Mar 242017
 

So….yesterday, I had a colonoscopy.

That pretty much defines the online doctrine of TMI (too much information), but bear with me.

I’d refused the exam for all the reasons you would naturally refuse such…I hate being exposed and the procedure gives a whole new meaning to the word “invasive”.

 

(I woke up before the invasion was over, but that’s another story for another time…it’s an odd way to wake up.)

The doctor came in to tell me what he had done and how the procedure went…and told me that they had removed something.

Something large.

Something that had I not submitted to the examination could have have made me very sick or killed me.

It was, (we hope) “pre-cancerous”.

I now have a metal staple where the sun doesn’t shine that will activate metal detectors.

I have purposed in my heart to stay out of the park on those days when the old men come looking for lost valuables with their hand held detectors…

I will need a special card the doctor gave me to board airplanes and hope the TSA doesn’t decide to search anyway.

I digress…

Naturally, all of this led me to think about God things.

How many of us have something growing inside our souls that the Holy Spirit has shown us must be removed?

How many of us have the cancer of greed, of lust, of unforgiveness, of idolatry, or some such thing common to man hiding beneath the surface?

How long do we run from the exposure of such and let the Holy Spirit do His work, even when it feels so invasive?

The point being that these things are as deadly to our spiritual life and our walk with Christ as that polyp could have been to my body.

They can kill relationships, marriages, families and fellowship with God.

I’m going to make your applications today.

If you’re over fifty and you haven’t had a colonoscopy, get it done.

Now.

It could save your life.

If you’ve been resisting the work of the Holy Spirit in discovering and removing “pre-cancerous” sin, let Him do His work.

Now.

It could save even more of your life.

If I can do it you, you can too.

Mar 242017
 

Mila’s Bible

A couple of years after we had released the single and video, “Romero”, I received a package from a Salvadoran friend, who now lives and works in Los Angeles. Inside the package was a small, well worn Bible in Spanish and a letter.  My friend had come to this country in the 1980s escaping the civil war in El Salvador.  Through the course of time, he naturalized, worked his way through high school, college and law school and now works as an attorney. 

He is a Roman Catholic, devoted to the memory of Archbishop Oscar Romero, whom he encountered as a child, and continues to promote his message of faith, non-violence and social justice. After encountering our music and video, we became fast friends, although we have never met. Permit me to share his letter with you.

My dear brother in Christ, Duane,

I could think of no more meaningful gift than to give you this Bible.  It was given to my mother in 1985 and passed on to me through her thereafter, and has been in my hands until now.  It has shed much light through utter darkness, therefore I have faith that it will be a blessing to you, your wonderful wife and all whom you love.

This Bible came into our hands at a time of great darkness. It was at this time that my mother, my brother and I became homeless, because my mother was living with my alcoholic step-father and, out of desperation, she preferred to see us on the street rather than be exposed to domestic violence and danger.  In retrospect, I believe that it was the right decision.  Archbishop Romero said that a mother’s loving, selfless and courageous guardianship of her children is a form of martyrdom and I have come to believe that in a small way.  My mother’s choices reflect it…

If you thumb through the pages of this Bible, you will find them well worn and falling apart in places.  You will find that many passages have been underlined.  If you were to analyze which sections have received the most wear, you would find that it is the sections that reinforce the basic faith – Jesus died for our sins, he was raised from the dead (as we will be), he was the Son of God. These are the promises that give hope in times of great fear, in circumstances of suffering, in those moments when all seems to be lost and our lives feel worthless.

This was certainly a time of great despair. In addition to the family troubles I’ve noted, this was the depths of the Salvadoran Civil War. There was a general sense of dread. Our families and friends were fleeing from the war. We were exiles, frightened and not yet legal in a foreign land. The news from home was heavy, full of gloom.

There is another connection I know that you will appreciate. The Bible was given to my mother by a woman named Maria.  We called her “Mila”.  Mila was married to a man named Manuel. Manuel’s mother, Matilde,  to whom the Bible first belonged, was one of those killed, Bible in hand, at Oscar Romero’s funeral five years before. Later, they gave her Bible to us.  I consider Matilde to be a witness of the faith. You can imagine that it took great courage, and faith, to even be willing to attend Romero’s funeral. She was one of forty-four people who died after shots were fired by the military producing a stampede.

