Category Archives: Faith

Consequences

“The crucifixion was the consequence of the incarnation.” This statement was given to me from one of my favorite professors at Fuller, Dr. Marianne Meye Thompson, in a class that explored the significance of the cross in the New Testament. Her claim has stayed with me, years after leaving that class, and I have written here before of how that thought has impacted the way I have understood my own life in ministry and God’s love for the world.

This past week I was thinking about the incarnation, and I wondered aloud to myself in the car whether the incarnation was the consequence of God. In the same way that Jesus public ministry was one steady progression toward Jerusalem’s cross, the testament of Yahweh as creator and liberator and King is likewise one of a steady progression toward Bethlehem’s cradle.

“Crib and cross—they are both of the same wood, they are of a piece.”

That was how Helmet Thielicke described it, and yet we are tempted to reserve scandal for the cross and take the incarnation as a sentimental gesture.

I was struck this past year by a passage in Exodus where God proclaims his name to Moses. Exodus thirty-four says that: “the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

I recently suggested to Doug that his youth choir sing an arrangement of a song for our Christmas Eve service this year that is more of an Easter song than a Christmas one. There were no angel choirs at the empty tomb, I reasoned. The incarnation was their gloria.  I think we can afford to recover a bit of their awe and hear in a baby’s cry the same name Moses heard on a mountain side.

The incarnation is the consequence of God being his name. It is the consequence of a God persistent in pursuit of relationship with his people; it is the consequence of God being who he says he is in relationship to his creation. It is not some strange, surprising detour from a preferred plan.

“Crib and cross…they are of a piece.”

Quotation of the Week

Doug has been working on a few assignments for an Ethics class he took at Fuller last month, and occasionally he will email me snippets of what he is reading. Last night, he sent the following:

“If conversion should be a turning to God and neighbor…then we must ask ourselves whether we perhaps do not show greater respect to images made of wood than to human beings who are living images of God. We must ask ourselves whether we are not more courteous to images than to the human beings who are sunk in ignorance, sorrow, poverty, and slavery.”

-Bishop Leonidas Proaño

Ears to hear

We are on vacation enjoying a week of lake-life with my folks, and a neighbor’s high-speed internet lured me online briefly last night. I came across a very short video featuring a few thoughts shared by our friend, John Goldingay, on what concerns him about the church today. Listening to John in this video reminded me of another esteemed Fuller prof, Miroslav Volf, speaking to our class one Monday afternoon, growing animated as he described what went on in the pulpits of most churches he encountered in the area. I remember perfectly clearly the way his blue eyes blazed when he said that we would be better off if the sermon were scrapped altogether and the Scriptures simply read aloud, big chunks of them at a time.

HELL IN A HAND BASKET from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

Haubs and Kinnons and Staubs, oh my!

ferry2

Imbi, Erika, Bill and Doug

2 Haubs, 2 Staubs, 2 Kinnons part 2

Erika and Bill - the blog buddies

We made it up to Orcas Island for the last full day of KindlingsFest 2009 and had a delightful day with new friends and old. The Staub girls courageously wrangled our children for much of the day, and Kathy was the consummate hostess as always. A chance to spend time with Imbi and Bill Kinnon was a total treat! The day ended with dessert and wine at the Staub house with an amazing view of the thunderstorm. It was well worth the 4:30am wake-up and late night post-ferry drive home.

(Photos courtesy of Bill and Imbi Kinnon.)

John’s Eulogy for Ann

“But in her life, God’s strength sure came into its own in her weakness.  One of our friends in an email spoke of his “vivid memory of the day you told me of Ann’s illness all those years ago, and of your faith then that God was in it and with you and always would be.”  Forty-three years ago, it was, and God has been in it, and with her, and with me, all through.”

An excerpt from John Goldingay’s eulogy for Ann found on his Fuller web page: scroll to the very bottom under “Articles and Papers”.

For Ann

It can be the most unlikely person who impacts us the most deeply. It was not surprising that, as a student at Fuller Seminary and as a lover of all things Old Testament, I would find myself challenged and provoked and delighted by a man named John Goldingay. Purple shorts and Coldplay T-shirts and a winning accent sort of had me at hello! What I did not expect was to have my life changed by the mostly silent woman who sat in a wheelchair who was his wife, Ann.

Ann Goldingay was a steady presence in my Fuller experience. So much of how John offered himself to us as scholar and friend bore the mark of her life impressed upon his. As he would teach, it often felt as if she were there in the classroom with us. Ann and John also welcomed each class into their home nearby campus every quarter for tea and treats and occasionally a movie or some other diversion. And Ann and John were faithful in their attendance at chapel every week, much more so than I. Their worshiping presence was something I could always count on, seated toward the front and on the left.

Since leaving Fuller, we have seen the passing of David Scholer and Ray Anderson, two giants of faithful instruction at Fuller and beyond. And last week I received word that Ann Goldingay passed away. Ann too was a giant, and her life, and John’s life with her, instructed so many of us. Knowing Ann, and sharing the life of a community with her and John, is one of the enduring treasures from my years at Fuller.

