Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A New Way to be Human?

I’ve been putting the finishing touches up on my sermon for Sunday morning. Let me start by saying that I absolutely love preaching, it is, by far, my favorite part of being a pastor. I usually don’t let people know when I’m preaching, but since Bret announced it on Sunday morning, I’m letting people know that I’m preaching at HSN this week. As usual, I’m pretty excited!

Anyway, I was working on my sermon a bit today. I was reading a commentary on the story of the Prodigal Son. To be precise, I was reading William Barclay’s commentary on the Gospel of Luke. I like Barclay’s commentaries; they’re usually full of nice tid-bits that preach well. He has a solid theological head on his shoulders, and he’s not so intellectual that he’s unapproachable.

So, in my studies this morning I came across a small passage in his commentary that absolutely floored me.

“Jesus paid sinning mankind the greatest compliment it has ever been paid. ‘When he came to himself,’ he said. Jesus believed that so long as a man was away from God he was not truly himself; he was only truly himself when he was on the way home. Beyond a doubt Jesus did not believe in total depravity. He never believed that you could glorify God by blackguarding man; he believed that man was never essentially himself until he came home to God” (204).

Jesus didn’t believe in total depravity? Now, let’s be clear about something. As Nazarenes, we are not Calvinists. We don’t believe in the TULIP the way the Calvinists, however, in my theology classes, I was taught that we do believe in total depravity, in some form. We were taught that prevenient grace was the only thing that kept us from making the sinful choice every single time we had a choice to make. That is, in essence, absolute and total depravity.

However, what if Barclay is right? Aren’t there some serious theological implications in noting that humans aren’t totally depraved? Does it leave a cop-out excuse? Does it change the way we preach salvation?

If we aren’t truly human until we are on our way to God, then what are the implications?

Did I sin, or did a lesser version, the non-human version of me sin?

Does my past include life as a sinner, or am I something else entirely?

Maybe there’s some good in this concept, the idea that we become new creations when we’re completely cleansed by God. Behold the old has gone the new has come. However, does it close the door to a theological perspective which allows for the possibility of backsliding into sin? If someone is truly experiencing my human-ness for the first time as a Christian, then what does it say when that Christian backslides?

What do you think?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Our own Cake Boss experience

Holly and I were asked by my family to make a "snazzy desert" for my family's Easter get-together this year. I wasn't sure what we were going to do, but... I finally thought of something great. One of our favorite shows is Cake Boss, we love Buddy and we love watching the cakes he makes. So, taking inspiration from him, we decided to make our own Cake!

So, we set about to make a larger-than-life Easter cake! The day started off with a delicious breakfast, courtesy of her parentals. Then, we made our way to Hobby Lobby and Crafts 2000 for Cake building supplies. After that, we traveled across the way to Wal Mart. Let me explain something to you... don't ever go to Wal Mart on the first Saturday of the month. No matter what you need, it's NOT worth it. We made our way through Wal Mart for the couple things we needed, and eventually went home to get started.

I should interject here that I ended up making my way into the ghetto Kroger on the South Side of Springfield... twice. But, that's okay. So, we started making our cake. We used a home made recipe from Holly's grandma. We were using 9x13 pans, and we were making a double-decker cake. So, we had to make a triple batch of the recipe. It started off with sugar and crisco (Yep, it's going to be a healthy cake!) We creamed the two ingredients, making a huge bowl of a heart attack!

We finished the recipe, adding flour, egg whites, milk... and some other stuff. We made the two cakes, and then let them cool. We cut them down, and started the process of stacking them. Let me add, that at this point, we have surpassed my previous experience with cake making. Usually I just use a box and make a cake, then I ice it. We were cutting the cakes and stacking them with a layer of icing in the middle.

So, this of course, is what the cake looked like after we stacked them. We used Holly's grandma's icing recipe as well. We've watched so much Cake Boss that we knew what to do next. We needed to dirty ice it and put it fondant on it! However, one problem, fondant is nasty. Neither of us like the taste, so, we decided to go without the fondant. So, we had our icing plan, but had to decide where to go next...

Cereal Treats! What's a Cake Boss cake without some Rice Krispie Treats? So, for our Easter-themed cake ala Buddy, we wanted to make a tomb of Rice Krispie Treats. So, we melted the butter and cooked the marshmallows into it. Then dumped that hot mixture into the rice krispies. Yeah, this wasn't easy. Those aren't easy to make! At this point, the pictures are going to continue as I switch gears on this post.

We continued our production of this cake. As I did, I started to get a little worried. You know, my family is awesome, but they are not Christians. They do not follow Jesus, and I'm not sure that they fully "get" Easter. So, I'm worried that the idea of an empty tomb cave will be somewhat lost on them. But, I thought about things, and I couldn't resist the chance to make a cake that was about the real Easter!

So, the proverbial icing on the cake had to be something else besides the empty tomb. I decided to take another page from the Cake Boss book and use modeling chocolate. Well, there's one problem, neither Holly nor I had any idea what modeling chocolate was or where you could buy it. We thought maybe it was like fondant that you could just buy and then use. Turns out, that's not the case. You have to make modeling chocolate!

The biggest task of this cake boss extravaganza for me was to make a modeling chocolate figure to put on the cake. This meant, however that I first had to learn hot to make modeling chocolate. We learned how, and I set to work making a small Jesus figure to put with our empty tomb. The simple fact is that an empty tomb could mean any number of things. You could argue that the disciples stole the body. Or you could argue any number of things.

However, don't forget that Jesus literally rose from the dead, and not in some sort of zombie movie fashion. He literally came back from the dead and was alive. The Bible tells us that lots and lots of people had a chance to see him after his resurrection. Jesus walked away from the tomb, and because He was able to overcome the grave, we don't have to completely be held hostage by the power of death.

I'll be honest, there's a decent chance that this cake is considered kitsch. Christian kitsch, even. I suppose it might be, but Holly and I had a great time today making a cake, doing something that I knew she'd love doing. So, after buying ingredients and spending an entire day working on this cake, we're thrilled about how it looks. We can't wait to show it off to my family for Easter, and I'm excited to maybe get to explain who that goofy guy with a purple snake around his neck is. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy the images and the story as much as we enjoyed making it.