Nothing of Importance Happened Today

Walking on a roadA day in our lives that we say that nothing happened is really a matter of perspective.  “Nothing of importance happened today” was written in the journal of King George III on July 4th, 1776.   Any American reader of that quote would say that this was the day America declared its independence from England and that king was missing a vital perspective.

Every big enterprise will be built on dramatic event days but also those days when they were just on the way. So too did the new disciples of Jesus that first week that he stopped being an plain carpenter.  Walking with him on the road to a wedding, there were various thoughts they must have had from their respective experiences.  One can imagine what they thought their first encounters with Jesus might mean.

Day One some were prepared by the prophetic for the Lamb—prophetic in the sense of a sampler of the fulness to truth to come.  It is a preparation for truth and putting down the sins that would blind our eyes. On that day it was also pointed out that precious paradigms and even personal places of power were about to be shifted.  Some heard this and stayed for more.

Day Two some saw Jesus “fulfill all righteousness” as they “Beheld the Lamb” being baptized- – Sacramental experience of Jesus by Jesus.  God works to show us his ways through the material.  It is to be heavenly minded while in the context of the earthly goods.

Day Three- – Some saw Jesus as someone to dwell with and therefore fellowshipped with the Lamb- Holy Friendship. One only knows more if they come and see.

Day Four- Some saw Jesus as one who calls one to a personal mission of service to Jesus and his kingdom.- Ongoing obedience.

Day Five- Jesus invited the openness of hard inquiry  or to examine the Lamb- – Contemplation.  Ongoing engagement of reason is not an enemy of faith.  “The Truth, which is Christ, imposes itself as an all-embracing authority which holds out to theology and philosophy alike the prospect of support, stimulation and increase (Fides Et Ratio, para.92).

Day 6-  One may be quick to look at these ways to experience Christ as their favorite or objectively the best.  I would suggest that the initial and ongoing follower of Jesus Christ needs them all; all of the above are treasured in the heart and are part of something akin to a flashpoint of conversion.

Day 7-   The conversion of the heart.  One now believes in Jesus with willingness to obey.  You are a friend of Jesus and a witness of the wedding that is far above the one that is studies in the verses below.

What we can deduce this day is that the followers of Jesus were on the road to a wedding.  Taking a step back in a read of the whole Bible, so are all who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ.  We are all on the road to a wedding, at the wedding below or some of both.  In fact, at the end of time, the reality in fulness is in the wedding supper of the Lamb “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7).

In the meantime, not all of the disciples going with Jesus have the same experiences.  Peter joined on day four for example.  A question could be asked on which of those experiences can prepare his disciples the best for the first miracle of the ministry.  I propose that it is  a matter of time that they learned all of these approaches are valid. They are all crucial before either an individual or group faith can have a fulness of response to Jesus.  And at least some have to be developed to approach Jesus with the fulness of “prayer and petition” (Philippians 4:6) so that the consciousness of the person and nature of Jesus is rightly formed.

On the way to any upcoming consolation of the Lord, the embracing of the meaning of such an encounter with Jesus is indeed of great importance.  There would be one person in this upcoming wedding that is undergirded by the characteristics outlined above.  But this person would not be a fisherman or a scholar or hermit.  Instead there is an example for us by a lovely middle aged woman, likely a carpenter’s widow, from Nazareth. And her formation was a process.

The Day 1 of Mary- – Her fiat (Luke 1:46-55), like what John the Baptist spoke of, included how God was going to bring in a new paradigm that would bring the lowly up and bring the self-exalted low.

The Day 2 of Mary- – Mary and Joseph honored the Lord in how the child who opened her womb was born.  Thus there was a sacrifice of turtledoves which like the baptism of Jesus was a means to “fulfill all righteousness” in the sense of connecting to the covenantal nature of God’s favor as revealed up to that time(Luke 1:22-24).  But yet we know that the grace of God was at work before that or any other works on Mary because grace is in God’s initiative and that action was reflected in Mary’s first encounter with the kingdom of heaven when approached by Gabriel the archangel.  He said “Hail, Full of Grace” (Luke 1:28). This is best translated as a royal greeting with “hail” and that she had been perfected in a past action up to that point by grace.

The Day 3 of Mary- – She dwelled with Jesus.  But Jesus first dwelled in her.  Christianity is not meant to be based on externals first with a subsequent external motivation.  God is indwelling when we give permission.

