a result of what appears to be not a linear but an exponential accumulation of problems.
In the intervening years, new ways our confusion is aggravated have become apparent. I would include among them, (5) by the welfare state’s need for a broad tax base, which led to the creation of many inducements for women to work outside the home, and (6) by society’s misinterpretation of marriage as being about conferring approbation of and support for sexual rather than parental relationships.
Many of these causes are in fact symptoms of another, deeper, problem: the idea that we are smarter and more enlightened than our ancestors. We have made more progress along some invisible track. This gives us the audacity (or impetuosity) to implement change based simply on theory, rather than promising results from field tests. We impose our theory across all of society rather than using small laboratory environments to discover what works and what doesn’t.
I’ve mentioned the recent Pew survey to some people this week and several have asked me what “Mainline Protestantism” is and how it relates to “Evangelical Protestantism”. The Pew people explain their methodology, but it’s not especially useful unless you’re trying to classify people in a survey. So I prefer this explanation by Tim Keller:
I’ll use the Bebbington four plus one. Now, David Bebbington was a historian and a sociologist some years ago who tried to define evangelicalism and came up with these four characteristics.
I have never found the autograph of what he actually said, but because it keeps coming down through everybody else, this is my understanding of his four characteristics were the authority of the Bible — by that, I think it means the Bible trumps reason and experience. Secondly, the necessity of a conversion experience of some kind. Thirdly, salvation through faith in Christ’s work on the cross, not good works. Fourth, mission, the idea of activism, needing to take this message to the world.
And my fifth one I would add — even though it may be inherent, it may be implied, I would call it supernatural Christianity. Liberal Christianity tried to redo all of Christian doctrine in terms of naturalistic assumptions, no miracles. And I would say an evangelical conservative Protestant definitely believes in miracles, believes the resurrection really happened.
Somebody once told me, if you ask an Episcopalian minister, “Did the resurrection really happen?” and if he says, “Well, it depends on what you mean,” that means no.
I don’t know if that’s fair to suggest about Episcopalians, but I know a several Methodist and Presbyterian ministers who would add a lot of caveats and nuance to their answer.
Some quotes from leaders attending Orange Conference last week, via Brian Dodd:
The antidote to cynicism is curiosity. The curious are never cynical. The cynical are never curious. The cynical have it all figured out.—Carey Nieuwhof
There are no balanced old people. You’re really angry or you’re really happy.—Carey Nieuwhof
Jesus prepared for 30 years and taught for three. We prepared for three and try to preach for 30.—Carey Nieuwhof
If you write “Family” on your calendar you can tell people you have a commitment on that day.—Carey Nieuwhof
What breaks my heart is in the United States hundreds of thousands wake up on a Sunday and church never crosses their mind.—Andy Stanley
Business did not make systems up. God is a God of order.—Jenni Catron
We need to introduce systems at our staff’s point of need.—Jenni Catron
Encourage. Encourage. I can see the things which need to be fixed but not the things which are working well. We should be encouraging five times to every one criticism.—Jenni Catron
People out of their faith and obedience to God have given their resources and because of this you have a paycheck.—Jenni Catron
I’ve even found myself evaluating weddings.—Jeff Henderson
What is this generation of students worth? It’s worth everything.—Andy Stanley
Blame is a change-avoidance strategy.—Andy Stanley
Thom Rainer has a list of 7 reasons why some members of churches don’t want them to grow. It’s a pretty good list when even the pastor can say, “Yeah, I get that. Sometimes I feel that way.” For example:
Loss of memories. I recently heard a poignant story from a lady whose church was demolishing the old worship center to build a new one to accommodate growth. She and her husband were married in the old worship center. She understandably grieved at the loss of that physical reminder of their wedding.
Others I don’t find as compelling. My favorite not-a-good-reason is number 5. (Or maybe I should write like a click-bait headline: “Number 5 will make you roll your eyes. Again.”)
The Pew Center has released some interesting new data on public attitudes about Same-Sex Marriage.
Polls and surveys are tricky for two reasons. The first is methodology: was the survey properly taken, did they get a representative sample, and so forth. The second is suitability: is a poll really the right tool for the job? Years ago, the Harvard Lampoon published a parody edition of USA Today featuring the headline: “Chromium Heaviest Metal: Poll Finds.” The poll might have found it, but chromium isn’t the heaviest metal.
Anyway, I was interested in this bit of the poll:
Among the groups most likely to favor same-sex marriage in 2014 were Millennials (67%), Democrats (64%) and people without any religious affiliation (77%).
(Some of my previous posts on this topic.)
Ed Stetzer reminds Sunday School teachers to make sure that children know the story instead of just a bunch of Bible stories. He’s right, and that’s something the preacher needs to be concerned about too.
I saw this sign during a nature call on the Parks Highway near Mt. McKinley.
That’s a great sign.
The sign assumes you want to help, or are at least willing to help, and only lack instruction about how. It says that doing this badly has a financial impact, but doesn’t make threats about removing the toilets or replacing them with pay toilets. Then it assumes you’re willing to do something to make the next person’s experience more pleasant, and says how: by closing the toilet lid.
But beyond that, look at the language. It’s not regulatory but invitational. “Please” do this. “Help” with that. Some people would write the sign “Do not dispose of trash in the toilet,” but this is much better.