Tag Archive: Interpretation


Acodar Discipleship

Jesus had an affinity for agricultural metaphors. In reading through John’s gospel, two stand out in particular. In chapter 15, Jesus says, “I am the true vine; my Father is the vineyard keeper…I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit…My father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.

The ability to bear much fruit is elevated to be a primary marker of bringing glory to God. It is good that previously in chapter 12 that Jesus says how a disciple is able to bear much fruit. In chapter 12, Jesus says, “I assure you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit”.

The vine and branch metaphor in chapter 15 is significant as it speaks to the need to remain connected to the vine of Christ and exhibit the nature of his life. Missing from this interpretation, however, is the experience of the cross. In chapter 12, we can read foreshadowing of the cross and the approaching suffering and death of Christ. John presents this metaphor for the disciples to see their suffering and death as following in the pattern modeled by Christ.

The process of acodar

The process of acodar

The term acodar, in Spanish, conveys the combination of these two concepts. This is the verb for when a vine is bent or cut and then planted alongside the branch.  The cutting grows to become a offshoot of the branch, which then grows its own branches.  The true vine, put to death and buried in the ground, gives ways to new life and the multiplication of new branches which bear much fruit. We can understand our own discipleship by these same metaphors: we are simultaneously in the vine and being put to death as we identify with the cruciform call of Christ to die to ourselves, join him in his suffering, and by doing so bring life to the world around us.

Jesus’ use of these metaphors, to live as extensions of the true vine yet to die in order to produce fruit, are not exclusive to each other. By utilizing acodar discipleship in imagining our response to the call of Christ, we can enter into new and deeper identification with the suffering death and resurrected new life in the kingdom of God.

What metaphors help you or your community understanding your life of faith?

Dr. Soong-Chan Rah of North Park Theological Seminary speaking at chapel of Fuller Theological Seminary on “The Next Evangelicalism: Appreciating the Multicultural Church” (November 7, 2012). Dr. Rah uses the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 as a model for understanding “a world that is becoming increasingly multicultural  and how the church responds to this very dynamic time in our nation’s, as well as our world’s, church history”.

The following is my summary and notes from his lecture.

The question is not whether the world is changing, but how Christian Americans will respond. (Click to Tweet) Continue reading

Francis X. Clooney, SJ responds to a question posed following an interfaith event in which he shared his experiences within Hinduism:  “Is enlightenment compatible with Christian faith?”

He writes:

I think there were two components to the question I was asked: First, is it compatible with Christian faith that someone have a sudden, radical change in life, a single mind- and life-altering experience, insight? Second, can a Christian who experiences enlightenment have that irreversible unitive experience, realizing all reality to be simply, entirely one?

The question of enlightenment turns out to be timely, in light of this Sunday’s Gospel, the call of the first apostles in Mark 1.14-20. For is it not a kind of enlightenment scene? Consider what we hear: Continue reading

Jesus’ Life on Earth

One year ago I wrote a post about Tibetan thangkas and mentioned therein a Christian ministry that was selling Christian thangkas, though at the time I didn’t know anything more about how they were being used.  In today’s post, I am excited to provide some more information about them.

Back in 2001, some expatriate workers in the Himalayas puzzled over the repeated lack of effectiveness of more common approaches to reach Tibetan Buddhists for Christ, so they began to seek alternative ways of presenting the Gospel that would connect more directly with Tibetan Buddhists.  They formed a group called The Tibetan Storytelling Project (TSP) to address this concern.  The group eventually decided to produce an evangelistic DVD which would utilize traditional Tibetan art, songs, choreography and rhythmic speech in presenting the Gospel.
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“Atheists are hard at work cleansing our temple of idols. We should thank them”

So begins Paul Wallace’s insightful (and provoking– think about who else notably “cleansed the temple”…) post about the service that atheist movements are doing to refine theological reflection. He distinguishes the conceptualization of God through philosophical theological reflection as idolatry, akin to worshiping the image of God that we have created. Worshiping the God of our projections, which is a sanctified way of worshiping ourselves.

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JAPANESE THEOLOGY

(You can find part one of this essay here)

Christianity is often presented as the religion of the superpowers, and it has become a visibly dominant religion in many leading nations. From the 4th century onwards, Christianity became the religion of the Greco-Romano world, with the consequence that Greek and Latin became the “language” of God. Thus Hellenic views on Christianity overruled other forms of Christianity elsewhere. Continuing into the 15th / 16th century, the rise of the Spanish and Portuguese nations expanded Roman Catholicism across the entire colonized world, and thus Spanish/Portuguese Christianity became visibly dominant on the surface of the planet. The emergence of the reformation in the 16th century, and its collaboration with the Western and Northern European governments, caused a reformed and protestant theology to dominate certain parts of the world.

