Friday, March 8, 2013

Death Where is Your Sting Project

On Ash Wednesday, Jonah's Call held its service at the Allegheny Cemeteries Hall of Memories. After the service, a number of folks had their portrait taken by photographer, Lisa Yaeger. All of us appeared with ashes on our foreheads.

On Easter Sunday, it is our hope to see these portraits interpreted by artists from Jonah's Call suing the Scripture verse from Corinthians 15, "Death where is your sting."

Below are the portraits taken on February 13, 2013.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Follow Our New Sermon Series- Know Boundaries

Know Boundaries
Boundaries are wonderful things because of their ability to give shape to our lives. From keeping out unwanted intruders to helping us achieve goals, boundaries allow us to work within or outside the lines that define our lives. The New Year marks a boundary in time. 2012 is gone and 2013 has begun. In this season, gyms will fill up, diets begin, goals are listed and another year begins; all because we crossed over a boundary (a year) into new territory.
In 2013, we will embark on a biblical road that will demarcate some of the most basic boundaries that God desires for our lives. Please join us for this sermon series as we travel throughout the Old Testament and learn to know boundaries. And, as always, invite a friend.
January 6, 2013  |  Know Identity  |  Daniel 1:1-21  |  Jay Slocum
January 13, 2013  |  Know Family  |  Ruth 1:1-22  |  Jay Slocum
January 20, 2013  |  Know Purpose  |  Joshua 24:1-18  |  Jay Slocum
January 27, 2013  |  Know Influence  |  Esther 7:1-10  |  Jay Slocum

Get the Sermons Here

Friday, December 7, 2012

Are You Bone of My Bones Flesh of My Flesh? By Martin Wroe

Who is being born here? The child of an everyday couple from Nazareth... or God, come to live the life of a human being on earth? And if it's God, what did it feel like, putting on our flesh? Writer and journalist Martin Wroe asks some of the questions that go to the heart of Christmas.

what colour are you God
what's your body like
any disabilities, distinguishing characteristics
would we spot you in a crowd
would we stare at you for some deformity
how many senses have you got
five, six, eighteen, ninety four
and what's your sense of touch like
is your handshake firm as a vice or slippery as an eel
what do you smell of
anything in particular - the universe, for example
planets, oceans, space, skies
do you smell of petrol like everything elsewe believe your Spirit is always willing
but is your flesh ever weak
and if the Word was made flesh
are you flesh of our flesh
bone of our bones
is that you there, meek and mild
all meanly wrapped in swaddling clothes
is that you Baby J Word of the Father
now in flesh appearing
is that you screaming as you arrived
like the rest of us
screaming at the shock of the new
the shock of the cold and the old and the broken
is that you Baby J
slipping clumsily out from between a Virgin's legs
covered in blood and gunge and straw
when moments before you had been covered in glory
is that you tied to the mother of God by a fleshy cord
sucking on a woman's breast for your very life
what a come down
still at least you had an audience
cows was it, a goat or two
did they look on in awe and wonder
were the cattle lowing a bit
or were they a right nuisance
but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes
well, that's not true is it
the thing about flesh is it makes you cry
for better or worse, you've got to cry
who is he in yonder stall
at whose feet the shepherd's fall
did they fall ? did they recognise you up close ?
did they know that was you, God, in the flesh
or were they just intrigued by the heavenly host
and the funny star
and did the flesh inconvenience and annoy
and anger you like it does the
rest of us, your fleshy creatures
did your nose run green
your skin flake or bruise red
did you itch
your breath catch from asthma
in that smelly barn
your chest tighten in fear
and later on what did you do about your desires
you know, the fleshly ones
and, just out of interest, where on earth
did you go for your private movements
and are there miraculously fertile plants there today
trees with roots for miles and branches into the heavens
never barren, endlessly ripe...
or are those places where the divine squatted in squalor
feeling quite a lot lower than the angels
- wiping his bum with leaves -
are they like every other place, where folks did their business
with no particular supernatural horticultural memento
and when you were tired, when it all was going wrong
when your friends misunderstood, lost interest, wandered off
did you think
what did I get into this body business for
swapping omnipresence for being somewhere in particular
did you feel trapped in that body
or didn't you know what it had been like before you became body
when you were in-carnate
could you know what it was like out-carnate
flesh can't be in more than one place at a time
flesh is limited
flesh is awkward
you must have wondered at the restrictions of the corporeal
did you ever notice , could you tell the difference?
and did the flesh also exhilarate you, excite you
did you run and laugh and kiss
did you sweat and wrestle and argue
and if you longed to be more...were you grateful to have lived
on earth
a human
in flesh
to have become one of us
he was little, weak and helpless
tears and smiles like us he knew
and he feeleth for our sadness
and he shareth in our gladness
how's the old body now
do you wear a halo
or a crown
is it of gold
or is it of thorns
are there marks on your palms
blood on the side of your shirt still ?
Jesus of the body, of the flesh, Jesus of the Spirit
welcome to the body God
thank you for being it
putting flesh on the bones of our skeletal lives
fleshing out the way life might be lived
thank you Spirit of Jesus for becoming body among us
thank you that veiled in flesh the Godhead we see
flesh is all we have
but, now you now - as well as any of us -
flesh is not all we are

Martin Wroe is a freelance writer, mainly working for Sunday newspapers in the UK. He is an organiser of the Greenbelt Arts Festival. Something similar to the above is published in When You Haven't Got a Prayer (Lion, 1997), a collection of reflective spiritual writings. In another age he would have liked to have been a heretic but not burnt.Top of Page | Archive | Ship of Fools Central
© Ship of Fools 1999

Friday, August 17, 2012

Come to the Big Sale 2012

Big Sale - August 25, 2012 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. This year scores of families have come together from Jonah's Call and Church of the Ascension to donate gently used goods to The Big Sale. We are looking forward to seeing hundreds from Pittsburgh who will benefit from the 5th annual Big Sale. This year we have a lot of furniture, bikes, household goods and furnishings. The sale will be ideal for students looking for great buys to furnish their apartments as well as pickers, collectors, DIYers and dealers who want to find treasures. We also will be featuring a large selection of books. A special feature of our sale this year will include a very nice bedroom set that will include two twin beds, two dressers, a desk and chair, two night stands and two mirrors. The set must be seen to appreciate and it will be priced to sell. Everything MUST GO for this sale so be sure to come early to get the best items available. Also, any left over items will be free after 1:00 p.m

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Pilgrimage of the Heart in Anglican Worship


When I was twelve, my mother told me she, “Gave her heart to Jesus.” I wondered about what that really meant for a long time. Shortly after her conversion, I was dragged to the Clove Valley Bible Fellowship Church where I heard the words, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me”1 strummed on an acoustic guitar week after week. After repeated exposure to these words, I found myself involuntarily humming the tune throughout the day; somehow, it had gotten stuck in my head.  Being fairly disinterested in church at this age, it was not long before I was looking for a way to replace the church songs that were buzzing in my head with something that I could put in my “heart.” I soon found Bruce Springsteen. To my liking, he sang:

Everybody needs a place to rest, everybody wants to have a home, Don’t make no difference what nobody says, ain’t nobody like to be alone. Everybody’s got a hungry heart, Everybody’ got a hungry heart, Lay down your money and you play your part, Everybody’s got a hungry heart.2 I memorized Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics. It wasn’t long before songs about clean hearts were replaced with ones about hungry hearts.

By the time I was thirteen, I had had my first experience with having my “hungry heart” broken by Barbara Amodeo on the grounds that good Catholic girls like her should not be hanging around with rough irreligious boys like me. Shortly after this, my own sense of morality began developing in a way that brought me to the realization that, even though I was just entering adolescence, I had willfully filled my hungry heart up with several packs of lies that had left me feeling soiled. For the first time in my life, my heart was aching. I truly realized at this time that I was deeply in need of God. It was then that I embraced the words, “Create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a right spirit within me” and invited Jesus into my own heart; God had rescued me.