As I have thought about Ann this past week, I have had different memories stand out in my mind. I remember the first time I was in their home, sitting somewhat awkwardly by her side, speaking with her without expecting any verbal response. I remember John, turning toward her with a smile and witty comment when she would cry out in the midst of a class visit. And I remember a September night when Ann and her wheelchair were carried up our long flight of stairs on Kenwood to join in a surprise celebration for my birthday.

In his book, Walk On, John Goldingay shares about his life with God through the journey of Ann’s battle with MS. In his chapter titled Calamity, he shares his thoughts on the book of Job. He writes:

“What we may be able to infer is that calamities do have explanations, even if we do not know what they are, for there is another feature of the story of Job that delights me every time I think about it, not least because it establishes a similarity between Job and us. It is that Job himself never knows about chapters 1 and 2 of “his” book. So he goes through his pain the same way we do. And he illustrates how the fact that we do not know what might explain our suffering, what purpose God might have in it, does not constitute the slightest suggestion that the suffering has no explanation…I cannot imagine the story that makes it okay for God to have made Ann go through what she has been through. But I can imagine that there is such a story.”

As I have thought about Ann these past days, I have been struck by a passage in Philippians chapter one that for me describes the kind of impact Ann has had on my life and on the lives of countless others. The apostle Paul writes of a different sort of bondage than that which robbed Ann of her movement and speech, but the truth of how that bondage impacted others I believe is the same. He writes:

“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel…Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly…

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.”

I don’t know ultimately what Ann’s chapter one and two are that might bring meaning to bear on her illness and suffering. But I can testify with certainty that there are significant riverbeds of  progress and joy that wind through my soul as a result of Ann Goldingay.

Ann, may the angels lead you into paradise: may the martyrs receive you at your coming, and lead you into the holy city, Jerusalem. May the choir of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have everlasting rest.

I love the Covenant

I had the privilege of attending my denomination’s Annual Meeting, held in beautiful Portland, Oregon, a few weeks back. I brought Mercy with me and she participated in the Covenant Kids program they provided while I attended the meetings. Doug took the boys with him to his Dad’s house for the weekend, and they had a ball too! The weather could not have been better during our stay and both Doug and I were reminded of how much we love the city of Portland!

I was honestly prepared to be a bit bored at this event. Having never attended before, I had in my mind that it would consist of long, drawn-out sessions that would not be altogether engaging. This was not my experience at all. I loved the event and was moved to tears on more than one occasion as our larger church “family” celebrated God’s work together.

I had the opportunity to sit with dear friends from Los Angeles, and to see their church-plant in Long Beach officially recognized as a new Covenant Church. I was also thrilled to have their pastor, John Teter, lead us in our corporate morning Bible study. It was one of those “worlds colliding” sort of moments, as I thought back on the many years of friendship we have shared with John and Becky, and to see that God has led them on a path into the Covenant church thrills me!

I also rejoiced with Daron and Kristin as Alive Covenant Church was officially welcomed and recognized as a new Covenant Church in nearby Poulsbo. Kristin and I were roommates one year in college, and I can still remember the charge given to them at their wedding (a total fairy-tale wedding I will never forget!) as they sought to follow God’s call to seminary. Their wedding was a commissioning of sorts for a life together in ministry, and seeing them and their FIVE beautiful children, with Kristin’s parents, on the stage was a beautiful picture of those prayers being fulfilled.

I enjoyed dinner by the pool with a Covenant church-planter and his lovely family from Helena, Montana, who happens to be an old friend from high school who I had not seen SINCE high school. Matt’s journey into the Covenant denomination is one that likewise brings me great joy and delight!

I also had the privilege of being present for the recognition of those commissioned and ordained, and to celebrate those callings during the ordination service. I watched as a new fellow-pastor friend in Seattle, Leah Klug, received her stole. I cheered for John Frye, a blogging friend I had never met in person until that night, who is newly a part of our denomination. And I watched as always with deep admiration as one of my heroes, Brenda Salter McNeil, received the laying on of hands as one newly ordained. It is my hope that I will be ordained at next year’s Annual Meeting in St. Paul.

And speaking of blogging friends, I managed to make my way over to Brad and Cheryl Boydston to introduce myself, having followed Brad’s blog for quite some time now. Cheryl and Brad have just returned from time teaching in Guam, and Cheryl laughed when I introduced myself via the blog connection. It really can be a very small world.

Other highlights included lots of time spent reconnecting with old friends and making a few new ones, lounging by the Red Lion pool while Mercy swam to her heart’s content, sharing a hotel room with my daughter for three days, and loving every minute spent running around in downtown Portland with the crew from L.A.

Our denomination’s president, Gary Walter, made a point to emphasize that, in an age of denominational decline, the Covenant is not followoing suite. In his words: “We are growing. We are growing younger. We are growing more diverse. We are growing in conscience.”

