Mathew 5:6: Blessed are Those that Hunger and Thirst

Holy Spirit Cross at First Presbyterian Church of Annandale in Annandale, VirginiaMathew 5:6: Blessed are Those that Hunger and Thirst

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Luncheon for the Soul, Wednesday, August 23, 2017, Trinidad Presbyterian Church, Herndon, Virginia

Welcome

Good afternoon. Welcome to the Luncheon for the Soul. My name is Stephen Hiemstra. I am a volunteer pastor from Centreville Presbyterian Church and also a Christian author. In our sermon today, we continue our study of the Beatitudes

What are your priorities? Our Beatitude today says that we should hunger and thirst for God’s justice.

Invocation

Let’s begin with prayer.

Holy Father. Thank you for your presence among us this morning. We are grateful that your word still moves our hearts and stimulates our minds. Make your presence especially obvious in this time and this place. In the power of your Holy Spirit, open our eyes and give us ears that listen. In the previous name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Scripture lesson

Today’s scripture lesson comes from Matthew 5:6. It is the fourth Beatitude and a part of the introduction of the Sermon on the Mount. Hear the Word of the Lord:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matt 5:6 ESV)

The Word of the Lord; thanks be to God.

Introduction

In 2013, I graduated from seminary y wrote my first book, A Christian Guide to Spirituality. My Book was written but I had no contracts in the business of publishing, not an editor, nor publishing contract. Consequently, I needed to attend a conference and talk to the publishers. Normally, business of this sort requires a lot of preparation; at a minimum, I needed to have business cards that describe my office, position, and contract information. All of these things were problematic for me because I was a new graduate, was out of work, and only had a book to sell and was unknown.  What would I do? (2x)

Problem with Business Cards

What was my answer to the problem of not having business cards? Without work, I began to write about my priorities: slave of Christ, husband, father, volunteer pastor (or as Paul said: tentmaker), author, and speaker. At first, I felt ashamed of myself because I was unemployed, but my business cards grew to be a topic of conversation, especially with my kids and their friends. Suddenly, I had an opportunity to talk about priorities in life with them in a fresh, new context and with other folks too.

Priorities

These priorities—God, husband, father, work—are important because if you alter the list of priorities he, or drop any, bad things can happen. What would happen, for example, if I put my work in place of God on this list and lost my job? Or, perhaps, what would happen if I substituted my wife in God’s place and she left me? These examples are not very hypothetical because the primary reason for suicide among American seniors is the loss of a job. This happened to my sister’s ex-husband last year. And the primary reason for suicide among young people under the age of twenty five is loss of a significant other. Bad things happen when we hold inappropriate or disorganized priorities.

In the fourth Beatitude, Jesus said:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matt 5:6 ESV)

Context

What do you hunger and thirst for? For what are you passionate?

This theme of deep needs—hungering and thirsting—is in contrast with the provision and abundance of God in the Gospel of John. There, Jesus reveals himself first to a young couple who throw a wedding party without sufficient wine to meet community standards for hospitality—it’s like today not have clothes appropriate for eating in a stylish restaurant with your family after a funeral. In this context, Jesus provided the wine.

God’s Super Abundance

In our context, our weaknesses are contrasted with the super-abundance of God in the Gospel of John—abundance of wine in the wedding at Canaan (John 2:1-11),abundance of bread when Jesus fed the five thousand (John 6:5-14), and the abundance of fish when Jesus revealed himself to the Apostles for the last time in Galilee (John 21:3-12). This everyday food illustrates the trademark generosity of  God that we saw for the first time in the Garden of Eden where there was neither hunger nor thirst. And there, we had a very intimate relationship with God himself.

Do you feel the deep symbolism here in the fourth Beatitude? Are you passionate today for God? As Jesus said:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matt 5:6 ESV)

Analysis

Whether you are passionate about God or not, our passions reflect the priorities in our lives. Our emotions protect our feelings, our identities, and our priorities. In other works, we get angry about the things that we feel are important.

In theology, this concept is known as the “cognitive theory of emotions” (2X) (Elliott 2006, 31) and the idea is that even God becomes angry only (2X) when his law has been transgressed. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul wrote:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…” (Rom 1:18 ESV)

Therefore, our emotions reveal the real priorities in our hearts.

Do you hunger and thirst for God before all things? (2X)

Post script

In my story mentioned above, I printed my business cards with my priorities—slave of Christ, husband, father, tentmaker, writer, and speaker—and attended a conference where I met a Publisher who offered a contract to publish my Book. In the end, I did not accept this contract, but instead began to publish books independently with my own business.

