Publicity for Vol. 1, The Collected Writings of James Leo Garrett Jr., 1950-2015

Just a little update on the life of the first volume.  Sending a book out into the world really is a fascinating process and, from time to time, it’s nice to see how it is faring.  Toward that end I thought I’d share a couple of publicity pieces on the volume thus far.

On December 30, the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel listed the publication of Dr. Garrett’s writings as their top religion story.

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And on January 17, 2018, Dr. David Dockery listed the first volume in his list of “Notable Publications” at Christianity Today.

Mark 14:43-52

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 14

43 And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45 And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 50 And they all left him and fled. 51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

You would not know to look at it, but this painting was actually considered extremely controversial when it was painted.  In fact, when it appeared the artist was summoned before the Inquisition to explain himself.  I am talking about Paolo Veronese’s 1573 painting, “The Feast at the House of Levi.”  Actually, that was not his original title.  He renamed the painting after the Inquisition gave him three months to change it.  Originally it was entitled, “The Last Supper.”

feast-at-the-house-of-levi-by-paolo-veronese-1573

What was it that upset the Inquisition so much about the painting?  If you look closely at it you will see the traditional elements of last supper paintings:  Jesus in the middle of the table and the disciples flanking Him on either side.  But what was surprising and, to some, upsetting, were the extra elements that Veronese added.  For instance, the Inquisition seems to have been irked at the fact that there is a dog standing in front of the Lord’s Supper table.  (Veronese reveals in the transcript of his exchange with the Inquisition that somebody suggested he paint Mary Magdalene over the dog but he declined for the reason that she would look very strange indeed positioned right there in the painting.)  Also, Veronese included an image of a dwarf, an image of a man with a bloody nose holding a rag, a man dressed like a “buffoon” with a parrot on his arm, and maybe most provocatively, some men dressed as Germans wearing swords.  This was upsetting to the Inquisition because in the 1500’s in Germany the Protestant Reformation was exploding and they were offended by what they might have seen as a nod to the Reformation in the painting.  What is more, Peter, in the painting, is carving lamb to put on people’s place, an image that was certainly not traditional.[1]

In short, some were offended by Veronese’s painting because it put Jesus in the midst of a situation that looked too real, too raw, too earthly, too worldly!  Dogs and men with bloody noses and heretics with swords, and some guy with a parrot, and Peter cutting up lamb:  all of this is just too much for folks who want their Jesus captured in a moment of soft light, religious piety, pretty colors, and a romanticized gloss.

But I like Veronese’s painting!  In fact, I love it.  Why?  Because Jesus did not come to the earth to star in some first century version of a Hallmark Channel movie.  He did not come for the gloss and the feel-good story.  He came to step into the midst of the rabble of humanity where dogs roam around the table and where people have bloody noses and where the weird guy with the parrot is just wondering around the room and where the dangerous people with swords are and where people are doing commonplace things and heretical things and dangerous things and disturbing things.  This is the world into which Jesus stepped!  He came into the mud and the muck of raw everyday humanity.

More than that, he stepped into the darkness of human sinfulness.  He stepped among us rebels and prodigals and scoundrals—that is to say, among all of us!—in order to call us home!  Chapter 39 of Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22 is entitled “The Eternal City.”  In this chapter, Yossarian walks through the streets of Rome and behold numerous horrible scenes of violence and excess.  Then Joseph Heller writes this:

The night was filled with horror, and he thought he knew how Christ must have felt as he walked through the world, like a psychiatrist through a ward full of nuts, like a victim through a prison full of thieves.  What a welcome sight a leper must have been![2]

Indeed!  And nowhere does the contrast between the ways of man and the ways of God become more evident than in these scenes at the end of the gospels as we approach the cross.  Mark 14 has shown us the Lord’s Supper and now we are in the garden.  Jesus has groaned under the weight of the burden of the coming cross but He has not turned away.  He has not been unfaithful.  He still holds true to the task.

Now, Judas comes.  The soldiers come.  Peter lashes out.  The disciples flee.  In other words, now we see the ways of man and the ways of God in shocking contrast.  Now we see that Veronense was right to paint what he painted, for God in Christ stepped not into a “Precious Moments” display case.  He stepped into the nightmare of man and brought with Him the light of glory.

Let us observe the contrast between the way of man and the way of God.

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CBC Long Range Planning Committee Proposal Materials and Q&A

Front of BldgWELCOME! This is your one-stop-shop for all things pertaining to the CBC Long Range Planning Committee proposal. This page is being hosted at Pastor Wyman’s personal website simply so that you can comment or ask questions below.  Our goal is to make everything available on one page so that our members can be informed, up-to-date, and included in this important and exciting consideration.  CBC members are encouraged to submit questions or comments through the comments section below and they will be answered in a timely manner.  Thank you for your interest, your input, and, most of all, for your prayer!

