Act This Out

Christmas-Charades

Still in Luke Chapter 1, he’s telling you his story, most excellent Theophilus…

jesus

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. 

Zechariah_Elizabeth

Back with Zechariah and Elizabeth this morning.   Zechariah and Elizabeth have been waiting their whole lives, waiting on God, waiting for a child.  But they are into their old age now, with no sign of either.

zechariah

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.   It comes time for Zechariah’s priestly division to serve in the temple, a small town priest heading for the big city, Jerusalem, to serve in the temple.  Zechariah’s lot came up, and he is called to go into the sanctuary to offer incense and prayers upon the holy altar.

Zacharias_(Michelangelo)

And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”   An angel of the Lord appears to Zechariah, saying what angels always say – Do not be afraid.  The angel tells Zechariah not to be afraid, then tells this righteous old priest, who’s been waiting for the Lord for his whole life, that at long last he will have a son!   And not just any son, but a son who would be great before the Lord, filled with the Holy Spirit, going before the people in the power and spirit of Elijah, the great prophet of the Hebrew people!!   This child whom Zechariah has been waiting for would be the one to prepare the people for the long awaited, long anticipated coming of the Lord!

into-the-presence-of-god

And now the story turns to the comedic – And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”   Sounds like an answer I would give.  “Are you kidding me??!!”  I’m an old man, she’s an old woman.  She’s been barren all her life, now she’s going to get pregnant??   Zechariah asks for a sign, and sure enough the angel gives him one (ever been told to watch what you wish for?).   And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”    What, do you think I’m the janitor?    Zechariah wants to know How shall I knowthe angel Gabriel just shuts him up, just like that.  He stands in the presence of the Lord our God, he was sent by God to deliver this message, he’s not the cleaning lady.

Charades-Cartoon-Book-Cover

 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute.    The people were waiting outside, wondering what happened?   Zechariah came out, and tried to communicate with them by signs what had happened.   Imagine trying to act out that message in a game of charades…

zechariah and elizabeth 2

And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.   So Zechariah goes home unable to speak.   Of course, we know men don’t have to talk to have sex, and lo and behold, Elizabeth gets pregnant.   An old Jewish couple has again conceived a child past their child bearing years.  With echoes of Abraham and Sarah, Zechariah and Elizabeth conceive a child at a ripe old age.  And their son would join Isaac, Samson, and Samuel, sons destined for greatness born to women who had been barren…

John Lewis

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The Waiting

The Waiting

waiting

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”

advent 1

This past Sunday was the first day of Advent.   Advent is the New Years Day of the church calendar.  The church calendar, a Christ formed calendar brought to you by the same people who gave you the Bible!!  The church calendar is a  creative way of subverting secularism by marking time according to the Christian story.  The Hebrew people have been doing this for millennia, marking time according to the feasts, festivals and holy days according to their story of being delivered out of Egypt, the Exodus.   We have our own story centered in Jesus Christ.  We mark the year telling the story of Jesus Christ.  The church year begins first Sunday of advent, so Happy New Year!!!   We are no longer in “ordinary time”, but a special time.  We are in the season of advent.   Advent means “the coming” or the “appearing”.   So in this season of advent, we are patiently waiting for the birth of Christ, but we are also waiting for his coming again.

luke

Looking today at the gospel of Luke, which begins 15 months before birth of Jesus.  Luke was a physician, which in those days meant he was trained in both medicine and philosophy.   Luke was also a Gentile, which is very significant because he is the only Gentile contributor to the holy canon of scripture.  Every other book in our bible was written by a Hebrew writer, but Luke is one of us, a gentile.   He was an associate and traveling companion of the apostle Paul, and wrote both the gospel which bears his name and the Acts of the Apostles.

advent

The Gospel of Luke was written about AD 70, give or take a couple of years either way.  Luke was very painstaking in his research for his Gospel.  He used the writings of both  Mark, Matthew, and some other sources we don’t know about anymore.

love and the cross metaphor

Luke dedicated both his gospel and its sequel, the book of Acts, to a man named Theophilus, which means “Lover of God” or “God lover”.  He addresses him here as most excellent Theophilusso it’s possible this man was a high Roman official or someone else of some distinction.  But probably Luke here is simply using a literary device.  You could say his Gospel is written to “Mr. Love God”.  Do you love god?  Then This story is for you.

god saves the world

This is the story of how god saves the world.  The story of how god was born as a baby, lived as a man, died as a mortal, and was raised Lord of all.  We tell the story beginning in advent.  The annual re-enactment of  waiting for god to act in history and do what only god can do.  The story begins with a birth.  Not the birth of the savior, but the fore runner.  Not Jesus the Christ but John the Baptist.   We begin with an elderly righteous couple named Zechariah and Elizabeth.

zechariah and elizabeth

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. 

king herod

It begins during the time of King Herod, Herod the great.  Cruel,  maniacal, megalomaniac, and a genius architect.  Herod was rewarded for faithful service to the Roman Empire, he was also a military genius and had won many great battles on behalf of Caesar.  He was given the official title “King of the Jews”.   Upon receiving this  title, Herod proceed directly to offer his sacrifice at temple of Mars, the great god of War.

