Monthly Archives: February 2017

KING JESUS & CAMELOT

Tennyson tells us that King Arthur established the order of the Round Table. A table without a head or foot, where all were equal in their commitment to justice for all and might was for right. His dream drew knights from all over England and Europe and the effects of it were felt all over the land so that women could walk out in the evening alone without worry, doors were left unlocked,  the roads were cleared of robbers and tyrants were overthrown.
But just when things were flourishing, the greatest knight of them all, Lancelot, set his eye on the king’s wife, Guinevere and she on him. The wickedness became known and Lancelot rode away only to return when he heard that the knights had demanded that Guinevere be tried for treason. She was tried and condemned to death but Lancelot came and rescued her and carried her off to France where she entered a convent. The knights and Arthur raged and for a while there was nothing but inflamed pride and vengeance in their hearts and so they sailed to France, to make war against Lancelot and his forces.
Arthur is broken-hearted and dispirited. The dream had failed, the purpose had died. The great sin of Guinevere and Lancelot had also exposed the underlying sin of all of them when violence, vengeance and bitterness reigned and offended pride had proved stronger than brotherhood and forgiveness.
In the musical adaptation the king is putting on his armor in the dawn of the day of battle when he hears a rustling in the bush; it was a boy about twelve who had stowed away on one of the ships—to kill the enemy and be a knight, he said. Arthur wanted to know why he would want to be part of an extinct fellowship. Had he ever met a knight, was his father a knight or had his mother been rescued by a knight? The answer to all these questions was no, so what did he know of knights? Only the stories he had heard, the boy said, and when the king asked him what stories, he spoke of justice for all, the round table and might used in the service of right. As the boy spoke the astonished king was mouthing the words with him.
Stories! The story of the dream had kept the dream alive. The stories of righteousness and justice for all kept the vision alive in the heart of a boy who’d never even seen a knight. The deeply depressed and weary king gained new heart and energy and knights the boy Sir Tom of Warwick with a commission to go home and grow old telling the story of the meaning of Camelot. Part of his instruction was this:
Every evening from December to December
Before you fall asleep upon your cot
Think back on all the tales that you remember
Of Camelot.
Ask everyone if he has heard the story
And tell it loud and clear if he has not
Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one bright shining moment
That was known as Camelot.
At that moment an aide comes to remind the king that they have a battle to fight and win but the king, all smiles and optimism, assures his companion that their victory already stands before them in the heart of a boy who cherishes the story and what it means; a boy who will tell it everywhere he goes. What happens at the approaching battle is now irrelevant.
The massive truth on which all great fiction is built is that God’s great purpose for the human family was and is accomplished in and through Jesus Christ and that it is God’s wisdom by the foolishness of a preached message—a Story—to redeem the world (1 Corinthians 1:21). The victory has already been won and in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Church’s mission is to learn and love and be shaped by that message about God’s dream and purpose that cannot finally be thwarted and keep that Story alive in each new generation.
Truths associated with the Gospel must be taken seriously, congregational structures must be taken seriously so that assemblies (God meant them to exist!) can function as assemblies that are how the living Lord Jesus is made concrete and visible in societies (these are Jesus Christ making Himself present in congregational form—Romans 16:16). But undergirding all these and others, the foundation on which all these and more are built are the breathtaking truths about God, His incarnation in and as Jesus of Nazareth as He has come to redeem and bring a new humanity to glory—a glory He eternally purposed. These are central to the Gospel of God (Romans 1.1 and elsewhere) People are not brought to salvation in Jesus Christ by a correct understanding of the “qualifications” of deacons or anything of that order, though we must pay attention to these things.
In ultimate truth, the world isn’t saved by science or philosophy or political reform or a correct understanding of all the ways believers are to respond to God however needful these are and no matter how true it is that these are instruments of God at His pleasure. The human family is saved and all things in heaven and on earth are reconciled to God and find their ultimate state of blessing in Him about whom the Story is told.
And the victory over the world is gained in the name of Jesus Christ through those who cherish the Story and will not let it be forgot (1 John 5:4-5).
Preachers and teachers and the entire church of God (the “fullness of Christ”) have a commission and a destiny—to tell and live out the Story about GOD and consequently about us!

(Holy Father, draw us to believe that the war against the Enemy has truly been won. Win us to believe, even if we don’t understand very well, that the telling of that Truth is the way you have chosen to save this world. Convict our schools, preachers and teachers that to know you and your Holy Son is eternal life. Fill our pulpits and classrooms with those who do more than pursue truths here and there but who are rich in and fervent to teach nothing other that Jesus Christ, crucified and raised. Give us teachers who glory in nothing but the cross and what it means in light of the One who slew the world there. Get them to give us something to tell! Fill and thrill your People with that cosmic good news, for the poor oppressed world’s sake, for our own sake that we might leave here and come to you not unhappy servants, and for your own dear sake who merits all our happy admiration and worship. This prayer in His name.)

 

ROUGH JUSTICE UNTIL THAT GLORIOUS DAY

 Here’s Harriet, she’s a single mother and a cocaine addict and she abuses her children severely and often. Here’s Henry, he’s ill and mentally challenged. He carries an iron bar and has taken to beating people with it.
What are we to do with them? We may not be sure but we are sure that we should do something to protect the defenseless and innocent and it doesn’t matter that Henry and Harriet are not in (complete) control of their actions. Harriet’s horrific background and Henry’s mental disability matter—of course—but these things have to be put aside until we deal with the very real danger these two people are to others.

“The standards of the law are standards of general application. The law takes no account of the infinite varieties of temperament, intellect, and education, which make the internal character of a given act so different in different men. It does not attempt to see men (humans) as God sees them, for more than one sufficient reason. In the first place, the impossibility of nicely measuring a man’s powers and limitations is far clearer than that of ascertaining his knowledge of law…When men live in society, a certain average of conduct, a sacrifice of individual peculiarities going beyond a certain point, is necessary to the general welfare. If, for instance, a man is born hasty and awkward, is always having accidents and hurting himself or his neighbors, no doubt his congenital defects will be allowed for in the courts of Heaven, but his slips are no less troublesome to his neighbors than if they sprang from guilty neglect. His neighbors accordingly require him, at his proper peril, to come up to their standard, and the courts which they establish decline to take his personal equation into account.” Supreme Court Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes said that.

There must come a point when we render judgment because however disabled a transgressor is we simply can’t allow him/her to hurt their neighbor at will. At one level our response against sin/crime must ignore what motivates or what shaped the sinner/criminal. We have to develop, as Walter Moberly would put it, “a certain myopia” and get on with dealing with the case. He who knows all and knows how to judge all does not hold us responsible because we are not Him and He expects us to judge within our limitations.
Explain it how we will, or for as long as we might, there are in fact those who are predators that hunt the defenseless. What the predator might have been or what he might be under other circumstances who can say? The man/woman before us is the one we have to deal with and not the one who might have been or might later be. When we deal severely (as we sometimes must) with transgressors we recognize our limits but we can do no other than to think that dispensing a rough sort of justice is better than dispensing no justice at all. And if we’re sensitive to the fact that we too are under the Holy Father who judges all persons and takes into account all the factors that conspire to make a life then we’ll bear Matthew 7:1-5 in mind.
Aren’t we pleased that Christ is a great Savior?! The more complex and convoluted the entire human situation becomes to our eyes the more wondrous He has to be in order to save any of us. “For such a high priest is suited to our needs,” the Hebrew writer said. Pascal had good reason to say, ”It is equally dangerous for man to know God without knowing his own wretchedness as it is to know his own wretchedness without knowing the Redeemer who can free him from it.”
But in saying Jesus Christ has to be great to save “any” of us I’m not suggesting we’re all equally bogged down in sins (plural) for manifestly we’re not. Or that we were all equally bogged down in sins (plural) because I know my record is in every way more littered with failures and positive trespasses than many people I know. But whatever our individual differences are they came to us because we are part of a single human family.
Neither sin nor righteousness began with me though they continue with me and whatever differences there are in the number of our sins or the grossness of our particular sins we’ve all been involved in the same uprising against God at some point and we bear the sign of rebel on our forehead.
But I suspect if we had a richer biblical anthropology and a richer sense of human solidarity and if we were more enlightened about our limits as judges we could live more contentedly with “rough justice” and think we were being treated as well as is possible. Maybe resentment would be less of a hazard and we’d “do our time” with a freer heart.
I’m certain that if our human judges do their needed duty without arrogance and with some residue of good will toward us that we’d “take what’s coming to us” in a better spirit. Then, again, even our judges have been shaped by that universal uprising against the Holy Father. Knowing what it was going to lead to in 70 AD, from the cross Jesus looked at His nation and said to His Holy Father, “They don’t know what they’re doing.” Luke 23:14.
Only a God can judge well and perfectly—only a God like Jesus Christ can judge well and perfectly. Until the day He does that and rights all wrongs [Acts 17:31] in this life we’ll have to bear with rough justice or none at all. We’ll also have to recognize that even at our best we only hand out rough justice. I’m taking it that this is part of the reason Jesus uttered Matthew 7:1-2. Is it not?

(Holy Father, we’re glad that on that coming Day he entire human family will be judged in righteousness by the Son of Man because He is a Son of Man as well as the Son of Man. We’re happy to believe that exultant tyranny and heartless cruelty will be dealt with and that you will know how to deal with all those we cannot or fo do not want to help with be gloriously and lovingly dealt with. We who have been blessed to come to know Jesus Christ cannot believe otherwise since He taught us, “If you know Me you know the One who sent Me.” How happy we are to know that any hope the plundered and abused have rests in you and not even the best of us.)

 

THE CRUCIFIXION OF HUMANITY

2 Corinthians 5:21 says Jesus Christ was “made to be sin.”
1 Corinthians 1:30 says Jesus Christ was made “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.”
Galatians 6:14 sees glory in the event that took place at and on the cross.
Romans 3:21-26 says that God’s righteousness is seen at and on the cross.

If we were to say that this is all the crucified Christ exhibited on the cross Paul would have set us straight right away. He would have said something like, “We can’t grasp all that has been demonstrated and exhibited on that cross. These truths I mention are various aspects of the fathomless truth that finds its source in a God so strange that He purposed to become a human even when He knew that humans would reject Him and turn on one another in unspeakable cruelty and heartlessness.”
On the cross we see the human family crucified!
In becoming one of us—a human as human as any human—and bearing our sins and our sufferings God who came to be one with us in and as the Lord Jesus is not only our fellow human, He is the representative human. He was only one human, there has been only one incarnation of God. He could live only one life and in that one life he tasted trouble and temptation and death for all humans (Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2). See Acts 20:28 where the text that should indeed be followed has, “the church of God which he purchased with His own blood.”
When He died on the cross after living here on earth that life of positive, warm, loving and sinless holiness He exposed “the world” for what it is. As the Bible tells it, we turned loose a cosmic evil, the organized anti-God, anti-life, anti-holiness and anti-humanity force and we built a “world” without God and turned our eyes toward the one we made the prince of this “world” (John 12:31). Jesus would have hurled this accusation into the air as He hung on the cross: “Yes! This is what you are! This is what you do to humans! It is always what you do to them and it is ceaselessly what you do to them.”
It is the god and prince of that “world” that seduced humans into rejecting a God who offered them only glory and dignity and joy in life (2 Corinthians 11:3; Genesis 3:1-19; Romans 3:23). It was that representative of heartless and rapacious evil that crucified and continues to crucify the peoples of the world and use people of the world to do it to one another. And it was the God of Jesus Christ who permanently became one of the sinful human family and came to share all its suffering and to deal with the Sin and sins that lead to its crucifixion.
And it was that God, in and as Jesus Christ, who joined them on that killing tree and exposed and condemned the world of the evil one and has permanently and finally in Himself defeated the prince of this world. And that evil one will not cease to be the enemy of God and the hunter of the souls of humans. But his day is coming and so is the day of all those who make themselves his glad servants and are the hounds with which Satan hunts the souls of their fellow-humans.
He who knows what He knows knows why He has not already brought to a halt things as they are but according to His loving wisdom He went to the cross and from there proclaimed to the tormented world. “I am with you, I am your champion and representative. I am against all that is against you and what you now see as I hang here I mean to be the proof of that. But what is happening here is more than my suffering, it is your suffering too and it is my way to glory and that glory will be yours too.”
The crucifixion of Christ is the crucifixion of humanity! For He came as humanity’s champion and Savior and in His triumph He triumphs for the world against a “world” of evil and against all who choose to be the willing and rejoicing servants of that evil world.
The crucifixion of humanity is the crucifixion of Christ.

(O Holy and Almighty God won’t you help us to see that your loving suffering and glorious resurrection in and as the Lord Jesus Christ is not only for the Church. And won’t you open the eyes of the Church that has been by faith been baptized into the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus that it might proclaim that good news to the crucified of the world. This prayer of gladness and sadness is in the name of the living and glorified Lord Jesus.)