Falling On The Sword

02-Simeon

I have often wondered where the thorns are for the roses in our lives.  For some who are looking for meaning there is an expectation that meaning and destiny needs to be forged into something that is only sweet and God forbid bittersweet.

 “The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce)[ so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:33-35).

Here is where the bittersweet comes in.  In what was written by Luke previously could be reduced to a nice Christian Hallmark card of a sweet old man who holds and blesses sweet baby Jesus who would grow up to be a sweet blessing for the world.  Do those perceptions still hold true? Yes but not by themselves.  The Good news has to have the hard news on its coattails.

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him— It is an important starting point in being a disciples of Jesus, which is what Joseph and Mary would amount to, in being amazed.  I am not talking about goosebumps.  They come and go in if we rely on those for our turning points in the Divine we will be putting God into a performance position.  God is not our clown but where his thinking is above our thinking it will inherently blow our minds.

and Simeon blessed them—-  If there could be any last anesthetic for the hard news of being a disciple of Jesus it is that God intends to bless you.  He wants to bless the world and will preface words and deeds with that bias.

Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel—- This is notable when we consider that Simeon has now directed his comments to only Mary the mother who would likely be the only one of those two when Jesus would come into his ministry.  Mary is a humble young woman in a backwater town but of great significance as we have seen in the eyes of God.  Being full of grace as we can see in the original Greek as a past and completing act she stands as an icon of God flipping over the paradigms that the carnal mind would be predisposed to.

and to be a sign that will be contradicted—  Jesus would be intertwined with the message of the cross.

but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).

It is fitting that Mary get this message.  She had been told “The Lord is with you” and Blessed are you among women” which historically were military conquest phrases.  Through Jesus who she had born the universal message of the Cross through the Church would rock the world.

and you yourself a sword will pierce—- But first Jesus and the cross would rock her world.  For some who have seen the Passion of the Christ they come away that it could also be of Mary’s passion in seeing her son die on the cross.  Her hope was in God but her heart was broken that her son would suffer.  But for the good of the world would she still cooperate with that?  In a way she did later when she brokered the logistics for Jesus to start his ministry in changing water to wine.

so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed— This is important because Jesus in the gospel brings in many turning points who encounter the message and what it calls for.  This “sign” would change everything in conversion because the word of God exposes those things that are and are not of God and necessitates our own turning points.

“Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart”  (Hebrews 4:12).

As Christ is experienced in the fullest, much is illuminated.  The soul and spirit is the psyche of our lives versus the God-life that is given to us.  The joints and marrow is about our means of accessing life and fulfillment.  Are the means ordered or disordered?  And as for reflections and thoughts of the heart, that is the crux of treasuring in our hears the baby Jesus, the Nazarene Jesus, The Risen Jesus and the Coming Jesus.  We must always remember, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Advertisements

Light On Gospel of Nice

love-deception-Quotes

Truth, by very definition, supposed to be at the exclusion of other perceptions that are not truth.  The kinds of truths that make this world run on the material, philosophical and spiritual truths.  Many things that are material can challenge the intellect and are not for everyone.  Math truth seems to have waved bye-bye to me a long time ago.  But there is plenty of room for grasping philosophical and spiritual truths for the Forest Gumps and Einsteins of the world.  One of the many things I love about Jesus is that the teachings are so accessible.  When they are not there is even a follow up explanation.

But in the teachings and ultimately the authority of Jesus Christ as Lord is that in the gospels He is continually breaking ground or building something in His Church.  Jesus was not running for anything but the cross by which He would redeem the world as the atoning Lamb of God and form a holy community.

But in casting a vision of truth in the Sermon On The Mount Jesus knew that there were deceivers coming to people in the assembly of the day and of days to come so He addresses this.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:15-20).

Beware of false prophets— Obviously they could be ones who predict something and it does not happen.  But comparing within the same book of Matthew we see in chapter 24 that there would be ones who say, “I am the Christ”.  They are wanting to be the beginning and end of God’s kingdom in place of Jesus.  Jesus is unique and anyone trying to usurp that and elicit worship that belongs only to Him is false where Jesus is truth.

come to you in sheep’s clothing—- Many Christian may know a thing or two from when they have seen deceivers come into the world or even into Christian fellowship.  In the first appearance they seem good.  Maybe they do some good works or speak a dialect of “Christian-ese” fluently.  A deceiver that draws people from the simplicity and devotion to Jesus may fool some leaders some of the time even.

But what are some basic fruits that Jesus says we should look for?  We are informed on what to look for in John 10.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came [before me] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.” (John 10:1-5, 7-13).