Closing Prayer

Let’s pray.

Holy Father:

In our finitude, our sin, our brokenness, we yearn for your righteousness, oh God. As the hungry grasp for bread and as the thirsty cry for water, we search for your justice. No other will do and no other can be found. Your Holy scriptures remind us that you are ever-near, always vigilant, and forever compassionate. Through the desert of our emotions and in the wilderness of our minds, bind our wounds, relieve our pains, and forgive our sins. Through the power of your Holy Spirit grow our faith even as our strength fails us. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

References

Elliott, Matthew A. 2006. Faithful Feelings: Rethinking Emotion in the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel.

 

Also see:

Prayer for Shalom 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

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Mateo 5:6: Dichosos los que Tiene Hambre y Sed

Mateo 5:6: Dichosos los que Tiene Hambre y SedHoly Spirit Cross at First Presbyterian Church of Annandale in Annandale, Virginia

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almuerzo para el Alma, Miércoles, 23 de Agosto, 2017, Iglesia Presbiteriana de Trinidad, Herndon, Virginia

Bienvenido

Buenos tarde. Bienvenido al Almuerzo para el Alma. Mi nombre es Stephen Hiemstra. Soy un voluntario pastoral y también un autor cristiano.

¿Cuáles son tus prioridades? Nuestra texto de hoy dice que debemos tener hambre y sed para la justicia de Dios.

Oración

Vamos a orar.

Padre santo. Gracias por tu presencia entre nosotros esta mañana. Agradecemos que tu palabra todavía mueva nuestros corazones y estimula nuestras mentes. Haga tu presencia especialmente claro en este momento y este lugar. En el poder de tu Espíritu Santa, abran nuestros ojos y danos oídos que oyen. En el precioso nombre de Jesucristo, Amen.

Texto

El texto de hoy viene del Evangelio de Mateo 5:6. Esa es la cuarta Beatitud y una parte de la introducción del Sermón de la Montaña. Escuchan la palabra de Dios:

“Dichosos los que tienen hambre y sed de justicia, porque serán saciados” (Mateo 5:6 NVI).

La palabra del Senior.  Gracias a Dios.

Introducción

En 2013, estuve graduado del seminario y escribí mi primer libro, Una Guía Cristiana a la Espiritualidad, en inglés. Este libro fue escrito pero no tuve amigos en este negocio de publicación, no tuve un editor, ni tampoco un contrato de publicación. Entonces, tenía que asistir una conferencia y hablar directamente con los publicadores. Normalmente, negocios de este tipo requiere muchas preparaciones; por el mínimo, necesitaba a tener unas tarjetas de visita que describir mi oficina de trabajo, mi posición, y mi información de conectar. Todas las cosas fueron problemático porque estuve nuevo graduado, no tuve trabajo; y tuve solamente un libro para vender y fui desconocido. ¿Qué haría? (2X)

Ninguna Tarjetas de Visita

¿Que fue la repuesta a la problema de ninguna tarjetas de visita? Sin una oficina de trabajo, empezó a escribir mis prioridades: eslavo de Cristo, esposo, padre, pastor voluntario, escritor, y orador. En la primera, me sentí avergonzado porque yo estaba en paro. Pero, mis tarjetas de visita crecían a ser un tópico de conversación, especialmente entre mis hijos y sus amigos. Inmediatamente, tuve una oportunidad a compartir las prioridades de la vida con mis propios hijos en un contexto fresco y también con otras personas.

Las Prioridades

Las prioridades—Dios, esposo, hijos, trabajo—son importante porque si se cambia esta lista de prioridades, o pérdida alguna de ellos, malas cosas pueden pasar. ¿Que pondría pasar, por ejemplo, si yo pongo mi trabajo en la plaza de Dios en esta lista y perdía mi trabajo? O tal vez, ¿qué paso si yo pongo mi esposa en la plaza de Dios y ella me dejó? Estos ejemplos no son muy hipotético porque la primera razón para suicidio entre los ancianos en américa de hoy (incluso un miembro de mi propia familia en este año pasado) es perdía de trabajo y la primera razón para suicidio entre los jóvenes bajo de veinte cinco años es pérdida de una relación significativa. Malas cosas pasan cuando tenemos prioridades inapropiadas o desorganizadas.

En la cuarta Beatitud Jesucristo dijo:

“Dichosos los que tienen hambre y sed de justicia, porque serán saciados” (Mateo 5:6 NVI).

Contexto

¿Para qué tienes hambre y sed? ¿Para qué le apasiona?

