A New Thing

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Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 24
Revelation 21:1-6a
John 11:32-44

 

Have you ever wondered what Lazarus thought when Jesus called him from the tomb? He had struggled with an illness that weakened him to the point of death. Death was a relief. Then he woke up in a tomb, wrapped like a mummy and had to return to everyday life instead of spending the time with God. And then he died again.

It does seem a little unfair from his perspective, but Jesus had a more important goal, that of defeating death. Lazarus was only a parable of what was to come. God did not defeat death by raising Lazarus, He conquered death by raising Jesus from the dead. Lazarus pointed the way.

So what was different about Jesus? Why was his death so important? Why couldn’t God raise all of us from the dead?

The answer to the last question is that he could at any time. But like Lazarus, death would claim us again. Jesus had to defeat the Angel of Death and more than that, the Angel of Lies. That is what sets him apart from the rest of us.

Yet, both death and sin continue as before. Did Jesus fail?

The old hymn says he succeeded.

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

So why do we still face death?

This is where the readings in Isaiah and Revelation come to play. Death is not yet defeated. Jesus has done the heavy lifting so far, but the final work is yet to be done. Our general conception is that Jesus lay in the grave wrapped like a mummy until sunrise when he jumped up to meet with the disciples. He did not. Jesus spent the three days in Hell doing battle with evil, a battle that continues for us today.

If you are a fan of Star Trek, you might imagine that all that battling of the three days in Hell took place, or is taking place, in another deminsion or another time warp. Or perhaps Jesus simply came out of the grave to let us know that the battle is going well and the victory is assured. However we view it, the final battles will come in our future as described in The Revelation of John.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

I Want to See

Agnus Day appears with the permission of www.agnusday.org
Agnus Day appears with the permission of www.agnusday.org

 

Job 42:1-6, 10-17

Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22)

Hebrews 7:23-28

Mark 10:46-52

 

Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, knew what he wanted. He also knew who had the power to give it to him. When the crowd of people, all calling on Jesus, came near, Bartimaeus shouted for mercy. Jesus did not touch him; he simply said, “Go, your faith has healed you.” NIV

If we follow Jesus, wasting our time trying to figure out how he heals the sick, we are going to be frustrated; he never seems to do it the same way any two times. Faith is often mentioned, but not always. We are two often like paying customers at a magic show watching a tiger disappear and then trying to figure out how he did it.

Magic is always a trick and Jesus did not do tricks. Nor did he heal people. Yes, I wrote that. God heals people. Why do we give Jesus the credit? Peter and John and all the boys healed people. Why do we not give them credit?

On the one hand, we are too free with the association of Jesus with God. Because of the fundamental belief in the Trinity, we are often guilty of assuming that Jesus was God. I am not rejecting the triune nature of God, only that Jesus was God. Jesus was fully human from conception to death. Only after Easter was he able to assume his rightful role in the Kingdom of God.

Many Gnostics have speculated as to what tricks God may have played to pull off the resurrection. Variations of a fake body have dominated their thinking. God controlled a human to make him seem to be the Messiah and then let his body be killed. Or the Messiah really was living on earth, but a look-alike was taken to the cross. Etc. (Many of the same arguments have been spread in our times regarding the deaths of Kennedy and Oswald, not to mention the aliens living in Area 51.)

Does that mean Jesus had no powers? Absolutely not. Remember that God speaks to us through his Holy Spirit. His Spirit whispers through that then membrane to our souls that we are usually too busy to pay attention to. His Son, the man Jesus, being a king as the son of David and being a priest in the lineage of Melchizedek, that man who committed no sin, God’s particular human son became our High Priest, a role he still holds in God’s Kingdom.

