Rocking The House Part II

Washing Feet of Refugees

Recently Pope Francis left Lesbos bringing 14 Muslim refugees with him to live at the Vatican.  One of my favorite bloggers, Steve Ray, took exception to that since there were plenty of Christian refugees there too.  I would respectfully argue that Pope Francis did the right thing.  He acted in charity to his enemies like the Gospel tells us.  That action was a message and it should challenge us, like the style of Jesus to see that the coming of the kingdom of God is above our own presuppositions or agendas.

As a social worker, I have heard a lot about how the privileged of society should be aware of their blind spots.  Pop culture has a saying of, “Check your privilege!”.  There are have’s and have not’s based on any of many labels with a semi-caste system in society.  For those that have such power or are resentful they do not have enough, there can be contention either way.  The nature of sin in an individual or a group predisposes the human condition to be committed to a fight and basing it by the flesh.  In a zero-sum game of class warfare the assumption is that labels and their norms are the way they are and nothing natural can go agains that.

Insert me as the public relations person for Jesus in his inaugural speech in his ministry in his hometown of Nazareth.  With my bar graphs that happened with my fancy computer, I say that now is a good time to go if half of them are “amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth”.  Jesus has sown some seeds but there are some signs that this is a tough crowd.  Jesus stays on though he knew the hearts of all men.  He sits down which is a rabbinical posture.  If they thought he laid down the gauntlet before, guess again.  It gets much worse or much better depending what kind of heart that you had in Nazareth that day.  Or Anytown, USA.  Make no mistake, the gospel in its fulness is real and it is meant to be offensive.

He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’” And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.  They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away (Luke 4:23-29).

This is getting personal.  Jesus is speaking to a small, marginalized town under a marginalized nation under oppressive rule from an oppressive empire.  They had a bias to stay together, ruminate in the injustices they had suffered by the Gentiles and keep the status quo.  Jesus had just signaled to them the help was on the way from God and that included from oppression.  Surely revenge would soon be theirs.

It was to none of these…only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. …yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.— This is loaded with grace, but for their enemies?  Jesus loves everyone.  He had shared good news with them a few moments ago.  Now he dared say that there was mission for them too?

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury — The reviews went in minutes from 50/50 to 100/0.  The 50% that liked Jesus before liked his words, gracious words, as long as they were about their group.  But Jesus loved his hometown too much not to throw a stumbling block their way.  I remember that the definition of a bad sermon according to Abraham Lincoln is one that did not challenge one to action.  Jesus challenged them to love all of their neighbors and they snapped.  One can hope that when the more explicit nature of the gospel would be explained years later they would snap back.


House of Doubt-Rocking The House Part I


If one looks at the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, he presents himself as a supernatural person with an approach that is above earthly concerns. His agenda changes common narratives.  In the following passage he challenges norms with “super-norms”.

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,

and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph” (Luke 4:16-22).

Jesus basically hit the assembly with a stun gun on the lowest setting but high in stirring a hunger in the truly humble.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to—  Simply, Jesus is saying that he is given authority from God in heaven.  Outside of the box thinking from an outside of this world source.

bring glad tidings to the poor— This is to say that there is a provision to be made who are poor.  Poor in money?  Poor in spirit? By going into the Old Testament he draws their attention to when manna fell from heaven to the Israelites.  Each day when the daily bread would fall someone would say “Basar!”  Meaning that provision for another day had come.  Jesus came to bring himself as what we needed in spiritual supply as the living bread and not just manna (meaning “What is it?”).

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives-Jesus was sent to proclaim that God wants peace on earth, has goodwill towards humanity and that the jail doors are open due to a pardon.  Where repentance falls in there is for the person to walk out if they accept Jesus in his totality.

recovery of sight to the blind— This has two meanings.  One, there was a blame game around at that time that if someone was infirm in their body that they or their parents sinned for them to be that way (see John 9). Jesus brings a much broader view than that.  The other is the awareness of the need of being saved.  Last, literal miracle on that which is disordered in his will.

to let the oppressed go free— This was about the power of sin that infects the individual as a slave.  Slaves had a servile fear of their master who can show wrath to them if they are caught failing.  Jesus and the Apostle Paul speak of God as Abba, Father (Daddy).   “{H}ow God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38).

Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.- With that Jesus laid down the gauntlet.  He has made a declaration about himself and that going forward his ministry can be up for markers that he is the fulfillment of this prophecy.  With the word “today” Jesus marks himself in history.

