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Friday, March 7, 2014

Twin Engines for Flight!

The Lenten goal: Seeking Jesus (being open to Him).
Yesterday I identified a starting point, the breadth of God (and Jesus is God's self revelation). The main point was to keep in mind the twin poles which appear opposite (wrath/mercy, grace/works, transcendence/immanence) and remember that while we can only focus on one at a time, we must recall the other is also true. The twin poles remind us that God is bigger than we can know or understand. As we are His image we have two poles as well, including passive reception (it is all God) and active seeking (discipleship discipline)...

Yesterday our Thursday Bible Study group continued reading from the early Christian Writings (Penguin Classics). [Yes I know apocrypha and Fathers are not Scripture, but they are still worthy of reflective reading] The Epistle to Diognetus is thought to be from the second century (although some think it could date to 70AD because of the reference to the author being instructed by the Apostles) and was discovered at a fish market in Constantinople in 1435 in a pile of packing paper by an Italian student. [now we know why so many ancient books are lost!]. It is an apologetic work, which means it is a defense and explication of the Christian faith. Even a late date of 200AD would mean this work pre-dates the official canonization of the New Testament by more than a century! The earliest dates make it contemporary with the Gospels or at least the oldest works found in the New Testament.

Here is what we read (pp148-150) in the Practical  Conclusions toward the letter's end:
10. Now, if you too desire to have this faith, knowledge of the Father must be your first lesson. God loved the race of men. It was for their sakes that He made the world; it was to them that He gave dominion over everything in it. On them He bestowed reason and understanding, and they alone received permission to lift up their eyes to Him. He formed them in His own image; He sent His only-begotten Son to them; He promised them the kingdom of heaven, and to those who love Him He will surely give it.

Once you have grasped these truths, think how your joy will overflow, and what love you will feel for Him who loved you so. And if you love Him, you will become an imitator of His goodness. Do not be surprised  that a man should be an imitator of God; he can, since God has willed it so...But if a man will shoulder his neighbors burden; if he will be ready to supply another's need from his own abundance; if, by sharing the blessings he has received from God with those who are in want, he himself becomes a god to those who receive his bounty--such a man is indeed an imitator of God.

His closing exhortation: Let the heart of you, then, be knowledge, and let your life be true inward reception of the Word.

That Word is the revelation of God in The Book (the Jewish Bible and the varied collections of readings, the majority of which later were identified as the New Testament), but primarily, it refers to the Word Incarnate, Jesus the Christ.

How then to seek Jesus (and in and through Him God)? It is a bi-polar combination too: The Word&imitation, imitation&Word. One can only understand the Word if one imitates God, yet one cannot imitate God without instruction in the Word. This is the eternal circle: imitation begets knowledge, knowledge begets imitation. Which comes first? That is speculative and for some it is the former and for others the latter and what business do we have critiquing how the Holy Spirit works in the heart and mind of another?

In Lent, seek union with Jesus. You find it in prayerful reflection on the Word, but such reflection requires one is engaged in holy imitation of God. And that imitation looks like loving others, helping the poor and sharing in the struggles of others. So use your blessings (time, talent, treasure) to bless and support others. Being ridiculously generous, and as you do that read the Scripture and pray-pray-pray! Just like Jesus!

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