29 September 2013

Weekly Gospel Reflection -- 29 September 2013

“There was a certain rich man who clothed himself in purple and fine linen, and who feasted luxuriously every day. At his gate lay a certain poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. Lazarus longed to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Instead, dogs would come and lick his sores.

“The poor man died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. While being tormented in the place of the dead, he looked up and saw Abraham at a distance with Lazarus at his side. He shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I’m suffering in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received good things, whereas Lazarus received terrible things. Now Lazarus is being comforted and you are in great pain. Moreover, a great crevasse has been fixed between us and you. Those who wish to cross over from here to you cannot. Neither can anyone cross from there to us.’

“The rich man said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, send Lazarus to my father’s house. I have five brothers. He needs to warn them so that they don’t come to this place of agony.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. They must listen to them.’ The rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will change their hearts and lives.’ Abraham said, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, then neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’”

Occupy Wall Street. We’ve seen the footage. We’ve read the news reports. The protest was made public in the fall of 2011 when a group of people camped out at Zuccotti Park in the Wall Street District of New York City. The main issues cited by the movement were “social and economic inequality, greed, corruption and the...influence of corporations on government -- particularly from the financial services sector.” In other words, OWS claimed, the government is controlled by the wealthiest people -- the 1% -- leaving the rest of us -- the 99% -- to struggle to make ends meet. The wealthiest seem to pay less (percentage wise) than everyone else when they could (and some say “should”) be paying more. Those who stand the chance of losing it all are the ones with the greatest burden and are powerless against the system.

What’s worst is the wealthiest don’t seem to care. They just go on about their way without a single thought as to the plight of those with less. I’m sure we’ve all heard the comments, “They choose to be that way. The could get a job. They’ve squandered all of their money on drugs and alcohol. There are places they could get assistance. They’re just milking the system.” These are the stories we tell ourselves to make us feel better. To make us feel justified in our thoughtlessness for our fellow brothers and sisters.

While the protest got international coverage, it also got a lot of backlash. Several people began pointing out how the “99%” were dressed in nice clothes and had “expensive” personal technology (iPads, smartphones, etc.). This meant that, obviously, these people weren’t suffering too badly.

But, in my estimation, that argument is like the slight of hand by an illusionist. She distracts you with doing something deliberate over here, and while you’re paying attention to that, she does something else. Then, when that other thing appears, it’s like magic! The protesters saw it the same way.

So, nothing’s done. Nothing changes. It’s still the “same ol’, same ol’.” The same day in and day out. The wealthiest continue to get more and more wealth while the gap between the 1% and the rest of us grows wider. “They’ll get theirs, one day,” someone says. “They’ll have to answer for their crimes.” This seems to say that, yes, while things are bad for the 99% now, “in the sweet by and by” we’ll be given great reward and the wealthy 1% will suffer. The tables will be turned one day. We just have to hold on to that.

As we can see from this week’s lesson, that’s not a new thought. The story Jesus tells works out the same way. But there’s a twist. Usually, the story ends with poor being blessed in the afterlife and the rich suffering. But Jesus’ story doesn’t end there. His story ends with resurrection. Why is that? Is it just a ploy by Luke to reflect the church’s belief in the resurrection? I don’t think so.

As we’ve mentioned before, the stories Jesus tells usually follow something he’s doing. In this case, as we’ve been noticing in these last few lessons from Luke, the Religious Elite (i.e., the 1% of the day), were put off by Jesus hanging out with the wrong people -- the 99%. They were all flocking to Jesus and the 1% were getting a little worried. I mean, if things continued the way they’re going, they might lose everything.

But the end of Jesus’ story is that the resurrection, the life of G-d’s coming age, was a present reality. It wasn’t something that is being postponed into the far distant future. It was happening then -- right before their eyes! The reason he was enjoying the company of the 99% was because G-d’s promised Realm was unfolding within history, not at history’s end! Jesus’ story is pointed directly at the Religious Elite of his day and warning them to change their hearts and lives while they still can before it’s too late.

