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Friday, March 14, 2014

Summing Things Up

  1. God is immanent, among us (Emmanuel) and encountering us, yet God is transcendent, beyond us and ungraspable. The bi-polar opposites each express some aspect of the unknowable yet known God. He is wrath and mercy, compassion and judgment, love and disgust (with our sin). He calls us to silent prayer, He demands we respond in activity. There is faith and works, grace and law/instruction in discipleship. Just when we grasp one pole and say "God is ...." He reminds us that the opposite is also true, and in a dizzying state we try to understand the mystery.
  2. God is not known 'immediately.' We are a dixie cup trying to hold the ocean (really advanced people are Big Gulp cups and superstars are tubs--but to the same effect, can't hold it all) so God comes to us in and through. He is MEDIATED to us in words and tangible reality (sacrament)
  3. The primary way God reveals Himself was through the Torah (instruction) and Prophets, and later through the teachings of the Wisemen (called proverbs and wisdom). These three, called the Tanak in Hebrew, are the Jewish Bible (called Old Testament by many). IN these last days He has revealed Himself to us in His Son. That Son, the Incarnate Word (creator) is Jesus Christ. Jesus the King/Messiah and Savior. Jesus who took flesh, lived our lives (and took our nature into Himself) bridges the unbridgable gap between creator/perfection and creation/derived and imperfect. In and through Jesus God enters the world in a most complete (yet still Mediated) way. The additional record of the new covenant in Jesus are called, the New Covenant or Testament...
  4. By the gift of God's life breath (the Divine Wind or Holy Spirit) the life of God which is in the Trinity and in Jesus is now at work in and through us. "Us" is the church. To encounter God one must encounter Him in and through His portal (or door, or way, or means) which is Jesus. No other way, whether Jesus is known or anonymous (a much debated question among Christians), only He communicates God to the earth BECAUSE HE IS GOD. 
  5. Understanding the limits of our insight, we recognize that shaped by our personalities, intellect, culture, experience, language, assumptions, etc. etc. we have a 'particular' knowledge of God. Some of that is shared across time and space while other is shaped and formed (and sadly misshaped and malformed) as we engage in the process of "creating god in our own image and likeness" (small 'g' because it is idolatry). Sinners do not escape sin, and deceivers are often deceived (re-read the story of Jacob to understand that point). Our theologies are a mix of truth and falsehood, accuracy and error.
  6. The Lord Jesus is the concrete presentation of God on earth, and by the power of the Holy Spirit which He has given to us, we are the concrete presentation of Jesus to the world. (As the Father has sent Me so I have sent you). Jesus is the sacrament of God and the church is the sacrament of Jesus (to use the language of Augustine and the early western church). We are the mystery of His body; as He is the mystery of God's physical presence among us (to use the more Eastern term).
  7. If individual disciples of Jesus are the cells of the Body or bricks of the Temple (see 1 Corinthians for those analogies) then the PRIMARY way that Jesus is present saving the world is IN and THROUGH the church, and by church I am referring to members of the church. People in mission are Jesus reaching out.
  8. The Bible is God's written revelation. It is, among other things, a record of previous words spoken by people (like prophets, priests, kings, apostles, ministers, etc) and serves as THE authority for believers. However, the words of Scripture must be interpreted. Some see this as the work of the Holy Spirit in individuals, others see it as a work in the group. Whichever way one leans the other is usually understood to also take place. God speaks in myriad ways all the time, but the Bible is a special and authoritative communication.
  9. If God is acting in and through events, people and places (like salvation in Exodus, the words of prophets or healing miracles of disciples, or in bushes, temples and other "holy places") then we can and will encounter Him in events, people and places. The "in and through" work of God (a Spiritual presence mediated through material entities) is called (by many of us) sacramental. The world is sacramental. God is everywhere doing His creating/recreating work. However, what is true of every where is especially true in the church sacraments. So we are cleansed of sin but baptism is an intensification of that, as is reconciliation or confession. God feeds us always, but our communion with Jesus is an especially focused time. Same with other sacraments.
  10. So, we are called to focused discipleship: to encounter God and hear God requires a gift (His communication) and another gift (His provision of 'help") and our effort to listen, to see and to respond. If our whole life is spent in this effort then more surely word and sacrament will profoundly transform (and save) us. If we are focused and reverent in reading Scripture and celebrating the sacraments, then that can be generalized to our whole life. Those who participate in eucharist faithfully can learn to find Jesus at every dinner table. Those who are open to Jesus at every table have a deeper encounter at eucharist.
In closing, Lent is a time to seek Jesus and find Him in word and sacrament, in others, in the world. He is seeking us even if we think we are seeking Him. The venues at our disposal for this journey are as varied as official religion to unexpected encounter. However, there is a response to this grace: faith, love and repentance in a community of disciples, a community involved in proclamation/witness in word and deed and radical worship of the Triune God.

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