Este tema de necesidades muy profundo—hambre y sed—es en contrario de la provisión y abundancia de Dios en el Evangelio de Juan. Allí, Jesucristo revelo si mismo primero a una pareja que tuvieron una boda sin suficiente vino para cumplir el estándar de la comunidad para la hospitalidad—eso es como hoy si usted no tiene ropas apropiada para visitar una restaurante con clase con tu familia después un funeral. En este contexto, Jesús proveyó el vino.

El Súper-Abundancia de Dios

Más generalmente en el Evangelio de Juan, nuestras debilidades son contrastado con el súper-abundancia de Dios—la abundancia de vino en la boda de Canaán (Juan 2:1-11), la abundancia del pan cuando Jesús alimenta las cinco mil hombres (Juan 6:5-14), y la abundancia del pez cuando Jesús revela si mismo a los apostales por la última vez en Galilea (Juan 21:3-12). Ellos alimentos de cada día ilustran la generosidad marca comercial de Dios que vimos la primera vez en el jardín de Edén donde no hubo hambre ni sed. Allí, tuvimos una relación muy íntima con Dios mismo.

¿Sentías el profundo simbolismo aquí en esta cuarta Beatitud? ¿Estas apasionadas hoy días para Dios? Como Jesucristo dijo:

“Dichosos los que tienen hambre y sed de justicia, porque serán saciados” (Mateo 5:6 NVI).

Análisis

Si usted es apasionado para Dios o no, nuestra pasión indica las prioridades en nuestras vidas. Nuestras emociones protegen nuestros sentidos, nuestras identidades, y nuestras prioridades. En otras palabras, nos enojamos por las cosas que nos parecen importantes.

En la teología, esto concepto es llamado como “la teoría cognitiva de las emociones” (2X) (Elliott 2006, 31) y la idea es que también Dios se convierte en enojado solamente (2X) cuando su ley es transgredida. En la carta a los Romanos, el Apóstalo Pablo escribe:

“Ciertamente, la ira de Dios viene revelándose desde el cielo contra toda impiedad e injusticia de los seres humanos” (Rom 1:18 NVI)

Entonces, nuestras emociones revelan las prioridades reales de nuestros corazones.

¿Tienes hambre y sed para Dios antes otras cosas? (2X)

Fínale

En mi historia mencionada antes, imprimí las tarjetas de visita con mis prioridades. Este es—eslavo de Cristo, esposo, padre, pastor voluntario, escritor, y  orador. Asistí una conferencia donde encontré una impresa de publicación que ofrecía un contrato para publicar mi libro. Al final, yo no acepte este contracto pero empecé a publicar libros independientes por mi propia empresa.

Oración Para Terminar

Oramos.

Precioso Senior,

En nuestra finitud, nuestro quebrantamiento, lloramos para tu rectitud, oh Dios. Como las hambres agarra para el pan y los sedientos lloran para agua, buscamos para su justicia donde ni otro es disponible, ni otro puede ser encontrado. Tu santa Biblia se recuerda nos que tu estas aquí, siempre disponible, y compasionado para siempre. En medio del desierto de nuestras emociones y en la tierra seca de nuestras mentes, sana nuestras heridas, aliviar nuestras penas, y salvarnos de nuestros pecados. Por el poder de tu Espíritu Santo crecer nuestra fe aun que nuestra fuerza nos escapa. En el nombre de Jesucristo, Amen.

Referencias

Elliott, Matthew A. 2006. Faithful Feelings: Rethinking Emotion in the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel.

 

Vea También:

Dichosos Los Pobres En Espíritu

La Espiritualidad Cristiana 

Otras Métodos de Conectar:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

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Smith Models Jesus’ Lifestyle

Stephen W. Smith, The Jesus Life

Smith Models Jesus’ Lifestyle

Stephen W. Smith. 2012. The Jesus Life: Eight Ways to Recover Authentic Christianity. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

One of the most perplexing problems in postmodern American is the breakdown of healthy boundaries between public and private, church and state, between work and leisure, and even between male and female. Lacking healthy boundaries, Americans have become anxious, sleep-deprived, eating too much, using too many drugs, and suicidal, as life expectancy declines due to these self-inflicted wounds. With the decay of reasonable boundaries, young couples flinch at the idea of bringing children into the world, preferring to keep pets that are cheaper and offer unconditional love. How should Christians respond in their lifestyles to this dystopian reality facing perhaps seventy percent of the population?

Introduction

Stephen W. Smith’s book, The Jesus Life, starts with a promise: “This book will help you recover your life.” (17) Smith (30) commends these verses:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30 ESV)

He starts by asking three questions:

  1. What do you need to recover from?
  2. Has someone or something stolen the life you wanted?
  3. What’s not working for you in your life? (30)

He finds his answers not in the teachings of Jesus, but in the cadence of the sustainable life that Jesus actually led (33, 36).

