A community that eats

I heard recently that the ‘magic’ of Jesus was ‘meals and miracles’. And yesterday I gave a cursory glance at the 72 being sent out – meals and miracles were to go hand in hand. Today this text:

For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here in a good place, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor person. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into the courts? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

What comes to mind? If you are like me then for many years I kinda imagined a ‘church’ setting with formal or even informal seating but that a notable person comes in and everyone makes sure that they have a decent seat. However… that necessitates a building of some sort and fails to grasp that the context of the meal was huge in the first Century. Huge in both the Graeco-Roman and the Jewish world, and where people were seated at the meals was a big deal, based on a hierarchy. Maybe the nearest we have in our culture is something like a wedding reception – to some extent where people are seated is important. In the culture we are engaging with in the New Testament hierarchy was ever-so-present in these settings. Think about the words of Jesus:

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host, and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Lk. 14:7-11).

The banquet is set out hierarchically – the place of honour. Jesus then follows this on to describe how meals were to operate with his followers:

He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers and sisters or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Lk. 14:12-14).

In the world of that day the concept was to invite those who were important then give them a place of honour and guess what – they would repay you the honour. The instructions of Jesus over meal invitations was nothing short of a political resistance to the status quo and a turning of the world upside down! The meal table, and for sure Jesus was as much in trouble for his meal table practice as he was for his teaching. The whole aspect played out in the wider non-Jewish world with meals that honoured Caesar and the gods, look after those who carried power and influence and you too could climb the ladder socially and be successful.

This again plays out in the meal that honoured the Lord. I appreciate that there are now traditions such as mass, eucharist, or more lower church terminology such as communion, but the NT setting (‘tradition’ could be a Pauline word for this) was of a meal. It might be termed the agape meal, it was based on the Passover meal, but also sat totally within the wider meal context of that era. At the Lord’s table no place of honour was to be reserved for the rich and famous, everything was equalised. In that setting each person brought what they could for the communal meal and of course the wealthy could bring the wine and finer cuts, the poorer among them (many from the slave class) by contrast could not bring too much. But it was all presented and declared to be the ‘Lord’s table’ then all were invited to eat and drink. In Corinthians this demonstration of equality was not present, so he simply said that ‘when you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper’. The old divisions were maintained, those who had much consumed much while ignoring the others – and surely this must division, this failure to see the wonderful equalisation through the cross, has to be at the heart of ‘whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner’.

What a community Jesus imagined. This is the gift to the world. Meals, or whatever might carry a similar meaning in our setting, being the gift. And miracles – for in the absence of this egalitarian demonstration in Corinth Paul indicated that ‘for this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died’. Sobering words, and the opposite would bring words of hope and healing.

The magic of Jesus – meals and miracles. The lamb with the wolf. The gift to society – a Jesus’ people who do not offer the best seat to the one who is categorised as important; a people who live in a new creation and see no one according to any category, other than the creational / new creational description of ‘image and likeness’. A Jesus people who might not rise to the places of influence, but as our first quoted Scripture above says ‘Is it not the rich who oppress you?’ Not simply the individual rich person, but the system that rewards a pattern of living and that is not the pattern that is to be among us.

Wolves and lambs

Not exactly friends together… an invitation to partake in a picnic given to both of these animals would probably leave the lamb a little nervous – certainly if the lamb asked ‘who else is invited?’. Yet… Jesus said to his followers:

The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way; I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves (Lk. 10:2,3).

Quite an instruction!!! I wonder if the two animals that Jesus chose was based on his meditations in Isaiah:

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together (Is. 65:25)

The context of Isaiah is of a vision of the Messianic / eschatological age when shalom will be the environment that pervades, all things brought to a place of relational wholeness, which will include all of creation. Jesus is certainly highlighting the age-old prophetic critique of not trusting God for protection (hence why are you relying on Egypt etc. OT type critique) but perhaps he is also pushing those he sends out to be consciously living out the reality of the coming Messianic age – I think that when he goes on to speak about eating together (‘eating and drinking whatever they provide’) further suggests this is in Jesus’ mind when he gives the instructions. Those sent out are not hoping for a new age, they are living in it, an age when lambs and wolves do picnic together!

Maybe the ‘other’ remains a wolf, but our vision changes. We can eat with them and as we go in carrying shalom that shalom will rest on them:

And if a person of peace is there, your peace will rest on that person, but if not, it will return to you.

