Practice Resurrection

Why does Jesus do this thing that he does, bringing back the dead??   Why did he go to the house of Jairus and bring his daughter back from the dead?  Because that’s the work of the Father.  What does the Father do?  He gives life to the dead!   Because the great problem facing humanity is death, and the work of the Father is to give life to the dead…

A son, a young man, dead for a whole day, is about to be buried.  He is heading to the cemetery.  Jesus comes across the funeral procession.   He touches the coffin, they stop.  The body, the corpse in the coffin, comes alive, sits up, and begins to speak to them.   “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.” Luke 7:13-15 ESV.  Jesus gives a widow back her only son.

The greatest, most spectacular  of all Jesus’ miracles is the raising of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha.  Lazarus is four days dead.  He’s  buried in a tomb.  But if you believe you will see the glory of the father revealed in the son“Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”” John 11:39-40 ESV.   Roll away the stone.  Lazarus come forth!!   That is the glory of the father revealed in son.  “”Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”  John 5:25 ESV

To believe in Christ and be baptized in Christ, to be born of spirit and water, is to receive the promise (since we all like promises so much) that as Christ was raised from the dead, so shall we be raised from the dead.

Think about it.  On Good Friday Jesus is nailed to the cross and he dies.  He breathes his last,  he commits his spirit to god.  He’d already told the thief today you’ll be with me in paradise.   So Jesus breathes his last, commends his spirit to the father, and is with the father in paradise.   But he’s also dead.

His body is taken down from the cross, lifeless, and laid away in a tomb.  We do not celebrate Good Friday independent of Easter Sunday.  We commemorate Good Friday and recognize what was done there.  But what we celebrate is the victory of Jesus Christ over the grave when on Sunday morning he was physically raised to life again.  (Amen and amen)

The promise is that the we who have been baptized into Christ and believed  on Christ shall join Christ in a similar resurrection.  So no matter what we experience in the interim state, where we die and are absent from the body and present with the lord, the great promise is the resurrection that Jesus Christ accomplishes when he comes again.    The Bible tells us very little about the interim state, where we die and we are absent from the body and present with the lord.  Paul refers  to those in that state as those who are asleep, but apparently not unconscious.   It’s blissful, it’s peaceful, it’s paradise, it’s with the lord, but it’s not the great promise.  The great promise is the resurrection that Jesus Christ accomplishes when he comes again.

But – we who believe in Christ are to live by faith according to the realities of the age to come.   For when Christ returns and the the dead are raised and Jesus reigns over the nations, things are going to change.  Some things will be abolished and done away with.  Other things will be inaugurated and will continue.  We who live by faith in Christ now are to as much as possible live out those resurrection realities now.

In the words of Eugene Peterson and Wendell Barry, we are to “practice resurrection”.   We are to practice resurrection by trying to imagine and understand, in the age to come, what will be abolished and what will be continued and inaugurated.  If it will be abolished, let’s abolish it now.  If it will continue, let’s continue it now.  If it will be inaugurated, let’s inaugurate it now.

Let’s be a preview of the age to come.  Let’s practice resurrection.

John Lewis

Advertisements

Reckless

Reckless

Spent the past weekend being reminded of the truth that God laid out for us so long ago, all the way back to the beginning, as in in the beginning…a truth which we’ve all heard and we all know inherently within our being, even if we are not actually conscious of it in our minds.

In the Genesis creation account, God declares much to be good, and when I say he declares much to be good, I mean he declares everything he has created to be good.   And God saw that the light was good.   God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.   Over and over again, And God saw that it was good.   Until we get to the sixth day, And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.   All that God made, the heavens and the earth, the waters and the land, the seas and the heavens, the plants trees and vegetation, all the animals of the sea and on the dry land, everything God created in and on this world, of which we sing in songs so joyfully that it is not our home, is all goodgood, and then, just in case you missed it, very good.  God gave us a beautiful, wonderful, good, good and very good creation (His words, not mine).   Take and do with that what you will.

But now to the point.  What is the first thing in the Bible that is called not good by God?   “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”   Men – don’t miss this and don’t get this twisted.   It is not good that the man should be alone.  It is not good for man be alone.  Yes, man, it is not good for you to be alone.    Including you.  And you women also, but of course women don’t seem to struggle with this as much as men.