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Herod has been king for about 30 years.  He is 70 years old, coming near the end of his life.  Brutal and barbarous, Herod was most definitely not the king the Jews had been looking for.

have-trust-in-God

There is a great juxtaposition in Luke’s story – we have brutal, powerful king in Herod on one hand, and a pious, elderly, humble, righteous old couple, a priest and his wife living in hill country on the other hand.   They’ve been faithful to god, had wanted children, prayed for children, waited for children, but have reached a ripe old age and alas, no children.  Advent is about waiting.  Waiting for God to do whatever God will do.  We have our own expectations, our own demands, our own timetable for what we want God to do, Amen!  But Advent is about abandoning  that and saying “God, you will do what you will do when you want to do it.  I trust you.”  But do it soon please…

advent-wreath-nativity-figures

That’s advent,  that’s Zachariah and Elizabeth   They had prayed, were pious, righteous, a priest and his wife entering old age childless.    It’s a picture of Israel itself.  Israel has been waiting through a long season of disappointment.   They’ve been for 600 years with no real king.  Wasn’t there a promise?  Wasn’t there a promise that there would always be a son of David upon the throne…yet there hasn’t been a king for 600 years.   Now they have this imposter Herod?  Living that that whole time under gentile domination.  Babylon, Persia, Greece, and now Rome.  They’ve been an oppressed people without the promises of God seeming to come to pass.  How long???   They’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting…how long will they have to wait???

How-Long-1

How long have we been waiting for Christ to come again?   I guess we are coming up on 2000 years now, aren’t we?   How long, O Lord, will we have to wait??   How long before you do something Lord?

Come-2016_-761x324

How long have you been waiting?   How long have you waited for Christ to do something in your life?   What are you waiting for, what are you praying for?   Advent is the season of waiting.  We patiently (or not) wait for Christmas morning, for that feast and that celebration and the gifts and the joy and the love.  It always seems to come, doesn’t it?

waiting1

But we also wait for Christ to come again.  This we are not so patient for.  This, it seems, may never come.  By never, we mean not in our lifetimes.  This is the hardest wait.  There is no date on the calendar (and no, it’s not next Tuesday.  Or whatever the next date the apocalypse “experts” try to tell us).  We want God to come, we expect Him to come…but we want it to be now.  It should be now.   We want to know, we want to see.  Faith is just so hard.

But wait we must.

John Lewis

Mountain Climbing

mountain climbing

The first week of advent on the church calendar, so Happy New Year to all my brothers and sisters in Christ!   Not exactly an advent message today, but maybe a little talk of mountain climbing…

mt-everest

“The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

Isaiah 2:1-5 ESV

http://bible.com/59/isa.2.1-5.esv

mt zion

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…”

Hebrews 12:22 ESV

http://bible.com/59/heb.12.22.esv

Mount Everest becomes world's highest traffic jam.

What Isaiah anticipates, the writer of Hebrews announces as gospel, that in Christ we have come to the mountain of god.  The great mountain that is the mountain of god.  Jesus claims the first ascent, he has led the way, fixed the ropes, established the route, that we might enter into the experience of the living God.

Winter at Longs

But we still have to climb it.

long's

Mountains are very prominent in bible  It’s amazing how many important episodes occur on mountains.  There is Noah on Mt. Ararat, Abraham on Mt. Moriah.  We have Moses on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments.   We see Deborah and Barak on Mt. Tabor, Elisha with his sword on Mt. Carmel.

2d2 Mt_ Tabor

Much of Jesus’ ministry also occurs on mountains.  In His story alone we have the mount of temptation, the mountain of transfiguration (also Tabor), the Mount of Beatitudes, the Mount of Olives, the Mount of Ascension.  The Bible is seemingly overflowing with mountains.

mountains surround jerusalem

Mountains in the Bible sometimes represent God Himself, as is very often in the psalms –  “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalms 125:2 ESV.  

sinai

Oftentimes climbing mountain is a picture of entering into a deep experience of god.   Think of Moses on Sinai, or Elijah on Mt. Horeb  being restored as a prophet.

Mount_Olympus-JP2

Most ancient cultures have held certain mountains to be sacred.  The Greeks had Mt. Olympus, Japan had Mt. Fuji, Mt. Kanchenjunga in Nepal (3rd highest peak in the world), Mt Vesuvius, Long’s Peak (known as “Nesotaieux” to the Native American’s long before we ever got here).   Yes, these and many other peaks have been worshipped by people as sacred for thousands of years.  Ancient people could not help but stand in awe and wonder at the majesty of these mountains.  But if worshipping the creation instead of the creator is a sin (and it is), then so is the secular idea that nothing is sacred.  Because, for example, if it’s idolatry to worship a mountain as God, it’s also idolatrous to destroy a mountain through mountain top removal mining for the idol of greed.  Let that one sink in for a minute…

mount-kanchenjunga

Sometimes when we are in or near the mountains, we just want to stay on the lower slopes.  We don’t really want to climb them, we are just as happy to admire them from the comfort and safety of the valley below.