After being a Christian for nearly twelve years, I entered the Episcopal Church. One of the things that I immediately noticed was the plethora of references in the Book of Common Prayer to the heart. It seemed to be everywhere I looked. As you can see, my own spiritual growth has been greatly influenced by the language of the  heart; hungry, dirty, broken, and cleaned. Thus, I have always taken an enormous interest in how references to the heart throughout the Prayer Book, but more specifically the Eucharist, affect the worship of those who call themselves Episcopalians or Anglicans.

A quick survey of the Book of Common Prayer yields an amazing assortment of references to the heart, largely based upon Scripture. It has been said that more then 85% of the BCP is taken directly from Scripture. When we look at references to the heart in Scripture we see the heart mentioned more then 950 times in the Old & New Testaments.3 Conversely, in the 1979 BCP the heart is referenced 353 times with 163 of these occurrences coming from the Psalms.4

From Morning Prayer to the Burial Office, the heart is called upon with a great variety of uses and meanings. In Morning Prayer, our hearts are Rent5 and bend their knees to God.6 In the Service for Compline, we are asked to speak to our hearts in silence upon our beds.7 In Evening Prayer our hearts are called upon to teach us.8 When we offer our prayers to God as a corporate body, we pour out our hearts to God.9 And, when someone we love is crushed by death, we are given solace when we cry out, “Lord, you know the secrets of our hearts; shut not your ears to our prayers, but spare us, O Lord.”10

In the Psalter the heart is alive. Its shapes and depths are astounding. We hear the Psalmist describing the heart as hot within 11 or as melting wax.12 In the Psalms the heart given to God can be purified and made right. It can be knit to God.13 It can dance, 14 be cleansed, and created anew.15 The heart is also a place that can be cold and hard and can wither like grass.16 Within our hearts, there can be destruction, 17 duplicity, 18 and a massive collection of false rumors.19 The heart is complex and deep and the Prayer Book draws greatly from the Psalms to offer up a full spectrum of metaphors and meanings, which show many sides of the heart. 

With such an array of references to the heart in our culture, our literature, our music, and within the Scriptures, it is not surprising that the place of the heart would also play a central role in our central act of worship, the Eucharist.


It was quite amazing for me to hear for the first time the opening words of the Eucharist in an Episcopal Church. The priest stood in front of the people. His intention: to deliver the Word of God to the people and then to act it out with those gathered in the Holy Communion. In the words of the opening acclamation he held up a Prayer Book and read,

“Bless the Lord who forgives all our sins.”
The whole congregation responded,
“His mercy endures for ever.”20

Then he spoke out among everyone gathered saying,

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.21

I have ever-since reveled in this prayer, known as the Collect for Purity, where we are told that God knows our hearts. Moreover, though they may hold secrets that the world cannot see, our hearts are open to him. In this collect, we are also told that our hearts need to be cleansed. The obvious implication is that our hearts are soiled, dirty, and in need of work. They have been stained by the troubles of the week and the turmoil’s of our fallen world and need to be “serviced” in the Eucharist.22


As the Word of God continued to be presented, the service moved us ever closer toward the Holy Communion with the full intention of dealing with the secrets of our hearts and their need for cleansing. At the time, I was unaware of other rites. I did not know, for instance, that there was a rite based largely on a 1928 Book of Common Prayer known as Rite One Eucharist. Later, however, I saw that in this service, there was a common expectation that the Ten Commandments or a Summary of the Law 23 would be rehearsed after the Collect for Purity. The effect of such a reading would highlight God’s expectation that we be given to him with our whole hearts with the reality that we cannot and have not entirely done so since we last communed with him in the Eucharist. Hence, we have a dire need of a savior to reconcile us to Him. Thus, a certain tension mounts as we are brought ever closer to communion. The summary of the Law states:

Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.24

In the Rite Two Eucharist, we move directly into giving God the glory he deserves by offering Songs of Praise.25 The service then takes our hearts on a journey through prayer and through the hearing of God’s Word. The celebrant and people call out in the salutation, based on the meeting of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 2:4), saying,

Celebrant  The Lord be with you.
People     And also with you.
Celebrant  Let us pray.26

Passages from the Word of God are then read, and a sermon is offered up to all gathered. The hope of the liturgy is that as we feed on the Word it will do its work on our hearts. We then rehearse together the Nicene Creed followed by prayers for the Church and the world. At this point, the hope of the liturgy is that all the ‘hearts that are open to God’ will have been softened, and searched and prepared for a confession to Him. The whole movement of the liturgy brings us to the moment where we confess that we have sinned against God in “thought, word, and deed”26 both by our actions and our inaction with an eager anticipation that we will in fact be forgiven. Within the prayer of confession, the heart which was admitted to God for cleansing in the Collect for Purity, is now purged of sin and ready to be given up to God. In the Rite Two Confession, we cry,

We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.28

The Rite One Eucharistic liturgy states things even more boldly, offering several options for all preparing for Holy Communion, to examine themselves. An option for an exhortation is also provided. The exhortation which has evolved since its first appearance in the 1548 Prayer Book warns that:

For, as the benefit is great, if with penitent hearts and living faith we receive the holy Sacrament, so is the danger great, if we receive it improperly, not recognizing the Lord’s Body. Judge yourselves, therefore, lest you be judged by the Lord. 29

Stephen Sykes, commenting on Thomas Cranmer’s concern with proper preparation of the heart in approaching the Lord in Holy Communion says:

In due course, we shall see how pivotal has become the liturgical instruction to ‘lift up your hearts’ in the ritual process of pilgrimage to the Lord’s table devised by Cranmer. But, the start of the journey, the exploration of the depths of the heart, show that the metaphorical process is full of hazards and demands the closest attention. The Prayer Books of 1549 and 1552 strongly emphasize to potential communicants that it is spiritually and physically dangerous to receive the sacrament unworthily. Repentance and restitution
are needed before hand, and a promise given to God that one’s life will be amended. 30

Prayer book revisionists seem to have failed to recognize the importance of identifying the need for the heart journeying to the Holy Communion to be examined and purged of its sin. Instead, there is a definite shift in newer liturgies to move more quickly into praise without considering the need for the searching, softening, and setting apart of deceitful, duplicitous, and hardened hearts on any given Sunday Morning. No one articulates this shift more clearly then Charles Price, who, in his Introducing the Proposed Book of Common Prayer, says

This theory of atonement (“he is the propitiation for our sins.”) dominated Christian theology and liturgy in the Middle Ages and during the 16th century reformation. It is not now very appealing, although it does emphasize the seriousness of sin and the reality of God’s wrath. However, it should not be the sole expression of God’s reconciling work, but it is appropriate that it should appear as a sub-theme (cf. Rite I Eucharistic PrayerI; Evening Prayer Rite I; Collect for Friday in Easter Week; Proper 22, Proper 26; Great Vigil of Easter). 31

For Price and many other modern liturgists, the emphasis has been shifted to creation, redemption, freedom, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Hence, says Price, ‘a fuller array of words dealing with Christ’s work on the cross are employed.’ However, one must question if this is completely healthy for persons seeking to reform their hearts in a liturgy designed to bring the heart on a serious journey from the darkness of a fallen world to the heights of heaven. Price defends himself saying,

It has been said that as assurance of immortality was the acute spiritual need of the early Church, and assurance of forgiveness the acute need in sixteenth century Europe, community is the acute need in our time. Some critics of the Services for Trial use (1970) and the Authorized Services (1973) have felt that the accent on the “horizontal” dimension of worship has threatened to supplant the “vertical.” 32
In reflecting on Price’s comments, I am convinced that he is seriously mistaken in his attempt to lodge the need for forgiveness in the slot of history we call the sixteenth century. A deep need for forgiveness has been felt across the church from its inception. Yes, the postmodern church may need community. We are desperately alone. However, removing the penitential aspects of the Prayer Book and simply replacing them with affirming words will not cure the human heart or its isolation in sin. Only a serious view of the human condition which relies on Christ’s atoning sacrifice for our sin sick hearts can cure us and bring us into authentic communion with others. The problem has been the same from the time of Cain to the present. Positing a deep need for forgiveness, only at the end of the Middle Ages does not solve our community problems, it creates new ones.

