A Reflection On Will

Sky Reflection

It is no small thing to figure out what God’s will is, even  a piece of it, and go forward in life in accordance with it.  I might compare it to eating an elephant: one bite at a time.

But almost by assumption that the hearers know what the will of God is, Jesus includes this in the teaching of “The Our Father”.  What is more, Jesus teaches the hearers to ask for it to be done as follows.

“Your kingdom come.

Your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

The concept of God’s will being done should be understood first that God is love.  The type of love God is in the Greek is “Agape” which is divine, unlimited, unselfish love and always in the context of giving.  Just looking at John 3:16 we see, “God so loved the world that He sent…” you likely know the rest.  Within the communion of the Trinity the Father initiates and the Son reciprocates and the Holy Spirit proceeds always from both (the ancient word for this was the Filioque).  Time does not exist for these three Who’s of The Divine What.  This love with deference for the other two is an eternal “now”.  And thus the identity of “The I AM”.

But the world we live in is not made of agape.  It is made of eros.  Eros could be translated as, “I love you..based on what I can get out of you”.  With this is a blindness so par for the course with sin.  So much that when Jesus comes on the scene their hatred was considered from the blindness of their hearts and because their deeds were evil.  The evil deeds were part of a perpetual cycle of self-love that costs everything of a soul.  Jesus pinpointed on this about “gaining the world but losing your soul”.

So with that in mind, God wants to remedy this situation with creation coming into that communion as described above which is His will.  How would this be accomplished?

1:  All man’s effort.  Work for it in the midst of vague hints and the spiritual elite are full of the stuff to ascend to that.  This does not work because God is love and does not created people to the elitists.

2:  God coerces.  This would be God blowing our socks off so often with the piercing of natural cycles with the supernatural.  Such would be such an imposition that the independent will of the individual is hampered.

3: The still small voice in universal truth with a universal message with a universal community in mind.  And God would not use people despite their weaknesses but because of their weaknesses in light of grace.  And this use would be in cooperation.

But what would the cooperation look like? In the history of God’s interpersonal structure of the remedy of eros there were important people that were finite beings with fallen man patterns that made them cooperate imperfectly.  From so many there are imperfect models.

Until you come to a young lady in Nazareth, Palestine in the Year 0.  She says, “Let it be done to me according to your word” in context of being told she would bear the Son of God.

The conception happened in the context of her having been filled with grace.  Are you filled with grace now?  Then ask for it.  Then see how God could call you in your own unique way to carry the grace and truth realized in Jesus Christ into the world around you.  You could lose the world, but gain all that your soul is meant to be in giving recklessly to God and humanity at your side.

But another important point from they turning point person in salvation history is the simple message of Mary when speaking to the servants preparing the way for Jesus to change water to wine, “Do whatever He tells you”.

For the will of God is expressed through Jesus Christ in the message of His life and atonement on the cross.  When we “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:19) we become scandalized by what we look at because our deeds are evil.  But if in humility and enlightened by grace we get past that, the scandalous Christ on the cross becomes our righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

So to pray for God’s will to be done, holistic salvation of the entire person, is to be inextricably linked to the wild ride of seeing the power of God manifest in prayers in divine harmony.

“How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience – we who in him have become children of adoption. We ask our Father to unite our will to his Son’s, in order to fulfill his will, his plan of salvation for the life of the world. We are radically incapable of this, but united with Jesus and with the power of his Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to him and decide to choose what his Son has always chosen: to do what is pleasing to the Father (Catechism of The Catholic Church 2825).

So the further we go in such communion, the more lined we will be in God’s purposes and holistic salvation is not just a theory but a lived our reality.  “Consider how Jesus Christ teaches us to be humble, by making us see that our virtue does not depend on our work alone but on grace from on high. He commands each of the faithful who prays to do so universally, for the whole world. For he did not say “thy will be done in me or in us,” but “on earth,” the whole earth, so that error may be banished from it, truth take root in it, all vice be destroyed on it, virtue flourish on it, and earth no longer differ from heaven”  (St. John Chrysostom 4th century).   This is one boundary that we do want blurry when it is for the one between heaven and earth.  What is stopping us?