You might be asking yourself why am I giving you this Bible rather than to keep it for myself or pass it on to my daughter given its incredible family history.  There’s a multi-part answer to that.  First of all, I give it to you precisely because it means a lot. I wanted to give you something special because you are special.  Simple as that. Second, I don’t want to reduce this Bible to the totemistic status of a momento, or a mere keepsake.  I have to consider that it is the Word of God, whose worth transcends personal property and belongs to the People of God.  Note that I addressed you as “brother in Christ”, and if that word means anything, it means that you too are my family and in giving this gift to you, I am keeping it “in the family”.  Third, this Bible has a history of being gifted from one family to another, so it seems very natural to pass it on, especially at this time. Fourth and finally, instead of giving my daughter a family keepsake Bible, I want to tell her one day that I had this Bible; that it meant so much to me; yet, that I chose to give it away and explain to her why we must open our hearts and express the love that is in our souls rather than be bound to material things and possessions and that is a more valuable gift than just a family heirloom!

And I know that you will appreciate it – even if it is in Spanish! It might be nice even to have a Spanish Bible!  Duane, I am so glad we have you, because we need you as we need each other.  I hope we can continue to blaze trails that lead many to greater Christian unity in the future.

In short, may greater things yet come to pass…

Your friend and brother in Christ,

C

That Bible is beside me as I write this.  I think of the history it has seen, the people who have turned it’s pages, and the lives that have found comfort and nurture in it’s words. Finally, I think of Archbishop Oscar Romero on this day, the anniversary of his martyrdom.

Duane W.H. Arnold

The Project

Mar 232017
 

The Finger of God

“Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,’ while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.’ ” (Luke 11:14-20)

One of my favorite metaphors for depicting God’s power and activity on earth is finger of God. As a figure of speech, finger of God is simple yet evocative, and it communicates many of God’s attributes. Before Jesus adopted this metaphor for His own ministry, Pharaoh’s magicians used it to point to Israel’s God for the plagues they were unable to replicate (Ex 8:19). In the 16th Century, Michelangelo masterfully incorporated this metaphor into one of the greatest fresco paintings ever created: The Creation of Adam, which adorns the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

One easily could say the metaphor finger of God is theologically freighted. Let us explore this metaphor and the various theological themes it conveys. If you have additional or different impressions, please share them in comments following the article.

  • God’s power is awesome and asymmetrical in comparison to all created beings and powers. By this small appendage and with the lightest touch, God is more powerful than all our adversaries. God’s sovereign will is unthwartable. By His finger, God saves us.
  • God is in touch with His creation. God is not absent from or disinterested in his creation. In Jesus, God came down and joined himself to creation, taking on our flesh. Incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, the Word was made man. In this way, the finger of God became more than just a metaphor. This finger became a physical, historical reality in the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.
  • During his earthly ministry, Jesus wielded the finger of God, redeeming and healing people, sometimes by His physical touch and at other times by His powerful Word which touched the hearts of His followers. Jesus cast out demons; forgave sins; healed the sick; gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf; caused the mute to speak; and raised the dead.
  • After His ascension, the finger of God continues to redeem and heal people to this day through His ongoing ministries of Word and Sacrament, by which the Church proclaims the forgiveness of sins through faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Christ for all people. A touch by the finger of God illumines our hearts with faith, opens our ears to the Gospel, and enables us to confess that Jesus is Lord. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:13-14)
  • The finger of God encompasses the work of the one Triune God, which being of one essence, yet are three distinct persons, namely the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal. Note that in Matthew’s parallel account, Jesus equates Holy Spirit with the finger of God: “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt 12:28)
  • The metaphor of a finger, which does all these great works, reminds us that in Christ and His Word, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, we receive grace, knowledge and a saving relationship with the Father; however, much of God and His providential rule over creation remain hidden from us. It is as if in our earthly lives we are given to know just the finger of God. No doubt, our finite minds are incapable of comprehending much more than His finger. As Paul acknowledged: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom 11:33)

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Cor 13:12)

Yet even though our present knowledge and understanding of God is incomplete, Jesus gives us two promises: (1) we are fully known to Him, which is far more important than our infinitesimal knowledge of God; and (2) when it is our time to join the Church Triumphant, we will see Christ face to face; then we shall fully know. In the meantime, may we be content with just His finger, while giving Christ thanks and praise for suffering and dying on the cross to set us free from sin, death and the devil. Amen.

Lord, Jesus Christ: “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.” (Ps 51:7-8 NASB) Amen.

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ my God!