The great Carolinian Divine, George Herbert, who was nurtured in Prayer Book spirituality, seems to have had a wonderful grasp at what Cranmer was attempting to do in the Prayer book. Like Cranmer, Herbert took the human dilemma seriously. He saw the heart as a closet with many rooms that held drawers, that held boxes, which held tills or lock boxes, which held secret sins that were meant to be hidden from God. He shows in his poem confession how God is able to search the heart and bring us to a place where we are able to purge our sins and be free of all guilt and shame. Rather then being irrelevant or a product of the reformation, the idea of freeing the heart from guilt and shame is as relevant and needed for people living today as anything I have ever encountered. Herbert says:

Oh what a cunning guest,
is this same grief.
In my heart I made closets,
and in them many a chest.
And like a master in my trade,
in those chests boxes,
in each box a till;
yet grief knows all
and enters when he will.
Only an open breast doth shut them out,
so that they cannot enter,
and if they enter 
cannot rest,
but quickly seek some new adventure.
Smooth open hearts
no handles have;
but fiction
does give hold and handle to affliction.
Wherefore my faults and sins,
Lord I acknowledge,
take thy plagues away.
For since confession pardon wins,
I challenge here the brightest day.
The clearest diamonds
let them do their best
they will be thick and cloudy 
(compared) to my breast.33

In the Eucharist, the heart has journeyed through the liturgy of the Word’s Collect for Purity to the confession of sin, the offering of the peace of reconciliation, and the absolution given by the celebrating priest. Now cleansed, offerings of praise and thanksgiving are appropriately made to God.  As the celebrant begins to prepare Holy Communion our hearts are now ready to be offered to as pure and spotless gifts. Standing before the Lord, the celebrant then ushers the congregation into the presence of God in the Eucharistic Prayer, saying:

Celebrant The Lord be with you.
People  And also with you.
Celebrant  Lift up your hearts.
People  We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant  Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People  It is right to give him thanks and praise.34

Finally, in the Holy Communion, which is for us a great moment of praise and thanksgiving for the redemptive work done for us on the cross of Calvary, we lift up our hearts to God. What is so important for us to see when looking at the subject of the heart in the Prayer Book, and in the Eucharist, is that the heart has needed a great amount of servicing in order to come to a place where it can rightly be offered to God.

The act of lifting our hearts to God is wrought with danger. Hopefully we have journeyed well. Yes, much of the time it is a dramatic journey. Some of the time we are better to walk away from the Holy Communion, if we have been unable to truly offer our hearts to God for forgiveness. Nonetheless, when we do come and offer our hearts fully, we share with him and all the community of believers, a heavenly banquet. The Galasian Collect for Ascension Day adapted by Cranmer to reflect the journey of the heart, sums up this thought with great beauty:

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens, so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.35


Almost everyone will agree that we are a people who are living in an age where information has run rampant. It has been said that we see more information in a month then the average person saw in the Middle Ages in an entire lifetime. Our hearts and minds are constantly being bombarded with information. The late Henri Nouwen made the following observation:

"Recently, I was driving through Los Angeles. Suddenly, I had the strange sensation of driving through a huge dictionary. Wherever I looked there were words trying to keep my eyes from the road. They said, "Use me, take me, buy me, drink me, eat me, smell me, touch me, kiss me, sleep with me."36

It does not take long for even the strongest and most disciplined of saints to be deeply affected by the noise, the constancy, and the sheer volume of information that is running through our lives. For pastors, and for parishioners, we are in desperate need of having our hearts searched, softened, and purged of all of the stuff that attaches to our hearts from day to day in our postmodern culture.

If there was any time in our life as a Church that we needed to take our hearts on a journey through the Eucharist to have them softened, forgiven, and then offered up to God it is now. Rather then encouraging the faithful to drive to church (while being assaulted by billboards) and then jump right into praise and thanksgiving, we would do well to recover the idea that our hearts are rarely prepared to encounter God on his throne or to have our hearts ascend to him in heaven. Just as Christians for centuries have known, we need to prepare our hearts by taking them on a redemptive drive through the Eucharist. Then, after we have fed on the Word, confessed our sins, and offered ourselves to one another as a reconciled community, can we say with boldness,

Celebrant  Lift up your hearts.
People  We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant  Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People  It is right to give him thanks and praise


1. Create in Me a Clean Heart. Contemporary praise song based on Psalm 51 and very  popular in the 1970’s.
2. Bruce Springsteen. The River (NewYork: CBS, Inc.). The Song is titled “Hungry Heart.”
3. A word search using Logos’ New American Standard Bible, heart and hearts.
4. Galen Bushey, The Prayer Book Concordance (New York: The Church Hymnal Corporation, 1988), p. 230-231. References are to heart and hearts.
5. The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites  and Ceremonies of the Church (New York:  The Church Hymnal Corporation,  1979), p. 38. From Morning Prayer Rite One. This is a Lenten prayer taken from  Joel 2:13 which says, “Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the  Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great  kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.”
6. “BCP”, p. 91. Taken from Morning Prayer Rite Two, the 14th Canticle; A Song of  Penitence. The line reads, “And now, O Lord, I bend the knee of my heart, and  make my appeal, sure of your gracious goodness.”
7. “BCP”, p. 128. This is the first of a selection of Compline prayers, Psalm 4:4 known as  Cum invocarem reads, “Tremble, then, and do not sin; speak to your heart in  silence upon your bed.”
8. “BCP”, p. 115. One of a selection of opening sentences  for evening prayer, the  reference to the heart teaching us comes from, Psalm 16:7, 8; “I will bless the Lord  who gives me counsel; my heart teaches me, night after night. I have set the Lord  always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not fall.
9. “BCP”, p. 471. From the Psalm used within the Burial right, known as Quemadmodum,  it reads, “Now when I think thereupon, I pour out my heart by myself; for I went  with the multitude, and brought them forth into the house of God.”
10. “BCP”, p. 492.  An Anthem for the Burial of the Dead: “Lord, you know the secrets  of our hearts; shut not your ears to our prayers, but spare us, O Lord. Holy God,  Holy and Mighty, Holy and merciful Savior, deliver us not into the bitterness of  eternal death.
11. “BCP”, p. 638. Taken from Psalm 39:4, known as Dixi, Custodiam, it reads, “My heart  was hot within me; while I pondered, the fire burst into flame.”
12. “BCP”, p. 611. From the Psalter, Psalm 22:14, “I am poured out like water; all my  bones are out of joint; my heart within my breast is melting wax.”
13. “BCP”, p. 710. From Psalm 86:10; “11 Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in  your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.
14. “BCP”, p. 619. From Psalm 28:8; “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart  trusts in him, and I have been helped; Therefore my heart dances for joy, and in  my song will I praise him.”
15. “BCP”, p. 657. From Psalm 57:11; “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a  right spirit within me.”
16 “BCP”, p. 731. From Psalm 102: 4: “My heart is smitten like grass and withered, so  that I forget to eat my bread.”
17. “BCP”, p. 589. From Psalm 5:9: “For there is no truth in their mouth; there is  destruction in their heart.”
18. “BCP”, p. 597. From Psalm 12:2. “Everyone speaks falsely with his neighbor; *
 with a smooth tongue they speak from a double heart.
19. “BCP”, p. 642. From Psalm 41:6: “Even if they come to see me, they speak empty
 words; their heart collects false rumors; they go outside and spread them. 
20. “BCP”, p. 323, 355. These opening words of acclimation where used during lent.
 See also  Marion Hatchet, Prayer Book Commentary p. 318 for further comments.
21. “BCP”, p. 323, 355. The phrase, “cleanse the thoughts of our hearts” is also used in  the following services: 323 HE RI,  337 HE RI, 355 HE RII, 512 Ordination of a  bishop
22. Stephen Sykes, Unashamed Anglicanism (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), p.24-25.
 Sykes says, “It is common biblical, patristic and catholic thought that the heart is  open to God.” He goes on to show how the collect can be traced from the Catholic  rite used when the priest was vesting to a public confession during the opening of  the service.
23. Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book (New York: The  Seabury Press, 1979), p. 319.  The Summary of the law in the BCP is based on  Matt 22:37-40. 
24. BCP.  The Summary of the Law is found on p. 324.
25. Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book (New York: The  Seabury Press, 1979), p. 319-322. The Kyrie, The Trisagion, and the Song of  Praise or offered as choices in the BCP; see 324-325, 356 .
26. “Hatchett”, P. 322. This commentary on the salutation gives a good explanation of the  evolution of the salutation and biblical sources.
27 “BCP”. The statement, “we have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed is  found  in both RI 331 and in RII 360.
28. “BCP”, 359-360. Confession of sin.
29. “BCP”, p. 316. The exhortation has a long history. It was first required to be used  seasonally as Holy Communion was not taken weekly. It was designed to be said the  week before communion. It use is now not required. See Hatchett, p. 309-310.
30. Sykes. p, 31. His treatment of the open heart and it journey through the Eucharist is  excellent.
31. Charles Price, Introducing the Proposed Book of Common Prayer ( New York: The  Seabury Press, 1977). p. 39
32 . “Price”, p. 44.
33. George Herbert, George Herbert: The Country Parson, The Temple (Ramsey: Paulist Press 1981), 248-249. The complete poem is quite spectacular.
34. “BCP”,  p.361. Taken from Rite Two, though the phrase is used in all Eucharistic  Prayers in the Prayer Book.
35. “BCP”,  p.174. For more on the history and commentary on the Collect for Ascension  day, see also Marion Hatchet, p.226 and Stephen Sykes, p. 40 as listed above.
36. Os Guinness, Fit Bodies, fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What To Do  About It (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), p. 94.Henri Nouwen quoted.