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Mark 14:32-42

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 14

32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

I am fascinated by untranslatable words, those words from other cultures whose meanings we can approximate but whose meanings we can never quite capture in one of our own words.  Andrea Reisenauer has provided a fascinating list of what he calls “20 of the World’s Most Beautiful Untranslatable Words.”  Here are a few from his list:

Waldeinsamkeit – German – the feeling of being alone in the woods, solitude, and a connectedness to nature.

Iktsuarpok – Inuit – the feeling of anticipation when you’re expecting someone that leads you to constantly check to see if they’re coming.

Goya – Urdu – the transporting suspension of disbelief that happens when fantasy is so realistic that it temporarily becomes reality.

Mångata – Swedish – the road-like reflection of the moon on the water. It’s the long, wavy shape that appears across the water when the moon is shining on it.

Hiraeth – Welsh – homesickness mixed with grief and sadness over the lost or departed, or a type of longing for the homeland or the romanticized past.[1]

Untranslatable words.  How fascinating and how lovely!  Usually when we encounter a word like this it elicits feelings of admiration and a sense that a particular culture has found a way to capture in a single word something so powerful that it takes many words in our own language to capture.

In Mark 14:32-42 we find another such word.  It is found specifically in Mark 14:41. I am speaking of the Greek word apechei.  The American Standard Version, Darby Translation, Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition, English Standard Version, 1599 Geneva Bible, and King James Version translate it as, “It is enough!”  In point of fact, it is a very difficult word to translate at all.  For instance, the late New Testament scholar Raymond Brown called the word “untranslatable.”[2]  Vincent’s Word Studies says, “Expositors are utterly at sea as to its meaning.”[3]

Even so, there it is:  apechei.  Like other untranslatable words, I find this word fascinating, for when we begin to consider its possible meanings and how other forms of it have been used a multi-layered and powerful picture emerges.  I would like to propose further that, also like other untranslatable words, apechei hints at deep things that are hard for us to capture.  In fact, I believe Jesus was communicating a number of truths about what was happening in the Garden of Gethsemane and what was happening on the larger stage as He approached the cross.

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Mark 14:26-31

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 14

26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

I teach college freshmen and sophomores at the Ouachita Baptist University satellite campus in Conway, Arkansas.  For the last couple of semesters I have shown Martin Scorsese’s film version of Shusaku Endo’s book Silence.  That movie never fails to garner strong reactions.  A lot happens it the film but the critical moment comes when a Jesuit missionary from Portugal is told by his Japanese captors that he must step on an image of Jesus and apostatize (deny the faith).  Rodriguez had resolutely refused to do so until this point in the film in which he is told that only by stepping on the image of Jesus will the guards stop slowly torturing five Japanese Christians to death in front of him.

The story presents the reader or viewer with a quandary:  would it be right to step on an image of Jesus Christ (and, in so doing, deny the faith in the eyes of those pressuring you to do so) if by so doing it led to other Christians having their lives saved? This last semester that question led to a very spirited and impassioned conversation in class.  Some students argued that stepping on the image would be permissible in such a situation if, in doing so, the lives of others were saved.  Others argued that, no, it is absolutely never permissible and, in such a situation, the person should refuse regardless of what happens.  (I am in this last camp.)

It is an interesting quandary because there is at least some element of ambiguity in the scenario introduced by the tortured Christians in Endo’s story.  However, when we look at Peter’s denials of Jesus we do not find such ambiguity.  Jesus tells Peter that he will and the others will abandon Jesus in His time of need.  Peter denies that he would ever do such a thing.  Then Jesus reveals that Peter will, in fact, deny Him three times.

And so we sit in judgment of Peter.  We do so because, of course, it was wrong of Peter.  Unlike the scenario in Endo’s story, Peter denied Jesus only to save his own neck.  Yet I wonder if our judgment of Peter happens a bit too easily?  After all, what would you or I have done in such a situation?  We like to tell ourselves we are all brave men and women and that we would never commit such a dastardly deed.  Yet surely Dallas Willard is correct when he says:

No matter how far we progress, there will always be in us a subdued, glowing coal of possibility that, if blown by the right wind, will burst into a flame of iniquity.[1]

Take it a bit further.  Take it out of the realm of the theoretical and bring it into the realm of the actual.  Look back over the last year and ask yourself this question:  Have I denied Jesus this year?  Oh, we have interesting and subtle ways of dressing it up, but the fact remains that there are lots of ways to deny Jesus and perhaps we all know this deep down.  Moreso, perhaps we have all denied Jesus in some way or other this last year.