All the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

To Christ, who won for sinners grace

By bitter grief and anguish sore,

Be praise from all the ransomed race

Forever and forevermore.

Isaac Watts, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Mar 222017
 

In the Greco-Roman world, it was common for leaders to write commendations of others (or even for themselves as did Paul) as a means to promote or solicit their acceptance by others.

This was a common practice by those in positions of power and authority to promote their subordinates and assist their rise to power.  Paul uses this same method to commend both those who were his assistants and those, like Epaphroditus, who  rose to leadership in their local churches. Commendations are consistent in many of Paul’s letters .  Paul wrote commendations to endorse certain people to be received as leaders within the churches. Here Paul is lending his own credibility toward the qualifications of those in or aspiring to leadership, and his motive is derived from his burden the churches (2 Cor. 11:28).

Not everyone who Paul commended actually served the church in the capacity of an overseer which today is translated as the pastor. The qualifications for such calling/position are given to us in 1Timothy 3 (which also includes qualifications for deacons) and Titus 1. Paul’s identification of leaders is rather broad in comparison to most of the church’s understanding of church leadership. Paul commended those who were local church leaders, engaged in missionary work, as well as those who traveled as a part of envoys for the collection for the Jerusalem church and letter carriers who transported Paul’s  correspondence.

Paul’s letters of commendation provides the church both then and today with a broader view of what a leader looks like and how they are to function within the church.

Common structure of commendation letters in the Greco-Roman divided into three categories: the identification of those being commended, the criteria or qualifications of merit, and a request for hearers/readers to accept those being commended . They worked like our letters of recommendation do today. Paul used the same format in his letters. While space will not allow for a full exposition of all the commendation passages in Paul’s letters, it is enough to identify the location of these commendations, and place the emphasis on the criteria or qualifications for leadership. Not wanting to be without biblical reference, 1 Thessalonians 5 will serve as our primary source.

Many of Paul’s commendations are found in: Romans 16:1-2 (Phobe); 1 Corinthians 16:15-18 (Stephanas and his household); 2 Corinthians 8:16-24 (the envoy to collection funds for the Jerusalem church); Philippians 2:19-24 (Timothy), 2:25-30 Epaphroditus. 4:4:2-3 (Euodia and Syntyche.); Colossians 4:7 (Tychicus).  Also, one might make the case that the entire book of Philemon is a commendation for Onesimus.

Paul’s criteria for his commendations for those in leadership were based on the leader’s hard work, sacrificial service and genuine concern for the community . These were the qualifications that Paul consistently used in his different letters when he would write commendations for those engaged in the work of the ministry.  He was looking for certain characteristics in people that he might encourage their leadership and influence over their respective churches.  Such criteria were contrary to Greco-Roman commendations that placed great emphasis on a person’s social status.

The calling of leadership is that of service (diakonia, Rom 16:1, Col. 4:7, 1 Th. 3:2, 1 Tim 3:2), that is, a ministry that focuses on serving the church and will require of the leader both commitment and sacrifice . Service can be broken down into three areas which are consistent in all of Paul’s commendations; specific to the passage of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 and parallel the actions receiving commendation in 1 Corinthians 16:15-18 . The leader is called to service, through hard work, helping others and providing sound biblical instruction/counsel. Leadership is also in the context of fellowship, which implies imitation and mutual accountability.  

Hard work or labor on behalf of the gospel (which is manifested in many different ways) is a marking of service both to the church and the Lord.  Paul labored (performed manual labor) so as not to burden the Thessalonian church (1 Thess. 2:9).  The manual labor of Paul serves as an analogy for the work of the ministry in the additional references to labor in commendation found in 1 Thessalonians 5.  

Secondly, there is the function of helping (proistamenous).  1 Thessalonians 5:12 translates proistamenous as those who “are over you” (NKJV), and this word can be translated “to care for, to help”. The margin in the NASB translation of Romans 12:8 offers a secondary rendering of the translation, those who “gives aid” instead of lead.

Thirdly, the leader was marked as one who would instruct the church community in the things of God.  The Greek word nouthetountas brings the concept of counsel to avoid or discontinue course conduct, and can refer to a teaching that addresses the will with a focus on changing behavior .

Not only is the church called to imitate the biblical examples as modeled by Paul (1 Cor. 11:1), but their lives also served a models for others to imitate (Phil. 3:17). This idea of imitation implies koinonia which is translated as communion, fellowship or partnership.  Leaders in the church are to exercise their ministry in and for community and in recognition that they are a part of a team . Ministry was to be conducted in partnership, that is the basic understanding of koinonia .