The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church.  (1979). New York:  The Church Hymnal Corporation.

Bushey, Galen (1988). The Prayer Book Concordance. New York: The Church Hymnal Corporation.

Guinness, Os. (1994). Fit Bodies, fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What To Do About It. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Hatchett, Marion J. (1979). Commentary on the American Prayer Book.  New York: The Seabury Press.

Herbert, George. (1981). George Herbert: The Country Parson, The Temple. Ramsey: Paulist Press.

Price, Charles (1977). Introducing the Proposed Book of Common Prayer.  New York: The Seabury Press.

Sykes, Stephen. (1995). Unashamed Anglicanism. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Toon, Peter (1993). Proclaiming the Gospel Through the Liturgy: The Common Prayer Tradition and Doctrinal Revision.  Largo: The Prayer Book Society Publishing Company.

Wilson, Marvin (1989). Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith. Grand  rapids: Eerdmans Publishing  Company.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bible Course: The Prophetic Arrivals

In November and December, Jay Slocum will continue to teach a Bible Course geared for those who are presently not involved in a Jonah’s Call Home Group. Over the course of four sessions, we will study Old Testament passages offering 
prophecies of the coming of Jesus. The course will be a precursor to our Advent Sermon Series (The Seven Arrivals) and will include group discussion, teaching, and time for participants to get to know one another. If you are not presently in a Home Group and desire to grow spiritually, consider being a part of this class. We will be limiting the course to 14 participants, so sign up ASAP. To sign up, email Jay Slocum at

November 16th
God’s Prophetic Arrival
Proverbs 30:1-6 and John 5:16-25

November 30th
The Arrival of the Prophet-Hero
Isaiah 61:1-3 and Luke 4:14-27

December 07th
Our Advocates Prophetic Arrival
Isaiah 11:1-9 and Luke 2:25-34

December 14th
The Prophecy of Our Friend’s Arrival
Isaiah 53:9-12 Luke 22:24-38 ω

Seven Arrivals

 The word advent means arrival. In the church, we celebrate the days leading up to Christmas as part of the Advent Season. Advent has a double meaning. Part of the Advent season includes our celebration of the arrival of Christ incarnate, in the flesh, as a baby. That’s what Christmas Eve is all about. The other part of the Advent season includes our focus on the coming of Jesus to consummate all of human history. We theological types call this time the eschaton, meaning the end of time. So, in the season of Advent, which will start on Sunday, November 27th and end on December 24th, we will be looking at prophecies from the Old Testament that point to Jesus’ arrival, and are fulfilled in the Gospels. These passages will focus on Jesus both as a baby and as the ruler over all of human history. Then, from Christmas to Epiphany (a day when we look at the arrival of the wise rulers who worshipped Jesus), we will continue the pattern of comparing Old Testament prophecies and their fulfillment in the Gospels. This series will open our eyes to the amazing plan of God to bring Good News into a world shrouded with darkness and doubt. As we enter into the holiday season, this series will allow us to focus on the amazing beauty of God in sending Jesus Christ into the world and the amazing reality of Christ fulfillment of human history n someday completing the work he started by making all things new at the and of time. Join us for this series and be sure to invite a friend.

November 27th
God Will Arrive
Proverbs 30:1-6 and John 5:16-25
(Jay Slocum)

December 4th
A Hero Will Arrive
Isaiah 61:1-3 and Luke 4:14-27
(Jay Slocum)

December 11th
An Advocate Will Arrive
Isaiah 11:1-9 and Luke 2:25-34
(Gaea Thompson)

December 18th
A Friend Will Arrive
Isaiah 53:9-12 Luke 22:24-38
(Jay Slocum)

December 24th
Jesus, A Light Arrives in the Darkness
Luke 2:1-7, Isaiah 9: 1-7, Luke 2:8-20
(Jay Slocum)

January 1st
Enemies Will Oppose His Arrival
Jeremiah 31:15-20 and Matthew 2:13-18
Guest Preacher

January 7th
Outsiders Will Welcome His Arrival
Isaiah 11:10-16 and Matthew 2:1-12
(Jay Slocum)

Season of Celebration

A Sermon Series from Philippians

The early church grew from a disparate band of followers in Jerusalem to a worldwide movement that changed the very fabric of the world in the span of 300 years. In the midst of this movement, the Church in Philippi offered the city and the world a model of what it looked like to be the church to and in the world. The letter to the Philippians is a book that celebrates the very best of what it looks like when people’s lives are changed by the Good News of being a people redeemed and redeeming the world as a result of the saving love of Jesus Christ. Join us for this series, titled Season of Celebration and invite a friend.

Download Sermon From the Season of Celebration Series Here

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Confirmation at Jonah's Call

(Photos by David Sadd)

Our Prayer Book (The Book of Common Prayer) describes confirmation in this way: “Confirmation is the rite in which we express a mature commitment to Christ, and receive strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by a bishop. It is required of those to be confirmed that they have been baptized, are sufficiently instructed in the Christian Faith, are penitent for their sins, and are ready to affirm their confession of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord."

On Sunday, April 10, 2011, our Bishop, the Most Rev. Robert Duncan confirmed 11 candidates from Jonah’s Call: Maggie Dahl, Mark Dahl, Jill King, Josh Moyer, Elisabeth Moyer, Thad Pellegrini, CJ Pellegrini, Jay Roszman, Rachel Roszman, Elaina Sadd and Emma Slocum.

During this time, he also reaffirmed Liz Delgado and Linda Stewart.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Center for Public Justice- Gideon Strauss Coming to Pittsburgh

Gideon Strauss is making his way to Pittsburgh to begin a conversation about how Christians can engage the civic arena in a way that moves beyond mere partisan politics. In preperation for his visit to Pittsburgh, Gideon recently visited with John Hall & Kathy Emmons at Word Fm. His interview is worth checking out. Find it on the Jonah's Call website by Clicking HERE.

