Friday, September 30, 2016

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes–Dramatic Actions

38d2ea28-d0b8-4953-b962-1b9a41648f0b_1.521799f19899b1e8b6f68e4eef180b97We now move on to the fourth section of the book: Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, by Kenneth E. Bailey. The main purpose of this book is to take a fresh look at the Gospels in the context of Middle Eastern culture. In this section, he looks at dramatic actions of Jesus with theological points that would have been understood by his original audience. These are highly organized and artistically developed pieces of writing. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. This is a book I would highly recommend that you add to your library.

Call of Peter, Luke 5.1-11 

Bailey now moves to some dramatic actions of Jesus. The first is the call of Peter in Luke 5. The point here is that Jesus meets Peter in an area where he is confident and strong, and then turns this part of his life upside-down. The miraculous catch of fish that Jesus provides for him is a financial windfall, yet Jesus lives his life as a poor rabbi. Peter's value system is challenged and he realizes that the Lord is calling him to a life of serving God and people rather than acquiring wealth.

We are not disembodied spirits. Nor are we souls temporarily imprisoned in a body that one day will be stripped away as we return to pure spirit. Death itself is conquered by the resurrection of the body, affirmed Paul (1 Cor 15:42–50), not through the transmigration of the soul. Furthermore, Paul called this new body a “spiritual body.” When Jesus spoke, therefore, of money/matter/mammon more frequently than prayer, he knew that the human person is a mysterious combination of body and spirit. He addressed that whole person rather than mentally decapitating his listeners with a head trip. 136

Jesus reaches out to Peter by asking for help, not by offering it. He deliberately places himself in a position where he genuinely needs the help of the one he seeks to win to discipleship. The help requested is authentic, not fabricated. Jesus needs Peter’s boat and rowing skills, and Peter’s worth is thereby affirmed on his own terms. Jesus’ ministry becomes a partnership with Peter. 145

In this story matter/mammon/money are woven together with the things of the spirit. Peter faces a man who wins the “fishing lottery” but doesn’t want it. Stunned, Peter realizes the inadequacy of his own values and priorities. The impact on him, by the gentle man who radically de-absolutizes mammon, is enormous. Taking his former skills with him, he moves forward into a new venture of faith. 146

Inauguration of Jesus' Ministry Luke 4.16-31

This passage is very dense and Bailey draws a lot of theological meaning out of it. He sees the passage as Jesus' rebuke of his hometown people, who have narrowed a great Messianic passage of universal blessing, into a nationalistic passage of blessing for "us" and vengeance on "them." Jesus announces that, in His person, the kingdom of God has come, but instead of destruction of their enemies, it would involve proclamation of freedom, justice and inclusion to them. To reject this is to place oneself in danger of being on the wrong side of judgment. This is violently resisted but Jesus is given a peaceful victory. The whole scene foreshadows Jesus' entire ministry, death and resurrection.

(The people of Nazareth) know that Isaiah 61 promises material benefits for the believing community. Jesus shifts the text from “Here is what you will receive” into “Here is what you are expected to give.” “I am the anointed one of God,” says Jesus, “and to follow me you must engage (with me) in proclamation, justice advocacy and compassion.” 162

In every culture the message of the gospel is in constant danger of being compromised by the value system that supports that culture and its goals. The stranger to that culture can instinctively identify those points of surrender and call the community back to a purer and more authentic faith. But such infusions of new life are usually resented and resisted. Luke 4.22-30, 166

In bold and uncompromising terms Jesus announces his ministry of proclamation, justice advocacy and compassion to be inaugurated by himself, as the anointed one of God. They can join him by imitating the remarkable faith of a Phoenician widow and a Syrian general. He knows his edited version of the text of Isaiah 61 will trigger deep anger, and it is a risk he is willing to take. Violence hovered in the air, as did a mysterious victory over it. Luke 4.16-31, 168

The Healing of the Blind Man and Zacchaeus Luke 18.35-19.10

The stories of the healing of the blind man and of Zacchaeus in Luke 18.35 to 19.10 are meant to be read together as a pair. One takes place as Jesus enters Jericho and the other as he is leaving. The stories show how Jesus offers grace and mercy to the both the oppressed and the oppressor, without ignoring the hurts that have been done while heading off the revenge of the oppressed. He does this by taking their hostility into Himself. He accepts both the blind man and Zacchaeus based on their expression of faith in Him and then allows his love to transform their lives. Salvation is the beginning of the process of transformation.