Now I know what we’re all thinking. (Okay, what I’m thinking.) “Those poor misguided Pharisees. Couldn’t they see what was going on? I’m sure glad I’m not like that. I’m sure glad I’ve got all my ducks in a row.” But the story isn’t just about them. It’s about us. Are we living in ways that makes others wonder what the heck we’re doing? That is, are our actions reflecting G-d’s Realm “on earth as in heaven?” Do our lives reverberate with the belief that G-d’s realm (the promised future of the cosmos) was established in and through Jesus? That it’s been expanding from that time, through the present, and progressing toward the future? The goal of creation’s future is not annihilation but complete restoration -- of the time when heaven finally and fully comes to earth and they become one (Revelation 21). The story before us was told because Jesus was living out that future -- the belief that the “time promised by G-d [had] come at last” (Mark 1.15). Do we share this vision? If so, are we living in such a way as to show that this is our vision, too? Are we doing what we can now to reflect that future?

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

25 September 2013

The Goodness of Humanity—Part 1

A friend of mine recently posed a question, “Could someone send me a small list of all the Scriptures extoling (sic) the good virtues and attributes that exist within human nature? Thanks.”

The underlying thought, here, is that there isn’t a very long list. In fact, it’s supposed that there’s an overwhelmingly long “list of all the Scriptures” emphasising the opposite. Now, granted, my friend is Reformed and the “total depravity” of humanity is part of their foundation (like a lot of Western Christianity; see Romans 5.12). So, the view that humanity is blind, broken, dead, sinful, wicked, etc., is pretty much where Western Christianity lives. And, certainly, that’s part of the picture the Bible paints. The question we need to ask is, “Why?” Not why is humanity (and all creation) in the Bible in such a mess (though the Bible does address that question), but why does the Bible paint the picture in that way?

I think a lot of the reason, perhaps even the biggest reason, is because other peoples, cultures, philosophies, religions, etc., were saying the contrary—that everything was fine with the world; that this is the way it’s meant to be. Some beliefs painted the gods as the reason things were in such a mess; that humanity is just the victim at the hands of those gods and their tantrums. It seems to me that the Hebrews were the only group who stated things differently. That is, their stories show that humanity (and by extension, all creation) was intended for something else but was now broken. And, contrary to popular opinion, humanity was to blame. But, there’s another message in the Bible that, in my opinion, answers my friend’s question.

When Yahweh created humanity, they were created in “God’s own image,” in the “divine image.” And they, along with all of creation, were “supremely good”:

Genesis 1.26ff: Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.”

God created humanity in God’s own image,
        in the divine image God created them,
            male and female God created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.” Then God said, “I now give to you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds within it. These will be your food. To all wildlife, to all the birds in the sky, and to everything crawling on the ground—to everything that breathes—I give all the green grasses for food.” And that’s what happened. God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good.

1 Timothy 4.4: Everything that has been created by God is good…

This is crucial. It’s the foundation to the entire story and, therefore, the deepest part of everything. Whatever happens next; we mustn’t forget this.

Of course, things didn’t stay this way. As we know, and the Bible testifies, humanity and creation suffered greatly—“sin increased” as St. Paul would write (Romans 5). But, and this is something my Reformed friends don’t grasp, no matter how bad it got, the Light was never extinguished:

John 1.5 (NLT; emphasis added): The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

But Yahweh devised a plan—a rescue mission—to reconcile all of creation back to Godself. The mission was put into place when God chose Sarah and Abraham:

Genesis 12.1-3: [Yahweh] said to Abram (aka, Abraham), “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,
   those who curse you I will curse;
       all the families of the earth
           will be blessed because of you.”

Genesis 22.18:All the nations of the earth will be blessed because of your descendants, because you obeyed me.”

Genesis 28.14: “Your descendants will become like the dust of the earth; you will spread out to the west, east, north, and south. Every family of earth will be blessed because of you and your descendants.”

The idea, then, is that because of Sarah and Abraham’s family all humanity would be “blessed,” that is, “made holy,” or “consecrated.”

