Conversations at the end of sermons can go many places. I have forgotten most, but a few stand out. I particularly remember one that took place some thirty years ago. I was just into my first Senior Pastorate, having worked my way through the ranks of Youth Pastor and Associate Pastor. I was still in the process of completing my Ph.D. in Systematic Theology, having acquired a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology degree. Nonetheless, I felt overwhelmed and woefully inadequate. I felt very much a novice at preaching, pastoral care, and board leadership.
For the last six years my eyes and ears have been attuned to a spatial reading of the Scriptures. I wrote my first book on the spatial nature of the kingdom and have plans at some point to write a biblical theology of the descent-ascent theme that is found across the canon of Scripture. Recently I picked up Matthew Bates newest book, “Salvation by Allegiance Alone.” In the first part of the book, he gives an argument for what I would call a “wide angle lens” of the gospel, but he employed imagery that resonated with me. He argues that the gospel has a V-shape (he admits he heard this from Ben Witherington first). What does he mean by this?
It’s a rare seminary prospect who visits campus with his or her parents, so I clearly remember when Jeremy brought his folks with him just over two years ago. They had come from North Dakota, and as we waited in line for sandwiches at East Side Deli (just down Hawthorne Boulevard from Western’s campus at the foot of Mount Tabor), I wondered what they thought of Portland. The art for sale on the walls that month was a rather risqué set of cartoon illustrations, and I wondered if ¿Por Que No?, just across the street, would have been a better choice.
Passover is a springtime celebration—a time of new plantings and new beginnings. Passover and Israel’s exodus from Egypt marked a new beginning for Israel and served to illustrate God’s redemptive work. This is the event that the prophets and psalmists look back to and celebrate, even as followers of Jesus look back to and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and our deliverance from the bondage of sin to freedom in Christ.
On its surface, this passage looks like it means that one’s eternal salvation is determined by one’s acts of compassion. Whenever we help the disenfranchised and the downtrodden of society, our entrance into heaven is all the more assured. On the other hand, as I heard one famous teacher describe it, Jesus will turn away at the final judgment from self-identifying Christians who failed to help the poor during their lifetime, saying, “I don’t want to hear it!”