Monday, January 07, 2008

Smackdown! OT vs NT

So, this is what I considered naming the class I began teaching on Sunday mornings at church. I was struggling to come up with a nice title, and that one struck a cord with me. Alas, knowing the class I would be teaching would not find it amusing (nor most other people, I suspect) I went with something different. A little more blasé, perhaps, but "From Old to New - God's Unchanging Word" goes a little better in the class schedule under Adult Class #4.

So, what I'm actually teaching about is this: God is eternal, He is the same. Though how He has interacted with His creation has changed, His word is the same throughout. We often refer to ourselves as New Testament Christians - this is a self-affirming statement, as Christ is the new testimony of Jehovah. Jesus' words and actions only exemplify and explain the same things that Jehovah tried to get people to understand for centuries before Jesus ever walked the earth. I will be leading the class through a study of several topics (probably one a week) and how our understanding of this topic from the New Testament (where, by in large, most Christians focus their study) is older by far. We will talk about how Christ's and the disciples teaching echo and clarify what we read in the Old Testament.

So, I hope it will be interesting. They're stuck with me until May. Poor people, don't know what their in for. I'm sure it wont be long until them discover my teaching skills a fraud.

Yesterday I centered the discussion around the ideas of social justice in the bible. From Jesus' distillation of the law, summed up as love God, love your neighbor (echoed by Paul in Romans 13) to His example of the saved and condemned in Matthew 25, it all points to being involved in the lives of others. When proclaiming His ministry (Luke 4:18-19), Jesus reads from Isaiah:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
It seems pretty clear what Jesus intent for how God's people should live was (and is). And it is old, old. The simple fact that Jesus reads this from Isaiah, written some 600 years beforehand, says that. Read Isaiah 58:1-12, or Zechariah 7-8, and you will see just how fed up Jehovah was (and is) with self-centered worship. Don't fast for yourselves, He tells them over and over, but deal with people with truth, with justice, with compassion and mercy, with food and shelter, with hope for the oppressed.

This topic, of course, is easy for me to talk about; it has been so heavy on my heart for such a long time that the words flow. Further topics should prove interesting: grace and mercy, hope, peace/violence, . . . I'll probably post some of the more interesting discussions here.

One thing was raised in conversation after the class: a lady told me about a friend who married a Muslim man and converted to Islam. Talking with her friend, she was told that Ramadan ends up being a contentious period in the Muslim year. She was told that the daily fasting for six weeks ends up making people a tad grumpy and tempers more easily flare. Sitting in my class yesterday morning, she wondered if their practice of fasting is not comparable to the selfish fasts found in Isaiah 58: and Zechariah 7. I think that's a good question, and one not just applicable to Muslims, either. The fasting comparison is very direct, yes, but we Christians have many cherished practices that are at least as equally self-centered.

more . . .
One thing I told the class (stolen from Andrew Peterson) was that I did not want to spend time in there toasting marshmallows on the burning bush. I don't want to rehash the same conclusions we've reached a million times before, not learning anything new. Nor do I want to treat the words of God as old hat. It's not, and if I can't learn at least a little something new every time I hear His word then I've had blinders on and only saw what I wanted to see. This is a big struggle, for me and many others, because we don't like to challenge our beliefs and "knowledge". Anyway, I don't want to approach God and His word to us so lightly that it's like I'm ignoring something profoundly holy. Yeah, and I guess that was another reason to not go with the above title - a little too WWE for what I'm really trying to do.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment. Be nice, and it'll stay. Be mean, and it'll go.