19 June 2016

Lectionary Reflection—19 June 2016

Before faith came, we were guarded under the Law, locked up until faith that was coming would be revealed, so that the Law became our custodian until Christ so that we might be made righteous by faith.

But now that faith has come, we’re no longer under a custodian.

You’re all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There’s neither Jew nor Greek; there’s neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you’re all one in Christ Jesus. Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you’re Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.

There are two things I want to touch upon here: the Law and Christ.

The Law

From time to time, I hear people state that followers of Jesus should be following the Jewish (or Mosaic) Law. It seems to me that St. Paul refuted that in the passage above. He stated that “the Law” (i.e., the Mosaic Law), was only a temporary thing. He wrote that “the Law” was a “custodian until Christ. But now...we’re no longer under” the Law.

But let’s back up a little bit.

By his own admission Saint Paul was an apostle to the “Gentiles” or non-Jews of his day (2.2, 9, Acts 15.12). And these Celts in Galatia (oh! You didn’t know they were Celts? Yep!) had been duped into thinking that to be real Christians, they must follow the Law of Moses (that’s pretty much the first three chapters of this letter).

Paul doesn’t just make a blanket statement about not following the Law, he explains why—the coming of Christ. In another of his letters, considered his magnum opus by some, Paul wrote that Christ was the “end” or “goal” (τέλος (telos) in Greek meaning “end, finish, consummation”) to which the Law pointed (Romans 10.4). So there’s no reason why people, especially those who follow Jesus, should be trying to follow the Law. It ended at the coming of Christ.

But why is that? Well, that’s the next point.

Christ

When Christ came (or if you prefer—when God became incarnate through the person of Jesus) he proclaimed the coming of God’s promised Realm (Mark 1.15). This coming Realm (also known as New Creation, New Covenant, or the New Heaven and Earth) was inaugurated when Jesus was resurrected marking the “first day” of the New Creation (John 20). However, the New Creation wasn’t fully established until the Old Creation—the city of Jerusalem and her Temple—was removed in 70 CE (Revelation 21). During that transitional period (roughly forty years from the resurrection of Jesus to the fall of Jerusalem) the Old Creation was decaying (Hebrews 8; cf. Hebrews 3), while the New Creation was slowing growing and becoming established (Luke 13.18-21).* With the establishment of a New Covenant comes a new Law—the Law of Love (Mark 12.28-31; John 13.34-35; Romans 13.8; Galatians 5.14; 1 John 4.21). So, the reason that the Law of Moses is no longer binding is because it was the law of the Old Creation. Since the Old Creation was replaced by the New Creation, the Old Law was replaced by the New Law, the Law of Love.

Now back to Galatians.

A lot of people interpret Galatians 3.26 in this way: if people believe in Jesus—that is, if they’ve “confessed with the mouth and believed in the heart that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10.9-10) then they’re “saved” (and by that they mean that they become Christians)—then they’re all “God’s children.” It doesn’t matter if they’re Jews or non-Jews, male or female, etc.; it’s their faith in Jesus which makes them brothers and sisters in God’s family.

And that’s fine as far as it goes.

But that’s a little too individualistic for me. I hate to break it to my American readers but the Bible isn’t really too keen on individualism, not the way America sees it anyway (which, to be honest, borderlines on idolatry in some circles). The God of the Bible is covenantal—it’s about community. Generally speaking, what God does, God does for the whole, not the part. And, when God does do something for the individual, it’s ultimately for the whole community.

Take the issue of sin in Romans 5, for example. Saint Paul is clear when he states that sin entered the world through Adam, and because of that, all of humanity was sinful. “Death,” Paul wrote, “ruled (all creation) because of one person’s failure” and “judgment fell on everyone through the failure of one person” (Romans 5.17-18). Why? Because Adam represented all humanity (Romans 5.14; cf. 1 Corinthians 15.22, 45); he was the covenant leader, if you will. No one had to “believe in the heart and confess with the mouth” for this to be true. That’s not the way it works. Again, covenants are with the entire community, not just the individual. Blessings and curses come upon everyone in the community not just the individuals who keep or break the covenant rules. We in America (and the rest of the civilized world) may not like this, but that’s the way things are in the Bible.