Mount Rainier Washington

But sometimes, we want to climb that mountain.  Sometimes, we feel driven to go higher, to get above the clouds.  I feel that way about God.  I am still relatively new in Christ (I believe), still in many ways very immature in my faith.  But I do not want to stay on the lower slopes of the mountain of God.  I am not satisfied with simply telling you that Christ died for my sins, I said a sinners prayer and got baptized and now I’m going to heaven when I die.  I don’t know how to express this, but that just feels kind of empty.   Of course I want to go to heaven and not hell when I die (whatever that really means), but is that really all there is?   Is the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ, his life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, his suffering, his teaching, “love your enemies” and the golden rule, all this is just about being “in” or “out”?   Pardon me for being so bold to say, I think we are missing something.

DCF 1.0

So I want to climb that mountain.  I want to go above the tree line, get past “in” or “out” theology.  I want to go higher on the mountain than just knowing that Jesus died for my sins (as beautiful as that truly is).  I want to climb higher on the mountain, get closer to what the apostle John saw when he so daringly told us, not once but twice, that “God is Love!”   And I say to all who are reading this, “come with me”.   Let’s begin to climb this mountain, the mountain of God, together.

longs

You can do it.  It won’t  be easy, but you can do it.  But you can’t do it alone.  Novice mountain climbers who want to go it alone can get lost, go astray, and even perish, even in the mountain of a God.

LongsWinter 019

Mountains, if you approach them from different directions, or different perspectives, can give you many different pictures.  Long’s Peak in the Rocky Mountains can appear to be a completely different mountain depending on the direction you approach it from, or even the season you are seeing it in.  Again, God is like this.  Depending on our perspective (and I’m only talking about Christian perspectives here), we can come to God from different perspectives and different places, and see God, differently.

mountain-of-god

We can get into trouble if we approach the mountain of God, think that the perspective we have is all there is to see, then declare to the world that “I’ve found God, and God is ____”   If we do this, and become convinced that our perspective of God is all there is to see, we can become fundamentalist in our views.   Fundamentalism is the belief that one perspective of God (our perspective) is all there is to see of God.  But just as some of our great mountains are for too vast to take in from one perspective, so God is far too vast to see and comprehend from just one vantage point.

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Now, God is not everything we make him up to be.  He has definition.  When I’m talking about God, I’m talking about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  I’m talking about the God of Israel.  The God and father of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ,  the true and loving God who is Father, Son, and  Holy Spirit.

orthodox

But we many different perspectives of our God, do we not?   We have the Orthodox perspective, Catholic perspective, Anglican, Protestant, Evangelical, Charismatic, And Pentecostal perspectives.   Each one of them can be fundamentalist.  If a Catholic says “Our perspective of God is the only one that’s valid and if you see God from a different angle the you’re a heretic!”, that’s Catholic fundamentalism, and we must rise above that.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Baptist, Anglican, we can all go the fundamentalist route.  We must rise above that and learn to be contemplative.

catholic

Our great mountains are so big and so vast that we cannot see all of them from one perspective.  So if we see a mountain like Long’s Peak in Colorado or Mt Fuji in Japan or Mt Rainer in Washington, but come at the The from the north side over and over again, but then come to them from the south instead, we might feel we are seeing a totally different mountain.    If we don’t know it’s the same mountain before we see it, we can be completely fooled and not recognize it at all.  It doesn’t mean it’s a different mountain, just that we’ve come to it from a different direction this time.   We could be fundamentalist about the mountain – “If you don’t see the diamond face on Long’s Peak then it’s not Long’s Peak!”   Yes, Long’s Peak has a diamond face if you look at it from the east, but from the West you don’t see it at all.  It’s still Long’s Peak, just a different vantage point.

methodist

Though we can only see one vantage point at a time, we can go all around the mountain and learn all the different vantage points and get a fuller picture and understanding of the mountain.  In the same way, we can learn to be contemplative as we approach the mountain of God,  as we respectfully engage with other traditions who over the centuries have learned this angle, Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Southern Baptist.  We can learn other traditions views of the living God, and get a much clearer, better, more true vision of the nature of God.

advent-wreath-nativity-figures

So this advent season, as we anticipate the coming of God, let’s understand God is coming.   But while we may see his coming in many different ways, it doesn’t mean one is right (mine) and all the rest are wrong.  But maybe, just maybe, if we can respectfully engage and contemplate another’s point of view, we might get a fuller picture of the God we love.   We have our guides (which we need) on the mountain, maybe this advent season (and beyond) we can open up to another perspective and come to see a different trail, and climb  just a little bit higher on the mountain of God.

