In Galatians 2:11–21, the apostle Paul presents us with one of the most significant passages in the New Testament for those concerned with the faith and history of the early church. Paul recounts the dramatic conflict that occurred in Antioch when “some people from James” in Jerusalem (cf. Gal. 1:18–19; 2:7–9; Acts 12:17; 15:13–21; 21:18–25) came to visit the mixed church of Jews and Gentiles in Antioch, and “Cephas” (Aramaic for “Peter”) reacted by leading his fellow Jewish Christians in a withdrawal from meals with Gentile Christians. Almost certainly these meals included the Lord’s Supper, which in these early years was observed in connection with a full supper shared by the congregation (as suggested by 1 Cor. 11:20–22).
Okay, none of the stories that recently appeared on the web about a recent discovery in the Judean desert bore quite the headline above, but it’s not too far off from the tone of some of the reports. As posted on the National Geographic website among other places, archaeologists have found a twelfth cave in addition to the eleven previously excavated near the famous ruins in the vicinity of the Wadi (i.e., “dry stream-bed”) Qumran, a stone’s throw from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea.
Inside the cave these excavators found the remains of ancient clay jars, the pickaxes used to smash them in the mid-twentieth century by previous (and less scrupulous) explorers, and scraps of the material originally stored in the jars, including no actual scrolls but only the linen in which they would have been wrapped, plus some blank parchment. Biblical scholars, and scholars in general, are stereotypically sober and cautious types, not easily excited. What, then, would lead one scholar who knows the Qumran site well to characterize such a seemingly mundane find as “hard to believe,” “truly exciting,” and “truly significant”?
No book of the Old Testament was more helpful to the first Christians in comprehending what God had accomplished in Christ than Isaiah.
This post is adapted from a sermon preached on New Year’s Day, 2017, at the University Avenue Church of Christ in Austin, Texas.
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9 NRSV)
Image: “Bulgarian Madonna and Jesus Child,” by Tatiana Nikolova-Houston (used by permission)*
If your household is like the one I grew up in, then today carries a deadline — it’s the day the Christmas tree comes down and the decorations get boxed up and returned to the attic until next year. It’s the time to turn from the year that’s past and begin thinking about the year to come. And so it is for us as a church.
But before we put all the Christmas decorations back up in the church attic, I’d like to ask that we pause for a moment to reflect on what just happened, and what it means. What did we commemorate in the Christmas festival that we just finished celebrating as a church, as households, and as individuals? And what did God do for us in the events so long ago, which that celebration called to our minds?
Topics: On-Topic Today
Complaining about the quality of the presidential candidates on offer is a quadrennial American tradition; if you didn’t know better, you might suppose that it’s guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. This year, though, the complaints seem to have particular sincerity, as each day we draw closer to a choice at the ballot box between candidates whom polls say set records for unpopularity, with a majority of voters rating both candidates unfavorably. As seems to happen with increasing frequency, the public mood is captured by the online humor publication The Onion with its headline, “Voter Nostalgically Looks Back At Time He Was Uninformed About Candidates.”
That captures my mood, too. Electoral politics is the sport I follow most faithfully (it saves time, as in politics the Super Bowl only comes every four years), and I usually find the “game” absorbing, even when my “team” doesn’t win. This year, though, my thoughts keep recurring to the reality that in a few months, one of … these people is going to be handed the reins of the executive branch of the U.S. government and named commander in chief of the world’s most powerful military.
It’s the Alien vs. Predator election: whoever wins, we lose.
So, lately, I find myself wondering: IS IT TIME TO PANIC?! (Okay, maybe I should find a new hobby.)