Tag Archives: Presbyterian

Epistle of Marian to the Followers of this Blog

Marian, servant of God,[i] by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ[ii] and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,[iii]

to Constant Readers:[iv]

Peace out.

I have heard of your faithfulness, good looks, feats of strength, and general thingness.[v]  So…good job and keep circulating those tapes.

It’s been several months since you heard from me.  If this was first century Palestine, you’d attribute the hiatus to slow postal service or me getting eaten by lions somewhere, but thankfully, we’re two thousand years beyond all that, except, possibly, for slow postal service.  Lo, these last many weeks, I’ve been immersed in deep and significant higher learning about Presbyterian polity,[vi] creeds, and confessions,[vii] Biblical Greek,[viii] and Paul’s seminal epistle to the Romans.  It is in regards to Romans that I write you today.

The book of Romans has been freaking people out for centuries.  A madcap hybrid fund-raising letter/theological treatise written in characteristically incomprehensible Pauline Greek,[ix] the book of Romans kept Augustine up nights, inspired Luther to pound his historic list of grievances to the Wittenberg door, gave Calvin the idea of dressing up as a doubly predestined sinner for Halloween – a totally depraved act which, as we all know, led him to invent the Protestant Reformation[x] – and gave Barth something to read in his free time when he wasn’t pissing off the Third Reich.

After two months of dogged study, I am now fully qualified to stand shoulder to shoulder with these theological grandmasters and share my view of what, clearly, is the principal take-home message of this famous letter:

Grace, baby, grace.

kitten

I couldn’t come up with a meaningful picture of grace, so I opted for this kitten that looks like a marshmallow.

Oozing through this letter is the theme of God’s grace, which Paul presents alternately as a) God’s faithfulness to Israel and b) God’s justification of Christ-followers’ through forgiveness of sins.  N.T. Wright, an epicure and soldier on the front lines of the new-perspective-on-Paul, doesn’t see much of a difference between the two:  “Dealing with sin, saving humans from it, giving them grace, forgiveness, justification, glorification – all this was the purpose of the single covenant from the beginning, now fulfilled in Jesus Christ.”[xi]  Pretty much this means that God had it all figured out for all of us a long time ago and we can just get over our damn selves.

Now, I know that some of you are thinking, “Yeah, but what predestination?”  As a good Calvinist, I turn to Barth.[xii]  He said that humanity’s love for God originates in God, who exists outside chronological time, so a temporal human life can’t predicate predestined outcomes because in the mind of God, whatever we’re hurtling toward is already reality, so we can just get over our damn selves.  And anyway, God gets to pick no matter what and because God’s faithfulness and love surpass human belief or unbelief, we can stop worrying and just get over our damn selves.

Yes, yes, some of you are going to the dark side.  What about double predestination you say?  Paul sums it up best:

Nothing, you name it, separates us from God’s love.  Not even twerking.[xiii]

So, rejoice.  Let’s get over our damn selves and enjoy God’s grace, peace, and general thingness.  Amen.

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[i] Stop laughing.  I’m doing homage to a classic literary form here.

[ii] Please don’t hold this post against Jesus.  He’s been held against enough posts.

[iii] In the cunning guise of Rail Yard Red Ale and Frito pie.

[iv] Or Re-Readers, to which you’ve been reduced to since this blog hasn’t seen two microseconds worth of action in six frickin’ months.

[v] I also heard something about the Guinness people, a deacon clearly operating without adequate adult supervision, and a hot dog eating contest, but since you didn’t break the current record of six hot dogs consumed in under three minutes, I really don’t think that’s something we should broadly advertise.

[vi] Because, loosey goosey as our theology may be, by God, all Presbyterian pastors know how to run a decent and orderly meeting.

[vii] These are kind of like Presbyterian fight songs.  For example:  “Rah, rah, ree!  Total depravity!  Rah, rah, rent!  Limited atonement!  Rah, rah, race!  Irresistible grace!”  We have pompons and everything.

[viii] One of the peculiar hazing rituals to which Presbyterian candidates for ordination are subjected.

[ix] Through an aneurysm-inducing cocktail of participles, serial clauses, and run-on sentences, Paul makes his point in Koine Greek at least as well as I make mine in English with liberal applications of footnotes and semicolons.

[x] And Protestants have been protesting ever since.

[xi] From N.T. Wright’s latest New York Times bestseller, Justification: Twenty Centuries of Low-Fat Cooking on the Road to Damascus, p. 95.

[xii] While avoiding Calvin himself and his five centuries of bad press.

[xiii] Romans 8:38-39, slightly abbreviated and nominally paraphrased.

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(c) Marian the Seminarian, 2014


Marian wants YOU for Community of ONE

Well, constant readers, it’s been a looooong time since the last posting.  In my defense, I’ve been up to my eyeballs learning Biblical Greek, an ordination requirement of the PCUSA.[i]  You’ll be happy to know that after ten grueling weeks, I can now say, in grammatically correct Koine:

βλεπο νεκροι ανθροποι.  Αυτοι και ουκ γινουσι νεκροι.[ii]

Besides turning into a Greek geek, I’ve been helping overhaul the church universal.  Which may be a bit of an overstatement – or not, depending on how historians choose to tell the tale.  Turns out, I’m not the only person tooling around Denver wondering why hip, intelligent, inquisitive people refuse to darken the thresholds of church buildings[iii] and, more to the point, how to serve spiritually hungry people without coming across as a mealy-mouthed snake oil salesman.

