O Sweet Rejection

REJECTION

In an agency or company that is large enough, it is common to have a public affairs director.  Even more precise on messaging might be a campaign manager who pays attention to polls and focus groups.  With the right info the advisor tells the boss how to word the message, stay on message and preserve the message with the solid votes. 

One leader that stands out in casting aside such conventions was Jesus of Nazareth.  Early in his ministry he goes to Nazareth and shares a message of the kingdom of God coming with holistic application to the individual and massive effects of the cycles of life as Jews of that time would know it.  He struck a nerve that could lend to popularity, then ride a wave of popularity and make Nazareth great again (I wonder where I got that line).  But Jesus shows us below that he does not work that way.  He does not favor one side over another and does not want to build a kingdom full of entitlement.  It will be of love.  Going forward 2,000 years the intention of Jesus for the sharing of his message is to be about love, articulated in love and for a humanity that was created in love.    

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?” 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 4:21-30). 

and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him- – In a plain reading of this, they are looking at Jesus who just zigged where they were expecting him to zag.  To read this in light of the development of Christianity one can see that the Christian gospel properly expressed will get undivided attention of the world (e.g. a few times in Acts the Apostle Paul was likewise met with silence). 

Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing– -What may be implied here, especially with those that negatively react, is that accepting and living with this truth is accessible and expected that day and it is a matter of salvation.  Ignorance is bliss but knowledge has consequences to act.  Moses spoke of this as a foundational truth saying “No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it “(Deuteronomy 30:14).  Here is an inconvenient truth that does not win popularity contests and a campaign management mentality would roll eyes at.

Isn’t this the son of Joseph?- – Whether it is Jesus or anyone who proclaims him, we can look very normal with two eyes, two ears etc.  The flesh naturally should be seen but not regarded in the sense of being an amplified criteria on the whole person even in some ways their biography.  Paul addressed this saying, “from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer” (2 Corinthians 5:16).

Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum- – A classic issue through history is to put Jesus and his Church under the judgement of experience and even good ones.  Jesus was a miracle worker but he was not a performer. Jesus was and is Lord and Teacher and not called to move with the whims of the world.

there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah……but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon- – The Church in expressing through all of the word of God to move the world and not be moved by it.  And so Jesus with a gospel of inclusion for all stood strong and still does. 

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.– – Translation:”When people in their comfort zone heard…”  Jesus had a message of love for the world but it was also implied how faith and obedience must be present for the fulfillment to happen. They were not entitled to a pass on that. Jesus was calling them out of a favor of God for a few and into the favor of God to the whole.  This was addressed much in the early Church with kata holos to describe the Church of Jesus’ founding.   

drove him out of the town- – In hindsight through Christian history, a fully informed acceptance is possible but so is rejection.  Many times through the gospel he tells his followers that rejection and even martyrdom could happen since the same parts of the world that hated Jesus would hate his Church too. 

But he passed through the midst of them and went away– – Jesus came and left with authority still intact that day.  Where hate and man-made agendas may oppose Jesus and his Church, there is always going to be an ongoing life that carries the deposit of faith. 

An example is how Apostle John had those who were in turn discipled by him and vested with authority to carry on the gospel of the kingdom in the fullness of truth.  Thus in in 107 AD Ignatius of Antioch wrote- –

See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic [kata holos] Church. —Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Ch 8

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Be The Change You Want To See

A New Agenda

There is a saying attributed to Mahatma Ghandi who was known as a catalyst for social change.  It was “Be the change you want to see in the world”.  It is a powerful saying that stirs the heart to not pass the buck for living out the virtue of justice.  It is tempting to look for narrow solutions through maybe only one system.  As I write this, the world is looking for answers after a tragedy and wondering where the change is going to happen.

For someone that has a well informed conversion as a Christian, they are called to be a catalyst of change for all of the worlds systems.  This happens one person at a time who hears who Jesus is and accepts the love and care offered in the gospel and the community of Christ on earth.  In my church the deacon often says at the end of mass to “go out and proclaim the gospel with your life” so it is also not to be narrowed down to just more words.  The world is full of words.

Below we see Jesus weeks or months after he has modeled a secure and holy personhood in rejecting evil of Satan in the desert and presenting himself in simplicity to those who knew him all his life.  In the message of the kingdom of God, those who receive him better echo him.  Conversion stories have continued for 2,000 years with imperfect people, touched by grace, live Christian life out imperfectly but often honestly. The application for those people who live out what it is like to be on the receiving end of the works of Jesus and his Church are shown below.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read,  and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (4:14-19).