What The Name CAUSED–PART 3

Sign-of-Cross

For this final post centering on “hallowed be Thy name” from the Lord’s prayer, I would like to start by pointing out how this is appropriated beyond the conversion experience.  We have seen that God is too much of love in covenant community to not allow atonement.  God, while a mystery, is too universal to not grant accessibility to our response.  What is it like “knowing Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior” in the purest sense?

God knew salvation would come to the world if His name could be called upon rightly in the context of sacrifice worked beyond that in Moses. God chose His plan to release the light of the gospel very much out of the box like a temple in Jerusalem.

“For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 1:11).

There are many who would interpret that passage as implying that the incense offered to God’s name would be the acceptance of the gospel.  Although to accept the gospel is essential to ongoing Christian living, the incense assumes sacramental grace as the material used to God’s glory would have to be liturgical in nature.  With that in mind Malachi must have been confused—one would think.  Proper liturgy that was according to proper succession was through the bloodline of Aaron of the tribe of Levi and tied to the temple in Jerusalem.  And this offering would have to be only in connection to the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem.  Such incense in God name would be improper under the covenant then.  But not in a new covenant.

E for Eucharist

In the night before the cross, Jesus lays out what is happening but not for the first time.  He had spoke about the engagement of God’s people in this purest way to connect to His sacrifice a few years before.

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” (John 6:54-56).  Remember the point I made a few posts ago about the burning bush with God and not being lessened? The Son makes himself accessible that way every time there is a Eucharist.  His holiness is internalized and actualized but never downsized.

“While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:26-27).

We can not have called on the name of the Lord without acknowledging all God is, what He has done and now does in the new covenant.  This is not lost on Paul.

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 6-7).

Interesting to note is that the word for thanksgiving is eucharistia.  This is the word related to Eucharist as Catholics call the Lord’s Supper.  In this context God’s name is most hallowed because everything He is is absorbed sacramentally by the partaker as one absorbed into sacramental life.  The prayer and petition that is shown in the verses above is a sacramental meal.  In fact, the most common setting for an epistle to be read when it was first delivered and years later was in the mass and verses above from Phillipians speak rightly to the prayer culture of the Church at that time. So as a Catholic do I know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?  I know Him in personal prayer times and I know Jesus when I receive Him Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  It is a both/and rather than an either/or.  But the mass gives a divine layout for the believer to press in.

D is for Dedication

But now to call on the name of the Lord in light of Jesus brings back to offering up a sacrifice like Abraham but different.  Where Abraham offered up common materials unto God, we are called to offer up ourselves joined to the sacrifice of Jesus in true worship that hallows God’s name.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1).

So that is bringing the hallowing of God’s name to the real place of here and now.  I was formed for many years in prior faith communities with the rhetoric of accepting Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior.  The wording can be pregnant with truth or dry rhetoric depending on the heart of the believer.  But in a call to holiness that truly makes room for God to be all He wants to be in us, offering ourselves up to the God is always applicable.

 I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24).  My hope for my walk with Christ is that as my sufferings come up I would learn to integrate my sufferings in His purposes when needed.  With my sufferings added to those of Jesus it is a matter of wholeness in spite of suffering lending to holiness.  To share in His sufferings having been touched by full gospel that is eucharistic, we get to “know Him in the power of His resurrection and in the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).  This is holiness not in our name but His.

But what about calling out to God as something more in a grand scale?  As an amateur theologian, all I offer is what experience I have had the recent years that I have been a Catholic at the beginning of each mass.

In mass we pray “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  These words have mystery but are not unaccessible.  I guess you would have to be there.

Hallowing God’s name can have context of outreach in this world and fulfills most rightly the words of Malachi. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28:20-21

Where shadow is fulfilled in substance…..

“Hallowed be thy name”.

