Monday, May 25, 2015

Death: It Could Be Worse!

Death isn't the worst thing that can happen to us—

Until we figure this out, God will appear cruel and mean. Unless we believe Jesus when He says that He goes to prepare a place for us, we will have only this life to "look forward to" and thus cling to it with desperation and, if we are disappointed in this life, we are tempted to become bitter toward God.

If we're going to wrestle with this idea, we have to go back to Genesis 3 and the introduction of death. Years ago I wrote a short story about the Fall (you can read it here) - how could Adam and Eve be so tempted? How could Adam and Eve, experiencing direct contact with the Creator, end up doubting Him and listening to the deceiver?

You realize how easy it is for us to read Genesis 3 in punitive terms: and God said, "If you disobey me, I'll kill you!" and it's completely over-the-top, an out-of-proportion overreaction.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

“Do you own or rent?”

So today I was asked one of those financial questions, "do you own or rent?" and, as we spent an hour this morning at my church studying Leviticus 25, I answered by the criteria the world uses but acknowledged, inwardly at least, that this is not how YHWH views the matter. Leviticus 25 is one of my favorite "law" chapters: it's about sabbath years and the year of jubilee, the "sabbath of sabbaths" as it were, and it contains some wonderful principles about restoration and redemption.

Apparently the rabbis still argue about exactly how and when to apply the sabbath years but, from my perspective as a gentile and only an amateur student of the Bible, it's pretty simple: you grow your crops and harvest for six years and the seventh year you allow the land itself to enjoy a sabbath rest. In the close reading we've been doing in our Wednesday morning class, I came to realize that the people could walk into the field and eat the produce of the field - but they couldn't do a full-on harvest and they couldn't prune the vines, etc. — the land needed to be allowed to entirely rest but the product of the land could be consumed (the grapes didn't have to fall to the ground and become compost, at least *not all of them*). God promised His people Israel that He would provide for them in the keeping of this commandment:
‘You shall thus observe My statutes and keep My judgments, so as to carry them out, that you may live securely on the land. Then the land will yield its produce, so that you can eat your fill and live securely on it. But if you say, “What are we going to eat on the seventh year if we do not sow or gather in our crops?” then I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will bring forth the crop for three years. When you are sowing the eighth year, you can still eat old things from the crop, eating the old until the ninth year when its crop comes in. (Leviticus 25:18-22)
This resonates with the dream the Lord sent to Pharaoh and Joseph interpreted, by the grace of God (Exodus 41), enabling Egypt to become a storehouse of plenty during a tremendous region-wide famine, doesn't it?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Reframing God in Our Image—

There's this interesting contrast between humanity, created in the image of God, and how humanity then turns around and recreates God in our image.

When you consider the pantheon of gods in the Greek, Roman, and Norse mythologies, you see that the nature of these gods tends to be "humanity writ large," like a human, only with more power and fewer consequences. For example, Zeus was forever seducing women, usually human women (shades of Genesis 6:1-2,4?), and his wife-and-sister Hera was jealous and vengeful toward these women. Zeus could get away with his behavior but his lovers usually suffered, and sometimes his children. In reading these mythologies, the gods often take on qualities almost soap opera-esque in their scheming and pettiness.

Within the Biblical mythos, sometimes we fall into a form of reversed causality: we read in Genesis that God created humanity in His own image:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gensis 1:26-27)*

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Narcissistic Dust

So we've agreed: I'm not big, we're not big. But we are special. We are not merely the most advanced member of the animal kingdom; we are a very particular, peculiar part of creation, made in the image of YHWH.

The number of ways we can misunderstand what that means is vast. And, frankly, I think the number of ways we can rightly understand it is not singular: God teaches us different things at different times and He often uses the same scriptures to teach different lessons - it's fascinating!
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)
Dorothy L. Sayers, brilliant woman, friend of the Inklings, creator of Lord Peter Wimsey, and wonderful lay theologian, observed that when God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness," the only thing we know about God is that He is creative, He has the desire and the ability to make things:

Monday, April 6, 2015

God is Big, I am not

That sounds really simple but it took me a very long time to "get it", that I am not big. I think it's part of why I love Psalm 131:
A Song of Ascents, of David.
1 O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me.
2 Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the LORD From this time forth and forever
Jesus says, in Luke 18:16-17 (and elsewhere), “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

So, if I want to enter the kingdom of God, I must receive it like a child... so... how does a child receive it?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

In the beginning was the Word—

       In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
The first five verses of the gospel written by John the beloved, majestic and mystical. He continues:
       There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.
       There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
There is great beauty and elegance in these words and, at least if we've grown up in the church, we've heard them so often we tend to gloss over them and not really stop to ponder them. But, if we do-- there is so much present: unity with the Father, from before creation began, and the full attribution of Author of all that exists; the distinction of Light from darkness and the fact that darkness does not comprehend Light. That explains a lot, actually.