But we also know that Israel, Sarah and Abraham’s family, the people through whom God was to rescue the world, was part of the problem. Over and over again, they rebelled against Yahweh. Their prophets and poets warned them that they would have to change their hearts and minds (“repent”) and return to the way of being that honored Yahweh or they would be driven from their lands, forced into slavery, and worse. And over and over again they failed to change. The nation was invaded and conquered several times. Their capital city, Jerusalem, along with their Temple (the thin place where “heaven” and earth overlapped), was left in ruins. Masses of people were killed and the rest were taken captive. They were exiled.

But their prophets and poets encouraged them with stories of how Yahweh would rescue them if they would change their hearts and minds. And when they did, they were released from exile and returned to their own lands, rebuilding their city and Temple.

When they returned from being exiled in Babylon, however, things were different. Yes, they were once more living in their own lands, but it wasn’t the same. There weren’t any prophets. The Temple was a shadow of its previous incarnation. The Ark of the Covenant (the consecrated chest that represented the sacred agreement between Yahweh and the Jews) was missing. There was no presence (Shechina) of Yahweh in the Temple. The high priests were corrupt. And if that wasn’t enough, in 63 BCE, Pompey sacked Jerusalem! From then on (with few exceptions), the Jews were ruled by Rome. During that time, many Jews felt that their liberation wasn’t complete; that they were still in exile. Some of the stories their ancient prophets and poets told stated that Yahweh would come and rule among them. That God would return to the people and put things right:

Malachi 3.1-6: Look, I am sending my messenger who will clear the path before me;
suddenly [Yahweh] whom you are seeking will come to his temple.
The messenger of the covenant in whom you take delight is coming,
says [Yahweh] of heavenly forces.
Who can endure the day of his coming?
Who can withstand his appearance?
He is like the refiner’s fire or the cleaner’s soap.
He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver.
He will purify the Levites
and refine them like gold and silver.
They will belong to [Yahweh],
presenting a righteous offering.
The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to [Yahweh]
as in ancient days and in former years.
I will draw near to you for judgment.
I will be quick to testify against the sorcerers,
the adulterers, those swearing falsely,
against those who cheat the day laborers out of their wages
as well as oppress the widow and the orphan,
and against those who brush aside the foreigner
and don’t revere me,
says [Yahweh] of heavenly forces.
I am [Yahweh], and I do not change;
       and you, children of Jacob, have not perished.

Only it wasn’t happening. Instead, Herod the Great was elected “King of the Jews” and ruled from 37 BCE to 6 CE. The Roman army was everywhere, occupying their cities and communities. The Jews, while being allowed to live and practice their faith, were being oppressed by the Romans and Jewish extremists (the Sicarii). Many, however, were searching the Scriptures and praying for rescue.

And then everything changed.

Next time, we’ll continue our look at the goodness of humanity. (Part 2 is here.)

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

22 September 2013

Weekly Gospel Reflection -- 22 September 2013

Jesus also said to the disciples, “A certain rich man heard that his household manager was wasting his estate. He called the manager in and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give me a report of your administration because you can no longer serve as my manager.’

“The household manager said to himself, What will I do now that my master is firing me as his manager? I’m not strong enough to dig and too proud to beg. I know what I’ll do so that, when I am removed from my management position, people will welcome me into their houses.

“One by one, the manager sent for each person who owed his master money. He said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil.’ The manager said to him, ‘Take your contract, sit down quickly, and write four hundred fifty gallons.’ Then the manager said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ He said, ‘One thousand bushels of wheat.’ He said, ‘Take your contract and write eight hundred.’

“The master commended the dishonest manager because he acted cleverly. People who belong to this world are more clever in dealing with their peers than are people who belong to the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to make friends for yourselves so that when it’s gone, you will be welcomed into the eternal homes.

“Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much, and the one who is dishonest with little is also dishonest with much. If you haven’t been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?If you haven’t been faithful with someone else’s property, who will give you your own? No household servant can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Too often, when we read one of these types of stories, we look for “eternal truths.” We look for characters that are easily definable with G-d, Jesus, Christians, sinners, heaven, and hell. The problem with such an approach in the beginning, is that it usually neglects some basic historical and contextual settings.