We learn here that they get among God’s people without respect to the authority of Jesus.  We learn later in the gospels that Jesus delegates authority to others who likewise pass it on to others. It could be implied that they are the “gatekeeper”.   If someone is self-appointed and wants to exercise new truth we ought to be alert right there.  What we also see is that they will not have a healthy view or endurance when hardships come like the specter of death or persecution.  Whereas the DNA of the Church that Jesus builds is that it is “the pillar and foundation of truth”.  Jesus and the true gatekeepers will open and close the books on truth without error but the false shepherds will pollute everything.

I would like to point to the life versus destruction that Jesus speaks of.  Life more abundantly respects the dignity of the human soul and body.  If the reader here is checking out Christianity, take a look at the fruits of its teachings when followed correctly.  I emphasize “when followed correctly” because, as GK Chesterton said, one should judge a medicine for when it is taken.  Christianity, as can be seen in history, supports real life in all its forms.  Moral relativism will only plant ones feet firmly—in mid-air.  Its fruit is death to the dignity of the person and the family.

Last, on discernment, I challenge the reader to be careful about their sources in light of the real deal of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.  Do your influences state something about right living based mostly on “I feel”?  At the time that I write this there has been a Supreme Court decision that has ruled that same-sex marriage must be recognized as a constitutional right.  I am seeing on Facebook many Christians who have openly defied Jesus the Shepherd under the “Gospel of Nice” with the new holy sacrament of “I’m okay, your okay”. They celebrate the ruling for the wisdom of the age in place of the wisdom of the ages. If for a moment someone begins to wonder if they have been deceived, look at the fruit of the prophets of this age.  What is the fruit of no-fault divorce and later remarriage?  What is the fruit of abortion with the people involved?  The wisdom of the age seemed so convincing at the time. Could the fruit be bad in the long run about gay marriage if natural law and spiritual law is violated.  I have my not so wile guess.

Make no mistake: sheep are dumb.  We need Jesus and His chosen, broken servants to walk right and not the false prophets of moral relativism scattered in the media. It is up to each of us to see truth with the right eyes.

Flicking The Light On

Lighthouse

“Let’s put some light on the subject.”  That is a common phrase people use when there is a lack of clarity on what to do in a small thing or how make a big decision.

But sometimes getting clarity on what is common sense becomes a matter of “be careful for what you wish for, you might get it.”  Once someone know what their encounter with truth is and its consequences then they may have to make a change in their life course that stretches them beyond their comfort zones.  Working in a substance abuse treatment center I see often where clients have their toxic drug habits and their toxic relationships for what they are.  From there they see their faith in their abilities or their desire to change wanting and take the stress out on those who call them on their %$# (insert vernacular here).  Lucky me!

When Jesus came not the scene there we see the natural reaction of hard hearted people with light.  “And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).  Just as the world was “formless and void” (Genesis 1:2) before light was made, so were the consciences of enemies of God’s love in need of formation and filling.

As tempting as it is to dust off our hands and say that how God touches the world is a mystery and between Him and the individual.  It is tempting because it could appeal to someone who calls themselves “religious” and a “Christ-follower” to finding an individual spirituality without passing it on. But Jesus called, and still calls, His disciples to touch and be touched by the message of the kingdom as a community experience of in- reach to a fruitful outreach.  Thus He lays down the gauntlet here.

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:15-16)

To be a navel gazing Christian as I described above is like hiding in that bushel.  And the navel gazing that keeps us from letting faith working itself out through love can have so many excuses.  Too busy.  Too stressed.  The people one would interact with are too different.

But light is invasive.  There is no flick of a switch that makes darkness turn out the light.  But if one has established themselves to be salt of the earth (see last post), then the next turning point is to “preach the gospel at all times, if needed, use words” (St. Francis).  To lean forward towards those who do not know Jesus is to be one who shows clarity by the clarity of the gospel that is being applied to your own life first.   An example of this light being done right is in how the personal sin you hate the most is ones own.  You pass on what you have.

So for the believer or the unbelieving reader going over these words I want to say emphatically that people of Westboro Baptist Church who scream homophobic epithets are by no means a light of Christianity.  By some of the working definition I outlined above they are clanging symbols who have not love.

But examples who live out such good deeds are too numerous for me to write here.  I could speak of close friends who were still my friends when I was unworthy of their friendship.  There are some heroes like Mother Theresa, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Andre Bissett, St. Pope John Paul II…and possibly you.  What is stopping us?

Saturdays With Simon Peter–Speaking Grace

Image

 

 

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.