John Lewis

Change The World

change the world

Change the world.   Isn’t that really what we want to do?   Don’t we see so much evil, so much wrong in the world?  There really is so much we would want to change.

sons_of_thunder_shirt_design_by_shadix64-d4bdp4v

Jesus referred to James and John as the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17).   Why?  Because maybe more than any other disciples, these two brothers believed that the way to power, the way for Jesus to overthrow Caesar and establish his throne forever, was through the taking of the sword of Caesar.  They believed, as we still do, that political and military power was true power.

cross of glory

This is what we see here in Mark chapter 10 as these brothers begin jockeying for position in the new kingdom they believe Jesus is bringing in.   And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”   Jesus and the disciples were on their way to Jerusalem.   They all expected something great was about to happen.  They expected Jesus to be crowned King (which, indeed, he was).    “And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him,” Mark 10:32 ESV.   They are headed to Jerusalem, to the coronation of the True King, and his followers are both amazed and afraid.  Amazed that they are about to change history (This is really happening!).   Afraid because they knew that this crown would not be won without a fight.  Some of them might very well lose their lives.  The only one who could not lose his life would be Jesus….

glory

Jesus was about to come into his glory, and the Sons of Thunder wanted in.  Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.   They have imagined Christ as Caesar, and they want to be vice-Caesar and Secretary of the Treasury.  They see the endgame in sight, they are willing to fight for the revolution, and they expect to enjoy the fruits of the last 3 years of walking with Messiah.  They expected, they wanted, to fight fire with fire.  They expect to fight political power with political power.  They are willing to die for the cause if need be.  They expect their Messiah to overthrow the military might of Rome with the power of God.  Jesus is about to lead the revolution into Jerusalem and finally set things right!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”   Only Jesus knew what was coming.  He tried repeatedly to explain it to them, but they just could not hear.   They could not imagine any other way.  They could only understand the world as it was, not as it could be.   But Jesus was doing something new and truly beautiful.  He was not imitating the ways and means of Caesar, but bringing in the Kingdom of God.

not to serve

And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.   Jesus came to change the world.   But he did not, he does not, imitate the ugly ways of Caesar fighting over power and dominance.   Instead, we work in His kingdom by the countercultural means if humility, service, and sacrificial love.  These things are truly beautiful.

carry-cross

When we follow Christ, we are choosing the path of humility, service and love, not political dominance.  Political dominance is not the way of His kingdom – You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you.   We have forgotten, or simply ignored, that Jesus brings in His kingdom by refusing to oppose Caesar on Caesar’s terms.  He did NOT fight political power with political power.   As He was submitting to His state-sponsored execution he tells Pontius Pilate “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting…” John 18:36 ESV.  We share a beautiful Gospel.  Part of that beauty is that the Kingdom of God comes not by the sword of political power, but the cross of self-sacrificing love (Take up your cross and follow me).  Jesus didn’t ride the war horse into Jerusalem, he didn’t swing the sword for political power (All who take the sword will perish by the sword), instead he absorbed the blow of the injustice brought upon him, and committed his fate to God.

kingdom

In the words of Pastor Brian Zahnd, we cannot fight for the kingdom of Christ in the same manner that the nations of the world fight, for the moment we do, we are no longer the kingdom of Christ but the kingdom of the world!

white house

We live in a broken world.  But what is most wrong in the world is not our politics or who runs Congress or lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  What is most wrong with the world is the distorted face of humanity brought about by the dehumanizing forces of lust, greed and pride.   We are not called to protest, or campaign for political solutions, but to live an authentic Christian alternative.  We advocate another way.  We do participate in the political process, but we do this mostly as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, teaching and showing the virtues of that Kingdom.  We show what it means to be Christ-like in what is still a Caesar-like world.  But, this requires us to take up our cross, put down our sword, follow Jesus, and trust in God.  It’s not meant to be practical.

“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.””

Mark 10:35-45 ESV

http://bible.com/59/mrk.10.35-45.esv

John Lewis

A Good Investment?

bigstock_Investment_3911798

Today I have a meditation which I may or may not expand upon later.

well done

Part of my morning prayer time includes prayerfully reading the Gospel reading from the common lectionary, which is used by tens of thousands of churches worldwide.  This weeks reading is the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-30.

hid talent in the ground

I’m not really worried today about the multiplying of the talents for the man who was given 5 talents or 2 talents.  I’m going to focus on the character in this story who represents most of us, the poor soul who was given one talent to manage.

well done good and faithful

We’ve all (mostly) known the story.  A man going on a long journey gave 3 servants 5 talents (a measurement in those days of something of value, like gold or silver), 2 talents, and 1 talent to manage respectively.  The servants given 5 and 2 talents each doubled what they had received, and each one heard from his master  ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’   A joyous declaration for any master to his servant.