Luke’s Gospel Outlines Jesus’ Lifestyle

Smith finds Luke, the Greek doctor, particularly helpful in sorting out the Jesus’ lifestyle. Unlike other New Testament writers, Luke was not Hebrew and the assumptions of a Jewish lifestyle were new to him. Only Luke, for example, writes:

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.” (Luke 4:16)

A Jewish writer would not need to say that Jesus’ custom was to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath—all good Jews do this and would not need to observe it. So Smith writes something important for our gentile ears to hear:

“As a boy, Jesus was raised in a culture of sustainable rhythm. His soul was shaped by the cadence of Sabbath keeping and seasonal festivals that were intended to help him and all people to remember God’s faithfulness, protection, and provision.” (36)

In contemporary jargon, Jesus did not grow up surrounded by people burning the candlesticks from both ends; he grew up knowing the boundaries of Sabbath, prayer, and religious festivals pointing to God (36). Here we find an outline of answers to Smith’s three questions cited above.

Rhythms of Life Remain Key

Smith advocates developing a new rhythms of life that will: “sustain and replenish our lives” (41) We start by keeping the Sabbath (44), because tired people love neither God nor neighbor, but Smith looks to us to develop our own rituals of life to remind us of God and who we are. His chapters end with suggestions on how to implement this suggestion, such as “Ask a group of life-giving friends to join you once a month for a meal.” (46)

Smith focuses attention on Luke’s insistence that we see the rhythm—engage then disengage (54)—of Jesus’ ministry. This pattern is repeated seven times in Luke—4:38-42, 5:16, 6:12-19, 9:10-12, 9:28-36, 11:1, and 21:37-38 (56-60). In this last two verses, for example, we read:

“And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.” (Luke 21:37-38)

If Jesus took time to rest and observe the Sabbath, why don’t we? Clearly, we need to do this.

Who is Stephen Smith?

Stephen Smith describes himself on his website with these words:

“Co-Founders, President and Spiritual Directors of Potter’s Inn.  Steve was educated at Lenoir Rhyne College, NC, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, KY; Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, IL. Steve has pastored churches in KY, NC and the Netherlands. As a speaker, spiritual director, author and companion, Steve offers soul care and spiritual care through many avenues.”[1]

 Smith is the author of numerous books, including The Lazarus Life, Soul Custody, and Soul Shaping. He and his wife, Gwen, live in Colorado.

Eight Ways to Recover Christianity?

What are the eight ways to recover authentic Christianity? These are outlined in separate chapters in part 3 of the book:

  1. Living the Jesus Life Every Day.
  2. Choosing Obscurity to Cultivate Life.
  3. Living the Life with Our Family and Those Closest to Us.
  4. Cultivating Friendships in Reality and Truth.
  5. Savoring a Sacred Memory.
  6. Extending Life to Others.
  7. Creating Signposts as We Journey through Life.
  8. Understanding the Role of Pain and Suffering (11-12).

Part 1 of the book defines the problem and part 2 outlines Jesus’ lifestyle. Part 4 provides an overview of the good life, building on what was previously said.

Assessment

Stephen W. Smith’s book, The Jesus Life, interprets the lifestyle of Jesus in simple English with many examples taken from daily life. Unlike many authors, Smith focuses on applying principles taken from Jesus’ example to contemporary life. Underscoring this focus on application, Smith quotes scripture primarily from Eugene Peterson’s contemporary translation of the Bible, The Message.

[1] https://www.pottersinn.com/team. @pottersinn

 

Also see:

Ortberg Sharpens and Freshens Jesus

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

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Prayer for Peace

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Twins
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayer for Peace

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty God,

Grant us shalom, your peace, which is more than just the absence of war.

Save us from ourselves, from greed, from selfishness, from hardened hearts and stopped ears.

May we never pray for peace, but harbor war in our hearts.

May we never pray for peace only when we have gotten our way.

Teach us how to be ashamed; may we learn again to blush.

May your ways again be our guide and your truths a joy to our hearts.

Teach us to order our lives by your word.

May we listen to your watchman and not ignore the trumpet.

Remove your stumbling block from our feet, the blind from our eyes, that we may no longer sin and perish.