Of course, this has it’s benefits, too. This idea of covenantal representation is why the New Testament writers are emphatic that God will resurrect people because God resurrected Jesus (1 Corinthians 15).

It’s because of this understanding of covenantal representation that I see verse 26 differently. I don’t think St. Paul is talking about an individual’s belief. I think he’s talking about the covenantal change from being under the Law to being under Christ. This change of worldview only happens “through faith.” That is, Paul is looking at the world through faith in what God accomplished through Christ on a cosmic scale. Just as the Law affected all Hebrews (whether they believed in it or not), the coming of Christ and his life and work (the “grim business” as a dear friend put it), affected all of humanity. Or, as Paul put it in Romans 5, “Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone” (5.18; NLT).

Therefore, it takes faith to see all humanity as “God’s children”. It takes faith in the work of God through Christ to recognize that our neighbors are our siblings. It takes faith that the cosmos is a different place because of Christ. It takes faith to see things this way. It takes faith to change one’s worldview. It takes faith to move from an individualistic way of seeing the “grim business” of Christ to seeing it as the rescue of all things—to see it not as “saving me” but “saving everything”.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

* For a detailed study of this, see my series on New Testament Eschatology.

08 June 2016

Chromebook Update!



About a year ago, I wrote a post about switching to a Chromebook, so I thought I’d give an update to my decision.

I still love it!

There’s only one set back to it—booklets. When I do a retreat or lead a service, I generally use my own liturgical booklets. Each booklet’s geared specifically to the situation. And in each case, I need an office suite that has some sort of drawing application—one that will allow me to use text fields and add images. If you’ve never created a booklet (or pamphlet) it can be a trying task if you don’t have the right application. Most people think that you can just use a word processor (Microsoft Word, Google Docs, etc.), but for the life of me, I can’t get them to do what I need them to do. For example, when using Google Docs, I just create a document. The whole page is like a giant text box. I start typing and the text appears on the page from left-to-right and fills up the space between the margins. Sure, I can add an image to this document, but it’s still just flowing from left-to-right, top-to-bottom until the page fills up and another page is added.

But when creating a booklet, well, that’s a different beast altogether. The page layout is landscape. The first page is blank on the left half of the page and first page of text starts on the right side. The text then flows to the top of the left half of the second page. It then flows to the top of the right half of the third page. And on and on. When I reach the bottom of the last page, the text then flows to the top of the opposite half of the previous page. In other words, the text runs in a zigzag pattern on alternating pages like this:


I should clarify that the text doesn’t “flow”—I have to create a text box for the text and images, and when I’ve run out of space, I create a new page, add the text box, and start adding text from where I left off on the previous page. And, for the life of me, I can’t figure out how to do this with an online document creator! I’ve even tried the Drawing app in Google Docs but I can only create one page! As you can see from the above image, I need multiple pages.

And this is a crucial issue for me. So much so that I was considering purchasing another laptop! Of course, I’d install a Linux OS on it (probably Linux Mint). I even went so far as checking out various sites and even bookmarked a few promising candidates.

But I didn’t want to do this—I really like my Chromebook. It’s fast, reliable, and secure, and everything I need to do, I can do on my Chromebook—writing documents, social media, listen to music (streaming or my own offline collection), organize, edit, and upload pictures, etc.  And I’d bet most people do the same things and would be perfectly fine using a Chromebook.

Except for this one issue!