For example, with the last sentence, “You cannot serve God and wealth,” we would assume that this is a general moral teaching about being wealthy and the pitfalls of having money. Now, while that may be true on the whole, that’s not really how this passage plays out. I mean, if that’s the case, “the master” would seem to be G-d and “the master” seems quite impressed at the dishonesty of the manger! I don’t think G-d really approves or is the slight bit impressed with dishonesty. So, we can’t take this too far before it falls apart.

The context of for this story shows up in the very next verse, “The Pharisees, who were money-lovers, heard all this and sneered at Jesus” (v.14). Well now, that’s rather telling, isn’t it? Let’s back up and get a little more perspective.

YHWH, Israel’s god, had given them the task of being the light of the world (Isaiah 49.6), to show all of creation what G-d is actually like and to reflect what true humanity looks like. But along the way, they colluded with the systems of the world and started losing their way. Over and over again, their prophets and poets warned them that the people would be driven from their land and sent off into exile unless they changed their ways. By the time of Jesus, though, things were different.

Or so they thought.

Certainly, on one hand, the people had come back from Babylon and were now living in their land. They had rebuilt the Temple and were getting back to some kind of normalcy.

But on the other hand, something was still wrong. They were still occupied by a foreign, pagan, nation. They still weren’t truly free. So, sects like the Pharisees, the legal scholars (Sadducees), and the Zealots were even more strict when it came to following the law. The Zealots went so far as to even remove themselves from Jerusalem insomuch as they felt the city itself was unclean because of the Romans.

As we’ve noted elsewhere, Jesus appearance on the scene is understood (by the biblical writers, at least) as G-d returning to the people and land as promised. During this time of Jesus’ ministry and the actions of the first followers of The Way, G-d is going around seeing how Israel is measuring up. And it’s not looking very good. Jesus has told them that there’s a storm approaching -- that the people, the city, and the Temple would be judged because they were discovered not fulfilling their part of the covenant (the sacred agreement between YHWH and Israel).

So, in that sense, the “master” does equal G-d and the “manager” represents the leaders of the people, specifically the Religious Elite. They’ll have to make an account of their actions. G-d Realm was going to be take from them and given to someone else (they were getting fired; see Matthew 21.43). That’s why they began to “sneer” at Jesus. They understood that the story was about them and that Jesus believed he was -- somehow, mystically -- representing YHWH. Who did this upstart think he is?

Jesus’ story, then, has several points. The first one is that the people of his day were not getting off the hook. Judgement is coming but they’re not going to like where it lands. Second, they should take a lesson from the so-called pagans and get themselves ready for the oncoming storm. They should start helping out those they’ve been cheating so that, when the Romans come and the city and Temple is wiped out, they might have a place to live (not “eternal” as meaning “going to heaven” but as place that would last) and not get killed or taken captive.

So Jesus’ last words in this passage are directed primarily to the Religious Elite of his day. Within this context, though, what do you suppose the message is for us today? Is there a connection to make? What do you think? Leave a comment below.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

15 September 2013

Weekly Gospel Reflection -- 15 September 2013

All the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus to listen to him. The Pharisees and legal experts were grumbling, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose someone among you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them. Wouldn’t he leave the other ninety-nine in the pasture and search for the lost one until he finds it? And when he finds it, he is thrilled and places it on his shoulders. When he arrives home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who changes both heart and life than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to change their hearts and lives.

“Or what woman, if she owns ten silver coins and loses one of them, won’t light a lamp and sweep the house, searching her home carefully until she finds it? When she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, joy breaks out in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who changes both heart and life.”

In today’s story about stories, once more we see that Jesus tells stories based on what he did or is doing. In this case, the stories about a lost sheep and a lost coin explain why he hangs out and befriends “tax collectors and other notorious sinners” (verse 1; NLT). But there’s more going on here than just hanging out. In that culture, to eat with someone was to count them as family, as an equal. This was something that the Religious Elite wouldn’t do. Jesus is having a party with all the wrong people! And he always seemed to do that. In fact, in the previous chapter, he said not to invite all the normal people but to invite the “poor, crippled, lame, and blind” instead (Luke 14.12-14).