Forgive the sins of our fathers and our temptation to repeat them,

That the day of judgment would not be today. (Jer 6:13-23)

In the power of your Holy Spirit, enter our hearts and cleanse them,

that we might be saved through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

Also see:

Prayer for Shalom 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

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An Old Friend

Cover for Called Along the Way
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?
He said to him, Yes, Lord;
you know that I love you.
He said to him, feed my lambs.
(John 21:15).

An Old Friend

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In the fall of 2003 my mentor and friend at Michigan State University, professor Glenn L. Johnson, broke his hip removing a fallen tree from his back yard. Glenn knew me as well as anyone having served on my doctoral committee, attended the same church, and become a close friend during my student years. When I heard of his injury, he was in physical therapy and I called to check on my friend.

Asset-Fixity Problem

Among agricultural economists, Glenn was known for his work on the asset-fixity problem. This problem arises because, once investments in real capital are made, they cannot be reallocated without suffering a capital loss. Having invested, farmers often continue producing at a loss, which, in the aggregate, led to further price declines and worse losses. The asset-fixity problem provides a theoretical justification for farm policy intervention, which made Glenn ‘s work famous.

Behind the asset-fixity problem is the stark reality of farm policy—modern agriculture produces too much food. The world food problem that motivated me to enter agricultural economics proved to be more politics than reality. When farmers in the developed countries produce too much food, low food prices force farmers in developing countries into poverty. When I realized that the world food problem was a myth, I also realized that agricultural economics could not be my ultimate call as a Christian.

Professionals face the same asset-fixity problem when they invest years of work in a particular field, only to find their work ignored and their career stalled. For both the farmer and the professional, the problem of getting stuck is best solved by investing in new skills and activities during slow periods. As the saying goes, you need to know when to cut bait and when to go fishing.

Prophetic Word

During my conversation with Glenn, we talked about my work at OCC on agricultural banking, but I also regaled him with details of a sermon that I spent weeks preparing. On and on I went about this sermon, getting more excited by the minute.

Glenn listened patiently but pretty soon, like every good Illinois farm boy, he had reached his limit and blurted out: “Stephen, you really seem to enjoy preaching, why don’t you go to seminary?”

His seminary comment puzzled me, but I sensed that I had bored him long enough. I thanked him and excused myself.

Several months passed. I then heard through the grapevine that Glenn passed away the week after I spoke with him. The last words I heard from my mentor of 20 years was: “Stephen…why don’t you go to seminary? Stephen…why don’t you go to seminary?” For me, Glenn’s words sounded like Jesus’ last words to Peter (John 21:15).

 

Also see:  Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

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Dreher Sees Flood, Offers Ark, Part 3

Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option

Dreher Sees Flood, Offers Ark, Part 3

Rod Dreher.[1] 2017. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. New York: Sentinel. (Goto part 1; Goto part 2)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

One of the signs of brokenness in the church today is the near total absence of application in pastoral sermons. In seminary, no sermon is complete without a sermon application. Today’s sermons are delivered more with an attitude of nice-to-know, not critical for salvation or the practice of our faith. In our buddy culture, the idea of a pastor actually offering advice is not-politically correct. The same holds for books about faith.

The Monastic Connection

Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation starts with the application up front: Benedict is short for Benedict’s rule which is a structured approach to daily life. He writes:

‘A Rule works that way, to channel your spiritual energy, your work, your activity, so that you’re able to accomplish something,’ Father Cassian said.

‘Monastic life is very plain,’ he continued. ‘People from the outside perhaps have a romantic vision, perhaps what they see on television, of monks sort of floating around the cloister. There is that, and that’s attractive, but basically, monks get up in the morning, they pray, they do their work, they pray some more. They eat, they pray, they do some more work, they pray some more, and then they go to bed. It’s rather plain, just like most people. The genius of Saint Benedict is to find the presence of God in everyday life.’ (52)

Making Room for God

What Dreher is proposing for postmodern Christians is to focus on “finding the presence of God in everyday life.” While this objective is simple enough, it is hard to apply. Consider his advice:

Here’s how to get started with the antipolitical politics of the Benedict Option. Secede culturally from the mainstream. Turn off the television. Put the smartphones away. Read books. Play games. Make music. Feast with your neighbors. It is not enough to avoid what is bad; you must also embrace what is good. (98)

If you think these prescriptions are easy, try turning off the television set. I attended a funeral about two years ago where the man was buried with a television remote in his hand. Or how about the smartphone suggestion? My wife, who teaches in the public schools, cannot get through to her students because they are distracted by cellphones constantly and refuse to study. These seemingly simple suggestions represent radical departures from American culture today.

