Showing posts from February, 2018

God is love - a Lenten series 11 Love divides!?!?

Luke 12:49 “I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning! 50 I have a terrible baptism of suffering ahead of me, and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished. 51 Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other! 52 From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against—or two in favor and three against. 53 ‘Father will be divided against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’” 54 Then Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “When you see clouds beginning to form in the west, you say, ‘Here comes a shower.’ And you are right. 55 When the south wind blows, you say, ‘Today will be a scorcher.’ And it is. 56 You fools! You know how to interpret the weather signs of the earth and sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the present time…

God is love - a Lenten series 10 Love is unilateral

God is presented as making unilateral, unconditional promises. It's much like a parent's unilateral and unconditional love for a toddler. The kid cannot help herself deal with emotions and hormones and circumstances and acts out in embarrassing, annoying, obnoxious ways, but the (healthy) parent perseveres despite the un-reciprocated love.

Genesis 12 has a story of God making an unconditional promise to Abraham, promising him children and a legacy that affects the world.

But in later on in the Torah God and Moses work out a deal where the Jewish people have obligations to retain God's blessing. It's a conditional promise and, like making a deal with a toddler, it's a disaster.

The Jewish prophet Jeremiah recognizes this for what it is and sees a better, unilateral promise from God.
Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make pa new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made wit…

God is love - a Lenten series 9 Love is greater than threats

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
I got arrested when I was 11 years old for trespassing and vandalism. I've written about that before on here. Unsurprisingly, my parents were embarrassed and furious. I didn't get a spanking, but I was grounded for the entire summer and the summer had just started! It was the worst punishment in my eyes. I biked all over town with my friend, who was the youngest in his family and had much more freedom than I did. However, b…

God is love - a Lenten series 8 Love chooses the weak

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God.
If you are oppressed, take heart, if you benefit from oppression, listen up. If you live in America, if you are white, if you are christian, if you are middle class (I am all of these) you are not oppressed. The war on christmas is fake. Being asked to treat people of other religions equally is not oppressing your own faith.

Who is despised in this country? Non-white people. Non-christian people. Non-straight people. Non-rich people.

Whose side does God choose?

God is love - a Lenten series 7 Love outlasts pride

Psalm 32:3 While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, because of my groaning all day long. 4 For your hand was heavy upon me day and night; my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer. 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and did not conceal my guilt. 6 I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.
Our pride is the lock on our jail, humility is the key to escape.

In Luke 15:11-32 Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son.
The rebellious son demands his inheritance and blows it like most lottery winners and ends up bankrupt sharing food with pigs on the farm he works at. His pride had imprisoned him in that pig sty. His humility allowed him to seek forgiveness. What was never in question was the love of his father, who waited for his son's return every day.

God never stops waiting for our return. Never. His love outlasts our pride.

God is love - a Lenten series 6 Love never ends

Psalm 30:5 For God’s wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, God’s favor for a lifetime. 6 Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning.
As I read these Psalms I think again about me as a parent. I could get so mad at my kids, but that emotion never threatened the truth of my love for them. I remember as a kid, without the perspective of many years of observing human behavior, thinking, oops, I screwed up again, I'm in trouble, I peed my pants again, mom will be so mad... but when I showed up with my "sin" I was not greeted with banishment from the family. I'd be helped by my family out of my trouble, or grounded - meaning I had to spend more time with my family, or spanked, but never banished.

I don't think God let's his emotions get ahead of him in that he regrets what he does in his anger. I know my parents did, and I as well, declared punishment in the heat of anger only to change it after cooling down. God isn't like that.
As Paul wro…

God is love - a Lenten series 5 Love is greater

Psalm 103:8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
I used to think God's justice was equal to his love, because I also had to believe in an eternal hell in the theology I grew up with. (Now I think differently.) So verses like this in the Psalm were not allowed in my head to threaten my theology.

This psalm is clear that God's love is greater than his wrath. I understand that as a father of three children. No matter how mad they would make me, my love was, and still is, greater than my anger. Not only is it a tiny bit greater, but orders of magnitude greater. They can make me mad, but they can never make me stop loving them. Won't God the Father be likewise but perfectly as the ideal father? A father who tortures his child is considered a satanic monster.

My God is love, not a d…

God is love - a Lenten series 4 compassion and justice

I may be labeled a liberal by my former fundagelical self, but I really don't like how much that label misses about my understanding of God. I prefer to be labeled a Compassionate Christian, because God's mercy triumphs over judgment according to James 2:13.

For example, the wandering pericope of the woman caught in adultery, in John's gospel (chapter 8) presents a woman caught en flagrante by religious lawyers. When presented to Jesus, the lawyers pointed out to Jesus that the religious law of Moses demanded her death by stoning. Jesus challenged those who were innocent, "without sin," to start throwing stones. They didn't and they left her with him. Then Jesus told her he did not condemn her.

The powerful ganged up on the powerless, an exercise of power, which had nothing to do with making the world a better place, but everything to do with asserting their dominance. Compassion, via the God who loves and is love, rights this imbalance. Compassion seeks just…

God is love - a Lenten series 3 relationship

The church speaks of God the father, God the son, and God the holy spirit. The Nicene creed, recited by the church around the world since the 4th century, affirms the Son, Jesus, as eternally begotten of the Father, but not made. But why this family metaphor without mention of a mother? In the past, I've thought of the Holy Spirit as a mother, and the trinity as a family, but I'm realizing there is deeper wisdom in not using the nuclear family as the metaphor for the Trinity. In our modern time, we associate marriage with romance. Certainly romantic love is beautiful and affectionate. However, not all cultures, nor have all ages viewed a wife as an equal partner, but more often property, or a means to procreate and preserve a family line. Duty replaces love in these cultures. But I think the love of a parent for a child is a more accessible metaphor across ages and cultures. I believe the image of mother and child love is more believable than father and son because the expecta…

God is love- a Lenten series 2 Trinity

As a Christian, I confess God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as a triune God with no exact analogy in the physical world. I'm not sure there is an exact analogy in the non-physical or philosophical world either, but St. Augustine uses the great analogy of love. I provide a much longer quote eleven years ago from JND Kelley's book, Early Christian Doctrines, here for more context. In brief, the trinity can be described as the Lover (Father), the Loved (the Son) and the affection between them (the Spirit). Love is only actual when all 3 components are there. Catholic theologian Peter Kreeft notes the interdependence of a theology of a triune God and his essence as love,
Everyone can agree that "God is love", it seems, but the Trinity is a tangled dogma for an esoteric elite, isn't it? No. If God is not a Trinity, God is not love. For love requires three things: a lover, a beloved, and a relationship between them. If God were only one person, he could be a lover, but n…

God is love - a Lenten series

On this Ash Wednesday 2018 I intend to reflect on this assertion from John's epistle, 1 John 4:16b "God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them" and this assertion of Jesus, Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

May your Ash Wednesday and Lent be fruitful.