The grace of God, mediated through Jesus, is free but not cheap, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer has affirmed. Is this blind man ready to accept the new responsibilities and challenges that will come to him if he is healed? Jesus’ exam presses this stark question upon him. The beggar passes the exam. He is ready and responds to Jesus directly as “Lord” rather than using the more general title “Son of David.” Luke 18.35-43, 174

Jesus stands with the oppressed (the blind man) and at the same time extends costly grace to the oppressor (Zacchaeus). He neither endorses the oppression nor ostracizes the oppressor. Instead he loves him. Zacchaeus accepts being found and by so doing exemplifies the redefinition of repentance set forth by Jesus in the parable of the good shepherd. Luke 18.35-19.10, 180

Jesus accepts Zacchaeus and enters his house, granting to him a new status. This initiates a process of salvation, and Zacchaeus will spend the remainder of his life living out that process. Salvation is more than a moment of decision. Indeed, Zacchaeus makes the decision to accept Jesus’ bold offer to spend the night in his house. Zacchaeus pledges to return what he stole and more! But that is not all. The reader knows that Zacchaeus’s entire life will change. Salvation includes a radical transformation and reformation of life as it is lived out day by day in the present. Luke 19.1-10, 183

Thursday, September 29, 2016

New Garden at PIU


FullSizeRenderIMG_5805Last Monday Joyce and the students began the work of putting in a new garden at PIU. The garden is part of a grant funded community garden project at the University of Guam. This grant provides funds for food garden projects in several island communities, and PIU was chosen as one of those communities. I am excited about a project that involves the students in growing their own healthy food. Thank you to UOG professor, Phoebe Wall, for bringing this project to us. Also thank you to Brianna Gage (left) for providing us with the pictures.


Some more pictures of the students putting some work into their food acquisition

Last Tuesday Chapel in September

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Last Tuesday Chapel (4) (1024x768)Last Tuesday Chapel (6) (768x1024)Wow, we are already through our first month of the new semester at PIU. By the way, be looking for our imminent PIU Tides’ Currents newsletter and Owen prayer letter. I will be posting at least excerpts of both here too. Our Tuesday chapel featured PIU librarian, Paul Drake talking about “My Journey to Abba” (not the band, this is the Aramaic word for father – his joke not mine but I couldn’t get their tunes out of my head all day). Actually, it was a very encouraging message. I like it when our faculty and staff share their own struggles so the students can see that the Christian life is not easy for any of us. Thank you Paul and thank you students for leading us in worship music.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Religious Leaders Symposium

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Carrier Meeting (19) (768x1024)This past Monday I was privileged to attend the Guam Religious Leaders Symposium sponsored by the Naval Base chaplains. The really cool thing about the symposium was that it took place on the USS Ronald Reagan and included a tour of the ship. I had never been on an aircraft carrier before so this was a “wow” experience for me. It is really amazing how that ship is organized and what they can accomplish. I was pretty blown away. It was also a good opportunity to interact with the chaplains on the ship, from the naval base and from the other armed services. I was able to connect with the chaplains about projects they could help with at PIU and interact as to how we could help them by getting military service members more involved in our community. Left- Me sitting in the navigator’s chair on the bridge.


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The entrance area of the ship

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The storage and repair area. We got to ride the elevator to the flight deck

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On the flight deck

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The view from the flight deck

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Up on the bridge

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Explanation the “Ouija Board” that organizes the planes as they go in and out

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The chapel and the meeting room where we held the symposium

Monday, September 26, 2016

Commissioning Service for Jimmy Gimmen

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Commissioning (1)Sunday was a very special day for us. We were at Calvary Baptist Church to celebrate their anniversary, but we were also there to participate in the commissioning service for one of their members, and one of my former students Jimmy Gimmen, to head up the team to finally prepare a Yapese Jesus Movie. Commissioning (2)The Jesus Movie has been used effectively as an indigenous language teaching and evangelism tool all over the world. It is already translated into most of the Micronesian languages, except the smallest, Yap. Jimmy has felt called to do this and, I believe, he is also well equipped to do it. I am very excited about this and plan to help and support him through PIU.

Commissioning (4)I was honored to deliver the commissioning address and spoke from 1 Timothy 4.12-16 on Eight Commands for Facing a Difficult Ministry. Commissioning (8)Joyce and I enjoyed the fellowship with the people at Calvary and it was very gratifying to see Jimmy and family continuing to serve the LORD effectively after all these years. We especially were moved by the prayer time as, not only the church leaders prayed over Jimmy and family, but also most of the church members came up and committed themselves to supporting Jimmy and Teresa in this calling. Please pray for Jimmy for the success of the Yapese Jesus Movie and for the many opportunities he will have to minister one-on-one and to the Yap Church as a whole during the time he is there. He is planning on mobilizing Emmaus and PIU grads and other church members to provide the voices for the translation.