Another requirement for church leadership is that those aspiring to lead must be tested. This parallels one of Paul’s requirements for an overseer; that they are not a novice coupled with the command not to lay hands on someone too soon (1 Tim 3:6, 10).  It is necessary to take time to assess a person’s spiritual makeup.  Do they have a willingness to serve others, are they engaged in some type of work (either within or outside the church) that demonstrates their concern for the work of the gospel and the church.  Can they speak into another’s life in a gracious manner (Col. 4:6)? Approval of leaders is by God, (1 Thess. 2:4), the churches (Phil. 2:2) and in his time, by Paul (2 Cor. 8:22), through the means of experience that teach and demonstrate a person’s worthiness and maturity for church leadership . Leaders go through a seasoning process where they endure hardships which the Holy Spirit uses to qualify His servants.

 Lastly is their doctrinal beliefs consistent with orthodox Christianity and how do they handle their views if they different from either the consensus of the church body and/or the teaching ministry of the pastor. How one conducts themselves in doctrinal conflicts indicates the extent of their concern for the people within the church.

Material cited from “Servant Leadership” by Efrain Agosto…

Mar 212017
 

TP_MS_1-2When things overwhelm me I drive up the mountain toward Crater Lake and the Rogue River Gorge.

The last eleven miles of the journey are a cathedral in nature, a strip of road cut though a tunnel of majestic fir trees.

 

My soundtrack for this drive last week was the new release from the Martyrs Project called “Mystic Chapel”.

It was a fitting accompaniment in sound to the visual representation of the glory of God in nature.

Our friend Duane Arnold (who wrote and composed the music and lyrics with Michael Glen Bell) had sent me a copy to review.

The liner notes say that the music on this album was inspired by the Easter liturgies of St. John Chrysostom.

That explains why it sounds a bit like Tom Stipe meets John Michael Talbot or The Jesus Movement meets Eastern Orthodoxy and they learn to sing together.

The album tells the story of a person who is weary and for whom real faith has become a vapor…and the journey back to faith.

It’s a beautiful, coherent, journey in word and sound that evokes both worship and deeper meditation on the truths presented.

The lyrics and music are impeccably written and performed…they carry you though the album without distracting one from the experience of listening.

I highly recommend buying the physical CD as the poetry inside the liner notes is worth the cost of the album.

So much of Christian music today is shallow and sallow lyrically, theologically, and musically.

We have here a remedy to all those ills and I commend it to your listening and enjoyment…even if you can’t take the same journey I did.

There’s one journey common to us all…and this is a fitting soundtrack to it.

Thank you, Duane for allowing me to hear this and expose it my readers…it is a gift.

There is an excellent review of the album on the Ancient-Future Faith network as well.

 

Mar 212017
 

Going to church with the Reformers…

Why Jesus isn’t looking for employees…

What do your kids know about communion?

The oddest question theologians ask…

God’s love is messy…

The transgender controversy part one and part two….

A pastoral letter to myself (in case I fall)… (great article)

Doing what Jesus taught even on social media…

Psalms week…entering into the story…

I believe, help my unbelief…

K.P. Yohannon gets his ring kissed on his birthday…

No, the Bible doesn’t say creation is only 6000 years old…

Baptist state convention sued over rape at church camp…

The diffusion and influence of contemporary worship…

To the unknown pastor…

Why doesn’t God answer my non stupid prayers?

The Benedict Option and the way of exchange…

Mike Pence, finding God, and the shifting agenda of Christian music festivals…

Love for losers…

There’s a difference between allegory and heresy…

What TurboTax teaches us about Lent…

Prayer works, but not in the way many suppose…

Ecclesiology in space…

Four perimeters to protect your marriage…

A plea for holistic Christianity (preventing burnout)….

How a Christian movement is growing rapidly in a time of decline…

Is the Reformation relevant for Luther’s homeland?

More on the Benedict Option;

Don’t put your light under a basket….

Rejecting the stranger…

An overview from the WW…

Good strategy, bad posture…

Huge thanks as always to EricL for the link help…support him at top right!

 

Mar 202017
 

A New Era

I study Church history for a reason. 

History is the only place where Christian theology and practice becomes possible.  Any real knowledge about God, in terms of Christianity, needs history.  Our knowledge of God is within a context.  This is owing to the fact that Christianity, at heart, is incarnational.  

