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Mars Hill Albuquerque

Some weeks ago now I covered the opening section of the sermon we heard at Mars Hill Albuquerque (MHA) back in early December [link], based on the verse Isaiah 9:6, and the pastor, Dave Bruskas, making the abrupt transition to Paul’s letters after noting that Jesus is “a military strategist.”

He turned to 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 [NIV]; this is one of Paul’s key texts, where he sets apart what God is doing in Christianity from what would be expected by contemporary Jews and the contrasting expectations of contemporary Greeks.

Dave says “What is Jesus’s war strategy? The word of the Cross.” Jesus lived to conquer and died under the oppression of the Roman government. Why? To destroy wisdom and discernment: God is saying “I’m not going to do what you expect,” and glorifies himself in us.

Dave then leaves the text to tell a story about being at a park in Albuquerque with some MHA people, and about meeting a guy who found their group attractive because it was a church full of weird people. This rhetorical flourish, of telling a too-perfect, probably-not-true, self-congratulating story, is something Dave Bruskas does more than once during this sermon. He’s hardly the only preacher who does this, but it’s something I’d encourage visitors to be aware of when listening to him.

Back at the text he returns to verse 21: “it pleased God.” God can’t be reached intellectually, so He reaches down to us through the Incarnation. Note that verse 21 doesn’t mention the Incarnation; it’s one of the things that makes this passage an awkward fit with Isaiah 9:6.

Dave then dives into the central idea of the text in 1 Corinthians: “Jews demand signs; Greeks look for wisdom” instead we get Christ. Dave states this as “the Jews demanded a conquering King” and stumbled over the Crucifixion. He warns us against being “Jewish in perspective” by wanting something from Jesus in exchange for our loyalty: relationships, health, freedom from recurring sins, etc.

He then proceeds with his second too-perfect anecdote, about a gay man who came to see him in his office; Dave responded to him by saying that being gay is “not God’s best for him” and that “Jesus should transform him;” the too-perfect part of this story was that this was exactly what the man wanted to hear. Dave didn’t mention what became of the man, but that’s not really part of the story: the story is really about how Jesus doesn’t offer something we’re looking for (e.g. a personal sign), so it isn’t germane what became of the man in his story.

Dave’s basic point here: that salvation is not primarily a story about us, and that Jesus doesn’t offer us things that are attractive per se, is  orthodox and Scriptural. But the way he puts the story together is awkward at best: he has a mix of texts that don’t really go together and stories that don’t ring true.

This seems like as good a stopping point as any; I’ll save his discussion of the Greeks and his wrap-up for one last post. I’d encourage readers to listen to the sermon themselves at the link above and decide for themselves if I’m being picky, or mixing majors and minors, or whatever.

Maybe I’m just quibbling here, but this is one of the problems with preaching from Paul’s letters during Advent: the Advent is about the Incarnation, and the temptation of most Reformed types is to read Paul as talking about Jesus exclusively as Savior, and it’s hard work to keep those two doctrinal concepts connected without subordinating one to the other. If we make the Incarnation entirely about “baby Jesus” we can stray off into territory that isn’t entirely orthodox, but without the Incarnation our soteriology isn’t strictly speaking orthodox either. I think Dave’s making the common Reformed mistake of losing the Incarnation in his Reformed soteriology.

 

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  1. February 8, 2011 at 12:00 pm
  2. February 8, 2011 at 8:02 pm

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