Order in Disorder

Dreher writes: “If a defining characteristic of the modern world is disorder, then the most fundamental act of resistance is to establish order.” (54) Monks establish order, in part, by praying liturgy of the hours, which is seven times daily (58-59). By regularly returning to prayer, they are better able to reflect on God presence at each point in the daily routine. Dreher notes that “ascetical practices train body and soul to put God above self” (63) and provide an antidote to the spiritual sloth of our time (64). He notes:

A church that looks and talks and sounds just like the world has no reason to exist. A church that does not emphasize asceticism and discipleship is as pointless as a football coaching staff that doesn’t care if its players show up for practice. (121)

One of the things that I enjoyed most about interning as a chaplain in Providence Hospital’s Alzheimer’s unit was that I got to take the Catholic residents to mass every morning.

Monastery as School

Dreher places a special emphasis in his writing on education as a spiritual practice and cites Benedict’s rule which refers to the monastery as “school for the service of the Lord.” (148). He notes that “The classical Christian does not ask, ‘What can I do with this learning?’ but ‘What will this learning do to me?’” (160) Christian formation is the objective, not learning facts and figures that can easily be forgotten. He is particularly a fan of a classical Christian education which he prefers, because students learn to appreciate the history of the faith.

Reiteration of Argument

Dreher reminds the reader that:

If we don’t take on everyday practices that keep sacred order present to ourselves, our families, and our communities, we are going to lose it. And if we lose it, we are at great risk of losing sight of the One to whom everything in that sacred order, like a divine treasure map, points. (236)

While I know people who have ordered their lives by Dreher’s objectives, I know precious few and most have paid a hefty cost.

Summary

Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation ties together numerous concerns about the church and culture. He then offers the development of new schools and community as necessary components to maintaining a vibrant faith community in the face of the coming secular deluge.

In part one of this review, I outlined Dreher’s book. In part two, I looked at his definition of the problems facing the church and, in part three, I looked at his recommendation for dealing with those problems.

[1] @RodDreher, TheAmericanConservative.com/Dreher

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

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Grief Prayer

Frank and Gertrude Hiemstra, GraveGrief Prayer

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

God of all Mercy and Compassion:

You are the alpha and omega; the beginning and the end; the one who is, who was, and who is to come (Revelation 1:9). For you created heaven and earth for your glory and we praise you for their beauty and our creation (Psalm 19).

Presence

Make your presence especially known among us for our eyes are heavy with tears and our ears barely hear. With heavy hearts we, your people, stand before you today confessing our sins and our doubts but confident of the love of Christ.

We thank you for sharing these days with us during our season of life. We praise you for our friend’s compassion, quiet dignity and devotion to family,  constant smile and companionship, and daily presence in our lives.

Permission to Grieve

In the power of the Holy Spirit, grant us a season of grief as life passes. Open our hearts; let us cry; help us feel and express our loss.

Place your hedge of protection around us as we grieve. Protect our persons and our spirits; guard our relationships; keep our jobs. Let us not have to choose between expressing our grief and other things.

Godly Grief

May our grief be godly grief until salvation, not worldly grief that leads to sin and death (2 Corinthians 7:10). In our grieving, let us be like Job who did not sin in spite of many afflictions (Job 1:13-22). But let us turn to you in our lament, great giver of life, to empty our hearts of the pain, the shame, the guilt, and the grief so that we might once again enter your gates with praise. For we know that you grieved over Lazarus and the widow’s son, and raised them both from the dead even though no words of faith were spoken (John 11:1-46; Luke 7:11-17).

May we know that through Jesus Christ death is not the final answer. Let us be like Him will one day be raised from death to new life. Remind us daily that: “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Turning to You

By the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us the strength to turn to you in our grief, following the example of Christ at Gethsemane (Matthew 26:3). Let us live life in view of the resurrection and the eternal life that is ours in Jesus Christ (John 3:16).

In the strong name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

 

Also see:

Prayer for Father’s Day

Prayer for Moms

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

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Diane’s Passing

 

Cover for Called Along the Way
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him,
They have no wine. And Jesus said to her,
Woman, what does this have to do with me?
(John 2:3–4)

Diane’s Passing

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In 2006, my sister, Diane, developed a second round of breast cancer. She had started chemo-therapy unsuccessfully in the fall and planned a new round of chemo in the New Year. After Christmas I drove to Philadelphia to visit her and offer encouragement.

When I arrived, we walked around the house inspecting the renovations that she had contracted. She was especially proud of her new kitchen that included a system of warm water circulation in the floor tiling.