Writing around 400 AD, Theodore of Mopsuestia, speaking of the author of Hebrews, wrote, He says that it shows the difference between Christ and Aaron in that Christ received the priesthood with an oath. For those who became priests without oaths became so because of their need to cease being priests at some time, but Christ entered the priesthood with oaths, since he intended to remain based on his rank. He shows his rank is far greater than those under the law, since he intended also to furnish a greater high priest to those coming to him. For in this way he says he becomes “a surety” … for being the first to rise, just as he also calls him a “high priest,” so he pledges to us a similar resurrectionACCS

Jesus the Messiah is busy in the Temple in Jerusalem in the Kingdom of God, making sure that our sins are erased and our white robes are ready. Nearly 200 years earlier, Origen wrote, Jesus my Lord abstains from weeping when he approaches the Father, when he stands at the altar and offers a propitiatory sacrifice for us. This is not to drink the wine of joy “when he ascends to the altar” because his is still bearing the bitterness of our sins. He, therefore, does not want to be the only one to drink wine “in the kingdom” of God. He waits for us, just as he said, “Until I shall drink it with you.” ACCS

If I want to see, I must look at how Jesus lived and how he died. He did both for his fellow humans.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

In the Days When He Was a Man 

provided by Canstock
provided by Canstock

 

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)

Psalm 104:1-9, 25

Hebrews 5:1-10

Mark 10:35-45

 

The verses just ahead of today’s reading in Mark (32-34) give us an image of an all-knowing Jesus who tells his Twelve that he, Jesus, will die and rise from the dead. Because of this and other statements, most Christians believe that Jesus knew everything that was going to happen. Through the centuries the Gnostics used that as evidence that Jesus was not human; only God could know everything.

Was Jesus human?

If we believe that Jesus was God filling the body of a man, then the answer would seem to be no. At the other extreme, if Jesus was simply, only, and always a man, then how can we claim that he is part of the Trinity?

The complete answer remains one of the Great Mysteries of God. It also remains a stumbling block for many. Can God be both One and Three at the same time?

Both readings from Job and Psalms give us a partial answer. While neither speaks directly about Jesus, they provide an image of God capable of anything; images of God without limit and limited man.

For Jesus to be considered fully human, he must be limited, just as you and I are limited. When he speaks to his disciples about the future, he is not speaking as God but as a prophet. All prophets are given information from God to share with the rest of us. In that respect, Jesus is not unusual; he is human, a unique human perhaps, but human.

In Hebrews, we see him at his most human as he pleads with God to find another way to save humanity. But we have seen it throughout his life. His birth happened in blood and pain, the same as for all of us. At twelve, he became so engrossed in the discussions at the Temple that he disobeyed his parents and caused them great anguish, a very human act. In his ministry, Jesus is often seen as tired and eager to get away from the crush of people.

Does all of this mean that Jesus was human? Is it possible for a human to be perfect? Adam and Eve were perfect, so it seems likely that God could have created a third perfect human. I suggest it as a possibility, not a given and certainly not a proven.

God called Jesus His Son, but we cannot forget that God called David son and before that Israel. Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’ Exodus 4:22-23 NIV

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my sonHosea 11:1 NIV

I will be his father, and he will be my son. 2 Samuel 7:14 NIV

You are my son;
today I have become your father.
 Psalm 2:7 NIV

Jesus called himself the Son of Man and never claimed to be God, only to do that which he was sent by God to do. He did not call himself the Messiah but allowed others to call him that. The Gospel of John went a step farther with the Word motif.

At the beginning God expressed himself. That personal expression, that word, was with God, and was God, and he existed with God from the beginning. All creation took place through him, and none took place without him. In him appeared life and this life was the light of mankind. The light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it outPhillips

For me, God exists as One True God. His being cannot be witnessed directly by humans, but we can sense the whisperings of His Holy Spirit and we can see and understand His Word when it comes to live with us in the flesh. To know Jesus is to know God. But God is One.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Word of God Lives

Time April 8, 1966

Job 23:1-9, 16-17

Psalm 22:1-15

Hebrews 4:12-16

Mark 10:17-31

 

April 8, 1966, Time magazine published their weekly edition without a person on the cover for the first time. The theological idea expressed was not new, but Time decided they needed to report on the controversial concept. Hegel is credited with first using the term in 1802, but the full development of the Death of God philosophy arrived in the 1960’s.

I will make no attempt to explain or defend the notion. Instead, I stand with the author of Hebrews, For the word of God is living and activeNIV 1988 version

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, both launched in 1977, have left our solar system and are still sending data to Earth about what they are finding. Pioneer 10, launched in 1972, was the first to reach interstellar space, and Pioneer 11, launched a year later, may also be there, but we have lost all contact with both. New Horizons, launched in 2006, has already flown past Pluto and is quickly catching up to the aging Voyagers.