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit– –   To proclaim the gospel with your life is most typically supposed to be where you already have relationships at least in part.  Christians are to be a light to the world and it must include being faithful to that call in the daily grind before hoping for exotic opportunities.  The difference is that, in Christ, we are to do this with the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit gives the ability, the dyname– (Greek word for power) that goes outward equally life dynamite.

as was his custom. He stood up to read– – The flow of this in the Greek implies something different than the translators intent and instead points to Jesus serving regularly as a reader.  To be a reader was a service to the word of God and to the people.  The application to the believer is that to proclaim the gospel with the right temperament one must be a servant first to those you share Jesus with.  Jesus had credentials in his home town as a person of service.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me- – In a simple way one could interpret this as a point of mission from the passage in the Old Testament that Jesus is quoting from.  But in context of what had been happening in Jesus life it is important to go back to the baptism under John.   The words of God the Father was that Jesus was his beloved son in whom he is well pleased and the Holy Spirit had come upon him as a dove.  Jesus said on the night of the Last Supper that the Holy Spirit would teach us and remind us of what he had said (John 16:24). In short, Jesus introduces himself in the communion of love and any Christian is meant to walk that life of love under the power of the Holy Spirit who gives that spiritual breath of life in true sonship.

he has anointed me– – That sonship is then expressed with an instilled authority from above.  Jesus gave authority to the Church to make disciples of all nations and tying baptism to that process.  Christ means anointed one and Christians belong to him.

The Holy Spirit “anoints” the baptized, sealing each with an indelible character (cf. 2 Cor 1:21-22), and constituting each as a spiritual temple, that is, He fills this temple with the holy presence of God as a result of each person’s being united and likened to Jesus Christ (Christifideles Laici, 13).

proclaim good news to the poor– – The gospel of the poor is no limited to material gain, changing a political trend and persuading on moral fine points.  Those parts can be addressed as some of the secondary provisions but the ultimate provision is centered in heaven.  Jesus would later teach for prayer “Our Father, who is in heaven…give us this day our daily bread”.  Jesus himself is our provision.  He said a year before the Cross “ I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51).

to proclaim freedom for the prisoners- – – Prisoners are under judgment and chained up that way.  When they are free the sentence is lifted.  “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  As I often tell my clients as a counselor, shame is like going into “spiritual shock” that makes one ask “What’s the point for making a change?”.

recovery of sight for the blind- – A servant of the gospel may have to be confrontative at times. Jesus said in reference to the Pharisees ,“For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind” (John 9:39). He shows up in the right sharing of the gospel on a wisdom that is beyond common assumptions of knowing it all.  The conventions of knowing what matters was going to be rearranged dramatically.  “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

to set the oppressed free– – – This could be interpreted as a concentrated experience for someone of the effects of the fall of Adam and Eve through further attacks from evil in the work of the devil.  It is where we can understand the Lord’s Prayer line “deliver us from evil”.  This evil takes us from hope if we do not have the gospel.

“Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her? (Luke 13:16)”

Luke also writes about this oppression being broken by Jesus but it is important to note the emphasis that his continual communion, or common union, with heaven was active. So should ours be.

“how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him” (Acts 10:38).

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor- – This speaks to the coming of Jesus hitting a great reset button.  There was in the Jewish understanding a reset year every half century where slaves who were set fee, debts forgiven and other measures to refresh.  The good news of the gospel is life changing and the favor of God would be expressed in fulness of this in three years on a Friday afternoon and early in the morning 3 days later.

For what I {Paul} received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

and sat down– – Jesus in sitting down goes from a reader to one who teaches with authority.  In the coming days Jesus would sit down again and teach in a divine wisdom that did not accompany the world but would move it.  That teaching authority would extend through the Holy Spirit with faithful men with the laying on of hands (Hebrews 6:2) that would carry on the word of God from a chair that is divinely inspired.  Held in right order, the Bible would one day be infallibly defined and the gospel would go to all nations.

He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”– – – We can pray now for God’s kingdom to come to us and through us in power because The King has come.

But for many he was just the son of a carpenter.  “Surely prophets don’t grow up from little boys” (Keith Green).  Jesus came in history and mystery along with his majesty.  Grasping obedience to him, and for Christians to rightly articulate it, is a tension point not naturally easy to do as we will next see.

The Prayers With Meaning

heavenandearth

Having a spiritual identity as a group  based on good intentions will take them only so far.  So too those with good doctrine , a community feel and social norms that reinforce that identity.  All the more for a community to be Christian and be fully centered in relationship to Jesus that is vital.

That is the lesson of prayer for the Church in its early days and also for today as we see that, “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

What I have covered of the other three traits are not without importance individually but are unable to flourish if they are not guarded in prayer.  Prayer is the soil and climate by which apostolic teaching, community and ceremony in Christ flourishes.

But what kind of prayer is being discussed here?  What is important to notice is the implication from the Greek.  The point is that the word for “the” (τη  definite article – dative singular feminine) is there.  This makes it something that is experience as a definable communication with God and very purposeful.

We can be informed in the context of the very same verse in that the “breaking of the bread” is used.  We know from the revelation of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that their eyes were opened fully to who Jesus was in the breaking of the bread.  We also know from both Old Testament and rabbinical mishnas that sacrifices, including the grain one, prayers needed to be accompanied.  The theme for the grain offering was thanksgiving (todah).  When that was brought over to the Greek translation of the Old Testament the word was eucharisteo (from which was get the eucharist).

But it should be noted that the corporate prayer in those gatherings needed to be held in context of the delegated authority of the apostles.  It is implied by the next verse as well as many sources from the early church fathers that the prayers connecting the corporate people was through those with holy orders since they “Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (Acts 2:43).  It flows well that “the prayers” were prayed by the apostles.  In the next years this is passed on to the presbyters (prebuteroi) from which we get priests.

This continues a pattern that is in the Old Testament.  Several times someone who is King of Israel attempts to do what is liturgical in worship but God rebukes them and reaffirms the importance of the priesthood.

I can hear the words of the skeptic.  There would be questions like “But how could there be riles to prayer in what was the pure,pristine Christianity before the corruption of the Catholic Church?   And isn’t the Law done away with?

First, the prayers that go with the presentation of the eucharist are entirely Christocentric as described below.

In this Paschal and sacrificial prayer, everything is recapitulated in Christ: God and the world; the Word and the flesh; eternal life and time; the love that hands itself over and the sin that betrays it; the disciples present and those who will believe in him by their word; humiliation and glory. It is the prayer of unity (Catechism of the Catholic Church,paragraph 2748 1994).

This was a part of the apostles job description (and their successors) to “do this in memory of me”.  This was an instruction given only to the apostles and for those who would directly succeed their office.

One last point about the prayer environment that rounds out the Church that Jesus founded: these prayers in connection of the appearances for bread and wine transcend our physical reality on earth.  I learned this through two ways as a I journeyed from my thirty years as Protestant.  On a quiet afternoon in a small Spanish mass in Wickenburg, Arizona I had a distinct impression of the presence of angels.  When I received the Eucharist that day (I found out later I was not supposed to yet) there was a sense of heaven and earth meeting.  After finding out about how the mass is represented throughout the book of Revelation it only became crystal clear.

In conclusion, what I have come to understand that the four points of Acts 2:42 need two kinds of environments.  The environment of apostolic prayer and also delegated authority in proper succession: the Catholic Church.

Saturdays With Simon Peter–Speaking Grace

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One holy, apostolic and Catholic Church. 

That phrase is a mouthful.  Imagine being the screwed up guy commissioned to be the manager at its foundation (not the Head or King but a humble steward). 

 

That’s our guy Simon Peter.  He was a long-term work in progress by Jesus and did not stop being worked on and worked through after that.  And so are we. 

 

Before I get too deep, don’t worry, the apostolic is addressed already in chapter 1 of Acts. Peter had received a renewal of his commission by Jesus to be His guy in the foundation of His church in a face to face conversation in John 21.  It was important to Peter as a pope but also as a sinner who had plenty of grace for redemption.  Redemption from cowardice, pride and wrath. 

 

He knew he needed it.  Peter had been impulsive so many time in his Lord’s darkest hour he denied Him three times.  With such a knowing one morning at 9:00 am in the Feast of Trumpets in Jerusalem  such a blue-collar fisherman from a marginalized region of Palestine stood up and proclaimed the gospel.  Oh, and yeah he may have still been scared but he know he was not alone because he had received the Holy Spirit speaking tongues of men and angels beyond his Aramaic or Greek. 

 

The Church is Universal. 

 

Acts 2: 37 “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers,[i] what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

 

Peter knew that he himself was one of those “everyone’s” that could have a new lease on life.  The more he could keep some humility about the restoration in his life, the more he could feel like his own best customer.  In this case, the crowd was full of foreign Jews from many countries that were far off.  Many of them could not hold their own in Greek, let along Aramaic.  But Peter was open to the leading of the Holy Spirit to bring this message out beyond the comfort zone.  Little did he know that in ten years Jesus would step it up a notch to non-Jews. 

 

The Church is holy. The Church is one. 

 

Acts 2: 41 “So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.”

 

Peter leads them into a covenant that is superior than the first six of the Jewish covenant.  By being baptized, they are saved (1 Peter 3:21).  This holiness is a transcendent and practical experience of appropriating His grace through the extension of Jesus as Truth, Jesus in the Spirit, Jesus in the Eucharist and Jesus in corporate prayer.  It would take long than what is appropriate to explain, but these wonders and signs point to the greatest miracle in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus 53 days before. 

 

44 “All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds[j] to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home[k] and ate their food with glad and generous[l] hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

 

Peter and the other apostles had a lot to do for their remaining lives and some with shorter lives than others. Infused with the mission of unity, holiness, universality and a multi-generational context, they were in for keeps. 

 

AFTERWORD

A little Bible trivia.  Eucharist comes from the Greek, eucharistia, which means thanksgiving.  When they were breaking bread, it was the experience of partaking of the divine nature of Jesus.