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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Give Peace A Pass

Be Bold Challenge With Lion Face

The use of the colors black and white are often used in hard conversation about what the moral or true point is or is not.  In better days in humanity there is some semblance of seeking after the highest good and using “black and white” as a measure. But with enough variables in life the next step in conversation may be that not all is black and white (absolute) but some things are grey and there may be a need to find a meeting point.  This compromise between two points that are in conflict is presented as “the truth” though birthed out of a socially based dynamic.

While doing this, progressively cheaper compromises can be attained and the overrated peace by compromise becomes the norm until peace from compromise presented as truth fails to stand.  But why stop there?  In fact, there can be a codified standard from ruling authorities in politics and culture that will go with the path of least resistance unto the spirit of the age and impose a soft tyranny of moral relativism so hard questions about timeless truths that supersede today’s trend are not asked.  It is especially the moral demands of Christianity that are always under attack by someone in power standing as the intellectual or other kind of elite.  “We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires” (Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Vatican Conclave, 2005).

In the last legal procedure for Jesus before being crucified, authority looks down on Jesus with the State’s upper hand and implies that nothing is absolutely truth or good.  Pilate is continuing both his cynicism against absolute truth and an argument for Rome’s authority as an end in itself to be recognized.

 The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God. Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, ‘Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’  From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.’ When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha (John 19:1-13).

We have a law– – Besides seeing this as how the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New, one can take a step back in how the human condition works and the message: humanity likes norms.  This tyranny could be described as the majority.  Pilate has majority power in the sense that he belongs to the Roman Empire, but he knows here he is not in his element.  His temptation is to fit in no matter what because his job is to keep the peace first and justice second.

But in a strict manner of speaking, Christ shows us that much of what we value as conventional peace is overrated.  Thus it is no coincidence that the etymology of justice runs hand in hand with righteousness throughout the Bible and often comes before peace. Jesus calls Christians to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first (Matthew 6:33) and Jesus says he came not with peace but a sword.  Division is supposed to happen at times when the gospel is properly presented.  Thus, the greater the conflict between the kingdoms of light and darkness the greater the contrast in mindsets.

Where are you from?– – Pilate knows the answer since he tried to pawn him off to Herod.  But this speaks to the striving of those who are in opposition to the cross of Christ to pigeonhole Christians into conventional categories such as class, race, gender and other things.  The silence of Jesus can serve to remind us of the gospel being for all people in the Church made up of all people. Christians of today should likewise not take the bait to exalt our fleshly labels above our identity in Christ.

Do you not know that I have power….? – – – The world may mix in seduction and fear.  It can imply how reasonable it can be if we compromise.  And again we see that the world in its materialistic approach sees itself as the rightful arbiter of what should happen.  They do not see beyond whatever philosophy of the day. Jesus now elects to speak after his seemingly intangible silence.

You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above- – – It cannot be overemphasized that Jesus is the Word become flesh (John 1:14), but Christians should proclaim what we pray in the “Our Father who is in heaven”. We can pray, teach, live and proclaim the gospel in the sense of an activated faith by grace that God the Father directs towards redemption and his redemptive atonement in Christ.

The Ultimate Un-Selfie

UnselfieIn having an argument on religion one of the themes against it is what the marks of the culture is to measure new persons or entities against its beliefs.  Their norms and pressures to keep the status quo could be like a noise that is deafening. Such supposed wisdom of the present age can pressure, categorize and assign the role for everyone in their jurisdiction.

Whenever Jesus is correctly presented, he is someone that transcends all ages and trends. For the Christian who chooses to engage the culture in humility one could also seem strange by being tied to the wisdom of the ages rather than the wisdom of this age.  Yet Christ showed in the last day of his standard, earthly life how to love in vulnerability.

Jesus, responding in divine wisdom, and those who share him, are to think and act with reason that persuades yet is open to testing.  In my training to become a counselor I was exposed to different theories for therapy or studies on what is “evidence-based practice”.  The theory that was taken seriously for examination first needed to be seen as “falsifiable”.  In laymen terms it was “up for someone to kick the tires” in a tangible way.  On the day of the cross, Jesus was more than kicked.

For this, we point to the resurrection. When Jesus said, “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” and Apostle John wrote, “he was referring to his body” this was yet to be proven but the gauntlet was thrown down.  Jesus spoke on how he would prove himself.

The cynics have gone after the resurrection to prove Christianity false.  Believers stand on the resurrection by faith because the cross of Christ was already more than just a Roman execution but a sacrifice of love.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ (John 19:1-5).

And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head– – It was in the means of his torture and presentation with a crown of thorns and a purple robe on the skin of his back that was slashed to ribbons by whips embedded with steel and rock that the paradox of being king and lamb ironically co-exists to prove this point.   A Christian believer could see the irony of this crown in how he is King of Kings.  But there is a role of God’s calling that is falsifiable.  The mockery of Christianity or even the existence of God himself is that true validity is reinforced in demonstrable strength.  With that rubric, the vulnerability of Jesus itself is assumed to be an automatic disqualifying trait.

Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him- – This was really to show his swollen face. The flogging, beating, crown of thorns and purple robe were ways for Pilate to humiliate Jesus and show him to be not taken seriously and too pitiful to crucifiy.  As an outsider to the significance of Jesus’ claims, Pilate did not understand the vitriol against Jesus speaking to a kingdom of love that was above Rome and the Temple.  Pilate thought wrong that Jesus and his kingdom could and would be dismissed as nothing.

Here is the man!– – While his soldiers mocked him as king, Pilate belittles Jesus for dramatic effect that he is just a man due to his appearance, we point to Jesus as crucified.  It is partly due to that contrast that so much art has gone into this presentation in the Latin term (Eche hommo).  So far, we are seeing vitriol from the elite know-it alls, indifference to those who are detached. But in sharing the gospel it is important Christians point in a different way in that Christ showed us in the cross what it means to be human fusing the definition in divine love.  We can simultaneously point to Jesus as low in the cross but high in his divinity. We can adopt the language of John the Baptist who said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).  This was developed in language later by Paul who said, “We preach Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23) which to this day is the surrender of Christ we should point to unashamed.

Billy Graham advised his grandson that in his ministry he is to take the shortest route in his sermon possible to the cross.  As so should we as an insurance adjustor, a parent of young children or anyone else who is a Christian living in temporary exile on earth. In the cross there is our tangible, redeeming love.  In the resurrection there is truth. Thus we are not powerless if we join Christ in the role of persecution.  We are greatly empowered in that we stand even more by his grace since it is in the grace of the cross we find our own primary testimony.

worldview eyeball

There can be a tendency to minimize faith to only being part of a faction, social era with subjective truth or both.  For the Christian to represent Christ first and foremost the temptation can be there to weaponize a favorite political or social niche in Christian veneer but really as an imposing force.  There has been departures from the message Christ intended to even be the faction and winning in the wrong way and for a campaign mixed with earthly things.

In the example of Christ we see such attempts to name him as part of a faction. The attempts were ineffective and he spoke and lived above the fray. He redirected the focus to where he came from as we see below. 

Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.” Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” (John 18:33-38). 

Are you the King of the Jews?– – – Pilate was trying to sort out the confusion and come to a decision.  Labeling the person in front of you is like water taking the path of least resistance; unless that person indeed resists. 

Do you say this of your own accord….?– – – To counter dysfunctional assumptions someone has of Jesus or any holy thing closely associated with him it is good to deflect for a moment by challenging the challenger.  Such a move can unveil how much they have perceived of holy things from real discernment and how much is what is only from a socially built construct. This is coming back to “What makes you say that?”

My kingship is not of this world– – – This makes so much sense when one considers the Lord’s Prayer where it says, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. 

if my kingship were of this world my servants would fight,- – – If he were president, he would have a Secret Service.  Death would be something to be avoided.  But Jesus redeems humanity by redeeming what it means to be human by demonstrating divine love.  As Fr. John Behr states, Jesus shows a divinized humanity in freedom and self-sacrifice through the cross (PJK 2018 konverents DAY4 Isa John Behr JOHANNESE EVANGEELIUM- – – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEXq0ioPnpw). 

For this I was born……to bear witness to the truth– – Pilate was not familiar with the scriptures so he would not appreciate the power in this phrase.  When weighed against his other comments within the last 12 hours, Jesus a person of the Trinity that took on humanity so humans could partake of his divine nature.  When he refers to the “truth” it is of the objective kind that does not move.  God of the Judeo-Christian tradition has no beginning and no end with the nature of God as truth being self-sustaining. 

What is truth?– – – Pilate does not wait for the answer because he is content with subjective truth of the circumstances.   Often when someone rejects the gospel it might be from the philosophy like circumstantial ethics. This is a common root where someone looks in the face in such things like the presentation of the gospel and says, “no”.  But Christians who walk in his grace say “yes” and keep saying it.  And the Christian is sustained in this truth to the extent that they see Jesus as Truth in the flesh with a life infused in grace.  “The Law was given through Moses and the prophets, grace and truth were realized in Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). 

He is the truth that sets us free.  Stand in Christ-centered truth and Pilate can just be Pilate. 

Shedding Light On The Subject

Light In A Maze

“Ignorance is bliss” so the saying goes.  People love to say that not knowing those things that bring a dark view of life are not worth knowing.  But knowledge needed for a painful but needed change can be good from a more objective point of view.  In the human experience one can look back to painful change that came from knowledge that we are appreciative of.  The ignorance comes for often better change but by choice.  The dominant culture we live in allows for change with knowledge but with a caveat that “that’s good if it works for you…but don’t force your views on me” or something like that. 