Well, I recently found a solution! Robby Payne over at Chrome Unboxed has an instructional video and step-by-step web page dedicated to installing and running Ubuntu in parallel to ChromeOS! That means that I have a window running Ubuntu (with the Xfce4 desktop experience or DE) while accessing everything else in ChromeOS! After I had Ubuntu installed, I was able to install LibreOffice, the open source suite that I create my brooklets with. In the image below, you can see I have a window open to a YouTube channel (Chrome Unboxed) and another window with Xubuntu running and the LibreOffice Draw application loaded with the Celtic Christian Retreat Service Booklet open!




Now, I don’t have to worry about buying another laptop anytime soon! Thanks to Robby Payne and all of his work at Chrome Unboxed! Here’s his YouTube video walking through the entire process. Make sure you switch it to full screen or watch it on YouTube!





~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

25 March 2016

The Dream of the Rood

On this Good Friday, I present to you a different way of seeing the cross. In the ancient Celtic Christian world, they viewed the passion of Christ as Christus Victor. Instead of Christ being understood as a sacrificial substitute for humankind, the ancient Church believed Christ fought the greatest of all battles and rescued humanity and creation by defeating the devil, sin, and death. This view of the cross is still largely held by Orthodox Christians.

Below is an Anglo-Saxon Christian dream poem dating back to around the 8th century that reflects Christus Victor. Part of this poem is found on the Ruthwell Cross in Scotland (ancient Northumbria).

~~~

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC


The Dream of the Rood

Listen, I will tell the best of visions,
what came to me in the middle of the night,
when voice-bearers dwelled in rest.
It seemed to me that I saw a more wonderful tree
lifted in the air, wound round with light,
the brightest of beams. That beacon was entirely
cased in gold; beautiful gems stood
at the corners of the earth, likewise there were five
upon the cross-beam. All those fair through creation
gazed on the angel of the Lord there. There was certainly no gallows of the wicked;
but the holy spirits beheld it there,
men over the earth and all this glorious creation.
Wondrous was the victory-tree, and I stained with sins,
wounded with guilts. I saw the tree of glory,
honoured with garments, shining with joys,
covered with gold; gems had
covered magnificently the tree of the forest.
Nevertheless, I was able to perceive through that gold
the ancient hostility of wretches, so that it first began
to bleed on the right side. I was all drenched with sorrows.
I was frightened by the beautiful vision; I saw that urgent beacon
change its covering and colours: sometimes it was soaked with wetness,
stained with the coursing of blood; sometimes adorned with treasure.
Yet as I lay there a long while
I beheld sorrowful the tree of the Saviour,
until I heard it utter a sound;
it began to speak words, the best of wood:
“That was very long ago, I remember it still,
that I was cut down from the edge of the wood,
ripped up by my roots. They seized me there, strong enemies,
made me a spectacle for themselves there, commanded me to raise up their criminals.
Men carried me there on their shoulders, until they set me on a hill,
enemies enough fastened me there. I saw then the Saviour of mankind
hasten with great zeal, as if he wanted to climb up on me.
There I did not dare, against the word of the Lord,
bow or break, when I saw the
corners of the earth tremble. I might have
felled all the enemies; even so, I stood fast.
He stripped himself then, young hero—that was God almighty—
strong and resolute; he ascended on the high gallows,
brave in the sight of many, when he wanted to ransom mankind.
I trembled when the warrior embraced me; even then I did not dare to bow to earth,
fall to the corners of the earth, but I had to stand fast.
I was reared a cross. I raised up the powerful King,
the Lord of heaven; I did not dare to bend.
They pierced me with dark nails; on me are the wounds visible,
the open wounds of malice; I did not dare to injure any of them.
They mocked us both together. I was all drenched with blood
poured out from that man’s side after he had sent forth his spirit.
I have experienced on that hillside many
cruelties of fate. I saw the God of hosts
violently stretched out. Darkness had
covered with clouds the Ruler’s corpse,
the gleaming light. Shadows went forth
dark under the clouds. All creation wept,
lamented the King’s fall. Christ was on the cross.