Because we men, well, after all, we are men.   We are born and raised, proud, red-blooded, pick ourselves by the bootstraps, don’t cry, never let ‘em see you sweat, American men.   This is the script we live by, that is how we are taught to live.   And even when we are surrounded by a crowd of people, we live this way, isolated, behind our own walls, sharing nothing of ourselves.

This is BS.  This is not how we were created.  The first thing in the Bible that is declared to be not good is for man to be alone, yet we all think we are supposed to be the Lone Ranger.    This, as God the Father would say, is not good.   We are not meant to be alone.

We are made for community.  You are made for community.  You were made in the image of a God who has never not been part of a community himself (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  We are born into community, community is not something we add to ourselves after the fact.  You are born of a father and a mother, brought forth from your mothers very womb.  We came out naked as a jay bird (Who told you you were naked?), unable go do anything for yourself.  Literally, without the community you were born into, you would not survive more than a day or two.

Think about this minute.  Not only does God tell us it is It is not good that the man should be alone, but he follows through and does not leave us alone.   “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.  The word became flesh and dwelt among us.  God created our world that is good, good and very good.  There was perfect peace and perfect harmony in the world, until we came along.   He created mankind in his own image, but we abandoned our call to be God’s own image bearers within his creation.  Yet he does not abandon us to be alone in our broken-ness, he comes and joins us in it.

“”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

John 3:16-17 ESV.

Do we believe that God’s creation, of which we are a part of, is good?   God still does.  He believes this so deeply that he sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, into that creation, to join us in our brokenness and reconcile us to himself.  He did not come to condemn the world, God’s good, good, and very good creation, but to save it.

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” Genesis 3:8 ESV.   Ever since the fall, we’ve been hiding our true selves.  We’ve been isolating ourselves from the community we were created for.  We isolate ourselves, both from God and each other, and our walls build ever higher around us.   Fear grows, love withers, anger and resentment rage within.

The point is, don’t isolate yourselves.   Despite our modern culture’s lies to the contrary, we can’t walk this life, Christian or otherwise, on our own.   The very first thing the Bible tells us is not good is for man to be alone.

Stop hiding behind the bushes.  Come out, forget that you are naked, get honest with yourself and others who love you, and find healing that can only come from the love and support of those around you.

One last thought – why do we isolate.  I think it’s mostly because of fear.  We fear what others might think or say about us.  Maybe you fear what God might think or say about you.  But, from one of our favorite passages in all of scripture, Paul tells us “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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.” Romans 8:37-39 ESV.  God is Love, never forget that.  That is really the point Paul makes here.  I think that one of the great fears we have in being open, being honest, with ourselves and others is that what we’ve done is just so bad, or that somehow we just aren’t worthy of God’s love or anyone else’s love.  But Paul tells us here so many different things that can not separate us from the love of God.  Not death.  Not the powers that be.  Nothing here and now or that can come in the future.  Nor anything else in all creation.   

Nothing in all creation can separate you from the love of God.   Question – are you a created being?   Yes, you are.  Guess what?   You do not have the power to separate yourself from the love of God.   God has given us many powers and abilities, this is not one of them.  There is nothing that you can do to separate yourself from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  You can run, but you can’t hide.  He will leave the ninety to come and find you.   His love is a reckless love.  Nothing you have done can separate you from that reckless love.

God loves you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

But – you can isolate yourself and never know it.  Why would you want to do that?

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.””

Genesis 2:18 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.2.18.esv

“And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.”

Genesis 1:4 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.1.4.esv

“God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.”

Genesis 1:10 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.1.10.esv

“The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

Genesis 1:12 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.1.12.esv

“And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.”

Genesis 1:17-18 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.1.17-18.esv

“So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

Genesis 1:21 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.1.21.esv

“And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

Genesis 1:25 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.1.25.esv

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

Genesis 1:31 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.1.31.esv

“And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there.”

