Most sincere in my belief, though somewhat less confident in both my walk and my skill as a theologian, I now often meditate on the global shift so readily apparent in Christianity. The old brain seems to go there in the wee hours, and last night was just such a night.
I am a decades’ long student of the scriptures, yet amazed at how alive they have become of late. The obvious contrast between the life of Christ and the Law of Moses cannot be escaped, though we tenaciously support both by way of the Canon. The mystery is that you cannot understand one without the other! “ I have come not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it,” is too often used as an excuse to justify the Law, causing good folk to adhere to scripture, though seldom accomplishing God’s intent. Something seems missing from our faith walk given the direction of our nation, if our present Christianity is the answer.
Judaism was caught in that trap, somewhere between what its priests had declared as God’s Word, and what the prophets were saying about what that same God intended through His Word. There is an “I’m right, your wrong” that comes with the “Fall”, though I’m not so sure even that story was as simple as eating an apple or listening to your wife (comic relief for the heavy that is coming)?
This morning as I read Luke’s chapter five, the scriptures seemed to so reinforce my night’s ruminations that I could not avoid writing.
Christ followers believe that Jesus was fully man, yet fully God. Something as simple as needing a craft to amplify his words across the water had led him to happen upon the boat of a man named Peter. I am not sure if when he first got into the boat, he had any plans for Peter, other than the use of his small idle craft.
Peter was washing his nets after an exhausting night with little “luck.” It was only after he let down his nets in obedience that perhaps even the man Jesus began to realize that this was a major God moment. He then begins to prophesy to this newly called “fisher of men.” All kind of life lessons here!
From here we begin to witness not just a common carpenter’s son with a few spiritual sound bites for mankind, but a powerful God-man who speaks words that we continue to marvel at until this day. He was not your average church planter!
It was the churchmen of that day, though “temple-men” may be the more appropriate word, who provided his highest hurdle and ultimately the cross! By the way, lest I offend my Jewish brothers, Jesus’ reply on that cross was, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” I am quite certain the same is being said by Him today on behalf of American Christians, and even radical Islam! “Father forgive them!”
The good news is, God is love and it is not His that any perish, needless to say that we kill each other in His Name! He is aware and Christ is ever interceding!
Jesus was constantly in the marketplace, with sinners, harlots, tax collectors and the like. Earlier comments, when he was actually in the temple quoting Isaiah had begun His terminal course toward the cross: “He has sent me to the poor and to heal the brokenhearted.” Not the Messiah they had desired; the story goes that he sat down in a seat reserved for someone more to their liking, a conquering Messiah? We all seem to prefer that God when our quality of life is threatened!
Rambling somewhat, so I must get to my point. As Luke records, Jesus was breaking the news that Judaism as they knew it was about to change. New wine (5:38) was on the way. It’s was no coincidence that when the true Pentecost occurred, these same and others thought the recipients of the Third Person of the Trinity were drunk, though they spoke in a language they had not learned and yet everyone understood! God so often provides “Duh!” moments and we too often again miss the point! We have ears to hear but…!
Not many Centuries forward, the descendants of these same converted Jews and the newly attracted Gentiles would come to the same point. Their new faith was now the preferred political prescription for how God would do things within Constantine’s empire.
Judaism, the parent institution was abandoned, though their Law was ever secured in the Canon. Though Constantine’s attempt at a Book of Order, perhaps this was God’s attempt at contrast! Men, so unlike the Christ of God, once again had begun to kill for their faith. Constantine by now had sanctioned their body as the official church.
Not long afterwards, a spiritually wounded Mohammed emerges to challenge this growing army. Regardless of how we may feel about this same sect today, we might need to look again at our own religion.
By 1095, the Church had fully bought into warfare in the name of God and the European Crusades were offered Papal blessings. By the 1400’s those who spoke out against such religious atrocities were burned at the stake by the Universal Church; most notably to those in my local community, Jan Hus, a Bishop from the Moravian Province of the Czech Republic. While burning, he prophesied of a “swan that would sing and the Church would gladly listen!”
That swan, Martin Luther later steps onto the scene and the Protestant Reformation emerges. However, within only a few hundred years of the reformation, this splintered religion begins to build its own churches and cathedrals, easily divided by every wind of doctrine!
The words of Christ (my paraphrase) when He healed the leper in verse 5:14, “go show yourself to the priest for a testimony, and be sure to follow Moses commandments. Maybe they will listen to you.” Credibility is so often required for priests to believe, even in the face of the miraculous, as Luke also pointed out (again paraphrased). When Jesus told the man let down from the roof by the laity, “your sins are forgiven”, he already knew the rebuttal brewing in the hearts of the clergy in the room, he then said to the man, “Rise up and walk!” Gotta love this guy!
Judaism as they knew it would change radically by the time they had celebrated a few more Pentecosts!
Finally, my purpose for writing! I believe that the Church as we know it will witness even another new wine-skin, one that no church sustainability strategy can thwart. As I wrote in 2009, the present status is Foreclosure! Jesus began moving in the marketplace in the 70s’ and by now has matured a laity far beyond what any seminary could provide.
Simultaneously and not without fear among many Christians, radical Islam is again on the move. Globally, our overly politicized “Christian” response to refugees is being called into question, perhaps further fueling the radical recruitment of Jihadists among ISIS.
We have the means to both provide and to love the foreigner, though not without cost, peril and definitely a change in lifestyle. Nobody wants to go there and thus the kind of ludicrous movement we see among the “fed-up” followers of Donald Trump! Insanity prevails!
While Americans resist the Word’s admonishment to welcome foreigners, nations like Germany are now turning to their spiritual roots, revisiting a constitution that calls for obedience to God and care for their community!
Scores of Muslims are now observing the contrast between the hellish Jihadists and the caring of the faithful (Jew, Christian and Muslim)! A breakthrough of truth seems apparent. Many even testify of a personal Theophany, a Roman Road like appearances of Christ physically!
Meanwhile preachers call for a fast, a hunkering down of the pew to make the old wine-skin work, for it is the old wine that makes sense to them, much like the Pharisee of Jesus’ day. His reply, “Can ye make the children of the bride chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them. But the day will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them and then they shall fast in those days.” (5:35).
Could it be at this time for contrast’s sake, the Institutional Church as we know it has long been removed from the wedding party of Christ, left to fast, while the One whose wine they once enjoyed, moves in a new spiritual realm, deep among those long lost to this religion we call Christianity? For God so loved the World, every tongue and tribe!
Is the sudden rekindling of radical Islam, the enemy’s attempt to thwart the fact that God is responding to a poor and brokenhearted people who have continued to cry out to God (there is only One) for mercy? Though the enemy rages, the Son continues reaping the harvest of those “sheep we know not of” fulfilling the long forgotten promise to Hagar, also the wife of Abraham.
Perhaps we are in a new season in the faith, a sort of post-Christianity, where political adherents and even many professional clergy are beginning to act much like the Temple types in Jesus day, resisting the New Wine at their own peril!