Because of this, we cannot limit Christian history, or indeed theology itself, within the confines of a narrow faith community. 

On the contrary, Church history and, indeed, Christian theology and practice, must in some sense be placed within the wider context of human history.  This is to say that we must place this sacred history and the theology which surrounds it within the political, social and spiritual context to which it belongs. 

For the early Church, this means looking at the Middle East,  the realm of the Roman empire, the Jewish community of the day and the philosophical systems then in vogue. 

For the Church of the middle ages and medieval monasticism we must look to the rise of the feudal system in western Europe, the rediscovery of Aristotle and the emergence of centralized political authority in the persons of kings and princes. 

As we study the Reformation Church, we recognize that it is impossible to view the events, personalities and emerging theological perspectives without also taking in the emergence of nation-states, the transformation wrought by the printing press, or, indeed, the troubled marriages of England’s Henry VIII. 

In the modern era, it is almost impossible to separate the Enlightenment from the evangelical revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries.  The tension between enlightenment ideals and religious faith has marked the last two centuries. This has resulted, I believe, in the very often “ahistorical” manifestations of Christian faith and practice exercised in many quarters.  Our identity has become defined by “what we are against” rather than what we affirm.

Whether we recognize it or not, the last thirty years, with the emergence of digital technology and instant communication, has ushered us into a new era.  It is a new era of not only human history, but of Church history as well.  Martin Luther may or may not have recognized the contribution to his work made by Johannes Gutenberg, but the dissemination of Reformation ideals would have been near to impossible without him.  As I sit writing this small piece of theological reflection, I realize that my ability to gain a readership today is in large part owing to a Buddhist named Steve Jobs and an semi-Atheist named Bill Gates.  In this new era of Church history, we are confronted with new challenges.  The first and foremost challenge is that everybody has a voice.  Now, please note, I did not say that everybody has expertise, only that everybody has a voice. They may use that voice to share profound insights or, they may use that voice propagate nonsense.  The cacophony of voices – informed, ill-informed and uninformed – fills our television, computer and smart phone screens on a moment by moment, second by second basis without the benefits of a filter or a pause for reflection.

As we confront this new era, it seems to me that we need a moment to “step back”. Living in the history of the moment, it is hard to see the larger context, but I think we need to make the attempt. We need to make the attempt, because it is in the here and now that God is making himself known.  He is making himself known in this moment of history as he has done through the millennia.  I think this is part of the attraction, for some, of the so-called “Benedict Option”.  More than just a withdrawal from society at large, it represents a desire for the things we have lost of late – time for study, prayer, reflection, the nurturing of expertise, the desire for community, the intrinsic value of work, some disengagement from the myriad of voices surrounding us.  On the other hand, this is not sixth century Umbria, it is America in the twenty-first century and we are called to deal with the challenges of our own time.

For me (and I can only speak for myself) withdrawal from society at large is not really an option.  Additionally, I would submit that the confrontation between Christian theology and enlightenment ideals is a battle that is over. Society at large has made its choice and they did not choose Christian theology.  If we continue fighting this non-existent battle, the only result will be the further alienation of rising generations as the Church shouts into the wind and wonders why it is not heard.  On the other hand, complete engagement with current norms creates not only theological issues, but a practical problem as well. 

Let us be true to ourselves as the Church and say that Christian doctrine and practice is not established by the vote of fifty-one percent.  By making this simple statement, we have already placed a gap between ourselves and civil society that cannot, and, indeed, should not be bridged.  In terms of practicality, perhaps it is enough to say that “if you wed yourself to the present, you will be found a widow in the future”.  Or, perhaps, more prosaically, if you think you’re hip and trendy today, you’ll look a bit silly in ten or twenty years time. (Just think of the photos of yourself wearing those… bell bottoms, peasant skirts, wide ties, skinny ties, etc.) 

Looking over the course of Church history and the development of Christian doctrine, it seems to me that the Church has done best in doing those things that society has left undone.  The early Church confronted the Roman empire by adopting its own moral code from the Gospels and apostolic letters and creating communities in which class distinctions were ignored.  Benedict established communities which not only became centers of learning and stability in a tumultuous age, but also taught farming and crop management to those in the surrounding area.  In a time of unfettered clericalism, Luther placed the Scripture and the greater part of the liturgy into the vernacular for the benefit of the common believer.  He demonstrated clerical marriage by his own example and encouraged the education of lay people.  John and Charles Wesley, in a time of  latitudinarianism, created a “Holy Club” at Oxford, the members of which fasted, studied the Greek New Testament each evening, visited prisoners and the sick and received Holy Communion each week.  