But why? Why did those type of people seem to flock around Jesus? Why does he seem so comfortable with them? Because, Jesus says, that’s what’s happening in G-d’s Realm! G-d’s Realm is rejoicing because the long awaited return of Israel’s King has finally come at last (see Mark 1.15)! And when that happens, people, quite naturally it seems, come crowding in. Their deepest yearnings are being realized. The disconnect of “earth” and “heaven” are finally coming together the way that was always promised -- “on earth as in heaven.” True repentance is not about following the rules and regulations of the Religious Elite, but coming to Jesus and living The Way he exemplified. That’s what those people were doing. They saw in Jesus the way humanity was truly supposed to be. And they wanted to be a part of that. Who wouldn’t throw a party for that?!

But then the questions we need to ask ourselves is what are we doing to mimic this? That is, what are we doing to make those around us ask the questions, “Why are you hanging out and befriending those people? I thought you were a follower of Jesus? Don’t you know what kind of people they are? Why are you doing that” What might we do to be asked those questions and what stories would we tell about finding something that was lost to answer them?

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

14 September 2013

A Misunderstanding of Election

I have a confession to make…

I used to be a Calvinist.

For a number of years the Doctrine of Election, the teaching that God chooses whom God would love and save, was the comfort of my soul. But…

I was comforted by a false idol.

Furthermore, while the Bible does teach election—the selection of Israel over every other nation, the choosing of Jacob over Esau, people predestined before the foundation of the world to be adopted children of God—I believe this has been misread. From the beginning, that is, from the choosing of Abraham and Sarah, the selection was never an end of itself. It was a means. In Genesis 12, when God chose Abraham and Sarah, God said, “All the families on earth will be blessed through you” (verse 3; NLT). The Divine purpose of choosing Abraham and Sarah was that “all the families on earth”—not just the Jews, nor the Christians, nor the Muslims, but all—would be “blessed through [Abraham].”

The word translated “blessed” is “barak” and it means “to kneel” as in homage or praise or respect. The obvious questions are, “Why are ‘all the families on the earth’ kneeling in respect or praise? And to whom?” To me, the obvious answer to the second question is they are kneeling in respect and praise to Yahweh, the Creator God, the God of Abraham and Sarah. But why? Ah! That’s the question.

Some people, at this point, look at the election of Abraham, Sarah, and their family (whether they’re Jews or Muslims) as the whole point. That is, God chose them to be the true people, the only people. “All the [other] families on earth” were made for destruction (as some suppose Romans 9 teaches). But that’s not the case. The point of choosing Abraham and Sarah, as we have seen, is for the rescue of the whole world. It was through Abraham and Sarah that God would rescue the world. They’ll be God’s instruments, God’s agents, in a world-wide rescue operation.

This all goes back to worldview. How do we see the world? Is it so thoroughly corrupted that it needs to be destroyed? Or is it innately good—indeed, “supremely good” (Genesis 1.31)? For a very long time, the Christian world view has been that all of creation is “supremely good,” though broken (or as St. Paul put it in Romans 8, “subjected to frustration”). Somewhere around the fifth century or so, the idea came about that, because of the “Fall”—the sin of Adam and Eve—all of creation is now so full of sin and decay, the only “righteous” thing God can do is destroy it. Obviously, this would include people. But, as the theory goes, while God’s Holy and Just and Right and therefore fully justified in destroying everything, God’s also Love so God chose to love some of humanity (and we don’t really know who that is, even though we pretend we do). (As an important aside, the doctrine of “original sin” isn’t found in Judaism or Orthodox Christianity and had it’s start, ironically, in the Gnosticism of the second century.)

Furthermore, what’s interesting about God’s choice is that there’s nothing to love about those chosen. There’s nothing redeemable. God, by God’s own power and right, just chose one person from among many. In some cases, as in the case of Jacob and Esau, it looks like God splits a family apart for no other reason than because God “loved Jacob but...hated Esau (Romans 9.13)”. Indeed, in that chapter, St. Paul wrote that God’s choice “doesn't depend on a person’s desire or effort, it depends entirely on God” (verse 16). “So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen” (verse 18; NLT).