But religion comes in as a contrast in the post-modern thought but it really should not.  The “lig” part of religion has an etymology that speaks of connecting like where ligaments comes from.  Religion is a matter of reconnecting for those that think beyond the materialistic point of view even if but for a moment. 

Christianity has a message for reconnecting with what matters that is objective and above the natural limits of meaning but in different forms of default delivery.  Much has been said about the improvised means of delivering the message of Christianity that has been violence or anecdotes of conversion.  The kernel of meaning on those two basic means of delivering the Christianity are still worth discovering.  From the Christian point of view, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). 

So the first means of the delivery could be considered black coffee in a microwave.  Paul, who had his sudden conversion being blinded by Jesus says later as an apostle that the time for “bliss” is over. 

 God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world with justice’ through a man he has appointed, and he has provided confirmation for all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). 

So should we assume that is all that Christianity is?  I would say there is a declaration that we are accountable to the natural law for morals that are revealed with logic that anyone can adapt.  That is why there are very moral atheists and agnostics out there. But we will be judged.  Even though I am a counselor, I believe in guilt trips to a point if they are self-imposed.  Those moments are our spiritual pain crying out to do better.  To think better.  They are a shadow of things to come where we stand before Deity and are judged.  If one is ignorant, that is once thing, but the other?

But there is another means that all mankind can consider and that is in the full, multi-layered presentation of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the kingdom he founded.  Make no mistake, Paul said the abrupt statement above in the midst of a nuanced discussion where he borrowed from points of light from Plato and pagan deity script to illustrate the truth he presents in Jesus.  But without a printing press, without the gospels having been even written, that was what his audience could get.  Centuries later, we have in Christianity a well developed thought for “Man’s Search For Meaning” that Viktor Frankl approached as well as he did.  It is the message of Jesus that can also be legitimately be expressed as a kingdom based message of a battle won on a cross that is encountered and organically appropriated with initial and ongoing conversion.   

But from what starting point could the most erstwhile seeker begin?  Much of what I write is from the Gospel of John.  He begins with this proposition to the world to believe in Jesus from outside of conventional time and space. What is greatly addressed is a message of connection and it is divine.    

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-5).  

We know from the first epistle of John that God is love.  One could say then that what was happening was a love exchange that was mysterious, perpetual and reciprocal. 

without him nothing came to be— The word for word is Logos in Greek.  “Ancient Greek philosophers associated the Word with the order and design of the universe or the intelligible expression of the mind of God as he sustains and governs it” (Ignatius Study Bible).  The Word is in transition in relationship to the world as the gospel unfolds in that.  The ISB goes on to states that “this eternal Word, once a mediator of creation, has now become a mediator of salvation through his incarnation”. 

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.  Of all things visible and invisible.  I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ…. Born of the Father before all ages.  God from God.  Light from Light.  True God and true man.  Begotten not made.  Consubstantial with the Father (Council of Nicea, 325).   

What came to be through him was life—  Already we are seeing in the text an inference of the love between the Father and the Son to have an overflow.  If it was only to Jesus, then it ends with Jesus.  But since we know that the Holy Spirit is a person with relation to the Father and the Son then we can surmise that this life comes from God the Father in his initiative and goes through Jesus to mankind. 

and this life was the light of the human race- – We as humanity are initiated with the overwhelming, holy love of God that is tamable like a wild firehose.  But it is filtered through the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus and his Church preach. 

the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it- – As Jesus walked on earth and taught in parable he was setting up his followers to spread the message in words and action.  Jesus said that he was the light of the world but said to his Church too that,  “you are the light of the world”.  It is another case of Jesus being the Lord and transcending realities of our lives and pushing out darkness.   

this life was the light of the human race- – John speaks here to where Jesus of mystery steps into history.   Jesus expresses his light through the Church in a way that engages humanity in all of it understanding by whatever foundation of truth is in the pocket of civilization. 

and the darkness has not overcome it- – That is quite a declarative statement.  There is a stain of sin over individuals and communities out there.  But light keeps finding a way to shine through or around those things of substance that resist and cast a shadow.  Shadow is all solid obstacles to the kingdom can do.  Truth is going to still be evident.  And it is described in the narrative of Christian history and doctrine in the person of Jesus Christ. 

Again, it should be understood that for some individuals it may seem that the darkness is overcoming in present observations one can see in  a case by case basis.  One case of someone that was spiritually blind was Saul of Tarsus.  He was a persecutor of Christians, had a life changing encounter with Jesus and converted to become Paul the apostle.  He spoke from his experience on light and darkness.

And even though our gospel is veiled, it is veiled for those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that they may not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

We are not all connected.  But we can be! What is our choice?