What The Name CAUSED–Part II

Globe

God is bigger than our boxes.  I see boxes all the time in prejudices like race, income, gender, age and so forth.  In this post I want to continue on the theme of “hallowed be they name” from the Lord’s Prayer.  What we saw in the last post is that early in salvation history God revealed Himself as one being but community.  And from the paradox of both, God gives way for redemption through a way of atonement with the patriarchs like Abraham as imperfect as he and the sacrifice of his day was.  But how much more the priest and sacrificial victim we now see in Jesus through the cross?

What I would like to highlight here is how God next shows Himself as so hard to pin down to common pragmatic ideas of what a person, much less a deity, is.  Ironically, from God being prone to being a mystery, He is all the more accessible.  We see that in the encounter with Moses at the burning bush.  We have seen that His name can be hallowed in the midst of human ignorance.  But it is better known to be hallowed.

U is for Universality

God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.”’ God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”: This is my name for ever, and this my title for all generations (Exodus 3:13). 

God is  always happening.  God is always related in covenant to His people whether they are alive or dead.  God presented himself through a work of agriculture that burns but is not lessened in consumption.

Things developed in knowledge by the people that follow God.  To call on His name already had a context of sacrifice before the law of Moses if one were to just look at the patriarchs.  Before in the patriarchs they had no name. Calling on the name of the Lord was implied because they were petitioning His hand to be on the earth.  With Moses and the levitical priesthood it was explicit to call on the name of the Lord but first in the individuals who were the chosen few.

“According to Jewish tradition, it was on the Day of Atonement that the high priest – and only the high priest – could pronounce the name of God, the sacred Tetragrammaton YHWH. When he entered the Holy Place with the blood of the goat set apart to the LORD, he would utter the name.” (Enduring Word  http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/0316.htm).

One might interpret the status quo of God to be first-class citizens versus the non-priestly.  For the privileged few to call upon God and speak for God is the epitome of criticism against the Christian faith but it is not well-founded.

Such a criticism is found to not be well founded if one looks deeper into salvation history shown in Sacred Scripture.

So with that in mind God the Father sent God the Son and named Him “God saves”—Jesus.  And Jesus in many points recapitulates this point in the many “I am statements”.  At one point Jesus has a set up context that makes an impression that is without a doubt.

“Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.’ Then the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple” (John 8:56-58).  So here we see that God has a name and a face.  It was the name of a finite context but still above all other names.

“Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).  It is by the name of Jesus that we enter into the communion laid down as the original intent.

But before the fundamental quest for hallowing God’s name can be understood in its purest expression, it is needed to see where Jesus values the transcendence of God’s glory for that to happen.

S is For Spirit

For God’s name to be hallowed universally, the unveiling of God’s nature behind the name would need to be magnified by the Spirit of God.

“Then afterwards

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;

your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

……    in those days, I will pour out my spirit” (Joel 2:28-29).

The lynchpin person for this to happen must be Jesus. He comes and shows the accessibility of God to the marginalized of society like the Samaritan woman at the well.

 “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’  Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’  (John 4:21-25)

Per society there are great divides but in God’s plan there is not.  Jesus predicts worship that is spirit and truth.  It is is to be a truth by which all would worship in the context of atonement fulfilled in Christ on the altar we know as the cross. The spirit Jesus refers to is the life of God and truth He refers to could be translated as all-encompassing reality.  And this truth is Jesus (John 14:6).

The Father did this as the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and gave us Jesus.  And He does this when believers are gathered. In The First Council of Nicea they laid out the extension of Jesus through His assembly like so: “one, holy, Catholic [meaning according to the whole] and apostolic church”.  Ideally, access to those things which are heavenly is to be understood as through Jesus not despite the visible Church but because of it.  This is where the universality that goes beyond such things as race or ethnicity is implemented by the Holy Spirit which proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Where shadow is fulfilled in substance…..

“Hallowed be thy name”.

What The Name CAUSED

Altar Sacrifice

Writing a blog through the Sermon On The Mount has had its difficulties for me in even having my best guess on the meanings in it.  But it has not been without its “A-ha” moments where I see how truth transcends the biases caused by human experience.  Such is how a walk in faith is supposed to be and also not without some mystery.

