July 27, 2004


Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Permalink

It’s well known that in Mark’s Gospel things happen “immediately.” The word appears repeatedly. Mark 1:10: “And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw…. Mark 1:12: “Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.” Mark 1:18: “They immediately left their nets and followed.” Mark 1:20: “And immediately he called them….” And so forth. Jesus and His disciples act immediately.

The Greek word translated “immediately” here is eutheos (sorry: can’t do Greek font). That’s the adverbial form of euthus, which means “straight.”

And what I noticed tonight is the quotation in Mark 1:3. Mark is citing Isaiah: “The voice of one crying: In the wilderness prepare the way of YHWH; make his paths straight (euthus).”

YHWH’s paths are to be straight when he comes to his people, and then we find that Jesus, who is YHWH coming to his people, does everything straightway (to use an older expression). Interesting, no?

Posted by John Barach @ 10:55 pm | Discuss (0)
July 26, 2004

“No Thanks. We Ate Last Week.”

Category: Theology - Liturgical :: Permalink

Several times in the years I’ve been a pastor, I’ve encountered a strange and disturbing phenomenon.

Visitors arrive at the church on a Sunday when we’re having the Lord’s Supper (which so far has never been weekly in the congregations I’ve served). When someone mentions to them that we’ll be partaking of the Supper and that as Christians they’re welcome to partake with us, they decline. The reason? They had the Lord’s Supper last Sunday. And so, while the rest of the congregation eats and drinks, they sit there and wait for the Supper to be over.

It’s hard for me to express how strange I find that behaviour.

Imagine inviting someone into your house. While he’s there, you invite him to stay for lunch. “No thanks,” he says. “I’d really rather not eat with you today. I ate at your place a week ago and I don’t want to do that again for a while.”

Wouldn’t you be upset? Wouldn’t you think his response was more than bit rude? And is it any different when Christ’s guests refuse to eat at His Table because, after all, they ate there last week and would rather not do so too often?

Given that eating the bread together forms us into one body, isn’t a refusal to participate tantamount to a refusal to be one body with the congregation you’re visiting?

Given that the Lord’s Supper memorializes Christ, isn’t a refusal to eat and drink a refusal to proclaim His death? Isn’t that a sin?

Given that when we eat and drink we’re nourished by Christ’s body and blood, wouldn’t you want to partake of the Supper as often as you could? Can you ever be so full of that Supper that you don’t need it again for a while? Can you ever be so full that it would be bad for you to partake again? Can you ever be so full that it wouldn’t be rude for you to tell Christ you don’t want to eat at His Table today?

Underlying this behaviour, it seems to me, is a very strange view of the Supper. But what exactly is that view? And how should it be addressed,¬†especially when you’re dealing with visitors and not with church members who can be taught from week to week?

Posted by John Barach @ 9:25 pm | Discuss (0)

Castleview and Beyond

Category: Literature :: Permalink

Last week, I galloped through Gene Wolfe‘s Castleview. It was a very enjoyable read, but I can’t say that I’ve figured everything out yet. Not by a long shot. In fact, it’s one of the more mysterious Wolfe novels I’ve read.

Most of the story is fairly straightforward: a family moves to the town of Castleview and rapidly gets caught up in strange events with another overlapping world, the world of the castle, all of which has something to do with the King Arthur story.

But then the questions start. If the book were by another writer, I might conclude that it was simply full of odd plot holes, but this is Gene Wolfe, the lover of puzzles and the guy who, by his own testimony, gives a clue only once. Which means that these things probably wouldn’t seem like holes if only I had caught all the clues.

The book was a lot of fun. And now I’m on to Chaim Potok’s The Book of Lights. I’ve always loved Potok’s ability to draw his readers into the world(s) of Judaism, and this book is no exception.

Posted by John Barach @ 6:36 pm | Discuss (0)

Romans 6

Category: Bible - NT - Romans :: Permalink

Here’s a snippet from N. T. Wright‘s recent commentary on Romans. I’ve chopped Wright’s one long paragraph into several for easier reading. Wright is dealing here with Romans 6:

This chapter shines a bright spotlight on the dangerous half-truth, currently fashionable, that “God accepts us as we are.” Indeed, the question of 6:1 could be read as raising exactly this question: Will “God’s acceptance” do as a complete grounding of Christian ethics? Emphatically not. Grace reaches where humans are, and accepts them as they are, because anything less would result in nobody’s being saved. Justification is by grace alone, through faith alone.

But grace is always transformative. God accepts us where we are, but God does not intend to leave us where we are. That would be precisely to “continue in sin, that grace may abound.”

Unless we are simply to write Romans 6 out of the canon, the radical inclusivity of the gospel must be matched by the radical exclusivity of Christian holiness. There is such a thing as continuing to let sin reign in one’s mortal body, and it will require serious moral effort to combat this tendency.

The idea that Christian holiness is to be attained by every person simply doing what comes naturally would actually be funny were it not to prevalent. True freedom is not simply the random, directionless life, but the genuine humanness that reflects the image of God. This is found under the lordship of Christ. And this lordship makes demands that are as testing and difficult as they are actually liberating (p. 548).

Posted by John Barach @ 6:05 pm | Discuss (0)
July 24, 2004

Wright on Resurrection

Category: Theology - Soteriology :: Permalink

Here’s a recent interview with N. T. Wright on the resurrection.

Wright claims that many Christians today are weak on the doctrine of the resurrection, and my own experience would bear that out. I once preached on Christ’s ascension and had a man say to me, in some astonishment, “You mean Jesus still has a body in heaven? I thought he left it behind when he ascended.” I had similar experiences in catechism classes when we dealt with the resurrection.

Somehow the intermediate state (disembodied existence in heaven) has eclipsed the final state (a re-embodied existence in a new heavens and new earth) in many Christians’ minds. (Thanks, Gideon, for the link!)

Posted by John Barach @ 9:53 pm | Discuss (0)
July 13, 2004


Category: Literature,Poetry :: Permalink

The latest issue of The Atlantic contains this beautiful poem: “Gift” by Brooks Haxton. (Thanks to Gideon for the link!)

Posted by John Barach @ 6:22 pm | Discuss (0)
July 12, 2004

The Scientists’ Prayer

Category: Science :: Permalink

The prayer of the scientist if he prayed, which is not likely: Lord, grant that my discovery may increase knowledge and help other men. Failing that, Lord, grant that it will not lead to man’s destruction. Failing that, Lord, grant that my article in Brain be published before the destruction takes place. — Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins, p. 7.

Posted by John Barach @ 8:20 pm | Discuss (0)
July 8, 2004

Home At Last!

Category: Updates :: Permalink

At long last, Moriah and I are home in Grande Prairie!

We arrived back in Moscow after our week in Coeur D’Alene on Friday, July 2. On Saturday, we visited the Farmer’s Market and Goodwill and did some preparation for moving before spending the evening at Chip and Janet Lind’s place. Both Saturday and Sunday, we house- and dog-sat for the Greenfields.

On Sunday, we attended Trinity Reformed Church in Moscow, where Peter Leithart preached a very good sermon on Hebrews 9:1-10. That afternoon, we napped and opened wedding presents. We spent Sunday evening with Chris and Nery Morris. (Thanks to Chris for reading Scripture at our wedding.).

On Monday, my mother dropped my father off in Moscow and then continued on her way back home to Red Deer. My parents had been on vacation in Arizona and Utah and were returning home, but my dad stopped to drive our moving truck as far as Red Deer. That afternoon, Chip, my father, and I loaded up the truck. (I apologize for the confusion in the last post, which I wrote late in the day and which made it sound as if we loaded up on Tuesday and were travelling on Wednesday.)

We had breakfast with Roy and Bev Atwood on Tuesday, picked up something to drink at Bucer’s, and then headed out. A few miles south of Sandpoint, we joined a several-mile-long line of cars. As it turned out, a motor home had caught fire and traffic was blocked on both lanes for a couple of hours.

At 4:00 in the afternoon, we caught up to my father, who was waiting for us in Bonner’s Ferry, and then we drove on together to the border. We stopped first at the American side to export Moriah’s car, and then we arrived at the Canadian border.

To our great joy, the border crossing went extremely smoothly. We first talked to the Immigration officer, who was very friendly and who gave us some good information. Then a man from Border Services went through the process for importing Moriah’s car and goods. Within about an hour, we were on our way again with all of Moriah’s things, rejoicing in God’s grace. Thanks to all of you who prayed for us !

We crossed the border a little after 6:00 in the evening (BC/Idaho time), which meant that we arrived in Red Deer around 3:00 AM (Alberta time). We were all very tired and so Moriah and I didn’t get up until around noon on Wednesday. We then drove the rest of the way to Grande Prairie, arriving here around 11:00 PM. And today, with the help of Leo Wattel and Jamie Soles, we unloaded the truck. Now, we’re unpacking and sorting through things. With Moriah and her things here, my house is starting to look like our home.

Again, thanks to everyone who prayed for us and who helped with the move. It’s good to be home!

Posted by John Barach @ 8:34 pm | Discuss (0)
July 6, 2004


Category: Updates :: Permalink

Today, Chip Lind, my father, and I loaded up a moving van full of Moriah‘s possessions. Tomorrow, my father will be driving that truck as far as my parents’ home in Red Deer, while Moriah and I will be travelling the same way in her car.

Please pray for our safety as we travel, and especially pray that God would be gracious to us when we come to the border and that we will be able to bring all of Moriah’s things across.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:55 am | Discuss (0)
July 1, 2004

White House Grill

Category: Updates :: Permalink

Last night, after a relaxing day, Moriah and I drove out to Post Falls, where we ate at The White House.

The meal was fantastic. It began with French bread to dip in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic. It continued with salads, a very delicious Caesar salad for Moriah and a Greek salad for me. And then came the main course: Moriah had the sea bass with the prawn and chicken kebabs, while I had the Turkish plate with roast lamb. Afterwards, we had baklava for dessert with Au Chocolat port. The port blended perfectly with the baklava. It was wonderful, easily the best meal Moriah and I have yet had on our honeymoon in this area full of good restaurants.

Posted by John Barach @ 8:56 pm | Discuss (0)