Beach Day

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Beach Day (1)Every day, pretty much, on Guam can be a beach day. Even though there was a tropical storm out to the southwest of Guam it was still a good day to go to the beach on Saturday. After a basketball game, we lost, we loaded up the van and several cars and headed to Ritidian Beach for some beach and barbecue. We got rained on. But that was ok since we were in the water anyway. It was actually clear enough most of the day to see out to the neighboring island of Rota. I enjoyed the time to relax with students and staff. Joyce enjoyed spending a lot of time with our niece Jayna. Jayna also got quite a bit of attention from the PIU students.


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Some more beach pictures

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And of course some swimming pictures.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Another Great Friday Chapel at PIU

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Friday23 Chapel (4)Friday23 Chapel (5)So far this year, the chapels have been well done. Yesterday was no exception. After a music time which featured some new songs, (Country-Western style is not my thing, but the above band did a good job of cowboying it up.) Our speaker was our Bible Chair, Rev. Iotaka Choram. He spoke from John 8.31 and talked about how Chuukese understand words like “free” and “truth.” He also talked about issues of “power” because the former words must be understood in terms of spiritual power. It was a fascinating message and I still have some questions. One big message is that when we talk to somebody, our words are not always communicating what we think they are communicating.

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A few more pictures from the chapel. We also sang Happy Birthday to Hicknerson (left). You can see that he is thrilled with this honor.

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes–The Lord’s Prayer

38d2ea28-d0b8-4953-b962-1b9a41648f0b_1.521799f19899b1e8b6f68e4eef180b97We now move on to the third section of the book: Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, by Kenneth E. Bailey. The main purpose of this book is to take a fresh look at the Gospels in the context of Middle Eastern culture. In this section, Bailey looks at the Lord's Prayer. He sees this prayer as having some similarities to the traditional prayers of the Jewish scriptures and culture, but also with important differences. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

First, he looks at the address of the prayer, "Our Father," or the Aramaic, "Abba" with which it is paired in several verses in the NT. He sees the use of the Aramaic as very significant because it was a break from the use of the traditional Hebrew and "religious language." Jesus was urging the use of simple prayers in the vernacular. This opened up the gospel to be adapted into, and transform, all cultures. He defines "Abba" as a word of respectful relationship. It is one of the first words a Middle Eastern child learns (97) and yet it shows respect to a person of rank. Of course, father is a metaphor and not all aspects of earthly fatherhood should be brought into our idea of God. Bailey sees the prodigal son parable as Jesus' way of defining what he meant when He called God "Father." It is a special word that defines the relationship between the worshipper and God and helps us to see that we all are brothers and sisters.

If there is no sacred language, there is no sacred culture. All of this is a natural outgrowth of the incarnation. If the Word is translated from the divine to the human and becomes flesh, then the door is opened for that Word to again be translated into other cultures and languages. Matthew 5.9, 95

Jesus did not describe God as an emperor exercising absolute sway over his possessions (some fathers and mothers act in this fashion). Rather, Jesus called God “Father” and defined this term in the parable of the prodigal son. This is the only legitimate understanding of “our Father,” and any other definition is a rejection of the teaching of Jesus and a betrayal of his person. Matthew 5.9, 99

The Abba of Christian prayer is indeed near and yet far away; he is in the heavens. The worshiping community is part of the created world. Abba is the Creator. The faithful are servants and Abba is the Master. Mortals are born and they die, while Abba is the eternal One. Abba, the loving Father, is approachable and yet dwells in awesome majesty in the heavens in all his glory. Matthew 5.9, 101–102

Bailey now turns to the six petitions in the Lord's Prayer and compares them with the central prayers of Judaism. He notes that Jesus' prayer "de-Zionizes" the Jewish tradition with no reference to Jerusalem in this formative prayer. He also notes that the 1st three requests are focused on the worldwide mission of God and the final three are focused on the needs of the community and its individuals. He then discusses the idea of God's Name and holiness in the first petition. The big point is that only God can "make holy His Name." The prayer is asking for God to show His holiness as He acts in the world. Ultimately God's holiness and love are demonstrated together by the cross as His love provides the solution to human unholiness.