sow-seed

But for the man who had but one talent, the reception was a little different.  He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’  So this servant had received but one talent, and had done nothing with it.  Not only that, but said to his master  I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed.  That’s a gutsy thing to throw at your master when he comes around checking productivity, is it not?   But here’s the point of what I’ve been meditating on this passage since Friday, that this, by and large, may be how we view our master in heaven.  He reaps where he has not sown, and gathers where he has scattered no seed.  And dog-gone it, we are not putting any of our talents, our treasure, or anything else in play to gather in that field, or reap where we don’t believe God has been working.

don't eat shrimp

We are like Peter in the Book of Acts, refusing to eat anything on that sheet being lowered from heaven with all the unclean animals upon it. “But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”” Acts 10:14 ESV.  Peter refused to eat what God was offering him because the holy scriptures, the Bible, told him not to eat anything that slithers upon the ground, certain birds of prey, meat from animals that don’t part the hoof or chew the cud (this is just a small sample).  Peter was doing exactly as his bible told him.  Oh yeah, and no shellfish.  Yes, God said don’t eat shrimp.  Or crabs, whether you have Old Bay or not (sorry for the local Maryland reference!!).

SteamedCrab

But now, God is pushing the limits in what Peter can comprehend or accept.   “And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”” Acts 10:15 ESV.  And, just for good measure – God sent Peter immediately to the house of Cornelius.  Cornelius was a Roman centurion who loved and feared God, and had been commanded in his own vision to send his servants to bring back Peter.  So Peter, at the word of the Holy Spirit, does go with, and says this upon entering the house of Cornelius – “And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”” Acts 10:28-29 ESV.  Peter, who had actually been with Jesus during most of his earthly ministry, had been taught directly by Jesus and had been following Jesus ever since, took a long time to get to this point.  This is about 10 years after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and Peter has barely left Jerusalem.  He still has not gotten the fact that salvation is for all, and still doesn’t associate or eat with Gentiles.  Paul had long been eating and associating with the Gentiles, Peter was just a little slower in his understanding for some reason.   But once he gets it, he gets it – “So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Acts 10:34-35 ESV

no partiality

We know what is expected of us (“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”Matthew 28:19 ESV), just as this lazy servant in the parable knew what was expected – a return on his investment.   We look at the world around us and don’t like what we see.  Just as Peter once looked at the Gentiles who were all around him, and he knew he was not to associate with them.  The bible told him so.  And in his understanding of what the Bible told him, he was correct.   Just as we are correct in what the Bible tells us (at least we think we are).   But, now as then, God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.   We may misunderstand the nature of God, and believe him to be a hard man.  We may look at the world around us and see that God has done no sowing or planting.  But in truth, it is not  God who has done no sowing or scattering, it is we that are called to do the sowing and scattering, then the reaping and gathering.  He has given us all we have, the breath in our lungs, the life in our bodies.  He’s given us our abilities, our potentials.  All he expects is the effort.  The effort to participate in the fulfillment of his kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven.   

heaven-on-earth

Christ will come again.  What will be his return on the investment he made in you?   When we go before his judgment seat, there will be an accounting, a reckoning.  What did you do with what he gave you?  Did you invest it in the lives around you?   Or did you bury it?   Will you give Him a multiplied return on his investment?  Or will you give Him excuses and justifications?

christ

“”For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

Matthew 25:14-30 ESV

http://bible.com/59/mat.25.14-30.esv

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Denial University

University

Human pain is the great unifier.  We all have pain in common.  It’s a part of our solidarity.  To be human is to hurt.   But in our pain, we always look to find our way to Jesus, because if you can get to Jesus everything is going to be alright, amen!!

emmanuel

God in Christ is “Emmanuel“.  GOD WITH US.  God with us in the solidarity of human suffering.  Beginning at Bethlehem, Jesus entered the world of the wounded, and was himself wounded.   But here’s a beautiful and sacred mystery, “By his wounds we are healed“.  If we can bring our own wounds to the wounds of Christ, it does not multiply woundednes but produces healing.  But first we must acknowledge our own woundedness.  This is hard for us as American Christians.  We are raised on John Wayne, Bruce Willis, and pick yourself by the bootstraps.  We are very slow to acknowledge our woundedness and pain.  In many cases, we never actually do.  In the words of Walter Brueggemann, we are schooled in denial.

wounded

The wounded in our society are everywhere.  The hardest task is to break through denial so people can get in touch with their own pain.  Our zeal for certitude and absolutism is an anxious, frightened response to the reality of pain.  We think we can not bear the pain, so we protect ourselves by pretending we don’t know about our own pain.  What we discover is that if we can get access to our pain within our community which we trust, then our pain is almost always bearable because the trustworthiness of our brothers and sisters will hold and not let us fall through.  Sometimes we need to be helped to see or hear that our certitudes are mostly phony, that life does not conform to our certitudes, and our absolutes are much less than absolute.