I bought her a DVD film starring Queen Latifah, Last Holiday,1 which we watched together. The film is the story of a woman, Georgia, diagnosed with a fatal neurological disorder who blows her life savings visiting a celebrity chef working in a large, luxury hotel, called the Grandhotel Pupp in the Czech Republic. During her visit, Georgia discovers hidden talents, finds love, and, in the end, learns that she had been misdiagnosed. I hoped the film would offer Diane hope and the strength to persevere in her new chemo treatments.

Saying Goodbye

On Monday, February 12, 2007, my mother called me as I commuted to work in Washington D.C. with a colleague. She told me that Diane had taken a turn for the worse. What had begun days earlier as an adverse reaction to chemo had by Sunday night left Diane with blood clots, a heart attack, and a stoke. As she lost consciousness, she asked for her two brothers, for John and for me.
I returned to Centreville, dropped off my colleague, and picked up John. Together, we then traveled to Springfield, Pennsylvania, where Diane lay in the intensive care unit of the local hospital. Our parents waited for us, having traveled earlier in the week on a visit.

When John and I arrived at the hospital mid-morning, Diane lay unresponsive on life-support. The person I saw lying in the hospital bed no longer looked like my sister and the doctors opined that nothing more could be done. I consoled my brother-in-law, Hugo, while we waited for their pastor. Once he arrived, we read Psalm 23 and prayed. Then, we instructed the doctor to remove Diane from life support and sat with her as she took her last breaths.

The Funeral Services

Hugo and my father worked to schedule funeral services for Thursday at Diane’s home church, First Presbyterian Church, in Springfield, Pennsylvania and for Saturday at LPC in McLean, Virginia, where Diane would also be interned in the family burial plot. I thought to attend the LPC service, but my father insisted that I eulogize Diane at both services.

As I prepared my eulogy, I realized that the two, enduring friends of my youth, Diane and our cousin, Carol, had preceded me in death although I had preceded them in life. Carol died years earlier at the age of 31 of an undiagnosed heart condition leaving behind John and Jackie, ages three and four; Diane left behind a teen-aged son, William, who grieved fiercely. My grief ran silent and deep. The passing of Diane and Carol brought my mortality more clearly into view, sharpening my sense of urgency in attending to life’s work.

At the Springfield service, the only people that I knew were family members and my friend, Jon, from high school, who pastors a Lutheran church in Pennsylvania. As I grieved Diane, I drew comfort from the fellowship of about 350 saints who also mourned my sister. As I looked out from the pulpit in McLean, I could see the entire Hiemstra family, many friends in Christ, and about a dozen friends from my office.

Wedding at Cana

Diane’s funeral service served as a “Wedding at Cana” moment in my ministry. Just as Mary drafted Jesus into solving the wine problem at the wedding, my father drafted me to lead Diane’s eulogy. Later I noticed that the colleagues who saw me in the pulpit and heard my eulogy stopped using profanity in my presence.

Over the following year, I began to think differently about part-time seminary studies. In March of 2008 I drove to Charlotte, North Carolina with a friend to attend an open house at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS). Walking through the door, GCTS students greeted us.  We felt truly welcomed seeing many second career students and learning that the entire curriculum could be taken during long weekend visits. Unlike at other seminaries, at GCTS we could continue working while we studied.

Also unlike other seminaries that I visited, African Americans made up about a third of the students. African American students were largely absent on other seminary campuses. Having worked in Washington D.C. for twenty-seven years, I had many African American colleagues, felt comfortable in their presence, and respected their deep spirituality. Seeing the African American students at GCTS gave me comfort that I had finally found the right seminary home.

When I returned to my home in Centreville, I applied to GCTS, was accepted and began classes the following August. I never experienced such joy as I felt on entering seminary.

 

Also see:  Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

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Dreher Sees Flood, Offers Ark, Part 2

Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option

Dreher Sees Flood, Offers Ark, Part 2

Rod Dreher.[1] 2017. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. New York: Sentinel. (Goto part 1; Goto part 3)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

For those of us active in church leadership, the hollowing out of the Christian faith is nothing new. Biblical illiteracy has reached the point that seminaries routinely test their new students on their biblical competency and about 90 percent of incoming students are required to take remedial work in biblical studies. Because it is hard to apply biblical knowledge to solving life’s daily challenges if the Bible is largely unknown even by the clergy, it is small wonder that the church has not prevailed in influencing postmodern culture.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

In The Benedict Option Rod Dreher makes the point about biblical illiteracy citing sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Denton who define the religion of American teenagers as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD).  MTD has five basic tenets:

  1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to solve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die. (10).

  MTD is especially prevalent among Catholic and mainline Protestant young people, according to Dreher. The problem is that it has little to do with the God of the Bible and focuses on the worship of the self and material comforts (10-11).