The Day 4 of Mary- – “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).  A mission was given to her and she said yes.  That was the power in her life and everything else followed from that.  Saying yes for the mission was a cooperation with the Holy Spirit in which Christ is formed in her.  That is how the person of Jesus was expressed in Mary and in principle for us.

The Day 5 of Mary- – She loved God with her mind and engaged that way in asking how she could get pregnant when “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man(Luke 1:34)?”  One teaching is that she was determined to not know a man because of a perpetual consecration of virginity.  But her engagement of reason was still informed by faith as she “pondered [contemplated] these things in her heart”. (Luke 2:19,51). Her use of critical thinking and humility are good for an example of fully integrated faith and reason.

Jesus and his disciples are on their way to a wedding in Cana.  They were about to see the first miracle of Jesus through the intercession and collaboration of the disciple with the most extravagant love for him who was also his mother with 30 years of a relationship with him.  Every day that we are open to such principles in relationship to Jesus Christ is is a day we can say something “of importance happened today”.  You never know what may happen next. But you will know that Jesus is king.

Guadalupe

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The Narrow Gate And Finding Life

narrowgate

My terms versus other’s terms.  Interesting contest and at a primal level I am drawn to root for the former and not the latter in my relationship with anyone or anything in my point of contact. Being a tourist can be a good case in point.

For the first time in almost thirty years I went to Disneyland this year and was struck by the gate I had to go through.  They searched my bags to make sure I brought no outside food so I could be a consumer of their products on their terms.  They also had to have an eye on weapons so I could not be a danger.  Part of the price of admission with some of it being because of 19 men on planes one Tuesday morning in America.

But what about the vendors?  They would not have to go through that checkpoint.  They could go through a vendor gate and not be under the same standard because they would be going in as an equal to a great extent.  Their gate would be wide and works as a metaphor for the relationship being more open.

As Jesus drew closer to closing the famous Sermon on The Mount, He addresses this in part on how the hearer sees themselves before God but also in respect to how one sees themselves in the spiritual environment that Jesus declaring: the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few (Matthew 7:13-14).

This isn’t Disneyland.  It’s more expensive.  For a small family you could be looking in the thousands of dollars.  To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be formed away from a selfish agenda and the following citations will illustrate that point.

From the Ignatius Study Bible we see the gate explained as, “…smaller gates permitted only pedestrian traffic [as opposed to “caravans of people and animals]” (Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch).  Ignatius goes on to note that “The Jerusalem Temple had a series of gates that prohibited entry for the unqualified;only a privileged few had close access to God”.

So the themes in the background is that for a narrow gate coming into a fortified city one needs to be a pedestrian who is not an equal vendor to it and baggage would need to be left behind.  From the temple one is is not encumbered and is elite after going through many steps.

the road broad that leads to destruction—- This is important because if one tries to be an equal with God things do not turn out so well.  Insisting that our baggage of what is contraband should follow a life of holiness is presumptuous and wrong.  Typical things that qualify would be anything that opposes God’s ways.  If one wants a hint I suggest looking at my prior blogs through this series of Sermon On The Mount or just reading the verses and prayerfully considering what they say.

How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.—- At this risk of over-repeating myself, “When is a train most free?  On it’s tracks”.  This is to say that we are made for  structure and to deny that structure is like tipping a train on its side and calling it “free”.  They way to life is very structured and very personal.  Society would be well informed to consider this when hearing, “I am spiritual but not religious”.  This could be translated from BS-ese to “I like fiery judgment with ketchup on top!”

And those who find it are few— Jesus is not being a downer.  Yes it is rare for someone, of their own initiative, to seek out the message of Jesus in some way.  But it does not end there.

Saul of Tarsus does not seek out Jesus but Jesus finds him, blinds him and calls him to be in the same side that he persecuted.  Life of the true kind in God finds us.  God expressed in Jesus of Nazareth indeed is the definition of life.

But if one is partly to very informed of what it is to follow Jesus then who finds who?  It does not have to be one or the other with everybody.  The encounter with life can be you on the path or Jesus reaching to you in varying proportions.  In that sense there is a beauty in the mystery of the gospel being applied to ones life.  What is not a mystery in this passage is that to follow Jesus is about surrender in place of a meeting of equals.

What is stopping us? Pet ideologies?  Rejection from loved ones?  General pride?  It is not worth it.  Following Jesus can cost us everything but it is worth the price.

