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July 31, 2012Culture

Morning Roundup - July 31, 2012

Skye reminds me of why we call it "The Lord's Day."

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! Why It Matters When We Gather for Worship. -- Skye Jethani

We need to remember that there is a deeper reason why the church has worshiped on Sunday mornings--one that is still relevant today.

When Jesus rose from the grave, he was doing more that conquering death. He was doing more than displaying the vindication of God. He was doing more than giving us hope for our own resurrections in the age to come. Jesus' resurrection is the first fruit of the New Creation. His raised and transformed body, as Paul lays out in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 8, is indicative of the transformation that awaits all the saints and the creation itself.

Following the creation account in Genesis 1, Sunday is the first day of creation. So Jesus is raised on a Sunday to mark the beginning of God's new creation. This fact was not lost on the early Christians. They did not worship on Sunday because it was convenient. They gathered on Sundays because they were people of the new creation, people of the resurrection, and people of the in-breaking Kingdom of God.

The move away from Sunday worship can have many motivations, and some of them are honorable and even Spirit-guided. But I sense some congregations opt for non-Sunday worship without considering these deeper realities. In other words, the merely utilitarian reasons on which which we abandon Sunday may be another sign of how theologically, historically, and biblically ignorant we have become. We view our gatherings as a time of self-improvement, therapeutic enrichment, social connection, or artistic expression--and it can be these things. So we make human-centered, self-centered decisions about when these functions can happen most conveniently during the week.

Keener provides a fascinating look at history and how it points to Jesus' existence.

Jesus Existed -- Craig S. Keener

Contrary to some circles on the Internet, very few scholars doubt that Jesus existed, preached and led a movement. Scholars' confidence has nothing to do with theology but much to do with historiographic common sense. What movement would make up a recent leader, executed by a Roman governor for treason, and then declare, "We're his followers"? If they wanted to commit suicide, there were simpler ways to do it.

One popular objection is that only Christians wrote anything about Jesus. This objection is neither entirely true nor does it reckon with the nature of ancient sources. It usually comes from people who have not worked much with ancient history. Only a small proportion of information from antiquity survives, yet it is often sufficient.

We recognize that most people write only about what they care about. The only substantive early works about Socrates derive from his followers. The Dead Sea Scrolls extol their community's founder, but no other reports of him survive. The Jewish historian Josephus claims to be a Pharisee, yet never mentions Hillel, who is famous in Pharisees' traditions. Israeli scholar David Flusser correctly observes that it is usually followers who preserve what is most meaningful about their teachers, whether the leaders were Buddha, Muhammad, Mormon leader Joseph Smith or African prophet Simon Kimbangu.

Interestingly, however, once ancient writers had reasons to care about Jesus, they did mention him.

Geoff provides a look at how to deal with tragedy.

How Should Your Church Respond to Tragedy? -- Geoff Surratt

Early Friday morning, while I slept at my house 12 miles away, James Holmes entered Theater 9 at the Century Theater in Aurora, Colorado and began firing a variety of weapons into the crowd. By the time he was done he had killed at least 12 innocent victims and shattered the lives of dozens more. He drew his inspiration for this horrible carnage from the Batman comics and movies, and his weapons of choice were two handguns, a shotgun and a semi-automatic assault rifle. With the echo of Columbine still in our subconscious, Denver was again rocked by the senseless massacre of young, innocent victims. How should churches respond to this tragedy?

Should we rise up, with the World Council of Churches and others, and demand a limit on guns for private citizens? How can it be okay for a 24 year old student to buy an assault rifle and 6000 rounds of ammunition? There is no scenario where that ends well. Surely the local church should be the voice of reason and put an end to the madness.

Or should we focus on the glorification of violence in movies and video games? Any Batman fan immediately saw direct parallels between the horrific crime in Aurora and Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker in the Dark Knight. How long will we continue to applaud and award psychopathic violence on the screen and be shocked and appalled when that violence is reflected in real life? Surely the local church should take up this cause.

Maybe the church should take a vocal stance for (or against?) the death penalty. As soon as the young man who committed this atrocity was identified Twitter lit up with demands that he be executed. The Bible clearly teaches an eye for an eye and this case exemplifies the necessity of capital punishment in a civilized society. Or the church should lead the call for consequences bathed in grace. The actions of a civilized society should not be dictated by the actions of the deviant, therefore capital punishment should be abolished.

What is the biblical response?

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Morning Roundup - July 31, 2012