In teaching the Lord’s Prayer, it was not only a way to pray, but for prayer to be true to the essence of who we pray to.   In that sense, it is a theological lynchpin by which much of the gospel of the kingdom unfolds.  With that for a spiritual lens we can see He was challenging us to look up indeed but also behind.  Jesus, among many things, was the Jewish Messiah and thus the weight of salvation history makes certain things He says pregnant in context of what had happened long before the first century.  Case in point:

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9).

The verse above could work, so to speak, as the lynchpin of the lynchpin of the prayer.  The last blog, we looked at the definition of God the Father from Jesus the ultimate insider.  All of the grace shown in God being a familiar, righteous and transcendent father must be completed in the perspective of His name being “hallowed”.  But what does it mean, specific to the Bible, to hallow God’s name?

As I looked at scriptures that show God revealing Himself and man reaching up I came away with three principles of God’s values and corresponding actions done by Him or for Him consistent with divine nature.   These corresponding sets I will lay out also connect well to keeping God’s name holy, that is, distinct from any other kind of relationship we would perceive. I will attempt to lay out what keeping the name of God holy means and what is causes for those on earth who respond to the call of keeping God’s name holy. CAUSED is the key word.

C is for Covenant In Community

First we must understand that God has a communal context to His name even before there were human participants but yet with a covenant context.  “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).  God in Himself is community we know as the Trinity.  When he chose seven days to cap off creation is was in foresight to the number seven being part of “sealing the deal”.

So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:3).

The covenant is in the seven and God’s name is hallowed in it.  “[שָׁבַע]186 verb swear “Probably, so to say, seven oneself, or bind oneself by seven things” (Strong’s Concordance).  The number seven and making a covenant has an intentional wordplay through the Hebrew scriptures.  The community context is not lost in the Creation story nor is the context of community.  When we hallow the name of God, we hallow God who is faithful to covenant and is relational by nature.

As we know, the first parents messed everything up with sin.  But God being an initiator of grace and covenant introduces an important element into getting things back on the right path through a Hebrew named Abram in Ur (later Abraham).  God is too harmonious in the essence of the Godhead not to lay a pattern down for the road back.

A is for Altar

“He [Abram] journeyed on by stages from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at between Bethel and Ai,  to the place where he had made an altar at the first; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord (Genesis 13:3-5). 

He found himself in the desert and re-centers himself in a place he had reached out to God before.  It says specifically that Abram is between Bethel and Ai.  Bethel means House of God.  Ai means Heap of Ruins.  This reminds me of our emptiness at the conversion point.  We may not have figured out where we fit in His house, we don’t like the heap of ruins of our sinful lives so we reach up any way we know how.  And God, being love, is too communal in nature not to give us a pattern for redemption as we see in any sacrifice for atonement.

When they had made a covenant at Beer-sheba, Abimelech, with Phicol the commander of his army, left and returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God” (Genesis 21:32-34).  Interesting to note is that in the first papal encyclical of Peter he refers to the redemption of the cross as on a tree.  Even here is there a shadow of things to come in the substance of the cross as Abraham calls on God’s redemptive nature.

Beersheba means Well of Seven.  Again a pattern of completion and covenant being the nature of God and in that context God is called upon.  But also of interesting note in the last time that Abraham calls on the name of the Lord is this sense of longevity in planting a tree and how God outlives them.  If these people are sensing the shortness of their lives as they happen, they may be aware of now of God who is above the fray of mortality.  This implies God’s covenant to go through the generations and leads well into a timeless element of calling on God in Exodus.

Where shadow is fulfilled in substance…..

“Hallowed be thy name”.

Conversion Hindsight

Entering Catholic Church

I need to interrupt my series on Sermon on The Mount.  It seems appropriate to me to reflect this Easter on what my life is like since the big change.  Not a sex change operation.  Not a marriage situation.  A lot less of a change than that but some would say more.

