Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Plot Thickens

For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you.  In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the LORD, your Redeemer. -- Isaiah 54:7-8

I have been struggling to get back in a groove and mostly losing.  I had to travel last week for work which is always disruptive to me.  I like my routine. It bugs me that my old habits have been broken up and that I have to settle into some new ones. 

When Jesus was on the cross, He cried out asking why He had been forsaken.  In this He quotes Psalm 22:1 – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?  The words from our verse in Isaiah might be thought of as the Father’s response to the Son’s cry.  It does almost seem like a play at times, a great and grand, truly epic presentation across time and space. 

I do not always know my lines or hit my mark.  Interestingly, as an aside, the New Testament Greek work translated as “sin” is transliterated as hamartia.  From Wikipedia:  In tragedy, hamartia is commonly understood to refer to the protagonist’s error or flaw that leads to a chain of plot actions culminating in a reversal from their good fortune to bad. What qualifies as the error or flaw can include an error resulting from ignorance, an error of judgment, a flaw in character, or sin.

As with all good stories, the failures and falls of the protagonist are not final.  There may be that moment when it seems as though God must turn away from us.  We may find ourselves, for a brief space of time, in darkness, confused and bereft of hope, but this is the pivotal scene, the point at which we make the decision to give up and let the antagonist win or call out to God, give up only hope in ourselves and rise above the temporal tragedies in which our sins have trapped us. 

Christ offers us a path we may follow through the darkness.  By going the way of selflessness, He will lead us out into the light of a new day.  The tragedies will be turned to triumphs.  All our losses will be gains.  The storybook ending will be that we really will live happily ever after.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Perfect Faithfulness

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.  And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him … -- Hebrews 5:8-9

These verses, speaking of Jesus, trouble some people.  Wasn’t Jesus perfect in every possible way, sinless and holy and always loved and accepted by God the Father?  Yes, He was.  How could He be perfected or “made perfect”?  In His Person, as the Second Person of the Trinity, He was, without any question, flawless, ideal, and complete.  However, He took on flesh, and, though He remained God Incarnate, He had a mission to fulfill. 

Personally, I would not have blamed Jesus if He had, after walking among us for a while, said, “They really are not worth saving.”  If He had turned away from the Cross, said He wanted to give it up, skip the suffering, and let us all go, I do not believe I could call that choice a sin on the Lord’s part.  He would have left us – to quote Oh, Brother Where Art Thou, in a tight spot, but we would not have much room to complain.  It’s our own fault. 

Still, Jesus would have failed in His mission.  He would not have been made perfect in that regard.  He could not have been condemned, but He would have, as far as we are concerned, failed.  Is the same true for us?  Can we be good and righteous failures?  Can we be “acceptable” Christians yet miss the mark because we fear and recoil from our own cross? 

What I do, in one sense, doesn’t matter much.  I am about as unimportant and insignificant as a human can be.  I am not called to bear a very large or difficult cross; nevertheless, I do have a cross.  There is a reason I am still in this world.  I can hold back, look out for myself, not hurt or take advantage of others, avoid scandal, stay out of obvious trouble, maybe even do the occasional good deed, and be thought of as a “good enough” person.  When my time comes to die and I stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, I might say that I believed in Him, that I was not much of an adventurer, that I was perhaps a bit fearful and overly cautious and did not much that was very bad and perhaps a little more that was good. 

Jesus will say to people with that attitude, No!  Be hot or be cold.  Do not be lukewarm.  Whether our lives are noticed or not does not matter.  It does not matter if we are not powerful and influential.  It matters only that we are faithful and fully committed.  We are called to be like the woman’s alabaster jar of ointment (Matthew 26:7-9) – broken and poured for Christ even if the world’s looks on and calls what we have done foolish and pointless. 

Anxiety holds us back from so much.  There is a line, sometimes difficult to define, between being wise and being overwhelmed by dread of what might happen.  Prudence is a virtue.  Cowardice is a sin.  What we have to do, no matter how small it seems, may be what no other can do.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Seen and the Unseen

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.  -- Hebrews 11:3

Work has been taking an unusual amount of time lately.  Perhaps I am slower than I used to be.  Anyway, I have let some things go, including the blog.  I have been doing more and maybe thinking less.  I’m not sure that’s altogether a bad thing.  One thing I have been thinking about is faith. 

What we believe has implications.  If we believe that Jesus is the Christ, that He is the only begotten Son of God sent, not to condemn the world but to save it, this tells us something about the nature of the cosmos and our place in it.  This means that we are not merely clever animals, that reason and logic work because we live in a reasonable universe running according to mathematically intelligible laws, that it was created by a Mind of which ours is the image and likeness.

Faith in Christ means that we believe God is love and that He is Good.  That, in turn, means that love and good rule over all.  It means that we cannot lose by doing the will of God or by loving our neighbor.  If we do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8), no matter what circumstances we face, no matter how horrible, frightening, and unfair life may seem in the short term, we will be all right in the end. 

This is the choice we have:  to live by faith or to live by what is seen.  We can live by the standards of the world system for the world’s approval to get the most out of our short and -- sometimes, nasty and brutal existence on this planet.  The reward for that, regardless of how good we are at it, is death.   Conversely, we can choose to reject the world and its standards and live by the truth revealed in Christ.  This may result in mockery, scorn, and ridicule from those around us.  In some times and places, it results in actual persecution, abuse, torture and death. 

What is important to remember is that the people of faith are not the ones breaking the rules.  It is the world that is constantly forced to reform and revise in the face of reality.  The world plays its game and lives in its delusion as long as it can until the fragile shell of lies is shattered and it must seek refuse in a new one.  There are moments in history, in between the dreams, where truth asserts itself and all cling to it as to a rock in a raging sea.  This point in history is not one of those, but it may be soon.