Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

Celebrating the Unfolding Mystery

The Scaffold ( is full.  In fact, the whole TrueCity office that houses our collaborative book room is full -- full of happy people.  About fifty souls have ventured out to James Street North, found their way to our front door (no easy task!) and followed the trail of bread crumbs and homemade signs to the office.  Some of them have known each other for years, through seminaries (most frequently, McMaster Divinity College), churches, camps, TrueCity itself, and various other ministries.  Some meet for the first time tonight, only to find they already have several such communities in common.

There's delicious Venezuelan food.  Here's James Wallace, busily taking photos (hopefully coming soon!).  There are people asking me about how we got this whole thing -- the Scaffold itself, as well as tonight's event -- started.  The hubbub and even some of the people have spilled out into the hallway.  And here and there, through the crowd, you can find glimpses of the reason we've gathered.  Dr. Michael Knowles is signing copies of his book, hugging longtime friends, leading toasts, and every now and then, just grinning, quietly and happily overwhelmed, both by the journey involved in finally getting The Unfolding Mystery of the Divine Name: The God of Sinai in Our Midst published, as well as by the sheer number of folks who wanted to come, to celebrate, to bless him -- not least because of how much God has already used him to bless them.

I invite everyone to find seats; there are almost enough.  I explain a little about what the Scaffold is supposed to be, and I tell a quick story, a few jokes and a few details about our speaker.  We welcome him and he tells us about this book's journey.  He reads a page or two from the book.  We ask questions; he tells us what he's learned during the writing of it, and how pivotal it is that we understand and imitate (as best we can!) the character and characteristics of our gracious, compassionate God.  He points to the effects that this theology of encounter has had not just in his own life but in those of his students.  There are nods and perhaps a quiet "amen" or two.

We stack some of the chairs to give ourselves more room to spread out and talk, and the evening begins to wind down.  We've sold about 30 copies of Michael's book.  (He's still grinning.)  We've been blessed and we've been a blessing.  

Finally, the few of us left stack up a few more chairs, clean up, carry books and leftover food back to cars, and close up shop.  It's been a good night.  So we keep the homemade signs.  Hopefully we'll have the chance to use them again soon, to encourage Michael and other local authors who want to get their books into the hands of ministry leaders and friends who can use them.  That's what this place is all about.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Marathon Continues

Karen and I referred to the past month as the Apoc-tober-lypse, on account of how busy it was: Thanksgiving, several major church and family events, helping one couple to move and another to get married, plus the usual barrage of church and life stuff, and setting up The Scaffold in anticipation of the coming book launch event.

And then there were the conferences and conference preparations.  The Canadian Evangelical Theological Association and McMaster Divinity College hosted the "New Voices in Canadian Evangelical Theology" conference on Oct 20; I presented a paper on reading Paul's images of presence and calling in Romans over against the Roman Empire's propagation of Caesar's image and its practice of evocatio (inviting an enemy's patron god to abandon his city in favor of better worship, bigger temples, etc. in Rome).  The paper was well received, my friend Sylvia Keesmaat gave a wonderful response to it, and the themes of both the paper and the response resonated very nicely with the plenary talk given by Brian Walsh, an extended re-wording of the entire book of Romans along the theme of homecoming (vs. the home-wrecking, or "domicidal," ways of empire).  And a senior scholar, in thanking me for my involvement in the conference, tells me that he's going to be citing my dissertation in a forthcoming book.  ...The other conference, still on the horizon, is the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, where I'm presenting two papers.  One I was preparing for the advance deadline of the 31st, when suddenly the other session announced that they had a deadline, too -- retroactively!  So the last two weeks have meant a lot of writing, note-checking, and so on.  Not that I didn't deal with deadlines like these in school, but those projects weren't usually for such public presentation, critique, and publication.

Now that both papers have been turned in, it's time to catch up on a lot of things that had to be shelved until after the deadlines.  And to remind myself that if I want to call myself a writer, then this is not a time to rest, at least not for very long: there are other things that tell me they need to be written, and soon.  The past ten-days-plus were something of a sprint, but the marathon is far from over.