If the church has lost the culture wars, the lost emanated from inside the church outwards. Therefore, the hollowing of the church is the problem, not barbarians at the gates. Still, Dreher sees barbarians anxiously taking advantage of the church’s lost vision (16-17).

How Did We Get To This Point?

Dreher sees five landmark events over seven centuries rocking Western civilization and stripping its ancestral faith:

  1. In the fourteenth century, the loss of belief in the integral connection between God and Creation—or in philosophic terms, transcendent reality and material reality.
  2. The collapse of religious unity and religious authority in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.
  3. The eighteenth century Enlightenment, which displaces the Christian religion with the cult of Reason, privatized religious life, and inaugurated the age of democracy.
  4. The Industrial Revolution (ca 1760—1840) and the growth of capitalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  5. The Sexual Revolution (1960—present) (22-23).

It is interesting that Dreher reverse-engineers the antecedents of the postmodern era. The enchanted world that he sees prior to William of Ockhams (1285-1347) development of nominalism or metaphysical realism. This world distinguishes God from his creation (not realism which keeps them united, according to Dreher) can actually be traced to the first verse of the Bible. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (23-27). In order to create the universe, God had to have been separated from it.

Commentary on Worldview

As a conservative Catholic, Dreher begins his march towards postmodernism with a Middle Ages world view, not a biblical world view, as might be more typical of a Protestant writer. Dreher’s starting point is important because it colors his view of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. In my own thinking, for example, I have often referred to scientific discoveries as “God’s Easter Eggs” which he hides from us in such a way to assure that we would find them. If all of knowledge is God’s knowledge, our faithfulness is not necessarily undermined by what we know so much as our attitude about it.

The more corrosive problem that arose in the nineteenth century was not so much the Industrial Revolution or the Enlightenment, but emergence of the Romantic movement. Dreher writes:

The Romantics, as they were called, found many aspects of the new rationalist, mechanized society distasteful but had no interest in returning to the Christian world. They prized emotion, individuality, nature, and personal freedom. (38)

Here attitudes about God and his relationship with human beings and the created order clearly changed. If Christians came to believe that God primarily worked through our feelings, not our minds, then it was a small step to insert the self in place of God. This is because no one outside the self can mediate our feelings, which ultimately undermines the authority of the church and scripture.

The Sexual Revolution

Sexuality might easily remain the domain of family life within the community. However, if the self mediates feelings, sexuality takes on a completely new role. Dreher writes:

‘Eros must be raised to the level of a religious cult in modern society, not because we really are that obsessed with it, but because the myth of freedom demands it.” Says political philosopher Stephen L. Gardner. ‘It is in carnal desire that the modern individual believes he affirms his individuality.’ The body must be the true subject of desire because the individual must be the author of his own desire. (43)

If this comment appears oblique, think of it as a creation story for the individual. Much like Marx banned Bibles because his communism lacked a valid creation story, postmoderns deny God’s sovereignty through the worship of desire and must have their own creation story, which however unlikely places the individual at the center of the universe [of desire].[2]

Summary

Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation ties together numerous concerns about the church. He then offers the development of new schools and community as necessary components to maintaining a vibrant faith community in the face of the coming secular deluge.

In part one of this review, I outlined Dreher’s book. Part two looks at his definition of the problems facing the church. In part three, I will look at his solution to those problems.

References

Gardner, Stephen L. 1998. Myths of Freedom: Equality, Modern Thought, and Philosophical Radicalism. Greenwood.

Smith, Christian and Melinda Lundquist Denton. 2005. Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. New York: Oxford University Press.

[1] @RodDreher, TheAmericanConservative.com/Dreher

[2] This is why gender advocates express no interest in hearing about the problems—disease, drug abuse, suicide, depression—created by the risky behavior that they advocate. To recognize these problems, they must admit that they have no credible creation story and that God is sovereign.

Also See:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

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Family Prayer

Maryam and Stephen Wedding 1984
Wedding 1984

Family Prayer

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Our heavenly Father,

Thank you for our families,

the ones who raise and care for us when we are small and weak

and cannot care for ourselves.

Break the power of evil words and weak DNA to hurt our family.

Cast out sin and the power of evil to influence them.

Bless our parents, our siblings, our aunts and uncles, and grandparents

with faith and wisdom and your Holy Spirit

that their example may reflect Christ’s teaching to the whole community.

Through the power of your Holy Spirit,

may their lips always profess thanks and lift up the good around them

and may we care for our families even more dearly than they cared for us.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Also see:

Prayer for Father’s Day

Prayer for Moms

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

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