Sunday, April 19, 2020

Worship. Or Manipulation.

I don’t post political stuff very often. I believe there is enough division already; the true value of social media lies in its potential for connectivity. I particularly abhor conspiracy theory stuff but my friends, there are two conspiracies afoot in the world today. The one seeks to deceive, divide, and destroy. The other, to unite and build up. We will all take a side.  Think carefully. Choose wisely. 

What we are seeing with these armed protests is the precise point where individual ‘freedom’ clashes head on with the Gospel. This is a modern version of the garden-“Did God really tell you...That's not true...God [only] said that because he knows that when you [do] it, you will be like God...”. Because it’s all about me. 

 The Gospel teaches “Don't do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. And look out for one another's interests, not just for your own.”; Paul’s concise summary of Jesus’ teaching. This is the message of the cross. How quickly we forget. 

The irony is these protesters, while claiming independence from government, can be sent into an instant frenzy by one tweet. We are witnessing the 21st century version of “You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience.” It’s a question of worship. It’s always a question of worship. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Good Friday

A quick Google search of Atonement Theory yields at least seven explanations for what happened today. They range from ransom to penal substitution to satisfaction and on and on. Add to the mix the Franciscan theory-crucifixion as preeminent example of God’s love reaching out to us-and we end up with a bewildering array of explanations for the cross. The Bible itself isn’t quite so confusing. Paul says in Romans “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead you will be saved”. Two key points here.  
Jesus is Lord. This confirms what the Bible has been saying since at least Genesis 3.
      Raised from the dead. The Romans loved crucifying people. Without Sunday, Friday is meaningless; Jesus is just another crucified Jew. Resurrection is everything.

Of course, the Bible also says Jesus died for our sins according to the scriptures. So, what does that mean? Well, pick a theory. Or a combination of theories. Don’t forget the Franciscans-think John 3:16. I firmly believe the technical aspects of what occurred Friday are beyond our ability (at least, my ability) to understand, and certainly not worth arguing over. The important things are simply Friday happened. Sunday happened. We can all participate in the Sunday life even if we don’t fully understand Friday’s death. Let it be so.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Passover or Atonement

On this day when we turn our thoughts to the last supper, let me give you a few points to ponder. If the cross was (strictly) about atonement, why wasn’t Jesus crucified on the Day of Atonement? Why does Jesus celebrate this Passover and infuse it with new meaning? Passover was the first of three great pilgrimage festivals-Pentecost the second, Booths the third. These were mainly agricultural festivals; Pentecost was first or early harvest; Booths late harvest. (Many Jews today celebrate Booths by building ‘booths’ or lean-to’s in their yards). How should we understand the fulfillment of these festivals in relation to one another? How are they fulfilled in Jesus? In ourselves?

 “If you only know what [Jesus] has done for you you have not a big enough God...”My Utmost for His Highest

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Fake News and the Gospel

This morning I read a Facebook post that said a Virginia pastor who said or wrote or posted covid-19 was media-driven mass hysteria intended to hurt Trump had died. I did a little checking; evidently the story is true but incomplete. But fact checking, important as it is, is not what prompted this response. The story is heartbreaking for at least four reasons. 

The first heartbreak is that the death occurred at happened at all. I found this pastor seems to have picked up covid-19 ministering in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Here is part of a story from The New York Post, which I also found on Facebook. 

“As he battled symptoms, he shared a controversial meme on March 13, comparing coronavirus deaths to swine flu deaths, Patch reported. The meme is no longer visible on his Facebook page.
The meme decried the public reaction to the pandemic as “mass hysteria” and suggested the media was using the outbreak to hurt President Trump.
In the comments, the pastor said he believes the coronavirus “is a real issue, but I believe the media is pumping out fear and doing more harm than good.”
“It will come and it will go,” he wrote, according to Patch.”

So the post I read was correct but incomplete, which leads me to the second heartbreak. There will be some-including Christians-who will jump all over this. Some who will be pleased, if not delighted, by this mans death simply because he appears to have supported Trump. I shouldn’t have to say this but I will anyway. This is not the way of Christ. 

Which leads to the third heartbreak. We must-all of us-be very careful whom we follow. Christians by definition follow Messiah Jesus. That means having a world view influenced first last and in between by the Gospels, which show us what Jesus actually taught. Far too many today have allowed their political and economic views to influence their theology. It should be the other way around. Our world systems are about money and power. Christ is not. Think deeply about this before you respond. 

Which brings me back around to the beginning, and the fourth heartbreak. Concerning social media posts, do your due diligence. I don’t care what side you’re on stop spreading lies and half truths. This is not the way of Christ either. You, me, none of us posts in a vacuum. Our words have power and influence. It seems to me far too few of us stop to consider the effect words have. Remember, once the word is released it will, to paraphrase Isiah, not return until it has accomplished its purpose. A purpose which is not always intended.

Finally, a brief word about death. It hurts those left behind. I know this. So do you. But remember-Jesus was dead on Friday but alive on Sunday. To quote some radio preacher whose name I have I long forgotten- “Friday may be here but Sunday’s coming”. Let be so. 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Pandemic Paradoxes

       One of the many ironies of covid-19 is, on the one hand, it demonstrates to the world how connected we all are. That which in normal times separates and divides falls away. We realize we are one united humanity fighting a common enemy-a great equalizer, if you will. At this time it is absolutely critical we work together for our common good. On the other hand, we also see one of the best ways to care for one another is to isolate ourselves from one another. We are, in a very real sense, fighting a common enemy alone together.
And yet, even in isolation we are not alone. One of the great paradoxes of social media is, it’s capacity for good and for evil are equal. If  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest were instruments of division yesterday, today we must make them instruments of union, of connection. To paraphrase Paul, ‘do not present social media as an instrument of wickedness but rather, present it as an instrument of righteousness’. 
For most of us quarantine is something completely new. Not many have lived in isolation for any length of time. It’s not natural; it’s why solitary confinement is such a horrible punishment. We are, simply put, created for connection. And yet...These times require a new open mindedness. Paradigms will shift. New norms will be established. Horizons will be broadened. Or not. The choice is ours-yours and mine-alone. Covid-19 will not last forever; we will get through it. God will lead us through it. The question we all face is this-will we emerge changed for better, for worse, or not changed at all?
President Trump is wrong. It is not America First, or America against China or the E.U. or Mexico anyone. It is not New York competing against New Jersey or Florida or California or Louisiana or Massachusetts or anyone. It is not Democrats against Republicans. For this moment in time it is humanity against covid-19 and we need to be in this together. For the long haul.