It’s easy for us to forget that the message of Jesus and the entire Bible come from an intensely Hebrew context and worldview. Jesus was a Jew teaching Jews, and bringing the words of scripture back to their original Hebrew language and setting, understanding what the first Jewish hearers of those words would have understood, is the closest we can come to their original intent.
Dave Brisbin | 10.15.17
At the end of John’s Last Supper account, Peter asks Jesus in the Latin version, “Quo vadis, domine?” Where are you going, Lord? Isn’t that the question we’ve all been asking since the very beginning and are still asking now? We’re still asking because a question this large, that encompasses all of life and all it means to be human, is not answered in a conversation. It’s not answered verbally at all, but in the actual following after…once we have discerned a general direction. And what is that direction? If we are willing to look at scripture in a different way, from Genesis to Revelation, the direction the Lord is going becomes apparent.
Dave Brisbin | 8.27.17
In saying that Jesus’ hidden years show us a life of willingness to let go of anything that is not truth, to descend first, with no guarantee of ascension, just a promise…what does that look like? What does it mean in real life? Our lives? Piecing together the clues in the few stories we have in the Gospels, it looks like leaving home. Leaving everything that is familiar, comfortable and comforting, what has always been and seems secure and certain, stepping out into the unknown without a safety net, away from those on which you’ve always depended. We see Jesus leaving home four times in the Gospels—short bloodless, matter of fact descriptions with little or none of the raw human emotion and drama of such leavings, both for Jesus and his loved ones.
Dave Brisbin | 8.20.17
Francis of Assisi is credited with saying that we should preach the Gospel continuously and use words where necessary. Taking his cue from Jesus, Francis understood that the Gospel was first a way of living life and only secondarily and of necessity a concept put into words. That words were only as good as the experience that gave them life. Jesus himself and his life itself is the message, the Way, but in our hyper-intellectualism, we miss all that, and in our focus on Jesus as God, we miss his life as a human, as a man—as scripture tells us: fully human, like us in all things, prone to all our weaknesses, learning and growing as we do, yet with an unquenchable desire to know truth, which brought him fully one with the Father, or as scripture puts it, “without sin.” What does that “gospel” look like, what does the shape of Jesus’ life tell us about the shape of ours?
Dave Brisbin | 7.30.17
How could an abundance of emphasis on the absolute love of God be a problem? What could go wrong? It is one of the ironies of my life and chosen profession that my absolute focus on the absolute nature of God’s love has placed me at odds with many of my Christian contemporaries, and though this over simplifies the nature of any controversy, it at least accurately expresses my intentions and the method in my “heresy.” At a recent gathering, in the midst of an energetic discussion, one man called me a “functional heretic,” a term I just loved and enthusiastically accepted. I knew what he meant: that I was someone pushing the envelope just short of too far to remain functioning within Christendom, remaining true to Jesus and his message even if expressed in radically different ways. But the reason I loved and accepted the term is because I believe it absolutely applies to Jesus as well.
Dave Brisbin | 6.18.17
On Fathers’ Day—Is our Father in heaven male? We call him Father after all…and “him.” Intellectually, most of us know God is spirit and neither male nor female, but emotionally, subconsciously, the feelings, the consequence of maleness surrounds our Western notion of God. To have been immersed in a male conception of God keeps him at a distance—the king, judge, executioner, administrator, creator/builder, lawgiver and standard bearer. We talk of the female attributes of our God: compassion, mercy, intimacy, love—but we really order our lives of faith and religion around the king, not the queen, Father, not Mother. Jesus had an ingenious way of dealing with this dilemma: while his people called God their Ab, Hebrew for father, he called his Father, Abba, the familiar, intimate name that Hebrew children use for their daddies to this day.
Dave Brisbin | 5.28.17
The theme of balance in kingdom life continues as we consider a very strange saying of Jesus: to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. In sending his followers out to teach and heal, what is he trying to tell them and by extension, us? To balance “shrewd,” as intelligent, thoughtful, discreet, practical, and cautious with “innocence,” characterized as simple, sincere, straightforward, without deceit is a difficult mix that seems to be in basic contradiction at first glance. But as with all of Jesus’ instructions, it’s not only possible, but necessary, of course.
Dave Brisbin | 5.14.17
Mothers’ Day: I was recently asked that though we know God loves us, how can we know he likes us? Great question, one that goes to the heart of our human experience. On Mothers’ Day, and by way of answering, it’s always good to be reminded of the ancient Hebraic understanding of the roles of mother and father that is coded right into their language. To understand father/Ab, as “strong house,” the support and structure of the family, and mother/Em as “strong water,” the glue that holds the family together, is fundamental to their life in family, tribe, and nation. But it also reveals their view of God as well.
Dave Brisbin | 5.7.17
The cross of Jesus is such a big and central message in Christianity that we need to spend more time on it. So continuing the discussion from the previous week’s message, “Lamb of God,” and in answer to the perennial questions—why is the bible so violent, and why would God sacrifice his son?—we’re looking at deeper ways of understanding Calvary that neither compromise the sacrifice of Jesus nor the love of the Father. In typical midrash fashion (see the message “Deeper Reading” for more on midrash), the New Testament writers portray Jesus on the cross using three deeply embedded images from the Old Testament: the Passover Lamb, the Lifted Up One, and the Scapegoat. To fully understand how Jesus’ first followers understood his sacrifice on the cross, we need to know how these three images functioned in the spiritual lives of the people and how they applied to the spiritual truth of Jesus’ sacrifice.
Dave Brisbin | 4.30.17
No matter what questions we ask of religion or church, scripture or theology, the subtext, the question we’re always really asking is the same: with all life’s pain, uncertainty, absurdity…do I matter? Am I safe? Whether we’re asking about heaven, hell, salvation, law, or any esoteric point of theology, what we’re really looking for is assurance, confidence in our own acceptability. That’s the human condition. And so it also is as we ask about the cross, about what it really means, and how Jesus as Lamb of God, an innocent blood sacrifice, impacts the nature of a God who Jesus tells us is absolutely all loving. Is there a way to understand the Lamb and the sacrifice in such a way that God’s loving nature is not compromised?
Dave Brisbin | 4.23.17
Just as Jesus’ closest friends were kept from recognizing him after the Resurrection because of their limiting expectations and beliefs, we are kept from seeing the deeper meaning of scripture for the same reason. But even to make such a statement that interprets a passage of scripture beyond the strictly literal meaning of the text demands some explanation. What is an acceptable method of scriptural interpretation that can take us to a deeper reading, a reading beyond the literal, moving us to a spiritual understanding and relevance for our daily lives that is still consistent with the author’s original intent? To answer that question, we need to know how the writers of scripture understood the interpretation of sacred texts in their own time.