Things Worth Noticing: 12/10/21
Sanctifying the Calendar, Professor Jesus, and Music to Help the Ink Flow
Welcome to the second edition of my weekly newsletter, Things Worth Noticing. In the lineup today, we’ve got a handy little introduction to the church calendar, a book about Jesus’ philosophical chops, and a Spotify playlist to fill up your headspace.
A Concise Introduction to the Church Calendar
If you’re like me and the bulk of your Christian experience has been on the “lower” end of the liturgical spectrum, then you may not be hip to the church calendar. In recent years, I’ve come to appreciate the calendar as the Church’s attempt to sanctify time—a way, we might say, to take all seasons captive to the obedience of Christ.
In one of his many “9 Things You Should Know” posts (this one from 2019), Joe Carter offers a concise rundown of the calendar—its origins, rhythms, and significance. If you want to get a handle on the calendar in 5 minutes or less, this is a great resource.
I consider the calendar a gift of Christian tradition to be held up to the light of Scripture and received insofar as it hews to the biblical plumb line. Carter’s intro is a helpful entree into this aspect of faith and practice that’s been handed down over the ages.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd and Great… Philosopher?
This week, I finished reading New Testament scholar Jonathan Pennington’s excellent book, Jesus The Great Philosopher. If you hadn’t guessed, this book makes the case that, when we consider all the wonderful titles Scripture compels us to ascribe to Jesus (Messiah, High Priest, King, etc.), we really ought to add “Philosopher” to the list.
Lest we imagine a bespectacled Jesus sporting a tweed jacket amid stacks of dusty, old books (a second commandment violation if ever there was one), Pennington shows how philosophy, in the ancient sense of the word, wasn’t preoccupied with nerdish speculation. Rather, it explored what it means to live a truly good life.
In this sense, the New Testament offers a philosophy to rival the Republic, the Nicomachean Ethics, and whatever else ancient Greece and Rome had to offer. And Jesus had more wisdom to purvey than Aristotle could shake his peripatetic stick at.
I particularly appreciated what Pennington says about Philippians and the notion of Christian citizenship. Did I mention I’m writing a dissertation in which citizenship plays an important role and preparing for a sermon series on Philippians?
“Being a virtuous citizen,” Pennington says, “was crucial to the Greek and Roman philosophical discussions” (167). Living the good life ran parallel with one’s participation in the community. The good person was a good citizen and vice versa.
Playing on this notion, Paul used the word politeuomai (“live as a citizen”) in Phil 1:27 to urge Christians to embody a form of life appropriate to their community—the Church—even as they found themselves mixed up in Philippian civic life.
Paul encourages the Christians in Philippi to live as good citizens, something they would be used to hearing all the time, but with a crucial additional description—live as good citizens in such a way that is worthy of the gospel of Christ (1:27). (168)
Paul repeated that point later on in Phil 3:20. The takeaway, Pennington writes, is this: “We are to be good citizens while recognizing that our true citizenship is not of this world and is yet to come” (168).
Better Than Muzak
If I’m doing any kind of work that requires me to think about words, then I can’t listen to music with lyrics. That leaves me on a perpetual hunt for instrumental music to set the soundscape in my office.
This week, I’ve landed on Mezzo Piano. I’ve not been able to learn anything about the artist. All I know is they provide great piano instrumentals of popular worship songs.
You can check them out on Spotify. Enjoy!
That’s all for this week. I pray you all enjoy a blessed third week of Advent as you meditate on the joy that has dawned upon the world in Christ.
In Christ Alone,