For the past two hundred years or more, Anglo-American Christianity and its relationship to the expansion of British and American territorial interest has had important results. English became the language of evangelical religion. Christianity took a commercial course and dominated the worship and literature industry worldwide. Today, anyone who wants to study theology anywhere in the world cannot bypass American and English Christian literature and writers. Church history means reformation history; theology means Anglo American Evangelical or Dutch Reformed theology. This dominant manifestation of Western Christianity has caused two different major reactions in the non-western world; 1) Almost total acceptance and implementation of this Western Theology with slightly native cultural influences. For instance, Evangelical Christianity in the Philippines is simply an American-influenced Christianity, and the Korean Protestant Christianity is based on Reformed Theology; in Africa, American prosperity teaching preached by the satellite TV stations inspires the Pentecostalism. 2) Instead of total surrender to imported Christianity, the second reaction is the creation of Christianity with an indigenous theology. There are relatively few countries that have created their own Christian theology. Japan tried to belong to the second group. In his book Japanese contribution to Christian Theology published in 1960, Carl Michelson indicated that even though Protestant Christianity was relatively young in Japan, Japan was apparently the first country to develop its own significant theology Continue reading

Jesus in Meditation

The Christology of the Western Church has, with few exceptions, developed in dialogue with the categories of Greek philosophy. As fruitful as the dialogue has been, however, it has created problems for our articulation of the doctrine of the Incarnation, and it is now problematical for those Christians who do not share the philosophical tradition of the West. This article begins the development of a Christology of emptiness, derived from one of the philosophical traditions of Buddhism.

Mahayana theology is a Christian theology which attempts to understand the Christian faith through philosophical concepts developed in Mahayana Buddhism.

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Sometimes I want to call God Mother, Father, friend, companion, lover of my soul. At other times I want to call God creator, saviour, Lord of the Universe, bringer of justice, rescuer of the poor. I thought about this a lot this morning after receiving a message from a friend who reads my facebook prayers.

I’ve really enjoyed your prayers, Christine. However in recent months I’m noticing more and more that Jesus isn’t mentioned by name…. Somehow God and Christ, accurate names, aren’t as intimate and personal too me as the name “Jesus”… Am I just a hopeless Evangelical?

Her words were very perceptive but caught me off guard inviting me to think about what I call God and why. Have I drifted away from a sense of personal intimacy with God or is there more to this change?

Christ- King or Friend or Companion?

What we call God matters. All the names I listed above are legitimate and important names for God, but they produce very different images in our minds. The first list all bring a sense of intimacy with them. They draw us into a close and personal relationship to God. They invite us to call God Abba, the Christ Jesus and the Spirit Comforter. The encourage us to grow the love of God deep within our hearts.

However, these names can also have negative connotations. Continue reading

I came across this cartoon today that sums up pretty well how I have been feeling about church and theology lately.

This is a cartoon is from a man named Saji at St. Thomas the Doubter Church in Dallas, TX.

When I look at the board in the picture, it makes sense to me, despite its multiplicity. From the initial inception of the church, there have been factions and divisions along ethnic, cultural, and leadership fault-lines. This is perpetuated in every generation as the church grows and expands. As a Euro-american in Church History classes, the basic projection that I learned was the split of the Roman Catholic Church from the Eastern Orthodox Church, then the Reformation, then the further splintering into Protestant Denominations, until the advent of our particular religious movement which desired to re-introduce a church structure based on Acts 2 (we called ourselves The Restoration Movement, which has since devolved back into a de facto denomination).

The anthropological term to describe the attitude of the student in the cartoon is ethnocentrism, or to believe that one’s own particular group is superior and their ways are normative. This has obvious dangers in hardening prejudices or mistreating others. What is more subtle, however, is the influence that this assumption of normative understanding is applied to theology and Biblical interpretation. Continue reading

Creation is God’s artwork that reflects his character and nature. When he speaks, he expresses himself and light appears. God reveals himself in the form of light – and it is good. God then separates that light from the darkness because light, as an expression of his goodness, reflects his holy and pure nature: “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5).

As God continues to speak, he expresses his goodness in visible, tangible forms, and the world comes into being.  He separates the waters (chaos) and brings land (order).  Again he says, “This is good.”  Finally, he creates human beings.  We become expressions of God, little icons created to reveal the goodness and character of God. This time God says, “This is very good.” Continue reading

21C Psalms, #5

A beauty of the Hebrew Psalter is its breadth of emotion and responsiveness. The full range of experience is expressed and different cultures and generations have found inspiration and solidarity with the ancient authors. This piece, written from an emergent perspective, offers a new description of the emotion of the psalm in postmodern poetry.

Number 5

Father God,

You give and take

And it seems that you take more then you give Continue reading

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