So what do we do about a people schooled in denial?

lamentation

Lamentations, that little book between Jeremiah and Ezekiel, was composed in response to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.  It was end of world for the Jewish people.  Imagine  September 11 times 1000, that’s 587 BC for the Jewish people.  It was a great national humanitarian and economic crisis.  But it was also a great theological crisis.  It caused them to question everything thought they knew and believed about themselves.  Are we the people of God or not?  We’ve not been rescued, we’ve not been delivered.  This pagan nation has destroyed our great city and burned our temple.  Everyone but the poorest of the poor have been carried off into captivity and exile.  We don’t even have a land to call home anymore.  That’s context for the book of Lamentation.   It’s the Jewish hymn book of grief and sorrow.  And the Jewish people have had plenty of opportunities to lament.

lament

Lament brings pain, sorrow, and anguish out into the open where it can be acknowledged, shared, and eventually healed.  What the book of Lamentations does is make it possible for the Jewish people after the destruction of the temple to be able to get past their certainties and absolutism and allow God to come in and bring true comfort.

Look at how the Lamentations opens.

lonely sits the city

“How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies. Judah has gone into exile because of affliction and hard servitude; she dwells now among the nations, but finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress. The roads to Zion mourn, for none come to the festival; all her gates are desolate; her priests groan; her virgins have been afflicted, and she herself suffers bitterly.” Lamentations 1:1-4 ESV

Now look at how the book closes.

how long

“Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days? Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old— unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us.”

Lamentations 5:20-22 ESV

9_14-HOWLONG-331x221

Always, always, the question we want answered is “How long, Lord?”  Notice how Lamentation reaches no nice resolution.  There is no happily ever after.  It hangs there in ambiguity.  Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old— unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us.   Restore us Lord, renew our days as of old…unless you are just going to be angry with us forever.   No certitudes or absolutes to be found, even inspired by the spirit as this was.  There is no happily ever after.

everything's going to be alright

Leading up to the great catastrophe, all the prophets in Jerusalem said everything is gonna be alright.  We have the temple, we have the promises of god, God is on our side.  God is our defender.   There will be peace.  We have the covenant of god and the promises of God.  This city will not, can not fall, because after all we have the temple of the lord!!  All the prophets, that is, except for Jeremiah.  “Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’” Jeremiah 7:4 ESV.  Jeremiah brought a minority report.  Jeremiah said there is idolatry in that temple.  He said the city and temple will be destroyed.  The people will be carried into Babylon   Jeremiah warned, as all the other nations in the area fell, that they would fall too.  Jeremiah warned them Do not trust in these deceptive words. “Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel.” Jeremiah 7:4, 12 ESV.  Jeremiah warned them to remember Shiloh, the place where the ark of the covenant itself had been kept.  The original dwelling place of the lord had been wiped off the map, what makes us think we won’t be is the warning.

jeremiah in the well

Jeremiah’s message was not very well received (go figure).  He was arrested, censored, his prophesies were burned, he was even thrown into a well.  At least they didn’t kill him…

587 bc

All the other prophets said everything’s going to be alright, but it was Jeremiah’s prophecy that came to pass.  In 587 BC, the city fell, the temple was burned, and the people were carried into captivity and slavery.  The moon was red as blood, the sun refused to shine, all the stars fell from the sky.  It was the end of the world as they knew it.  And they could no longer take comfort in false promises of what turned out to be the false prophets.

noweapon

Lamentations is about preparing a place for comfort to come by doing work of lamentation.  It is a primer in overcoming our denial and false certitudes.  What is meant by false certitudes?   Isaiah 54:17 says that ‘No weapon formed against you shall prosper…”.   There is a time and a setting, a context, where that is the word of the lord.  But we grab hold of that verse (and others like it) and carry it around with as our own personal badge of bravado, we tell everyone who will listen how no weapon formed against me shall prosper, we carry on in our certitude and absolutism.  Until the day comes when it seems every single weapon being formed against you is totally prospering.   Then what do you do??  Just keep denying, keep on the brave face, never let ’em see you sweat, never show weakness, amen?

grim

When the diagnosis is grim, the bankruptcy is filed, the divorce is final, our loved on has died, our certitudes go out the window.  Lamentations was born at this point, at the pain point of 587 BC. Even the book of psalms, which we mostly see as the praise songs of the Bible, is full of lament.  One-third of the psalms at psalms of lament.  Israel is famous for its psalms of lament.

jerusalem-destruction

We need to really understand where Lamentations fits into the Bible.  If you look at the book of Isaiah, it is divided into two parts. The first 39 chapters are warnings and prophecies of dire consequences which are coming.  This part is pre-587, before the destruction of the temple.  Chapters 40-66, that is all after the destruction of the temple.  This us where most of our liturgies from Isaiah are actually from, from chapter 40 on.  So we have Isaiah 1-39, warnings and prophecies of what is to come.   Then August 587 BC comes, and the destruction of the city of God, the burning and destruction of God’s temple, and God’s people being carried off into exile.

none to comfort

This is where Jeremiah’s (we believe) lamentations come in.  There is phrase that appears 5 times in the Lamentations,  she has none to comfort her.  There are none comfort, there is no comfort, this is said five times during the book of Lamentations.   Bu5 what happens in Isaiah 40?   “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” Isaiah 40:1 ESV.  It’s no longer none to comfort, it’s comfort, comfort my people.  The work of Lamentation that’s been done has opened the people up to real comfort, the comfort of God given by others.

