Day Three—LIfe From Death

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When we hear stories about good things coming from tragedy, we get inspired.  And we should be.  But the tragedy seems like a burden and in some way we often do not want it to be that.  But in the most basic fabric of life, we know that the world is always going on because of something is always passing on.  

And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

A lot of people, even evolutionists, believe in Pangea.  Pangea is the name of what was once a supercontinent before they split into the continents as we know them now.  The waters were in the above verses gathered into one place, so would say a Pangea believer, everything is simplified because of two unified elements of the Earth and Seas.  There is an emphasis here of unity with the land and continuity of the seed which God calls good on both counts.  For God what once was “formless and void” has gained form and purpose.  The values of unity and continuity are repetitive in the kingdom of God where we see the Trinity, the people who turn to Jesus, the Church that comes from Him and the apostolic tradition that unfolds from the mystery of the ultimate Seed.  

So also do we have form and purpose because of a different third day: Easter Sunday.  He is our ultimate promised land and we can receive Him not by an ocean but the waters of baptism that unites us in faith in context of a single kingdom.  

But the goodness of God does not stop there.  There is a pattern that is now laid down in the micro level in seeds dying in the ground only to produce much fruit.  Likewise on a different third day, we have the firstborn of a new creation, Jesus, who used seed language about being like one that would go into the ground, die and produce much fruit.    

So the third day is about unity,continuity and life coming from complete sacrifice which are both inconvenient truths.  We like our individual spots and do  not like to give unselfishly.  Yet both parts of the same day point to that.  It would be good to apply that for our lives whether it is about abandoning our prejudice, opening ourselves to life or rallying around whatever we know is God’s agenda at the time.  The point that we can prayerfully consider is if we will be the seeds and fertile soil to live out the gospel that way.  Yes, dying to self is a good thing.  The third day is good because the standard has its beginning.  

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Day Two–Big Waters, Big Grace

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Big Waters, Big Grace.  —Day Two

God is a realist.  He wants what is best for us and in a sense is an optimist.  But His love is immense that He prepares a way for renewal spiritually when we fall even long before the fact.  Along the way between His grace and our sin, we have limited understanding of seeing anything beyond the here and now or what is easily discernible to the mind of instant gratification.   

And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

Now this seems like a strange thing, the idea of pools of water over the earth with a singular identity and a plural amount of waters on the earth.  Also this is the briefest day in terms of narrative.  What is God up to in this story?

First, for what God calls Sky to have oneness of identity in contrast to the plural waters on each side of it is a sign of where a future sacrament of baptism comes in. The Sky is not heaven as we think of it, but it symbolizes a barrier as God’s protection.    God’s grace is of unity while the earth is made to have an existence of some division.   Where the old is revealed in the new is what the New Testament says we have “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).  

There is even a fuller context about baptism how “during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:20-21).  The waters that were considered above is where the flood came from.  Without God’s maintained hand on that, one could say the sky is falling.  

The flood that was to come from was a sign of God’s justice while the prevention of it was a sign of God’s mercy and without it there would not be a covenant of mercy upon the earth.  It was in Genesis 6, after the flood, that God paints the first rainbow and calls it a sign that He will not flood the earth again and where the word covenant is used for the first time in salvation history. First comes grace, then comes covenant.  Just like first comes a baby in the manger as in “Peace on earth and goodwill towards men” then the Carpenter of Nazareth says He is bringing forth a new covenant.  

So what is God up to here?  He knew already that there was going to be a fall and he put things in motion already for a major symbol of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. This prefigured a valid means of salvation through baptism in Christ who was to come.  He is the God of second chances and makes way for those second chances before we even mess up.  And in Adam, we all did and we all died.  But in Christ we are made alive.  

So when we look at this story, we should try not to see only a hint of God’s judgment but more about grace and its mystery.  The experience of both can be life or death to us.  It comes down to a choice on how we proceed.  We will not know it all where it comes to spiritual things, but to be spiritually aware that there is something going on above our understanding is the beginning of wisdom after we get any hint of what we call enlightenment.  

Let There Be Light–Day 1

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Light On The Subject— Day One

To enter into God’s story is to enter into mystery. In this story there are people, places and things. There is destiny and there is choice.  Instead of there being a contradiction in that, not to overuse the term, there is mystery.  If we are to see God as the author and perfecter of our faith then we know that He sets the setting.  What is left is the how and why of it.  The how is from His power and Word.  The why is because He is relational and His highest values are faith, hope and love.  We can see that in this world as a little light is shed on the subject.  

 In the beginning when God created[a] the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 

With the Spirit of God sweeping over the waters, what is the point?  There is no one existing there yet, so where is the relationship that makes the presence of Holy Spirit important? My best answer is that for Jesus’ incarnation to happen or for the Holy Spirit to bless the work of creation, the earthly realm needs to be shadowed with opportunity of the miraculous in some way. In Luke 1:34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God”. 

Is this like when Christians are baptized into Christ and then we begin to be formed in the image of Christ? Emotionally, I want to say yes, but that would make God coercive or forceful of any conversion experience if I say this is a hint of any future substantive faith experiences.  Instead, what is implied is the nearness of God that happens before any creation provides mutual cooperation.  There is a theological mountain of difference between the Spirit of God being over creation compared to coming upon the creation in a formal way.  The nearness of God is an opportunity and not a matter of imposed will.    

