23 April 2014

NT Eschatology—Letters 10

As we continue our look at the eschatology of the New Testament (which we started last year) and because of the recent “blood moon” and all of the questionable “end times” fear spins that have been produced because of it, I wanted to look at another passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans. In chapter 13, Paul wrote:

As you do all this, you know what time it is. The hour has already come for you to wake up from your sleep. Now our salvation is nearer than when we first had faith. The night is almost over, and the day is near. So let’s get rid of the actions that belong to the darkness and put on the weapons of light.

The first thing that stands out here is the second sentence, “Now our salvation is nearer than when we first had faith.” Once more, Paul echoes a statement from Jesus. In Luke’s telling of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus said (compare Matthew 24.29-34):

“And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”

Then he gave them this illustration: “Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that the Kingdom of God is near. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.

In Luke 21, Jesus was in the Temple watching people put money in the collection box (vv. 1-2). He overheard some people talking about how beautiful the building was (verse 5; Matthew, and some other translations, has that conversation among the disciples). He told them that the time was coming that the whole thing would be demolished — “not even one stone will be left” (verse 6). Those people, in turn, asked him when that would happen. He then begins to tell them of the different signs that would point to the Temple’s approaching doom. The key, then, like in Matthew, is to understand that Jesus was speaking to a particular group of people about things they would experience. He doesn’t tell them of things that another group, separated by thousands of years, would go through. No. He’s talking to them. In the passage above, he uses the personal pronoun “you” 7 times. They would have understood Jesus was speaking to them about what they should look out for; what their generation would experience.

Now, that’s very important. Jesus told his first century contemporaries about things they would witness; what they would experience. He told them, “When all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near” (verse 30). Jesus then goes on to claim that his generation “will not pass from the scene until all these things have taken place” (verse 32).

Now, back to Romans.

Paul — still living within that generation, still waiting for the coming war between the Jews and Rome, still waiting for the destruction of the city and Temple, still waiting for the close of the then present age — can tell by “all [those] things” Jesus warned about that their “salvation [was] nearer than when [they] first had faith.” This isn’t a different salvation. It’s the same one Jesus said would come.

Furthermore, Paul wrote, “The night is almost over, and the day is near.” Note that Paul tied the coming of “the day” to the coming of their salvation in the previous sentence. This, too, is an echo of Jesus’ teaching. In the paragraphs just before and after our previous quote, Jesus said:

“And when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that the time of its destruction has arrived. Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. Those in Jerusalem must get out, and those out in the country should not return to the city. For those will be days of God’s vengeance, and the prophetic words of the Scriptures will be fulfilled. How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. For there will be disaster in the land and great anger against this people. They will be killed by the sword or sent away as captives to all the nations of the world. And Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the period of the Gentiles comes to an end…

“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”

Again, Jesus was speaking to people standing around him when he made those statements. He used the term “you” 5 times, referring to those same people. Now notice the word “day(s).” It appears 4 times in the above paragraphs — paragraphs that, again, come right before and right after Jesus said that the signs would point out that their salvation was near.

In other words, when Jesus’ contemporaries saw Jerusalem surrounded by the Roman armies, they would know that “God’s vengeance” had come at last. What is this “vengeance” and what’s it for? It’s nothing short of the “Day of Yahweh” found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. It’s the time when God’s justice is administered. For example:

[Yahweh] of heavenly forces has planned a day:
against all that is prideful and haughty;
against all that is lofty, and it will be laid low;

Wail, for the day of [Yahweh] is near.
   Like destruction from the Almighty it will come.
...
Look, the day of [Yahweh] is coming with cruel rage and burning anger,
making the earth a ruin,
and wiping out its sinners.
Heaven’s stars and constellations won’t show their light.
The sun will be dark when it rises;
the moon will no longer shine.

Blow the horn in Zion;
give a shout on my holy mountain!
Let all the people of the land tremble,
for the day of [Yahweh] is coming.
It is near —
a day of darkness and no light,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread out upon the mountains,
a great and powerful army comes,
unlike any that has ever come before them,
or will come after them in centuries ahead.
The earth quakes before them;
the heavens shake.
The sun and the moon are darkened;
the stars have stopped shining,
because [Yahweh] utters his voice
at the head of his army.
How numerous are his troops!
Mighty are those who obey his word.
The day of [Yahweh] is great;
it stirs up great fear—who can endure it?
...
I will give signs in the heavens and on the earth — blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood before the great and dreadful day of [Yahweh] comes. But everyone who calls on the [Yahweh’s] name will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be security, as [Yahweh] has promised; and in Jerusalem, [Yahweh] will summon those who survive.

