when abandoned (the reconciliation in Jesus for the world)

Although it is impossible for God to forsake God, for then God would have ceased being God, the Trinity in its perichoresis, the union of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit then broken, an ontological impossibility, though some would explain it as “blessed mystery,” Jesus on the cross when made sin for us indeed felt abandoned by the Father. He was certainly drinking the cup of judgment, the cup of God’s wrath meaning judgment in tasting death for us all. And experiencing in himself the hour when darkness reigns. But God never abandons his own, the Father did not abandon the Son on the cross, just as God never did abandon the psalmist who wrote the psalm.

That being said, Jesus experienced to the hilt what we experience in part, the sense of abandonment, estrangement, that all is not right, that there is a strain and brokenness in the relationship. If the mystery of separation is true, then Jesus, who offered himself by the Spirit indeed experienced it to the max. But somehow Jesus’ experience was just as if it had been so because of the sense of abandonment he felt in himself because of the spiritual suffering he was going through in taking on himself all the sin and evil of the world while he remained pure and undefiled, without sin. So that evil, focused entirely on him, would end up vanquished in and through his death and resurrection. That realization beginning in us who enter into this reality through faith and baptism, for us a growing experience, someday to be complete, and not just for us but for the entire created order in the new creation.

It is strange when people are estranged, because to be a person is to be in relationship with other persons. To be human in significant part is to be in relationship with God and with other human beings. Of course sin has entered into the equation and broken that relationship so that there has to be reconciliation through redemption. All accomplished in Christ. We are to live fully in that reconciliation in Jesus, and call others into it: that God has reconciled the world to himself in Christ and has given us the message (even ministry) of reconciliation so that we can implore (even beg) others to be reconciled to God. And in that reconciliation walls are broken down not only between ourselves and God, but with each other, even between mortal enemies, since sin is done away with in Christ in his once for all sacrifice for us and for the world.

What do we let get in the way of that reconciliation between ourselves and God and because of that between ourselves and each other? Sin, period. It isn’t easy and oftentimes painful in this life to pursue that reconciliation even within the church itself, much more outside of the church. But that is a large part of our calling in this life, as we seek to love God with all our being and doing, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, even to love our enemies. It is at the heart of the good news in Jesus, a good news we are to live out, even be growing in. The reality of which I think I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of.

hard work in earning a living

Most everyone has to work for a living and most of the work we have to do has some degree of toil and difficulty. A motto nowadays which can be considered a maxim holding some wisdom is “Don’t work hard, but work smart.” Literally I wouldn’t agree with it, since no matter how smart you work, you should work hard at it, as well. But we should make our work as efficient as possible. That stands to reason for both maximum productivity in terms of output and quality.

For some of us for one reason or another, or likely a number of reasons, we find that life hasn’t fallen out the way we (or anyone) would want it. Some of that can be our own doing, and some of it purely circumstantial, of course figuring God’s working and providential care into that equation. We find that we’re up against it, that unless some break comes (short of winning the lottery, which people like me have no possibility of winning) we may have to work in earning money as long as we are able. In America this is a problem to some degree for many baby boomers as they/we begin to reach the set retirement age (65-67).

One might think of Paul as a man certainly devoted to the gospel and the proclamation of it, an apostle sent to evangelize in preaching that gospel and oversee the churches taking root and growing especially among the Gentiles (Paul considered the apostle to the Gentiles, even as Peter was considered the apostle to the Jews- Galatians 2:7-8) and therefore a man who surely did not have to work for a living, not that faithfulness in preaching the gospel and overseeing the churches isn’t hard work, because most certainly it is. That is not to say that the Lord’s yoke is heavy (Matthew 11:28-30), it is only to say that in God’s grace one can work hard, a different subject and tack altogether (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). Paul does indeed say that those who preach the gospel ought to get their living from that work, in other words be supported by believers (1 Corinthians 9:11-14). Interestingly Paul knew what it was to live well by God’s grace in either scarcity or plenty. None of this nullifies God’s promise to meet our needs as we remain devoted to the cause of the gospel (Philippians 4:12-13, click to see the entire passage, verses 10-20).

