LentBlog 2015, Day 37: The Heart of the Matter

Colossians 2:16-23

16 Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. 17 These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking,19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.


Short and to-the-point tonight, I think. I’m pretty tired and I’m fresh out of anything that resembles eloquence at this point.

It seems as though these regulations Paul is going after here are ways of sort-of imposing righteousness from the outside-in. It’s like if someone could be forced to comply with certain kinds of behaviors– observing the rules Paul mentions– they could somehow become Godly. Such things have the appearance of self-imposed piety, but in reality they aren’t of any value to check self-indulgence. Instead, the general motion of discipleship seems here to be living-out instead of imposing. One’s heart and mind are changed, and then one lives out, towards the Head. It seems from this passage Paul says we can be doing all sorts of holy-looking stuff, but not really be transformed. The transformation comes by grace through faith. Then faith becomes faith-in-action, lived out, instead of imposed from the outside.

At least that’s what crosses my mind reading this passage.

Blessings,

Mark

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LentBlog 2015 Day 4: On the salvation of all things…

Ephesians 1:8b-14

With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance,[c]having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will,12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this[d] is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

NRSV


 I’ll cut right to it tonight because it’s late and I’m bushed.

Verse 10 is hitting on something I’ve been thinking more about lately, especially since I am currently teaching a Theology course for the District Nazarene School of Ministry that deals with soteriology. God’s plan in Christ is “to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” 

Verses like this and others throughout scripture point to the idea that salvation is cosmic in nature. In Christ, the whole of creation is redeemed as he gathers everything to himself. We live in the country, far enough from a city that we can actually see stars at night. The other night arriving home from teaching, I looked up, saw the amazing view, and thought, “Lord, I sure hope you do redeem everything, because this is a pretty cool place you’ve made.”

What would it mean for all things to be included in what God is redeeming in Christ? For the “New Jerusalem” to descend from heaven to earth?

I think it might mean:

  • The universe is a good place, not a bad one (See Genesis 1).
  • The universe is headed in an overall good direction (as Christ will gather all things to himself) not a bad one.
  • Stewardship of the earth is important…
  • May the Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven… the dynamic here again is heaven coming to earth, not the residents of earth escaping to disembodied heavenly blessedness.
  • Gnosticism is for the birds…. though not really for real birds, because they tend to smell and be dirty, which is much too fleshly for a Gnostic.
  • If the Kingdom comes in its fullness to earth, I’m moving to Florida. 🙂

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog Day 18: “In” Is the Operative Word.

Romans 8:1-11

If you haven’t read this passage in a while (or even if you have) go and read it first before continuing on… (BTW, how cool is it that Biblegateway.com has the NRSV now?!). As you read this passage, pay attention to the number of times Paul uses the word “in.”

No condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Son in the likeness of sinful flesh

He condemned sin in the flesh

fulfilled in us.

those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You are not in the flesh; you are in the SpiritImage

The Spirit of God dwells in you.

But if Christ is in you…

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you…

Through his Spirit that dwells in you.

I think one of the big points here is that we are invited in as we invite God in. I’m reminded of John 17, where Jesus prays

20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

It’s almost as if God invades us in Christ, through the presence of the Spirit. And in that invasion, God brings no less than God’s own self to bear in our lives. God is the holy (and wholly) other. But in Christ, through the breathing of the Holy Spirit, he becomes one of us. I think I think that maybe living by the Spirit is something like getting caught up in the very being of God himself, believing with the faith of Abraham and Jesus that the same Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead can and will raise us, too.

If that’s true… if this is the fullness of God we’re dealing with here (or maybe who is dealing with us) then God cannot be relegated to the periphery of our lives. He’s not one of many compartments. We don’t worship on Sunday to get our God “fix” for the week. It’s much more all-encompassing than that. To quote the Wesley covenant service: God will be all, in all, or he will be nothing.

LentBlog Day 5: Circumcision of the Heart (AKA: Paul Is From Mars.)

Romans 2:17-29.

Apologies to John Wesley for the title if this post, which is woefully unworthy to even share the page with something actually thought-through. 

Having said that, the first thing I did after reading this passage this evening was to pull out a copy of Wesley’s Works (Outler version, for those of you keeping score at home) and find Wesley’s famous sermon from Romans 2:29. It was the first paragraph that caught me. “Most [people] have so lived away the substance of that religion, the profession whereof they still retain, that no sooner are any of those truths proposed which difference the Spirit of Christ from the spirit of the world than they cry out, ‘Thou bringest strange things to our ears’ … though he is only preaching to them ‘Jesus and the resurrection,’ with the necessary consequence of it.” 

Maybe I’m misreading Wesley here, but it seems as though the Gospel of Jesus, which suggests that God invades our world to redeem it, that the best stuff comes from outside ourselves, that we cannot save ourselves, that self-centeredness is sin, and that it’s impossible to be half a Christian raises eyebrows wherever it is proclaimed. And sometimes those raised eyebrows immediately turn down in anger. 

And I see the same thing when I read this passage from Romans 2, where Paul centers his sights on Judaism. I’m trying to imagine how some may have felt to hear Paul say that circumcision is totally meaningless unless their hearts had been changed as well… for Gentiles who did not bear the mark of covenant relationship with God to be truly faithful, while some who bore the mark were unfaithful. Honestly, some must have thought Paul was from Mars or something.Image

The more things change, the more they stay the same.