Center for Public Justice Forum
Date & Time:April 6, 2011 from 6-8:30pm
Location:The Union Project (801 North Negley Ave. Pittsburgh, PA)
Topic: Civic Engagement among Christians in Pittsburgh
Join us for a facilitated conversation on thoughtful civic engagement among Christians in Pittsburgh.
Facilitated by: Dr. Gideon Strauss, CEO, Center for Public Justice
Dinner will be served.

**This event is free of charge, but you must register.

To RSVP please contact Stephanie Summers at 202.669.6926 or Have questions or need directions? Contact Lisa Slayton or Valerie Faust or 412.281.3752.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jonah’s Call Reveals Jesus through “Re:Design” Projects

To Read this article in PDF form from Trinity Magazine Click Trinity Lent (March)

New ministry seeks to bring beauty to the city of Pittsburgh in ways that reuse, restore, and renew physical resources.


Tanni, Evan, and Alex saw Jesus come to their home through
the Re:Design ministry at Jonah’s Call.

“This is Jesus.” This was the reaction of a teenager whose home was redesigned by a new outreach ministry at Jonah’s Call, East End. Re:Design helps create home interiors that nurture hearts and help others to feel God’s love through beautiful design. The mission of Re:Design is to bring beauty to the city of Pittsburgh in ways that reuse, restore, and renew physical resources. Through this ministry, Jonah’s Call assists others in reusing quality resources to restore homes in Pittsburgh, with the hope of seeing people renew their belief in the beauty of God’s design for the world. They put quality, gently-used furniture and household items to reuse through donations from many different sources. “We want to show people God’s love by making their home beautiful,” says Jen Brandenstein, lay leader of Re:Design.

Re:Design started when Ruth Thompson, a parishioner at Jonah’s Call who redesigns kitchens for mostly wealthy clients, saw resources going to waste. The Rev. Jay Slocum, rector of Jonah’s Call, heard about this and cast a vision for redesigning homes for those who couldn’t afford it, as a way to spread renewal and hope. Jen Brandenstein, a member of Jonah’s Call with a degree in Fine Arts, was ecstatic when she heard Slocum’s vision. “My real passion has always been interior design. Design is a gift I have been given,” she says. Brandenstein agreed to lead the new ministry and Re:Design was born.

The Brookline Project was the first Re:Design home makeover. A low-income, single mother of three teens was selected to receive a complete makeover of her home in Brookline. In August, Jonah’s Call (with the help of Church of the Ascension) raised $5,000 at The Big Sale, an annual parish rummage sale. The money raised at The Big Sale allowed Jonah’s Call to secure space at a storage facility to begin accepting donations and to purchase supplies for the Brookline Project. “Through The Big Sale and Re:Design, we believe that redistributing wealth is a powerful form of Christian love that helps to bring restoration to people’s lives in profound ways,” said Slocum.

On December 3, volunteers began work on the Brookline home. The result was dramatic (see photos). Volunteers did a complete makeover of the home and decorated it for Christmas, complete with a Christmas tree. As Christians around the world celebrated Jesus coming into the world, a family in Brookline celebrated Jesus coming into their home through the Re:Design ministry.

Brandenstein says that Re:Design projects present a unique opportunity to be welcomed as a guest into someone’s home and for people with a variety of gifts and skills to serve. Re:Design has something for everyone who wants to transform their community. “Some living conditions are full of despair; we want to change that. When you improve someone’s environment to make it beautiful, they feel better about themselves and can receive God’s love,” says Brandenstein, “Re:Design is about loving people who can never seem to get ahead. I can’t think of a more intimate gift of service.”

Join Re:Design: Reuse, Restore, Renew

Re:Design is about much more than giving practical or pretty “stuff” packaged in good design. It is about renewing lives one home at a time. There are three things Re:Design strives to do:

  • Reuse - Distributing quality unwanted household items to those in need through individual partnerships.
  • Restore - Providing personal consultation and labor to redesign living spaces.
  • Renew - Bringing hope by helping people see the beauty of God’s created order and the grace he offers in renewing our lives, spiritually, physically, and relationally.

If you are interested in joining Re:Design in renewing the city of Pittsburgh, there are many ways you can help. Re:Design is especially looking for a crew of people who can drive a truck and pick up donations once a month. To find out more about how to volunteer with Re:Design, contact Jen Brandenstein.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reason For God Home Group Study

So many of us have friends and relatives who really struggle to believe in the God of the Bible. There was a time when enough of Christian belief was embedded in the mind of the average American that bringing a person to believe in God was simply a case of reviving them- waking them up to realities that they held deep in their hearts.

In Post-Christian America, the need that many have is to see Christianity as plausible in the midst of a relativistic, post-modern, pluralistic culture. Questions like, Why is their evil? How can Christianity claim to be an exclusive Truth? How can a person believe in Moral Absolutes, and How can a loving God send people to Hell? are vital questions that seekers need to have answered.

Tim Keller's DVD study, based on his book, The Reason for God is a great way to answer questions and to be prepared to understand those who do not believe.

The Squirrel Hill Home Group will be studying The Reason for God in the coming weeks.

Here is the trailer:

The Reason for God DVD Trailer from Redeemer City to City on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ash Wednesday

Wednesday, March, 9th at 7:00 p.m.

Allegheny Cemetery Hall of Memories

(Penn Ave. Entrance) 4715 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh

A Christian worship service that will remind us of our mortality and give us

a hope for the renewal of all things. Special music, a beautiful sacred space, and the imposition of ashes will highlight the evening.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Anglican 1000- Terry Gyger on the Way Church Planting Pays!

Anglican institutional churches often shutter at the thought of giving away people & possessions and sharing property with the church plants.

After all, isn't it just too expensive to fund a church planter and underwrite a church plant, not to mention the people that will "leak" out from our church if we give them away.

According to Terry Gyger, this kind of thinking is very short sighted.

At the Anglican 1000 conference, Rev. Gyger from City to City pointed out how church planting brings huge resources into our cities and communities.

Consider the following comparison.

An investor has two decisions to make.

First, he can invest in providing funding to ten non-profit ministries either globally or locally at 10,000.00 per ministry for three years. His total investment will total 300,000 dollars.

Second, he can invest in a church plant for three years at 300,000. Out of this investment, he will see a new church that will begin, as part of its outreach to the local & global world, to invest non-profits and the multiplication of new churches that will invest in non-profits and the multiplication of new churches.

Gyger pointed this out in a session titled Churches planting churches.

So, from an investment standpoint how much sense does it make for large churches to ignore a facet of growth that multiplies ones investment exponentially.

Put in a grossly simple way, if you had two choices which would you make:

Putting 1,000 dollars into the purchase of buttons for your church


Putting 1,000 dollars into the purchase of a button making machine that will yield thousands and thousands of buttons for your church.

Now, to be clear, neither Gyger, or I am saying that we ought not to invest in global and local non-profit ministries. However, we ought not to exclude church planting as part of our investment portfolio as churches.

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Anglican1000 Conference- Tim Keller Discusses the interplay Between Movement & Institutions

I am at the 2011 Anglican 1000 Conference in Plano. Dr. Keller has spoken of how important it is for movements to keep the dynamic between informal & formal, liquid & solid, a movement & an institution.

We all know how not hip institutions are.

"We are a movement not an institution. We form teams not committees. We are organic not bureaucratic. We experience Jesus in intimate community not formal churches, blah, blah blah.

But the genius of Dr. Keller is the way in which he holds the tension between formality & informality, movement & institution.

The great German sociologist, Max Weber once laid out the way in which the charismatic authority of a visionary leader (say, King David and his mighty men) moved from being able to 1. Order chaos into a compelling way to see the world or live life.