Blessed are those who mourn

Jesus himself says what about this?  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 ESV.   Mourning, laying down our false certitudes, being vulnerable, opening yourself up to the comfort of a God carried by another.  Grief is not a reality to be denied, but work to be attended to – Pastor Brian Zahnd.  The work of grief and lamentation must be done if we are to allow true comfort into our lives.  But we would rather anesthetize ourselves with entertainment…

thepursuit

We so crave happiness.  You might say we are a happiness obsessed culture.  We’ve even got a constitutional right to pursue it!!  (I know, it’s not actually in the constitution.  But we believe it is…).   We think we can just whistle past the graveyard and forget that death is the very backdrop of human existence.  We actually believe we can get out of this alive.  We are so like the great whore of revelation – ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’ Revelation 18:7 ESV.  We think mourning we will never see, we can just whistle past those graveyards, but it’s all just a lie.  It’s propaganda we so want to believe and live our lives based upon.

stay miserable

But when we are schooled in denial, we earn our degree in just staying miserable.  We have become a people addicted to entertainment, and we earn degrees from Denial University.   When we experience loss and the grief and pain that accompanies it but will not acknowledge it, it us simply internalized and begins to poison our soul.  The effects of the poison can be seen in things like depression, anger, addiction, physical disease, other types of things.  When we go off to Denial U, we earn our degree in how to stay miserable.

A_twelve-steps

This is what is so powerful about our 12 step programs like AA, NA, SA, or my favorite Celebrate Recovery.  It is through these programs and living the 12 steps that we can be unschooled in denial and begin road real recovery.

funeral

School of denial belongs to the empire that can not bear to face reality of death.  You know someone’s been schooled in denial when they refuse to attend funerals.   “I don’t do funerals“.   Some say this like it’s  a virtuous thing.   We are so selfish, are we not?   But what this really is just someone so schooled in their own denial that what they’ve told themselves is some virtuous decision not to attend funerals is really just away for them to face the reality of the one funeral they will be required to attend.   Because we are all required to attend at least one funeral in our lives, are we not?    We’ve turned funerals these days into an exercise of trying to cheer someone else up when the real purpose of a funeral is grief and lament as a community.   We grieve together, we share in the loss with those closest loved ones.   Because lament purges the soul.  It does not add to the problem, it is a part of the healing process

denial

One last bit here.  Consider this prayer, tucked away right in the middle of the book of Lamentations, starting with verse 3:16.

“He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

Lamentations 3:16-26 ESV

love of christ

When we are honest enough about our pain and grief to share it with our brothers and sister, we can then be opened up the love of God carried to us by another.  Because, really, how are we to receive the love of God in this world except through another made in his image?  God almost always works through people, does he not?   So the beginning of healing and recovery comes through sharing that pain, sorrow and grief, not covering it up.  Become a Denial University dropout and experience the love of Christ the only way we know how – by being opened up to receive it through another human being.

John Lewis

The Last Word

The Last Word

The Book of Revelation.  The last book of the canon of scripture.  Chapter 1, verse 1 begins “The revelation of Jesus Christ…“.  “Of” here carries a double meaning.  It is the revelation about Jesus Christ, and it is the revelation from Jesus Christ.   He is the content, the subject, of the revelation, and the agent of the revelation.  As Eugene Peterson puts it, “Jesus Christ is the way in which God reveals himself to us; Jesus Christ is also God himself being revealed to us.”

As such, we need to understand that revelation is not given to be information about the broken world we live in.  It is not a report about the persecution of the church in the first century, and it’s certainly, ABSOLUTELY, not chiming in about all the geopolitical events of the 21st century.  Anything regarding past and future evens in revelation are only given because they are useful in revealing Christ to us.  Because the Revelation is nothing if not focused on Jesus Christ.

Martin Luther disagreed with this statement.  In fact, brother Luther wanted to remove Revelation from the Bible altogether.  Martin considered revelation to be “neither apostolic or prophetic…I can in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it…they are supposed to be blessed who keep what is written in this book; and yet no one seems to know what that is, to say nothing of keeping it…Christ is neither taught nor known in it.”

All of which did not prevent him from using the revelation to prove the pope was the antichrist.  The same pope who, in turn, used revelation to prove that Martin Luther was the antichrist.  The same antichrist who, by the way, is not mentioned in the book of revelation.  Anywhere.