We have experienced shalom, that has to be what we carry self-consciously, we can meet those who are (perhaps) not as far along the journey but are already people of peace / shalom – they are ready to welcome a new environment, a new reality. We (lambs) eat with those who could turn out to be wolves, but as we find those who long for a new reality of extensive shalom the context of eating together (initiative taken by the lambs, the risk of vulnerability being their challenge, the provision for the picnic coming from the wolves…) the signs that the kingdom has indeed come near is manifest with ‘and cure the sick who are there’.

The instruction to those sent out has far reaching effects socially. It has to, for essentially we have all been formerly wolves, the mark of which is we ‘devour one another’ to satisfy our own appetites.

A reminder… Zoom tonight

There is an open zoom – all welcome. It is the second Zoom on eschatology, with a focus on Matthew 24 (Luke 21; Mark 13 parallels). It will be helpful if you plan on coming if you have either read a pdf that I wrote covering this chapter with also Paul’s cryptic comment on ‘the man of lawlessness’:

The pdf is here:

The Second Horizon

or watch a video (interview):

The Zoom link is:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5728039267?pwd=NEozVVM0Z1NJSDFKKzNwdG9KUDc5dz09

ID: 572 803 9267
Passcode: 5GkMTA

And the time is 7:30 UK time.

Posse non or non posse

Nothing to do with cowboys and sherrifs with their gathered together posse, but a bit of Latin: posse non pecare or non posse pecare – mainly a question regarding the human life of Jesus: able not to sin or not able to sin. If Jesus was not able to sin then in what sense did he willingly submit to the divine purposes? Anyway quite a discussion back in the day and one that extended to the four states of humanity. Ah well!!

So what about me? By that I don’t mean something like ‘can I make sinless perfection?’ but what about the REAL me? 1 John can make a seemingly set of contrasting statements:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin (2:1).
No one who abides in him sins (3:6).
Those who have been born of God do not sin because God’s seed abides in them (3:9).
We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them, and the evil one does not touch them (5:18).

So which is it? ‘I do not sin’ is my statement (the hypothetical ‘me’, just for clarification) and I am deceived; or I read this letter so that I may not sin and if (and only ‘if’) I sin I can at least get back on course. And of course claiming to be born of God it is self evident that I do not sin!!!

I am sure the writer is making a few points considerably deeper than I can grasp but I think at the heart of it is what (who) I can see. In the midst of the letter we read:

What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. (3:2).

‘See him as he is’. I am sure that when I claim ‘I know God’ it is in part true, and in part carries a little bit of self deception. Maybe that is why Paul corrects himself in Gal. 4:9:

Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God

Do I really ‘know’ God; do I truly see God as s/he is? And as Jesus is the revelation of God (see me, see the Father) if I see Jesus as he is then I can truly claim to know God, and if I truly see Jesus then I will be like him. In truth non posse pecare, not able to sin. Not because of some pre-ordained inner nature but because of being captivated and thus motivated by love. I think Jesus was posse non pecare (not to sin being a choice, otherwise he was not like us in every way) and also non posse pecare (not able to sin) as the choice was made. Love, eternal love, permeated his being, reflected through him to us so in that sense he was not able to sin – the love makes no room for sin.

Anyway, some of all this Latin can swing around speculative discussions but what remains is my sight of Jesus, not my trying harder will help me keep on course. We see in part… one day we will see him as he is.

2020 – the year of sight

I do realise that today’s date is 16 February 2024 and I have not made a mistake in the title.

I was talking to someone recently who reflected that 2020 (perfect vision) was to be the year of sight and that perhaps we were only entering that this year. My response is 2020 was indeed the year of sight – maybe there is grace to re-enter the grace of sight this year.

Jesus spoke about ears and eyes:

The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand’… But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

So we can have eyes (and ears) and yet not see (nor hear). Sight is a strange thing, what we see depends on what we are looking at, and two people can even look at the same thing and see something very different. Take those who are asking the hard questions that will take them to a deeper place of faith; they might be nervous and unsure about their journey but they are pursuing a future that they see can take them beyond where they are; to others who are observing the journey they see someone who is on a journey to ‘lose their faith’.

When reflecting back on 2020 and the severity of the lockdown, the controversy over vaccines, and the devastation brought about through COVID seldom has there been something that has affected life globally at that level. Surely it was there to be SEEN. But did we have eyes to see what was ‘blidingly obvious’ or did we see it as an incovenience and we had to get back to normal asap.

Gayle and I have just returned from an extended time in the UK, beyond what we anticipated. We arrived home on Tuesday after 2 days of driving. As we drove home we passed numerous vehicles on a 15 kilometer stretch all with the sign on them ‘Overcoming Obstacles’. Then we hit the farmer’s strike with tractors blocking the main highway. Detour through single track roads and dirt tracks and meeting trucks coming the other way. Not the fastest drive and highly inconvenient. Can you read the signs?