2. To then take that ordered way of life and "routinize" it so that a group or community could take part in its dynamic way of life.

3. To then further order this way of life (or compelling vision) into a bureaucratized system that could be applied to a larger segment of society.

4. To then institutionalizing this ordered way of life or compelling vision so that an entire nation could apply it to the chaos of life.

Keller has done a great job drawing these vary dynamics out when discussing the health of the church. Below is his piece from the Redeemer City to City Blog:

Ministry Movements

27 Jul 2010, by Tim Keller

The word "movement" is often used to describe a kind of vital, dynamic human organization, in order to distinguish it from what are called "institutions." Both of these words can have broader meanings, but for the sake of this discussion let us define them in the following ways.

A movement is marked by an attractive, clear, unifying vision for the future together with a strong set of values or beliefs. The content of the vision must be compelling and clear so that others can grasp it readily. It must not be so esoteric or difficult that only a handful of people can articulate it. Instead, it must be something that all members of the movement can understand and pass along to others. By contrast, "institutionalized" organizations are held together by rules, regulations, and procedures, not by a shared vision.

This unifying vision is so compelling that it takes pride of place. First, the vision leads to sacrificial commitment. Individuals put the vision ahead of their own interests and comfort. They are willing to work without high compensation, power, or perks. The satisfaction of realized goals is their main compensation. There is no more practical index of whether you have a movement or not. If the leader is making all the sacrifices, you don't.

Second, the vision leads to generous flexibility. Institutionalized organizations are very turf conscious. Members are suspicious of anyone encroaching on their area of responsibility. Positions and power have been hard-won and jealously guarded. This is done by slavish devotion to rules of procedure, accreditation, and tenure. In movements, however, the accomplishment of the vision is more important than power and position. So people are willing to make allies, be flexible, and cooperate with anyone sharing the basic vision and values.

Third, the vision leads to innovativeness. Institutions are organized more vertically, where ideas from "below" are unwelcome. Movements are flatter because the commonly shared vision unifies and empowers. The vision is what matters - so anyone with a good idea about how to accomplish it is welcome to give it. Ideas flow out of the whole organization, top to bottom, which leads to greater creativity.

Finally, a movement is marked by spontaneous generativity. Spontaneous combustion means energy generated from within - a conflagration without the need for external ignition. A movement is able to generate its own resources, recruit its own new members and participants, and (especially) raise up its own new leaders. This does not mean that movements have no formal training programs. Rather, it means that first, the vision of the movement (especially as its content is disseminated) attracts people with leadership potential, and, secondly, that the work of the movement provides opportunities that reveal emerging leaders through real-life experience and then prepares them for the next level of leadership in the movement. Denominations or church networks that always have to recruit ministers and staff that were raised up in other environments, and that attract them mainly with good compensation, do not show signs of being a movement.

David Hurst, a Harvard scholar, summed up how movements become institutions this way - vision becomes strategy, roles become tasks, teams become structure, networks become organizations, recognition becomes compensation. It is wrong, however, to draw such a hard line between the two forms. It is typical in the Christian movement literature to be highly critical of "institutionalism," for good reason. But the impression is left that all authority, central control, and formal processes are bad for ministry. The reality is more complex.

It is natural for new churches and ministries to try very hard to stay informal, non-codified, and non-centralized. But part of what makes a movement dynamic is a unified vision, and that always requires some codification and control. As time goes on, to maintain the main engine of movement-dynamics - a unified vision - a ministry must adopt some of the aspects of institutions. A strong movement, then, occupies the difficult space between being a free-wheeling organism and a disciplined organization. A movement that refuses to take on some organizational characteristics - authority, tradition, unity of belief, and quality control - will fragment and dissipate. A movement that does not also resist the inevitable tendency toward complete institutionalization will lose its vitality and effectiveness as well. The job of the movement leader is to steer the ship safely between these two opposite perils.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

AC1000 Conference- Tim Keller cites DA Carson on Six ways people receive the Gospel in Various Contexts

I am at the AC1000 conference in Plano Texas listening to Tim Keller present on contextualizing the Gospel in various cultures. He cites an amazing article by DA Carson on ways people receive the Gospel:

1.Relieving Fear,

2. Relieving the Burden of Guilt,

3. Relieving Shame,

4. Receiving a Future Grace,

5. Being Drawn to the Attractiveness of Truth,

6. A Deep-Seated Fulfillment of an Inner Need,

7. The Attractiveness of Jesus' Shear Love for Us,

8. And a Sense or Urge to be on God's Side.

Themelios: Volume 35, Issue 2

July 2010

Pastoral Pensées: Motivations to Appeal to in Our Hearers When We Preach for Conversion1

D. A. Carson

D. A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

Most of us, I suspect, develop fairly standard ways, one might even say repetitive ways, to appeal to the motivations of our hearers when we preach the gospel. Recently, however, I have wondered if I have erred in this respect—not so much in what I say as in what I never or almost never say. What follows is in some ways a mea culpa, plus some indication of why I think the topic should be important for all of us.

Before I survey the motivations themselves, I should specify that because the gospel is to be preached to both unbelievers and believers, the motivations that here interest me may be found among both parties. Nevertheless, I shall tilt the discussion toward those motivations of unbelievers to which we should appeal when we preach the gospel to them, aiming, in God’s mercy, at their conversion.

1. A Survey of Possible Motivations

The eight motivations I am about to list are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Several may, and often do, coexist at one time and in one person. In no particular order of importance:

1.1 Fear

The Letter to the Hebrews insists that people are kept all their lives in fear of death but that the coming of the Son of God as a human being, a son of Abraham, set in train the destruction of him who has the power of death, namely, the devil himself (Heb 2:14–18). With respect to this particular fear, then, the preaching of the gospel promises a reduction in fear. On the other hand, in various ways Jesus tells his hearers to fear him who has power to destroy body and soul in hell (Matt 10:38). Not a few of the parables end in a simple polarity: gathered into barns or burned (Matt 13:30), entering the home of the wedding feast or being shut outside where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 22:10–13), and so forth. Some apocalyptic images depict people calling for the rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb (Luke 23:30; Rev 6:15–17). Belonging to the same theme are texts asking us, rhetorically, where the profit lies if we gain the whole world but lose our own souls (Matt 16:26), or the insistence that it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31).

Obviously it is possible to preach the wrath of God in such an angry and self-righteous fashion that we bear a much closer resemblance to Elmer Gantry than to Jesus Christ. On the other hand, in addition to the example of Jesus and the apostles, we have occasional examples from church history where God has used the appeal to the fear of judgment in powerful ways. The best known witness is doubtless Jonathan Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” which I reread some weeks ago to remind myself how biblical most of it is.

1.2. The Burden of Guilt

I specify “the burden of guilt” instead of “guilt” because I prefer to use the latter for one’s moral and legal status before the holy God. In other words, one may be very guilty and not feel guilty, that is, not labor under any burden of guilt. If one is in fact guilty but feels nothing of the burden of guilt, the objective guilt is not a motivation for conversion. Until one cries, in these words or something similar, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Ps 51:4),2 one is not strongly motivated by the burden of guilt. On the other hand, that guilt, rightly perceived, can be a crushing burden and thus a powerful and desperate motivation for relief.

