Posts Tagged ‘Catholicism’

About that weird stuff in “John’s Pentecost” from John 20

May 14, 2011

No spoiler alert necessary. None of the following will appear in my Vinebranch sermon tomorrow. It’s too technical, too lengthy, and maybe a little boring for a sermon (as opposed to a Bible study). Needless to say, I find it all terribly interesting. Maybe you will too. It’s about the same passage of scripture I’ll be preaching on: John 20:19-29.

The scripture includes an intriguing image in John 20:22: “When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'” What does it mean to be “breathed on” by Jesus?

This scripture continues the New Creation imagery that I’ve discussed elsewhere (here and here). These words intentionally recall those words found back in Genesis Chapter 2, describing how God “breathed into the nostrils” of that first human being the “breath of life” (Gen 2:7). This breath that Jesus breathed into the disciples was the breath of new life. This was nothing less than the beginning of God’s new world, God’s new creation, and these disciples are being re-created. Jesus is sending his friends into the world to announce the good news of this new creation, which is beginning right now, in the here and now, and will be completed on the other side of our future resurrection.

This passage is sometimes called “John’s Pentecost,” because in John’s gospel, Jesus gives this group of disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit before his ascension—just as he does in Acts 2 after his ascension, while Jews are gathered in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost.

The passage also includes the controversial verse 23: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” What on earth does that mean? This has been a source of division in the Western church between Catholics and Protestants. Over the centuries, Catholics began interpreting this verse to mean that Jesus gave his apostles (and by extension their successors, ordained elders) a special role in forgiving sins—thus the Catholic sacrament of penance. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Protestantism still a good idea? (Part 3)

March 23, 2011

Following up on a couple of posts, here and here, I point you to Kevin Hargaden’s post about the “cool kids” switching churches. In the comments section of that post, yours truly said something that will be my final word on the subject, before I return to my happy ecumenical self. I wanted to say this in my earlier posts…

If someone were thinking about abandoning one church tradition for another, how can they be certain of their motives? Have they exhausted the wellspring of their own tradition, such that it no longer offers them any spiritual nourishment? Or are they bored? Here’s my comment.

Well said! I’ve known a few people who’ve crossed the Tiber, and that EWTN show makes me want to puke. The best reason to stay in the tradition in which we find ourselves is the hubris required to leave: “I’m better and smarter and holier than those dumb Methodists [or fill in the blank] who don’t understand how impoverished their tradition is.” Give me a break! Besides, the novelty wears off, right? At some point, in order to grow as a disciple of Jesus, one must still do the hard work of discipleship. Everyone is looking for a shortcut for that, but there is no shortcut.