Shock and Awe

Matthews’ account of John the Baptist struck a chord with me this a.m. given the recent loss of an admired believer, though somewhat distant friend.  Our lives seem disposable when one who has been so diligent in the spread of the gospel is taken out by disease or disaster, especially as young as this friend was.  We just don’t see it coming, even with the much dreaded lingering torment of cancer.

 

I have to wonder what was going on in John’s mind as he sat there waiting for his cousin Jesus to bring solution to his guiltless imprisonment by the tyrant Herod.  Even Herod knew that this precursor of the Christ had done nothing wrong, other than calling whoredom what it was! I wonder if even John had a clue as to how far his prophetic life style would take him, in preparing the way for the God-man and members of his crew.

 

I can see John, somewhat relieved as the door to his cell was opened, thinking his cousin must have come through.  The horror and disbelief that must have momentarily been his as the guard swung his blade severing his head!  What a loss to humanity!

 

Jesus himself seems caught off guard; remember this God-man was fully man!  He “retreats to a solitary place.”  Yet still the crowds are there, and unlike so many of us, his compassion overcomes his grief and yes, perhaps even his disbelief, that God would let something like this occur.  Meanwhile, His disciples are of little help in the moment other than to scorn the crowd, directing Jesus to send them away so they can eat.  These privileged few were apparently more directed by their bellies than their hearts.  That would all change soon!

 

Whether truly hour by hour or simply the way it is recorded, one’s read of Mathew 14 moves swiftly forward, and I think for a reason.  The narrative that begins with a threatened Herod, stunned by what he hears of John the Baptist:”risen from the dead!  That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”   That of course is more religious folklore than reality, but between that and John’s accusation of his Brother Phillip’s wife, he had him locked up!

 

From that point an abrupt execution occurs, leaving his cousin Jesus stunned, yet in a way we cannot conceive, his grief is overcome by compassion and another God-moment occurs in the feeding of the 5000!   “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get in a boat” where they find themselves in a storm!  Unlike anything these former fisherman had evr seen, Jesus appears out on the water.  Their first guess: “It’s a ghost.”  Of course, that is followed by the famed story of Peter walking on the water!

 

How does all this relate, perhaps we are witnessing the shift of a spiritual mantle from John the Baptist to Peter,: though unlike John, Peter, when in prison will be greeted not by a guard with a sword, but an angel who unlocks the doors and leads him to a prayer meeting where he is greeted by some of  his old “ship mates” from that very storm, now cowering in disbelief, though praying for his release.

 

We are a strange bunch and God works in even more mysterious ways to continue his work when it is time for a mantle to shift!  Peter is now emboldened in a way not seen since John, and even more so, when the One whom John prophesied had in fact risen from the grave!  The Early Church is still alive, though our response to the ways of the Lord seems eerily the same, especially when we lose a warrior friend!

 

Rest in Peace Caroline Leinbach Woo!

A Fourth Man

These last couple of weeks has been quite involved at several levels, within my business, my community engagement and also my family.  April 6th is a special time given that my daughter, Summer, and now her daughter, Caroline, were both born on that same date!

 

Yet amidst all that, I have continued to wonder about a thought that occurs to me as I continue to meditate upon the concept of the Trinity.  You may be humored by the thought that I put into my walk with Christ, but for me, Christianity is not about religion, church attendance nor even sharing my testimony, but rather, fully understanding who God is and affording avenue for the Trinity to flow through me.  If that happens, the other stuff will be a natural!

 

Is there more to the Trinity story than simply three beings, unlike me, whose only mission is to lavish love upon each other, and to demonstrate that love by way of this broken creation, of which I am a part!  Was there entry made for me to walk through this life, bathed in that same love, in full communion with this Tri-part Being?  That is the Gospel!

 

Raised quite simple, I was taught to see God the Father as Creator and a kind of general overseer of the Universe; then Jesus, His Son, a Redeemer type foreordained to rescue a broken world.  It was all about us and a God feverishly attempting to redeem something that had gone awry.  Once redeemed, one could by way of the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, be empowered to win the rest of the world to Jesus, if each so chose.  The concept was fairly easily explained.

 

Only of late, through the insistent work of Richard Rohr have I begun to think differently about the Trinity and even Creation.  Who are these three beings, surely not like we who are “lower than the angels?”  Apparently, there is some pecking order in the heavens of which we are the least.  In fact, “Franciscan theology on the whole . . . emphasized the incarnation as the love of God made visible in the world. [Bonaventure] did not consider the incarnation foremost as a remedy for sin but the primacy of love and the completion of creation. He recapitulated an idea present in the Greek fathers of the church, namely, Christ is the redeeming and fulfilling center of the universe. Christ does not save us from creation; rather, Christ is the reason for creation. . . . Christ is first in God’s intention to love; love is the reason for creation.” 1

 

Was Creation solely about the Christ, a manifestation of unadulterated love in front of fallen angels, rather than some attempt on God’s part to establish a Universe, only to have it be overpowered by a Fallen Angel, thus requiring His rescue?   Really, and worse yet, was the fallen-ness of these creatures a great source of anger, even rage from Father God, requiring the blood of His Son as the only sufficient means to appease that anger?   If so, how does this contrast with the loving nature of Christ, whom we claim to be the manifestation of God in the flesh, let alone the Prodigal whom Jesus spoke of, “his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck!”

If I may turn a corner here as we head toward my point, one of my favorite stories in the Bible is that of the three Hebrew children, children of the king’s seed, sought out by Nebuchadnezzar for their academic prowess.  Yet, when they refused the diet recommended, let alone later on, to bow down to the King, things got a little rough!

 

Actually there were four Hebrews, to include Daniel.  It seems that after Daniel’s interpretation of the King’s dream, all four were elevated in authority within the province but apparently Daniel served in a different station than the other three.  I say this because it appears that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego found themselves isolated in some way from Daniel and ended up facing the fiery furnace.

 

Most if not all, know the story of the King ramping up the furnace so hot, that it actually slew the men who threw the three Hebrews in!

 

However, in the midst of the fire, a FOURTH appeared and by the King’s own admission, that was likened unto a “son of the gods!”

 

This is a quantum leap from Sunday School, but is there a message here for the believer willing to step into the fire of this great transformational shift occurring in today’s world?   Is there a place for a fourth in the Trinity by way of the Holy Spirit, so invincible that even the flames of this great cultural shift cannot harm us?  We walk around in the fire while not even the hint of smoke attaches itself to us?

 

My point this morning, has less to do with the commitment of these young boys, than the faithful companionship that drew God into their fire, appropriating such an invincible nature by way of this fourth man.  Surely there is a compounded message beyond the fact that these three boys were saved, or even elevated once more by this fickle King?

 

Was the Son of God actually modeling a walk that is now possible for mankind?  Was it this mystical relationship which afforded the Hebrew heroes of the faith, along with the martyrs of the gospel since, to endure extreme hardship?  Is there a place in the Trinity for a fourth, the Bride of Christ, and could this afford such an invincible walk that even in the fire of this present cultural shirt, we are not burned.   Was there a Trinity message for us in that fire?

 

Have we accepted a lesser message in our brokenness, believing this whole thing is about us, rather than some greater drama being played out the lesser stage of this small globe; and yes, before an audience of spiritual beings much more powerful than ourselves.  Is that message about the empowerment of love?

 

This by the way, at least in my eyes, now justifies the shed blood of Christ, for I can now envision a Tri-part Being who is so forgiving and all knowing that even before we fallen creatures were made, it was foreordained that He would show up in our fire.  Even at a time when crucifixion was the highest penalty for breaking the law, knowing that our sin, not His wrath, would bring such guilt as to demand blood sacrifice, the highest cost to mortals, the shedding of blood, His blood!  This penalty, even the blood of a lamb, mysteriously reinforced in religion, would culminate in a moment like no other, communicating what true love is…for God is love!

 

[1] Ilia Delio, Christ in Evolution (Orbis Books: 2008), 6.

The Sheep Pen

Hindu Event

Occasionally in my read through scriptures, a phrase will leap out at me and remain present throughout the rest of my reading, almost a distraction.  After a while, I will circle back and study that phrase for further insights.

 

This a.m. in John 10:1, only eleven words into my read, there it was.  “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen through the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber.”

 

Context is important.  Jesus was questioning the newly healed blind man, and of course the religious were always nearby.  Not the well-meaning church folk, but those hoping to catch Him in some flawed statement; kind of the same ilk as our contemporary ultra-partisan politicians!

 

Of late, I have become personally aware of the brokenness of humanity, to include myself!  Even those most conscientious about following the ways of Christ have a dark side.  In fact, John commented on this earlier in verses 2:24, 25:  “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them (speaking of believers), for he knew all men.  He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.” (NIV).

 

I am a sheep, a smelly one at times, and though occasionally I try to lead (shepherd) I quickly become convinced of “what was (is) in a man.”  We are broken at best.  Thank God, we have a Shepherd.  Thank God for the security of a “pen.”

 

The Gate, Christ himself, who was God our Creator, is and ever shall be our Abba Father!  He was and is the Way.  His lifestyle, his demonstration of mercy and love, is the way.  What greater love has no man, than to lay down one’s life for another.   Sinning, the falling short of the glory of God, we do well!  Forgiving, accepting, inclusion, not so well!

 

With sin always comes guilt and the need of “redemption” (chose your on word).  Perhaps guilt, that sickening feeling is more a part of our brokenness than God’s demand, for God knows we are “sheep.”

 

The Good News, He became “sin” for us!  The Shepherd became a sheep, a lamb, one sacrificed, once and for all; ever resolving the sin imposed need of redemption!  Let’s not make this difficult.

 

That is always good news in my darkest moments!

 

This is by no means my attempt to say that American Christianity is the Way, nor that the “Jesus” often presented by legalistic evangelicals (perhaps the Pharisees of our day) is the only way.  I’ll let the reader percolate (coffee in hand) on that one.

 

In fact, the Gate Keeper Himself was by no means an exclusionist: “I have other sheep that are not a part of this sheep pen.  I must bring them also.” John 10:16a (NIV).

Uhmm?