For this reason, I am not interested in serving Peter up for yet one more thrashing, deserved though it is.  I am interested instead in asking this question:  why did Peter deny Jesus?  What led him to do it?  In understanding this, we will be better equipped to avoid denying Jesus ourselves.

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Mark 14:22-25

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 14

22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

The comedian Jim Gaffigan occasionally offers some interesting and usually very funny observations about faith and attending church.  I gather from his routines that it was Gaffigan’s wife who got him to start attending church.  He talks about how easily distracted he is in church.  For instance, he says that he often sits in the pew looking outwardly meditative and thoughtful when, in reality, he is thinking, “Did I eat Wendy’s twice yesterday?”  What is so funny about that is how true-to-life it really is.  If we are honest, perhaps we have all been guilty of such:  pretending to be engaged with church while our minds are elsewhere.  Gaffigan goes on to say, sarcastically, that he even grows uncomfortable when people pray beside him in church!  He said he is tempted to lean over and say, “Would you mind doing that outside?”

That line gets a good laugh from everybody, and rightfully so.  It is an absurd thing to say.  Yet there is something intriguing about it as well.  After all, there is something a bit numbing and comfortable about our religious routines that an actual, real, and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ threatens.  I think I know what Gaffigan is talking about.  I think I have seen it before.  Maybe I have done it before!  I am talking about that awkward moment in the midst of numbing religious ritual and routine where the rote and redundant execution of our habitual religious duties is interrupted by something real and raw.

I believe something like this happened in Jesus’ final Passover meal with His disciples.  As observant Jews, all of the men at the table that night had observed many Passovers.  Perhaps they had some sense of foreboding that this observance would be different, but there is no doubt that they were not prepared for the blunt force spiritual trauma that they were about to encounter with the words Jesus would soon say to them.

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A Good Article on Dr. Garrett & the Collected Writings Project

Thought I would provide a screenshot of a good article that the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel did on Dr. James Leo Garrett, Jr., and the Collected Works project.  The article is behind a paywall, so those who are interested can access the full piece with a .99 one-day  pass at The Daily Sentinel website.  Just put “James Leo Garrett” in the search bar.

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Concerning Patristics, Misogyny, Abortion, and Premises

calvin-hobbes-argue_1It increasingly takes a GREAT deal for me to voluntarily engage in discussions concerning abortion online.  I’m less and less interesting in doing so and usually do not.  That is because online abortion discussions rarely remain in the realm of reasonable discussion and quickly lapse into outright hysteria on all sides.  However, I was moved to offer a comment over at James Matichuk’s blog, “Thoughts, Prayers & Songs; My Journey from Self-Absorption to Doxology,” in response to a gentlemen named Brian Balke who commented on Matichuk’s review of Christopher Hall’s Living Wisely With the Church Fathers.  I hasten to add that Balke was respectful in his comments and did NOT indulge in the type of hysteria I just bemoaned.

Matichuk had noted, in commenting on Hall’s book, the consistent patristic opposition to abortion in the early years of the church and Balke responded with a comment that I mention here in part:

The attitude to the fetus is idealistic. Did the early fathers recognize that there are mothers and fathers that are incapable of providing such nurturance, and that in fact the pressure of adding a child to a household might guarantee suffering and death to both mother and child? I am not asking this to be contrary, but simply as a matter of record: did they grapple with the practical issues of pregnancy and birth from a woman’s perspective?

If they didn’t, why do we reference them?

I think I can say with honesty that I was immediately more intrigued by Balke’s premise than by any conversation about abortion per se.  I commented thus:

I wanted to offer a few thoughts here, not to be contrary or combative, but rather because I think this is an interesting discussion. And let me say that I appreciate calm and thoughtful discussion on this issue. It is too rare! (Also, thank you for the book review. I have the first two of Hall’s books and will be adding the last two as well.)

Brian, you wrote: “I am not asking this to be contrary, but simply as a matter of record: did they grapple with the practical issues of pregnancy and birth from a woman’s perspective? If they didn’t, why do we reference them?”

That last question is very interesting. I’m curious about the premise undergirding it. Is the premise that views are rendered insignificant and potentially illegitimate if they were formulated within a particular framework in which factors that we realize are significant today were not taken into consideration?

Meaning, that question would seem to undercut the legitimacy of a great many ideas that we consider valid even though they existed in similarly limited cultural contexts.

Let me give an example. How is your question, “If they didn’t [grapple with the practical issues of pregnancy and birth from a woman’s perspective]…why do we reference them?” conceptually different from this question: “If Thomas Jefferson did not grapple with the practical issues of freedom from the perspective of slaves then why do we reference his views on freedom?” Brian, would you grant the analogy? Just curious.