We get home Tuesday and Gayle has to get a visa for China, leaving next Friday, a week today. Visa? That took a day to fill in the forms, get all the documents ready followed by a 7:00am train and a journey to Madrid (round trip of some 8 hours today) and the Chinese embassy, to discover that the letter of invite was in English and not acceptable. Chinese office is 8 hours ahead, those who can send the invite in Chinese are out of the office… Overcoming obstacles. Just a few minutes ago all submitted successfully, for a return trip to be made next Tuesday – another 8 hours – overcoming obstacles. Two words: obstacles which we all hate!! and overcoming – a good promise there if we have ears to hear and eyes to see.

So I consider 2020 was the year of global sight, and sight that will frame the following 20 years.

Maybe we are in a year where we can see what was there to be seen in 2020… It is certainly going to be a pivotal year, and seemingly a year when obstacles will be many, and grace to overcome will be abundant, if we engage with the obstacles.

A video on the ‘Second Horizon’

I recorded an interview that Steve Watters did with me a few days back and it is now uploaded to YouTube. I have also an expanded written piece (10000 words) that go with it. The pdf article is in more detail, the video picks up why I believe Matt. 24 (maybe famous for such statements as ‘wars and rumours of wars’) is not written addressing our future but the future of those who were the immediate recipients of the words of Jesus. He made it clear that all the signs he gave would be fulfilled within the lifetime of ‘this generation’. In the pdf I also give my take on Paul’s rather cryptic reference to ‘the man of lawlessness’, again a fulfilment in the period 66-70AD seems to fit this best. The pdf is found here – read or download:

Eschatology: The Second Horizon

I will set some dates soon when for those interested I will give a short reflection on the material related to Matt. 24 and then – well who knows where the discussion will go – hopefully not to ‘wars and rumours of wars’!!!

Back to the future

A while back related to Gayle’s work we received a very significant prophetic word that it was a ‘back to the future’ sitatuation… this morning I had an article sent me from a very different perspective entitled back to the future. Marty McFly went from 1985 to 1955 with all that entailed – we all laughed back then when 30 years prior to his time the suggestion that the actor Ronald Reagan would be future president was extremely bizarre. The article looked at 2024 and travelling back 30 years to 1994 and perhaps the suggestion to Doc that Doc that “the casino guy with the gold-plated toilets who left his wife for the Wrestlemania girl” would get elected president would be as bizarre. Those were the humorous part of the article, the rest was much more profound and disturbing. Humour for sure, but..

1994 Nelson Mandela just elected as South Africa’s president; Yasser Arafat returns from Exile and begins the ‘peace process’; Ukraine gives up its Soviet based nuclear weapons with part of the deal between Russia and the West being that the Ukraine will not be invaded by either party… that and many other ironic observations were being made. The aritcle ended very poignantly with

What does 2054 Marty see during his visit to our world? What seeds are we planting, and can we possibly know what harvest they’ll bring?

[For us charismatics we might also add in 1994 and what became known as the ‘Toronto Blessing’… seeds sown then and 30 years later? Now what seeds are being sown for 1954?]

On the global (middle eastern) scene in 2054 we would travel back to 2024 to realise that so much came in 2024 to destabilise… we would read that there was not only conlfict in Gaza, but that was the year that the border to the occupied West Bank was closed shutting out the 150,000 Palestinian workers had been crossing into Israel regularly for jobs in agriculture and construction, causing something around 30% unemployment in the West Bank. Tied to the Middle East 2024 was the year when 15% of all global trade stopped using the Suez Canal thus adding to global costs enormously… who knows whether those events will help someone in 2054 make sense of their world?

Can we affect the future? The future is always rising from the seeds of today.

Disputed islands

What is coming in 2024… well we see in part, and are tainted by our own biases and desires. If we focus on the ‘church’ and cannot see beyond that we might well come up with something along the lines of ‘the year of breakthrough’… I am of course convinced we have to see beyond those four walls, and in my preference for the term ‘body of Christ’ I consider that the wider world is our responsibility – of course I want to avoid over-responsibility and to hold on to an ability to laugh. It is not easy to be truly responsible at a level that is real and can make a wider difference if one loses the ability to laugh.

