LOVE INVITES

    Peacemakers

It is a beautiful thing to find comfort in the hour of one’s death.  But for many there is an end of life inner conflict some have, according to Erikson’s theory, of integrity versus despair.  Integrity is being on your death bed and feeling satisfied of being true to core values and potential more than not. Despair is dying in a black hole of meaninglessness, seeing ones betrayal of core values in the hour of one’s death.

Despair was knocking on the door of a rabble-rouser in 1st Century Palestine.  He was hanging on a cross with a comrade and some rabbi with a sign saying, “King of the Jews”.  Bitterness wells up in him and he joins his comrade in throwing verbal jabs. He wants his despair to be contagious.

But then the unthinkable happens.  This fellow Jew hanging on a cross with a crown of thorns on his head in mockery and whipped by metal and bone calls for the forgiveness of all those who hate him including the thief next to him.

And so, this rabble rouse rebukes the other condemned man who keeps mocking Jesus, He then expresses a rationale worthy of a saint who knows they are a sinner.  He states how they as rebels are getting what they deserve, urges respect for what is holy above the grime of bleeding on the cross and receives the forgiveness of this Jesus in the words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.

In that grace, he had a moment of clarity and asked for Jesus to bless him.  He asks to be in his kingdom looking at Jesus on the cross but by faith way beyond it.  He asked Jesus to remember him on the other side of their joint, hideous death.  With nails in his hands Jesus pulls himself up and fought suffocation again for a precious breath to give him the answer.

Here we will see a fruit of the cross is how Christ is the door to enter to this mysterious kingdom in heaven.

THE SECONDWORD

“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Luke 23:43

Paradeisosis a lone word from Persian that is used in Greek and is where the text gets Paradise.   It denotes a tranquil garden that functions as an uncorrupted ecosystem.  Christ sees repentance in that man and knows he is ready for heaven.  He sees this man not for his faults but his intrinsic self -worth as someone made in the image of God and responding to the call of holiness with faith.  Jesus affirms his dignity and an “integrity” beyond whatever truths we find in psychological theories. The tender mercies of God in Christ here is not an otherwise mean God having a nice moment.  This is the gospel in action.  Again we see it is the gospel ofthe cross onthe cross.

Since a Christian is part of the priesthood of all believers, we are called to not only forgive and point to God’s forgiveness for those who receive the gospel but to point to the ultimate end atones personal end.   In articulating this part of the gospel of holistic salvation we point to the eskaton. This is the end where all is reconciled to God the Father in Christ at the end of the age of all humanity as we know it.

To emphasize the meaning of the ultimate ends of time is vital in building the construct for the forgiveness of sins. Keeping the afterlife fresh as the prize makes the difference between a surviving vision and a thriving by grace spiritually.  How is one to have a full spiritual walk in Christ if we are not mindful of the destination to walk toward?  Jesus promises for those who die in his grace Paradise.  We can declare the gospel holistically as the complete union with Christ in this hope.

In the meantime, on earth, the body of Christ is to rightly discern the Lord’s body and proclaim his death until he comes again.  To walk in such grace in that ongoing integrity is to be full of grace, living it daily and together in conversion.  This blessing extends from Christ together in fellowship in his Church born on the cross. To walk in love that blesses with entrance to his kingdom is by being fused to that hope for an eternal reward.  That paradise is contexualized with familial language which we will see illustrated next beautifully when Christ introduces his mother to her new son and the son to his new mother.

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A Peace of Mind And Heart

Forgiveness

It is an easy thing to say that you like the people one deals with on a daily basis. And if one says that they are spiritual then they can even say that they think of their Higher Power highly.

But the real person is the sum of a lot more than the best thoughts and best actions.  To present those things when things are going well and our cracks are not exposed in the light of stress.  Such stress can be when we are wronged by someone.  We had expectations possibly to be treated with dignity and respect that were proven to high or maybe some other kind that was just as off.  Either way, the light of being a loving person toward both God and fellow human beings has to start in the heart.

I remember when I was a kid hearing the idea of what we would feel like if we had a TV screen on our heads wherever we went that showed everything bad we have done.  My friends and I groaned about how lame that would be.  Then the speaker cut deeper and asked how it would feel if that screen showed everything we seriously considered doing.  The groan was much deeper.

When confronted by reading the words below of Jesus, there is chance to renew an examination of our conscience about life not being fair and how to rise above “fair” and choose love.

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,  leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny (Matthew 5:21-26).

There is a famous saying from Father Michael Scanlon, “God opposes the proud [the Bible goes on to say ‘but embraces the humble’], especially when they are right.”  The point is that we get in turmoil over the temporary things when God is more invested into us walking in a higher way of thinking.  It is supposed to be about trusting Him to sort out the temporal things including how wrong the other person is.

To be angry with a person as an end in itself is not like righteous anger.  Jesus had righteous anger because it was clear by natural law and God’s divine law how they should live as teachers of the law and they were hypocrites instead.  Such righteous anger carried with it sincere grief over their sin and desire for their repentance to the their best selves per God’ creation.  Anger as an end in itself is only personal on what bad you ascribe to the person and not on their well being.   To rise above person anger and be open, if appropriate, to righteous anger involves a paradigm shift through prayer and meditation about how one has come to wrongful presuppositions about the life and dignity of their personhood and especially of their greatest enemy.

Saying they are a fool (raca means “empty head”) is denying that they are created in God’s image, whether man or woman, and ascribes a curse to them to not make better decisions.  After all, it takes a full head of the right things to make good decisions.  We must consider  how,   “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18:21).  What would our lives look like if we chose to bless?  The key verb is to choose and does not happen by accident.  In different verses int the Bible the call to bless your enemies is a commandment precisely because it is hard.  But what stops us?  We live in a blame culture driven by knowing how to curse people fluently and with a pseudo-intellectual labeling based on what society says are the groups people belong to.

           So when you are offering your gift at the altar…

The word “when” assumes for the one who hears that they make coming to the altar a regular thing for worship. But to be in a bad state of contention with someone else hindering access to God should not effect the reader of the New Testament, right?  After all, there is no longer an altar to deal with so if if someone else has a problem with you, you have a personal relationship with your Higher Power and can comfort yourself in being a spiritual person with that logic.

Before you have your sigh of relieve, keep in mind that this was not the impression of the early church fathers about the importance of being pure in your daily living before you can commune properly with God.

“On the Lord’s own day, assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks; but first confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure.  However, no one quarreling with his brother may join your meetings until they are reconciled; your sacrifice must not be defiled.  For here we have the saying of the Lord: ‘In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice; for I am a mighty King, says the Lord; and my name spreads terror among the nations [cf. Mal 1:11]”.   

AD 70 The Didache.  

So before we congratulate ourselves highly, let’s ask ourselves how much of peace and love is in our lives.  And before those of us who pride ourselves for choosing the “Christian team” sit back in our Lazy Boy and procrastinate reconciliation with those we are in strife with, keep in mind that strife is an enemy of the cross of Christ.  On the other hand forgiveness and reconciliation is central to connecting to the Higher Power and everyone else.  What is stopping us?