All of that being said, I think we must be very careful with saying that BECAUSE (a) the fathers were largely misogynistic therefore (b) the fathers’ views on abortion gave no consideration at all to women, their experiences, what they thought of abortion, etc. Meaning, granting the pervasive misogyny of the time does not necessarily mean granting that every church father was utterly and completely misogynistic and completely indifferent to the plight or thoughts or feelings of women. The notion that none of these men considered or gave ear to the thoughts and feelings of the women in the Christian communities they oversaw on the issue of pregnancy says more than we can say with any certainty.

Even so, I think you have to go one more step and say this: The truthfulness or falsity of the fathers’ views on abortion does not actually hinge on whether or not they gave consideration to the experiences of women. (We would all agree that the issue should not be discussed without consideration of women, of course, and, to the extent that the fathers did not do so they were mistaken. That such an approach is lamentable and misogynistic does not render their conclusion false per se.) There are LOTS of tensions in human experience and history rarely breaks down into such neat categories.

Over the last few years I have made it a habit when hearing any argument to try to delineate the operational premises behind arguments and claims.  My comments above will give an illustration as to why.  I think we sometimes grant validity to premises that take us further than we want to go.  I wonder if Balke has been guilty of doing that here, for reasons I outlined above.

Let me offer another example of what I mean.  Take the question of homosexuality.  It is not uncommon to hear people argue, “Well, people are born that way.”  Now, that is a statement that makes an argument and the argument hinges on the validity of the unspoken premise.  But take a moment and try to articulate the premise behind it.  As I see it, the premise would be something like this:  “Proclivities with which we are born are not sinful by virtue of the fact that we are born with them.”  But I wonder if many who use that premise in arguing that homosexuality is not sinful behavior would be comfortable with the premise itself and all the doors it opens.  Meaning, what do we do with people who claim that as far back as they can remember they have felt strong desires to do a number of things that society at large would condemn as morally wrong.  I probably do not need to list all of the things that those might be because we all hear these kinds of arguments all the time.  So, again, I ask:  is it not wise to ask whether a premise we are employing for a particular argument might not be opening doors we do not want opened in other areas where the premise can be similarly applied?

New Header Image

Walking Together Ministries has a new header image as you can see.  It is an anchor with two fish attached.  It is from the 3rd century Roman catacomb of Domatilla.  The anchor was a symbol of hope for early Christians.  The fish are intended to represents Christians.  For an interesting consideration of the anchor as an early Christian symbol, check out this Christianity Today article.

Mark 14:3-5, 10-21

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 14

And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.

10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him. 12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. 17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

When I was in school we would have mandatory chapel services. They were, in my humble opinion, a bit hit or miss, but I am grateful we had them. I can think even now of a number of powerful moments that stayed with me from those services. Unfortunately, I also remember some very strange moments that I wish I could forget! And, on occasion, there were the simply odd or confusing moments. I think I would put the “backmasking” service in this latter category.

Backmasking is a technique whereby people will build subliminal messages into songs that you can only hear rightly when you play a song backwards. While there can be no doubt that certain musical artists did indeed backmask their songs, sometimes in disturbing ways, there can also be no doubt that this was the kind of thing that certain expressions of fundamentalist Christian culture ran with in the 1980’s in order to warn about the dangers of rock and roll. The problem was that it was often next to impossible to hear the alleged backmasked message. I recall, for instance, sitting in the chapel service (I think this happened in two services in those years but I could be wrong) in which the speaker would play a song forwards and then play it backwards in order to point out the bad, dark or Satanic message. My problem was I could never understand or make out the message when it was played backwards and I do not think most others could either.

Again, I do not deny the reality of backmasking. There are clear examples of it if you care to look them up. I simply argue that some folks ran a little wild with these allegations.

I thought about backmasking while working on our text this morning. Simply put, I would argue that Mark 14:10-21 sounds like Mark 14:1-9 played backwards! One of the things I have been increasingly struck by is Mark’s brilliant structuring of his gospel in such a way as to contrast certain diametrically opposed stories for maximum effect. We have seen this before (and commented on it before) as we have journeyed through Mark. This, I would argue, is one such example.

Put another way, the story of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus is the reverse of the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with the costly ointment. The first half of Mark 14 involves two meals: the meal in Bethany in which Jesus is anointed by the woman and the meal in Jerusalem in which Jesus announces he is being betrayed.

Two meals. Two characters. One is going the right direction and the other is going the opposite. Let us compare and contrast Judas and the woman who anointed Jesus in Bethany.

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