Fortunately, I don’t have to come up with an answer, because my friend Tim is working on it.  Getting to help with this project has been the spiritual equivalent of being invited to eat lunch at the cool kids’ table.  I could go on and on about what we have planned, but Tim already did that, too.  So, without further ado, allow me to extend a heartfelt invitation to tomorrow night’s inaugural gathering – just in time for Advent – of Community of ONE.[iv]

http://www.communityofone.net/

Community of One

Hope to see you there![v]


[i] As is Biblical Hebrew.   This is because Presbyterians like their pastors professorial.  I hear that when you successfully complete your language training, they give you a tweed jacket with those sexy suede patches on the elbows.

[ii] I see dead people.  They don’t even know they’re dead.

[iii] You know, other than the obvious.  If you don’t know about the obvious, please sample some of Marian’s earlier postings.

[iv] Those of you who don’t live near enough to Denver to attend are invited to send good vibes.  I have it on good authority that they will return to you three-fold.  Like a brochure.

[v] Just, please, don’t bring up this blog.  I still don’t know how the PCUSA feels about liberal use of the f-bomb in pursuit of deep theological understanding, although I’m pretty sure they’re okay with “shit” because Paul used the word in Philippians 3:8.  What we piously translate as “dung,” (σκυβαλον) actually means “shit.”  File this under “Things You Can’t Say in a Sermon, No Matter How True They Are.”

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© Marian the Seminarian, 2013


God’s silly side in a small, small world

Proof that God has a wicked sense of humor

Proof that God has a wicked sense of humor

It’s often said that God works in mysterious ways.  Quite frankly, I find God’s ways downright frickin’ bizarro most of the time, but that does lend certain capriciousness to life that I think we could all use more of.

Case in point:  I spent half the day last Saturday in the company of 150 of my closest Presbyterian friends[1] at a class entitled “Dangerous Elders.”  Upon arriving, I was crushed to discover that kung fu fighting was not part of the day’s agenda[2], but I soldiered on until we came to lunchtime.

Suddenly struck by the necessity of socializing, I donned my faux extrovert persona and scanned the crowd for familiar faces, trying not to appear pathetic.  Thankfully, I found some friends from Leadville, CO[3] who were too buzzed on all the oxygen at 5200 feet above sea level to notice if I looked pathetic.  Then, a member of one of my favorite rural churches found me and we and some other folks spent the next ten minutes catching up on a perennially relevant and riveting topic to Coloradans:  road construction.

At one point, another solo attendee and I bumped elbows and exchanged a few funny words and then we all got in the lunch line.  I was hoping to sit with my fellow asphalt aficionados.  But when the seating hostess called for two people to fill in an incomplete table, I threw caution to the wind and volunteered.

The hostess sat me next to the other solo flyer I’d run into – literally – a few minutes earlier.  We started chatting (like you do), immediately hitting it off (which is altogether too rare), and the conversation, inevitably, turned to our occupations.

My companion – whom I’ll call Fiona, because that’s not her name – told me that she was in the marriage and family therapy business.  Since I know exactly one marriage and family therapist, I said:  “I realize there are about seven million marriage and family therapists in the world, but I don’t suppose you know Artemisia Donohue[4]?”

She-who-shall-be-known-as-Fiona’s jaw dropped.

“How do you know Artemisia?”

“Her daughter, Electra,[5] and I have been best friends since the fifth grade.”

Fiona started laughing.

“Artemisia and I went to graduate school together and have been best friends ever since!”

Yes, it’s a small world and God moves in mysterious ways.  But the biggest mystery is why Artemisia and Electra both wound up best friends with two Presbyterians.[6]

In any case, the encounter reminded me of God’s wacky, whimsical side.  When we’re tempted – which, in my case, is often – to fixate on the sternness, unfairness, remoteness, and inscrutability of God, it’s important to remember that, for some reason that doesn’t really matter, God invented duckbill platypuses.  God may also have a hand in the discovery of five-dollar bills in the pockets of thrift store purchases.[7]  I’m pretty sure God inspired whoever invented tapioca.[8]  God has got to be behind the darnedest things that kids say.[9]  And I am positive that an almighty creator God with a kick-ass sense of humor is behind wild kingdom behavior like this:

Take time to laugh this week.  Spring is coming.[10]


[1] Which is to say, I was sitting closer to these Presbyterians than to any others at that particular moment.

[2] Thankfully, I took and passed the Colorado DOC’s Pressure Point Control Tactic Training twice.  The second time, one of my sparring partners was a five-foot-tall, ninety-pounds-soakin’-wet chaplain named Gillian.  If you ever find yourself in any of the CDOC’s finer correctional establishments, please, take my advice.  Do not fuck with this chaplain.  She will take your ass down faster than you can say, “Hallelujah.”

[3] At 10,152 feet, Leadville, CO is the highest incorporated city and second highest municipality in the United States.  I have no idea what the difference is between a city and a municipality.

[4] Totally also not her real name.  Duh.

[5] Seriously, people.  Not her real name.  How many times do I have to tell you?

[6] Actually, I suspect it’s because they were unconditionally predestined to be irresistibly attracted to our total depravity.

[7] Especially if you pray over them.  See Marian’s posting from March 8, 2013.

[8] For those of you not up on your highly toxic South American vegetable products, tapioca is made from manioc, which has a rather high cyanide content and is only rendered edible by boiling and draining it several times.  Who the heck stuck around to figure that recipe out?

[9] Granted, I make this last assertion as a non-parent who has derived an endless amount of entertainment from the darnedest things kids say.  Non-non-parents, which is to say, parents, may have a different opinion about things that issue from the mouths of babes.

[10] Unless you’re completely hooked on Game of Thrones, in which case, you know what’s coming.  Winter and dragons and some very ill-advised matrimonies, that’s what!

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© Marian the Seminarian, 2013


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