The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Null and Void ...

I love to get checks in the mail.

When I fill out those insurance forms, peel the prescription labels off and paste them row upon row on an 8½-by-11 sheet of paper, it’s the only thing that keeps me going. I look forward to the return payoff from TriCare/Humana.

Sometimes it’s not quite the amount it should be … at least, in my eyes. Still, it’s better than the $10,000, $20,000, $35,000 checks that arrive on a regular basis.

You know the ones I’m talking about.

If you have ever had a credit card, you get them.

They’re from the companies trying to ensnare you into greater debt.

They’re the one’s that are stamped “null and void,” or carry some other such disclaimer.

They can’t be cashed without incurring long-lasting debt with loan-shark rates. They are otherwise worthless.

Unless you are willing to sign on the dotted line, promising your first-born child or other asset, they are, in fact of law, null and void.

When Donna sees them, they go right to the shredder, lest some identity thief gets a hold of them, somehow alters them and buys something ridiculous that we would never touch.

In Galatians 2:15-21, Paul is again dealing with the Judaizing controversy, whereby Jewish Christians are trying to impose circumcision and Mosaic law upon Gentile converts. The Jewish Christians were telling the Gentiles that before they could become followers of The Way, they had to first become Jewish converts.

Paul knew all about trying to square his relationship with God by trying to keep the law. As Saul, he was a Pharisee and judged accordingly, but considered himself blameless when it came to obedience to the law. As Paul, he came to understand that his standard of blamelessness fell short of the mark and only trusting in the righteousness of Jesus Christ would place him in a right relationship with God.

He would later say he counted it all cowpies when measured against the all-surpassing grace of Jesus Christ.

For the past two months, I have been hard at work installing a new computer system and learning new programs so we can continue to publish The Daily Times. (We all have our crosses to bear …) Now, I realize some people still consider a printer the "devil's apprentice," but give us a little bit of Christian credit.

Johannes Gutenberg is believed to have invented movable type sometime around 1440-1450, depending upon the source. His major work was the Gutenberg Bible, also known as the 42-line Bible. His achievement is said to have helped spur the Protestant Reformation with the widespread printing of Bibles and Martin Luther's works.

It beat the socks off of handwritten manuscripts and wood-block printing, but it was still pretty labor intensive. His press was built sort of like a wine or olive press; his Bibles were printed six pages at a time and may have required as many as 100,000 pieces of type. Setting each page would have taken hours; making that much type may have taken years.

The screw-type press was the basic method of printing for more than 300 years and then came the iron-framed lever press. Then there were type innovations as lithography, linotype, and monotype; press innovations included revolving and offset presses.

With all of those innovations, that type of printing used what we in the trade call “hot metal,” “hot lead,” “hot metal,” or simply “hot type.”

(By the way: We still have two or three people at The Daily Times who remember when that newspaper was produced with hot type.)

Hot type gave way to what we call “cold type.”

The first generation of cold type used a photographic process to generate columns, or galleys, of type on a scroll of photographic paper. It was called phototypesetting, which was the process that was still in use when I arrived at The Daily Times in 1989.

In the old days of what we called cold-type printing, we cut out the type and then pasted up the page on a large sheet of paste-up board. We then took that page to a huge camera, took a picture of it, and then used the negative to make a printing plate.

We moved from that system of cold-type printing to desktop publishing, where we create an entire page within the computer before printing it out to a negative.

In our previous desktop publishing system, we could create a place-holder for a story or photo on the page through what was called a “null” file.

A null file.

Can you guess what was in that file?

Nothing.

Nadda.

It was null -- and void -- of any content.

While faith without works is a dead faith, Paul came to understand that attempting to satisfy God’s righteousness by adding works to faith would nullify the grace of God.

It would be null -- and void -- of any benefit to salvation.

Joseph M. McShane, a Jesuit priest, writes in the magazine Christian Century:

"Paul’s rejection of the law as the source of righteousness before God (Gal. 2:11-21) and the story of the sinful woman in the Pharisee’s house (Luke 7:36-50) have often been taken by Christians as evidence of a Jewish legalism, which has been replaced by the superior Christian gospel of grace.

“Yet the same people who applaud Christianity’s break with the law may be found demanding tougher laws, more rigorous enforcement and longer prison terms to deal with the social evils of our own day.

“We want to clean up our society. We expect the laws, courts and law-enforcement officers to be the agents of such social purification. Are we not Pharisees at heart?”[1]

Are we not Pharisees at heart … not only in the way we deal with others, but in the way we deal with our own relationship to God?

Justification by grace alone is the foundation of the missio dei in that everyone enters into a relationship with God on the same basis. The gospel is for everyone.

Gutenberg’s press helped spread the words of Martin Luther. In his commentary on Galatians, Luther writes, “Now, if I could perform any work acceptable to God and deserving of grace, and once having obtained grace my good works would continue to earn for me the right and reward of eternal life, why should I stand in need of the grace of God and the suffering and death of Christ? Christ would be of no benefit to me. Christ's mercy would be of no use to me.”

To say it another way, Christ’s mercy would be null … and void.

When we negate the Cross by turning back to the law — either in the demands on our own spiritual life, or demanding such from others — we nullify grace.

I don't listen to James Dobson much anymore, largely due to his involvement with politics. (That's for another blog.) Still, Dobson's child-rearing advice was invaluable to me as a young father. I was listening his radio program the Friday before Father's Day and a man was talking about some of the “dad” things he did while raising his son and daughter. To me, every single one of them was the right thing to do. For instance, he created a right of passage for his son, marking the transition from boy to man. He went out on dates with his daughter. He cited other fatherly actions that just seemed like the right thing to do.

As I looked back, I did some of those things; others, I didn’t.

I took hold of some opportunities; others, I didn’t.

It made me wonder: Why is it that, despite the knowledge that I did a number of things right in raising my children — I mean, hey, I couldn’t be more proud of how they turned out — it is the missed opportunities that haunt me?

Why am I always caught up in the thought of, “I should have done more …”

For me, it was my question of the day for God.

And the answer came: Because too often I see with the eyes of the world. In the eyes of the world, grace is null and void.

In the eyes of the world, we have to work our way to the top.

We strive … and strive … and strive … and never feel good enough.

That great modern expositor of grace Brennan Manning writes the following in his book, “Lion and Lamb”:

“One of the most shocking contradictions in Christian living is the intense dislike many disciples of Jesus have for themselves. They are more displeased, impatient, irritated, unforgiving, and spiteful with their own shortcomings than they would ever dream of being with someone else’s. They are fed up with themselves, sick of their own mediocrity, disgusted by their own inconsistency, bored by their own monotony. They would never judge any other of God’s children with the savage self-condemnation with which they crush themselves. …

“Would you like to know this moment how Jesus feels about you? Bernard Bush says this is the way you will know: if you love yourself intensely and freely, then your feelings about yourself correspond perfectly to the feelings of Jesus.

“And the divine double take, of course, is that loving ourselves frees us to love others.” (citation to come)


Sisters and brothers …

Moms and Dads …

Strop striving.

Your heavenly Father loves you just as you are.

And his Son has already paid the price.