Salt On A Wounded World

Salt

Immortality is a cool concept.  The idea of not seeing the decay of muscle and skin has its appeal because to stay in ones prime is the ideal.  To be immortal is to cheat death and mediocrity.  To do such a thing would take something that is not of this world into the equation of this world.

When Jesus was speaking to his disciples, those who were daring enough to go from inquiry to commitment, the message to them included that which is otherworldly to so impact then that they would allow the supernatural to change them to the core.

But if a disciple of the never changing Jesus is marked with the stuff of heaven in meaning and day to day values, how is life in a world that is broken in self-interest and fear to interact with consistent followers of Jesus that are called to selflessness and love?  And vice-versa?

Jesus laid down the gauntlet again with this issue here:

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

The first understanding to get from this verse is in reminding ourselves that not just anybody can be salt of the earth.  It has to be someone that has had a conversion experience, has heard the words of eternal life and is committed to those words being fleshed out where the rubber hits the road.

The second understanding is that those who calls themselves disciples of Jesus will be assessed by the world. Are the a functional group or is this a functional individual?  In my work as a social worker I assess people and family units by how harmonious they are with their values and the needs of daily living.  In a sense, those who do not call themselves Christians can be our valued critics in their inquiry and their challenges: do you walk the talk of living the Christian life?  Martin Luther King talked about a better day where one “is not judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.”  The point is that we will all be judged by our fellow man.

At this point I need to point out that being salt of the earth does not rest primarily on being assessed by the world but on God and Christians should not be confused on this.  The agenda of God includes His Church being right when the world is wrong not just right where it is right.  Salt can be healing, salt can burn where the flesh is sensitive and salt can be both.  So too is the Body of Christ intrinsically in its calling. So when I hear about the intention to be “culturally relevant”, I get nervous because if it is not a noble pursuit like avoiding ethnocentric thinking (e.g. God is a White Republican), then it turns into going along with situational ethics and “the tyranny of moral relativism” (Joesph Ratzinger).  When people who call themselves Christians go with The Church of Oprah or the latest emotional blackmail tactic of Glee, they get the applause of the world but the groan of the martyrs that paid the price of staying true to God.

If it is any comfort to those who have bowed their knee to the Gospel of Oprah, to be holy will still gain you respect.  You could be a martyr, but even those who would kill you will respect you.  Case in point is John the Baptist.  He was put in prison by Herod because he said that it was unlawful to have his brother’s wife.  Yet the scriptures say that he loved to hear him preach between arresting him and having him executed.  Such a bad scenario is not the worst that could have happened to him.  The worst that could have happened would be, “Hey Herod.  I was so insensitive to your alternative means of courtship of marriage.  Who am I to argue with the ways of the human heart? As long as you love each other.”

“Thanks for getting with the times, Jonny! Come on everybody! Give him some applause and send him on his way.”  And under such an addiction of flattery he lives a comfy life as can we and be trampled under the seductive feet of worldly praise.  As we all have where we have lost our way. But where the individual disciple of Jesus loses their way, what are the characteristics of being back in the trademark of being spiritually relevant first?

I remember a great photo of a lighthouse in my in-laws place.  It is a modest sized lighthouse on a small rock with waves towering onto it but not going anywhere that day or any other day.  Such is the Church that was founded 2,000 years ago.  “ if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

Make no mistake.  When one is passive with the flow of a morally relative culture you just drift into a different church.  It is just a church consecrated to the fundamental purpose of the self being God which is inherently going to be a shaking into destruction.

Also be sure that in a refining process for the people walking with Christ there will also be a shaking.  In fact, it will on them first.  Simon Peter wrote in his first papal encyclical “judgment begins with the house of God”.  The meaning of this is that when Christians engage with the world it is to be in humility and not “holier than thou” but holy by Him.

If we are grounded like this then we maintain, or through repentance, regain this “saltiness”.  We will not be dismissed as irrelevant and if we are stomped on it will be because we are linked with the calling of the “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church” (Nicean Creed 325).  Can you stay “salty”?  Do you want to? If not, are you really gaining what matters?  The gift of free will is to all of us.  I am making my choice to be a yes and hopefully be a vessel for healing and saving.

AFTERNOTE—For the reader that does not find themselves in communion with Rome, I want to make sure you are edified too.  Anyone who has had a conversion experience with Jesus is touched by the message of God’s saving love for the whole whole world and not isolated to one race or ethnicity.  Catholicity is at one level taking the whole gospel to the whole world.