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Love and Justice

As you might know, Maginalia is on a bit of a pause. We started the daily podcast during quarantine in March to help you stay connected to the life and teaching of the church. Now that we're starting to get back together for worship, Marginalia is taking a little break. Thanks so much to Abby Murrish and Matt Frazer who worked tirelessly to make that content available over the last 3 months. You can still access our readings and prayers on Church Center every week, and we encourage you to continue to make use of that personally and with your household.

But with Marginalia on pause, there are a few new things emerging, this weekly newsletter from me being one of them. So, here goes nothing.

Quick Hits

  • Last weekend we had our first services back in the building since March 08. Masks, distancing, shortened service; it was... different. But over-riding all was the joy of worshipping together. Thanks to all the staff and the deacons who have worked so hard to get ready for re-opening.
  • Speaking of the deacons, this year they have distributed $19,380 in assistance to individuals and families in need. Additionally, 3 New City families have donated vehicles to people in need. Thank you for your generosity, which makes this possible!
  • Our virtual VBS is coming up the week of June 22, with 120 kids signed up!
  • I hope you had a chance to read a pastoral letter from our denominational leaders on race and justice in light of the recent heinous killings. Look for a follow up from our elders soon.
  • Mosaix Cincinnati Network is inviting churches to gather in Washington Park this Sunday at 2pm to pray, lament and protest. My family and I are planning to attend.

Love and Justice

This weekend we started a new series from 1 Corinthians 13 called The Greatest of These Is Love. The Biblical concepts of love and justice are greatly overlapping, though not exactly the same. A great companion piece to our series this summer would be this Isaiah 58 sermon or our Micah series from a few summers ago.

With protests happening in over 150 cities in our nation, I've been thinking a lot about our theological tradition, and the ways that it uniquely speaks to the present moment. I thought this was perhaps the most unusual protest sign I've seen.

Calvinists for Black Lives

Reformed theology has a robust and comprehensive understanding of sin. It maintains that sin isn't always an individual action, nor does the guilt for sin always solely fall upon an individual. The Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck writes:

Sin, therefore, though it is indeed always essentially the same, manifests itself in differing ways and forms in different persons,  families, classes, and nations and in different states and times... There are family sins, societal sins, national sins...In every area of life, we are all subject to the influence of  bad habits and sinful examples, of the zeitgeist and public opinion. Aside from what we call 'original sin,' there is also 'corporate guilt and the corporate action of sin.' (Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 3, 175)

This complex understanding of sin underscores the need for not just individual repentance, but regular reformation of structures and systems in a broken world.

The Presbyterian tradition is well equipped to think theologically about justice, morality and what it means to love our neighbor. The Westminster Larger Catechism has a wonderful (and lengthy) section expositing the meaning of the Ten Commandments. Larger Catechism question 135 asks, “What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?" Answer:

The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away of the life of any.

The Confession calls us to make a “careful study” of issues that tend to the unjust taking away of life. This means that, for Presbyterians at least, we must be engaged with issues like economic disparity, abortion, human trafficking, protection of those with special needs, and racial inequity.

Justice issues should come naturally to churches in the reformed tradition. But we know that has not always been the case. Thus the need to repent, reflect, recommit, and reform.

I share the same mixture of feelings expressed by my friend and fellow PCA pastor, Russ Whitefield: "I hate what we have become. But even more, I love what we *could* become."

Worth a Look

  • I quoted John Perkins several times on Sunday. This 20 minute documentary on his life will give you a sense of why he has been an inspiration to so many.
  • Speaking of inspiring many, Tim Keller has been one of the most influential Bible teachers in our denomination. On Saturday he announced that he has pancreatic cancer. Please pray for the Kellers... for Tim's treatment and healing, and that he would be able to continue his writing and teaching.