Genesis 2:12 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.2.12.esv

John Lewis

Into the Waters

Into the Waters

into the water.jpg

“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.””  We come this morning to the baptism of Jesus.  You could also say this is the formal anointing of Jesus as Messiah.  The messiah is the anointed one.  The Messiah, in the scriptures, is anointed with oil instead of a crown.  Here, though, Jesus is anointed not with oil but with the Holy Spirit.   He comes out of the waters of baptism, he’s praying, and a dove lands upon him.   God the Father announces from the heavens You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

jesusmessiah

Luke is screaming out,  LOOK! LOOK!  We finally have the messiah.  We’ve waited so long, but it’s finally happening.  The king is on the scene, He, Jesus, in the waters being baptized by John, is the true king of Israel.  What follows next is Jesus going out into wilderness to be tested, tempted, and tried before actually launching his ministry and announcing kingdom of God.

baptism-image-only1

Meantime, let’s think about something here –  John the Baptist is announcing to Israel, you need to repent, change your lives, change your ways, you need to come be baptized for repentance and forgiveness of sins!!  The people come, Jesus comes with them and he gets baptized by John.  He is baptized with a baptism for repentance and forgiveness of sins.  So, question is, is Jesus repenting of sin??  Why else would he need to be baptized by John??  He is baptized with a baptism for repentance…is Jesus repenting of sin??

forgive-us-our-trespasses-1024x625

The answer, i would say, is yes and no.  Jesus is without sin, therefore Jesus can not repent for personal sin.   But here’s the key – Jesus has joined us, he belongs to a sinful people,  he can say, to us and with us,  we need to repent, let me lead the way.   Jesus is God with us, he is Emmanuel.   He is not God separate from us, he is one of us.  He could never say father forgive me of my sin, but can teach us and lead us to pray, with him leading us, saying, Father “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

P3699-I-am-my-Brothers-keeper-patch-950x675

This is hard to get for we modern people.  Repenting for sins for which we are not individually responsible for is foreign to us.  But the hyper individualism of the modern era is foreign to biblical thought.  It is a very modern, liberal creation to think like this –  I’m an individual responsible only for myself…it’s as if we believe in the ways of Cain, “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?””   To which we say all too often, no, I’m an individual responsible for no one else, just myself.  That’s foreign to the thought of the Bible, and it’s not how Jesus thought.

baptism of jesus

Jesus did not stand aloof from us, as a holy individual, saying look at all those sinners are getting baptized, but I am without sin so I will not join them.  Instead Jesus says I belong to a sinful people, a sinful race, I am one if you, I am with you, I will lead the way, together we need to repent.  Even though he wasn’t individually responsible he’s willing to say we together need to come back to God.

baptism

Jesus leads us into the waters of baptism and calls us to follow.  Baptism remains formal introduction into the Jesus Way.  There is no excuse for not being baptized.  Jesus was baptized.  Then he tells us to be baptized. If you’re not baptized, there is only one thing to do.  Go, and be baptized.

Jesus doesn’t come up with some reason not to be baptized.  John tried to stop him.  “John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?””  Matthew 3:14 ESV.   But Jesus says no, we must fulfill all covenant faithfulness, all righteousness, I’m part of this so baptized me as well.  “But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.”  Matthew 3:15 ESV

church

Jesus leads the way and calls us into baptism, he institutes communion, these are both formal religious practices.   Jesus followed a sacred calendar, He gave us a prayer to pray, He founded a church and calls us into it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Don’t accept modern liberal idea that Jesus was opposed to formal religious practices.  Noting could be farther from the truth.  Again, Jesus is baptized and calls us to be baptized.  Jesus instituted communion, observed a sacred calendar, Jesus gives us a prayer to pray, he founds a church calls us to be part of it.   We don’t get to make Christianity up.  It’s a received faith.  We can’t have an a la carte Christianity.  I like to sing the songs in worship, say Amen!  But i don’t need to be baptized, really.  It’s cold outside, it might mess my hair up.  And we really don’t need communion, besides, i have places to be and that takes time….

christian-symbols-13v

Ok, you might be able to pull off following Jesus as an individual, but then what are you going to pass to your kinds and grandkids?    What about the generations to come?   If we are interested in passing our faith to the next generation, we need to be interested in the things that make Christianity multi-generational.   Things like churches, communion, calendar, and prayers that are passed on from generation to generation.  This is how the faith gets passed on through generations instead of just a lone, boutique experience.