Each of these six petitions involves an act of God, and each specifies or implies participation on the part of the believer. That is, each involves the sovereignty of God and the freedom and responsibility of the human person.  Matthew 6.9, 105

In its simplest expression the name of God is that point of approach to God where it is possible for humans to communicate with him...The name is also a summary of the essence of God. To know the name of God is to affirm that God is personal, that he can be known (Mt 28:19) and that revelation is always an act of God. Matthew 6.9, 108–109

God is holy love, and he faces unholy nature. Yet, in his holiness, God is able to reach out to love that unholy nature. Again Kuhn writes, “therefore the antithesis between God and man consists in the very love which overcomes it.” In the story of Jesus, the cross offers a more perfect resolution to this agony, where justice is served and ultimate, unqualified love is demonstrated. Matthew 6.9, 111–112

In chapter 9 Bailey moves to the final "thou petition" (God's kingdom and will being done on earth as in heaven) and the first "we petition," which he translates (based on the Old Syriac translation), "Give us today the bread that does not run out." The prayer for the kingdom assumes a view of history with a goal that gives our daily actions meaning and purpose. God's kingdom is a multi-faceted, spiritual-physical, already-not yet, in the world, but not of the world kingdom. This prayer request reminds us that God's kingdom depends on Him, but also commits us to our role as servants of the king.

This request for the coming of the kingdom has to do with a metanarrative that involves the entire world. The faithful who pray this prayer are not an inward-looking circle praying merely for their own needs. This section of the prayer widens the vision of the worshiper to see beyond individual and community needs and catch a vision for the world throughout human history. Matthew 6.10, 117

The defining phrase on earth as it is in heaven is critically important and often forgotten. This phrase obliges the disciple of Jesus to care about the earth and what happens to it and to the people who live on it. The Christian faith is not just a methodology for preparing disembodied souls for the next world. Matthew 6.10, 118

This first "we" request reminds us that we should be just as concerned about our neighbor's bread as our own. It reminds us that our good God gives good gifts and takes care of his children.

Bread is a gift. The one who prays this prayer affirms that all bread comes as a gift. It is not a right and we have not created it. Such gifts are in trust for the one who gives them. All material possessions are on loan from their owner; the God who created matter itself. This perspective on the material world is critical for the joyful life commended in the Gospels. Matthew 6.11, 123

The last chapter of the section deals with Jesus' petitions about forgiveness and trials/temptations. Forgiveness from God is tied to forgiveness of neighbors. It is a daily need to ask God for forgiveness for doing what we should not and failing to do what we should, and to forgive our neighbors for the same sins against us. The final request is that we will not be brought to the time of trial. This is a statement of trust that God will not lead us into a situation that he will not carry us through. He will give us strength and protect us against the "evil one."

This prayer asks the one who struggles for justice to forgive the person or persons against whom he or she struggles. Through forgiveness the bitterness, anger, hatred and desire for revenge are drained out of the struggle and the person contends with those for whom he or she may now be able to feel genuine compassion. This will influence enormously the style of the struggle. Matthew 6.12, 127

The phrase in the Lord’s Prayer expresses the confidence of an earthly pilgrim traveling with a divine guide. The journey requires the pilgrims to affirm daily, “Lord, we trust you to guide us, because you alone know the way that we must go.” This affirmation of the trusting traveler reflects the confidence of the community that prays this prayer. Matthew 6.13, 129

Christians must not think of forgiveness merely as a great dramatic act that occurs at the beginning of the pilgrimage of faith, but as a daily need. Each day the faithful need to ask God to pick up the broken pieces of their lives and restore to them the joy of their salvation. The one who prays this prayer asks for release from the guilt of unfulfilled responsibilities and for a lifting of the burden of wrongdoing. Matthew 6.12, 126

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Our Road Got “Fixed”

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Back in 1998-99 when we finished the construction of our house and moved in we were assured by the contractor and the mayor that we would get a road to our house. Back then the implication was that it was part of a planned neighborhood and there would be a paved road. As I have blogged about before, that never really happened, but the fact that there was never an actual road put into our house did make our neighborhood very quiet. Tuesday I came home from work and was surprised to find a coral surface for our road being spread and rolled by trucks from Public Works. We now have a pretty smooth driving surface to get to our house for the first time in 16 years. Thank you to the Yigo mayor and to the PIU alumna who works in the mayor’s office and may have suggested that our neighborhood would be a good place to do this.

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Here are the “before and after” pictures. The picture on the left was taken in 2009 from about 75 yards forward of the picture on the right

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I also snapped a couple pictures of the tractors doing the work