For those of you who are new to my blog, I became a Catholic at Easter Vigil 2013 in Wickenburg, Arizona.  This was after considering myself a lifer Protestant for thirty years.  I had been in several denominations and one underground church.  My direct formation had included periods of discipleship from godly men and a semi-formal theological institution at a good church that I went to for several years at Living Hope Fellowship in Aloha, Oregon.  For a few years I was educated in theology, biblical hermeneutics and church history.  With the richness of those experiences, one would think that would stay a Protestant.

But being a Protestant was not enough.  After my wife and I left a great church in Portland when we moved to the suburbs, something seemed to be missing.  I had these occasional “bread crumbs” that I was not getting resolved.  Where is there a solid, unifying stance on social issues in Christianity?  Why did communion always seem to have something missing?  Why is there so much division?  And one question that I always had was: How can Christianity reclaim the lost,mysterious truths of the 1st century?

When we had moved to Arizona for a few months, I had some inexplicable obsession on the Lord’s Prayer.  It was so much in my head that it felt like a touch of insanity.  All I could pray was something like, “God, get this out of my head or show me your kingdom!”

One fateful night I stumbled on a show while channel surfing called, “Genesis to Jesus”.  It was a bible study led by Dr. Scott Hahn that traced patterns through the bible that anticipate both the coming of Jesus as Messiah and also The Catholic Church with it’s expression of grace and truth in the sacraments.  I went to many resources on the internet soon including from Protestant websites that presupposed that Catholics do not live a Christian life.  I prayed for God’s wisdom and really tried to “play both sides of the chess board”.  God won out and His leading has been the Catholic Church.  I was received in 2013 and my wife was received in 2014.

So what has changed concretely in how I live my life?

In the words of Catholic concert from Protestantism, “I get to know my sins are forgiven”.  This is not to say that I could not ask God for forgiveness before.  But in the sacrament of reconciliation unveiled in Sacred Scripture (Matthew 9:28, John 20:21-23, James 5:14-15) and Sacred Tradition there is a more holistic experience of God’s forgiveness.  Let me be clear on one point: I do not confess my sins to a priest instead of God.  I confess to God, occasionally, through a priest because when I sin it is against God and the Body.  God is not lessened but magnified.

That brings me to another aspect: Mary.  She said “my soul magnifies the Lord”.  When i reflect on Mary and ask for her intercession as the Queen of Heaven (Revelation 12:1-6) my appreciation of Jesus in the Incarnation and Atonement is only more well rounded which includes that the Kingdom is not “an old boys club”.  Starting with Mary, and not only because of her, I would say that the Catholic Church is the most feminist organization in the world.  And I say that with complete confidence as a masters level social worker.

And as a social worker I can turn to social issues. There is not enough space in one blog to address this property.  Suffice it to say that I appreciated Humanae Vitae and the parts of Theology of The Body that I have read.  The phrases that stand out in my years as a Catholic are the life and dignity of the human person and “We are called to love people and use things, not love things and use people”.  This ethic full explained has helped me to be more consistently pro-life, pro-traditional marriage and even to be less of a conservative Republican regarding immigration.

Speaking of humanity, there is two more portions of humanity that have been effected by my wife and I coming into the Catholic Church: Josiah and our unborn daughter yet to be named.  We were content with the game plan of having our two kids together my previous three.  But looking into the limitations couples put on the blessing of children stirred something in my wife first when she was not yet joining me in discerning the Catholic Church.  As of August I will hold in my arms by seventh child.

So, yes, I am glad to be Catholic.  The scary part in my research process was that I was not entirely sure what I was losing and what I was gaining. I can say that I am still an evangelical  and charismatic and definitely “a Bible Christian” (The Catholic Church ratified the canon of Sacred Scripture).  What I gained was the Church founded by Jesus, maintained from error on faith and morals and as universal as John 3:16’s words imply.  I am just glad to have hopped aboard and off the “protest”.

Recommended Websites:

http://www.catholicscomehome.org

http://www.catholic.com

http://www.instituteofcatholicculture.org