It is a truism of much Reformed theology, not least Puritan theology, that the law must do its work before grace can do its work. Without an adequate dose of the former, the latter is likely merely to heal the wounds of the people slightly (to use King James English). That Puritan heritage influenced many who were, strictly speaking, outside that heritage. For example, John Wesley’s advice to a young minister on how to preach the gospel in any new situation is replete with this perspective.3 The text to which many in this tradition appealed was Gal 3: the law is our παιδαγωγός to bring us to Christ, for the law was added to turn sin into transgression, to make us see our fault, to shut us up under condemnation (Gal 3:19–25). Careful exegesis of Gal 3 has often shown, of course, that this interpretation is substantially mistaken: Gal 3 is less interested in the psychological and moral profile of the person transitioning from guilt to grace, than in unpacking the place of the Mosaic law in redemptive history. Nevertheless, the Puritan vision of the place of the law is not as off-base as some think. For even if Paul’s primary point in Gal 3 is to locate the law’s rightful place in redemptive history, over against the place that many Palestinian first-century Jews thought it should have, the conclusion one must inevitably draw is that God took extraordinary pains to establish and nurture the law-covenant across a millennium and a half as preparatio Christi. Total ignorance of this OT background is one of the reasons that so many in contemporary culture feel almost no burden of guilt when they are first confronted with the Bible, with Jesus, with the gospel. In fact, nurtured on a spongy epistemology, many hear the law’s demands and conclude, at least initially, that the God who thought this lot up is not worth respecting, for he must be a manipulative and power-hungry despot. Still, at some point the burden of guilt catches up with many people, and it can become a powerful motivation in their conversion.

1.3. Shame

A glance at the literature shows how difficult it is to distinguish absolutely between guilt and shame. Some cultural anthropologists speak of “shame cultures” as if such cultures know little of guilt, and of some traditional Western cultures as if they are guilt-ridden but know little of shame: the two kinds of cultures are sometimes treated as if they are categorically disjunctive. Some in the field of psychiatry assert that guilt arises from what we do, while shame arises from what we are, but that is certainly not a biblical distinction. In the Bible we may be guilty and feel guilty for what we are, and equally we may be ashamed of what we do.

In popular parlance, I suspect that shame has more to do with losing face, primarily (though not exclusively) in horizontal relationships. Nevertheless, if one loses face before one’s family or peers, it is usually because one has done something “wrong” as judged by those peers, so it is hard to see why guilt feelings do not also intrude. Similarly, one may be genuinely guilty of some sort of moral breach and be ashamed of what one has done. Initially Adam and Eve are naked and unashamed: they have nothing to hide. But when sin changes everything, does Adam hide from God because he feels guilty or because he feels ashamed? Must one choose? Nevertheless, there does appear to be a slight difference in focus between the two: shame has to do with losing face, often objectively, and hence feeling shamed. Such loss of face commonly springs from one’s own faults, but of course it may spring from something one has endured—like David’s envoys who are ashamed of losing half their beards at the hands of the Ammonites and whom David therefore consoles by instructing them to remain at Jericho until their beards grow back (2 Sam 10:1–5). They have lost face, but of course in this instance they are not guilty of anything.

Many have argued that in a culture like ours, which protests that it is unmoved by the law’s demands and that refuses to admit to guilt feelings because it refuses to admit to guilt, a better way to unpack the nature of sin is to unfold the nature of idolatry rather than the nature of law. Idolatry is bound up with corrosive relationships, with de-godding God, with shameful distortions and substitutions; and, it is argued, these evils are more easily admitted among yuppie postmoderns than are the evils of transgressing law. In other words, shame is more readily acknowledged than guilt.

1.4. The Need for “Future Grace”

When John Piper unpacks this category, he has primarily Christians in view. Historically, however, a great deal of evangelism has been carried out by urging people to prepare to meet God, to receive the grace now that alone prepares a sinner for resurrection-existence in the new heaven and the new earth. Where is the profit in gaining the world and losing one’s soul? Where there is widespread belief that one must finally give an account to a holy God who does not grade on the curve, this sort of appeal carries quite a lot of weight. The motivations to which one appeals are a mixture of fear (which I have already mentioned) and the desire to be found right, just, before this God, acceptable to him.

1.5. The Attractiveness of Truth

Frequently the apostles declare that they bear witness to the truth, that they declare the truth, that they do not peddle the truth, that they cannot do other than speak the truth, that they speak the truth plainly in the eyes of all, and so forth (e.g., John 19:35; Rom 9:1; 2 Cor 4:2; 11:10; 13:8). The assumption, of course, is that by the grace of God, the truth itself is attractive to some. Cornelius was such a man. He was a good deal more eager to hear the truth, at least initially, than Peter was to declare it. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, the truth can be self-attesting; for others, like some of Jesus’ opponents in John 8, the truth is precisely what is detested: “Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe” (John 8:45; cf. also Isa 6, cited in Matt 13 and elsewhere). To draw an analogy: the one gospel can be a wonderful aroma to those who are being saved and a disgusting stench to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18). So also the truth can appear wonderful to those who by grace begin to see its beauty and compelling nature, while actually causing offense and unbelief in those who are perishing.

When I was a young man, many university missions spent a lot of time defending, say, the deity of Christ or his resurrection from the dead. The widespread assumption, both among the evangelists and among many of the student hearers, was that if one accepted the truth of these claims, one was already on the path toward becoming a Christian. This assumption sustained quite a lot of evidentialist apologetics. The approach is flawed in several ways, of course. James reminds us that the devil knows and believes such truths, but such “faith” does not save him (James 2:19). Granted, however, the need for grace to enable the “natural” person to perceive the truth, one cannot deny that one of the motivations in people as they begin to “close” with Christ (to use an old Puritan expression) is the attractiveness of the truth. While some in Athens sneered, others, in some ways already hooked by what the apostle Paul was saying, wanted to hear him again on these matters (Acts 17:32). They were drawn to the truth.

1.6. A General, Despairing Sense of Need

It is pretty clear from the Gospel accounts that many who pursued Jesus did not do so out of a well thought-through theology (e.g., law precedes gospel, and they were under deep conviction of sin), but out of desperation fed by their most acutely perceived need. Witness the woman with the history of hemorrhaging (Matt 9:20–21), the two blind men by the side of the road calling for the Son of David to have mercy on them (Matt 9:27), the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:25–28), and many others. In some cases, of course, Jesus responds to such needs yet also pushes on a little farther to deal with the sin in their lives (the Samaritan woman [John 4:10–18], the man by the pool of Bethesda [John 5:5–14]). Moreover, it does not follow that everyone who is healed by Jesus is “saved” in the fullest theological sense of that word. For instance, nine of the ten healed lepers do not have the courtesy of gratitude, let alone saving faith (Luke 17:11–19). Yet where there is a whole-hearted and desperate plea to Jesus, even absent much theological understanding, it is wonderful to see how embracing Jesus is.

Pastoral experience supports this assessment. Many of us have witnessed people turning to Christ with remarkably little exact theological knowledge. The knowledge comes later. Why these people come, at least initially, is that they need help, need it desperately, and turn to Jesus. This may prove to be part of a broader, whole-life turning to Jesus. Their initial motivations, however, are all bound up with desperation.

1.7. Responding to Grace and Love

Both Testaments repeatedly emphasize the matchless love and grace of God. Some are drawn to Christ when they begin to glimpse the Father’s love for this damned world in sending his Son to the cross, and the Son’s love in accomplishing his Father’s will. One suspects that the appellation Mary and Martha had for their brother Lazarus—“the one you love,” they say to Jesus (John 11:3)—reflects a common experience: so many felt peculiarly loved by Jesus, even the Fourth Evangelist himself (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). Paul cannot talk long about justification and the cross-work of Christ without breaking out with an adoring exclamation such as “who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). Whether it is the love of the proverbial father for his prodigal sons (Luke 15:20–24) or the assertion that Christ loved the church and gave himself for her (Eph 5:25, 29), whether it is the gut-wrenching portrayal of the love of God in Hosea or Paul’s prayer that believers might have the power, together with all the saints, to grasp the limitless dimensions of that love (Eph 3:17–19), the response to the love of God is one of the most powerful motivations people experience, not only when they first close with Christ but also when they mature in Christ.