Yet there eager ones came from afar
to that noble one; I beheld all that.
I was all drenched with sorrow; nevertheless I bowed down to the hands of the men,
humble, with great eagerness. There they took almighty God,
lifted him from that oppressive torment. The warriors forsook me then
standing covered with moisture; I was all wounded with arrows.
They laid the weary-limbed one down there, they stood at the head of his body,
they beheld the Lord of heaven there, and he himself rested there a while,
weary after the great battle. They began to fashion a tomb for him,
warriors in the sight of the slayer; they carved that from bright stone,
they set the Lord of victories in there. They began to sing the sorrow-song for him,
wretched in the evening-time; then they wanted to travel again,
weary from the glorious Lord. He rested there with little company.
Nevertheless, weeping, we stood there a good while
in a fixed position, after the voice departed up
of the warriors. The corpse grew cold,
the fair live-dwelling. Then men began to fell us
all to the ground: that was a terrible fate.
Men buried us in a deep pit; nevertheless the Lord’s thanes,
friends, discovered me there,
adorned me with gold and silver.
Now you might hear, my beloved hero,
that I have experienced the work of evil-doers,
grievous sorrows. Now the time has come
that I will be honoured far and wide
by men over the earth and all this glorious creation;
they will pray to this beacon. On me the Son of God
suffered for a while; because of that I am glorious now,
towering under the heavens, and I am able to heal
each one of those who is in awe of me.
Formerly I was made the hardest of punishments,
most hateful to the people, before I opened for them,
for the voice-bearers, the true way of life.
Listen, the Lord of glory, the Guardian of the kingdom of heaven,
then honoured me over the forest trees,
just as he, almighty God, also honoured
his mother, Mary herself, for all men,
over all womankind.
Now I urge you, my beloved man,
that you tell men about this vision:
reveal with words that it is the tree of glory
on which almighty God suffered
for mankind’s many sins
and Adam’s ancient deeds.
Death he tasted there; nevertheless, the Lord rose again
with his great might to help mankind.
He ascended into heaven. He will come again
to this earth to seek mankind.
on doomsday, the Lord himself,
almighty God, and his angels with him,
so that he will then judge, he who has the power of judgement,
each one of them, for what they themselves have
earned here earlier in this transitory life.
Nor may any of them be unafraid there
because of the words which the Saviour will speak:
he will ask in front of the multitude where the person might be
who for the Lord’s name would
taste bitter death, just as he did before on that tree.
But then they will be fearful and little think
what they might begin to say to Christ.
Then there will be no need for any of those to be very afraid
who bear before them in the breast the best of trees.
But by means of the rood each soul
who thinks to dwell with the Ruler
must seek the kingdom from the earthly way.”
I prayed to the tree with a happy spirit then,
with great zeal, there where I was alone
with little company. My spirit was
inspired with longing for the way forward; I experienced in all
many periods of longing. It is now my life’s hope
that I might seek the tree of victory
alone more often than all men,
to honour it well. My desire for that is
great in my mind, and my protection is
directed to the cross. I do not have many wealthy
friends on earth; but they have gone forward from here,
passed from the joys of this world, sought for themselves the King of glory;
they live now in heaven with the High Father,
they dwell in glory. And I myself hope
each day for when the Lord’s cross,
that I looked at here on earth,
will fetch me from this transitory life,
and then bring me where there is great bliss,
joy in heaven, where the Lord’s people
are set in feasting, where there is unceasing bliss;
and then will set me where I might afterwards
dwell in glory fully with the saints
to partake of joy. May the Lord be a friend to me,
he who here on earth suffered previously
on the gallows-tree for the sins of man.
He redeemed us, and gave us life,
a heavenly home. Hope was renewed
with dignity and with joy for those who suffered burning there.
The Son was victorious in that undertaking,
powerful and successful, when he came with the multitudes,
a troop of souls, into God’s kingdom,
the one Ruler almighty, to the delight of angels
and all the saints who were in heaven before,
who dwelled in glory, when their Ruler came,
almighty God, to where his native land was.