As to why was the “day of Yahweh” coming upon Jerusalem? Jesus tells us in Matthew 23:

“How terrible it will be for you legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. You say, ‘If we had lived in our ancestors’ days, we wouldn’t have joined them in killing the prophets.’ You testify against yourselves that you are children of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, complete what your ancestors did. You snakes! You children of snakes! How will you be able to escape the judgment of hell? Therefore, look, I’m sending you prophets, wise people, and legal experts. Some of them you will kill and crucify. And some you will beat in your synagogues and chase from city to city. Therefore, upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been poured out on the earth, from the blood of that righteous man Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the temple and the altar. I assure you that all these things will come upon this generation.”

Again, back to Romans.

Paul was letting the followers of The Way of Jesus in Rome know that their generation would soon be coming out of “night.” That the Day of Yahweh’s justice would soon come and they would be saved. That is, they would be rescued from persecution. Again, Paul and that generation were still waiting for Jesus’ words to be fulfilled. In seeing the signs unfold around him, Paul easily discerned that the wait was almost over and their salvation was close at hand.



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

Br. Jack+, LC

21 April 2014

Easter Weekend—2014

This Easter weekend, Mahina and I drove to Kansas City to visit our daughter, Mariah. Her boyfriend, Michael, had arrived the day before. Friday night was Mariah’s senior solo show at the Kansas City Arts Institute.

It was fantastic!

Mariah was so stressed. It wasn’t necessary. There were about a hundred people or more that came to the tiny space — some flying in from great distances — just to see her quilts. She made some really good connections and may have sold a couple of pieces and has a commission or two in the works.

Mahina and I were sitting outside speaking with the chair of the fiber department. She was going on and on about what such an amazing artist Mariah is. She stated that Mariah’s peers respect her. Also, if Mariah can produce that type of work in just one year, she’d love to see what Mariah will do in the future.

While we were talking, the local paper came by. When the photo journalist saw the crowd, she exclaimed, “Holy cow!” and went back to get more equipment from the truck. She went in and took pictures and interviewed Mariah. The story’s supposed to be in the June edition.

Mahina and I called it a night around 9:30 (the show was over about 10) and Mariah and her friends took a long deserved break.

After we all slept in the next day, we met for lunch with some of Mariah’s friends that had traveled up to see her show. After lunch, we walked around all of the little shops in the area and ended up at River Market Antiques. That’s one of our favorite places in KC! It’s four stories of awesome stuff!. We got a butter dish (our old antique broke), a leather punch (my belts are too big), and a pipe. Well, I got a pipe. We spent about 3 hours there. It’s very easy to do.

Easter Sunday, Mariah and Michael went to a Catholic church that she attends from time to time and then we all went out for breakfast. Afterwards, we went back to Mariah’s place and had a small, intimate Easter Eucharist. Her roommate, Molly, joined us.

It was one of the best services I’ve ever had the privilege of being a part of. We met on the back porch. The birds were chirping. The squirrels were playing. The flowers were singing praises.

Like usual, we read the Gospel and, instead of giving a homily, we open the floor up for discussion. The reading was John 20.1-18 (one of my favorites). We talked about how John’s Gospel deals with New Creation — of how he starts off his story about Jesus with “In the beginning…” and how Jews from the first century would have heard echoes of Genesis 1. We talked about how John used “signs” that mirrored the days of creation and how the eighth sign was the resurrection and how it happened on the “eighth day,” or the “first day of the week.” This helped us see why Mary thought the resurrected Jesus was the “gardener.”

Of course, we talked about the importance of Mary — of how she was the “apostle to the apostles.” And we saw something that I had never seen before.

In the New Creation, woman was created first.

And then men were “created.”

We saw that, when women were created first in the New Creation, the “subordinate” state and role of women was removed. They were fully restored to their rightful place as equals. Tears started to well up. It was such a moving revelation.

And the movement continued.

When we started the “Prayers of the People,” the tears were in full. I think all of us were crying. It was such a beautiful place for reflection and thankfulness and mindfulness.

We finished with the Eucharist, each one serving the other with the bread and wine, recognizing Christ in each of us.

All in all, it was one of the best Easter weekends that I can remember. I’m so thankful to my family and friends who made it all possible.



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

Br. Jack+, LC

20 April 2014

Easter—2014

Early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. She ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him.” Peter and the other disciple left to go to the tomb. They were running together, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and was the first to arrive at the tomb. Bending down to take a look, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he didn’t go in. Following him, Simon Peter entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. He also saw the face cloth that had been on Jesus’ head. It wasn’t with the other clothes but was folded up in its own place. Then the other disciple, the one who arrived at the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. They didn’t yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to the place where they were staying.

Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher).

Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.