1.8. A Rather Vague Desire to Be on the Side of What Is Right, of What Is from God, of What Is Biblical, of What Is Clean, of What Endures

I know that sounds terribly vague. If I had to attach one word to what I am talking about, it would probably be the motivation of hope. Consider the encounters with Jesus in John 1:19–51. The Baptist’s disciples begin to follow Jesus because their master had pointed to him. They clearly hope he is the one to come. The christological confession at Caesarea Philippi (“You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” [Matt 16:16]) is part of this hope, of course—even though the context shows the apostles at this point have no category for a crucified Messiah. The same sort of longing, with even less theological understanding, is reflected in the desire of Zacchaeus to entertain Jesus in his home (Luke 19:6). I am not trying to specify exactly when the apostles or Zacchaeus were converted. I am pointing out merely that at least part of their motivations in pursuing Jesus, at least initially, lay in their desire to see if he really would fulfill Scripture-anticipation, if a good and powerful man would come to the home of a corrupt civil servant. They hoped so. Transparently, such hope can merge with other motivations already listed: people may hope for release from the burden of guilt, hope to be justified by God on the last day, hope that things will turn out well both short-term and in eternity.

So I turn now from this survey of possible motivations that people display when they turn to Jesus and offer:

2. Four Theological and Pastoral Reflections on This Survey

1. We do not have the right to choose only one of these motivations in people and to appeal to it restrictively.

Consider an analogy. It has become common to speak of half a dozen distinguishable models of the atonement. I do not much like the rubric, but I shall use it for the sake of convenience. Many is the recent book that argues that since all these “models” are grounded in Scripture, we are free to choose the one we prefer. But that is precisely what we are not free to do, unless we conceive of Scripture as little more than a case-book, an inspired volume of cases, warranting readers to glom onto those few cases, and only those cases, that seem to fit their own situations or preferences most closely. If we hold to a more traditional and faithful understanding of Scripture, then to the extent that the various models of the atonement are warranted by Scripture, we must hold to all of them—and then work out how each is related to the others, what holds them together, where there is a priority among them that is established by Scripture itself, and so forth. But we dare not choose merely one or two of them.

So also here. Insofar as these diverse motivations enjoy biblical precedent or even biblical warrant, preachers do not have the right to appeal to only one or two motivations as if they were the only legitimate ones. We ought to appeal, at various times, to all these motivations—and, again, work out how each is related to the others, what holds them together, and where there is a priority among them that is established by Scripture itself. But we do not have the right to appeal constantly to, say, fear before God, without also on occasion appealing to other biblically illustrated and sanctioned motivations.

2. On the other hand, we may have the right to emphasize one motivation more than others.

In the same way that the structure and emphases of Paul’s evangelistic addresses could change, depending on whether he was addressing biblically literate Jews and proselytes (Acts 13) or completely biblically illiterate pagans (Acts 17), so the particular motivations to which we appeal may vary according to our knowledge of our audience. In a somewhat similar vein, if we are addressing biblically literate but unregenerate people, some of our appeal will presuppose that they know the Scriptures at some level, that many of them, say, will be convinced that there is a judgment to be faced, a heaven to be gained, a hell to be shunned and feared. By contrast, if we are addressing biblically illiterate people, then although all those themes will at some point have to be introduced, our initial appeals may sound quite different. Some motivations are of course unworthy, and we should never appeal to them. For example, “Come to Jesus, and you will receive a lot of cargo,”4 or “Turn to Jesus, and you will always be free of trouble.” Where motivations are not unworthy, however, and especially where they are biblically sanctioned, we may find it particularly appropriate to appeal to certain motivations rather more than others.

It would be easy to go through the list I laid out and conjure up situations where it is the part of prudential wisdom to appeal to one or two motivations rather more often than to all the rest. Had we time, it would be an excellent exercise to envisage the kind of audience that ought to find us appealing to primarily this or that motivation in our hearers.

3. Nevertheless, the comprehensiveness of our appeal to diverse motivations will reflect the comprehensiveness of our grasp of the gospel.

Once again, let me draw an analogy first before establishing my point. For the last fifteen or twenty years, many of us have wrestled long and hard with the doctrine of justification, judging that something essential to the gospel is at stake in the current discussions. The result, however, is that we have sometimes so tied the gospel and conversion to the question of our right standing before God that we have downplayed the new birth. We have emphasized Christ’s bearing our guilt and the nature of imputation without correspondingly emphasizing the regenerating work of the Spirit and the gospel as the power of God, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, in transforming our lives, in our becoming part of the new creation. Suppose, then, that we managed to emphasize both of these elements of conversion appropriately (let us call them the forensic and the transformative). We might, of course, then tumble into neglect of the running biblical tension between our joy in the kingdom of God now already operating in the reign of King Jesus and the joy that awaits the consummation of that kingdom in the resurrection-existence of the new heaven and the new earth. Understanding this tension will engender hope, thereby reinforcing all the motivations that spring from a godly anticipation of what God has promised that still lies ahead. In other words, while the exigencies of our pastoral location during these past twenty years have demanded that we focus on forensic elements of the gospel and conversion, a robust biblical theology demands that part of our ministry be taken up by the biblical exigencies, the shape of the gospel itself, the rich and complex nature of its outworking in conversion and in the spiritual maturation of the believer and of the church.

So also this matter of choosing the motivations to which we appeal—choices that largely shape our sermons. For pastoral reasons, we may decide, for instance, that our particular audience, with its endless frustrated and idolatrous relationships and its suspicion of law-categories, needs a heavy emphasis on the generosity and freedom of God’s grace: our God, as Tim Keller likes to put it, is an overwhelmingly prodigal God.5 Well and good. But the Bible itself depicts Jesus inciting fear in the hearts of people with his insistence that the God with whom they have to deal “can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt 10:28). Again, Jesus openly appeals to motivations that seek eternal rather than temporary and material rewards. He does not hesitate to elicit awareness of guilt and to invoke shame: Who goes home justified, the Pharisee or the publican (Luke 18:9–14)? Who gives more, the wealthy givers or the widow with her two mites (Mark 12:41–44)?

So while we may, for pastoral reasons, initially choose to appeal to certain motivations and not others, it is surely the path of biblical faithfulness so to teach and preach the Word of God that we awaken new motivations in the hearts and minds of our people as we unpack the complex richness of the glorious gospel of our blessed God. If instead we find ourselves constantly appealing to the same two or three motivations while ignoring others, it is probably because our choices are too much shaped by our perceptions of local cultural needs and too little shaped by the richness of the biblical gospel. Sooner or later, our people may read their Bibles with limiting and even dangerous blinkers that we ourselves have given them.

4. To put this another way, all of the biblically sanctioned motivations for pursuing God, for pursuing Christ, say complementary things about God himself, such that failure to cover the sweep of motivations ultimately results in diminishing God.

Thus, the motivations characterized by fear are bound up with the truth that God is holy, that he is rightfully our Judge, that he gathers some into his presence and casts others into outer darkness, that his knowledge of us is perfect, extending not only to a grasp of our motives but even to a full-bore knowledge of what we would have done under different circumstances (a form of so-called “middle knowledge”). The burden of guilt reminds us that God does not grade on the curve, and unless we are justified by the one who is himself just while justifying the ungodly, there is no hope for us.

And so we could work through the list. The point to be made is simple: any failure to appeal to the full range of biblically exemplified and biblically sanctioned motivations not only means that there are some people we are not taking into account, but, more seriously, that there are elements in the character and attributes of God himself that we are almost certainly ignoring.

  1. ^This article is a lightly edited manuscript from a paper presented on May 19, 2010 at The Gospel Coalition’s Pastors’ Colloquium in Deerfield, Illinois.
  2. ^Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture citations are from Today’s New International Version (tniv), © 2005.
  3. ^John Wesley, “To an Evangelical Layman,” in The Works of John Wesley: Volume 26: Letters II: 1740–1755 (ed. Frank Baker; Oxford: Clarendon, 1982), 482–89.
  4. ^Cf. neo-Melanesian “cargo cults,’ or our own health, wealth, and prosperity gospels.
  5. ^Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith (New York: Dutton, 2008).
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