We used to joke in L.A. that I should have an “I Love the Covenant” t-shirt made. If I had one, I would happily wear it.

Annual Meeting

Dave Gibbons preached tonight at the opening worship service for the Annual Meeting of the Covenant. At one point he referenced the commands to love the Lord with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself and he highlighted the provocative way Jesus answered the question of “who is my neighbor”. And as he spoke about the church’s call to love those on the fringes, to love those who are not like us, he confessed the easy inclination toward homogeneity; the default setting of like attracting like. And he concluded: “We in the church have pimped the second commandment.”

Confirmation Sunday

Our congregation celebrated Confirmation Sunday a few weeks ago, and Pastor Mike asked me to say a few words to the confirmands before they received the gift of their Bibles. I stood before them and our congregation proudly holding my own burgundy, leather confirmation bible from so many years ago, and offered this:

I remember receiving this Bible in this room almost twenty-two years ago on my Confirmation Sunday. The name on it reads “Erika Carney” which is not my name anymore and the inscription inside says that it is given to my by North Seattle Covenant Church, which is not our church’s name anymore. The date written inside is June 1987. I was thirteen.

I remember how shiny and perfect it looked then. The edges of the pages were gold and shimmery. And I remember thinking it weighed a ton!

It became my Bible. The one I read and used and carried around with me to youth group and Hi-Tops rehearsals and Winter retreats and mission trips and CHIC.

It was also the Bible that sat on the nightstand beside my bed. And it was the one I committed to reading every night before going to bed.

It was the Bible that came with me to Cascades Camp where I worked as a Wrangler. One week I got roped into counseling and I can remember sitting in the grass, with my cabin of girls, and leading them in our afternoon Bible study from these pages.

It was the Bible that came with me to Venezuela and Mexico and South Africa. It was the Bible that came with me into the inner city of Chicago. I can remember standing in a lodge in Wisconsin where we had brought close to a hundred city kids for a weekend retreat, one of whom would later become my brother. And I stood in front of this crowd and read from these pages and told them that they could “choose life” and that Jesus loved them.

The first sermon I ever preached, in a little storefront church in Chicago, was preached from this book.

I don’t know when the shimmery gold rubbed away or when the spine came off, or when the cover and all of the edges became so cracked. I know that an elderly woman in another church where I served was so embarrassed by the condition of this Bible that she promptly went out and bought me a new one.

I used that new one for a while. And then I went to seminary, and you buy a LOT of books in Seminary. And I had to get a different translation to use for my classes. And of course I had to buy the Bible in its original languages of Greek and Hebrew. So for a few years, this Bible saw a bit less use.

I don’t remember exactly when it became “my Bible” again. Sometime before moving up here in December.

But it has again become my companion. And a few weeks ago I was sitting next to Howard Thompson during church and I looked down at the Bible he held in his lap. And my eyes were immediately drawn to the duct tape holding it together along the spine of the book. I don’t think I need to feel embarrassed here by my shabby Bible. In fact, I think I’m in pretty good company.

Two weeks ago, I went to the hospital to visit Dale Harper. This Bible came with me. Bob and Joy Drovdahl had also stopped in to see Dale, and when Dale saw the Bible in my hand he said with a smile: “Ah, she brought the good stuff.”

Today, each of you receives a Bible. It is shiny and perfect and its edges shimmer. And you too will think that it weighs a ton!

My hope and prayer for each of you is that this Bible you receive today is for you a companion as mine has been for me. As mine continues to be for me. Don’t let it stay too shiny; too perfect. It is not intended to be something pretty to be admired from a distance.

When I was handed this Bible twenty-two years ago, I had no idea the places it would go with me. I had no idea the life that was in store for me and where my journey with Jesus would lead me. I certainly had no idea, as a thirteen year old, that someday I would serve the church as a pastor and cling to the truth of these words with all of my life.

And as Dale reminded me the other night in a hospital room: may it be for each of you that when you see this Bible, you too might smile and remember: “This is the good stuff.”

Provocative

Bill Kinnon posts the following excerpt from an essay on the “Islamization of Christianity” by Udo Midleman:

When life gets tough, we have all heard here and there in Christian circles one or the other of the following comments: It was the right time for her to die. God must have had something better in mind. God in his grace took him home to himself. God allowed it to happen. He made it come to pass. God must have wanted it that way.

Wait a minute! Are these comments typical for Islam or do we hear and read them in wide circles of the contemporary church? They have a ring of familiarity about them. They are the comments made in the face of what we used to consider tragedies. People comfort each other by these words!

To the extend to which we agree with these statements and find them a comfort, we have ourselves moved over from a Biblical perspective to an Islamic one. The change can be gradual and insidious, but we have redefined God for the sake of our peace, our longing to make life in a fallen world less absurd existentially. We have found a way to make the experience of brokenness acceptable: we assume that it was acceptable to God.