Christianity is impossible as a solo project.  In the beginning of his ministry, the first thing Jesus did was to be baptized with us, showing us we are all in this together.  We don’t all have to  figure out how to be saved by ourselves.  One way of understanding Salvation might be as a kind of belonging where we, corporately,  belong to the People of God.

christianity

I’ve heard it said that a lone Christian is a paralyzed Christian.  I would say a lone Christian is no Christian.   We are called follow Jesus into the waters of baptism, we are called into church, we are called to worship, we are called to communion, we are called to prayer.   If you’re not following Jesus into these things, then what are you following him into?

“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.””

Luke 3:21-22 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.3.21-22.esv

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.

father-son-and-holy-spirit-610x351

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

What Does This Have to do With Me?

What Does This Have to do With Me?

Backyard-BBQ-Party

Keeping it simple today (I hope). A question I have asked previously is “Does God resent human pleasure?”  Was the pastor/father from the movie Footloose (at least the 80s version) right?  Does all partying and dancing make God the Father angry, and risk hellfire and brimstone crashing upon us?

hellfire
I know where that picture of God comes from, but what I do not know is how those who believe in that angry, hellfire and brimstone God reconcile that with the picture of Christ Jesus in the New Testament. The same Christ of whom the apostle John says “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”John‬ ‭1:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The same Christ of whom the writer of Hebrews says “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Because it is of this same Christ that this same apostle John chose to make his first recorded miracle the turning of the water into wine, which seems to be very deliberate on the part of John, the apostle of love, to blow to bits all of our angry God pictures and ideas.

Wedding at Cana
You know the story. On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.Interesting they invited Jesus to the party. Must have been before Christians came along and gave him a bad name. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” To which I say, EXACTLY!! What in the world does this have to do with Jesus? No one is sick, no one’s life is in danger. There is no healing to be done. There is no sin to be forgiven (unless you are of the opinion that running out of wine is a sin). They are just out of booze. So, why, exactly, is this the miracle John starts with? And seriously, why include this at all?

Mary-wedding-at-cana-4
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.How many people, exactly, were at this party? Six jars at 20-30 gallons each, that is 120-180 gallons of wine. I’m just saying, that sounds like a lot to me. But then again, I don’t drink, so what do I know…

007-wedding-cana
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. So, the water is turned to wine, good wine. This is the miracle Jesus used to get his disciples to believe in Him. This is the first manifestation of his glory, according to John. Not raising anyone from the dead (except for this party, which was apparently about to be dead). Not healing, not giving sight to the blind. Not making the lame walk, or the mute speak. But turning water into wine, just so the wedding party could keep going.

jars
Which is entirely the point. Jesus is the one who turns the water into wine, for no good reason other than to keep the party going, and save the host a major embarrassment. And wherever Jesus goes, the party never stops. No one goes hungry, and no one is thirsty. We may try to kill it, but the celebration goes on.

jesus-and-his-family
Christianity is always one generation away from being extinct. Yet, eighty generations later, the party goes on. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what we do. Either way, we will be condemned. “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”Luke‬ ‭7:33-34‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

footloose_6
So back to my original question – “Does God have a resentment toward human pleasure?” Not the God as revealed in Jesus Christ. He just turns the water into wine, and the party keeps going…

party goes on

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

‭‭John‬ ‭2:1-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/jhn.2.1-11.esv

John Lewis

Heaven and Earth will pass away…

jesus-christ31

I’ve had this written since Tuesday, along with 2 more posts, but have not been able to take the time to illustrate and post, so here it is.  My hope and prayer is that all have  a safe Labor Day weekend, and those who’ve been in and remain in harms way would find safety and refuge in the arms of the Father, the Son, and Christ’s holy church.

signs

Jesus is laying out some good stuff here, toward the end of his Olivet discourse.   He’s predicted the end of the temple, the end of the the temple age, and his disciples want to know when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?    Jesus tells them all of these these things –

many will come in my name

1). That many will come in his name, that is, claiming to be Messiah, but they will be wrong and do not go after them.   They would hear of wars and tumults, but his followers should not be terrified of this, for this must take place, and the end will not be at once.

nations will rise against nation

2).  He tells them nation will rise against nation, there will be earthquakes, famines, pestilence, terrors and great signs from heaven, but before this the disciples will be arrested and persecuted, delivered up to synagogues and prisons, brought before councils and governors.  In other words, he tells them what will happen in the book of acts.

jerussalem is surrounded by armies

Which brings us to number 3.  But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.   The Jewish War began in AD 66.   There had been Messiahs to come after Jesus, Messiahs claiming they could bring salvation to the Jewish people.  Just as we still get people (politicians) claiming to be our Messiah, our salvation as a nation, just as people all through history have come to the nations claiming to be a Messiah.  Messiahs who would attempt to bring salvation the only way we know to save ourselves – by force and violence.   The Jews had some victories, but ultimately we only successful in provoking Rome and making things more difficult during an already tumultuous time.  Until enough got to be enough, and the Emperor Vespasian sent his son, General Titus, with the Roman 10th legion.   Earlier, in Luke 17, the Pharisees asked what will be the sign of the coming of the kingdom of God.   But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.

one taken and one left

General Titus led the Roman 10th legion against Jerusalem.  First they marched through the countryside, on their way to Jerusalem.   As they made their way through the countryside, some they took as slaves, some were left behind.    “Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.” Matthew 24:40 ESV.   Maybe two women grinding at the mill, one is captured, one escapes.  “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.” Matthew 24:41 ESV.  They didn’t know what was coming, some were taken slave, some managed to escape and were left behind.

eagles will gather

And when they came upon the city of Jerusalem, their standard bearers came holding their eagles high.  “For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”  Matthew 24:28 NKJV.  Jerusalem had become like a dead body, the eagles of the Roman army gathered to feast.   Again, the End did not come at once.  The armies of Rome did not attack at once.  They laid siege upon the city, and the announcement was made that whoever wanted to leave, could leave.   Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people.   The days of Roman vengeance had come.

just go

Whoever wanted to leave was allowed to leave.  But only one group left.  Today, we would call them Christians.  They listened to Jesus’ warning to flee the city.  He told them the sign to look for – But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.   Earlier Jesus had told his disciples “On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back.” Luke 17:31 ESV. In other words, he told them not to stop, don’t look back, don’t worry about all your “stuff”.  JUST GO!!!   So those early Christians in Jerusalem listened to the warning he had given them, and left the city.

city under siege

But those who had not heard Jesus’ warning, or chose to ignore it, stayed.  In fact, many Jews came from all around, and flooded into the city, ready for their much awaited confrontation.   Huge numbers of people flooded into the city.   For months, maybe a couple of years, Rome did not do anything.  They just stayed outside the city walls.  “Let’s just see how you like it in there!”  They stayed in siege mode, surrounding the city.

But now, no one was allowed to leave.  The Romans cut off all supplies, starving the city.  Wars broke out inside the city as different factions within the Jewish community fought over what should be done about the situation.  Strife, plague, famine, starvation, cannibalism as food supplies ran short.

Hill-of-Crosses-takes-my-breath-away

Some would try to escape.  But everyone who tried was caught by the Romans.  There was no escape.  And every Jew that was caught trying to escape was crucified outside the city.  They crucified them, crucified them, kept on crucifying them.  They might have crucified them until they ran out of trees.  Eventually, Josephus tells us there were tens of thousands of crosses ringing the city of Jerusalem, every one with a decaying body nailed to it.

cross1

It was hell.   “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Luke 21:33 ESV.  In August of AD 70, Rome attacked.  They burned the city of Jerusalem.  The Romans were master engineers and knew that if you got limestone hot enough using a combination of timber and oils it would explode.  The survivors said the most frightening part was the sound of exploding rock.

Some were taken as slaves, but most in the city were put to death.  According to Josephus, 1.1 million people lost there lives in Jerusalem.  Modern scholarship says it was probably a little bit less than that, maybe 600-700,000.  Does it really matter?  The Jewish world came to an end in August AD 70.  Jesus told them Heaven and earth will pass away, and as far as they were concerned, that’s exactly what happened.  The world as they knew it had come to and end.

“”But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

Luke 21:20-24 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.21.20-24.esv

John Lewis

There is a Temple

There is a Temple

the temple

Been offline for a week (again), was enjoying a nice family vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC.   I’ve been a little inconsistent the past couple of months, for various reasons.   I hope to get back to a little better consistency in writing, pray for me on that, if you will.

Receive-the-holy-spirit

When last I did write, I wrote on John 20:19-23, particularly verse 23, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”   We are all commissioned  by Jesus as priests in his kingdom, commissioned to offer his forgiveness to the world.  Commissioned to flood the world with the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

destroy this temple

If you’ve spent any time in or around church, you probably remember the story which we call the “cleansing of the temple“, when Jesus drives out those doing business in the temple, turning the temple into their own house of business rather that a house of worship.  He did this right in the middle of Passover week, their busiest time of the year, really costing these money changers and businessmen at the time when they would do their greatest business.  Really interfering with the way things are done.  So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”   Who are you do stop us from doing our business??   Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

temple of his body
Jesus challenged those in authority, challenged their economic systems and their hierarchical system of power and control.  When he answered their question about his authority to interrupt their commerce, “The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body.” John 2:20-21 ESV.  Seems like a logical response to me, they’d been building that temple for 46 years, how in the world we Jesus rebuild it in three days?   Some of us are still waiting for that temple to be rebuilt.  Undoubtedly, some of those Jews thought they were standing in the temple prophesied by Ezekiel hundreds of years earlier.  Ezekiel saw a new temple coming, a temple from which would flow rivers of forgiveness.   The temple Ezekiel saw coming in his ancient prophecy is the temple Jesus refers to when he gives them his response  Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.   The temple Ezekiel saw coming was not a physical temple, but the temple of the body of Christ.

Body-of-Christ

It is from this temple that rivers of forgiveness flow.  Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.   

Trickling water
At first, closest to us, it is just a trickle.  But the temple of the body of Christ is not just one place.  The temple of the body of Christ goes anywhere the followers of Christ go.   And as we go farther and wider into the world, the water begins to get deeper.  Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep.   As we go into the world, out of our locked panic rooms, through our fear and eventually out of our fear, sent by Jesus, we become salt and light in the dark, ugly world.  As we carry the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ into the world, the world we fear and want to escape, the water begins to get deeper.   Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep.   At first it’s just a trickle, then it’s ankle deep, now it’s knee deep.

knee deep

Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.   Now we are swimming in our river of forgiveness.   It eventually swells and grows to overflowing, we can’t get away from it.

rushing-river-1500x1015
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.   The water keeps rising, keeps flowing.   It eventually flows into Arabah, or as we know it, the Dead Sea.  The sea which is at one of the lowest altitudes on the planet, the sea which, I believe, is a hundred feet below sea level.  The sea so salty nothing can live there (which of course is why we call it the Dead Sea).  The water which flows through the desert, healing the desert as it goes, growing trees where no trees grow, makes it into the Dead Sea, turning even that dead space into fresh water.

dead sea

But here’s the thing – the great problem if the world is not the saline content of the Dead Sea.  That is not the point of Ezekiel’s vision.  The great problem of the world is hate and retribution.  The world we live in is a scorched desert of hate.

scorched_desert_1

But there is a temple from which a river flows.  The temple of the body of Jesus Christ.  The temple which was raised after three days.  The body of which all who believe are members.

CA18632

Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.   If we want to stand in the swamps and marshes, we can do that.  We can even build walls to protect our swamps and marshes (or dams.  Or whatever we might build to protect a salty swamp or salty marsh).  Sometimes our salt tastes good to us.  We think everybody should be a little salty like us.

tree producing good fruit

But we are sent by Jesus to flood the world with rivers of mercy and forgiveness.  We are sent to grab rods and go fishing.  We are sent to heal that scorched desert of hate, heal it with mercy and forgiveness.  We are sent to bring water from the sanctuary, to nourish the trees that never fail, to provide good fruit for the world to eat.
raised on the third day
Jesus gave us his sign.  He raised that temple in three days, just like he said.  That temple has water flowing, water that can heal the desert and make the Dead Sea fresh.

living water

Didn’t Jesus say something about water?  “Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.””John 4:10 ESV.  The living water is flowing, flooding the world.  Why do we keep trying to dam it up?

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”” 
John 2:18-19 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.2.18-19.esv

“Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side. Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.””
Ezekiel 47:1-12 ESV
http://bible.com/59/ezk.47.1-12.esv

John Lewis