Who knows?

Ignorance – something we seem to share in significant measure… and when we put it in relationship to heaven’s knowledge and wisdom, our ignorance will be seen as more than a significant measure!

I like to know things. I like to do something that I know is world changing(!) but always have to come home to rest with ‘that day will reveal all’. I have pointed out that once we take away the artificial chapter divisions that are immediately preceding the amazing prophecy of fall of Jerusalem / the Temple is the widow who puts her two coins into the Temple treasury both releases Jesus to prophesy and is a major catalyst to bring the Temple down (probably coupled to Judas’ monetary contribution). The sight I did not have on the widow was that she did not do her act as something ‘prophetic’, as something full of knowledge (Steve Watters – thank you!).

Now a bit of a jump to Paul’s words in Rom. 8:28

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (NRSV Updated edition… though not wholly happy with the translation this time!).

I like the NRSV because it tries to come at things without a bias, it should be more ‘evangelical’ in places, but also de-evangelicalises in parts where the language is more neutral… this time round it kind of goes back to the KJV(!!) with its ‘all things work together for good’ – a very fatalistic interpretation, so let’s correct that one first and bring it in line with most modern translations… God works all things together for good. Not ‘all things’ are what they should be, but we need to know that God is not passive. Craperoo at a personal, social and cosmic level exists… but God. what a place to start. God is involved in my life, my world and the world.

Let me (with all my expertise???) try a translation that might push a direction – and also one that might fit the wider context of the groan of creation just a little better (to those who want to follow along or simply be impressed the ‘original’ text as best we have it):

Οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι τοῖς ἀγαπῶσι τὸν θεὸν πάντα συνεργεῖ εἰς ἀγαθόν,
τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιv.

We know that (a challenge to start – do I ‘know’ this) to those who love God (might be ‘with those who love God’) s/he works all things toward good (all things – normally used not of my personal circumstances but of the ‘all things’ of creation, probably indicating that God is working everything within the context of the whole of creation toward ‘good’… cf. to Genesis 1 – and saw that it was ‘good’), with those who are called according to [God’s] purpose.

Here we go… Creation and the redemption / restoration of creation is the ‘goal’ / eschaton we are headed toward, and in the same way as creation follows humanity (Genesis 1 – 3) so Paul indicates that now (fallen) creation is looking to those of God’s family for freedom, longing for the same freedom. In that context I think this verse sits… God’s purpose and focus is creation’s redemption, and the how is WITH those who are called. It is beyond FOR, and it is beyond my circumstances. It moves beyond the widow puts her two coins in the treasury and comes back home to find an incredible gift of 200 coins (a hundred fold) on her door step. Maybe… and we can declare ‘God looks after the widow’, or certainly we can declare that God has always instructed that we look after the widow… but it goes beyond the multiplication of coins to a process toward the good. The corrupt temple, with its exploitation through the ‘sacrificial’ system has to come down. [The Temple occupied approx 25% of the city; the many mansions / rooms in the place that was intended to be God’s house were mainly storehouses!] A process where God works with this (ignorant) woman toward good was unfolded. Ever since religion has sought to rebuild the temple… ever since we are provoked to both find the Presence of God and to take the Presence of God to the entire cosmos, to work with God so that the dwelling place for God might be in totality with the totality of humanity. If we align with that – with all our ignorance – then there is a release for God toward shifting all of creation toward what is truly ‘good’, a place of harmony, reconciliation. That can be at the personal level – many are ‘lost’ in the sense of not knowing who they are, are in conflict within themselves; at the relational level – many are ‘lost’ within their context… and of course at the cosmic level, and of course of course ‘lost’ in that they have never heard that ‘I/Thou’ question of ‘Martin where are you?’ the answer of which begins the journey with God.

All things might not line up for me so that I have the life I have always dreamed of (did Paul… ship wrecks, beatings, prison, despairing of life itself)… but in and through all the things where I respond so positively… and in the many areas where I do something that I think has no value (like the widow) makes a contribution to the future of this world. That great day will be beyond wonder – imagine the face of the dear widow that we read of (not to mention Judas’ face). I hope I have a few shocks too as I ask the question – but when did I visit you in prison, when did I give you a cup of cold water?

Who knows the value of our amazing contributions? But we know God works with us, with all our ignorance.

I am not elevating ‘ignorance’, I think we need simply to encourage one another to align with the future so that we might be included in those who God partners with – those who are called according to God’s purpose.

The cross changes what?

A certain UK pastor was slammed a few years back for claiming that if one explained the cross to an ordinary run of the mill person as ‘God punished his Son so that he might not punish you (if you believe)’ the response would be that one has just described ‘cosmic child abuse’. There are nuances on the above presentation but something akin to that is standard for many evangelicals. Sin, guilt, justice, wrath, hell one side of the equation… Jesus in the middle being punished in our place… we can cross over.

What does the cross change? It certainly does not change God, it does not move God from wrathful to forgiving. In simple terms God does not need the cross in order to forgive us. ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself’, Paul wrote. The cross does change us, but not in the simple way of being an example that we ‘see’ and then are moved by that love – the so-named moral-influence theory. It does that but that is not to touch the core. It certainly changes our subservience to the powers, the devil, sin as a power and death. Outpoured love sucks up all that is wrong, all rebellion, all domination. The cross – expressed as ‘Christus Victor’ – seems to centre there; but not one power proving to be bigger than the other (God is bigger than Satan) but as love conquers all.

God is love. Love is not simply an attribute of God but God is love. True love, love that gives, that flows for the other. The Trinity is love, a flow of love for the other; hence a hierarchical approach to the Trinity does not work. Love is eternal… Genesis 3 might be myth, but so deeply true – sin is not eternal (and even if we posit a pre-Satanic fall we still come to the same conclusion that sin is not eternal). It has a beginning and an end, sin is temporal. Although ‘battle’ as we understand is focused on ‘power and strength’ the key to overcoming in any situation is not to give up. Love does not ‘give up’, love is eternal, and the powers whether they be personal (Satan and demons) or personified (sin and death) are exhausted, nullified in the face of the cross.

The cross is the expression of the eternal nature of God within creation. That which had no beginning is expressed with a beginning – the Word became flesh; that through which (whom) all creation came became part of the creation. God becomes human. The cross is not a temporary fall of God from the place of power, but the temporal manifestation of the eternal God of love – hence ‘slain before the foundation of the world’.

The cross changes creation. The temporary sickness / poison within creation is drawn out to that event in Jerusalem some 2000 years ago. The after-results are still taking place. Maybe we see those after-results clearly when someone finds faith, but so much more than ‘Jesus died for me on the cross’ occurred at the cross. Every healing is a sign, every deliverance a pointer… and as we move beyond a greater Power over power to the presence of love, one wonders what can happen. I am all for confrontation and have enough bruises to illustrate that approach… but if I (and a few others (ekklesia)) could align with the eternal nature of the cross the inevitable response would be a manifestation of resurrection.

There is a before and an after with the cross. Forgiveness of sins is part of the before (after all God even covered the sins of the first murderer, not demanding justice or compliance to ‘the law’) in the sense of forgiveness for what someone had done that was wrong. There is an after to the cross… an empty tomb, death conquered.

The cross changed creation. By faith I was told one received the forgiveness of sins… maybe by faith I need to see the boundless possibilities of the cross, possibilities that one day will be a reality. I see a new heaven and a new earth.

Happy Christmas

Whether it was the 25th or not seems irrelevant. The incarnation, Emmanuel, God with us: almost too good to be true, but the investment (understatement) of God into creation opens a future that takes away all the limitations. I like that it is a week before our new year… a kind of breathe in and then breathe out as we hit that Jan. 1 date.

Here are a few of my Christmas texts:

Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life (Gen. 3:23,24).

The Adam (male and female) leave the original temple travelling Eastward. God also leaves the original temple, the place where they could hear ‘the sound of the presence of God in the evening hour’. His/ her sound now muffled but never silent outside that original temple.

Then he brought me to the gate, the gate facing east. And there, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east; the sound was like the sound of mighty waters; and the earth shone with his glory (Ezek. 43:1,2).

Glory returning… manifest in the humanity of Jesus… manifest in a vulnerable baby. But a shining earth.

Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar (Ezek. 47:1).

Water leaving the temple… the temple is not the goal, the ‘wherever the river goes’ until…

Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes… On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing (Ezek. 47:9, 12).

Healing leaves… for the nations.