Of course we want to live honorably and die honorably. And how we live in regard to material wealth, our giving, our saving so we can give more as well as support the needs of our loved ones- is not to be underestimated in its importance (see 1 Timothy 5:8).

So baby boomers like myself can take some comfort and refuge as well as instruction in Paul’s outlook and what he did (Acts 20:34-35; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8). And what he expected of the churches (for example 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). In the equation it should go without saying that one shouldn’t spend and give (move out) more than they earn (move in). That can be tricky in that we may not be aware of all the expenses either present or possible in the unknown future (even just over the horizon). And so it is important to plan well so that one can live as honorably as possible in love for the Lord and for our neighbor both present and future. And in whatever place one lives, whether rich or poor, we can and should be generous in the grace of giving (see 2 Corinthians 8:1-15), as we continue in the work God provides for us as well as our calling in the mission of Christ.

caught on the wave of “progressivism”

I have blogged for nearly ten years now, many of those years with my own blog and the speak can be sharp and often not sufficiently nuanced. That was especially the case early on.

There was a debate between the new Calvinists and emergent Christians like myself, who were open to something more, not something else. Who held unwaveringly to the gospel, but did not think our practice of church lived up to its calling as found in scripture. Over time emergent broke apart, some opting for an openness even with reference to the gospel, the others holding the line on the gospel. Both sides, the new Calvinists (once, “the young and restless”) and the Emergents have since become a bit modified or laid back. Those early days I say are thankfully gone.

But for not a few the wave of progressivism in keeping with sea changes in this country now, is compelling. I have to admit that I’ve found it intriguing even while committed to the gospel. One such person who is committed to the gospel, yet riding that wave is Rachel Held Evans. A great writer. An interesting, good article on her journey, here.

Progressivism is actually in and of itself not an option for faith because it is rooted in large part in the consensus of humanity. In other words, what the world is thinking. And that can be a tricky affair, because rather than being global, it can be quite parochial, that is limited to certain regions and cultures. And for Christians either way it’s really no option at all. We are not to be conformed to this world, to this age, but instead transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we might know the good, perfect and pleasing will of God (Romans 12:2).

Sometimes what is meant is in the eye of the beholder. I used to think of myself as progressive, but have long since abandoned that idea once I found out what that actually means. But it doesn’t mean that I can’t think outside of the box. And actually that is not a problem when one is committed in their faith to the gospel and Christian orthodoxy. Unlike what too many seem to think, there’s plenty of room for creative thinking within that framework. And we lose when thinking is not nuanced within that commitment (and the world loses with us).

So let’s get back to the old, old story. Following the examples of Paul and the early church into the early centuries. The gospel being the heart and soul of our existence in and through Jesus. As we seek to live it out in this world to which we are sent.

yes, bake the wedding cake

In my post yesterday, which was far from perfect, I was simply making the point, reinforced by the scriptural passage at the end, how we as Christians, as followers of Jesus are to live lives markedly different from the world in terms of holiness. Yes, a passion for justice Jesus seemed to emphasize. But not by abandoning righteousness and holiness. Just read the Sermon on the Mount. I did mention the issue of gay marriage and homosexuality. That actually needs to be treated separately, given the issue itself and all that is swirling around it.

A comment after that post, even if on edge, I found helpful. And I would agree. Yes, Christians should have religious freedom, and if they don’t want to bake the cake, or take the pictures for a gay wedding, than that should be their prerogative. Religious freedom is supposed to be a given in this country, and it should be in terms of all of life, not just in church. But what does it mean for us to follow Jesus? What about the many of us who still hold to traditional marriage and find scripture upholding the same, as well as not finding the relatively recent reinterpretation of scripture altogether convincing, not at all so in overturning the basic teaching on homosexuality? The whole issue today in that score is riveting in that there are scholars and churches who seem open and it seems inevitable that a shift will continue. But by and large, no matter what some say, I can’t see a wholesale shift ahead at least not with evangelicals or those of the Great Tradition. Because the case for the new understanding in my view doesn’t stand up all that well when all is said and done in the study of the relevant passages along with the Book as a whole. My view.