What we know from those and many other space flights is that we should not expect to be sitting on a cloud playing a harp. We cannot see the theological Heaven and we do not know where it is or what it will look like. What we do know is that God runs the universe from there. The New Earth and the New Jerusalem are there waiting for our arrival.

Meanwhile, here on this crumbling planet we call home, how are we to survive until our escort arrives to deliver us to our new homes? Can we get through Monday and still be faithful to the Word of God? Can we even know that Word?

With Job we often say, Today too my complaint is bitter; my hand is weighed down because of my groaning.  I wish I knew where I could find him; then I would go to where he isCJB Job had much to complain about; he was treated unfairly. That is one of our lessons from Job, we will often be treated unfairly.

But the lesson today is that Job, in his bitterness, still seeks God. He stayed close to God in the best of times and he tried to stay close when all went bad, even as it seemed God was not paying attention.

The Hebrews reading tells us, For the Word that God speaks is alive and active; it cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword: it strikes through to the place where soul and spirit meet, to the innermost intimacies of a man’s being: it exposes the very thoughts and motives of a man’s heartPhillips

Where soul and spirit meet. God speaks to us through that thin membrane. His Spirit murmurs and tickles our soul. It is a mere whisper that is easy to ignore or even miss entirely.

It is little wonder that many people say God does not exist while others conclude He is dead. Why does He not shout at us or write on the wall? If He loves us, why does He allow so much evil to happen to us?

Because He gave us the freedom to live our own lives, to ignore His voice if and when we choose. God gave us our inheritance and allowed us to go into the far place to make our way among the pigs. He continues to watch for our return, but He does not chase us.

Jesus, in today’s reading, makes it clear that if we rely on our own efforts to reach God, we will fail. Only by listening to that still small voice can we hope to know God. Only by following the example of the living presence of God, Jesus, can we expect to live through Monday, and every Monday, in the way that God wants us to live. Like Job, we must seek God even when we cannot sense His presence. He is always at that thin membrane whispering to us, but we too often listen only to our own ideas.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

We Are Not What We Should Be

'Why missionary-themed!restaurants 'usually fail.'
‘Why missionary-themed!restaurants ‘usually fail.’

Job 1:1; 2:1-10

Psalm 26

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

Mark 10:2-16

 

We humans have always had faith in ourselves. That faith has given us in our times coolness in mid-summer, tropical fruit in mid-winter, buildings reaching above the clouds, and time to read the treasure of knowledge collected over 5,000 years. It has also given us the sense that we can improve ourselves over time until we reach an exalted state just short of God.

Even in colonial days, we Americans believed we were the New Israel and that we lived in the Promised Land. Today, we think if we could vote the right people into office the needed laws would be passed that would correct the flaws still existing.

It will not happen; we are humans, not God.

Jesus reminds us of our humanness in his discourse on divorce, very much in the style of the Sermon on the Mount. To think an angry thought about someone is to murder him. To divorce a spouse is to commit adultery. Jesus did not say that Moses was wrong. He said what he always said to us, we fall short of the Truth, so we do things we should not do.

It is so easy for us to gloss over the Genesis statement, and they become one bodyNJB In quoting that portion of the Word of God, Jesus in effect said that to split a body in half is to kill it. Divorce equals murder.

Jesus in other settings demonstrated to us that friends are bound together in much the same way. Any off-handed remark by one friend, intentionally or not, that hurts the other is equal to murder; it splits the friendship body.

Jesus did not come to earth to present to us a precise plan of action for us to become perfect. It is impossible for us to become perfect, so any such plan is doomed to failure. We like to believe we are better people than our ancestors who lived in caves, that we have improved humanity. No, no, and no.

Jesus came to earth to show us a better way, but most importantly to write up the contract for us to become his bride. He knows that his bride commits murder and adultery, but he chooses us anyway. Last week we read that everyone will be salted with fireNIV That is the cleansing fire that will prepare the bride to meet the groom. Cleansed, we will all become one body with Jesus. With Jesus. There will be no divorce in Heaven.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence