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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hope and Salvation

I watched the final episode of a TV program which I have followed for years. It was not the sort of show which was pious or uplifting. Most all of the characters were vicious and criminal, and there were very few who were lights shining in the darkness.

One reason I find it interesting is because I have had a lifelong interest in evil. I spent ten years as a social worker. Rapists and murderers were my clients. Violent people and unsavory folks were my daily companions. I am familiar with the concept that "everyone is a sinner" but I have known personally some folks who have taken it to the next level. The question for me has always been, "How can people become so bad?" I pondered it often.

The general approach to ending a series (rather than being cancelled) is to tie up loose ends. The main characters have to be dealt with, and when the characters are not good people, there is usually a need to bring 'judgment' upon them. The need to have a "fit" end and the challenge is to find a way to write that ending in a satisfactory way.

Amazingly there was some overt Christian/Catholic images present in the last few shows. A woman character who had done much evil listens to "Jesus music" as she drives her car and at another point she calls herself a Christian. (Years ago she mocked the Catholic faith). She visits her father, who apparently is suffering from mental decline and memory loss. She is told that she must wait because he has not returned from his visit to the local Catholic church. He does not recognize her as his daughter, but sees she is distressed and actually tells her, "God forgives." "I hope so," she responded, aware of the pain and suffering she has caused throughout her misspent life. She is killed later at her father's house in a garden. We had learned earlier that  she loved that garden in her childhood, but there is more here: the image of "garden and lost innocence" is Biblical to its core (Adam/Eve) and this woman was a fallen mother figure at many levels. Last night, the main character, her son, met his end. He crashes his motorcycle with his arms outstretched, in an open embrace of death(?); but he also looked like Jesus on the cross. Perhaps more interesting was the presence of a street person who was eating bread and drinking wine and a final seen of a bird eating similar looking bread while the blood of the man enters the frame. Bread/Wine/Body/Blood....

His death was his way of saving his two very young sons from the evil life which had he embraced. "I am a bad man and there is no way to change that," he had declared. This is the true meaning of despair. Hopelessness in the face of sin. He gave up his life in the hope that he can save his sons, but we know that his boy has his ring. It is possible that destiny may other plans for the little fellow who is already deeply scarred by his family's dysfunction.

At Morning Prayer we read from Isaiah 6. In this chapter the ancient prophet shares his vision of God in heaven (which looks remarkably like the earthly temple). It is overwhelming (angels cry out 'holy, holy, holy!') and Isaiah sounds like one who is hopeless when he says, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" But despair is not the last word. The angel touches his lip with a burning coal and declares "your guilt is taken away and your sin is forgiven." Redemption is always a gift from God and it cannot be earned.

The Gospel today, John 7:53ff, is the well known account of the woman caught in adultery. They drag her before Jesus to trap Him, but His response, "Let the one among you without sin cast the first stone!" is perfectly constructed. He does not deny sin nor the Scriptural demand; He only makes it impossible to enforce it. Then He asks the woman, "Has no one condemned you?" When she replies in the negative, He says, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more." [note exhortation not to sin]

Sin is real. Sin is bad. Sin is death. I pondered this as I watched the show last night. What is our hope in the face of sin? How can we escape? The Bible today spoke of God's mercy and forgiveness. All have sinned and no one has hope, unless if the hope rests in God.

The Garden, the bread and wine, the confession of sin and the need for mercy--all were present in that TV show. They are also present in our lives. In the TV show despair and death 'won' over and over again, but it need not be that way in our lives. God says to us, "Choose life." He offers life. There really is hope!


  1. You saw fit to spend your time on a series like that?

    Holy cow.

    Really, Jeff, you do more to nail yourself than anything I could ever possibly say about you. You do my job for me. Your posts are the gift that keeps on giving. You should rename your blog "Train wreck in a clerical collar."

    Thanks for admitting what you did. It *really* explains a lot. Are you going to get your head tattooed for Christmas?

  2. Father Jeff - I thank you for your wonderful blog and for your Christian ministry for us all. I see that you are as hard working and faithful to your ministry as any clergy I have observed. I thank you for your efforts. For those of us who can't see you regularly, your thoughts are a blessing that cannot be replaced.

    While you teach us that our beliefs are not all black and white but require prayer and searching, you always remind us that we have Hope in Jesus Christ. I appreciate that fact that you have done the work to learn the truth and that you share your thoughts with us no matter how complicated or messy. You do not force us to believe some black and white dogma not supported by scripture and history (as some detractors would like to do).

    Please continue to Lift High the Cross. Merry Christmas.
    Jim Cloud

  3. thanks Jim
    One of the ironies of Jesus' teaching is He often uses morally questionable illustrations. The day I wrote the blog we were studying a parable at Bible study. It was the buried treasure in a field. Commentators said that in the ancient world it would have been considered immoral to purchase a field without disclosing that fact. In another parable an employee cheats his master. In another case war is used. Frequently the characters in Jesus' parables exhibit behaviors which are not in keeping with the Gospel moral code. Jesus is illustrating truth using the real world. A very grey world full of violence and mayhem.

    God redeems. We are all fallen, even if some have fallen further. No one is innocent. As you said, it is not just black and white. As for those who enjoy spewing venom, they balance out the others who are too quick to praise! Michael serves a purpose in my own humiliation and purification....
    I do miss you and your family very much!