But I digress.  Like I said, Revelation is nothing if not focused on Jesus Christ (despite the objections of Martin Luther).  It may be hard to maintain this focus through all the symbolism and topics flashing at us (especially for our ADHD, instant gratification minds), but it is the only way to read the Revelation with any degree of sanity.  In fact, the only way to read any scripture rightly is in subjugation to Jesus Christ.  If Christ is not the center of it all, then our Holy Bible is little more than an encyclopedia of religion, with no more plot than a phone book.

Without Christ as the center, all the individual stories and words of the Bible are just out there.   So we have a talking snake, floating axe heads, a snake on a pole, strange rules strangely repeated like the law not to boil a kid in its mothers milk.  We have seemingly pointless genealogies at random points, which we need for what??   We have the thundering “Thus saith the Lord!” moments.  We have some of the favorite sayings of Christ himself –  “you are salt of the earth…and the light of the world“, “Enter by the narrow gate“, or “Do unto others..“.  We have Paul’s paradoxes  – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”   We have Paul’s stirring conclusions – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” or “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   AMEN!!

So, what does it all mean??  What do we make of the information, all the stories, this mass of material we call our bible??  By this time, we can be completely confused and bewildered.  This is where the revelation steps in.

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.    We turn the page and find the magnificent Christ described in such a way that everything is imaginatively subordinated to him.  He was suggested, anticipated, prayed for and promised in the ancient Hebrew scriptures.  He’s been presented in the Gospels, taught and preached in the epistles.  If we are careful and maintain our focus, we could have held true to our awareness throughout of Jesus the Christ.  But we don’t read carefully and maintain our focus.  Instead, we argue about predestination, we theorize about atonement.  We count miracles and worry about grammar and style.  Then we come to Revelation and we are startled out of all our tangential arguments and diversions.  Everything that was said before is brought back into proportion.  Christ himself is the last word.  He was and is the word made flesh, John brings us back on track, brings Him back into focus.  We’ve been climbing the mountain but we’ve lost our way.  We are climbing, seeking after Christ, but we’ve lost sight of the guideposts along the way.  John brings the path back into focus, and clears the brush for us.  A mountain peak determines all the preparations and the path climbers take to reach it, even when it’s still out of sight.  The peak is always the goal toward which everything was aimed.  The Revelation gives us the last word on Christ, and this word is that Christ is the center and at the center.  He is the mountaintop we are seeking throughout the mountain of scripture.

Keeping Christ at the center can be difficult.  We get lost along the way, and other things find their way to the front.  The golden rule, our doctrines of atonement, the Ten Commandments,  justification, diagrams and explanations of the trinity, denouncing the wicked.  We know all along that Christ is one to be reckoned with, but we forget that he at the center of all, filling all things with himself.

So what is Christ, who is he, and how will he be presented to hold onto this centrality?  John is commanded by the trumpet voice and describes him as one like a son of man.  This phrase originates in the vision of Daniel – I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.   Jesus, the Son of Man, is a commanding, all powerful, redeeming, glorious figure! We want to manage him, keep him in his box, but he will not be managed.  We go along with, we believe in, we teach Jesus as a piece of the puzzle for our own private lives, a private decision to be kept out of the public space.  We believe in a secularized, managed-for-our-own-purposes Jesus.  But he will not be managed.  He does not fit nice and tidy into our little shoebox.

In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.  The word from the word, coming forth like a sharp two edged sword, searching hearts, judging rebels, and slaying sinners.  BUT, the word tells us Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.   He is the first and the last, the alpha and the omega.  He is the word, slaying sinners with a spoken word like a two edged sword so they can then be resurrected into newness of life with Him.  He died, yet he is alive forevermore, and he holds the keys to death and Hades.   He is “...the firstborn of the dead…” Revelation 1:5 ESV.   Because he went ahead of us we can Fear noteven death, because He has conquered it forever.

He does not live in our acrostics.  He’s not a part of our self help plans, he’s not contained by our 12 step programs.  He migh meet you on a Roman road, but he does not live there.  We can’t keep sinners from his table, because no matter how hard we try he just keeps calling out and inviting them.  He is the one who sits, eats, and drinks with sinners.  He doesn’t care about atonement theories, He just forgives sins and sinners.  He doesn’t argue about justification, He justifies.

He is the Son of Man, to him is given dominion and glory and a kingdom.  He is the beginning and the end, the firstborn of all creation, the firstborn of the dead.  He is the first word of creation, and the last word of Revelation.  He made all things, all things were made through Him.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and no, the darkness has not overcome it.  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 ESV.

“Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

Revelation 1:12-20 ESV

http://bible.com/59/rev.1.12-20.esv

“”I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

Daniel 7:13-14 ESV

http://bible.com/59/dan.7.13-14.esv

John Lewis