So right here is a summary of what Jesus is in the gospel and meaning to do then and now:  be heaven sent, be the intimate answer to the unspoken questions of the heart, communicate a pardon to humanity,  illuminate hearts with grace and truth and heal the inner parts of the person.  From this he would draw them into being partakers of his divine nature in him being our fulfillment of all desire.

If one is open to God working outside of the box, that does not seem bad,   Otherwise, it could seem to be.

We see both here.

And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words.… They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph— Not the only time that a group would have mixed reviews of Jesus.  Thoughts like, “I like his words, but shouldn’t he be a bit of a surprise?  As we will see, Jesus loves them too much not to give them a surprise.  Just not always the one they are looking for.


Re-Finding Antioch


A week ago tonight I was at a John 17 event.  The John 17 Movement is a wonderful set of connections in the Phoenix area that has Christians of various faith traditions praying and worshipping together.  Some events are big and some are small.  Some are on Protestant ground and some are on Catholic ground.  It is a wonderful example of ecumenism.

What’s that? A sin?  Ecumenism is a sin?  One world heresy.  Indifferentism is what some people say in that the truth is watered down.

But does it have to be seen that way?  We hear from Paul in 1 Corinthians that the greatest gift is love.  Paul believed in truth but it is not the greatest thing.  In fact, the seemingly unanswered prayer of Jesus in the actual John Chapter 17 includes unity in the petition.  If we in our respective denominations lift up our experiences and faith community domains with walls to them, we should be careful to first discern that we are not throwing the baby with the bathwater— and Jesus’ prayer for unity of his people with it.

So one way to discern where some common ground could be on what makes a Christian people is looking at where the Christian term started.

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but Jews. There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them, however, who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas [to go] to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the holy Spirit and faith. And a large number of people was added to the Lord. Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul,  and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:19-26).

and began to speak to the Greeks as well— The backdrop is that Peter had broke new ground with preaching the gospel to Gentiles.  Organically, these followers of Jesus were able to embrace this with the universality of the gospel to anyone who believes.

proclaiming the Lord Jesus—- If we blink we will miss it.  The simplicity of proclaiming the person of Jesus.  Christianity in its pure sense is meant to be a cult of personality and this personality is the risen Messiah Jesus of Nazareth.  They did not proclaim formulas but Jesus.  Everything else is secondary.

and they sent Barnabas [to go] to Antioch— Not just any apostle.  His real name was Joseph the Levite.  But they gave him the Aramaic nickname of Barnabas because it means “son of encouragement”.  He had a temperament to see the best in people.  He was even willing to stand up and sponsor a former mass persecutor named Saul of Tarsus who would later be so much more. He had a heart to see the individual through God’s eyes.

he arrived and saw the grace of God— What does it mean to see the grace of God?  What was covered above hits it right on point: Christocentricity with a “Here comes everybody” welcoming atmosphere.

he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart— He affirms them all to walk collectively in relationship with Jesus.  Is Jesus your personal Lord and Savior?  Great! But do not stop there.  Jesus is the head of the Body of Christ and we are called into such unity.

for he was a good man, filled with the holy Spirit and faith— In his flesh Barnabas knew how to be a bigot of many kinds.  But in cooperation with the Holy Spirit he decided not to be one.  He did not arrive to this vision of a developing church through good moral training but through a formation of the Holy Spirit.

And a large number of people was added to the Lord-  Next step in going from personal conversion to corporate and communal living.  Reproduce in the formation of Christ.  That is the number that is added.

For a whole year they met with the church and taught a large number of people— Above they were a scattering.  But the right person with the right calling comes in as a sent one under authority and now they are a church.  We see three chapters later that Barnabas was himself an apostle.  No matter how much that church grows they are in need of the apostles teaching (Acts 2:42, 2 Thessalonians 2:15).

…to look for Saul… he brought him to Antioch-  The logical conclusion is that ego not be the main trait but God’s election. Barnabas discerned before anything that Antioch is not meant to be his own show and discerned that it was time for the best of the old ways in the knowledge of Saul the former Old Covenant scholar to bring that perspective to be properly unveiled in the grace of God.

and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians— With all of the above behind them, they were first called Christians.  To be a Christian then meant something event to the skeptics of their day.  I pray it will be again so that they will glorify the Father in heaven.