Therefore, with all of God’s chosen people destined to spend eternity with God, God can now destroy everything else. I realize this is an oversimplification, but it’s the gist of Calvinist teaching.

But, as we stated above, this worldview misses a huge point—that God’s dream is to rescue all of creation, not just some of it. We see this played out in various other passages. For example:

Psalm 22.27-31(adapted): Every part of the earth will remember and come back to Yahweh; every family among all the nations will worship you. Because the right to rule belongs to Yahweh, he rules all nations. Indeed, all the earth’s powerful will worship him; all who are descending to the dust will kneel before him; my being also lives for him. Future descendants will serve him; generations to come will be told about my Lord. They will proclaim God’s righteousness to those not yet born, telling them what God has done.

Romans 11.11-12, 15-16; 11.32 (adapted): So I’m asking you: they haven’t stumbled so that they’ve fallen permanently, have they? Absolutely not! But salvation has come to the Gentiles by their failure, in order to make Israel jealous. But if their failure brings riches to the world, and their defeat brings riches to the Gentiles, how much more will come from the completion of their number!...If their rejection has brought about a close relationship between God and the world, how can their acceptance mean anything less than life from the dead? But if part of a batch of dough is offered to God as holy, the whole batch of dough is holy too. If a root is holy, the branches will be holy too…God has locked up all people in disobedience, in order to have mercy on all of them.

1 Corinthians 15.21-22: Since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came through one too. In the same way that everyone dies in Adam, so also everyone will be given life in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5.19 (adapted): In other words, God was reconciling the world to Godself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. God has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.

Ephesians 1.10: This is what God planned for the climax of all times: to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth.

Colossians 1.19-20: Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in Jesus, and God reconciled all things to Godself through him—whether things on earth or in the heavens. God brought peace through the blood of his cross.

From these passages (and many others could be sited), we see quite clearly that the point of the election of Abraham and Sarah was the reconciliation of the entire cosmos. And, if I may sharpen that point a little bit more, that reconciliation has already been accomplished!

Notice again 2 Corinthians 5.19. God “was reconciling the world” through Christ. This is past tense. It’s already been accomplished. The people of God have been given that message of reconciliation. If we want to know what to do, if we want to know what our “calling from God” is—it’s that. Furthermore, Paul was even more clear in Colossians 1. God “reconciled all things...through Christ” and “brought peace through the blood” of Jesus on the cross.

There’s a lot of talk lately about God’s covenant (agreement) with the people of Israel. Of how the sacrifices that were made on their holiest day (Yom Kippur) were made for the whole nation. An Israelite didn’t have to “accept” this sacrifice to receive the benefit of it. The sacrifice only had to be accepted by God. If it was accepted, then forgiveness and mercy were bestowed upon the entire nation. New Testament scholars see in that event an example of what God did through the death of Jesus. That is, since God did the same thing with Christ’s death (once more, God took what humanity meant for evil and turned it into good, see Acts 2.22-24), all of humanity, all of creation, has been reconciled to God! The vocation of God’s people now, i.e., the people who are “called” or “chosen” or “elected” by God to work now, is to implement that reconciliation in our world today.

The old way of seeing election only continues to foster this “us vs. them” worldview. God’s worldview is much bigger. It involves the entire cosmos. We need to open our eyes to what God is doing. We need to let go of “childish things” and see the way God sees. We need to see that the entire creation is “holy land” and that all water is “holy water” (Romans 11.16). We need to see that all people are God’s people and that they’re our brothers and sisters.

My friends, God’s dream for creation isn’t limited by our understandings. It transcends them. We can’t fathom a world in which the “enemy” is indeed a human being with needs and wants of love and kindness and mercy just like ourselves. But that’s the way God sees it. All of creation has been reconciled to God through Christ. That includes our enemies as well as our friends. That includes our neighbors as well as our families. We’ve been chosen to a great vocation. We have to work at building bridges to those around us. We need to look towards God’s ultimate future where “we’ll hammer our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2.4) It’s toward that goal that we’ve been elected. Our enlightenment now is for that purpose—to bring God’s realm of peace and love and mercy to the whole creation.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC