On Resurrection Weekend

Thankfully, St. Judas (not Iscariot) had the presence of mind to snap this great pic with his Instagram app Jesus returned from Hades.

I doubt I could really add much of value to the Resurrection weekend.  What could I say that hasn’t already been said, and more eloquently?  So I’ll discard any effort to impress either of my readers and simply offer what I’ve been dwelling on these last several days.

Jesus moved throughout Palestine announcing the onset of the Kingdom of God.  Finally, after centuries of longing, Israel’s God was restoring relationship with His people (albeit in an unexpected manner) and sealing a permanent covenant.  For those who saw Jesus’ plan and believed the Lord was truly working through this Galilean, this meant a welcoming back into the family of God, filled with great abundance and vitality, and a rescue from eons of oppression, both physical and spiritual.  When the Resurrection event occurred, those who believed it saw in it the vindication of all that Jesus had been doing as he walked the earth.  Truly, they were assured, Yahweh has restored Israel through this man Jesus.

Perhaps oddly, virtually all of Jesus’ work was among the Jews.  His announcement, the imminent Kingdom of God, was a Jewish hope.  And the restoration he offered – a kind of spiritual, though by no means non-physical, return from exile – was entirely in Jewish terms.

Yet, as Paul and the other New Testament writers (and certainly one gets the sense throughout the New Testament, not least in Acts, that this becomes a rather common perception among the early Christian community) ponder what has happened following that one eventful Passover celebration, they begin to realize that though Jesus was announcing that this quintessential Jewish hope had been inaugurated, in actuality, God had been restoring all of humanity in and through Jesus, the new Adam.

Still, the immensity of what occurred in that first Resurrection extends even deeper and farther.  Paul writes to the Corinthian church a few decades after the Resurrection, and says, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17a).  In other words, if you’ve believed that God was indeed reconciling the world through this Jewish prophet, then you realize that the whole world has changed.  A new era has dawned, not just on humanity, but on the actual physical earth as well.

It’s a whole new world out there.  If you’ve got the eyes to see it, it’s worth taking a look.

A Question about Luke’s Economics

In case you didn’t know, economics are a big deal in Luke’s writing. The books of Luke & Acts both highlight issues relating to the rich & poor.

The most common reaction to some of the relevant texts are to decide that Luke (at least, and Jesus too, perhaps) was condemning the rich and exalting the poor. See, for example, Wallis, Jim.

But I’m wondering this morning if that’s really the case.

Luke’s point in highlighting the fate of the poor may not be a commentary on the morality of wealth as we typically frame it. It may, instead, be more an indication that, yes, the poor too are being welcomed, in the work of Jesus and the apostles, as full members of God’s family, just as God had always promised in the prophets. This is good news to the poor. Yet the rich also need to respond appropriately. They, like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, must be willing to welcome the poor as full brothers and sisters lest thy find that they, the rich, are outside the family altogether.

A major theme of the Old Testament, particularly the foundational Pentateuch, is that God, the Father of Israel, would bless His children materially (that’s part of the point of the Promised Land, if you didn’t know). So it could have been thought among some Jews, at least, that prosperity equated to God’s favor.

Without arguing that point here, suffice it to say that Luke may be saying that the poor, too, are under their Father’s favor after all. Blessed, indeed are the poor.

Silence!

I was today at a brief conference at a Christian institution of higher learning.  By and large, it was a fine day, filled with stimulating and engaging conversation and a few old friends.  The focus: A.J. Gordon & the 175th anniversary of his birth.

But what’s a blog post without a bone to pick?  So here it is.

I was in a breakout session on A.J. Gordon’s theology, which included a brief review of those practical ministry elements the man held dear.  The last of these, which the presenter thought was especially endearing, was what was termed “the ministry of silence.  Evidently, A.J. Gordon typically ended church services with his congregation leaving in silence, ostensibly to ponder the message they had just heard from the pulpit.

The presenter nearly shook with inspiration and his eyes twinkled with longing delight as he pictured the glory of a silent congregation.

What is it with academic types (and I include myself) and the reverence we pay silence?  I can’t remember the times students and professors alike practically drooled over the notion of being silent for long periods of time while I studied at another Christian institution of higher education.  If we read about the early Quakers and their mum meetings, we’d pine for the pugnacity to try it in our own churches.  We’d flock to mock Taize gatherings.

There’s no question, there’s a mystery and a mysticism about silence.  It’s as if we’re suggesting something utterly profound.  To question the notion is to show yourself a Neanderthal, at best, a barbarian, at worst.  So if you happened to think the discipline of silence a joke, you kept quiet.

Don’t get me wrong, I like quiet.  It probably consumes the better part of my day.  And I’ve even experimented with lengthy periods without uttering a sound.  It has its benefits.

But the thought struck me this afternoon that there likely isn’t much silence in heaven.  How quiet do we suppose the angels are as they reside in the presence of an infinite God, who, with each passing moment, reveals one more iteration of His perfect goodness, one more step in His redemptive plan?  My guess is there’s quite a bit of glorious noise in heaven.

Perhaps it may be worth aspiring to a church in which we close services in such a way that our people are making the noise of heaven as they exit the building, speaking truth and love and encouragement and prophecy as they depart the shadow of the steeple.

Man was Made for Miracles

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about people.

I don’t mean specific people, though I often think about several of them.  I just mean people, generally, but not humankind.  OK, kind of humankind.

Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the human role in Scripture and in the Kingdom life.

To give a clue to my line of thinking, though I won’t go to great detail here (yet), I’ve been thinking that human beings are meant to be quite a bit in the Kingdom of God.  Human beings are meant to be quite a bit on earth.  They (we) play a huge role, and I think we’re meant to be bigger than certain streams of the church has supposed.

Along these lines, let me pose a question:

Are there miracles in the Bible that occur without any human involvement whatsoever?

Granted, the work of any miracle is an act of God, yet is there a miracle in Scripture that does not also have a human “faith step,” so to speak?

For example, God parts the sea before the Hebrews as they escape from Egypt (Exo 14), but Moses has to extend his rod.  God multiplies the loaves and fishes to feed five thousand (Mk 6), but Jesus blesses the food and the disciples distribute it.

So, are there any, creation excepted, that God does without human interaction?

Hope, Baby

Steve Backlund of Bethel Church (Redding, CA) has been here this weekend sharing his message. He and his wife Wendy are good stuff.

The basic message is this: if there is an area in your life that is not bursting with hope, that is an area in which you are believing a lie. The truth about any situation is that God desires and is powerful produce the best. Why would anyone who knows Him be discouraged?

Why would we feel badly about ourselves? The Lord does not feel badly about us. He loves us and sees us as princes and princesses in His Kingdom.

Why would we feel badly about our finances? Our Father in heaven has unlimited resources that He longs to pour out through His family.

Why would we feel discouraged over our relationships? We are ambassadors of Christ, who loved all and left everyone better than they started.

Hope comes from the One who sits enthroned over all creation. Get some.