But for us, what does that mean? Yes, we should be marked by holiness, a holiness which doesn’t excuse any sin, be it adultery and lust as is satisfied by too many through pornography. Instead we need to be marked by faithful marriages which weather the inevitable storms of life. By the quality of our lives. By abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage.

But hopefully needless to say we need to be marked by love as well. We should be known as those who roundly love each other in sacrificial ways. And we should be known as those who love sinners. We are sinners too, forgiven and being made holy, but nevertheless broken in ourselves. So that we all stand on the same level at the foot of the cross. We need to find creative ways of expressing that love across the board. And maybe all the more so to those who believe they are being relegated to a special status of sinners, treated worse than all the rest. Maybe it’s especially those people who we need to search out and befriend. To show them the love of Jesus, and simply to befriend them and enjoy them as human beings, made in God’s image as we are, all of us broken.

So yes, bake the cake. Attend the wedding. Take the pictures. At least think of creative ways you can share the love of Christ, even if you find that you have to draw lines. We may not be able to see it as a normal wedding. But they do. And we have to accept that. It is the gospel which is the power of God for salvation. We all need Jesus.

counter culture

I wonder why following in the way of Christ, in the way of the faith seems often so counter-cultural. There are those times when it does seem to run with the grain of culture at least among many. But when you study early Christianity and the world in which it inhabited, you find that some practices of society were eschewed by the church. Men having boys for pederasty, one such example. The early Christians were looked on with askance, considered different indeed in a world in which both the life the followers of Jesus lived as well as what they prohibited seemed far fetched to say the least.

Of course we have to turn back to our Bibles as well as pay attention to the tradition of the church on various subjects, including probably the hottest subject of the day, homosexuality, and specifically, gay marriage. The discussion will go on and while it is interesting to see how it is shaking out in American society now, one in which 75% still identify themselves as Christian, and how it will take shape in the future, the question remains for the faithful: Just how are we to be counter-cultural in our world today? Should people look at our lives and maybe shake their heads, seeing us as strange at least? This will take discipline in holy living on our part, I would think. One thing for sure in the mix of things: We Christians or followers of Christ are called to be counter-cultural, being different at the heart and core of our beings, our actions (and reactions) different as well.

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

1 Peter 4:1-5

the gospel unites us, and it’s not American

I am amazed at how people, even Christians divide over politics. And how sharp and divisive political speak and discussion can be. Even when people disagree there’s a sad tendency nowadays to veer off the issues and talk about how bad the people are on the other side.

What is worst of all is when one is practically disfellowshipped among Christians because of a different stand on political matters. This happens both left and right, by the way. In fact from what I pick up it’s worse on the religious left than on the religious right. I happen to have been raised and to live around those on the religious right, so most of my experience is from that angle.

The gospel in and through King Jesus is what unites us who are in Jesus, and it’s not American at all in and of itself. The gospel can have a healthy amalgamation into a culture so that it can somehow become American or whatever culture it has impacted in its outworking and impact. For example the gospel could impact the church to embody and practice justice and help for the poor and oppressed, something society then might take on in the form of various functions and practices.

But the gospel in and of itself is not from and understood properly of this world at all. Yet it’s for this world. It is strictly in terms of the grace and kingdom of God come in Jesus, in his appearing, life and teachings, death and resurrection, and ascension with the promise of his return. It actually is political in being God’s kingdom come, since the gospel is as big as all of life, as all of creation, so that instead of seeing things through a Democratic or Republican lens- of any strains within those systems or something of the like, we need to see everything in light of God’s grace and kingdom come in Jesus. We are united in that and that alone. Of course the gospel is for the forgiveness of sins and for new life. And it’s a good news which penetrates and permeates everything beginning now and fully realized in the end.

American politics and such like are indeed important in their place. Down on a certain level. But not at all on the same level as the gospel. And oftentimes the issues of the politics of this world are quite debatable, not cut and dried. That is a whole other discussion in itself, yes important, but not for this post. Again, it is the gospel which unites us even in all of our differences in this world. That is part of the beauty of the gospel. People with different worldly ties and persuasions are united in King Jesus in a way, truth and life that trumps everything else. And in the end will be standing when all other things, provisional and important in their place are gone.