So, what has been left “undone” in 2016?  I’m sure each of you will have a list.  I certainly have mine, but let me say first, these few suggestions are only meant to be suggestive, not exhaustive… 

Education in many quarters has become vocational, rather than the centuries old concept of “learning to learn”.  It has resulted in the death of expertise in some fields (especially theology) and a lack of regard for education among many. Perhaps a return to mentoring and the joy of learning is in order.

In our ever more connected world, loneliness is endemic. We see it among young and old alike.  A sense of community and of belonging is desired (and sometimes feared) by many.  Perhaps we need to insure that church is no longer a “spectator” experience.

In a time in which anything can be said, courtesy and civility is being lost.  We see it in politics, but we also see it in our churches and in our theological discussions.  Have we forgotten how to “consider others as more important” than ourselves (Phil. 2:30)? Courtesy and civility provides the space for real conversation, for growth, for learning.

Learning, community, conversation… the list could go on, but you get the idea.  I think if we begin to look for that which is “undone” in this time of history; if we look for the “broken places” in society and apply an incarnational approach to our theology in addressing them, we could be amazed at the result.

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

Mar 182017
 

I arise today

Through the strength of heaven;

Light of the sun,

Splendor of fire,

Speed of lightning,

Swiftness of the wind,

Depth of the sea,

Stability of the earth,

Firmness of the rock.

I arise today

Through God’s strength to pilot me;

God’s might to uphold me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to guard me,

God’s way to lie before me,

God’s shield to protect me,

God’s hosts to save me

Afar and anear,

Alone or in a mulitude.

Christ shield me today

Against wounding

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in the eye that sees me,

Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today

Through the mighty strength

Of the Lord of creation.

St. Patrick

Mar 182017
 

Matthew 18:21-35

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

  • Recognition of sin and a person’s repentance are important – but what about the continual sinner?
  • Peter once again steps up – “Jesus, you sound pretty serious about this regaining a brother stuff, but what is the limit? What are the boundaries?
  • We need to have something to work with here or we will just become enablers.

22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

  • Here in America it is 3 strikes and you are out – so the 7 times of Peter doesn’t sound too bad.
  • So Jesus draws the line for us – he gives us 70 x 7 – but that limit is not 490.
  • It is a Hebraism – it’s kind of like kids trying to one up each other
  • “Well I go to infinity – oh yeah, well I go to infinity times two!”

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.

  • Remember, we are talking about this kingdom living stuff.
  • So, he turns the story a little to a king who is owed a large debt
  • Talent = a number of years wages – and he owes 10,000 of them.
  • The idea is that the amount is impossible to pay.

25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.

  • This is why today we have bankruptcy laws.
  • Liquidate as much as he could get out of the guy and his family.
  • And still the rest of the payment to be made.
  • Even with us, if you can’t pay the debt to God then it is off to hell with you.

26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’

  • Patience – yes, that’s what the guy needs – as if he can come up with the dough.

27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

  • Forgiveness – and not just forgiveness, but no more debt … sound familiar?
  • This king is a bookkeeper and keeps score – but he dies to this, to his nature and totally forgives.
  • But note – this still does not answer Peter’s question, and Peter is probably standing in the background – “that’s a crazy king – an insane master, that’s foolishness – you will go out of business doing things like that.
  • People are going to take advantage of you.”

28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’

  • 100 denarii = 1 days pay = 100 days.
  • Pay!! No forgiveness.

29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’

  • He asks for the exact same consideration.
  • What is not being done here?? Forgive us our debts (trespasses) as we have forgiven others.
  • And this doesn’t even reach Peter’s level of how many – 7 times?
  • No pity here.

30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.

  • This guy is not living a free life – he was given a free life by his master, but he is now the bookkeeper / score keeper king.

31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.

32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.

33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’

34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.

  • There is no other way to put this – this is a sentence to hell.

35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

  • This is a very serious statement – not to be played with, not to be nuanced
  • Why so serious? Because it is not the gospel.
  • It is living like Christ had not died for that person’s debt.
  • This is a salvation where we absent Jesus from the kingdom – and we sit on the throne.
  • This is what it means to mature as a baptized believer in God – to forgive, to follow that petition of the Lord’s Prayer.
  • Let it go – Let it be – Be unchained.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: