Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Ordination Process

In my meanderings through old writings, I found my Entrance Essay, Endorsement Essay, and Approval Essay from my preparation for ordination as pastor in the ELCA. They are kind of interesting to me, since I wrote each one about a year apart between 1997 and 1999. The Entrance Essay and Endorsement Essay are quite biographical, while the Approval Essay is more of a case study, theology-in-practice kind of document. It is interesting to read these again after all these years, and an instructive reminder of why I entered ordained ministry in the first place.

Friday, October 05, 2007

"Christ the Man"

Here is a paper I wrote as a freshman in college on the Book of Hebrews. Note that my last name was Holm before I married, and note the note quite politically correct, though historically correct title - what is essential is that Jesus was fully human (and fully divine); he also happened to be a First Century Galilean Jewish man.

Christ the Man: Jesus’ Identity with Humanity and its Significance for Faith in Hebrews

Eric Holm (Lemonholm)
Introduction to Biblical Studies
Dr. David M. Scholar
April 19, 1990

The Letter to Hebrews gives two contrasting views of Jesus, his deity and his humanity. The letter's Christological duality is echoed elsewhere in the New Testament, notably in the Gospel of John, but nowhere is it as explicit as in Hebrews. The unknown author of Hebrews takes two seemingly exclusive and contradictory natures, spirit and flesh, and synthesizes them in Jesus Christ. John tells us that "the Word [Jesus] became flesh; he came to dwell among us, and we saw his glory."1 But why did the Christ, the Son of God, have to become a human, and was he truly human? The writer of Hebrews gives his (or her) answers to those questions, and this paper will look at his2 views on the deity and humanity of Jesus, and on his function as Savior or High Priest, in the hopes of gaining an understanding of the subject.

Continue here...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Here is my October newsletter article, written September 27, 2007:

Dear friends,

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

God speaks to us in many and various ways. Sometimes, our ears are ready to hear what God wants to say. Sometimes, our ears are plugged up, closed, distracted by the many voices and sounds around us, and God has to do something dramatic to get our attention. Sometimes, Jesus has to knock pretty hard on our doors for us to hear, and open the door. That’s not just something we do once in our lives, but something we need to do daily, to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ.

That’s a situation I’ve been in lately. I have many demands on my time, an unending list of good things to do, and I sometimes get lost in the details—but what are the best, the most important, priorities? What does God want me to focus on? I go back to Micah 6:8— “God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Jesus has been knocking pretty hard on my heart lately, and I have finally heard and, by grace, opened the door!

I remember some good advice that a seasoned pastor gave to a young pastor. When the young pastor asked, “What is your secret to effective ministry throughout your many years in one congregation?”

The older pastor answered simply, “Do good worship and visit the people.”

Do good worship and visit the people. It is not that the pastor did not do anything else as a pastor other than worship and visitation. But he made sure that the center of the church’s life—worship—was inspiring, and he kept in touch with his congregation by visiting people regularly, by building relationships with people and connecting them to the life of the church. That is wise advice for me—Do good, inspiring worship, that involves and connects all of us to our God; and visit the people, building relationships, connecting people not just to me but to the community of faith that is Grace.

Back to Micah 6:8, it all starts with prayer, walking humbly with God, seeking God’s will for me, for my family, for our church. I am committed to walk with God as we seek to be God’s faithful people together, doing justice and loving kindness as we reach out to our neighbors faithfully and consistently with the love of Christ. Will you walk with me on this journey?

Walking with you in God’s amazing grace,

Pastor Eric Lemonholm

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Reply on Inerrancy

This got too long for a comment on my September 19, 2007 post, so I'll post it here too.

simul justis,

Thank you for your comment. Here is what the ELCA’s constitution says about Scripture (2.02b and 2.03):

The canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the written Word of God. Inspired by God’s Spirit speaking through their authors, they record and announce God’s revelation centering in Jesus Christ. Through them God’s Spirit speaks to us to create and sustain Christian faith and fellowship for service in the world.

This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life.

That is not the same as stating that the Bible is inerrant. Inerrancy is a modern concept foreign to the Scriptures. As Donald Juel once noted in a seminary class, when Paul wrote his letters, he did not assume that his words came straight from the mouth of God, so that his readers just had to accept what he wrote as inerrant or infallible. No, he had to make his case, argue his position, appeal to Scripture (for him, the OT). It is quite possible, as I do, to affirm our constitution’s view of Scripture as the inspired word of God (I like to reserve the capital ‘W’ Word for Christ, the Word of God incarnate, to avoid turning the Bible into an idol – but a capital ‘W’ for the Bible is not inappropriate), without adopting the modernist view of Scripture as inerrant. Scripture is a collection of reliable witnesses to the work of God in the world, especially and uniquely through Jesus the Christ, who is the one truly ‘inerrant’ Word of God. Can you accept the Bible as reliable testimony to God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, inspired by the Holy Spirit, without needing to assert the Bible’s inerrancy? Inerrancy is a myth; it’s not a quality that the Bible actually has, when you actually read it. So, to base our preaching and teaching on a myth is to build our house on the sands of illusion and self-deception.

There is a false dichotomy here: either the Bible is inerrant and we can inerrantly read it, or anything goes, and we fall into chaos, where every perspective is equally valid and there is no truth. David Lose does a good job dissecting that false dichotomy in his book Confessing Jesus Christ: Preaching in a Postmodern World (which I just started reading). The fact is, it is simply true that what we see depends in large part on where we stand. The fact is, we simply do read the Bible through lenses. This side of heaven, there is no neutral, unbiased reading of Scripture – we are finite and sinful. Yes, our lenses are human constructs; but do you read the Bible without one? That’s why it’s no surprise when Word Alone Network members read Scripture and find a socially conservative message there, and ‘progressive’ Christians read the same Scripture and find a progressive message. In both cases, what we see in Scripture tends to reflect our perspectives.

But, that is not to say that we are stuck in our perspectives. The Bible also challenges both conservatives and liberals. The text of God’s word cannot mean everything and anything. The word of God is alive and active. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God speaks to us through Scripture, upending our preconceived notions, challenging and expanding our perspectives. If we abandon the myth of inerrancy – which really means the abandonment of the belief that my reading of the Bible is inerrant – what we are left with, as David Lose argues, and as I argued back in college, is critical conversation. We wrestle with Scripture and with one another, seeking the truth and finding it, not in an ultimate, inerrant sense – only God is Truth with a capital ‘T’ - but truth for us today, how to live and love and serve and follow Jesus today. When I preach, I preach with confidence, confessing Jesus Christ to the congregation. But I do not preach infallibly or inerrantly. Anything I say about God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is likely to fall short of the ultimate, inerrant truth, which we’ll discover in the Kingdom of God. But it is the word of God preached to us today, it is ‘local theology’ that is reliable because, by God’s grace, it is grounded in the reliable witness of Scripture.