I made a 15 minute video earlier this month on what I see at the core for 2024:

In it (don’t you love the way that the opening frame makes one look highly intelligent with mouth open!! I know I can change it but I need to be able to laugh, after all I once tried to spell ‘professionalism’ but realised it was a step to far)… anyway in it I say that I see 2024 being a major pivotal year and that at a global level we will either have everything in place by the end of the year as the ‘seeds’ for global war or we can see a shift toward a genuine different kind of future. [Whether one belives the future is fixed or not our prayer has to be ‘on earth as in heaven’ and I think any kind of passivity that comes from ‘it has all been prophesied’ is illegitimate… and the warning to beware of those who say ‘peace, peace’ makes total sense in the Roman first century context of the Pax Romana.]

In the video I say that actual war between China and Taiwan will be held back this year, but that with a focus shifting to the far east there will be actual conflict over ‘disputed islands’. Yesterday I came across this in the BBC website on North Korea and potential ocnflict with South Korea:

This could even be in the form of shelling or attempted occupation of contested islands west of the Korean peninsula (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-68052515).

I don’t quote this to prove I am right – I would rather be wrong and the global scene moves in a positive direction, but quote it as I also suggested that at a personal level ‘disputed islands’ (or as the article calls them ‘contested islands’ will be threatened). This follows a focus in the latter half of last year into the fairly extensive biblical material on boundaries. So leaving the global aside, the personal is important at two levels – important for us and also if we can shift things at a personal level it automatically gives a leverage into the global beyond us.

This post then is simply an encouragement to not stop at ‘silver and gold I do not have’ but to also go on to ‘but what I have / been entrusted with’. Contested! Maybe also some prayer that takes us deeper than simply declaring what is ‘ours’ to prepare me to be able to better steward what is mine within the boundaries that have been set for me.

Clothed?

I mentioned a few nights ago to someone that the demoniac who was delivered (Legion) was found to be

They came to Jesus and saw the man possessed by demons sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion, and they became frightened.

Of course it is a literal statement but I consider that probably behind it is carrying a little more meaning, and that the two phrases ‘clothed’ and ‘in his right mind’ could well be connected. To be in our ‘right mind’ is a process for all of us toward ‘having the mind of Christ’ or at a more human, day to day, level to be thinking straight about ourselves and the world around us. Many years ago I had a woman at the end of a church session ask me to pray for her and her work. I asked her what work she was involved in and she replied that she was a fashion designer. (Of course this SOOOOO connected with me!!??) I replied that this was a wonderful line of work for a believer – OK I will give my reasoning a little later.

I am not convinced that we are to understand the early chapters of Genesis as giving us a literal report on what took place but we do encounter clothing in those chapters. First, of course, there was nothing hidden between them – indicating a radical openness and honesty, but once the abandonment of eating from the ‘tree(s) of life’ came in shame entered and a measure of hiddeness and the couple used something quite inadequate – fig leaves (not recommended!). The first ‘clothing’ was inadequate but indicates a level of personal shame – and I am thinking beyond the shame of the body. God comes and we read,

And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife and clothed them.

God clothed them is an enormous statement. And it does tie with the ‘end’, when Paul looks beyond death to being clothed (resurrection body),

For in this tent we groan, longing to be further clothed with our heavenly dwelling, for surely when we have been clothed in it we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan under our burden because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. The one who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a down payment (2 Cor 5:2-5).

The resurrection body will be that final element on our journey. Never to be found ‘naked’ but totally transformed with no shame, guilt, sadness, tears… and no more death. God will do this.

The Spirit is given to us as a down payment, an ‘arrabon’ (modern Greek: an engagement ring); the Spirit comes to us as a result of the clothing that God gives to us, rather than the hurriedly put together clothing (fig leaves) that we tend to put together.

[And back to my prayer for the woman who was a fashion designer… You have a great job, think of the resurrection, we will be clothed in a way that we will be totally who we are. If you can think of the resurrection and design clothes that will complete people, you will have people wanting to wear your clothes, for they will ‘feel’ clean, whole, they will feel that they are themselves.]

So clothing… Let’s take it symbolically as I am still waiting for my conviction by the fashion police to be rescinded!! Clothing in the context of the Scriptures I am quoting is more than for modesty or protection, they are an outward expression of an inward perception. That is the connection between being in one’s right mind and being clothed. When my outword expression matches my inward perception I am ‘clothed’ at a level of integrity; when my inner percpetion lines up with external truth and my outward expression line up with that I will be ‘clothed and in my right mind’. It begins – assuming we have faith – with God clothing us, the removal of the fig leaves of self-protection, false humility (shame is intrinsically connected here), and goes on to that of self-perception. Perceiving ourselves increasingly through heaven’s eyes of grace… and one day that will be completed.

Perhaps… you will go way beyond me and connect your (literal) physical clothing with your interior self.

Perspectives