A stark difference is when the angel Gabriel comes to a little lady much later in Roman-ruled Palestine.  He announces to her with high regard that the plan was for the Holy Spirit to come upon her and she would give birth to the Emmanuel (God with us).  She then responds, “Let it be done unto me according to your word”.  She was an animate person with her free will and not objectified.  Likewise we should be when we feel that tug in our hearts or however way God gets our attention.  We also see something powerful that God is creating.  He provides an extension of Himself in the story without watering down His essence.  

There is also something powerful in the imagery of the Spirit of God and being over the waters.  What we have is a matter of birthing that God is doing that foreshadows the natural birth that physical being would have but also of the new creation in Christ.  Is that a far fetched application?  

One could look no further than Jesus’ own words where He said, ““Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5). Through the above passage of Genesis we see God is up to double-meanings because His purposes are for an eventual coming together of everything.     

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

This light was not Jesus because He is not a created being. But it brings definition, or shape, of what little there is in the world that was previously “formless and void”.  God is calling the light time Day and the dark time Night. His first message to us is that sometimes everything is clear and distinct and sometimes there is not but He is in charge of it.  He also calls the full cycle to start in darkness and then brighten up because the order of the day here one that starts in darkness and brightens at the coloring of dawn.   In our spiritual lives we should expect to start from our emptiness and lack of form and progress on truth and the form for us that comes with Him shedding light on the subject: us and our need for wholeness.  

But God does not just complete the day with truth and an appreciation of knowledge by His created light only, but also by grace when He says the light is good.  He speaks, it happens and that is an objective truth.  He also calls it good and it is.  He ascribed value to what He made.  This is grace working with truth.  But much later an ex-fisherman wrote, The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).  Though we may not appreciate in the text of Genesis, we see Jesus being the center of this completely in hindsight through the New Testament. “In the beginning was the Word.  And the Word was with God and the Word was God”.  

So what is this? A day of birth, grace, truth and waiting for God to paint the darkness into dawn in such a way that illuminates the formless and fills the void.  When Sacred Scripture says that now is the day of salvation, this shows us His values for what being saved is all about.  It is starting again, receiving from above, knowing what is stable and willingness to be patient for God’s timing.     

So if this shows us a natural way, how should we face the times of darkness or when we begin to sense an enlightenment spiritually? Just be a recovering sinner borrowing from the 12 Steps: admit your powerlessness in avoiding selfishness and give yourself over to a Higher Power.  From there, who knows?  He could then shed a lot of light on the subject of that which is “formless and void” in your life.    

Introduction To A Beginning–

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I hesitate to write about The Creation Story of Genesis.  It is controversial between those who are fundamentalists (literal take on each Genesis verse) and those who believe in evolution.  That tension leads to a lot of vitriol with ad hominem cherries on top.  Therefore, I would prefer to avoid the literalism of that whenever possible.  

Somewhere in between are those that want to make it allegorical to the point that theological ramifications follow which take away the power of the gospel.  My point of view is that if Adam was not a literal man, whether from primordial ooze or the direct hand of God, then there is no original sin, no need for the Savior and Paul was deceived when he referred to the historical Christ as the second Adam.  

But with all of the challenges to taking it on, I am pressing forward trying to unpack some meaning for my journey and suggested ones for the reader of a God who keeps His ways as they are from the beginning to the end.  Is there a promise here?  No, not until the sixth chapter which is far further than I plan to go at least with concentration.  But what you find when you go through the first three chapters of Genesis is a foundation of patterns that God puts down as hints or breadcrumbs by which we can better perceive what He was up to and how we apply it all.  He gives us through the entire Bible and even beyond an understanding through a still small voice, an empowered faith community and even in His silence.  

Another lens to keep in mind is the words of Augustine of the 4th century.  He came from a very non-orthodox background but was converted to following Jesus when St. Ambrose of Milan preached off of the Old Testament and the New showing the seamless connections in a homily of the day’s scripture reading.  He then came to the conclusion that “the old testament is the new testament concealed and the new testament is the old testament revealed”.  

The patterns we get are first in the authority of God (God speaks, creation responds and there is….), natural law (it is there to maintain the best balance of creation possible) social law (how we relate to each others as intelligent beings made in His image) and blessing (“It is good”).  A verse much later in the scheme of things that relates to us is “We are His workmanship, created for good works in Christ (Ephesians 2:10). So, if we are going to do good works, are we following what God is speaking to us?  Are we following His order of things?  Are we walking as people that are blessed already or only striving to be blessed?  

If you at least believe in God, you can believe there is an answer to those questions. If you are an agnostic or deist (God is on the other side of the universe and very hands off) you will not be for long if you keep open to the answers.  Humanity, by design, is built to struggle with those questions even when we ask with the wrong presuppositions in the mix.  For the readers that stick with the unfolding of these blog posts, I ask that you keep seeking, keep asking and keep knocking for what you were created for and hopefully Who.  The kind of questions I want to bring up are not answered by a What but by a Who.  

But if you are connected to your Creator, what happens?  Recovery.  I do not speak of this as an intellectual pursuit, but a relational one and partly inspired by being an alcohol and drug counselor.  Often in my facility my clients are asking some of those questions in some kind of semantics.  They may even do this with the famous 12 Steps.  One step is giving themselves over to the care of their Higher Power but only after they admit they are powerless of their addiction.  

If you choose to seek what may be for you an Unknown God, the risk is that you will lose some of your control.  Maybe it might seem to be all of it.  But you also risk recovery into the life you were created for.  Let there be light.