This is a beautiful story and it can play out today.  Who is the Christian that can be a Barnabas for both valid expansion and unity in the kingdom of God?  Do you as a Christian have a dividing line between you and someone else that does not remotely have the fingerprints to Jesus?

Incidentally, if you are a non-Christian and reading this, I want to apologize to you.  We Christians are a work in progress.  I assure you, Antioch does exist if you take a step back and really look.  And for a Christian that has been off-course on this, you can specifically look back to Acts 11 with the Holy Spirit and find the Antioch point near you that rallies at the Cross of Christ.

Finally, back to John 17.  There were 120 of us.  After some wonderful praise and worship and a message from Joseph Tosini we counted off by 12 and were split into groups of ten.  We were given about six verses from John 17 and had a chance to share with each other.  There was good insight and my group, organically, did not share much about what kind of church any of us went to until the end.  It was good.  We were just Christians and together encounter Christ in grace.

So at the end of the day, I am a Christian.  More specifically I am a— nah.  I’m taking a break from that for one day.

Skeptics With Adrenalin


Jesus had a way with people.  I read recently that anyone that says they have encountered Jesus and came away unchanged did not really have an encounter with Him (Peter Kreeft, Jesus-Shock).

In moving on with the scenes of someone encountering Jesus that is skeptical or cynical we come to human beings rather than Satan.  It’s quite different in scope of knowledge when you think about it in that Satan had more spiritual knowledge than the religious people, believed it all but is still damned.  Human beings will know less very often but belief at times with a saving faith that is partnered with obedience.  That’s faith and opening one to The Faith.

The key point here is that there is a beauty in confronting Jesus with hard questions.  What I am trying to convey is that Jesus could not have true benevolence if he would stifle critical thinking.  That is what cult leaders do and tend to be good at that with their own tool kits that play on the insecurities of their followers.

But that does not mean that Jesus then, or now, is prone to hold back from us.  There is what they said in the early church era the kerygma, the promulgation of the gospel.  But when Jesus gets our attention in the midst of our own agendas there is also Socratic questioning either through someone we know who loves truth or some fragment in ourselves that loves truth.  That fragment is searching for meaning.  In the kingdom message of Jesus we can have meaning.  But also that leads to mystery as well. What is of note below is the zeal Jesus has to say about offering life, Himself, to those present  but in all the world.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”  His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person (John 2:13-25).

So what we have here is a religious scuffle.  But not scuffling for scuffling’s sake.

In the temple courts he found people selling…..   First case in point is that Jesus was coming into his Fathers house and seeing how it worked like a business house.  And that was not supposed to be.  Jesus did not have a gospel of niceness.  Then and now he has a gospel of the kingdom which means its supposed to be free.

What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?— Good question but not deserving an immediate answer yet.  First, the Pharisees had the seat of Moses and thus there was a feeling of legitimacy.  But there was a power that they had in their chairs and he did not— supposedly.  Since the hearts of the Pharisees were not humble they would not even converse with real decorum with Jesus.  Meaning and mystery was beyond the study to go with considering what other duties they had.  They just wanted to make sense of Jesus so they could say they tried to warn him. After all, he must be wrong.

Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.— They did not get it.  This is one of the reasons why Jesus will speak in mystery in the gospels and in our lives whether we are open or not—Jesus plants seeds of truth and reaps later.  In Acts of The Apostles it says that many priests become Christians.  Those ones had their spiritual insight and it was hindsight both 20/20 and 3D of the Resurrention.  So if you are a skeptic, and do not understand Jesus on something, you should not assume you will never get Jesus but just possibly not yet.

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people— Jesus was not going for a popularity win.  He came for a salvation win for the world.  Feelings come and go and so do lofty words of loyalty.  And for those times where Jesus serves black coffee with no cream or sugar it is from a fully informed knowledge of what is in their hearts.

This is also true for today.  Jesus does not need us to approve of Him.  He has no self-esteem issues.  He cannot be bargained with into compromise.  So is true to for today.  For Christians that follow Jesus and His truth it is nice when physical or social sciences confirm biblical truth.  But for a person or groups of people that want to identify as holy in Christ, we are invited to participate in the life of Jesus who still lives.  Our esteem was never meant to have the highest priority of anyone else’s opinion.  You want to prioritize being “relevant”?  It starts and ends with one measuring their relationship to Jesus.