The Danger of Dogma

A Series on Love, Part 6

There are several definitions for what a social norm is. What I mean by Social norms, are the practices that express a community’s ethics or values. A social norm is a principle put into practice. Social norms are things like tipping. It’s not a law, but it’s socially unacceptable to not tip. It’s ungracious. Even if the service is bad it’s still not ok to withhold a tip. Tipping expresses a collective value.

The Pharisees Question Jesus
The Pharisees Question Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Social norms, in themselves are not a problem. Jesus didn’t rise up against the social norms of 1st century Judaism because they were wicked inthemselves. The problem is, communities elevate their practices to the level of principles and judge harshly any other group that does not follow the same practice. They make practices, principles.

Liturgy is a good example. True Christian worship looks like this and anything else is heresy. Christian communities love their practices; their traditions, and easily love them more than God or people. We create artificial barriers between us and other groups by elevating our social norms above people. This is what Jesus challenged. In Jesus’ day the purity laws, which were right and good in themselves, prevented the Jews from loving people who needed it. Instead it was a source of arrogance.    Continue reading “The Danger of Dogma”

Be a sign that points to Jesus

Conclusion to the Sign of Jonah series

All the signs of Jonah point to Jesus. The signs that reveal Jesus’ presence in our lives are sacrifice, death and resurrection, God’s word and Repentance that leads to life.  Are your lives defined by these signs?

Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh as the representative of God’s people to do the work of God. We will see next week that Jonah’s flight from God was consistent with kind of prophet he was. Jonah and Israel did not understand that their mission was not separate from their life as the people of God. That was the lesson Jonah was learning to teach Israel. It’s the same lesson we need to learn.

Your mission is not separate from your life as the people of God. I can ask all kinds of questions about missions. How many of us are foster parents? Support a missionary?  Visit lonely old widows tucked away alone in retirement homes all over the Puget Sound. But our problem is more fundamental than that. Why would we want to add to our church? How are we doing loving the people we already have? How many different families have you had over in the last two weeks? The last two months? The last two years?

We don’t reach out to the world because we do so poorly reaching out to each other.  Reaching across the street starts with reaching across the pew. I know you do not have an affinity with everyone. And being nice is not the same as loving people. You may not feel animosity toward anyone in this church but how many people’s welfare in this congregation would  you say you are passionate about? We think that because we are polite to the bank teller and the barista and are courteous drivers that we are loving people. We think if we ask someone how work is going while standing around the cookie table or make some amusing comments about baseball in passing conversations that we are loving people.  But love is defined differently by Jesus. Continue reading “Be a sign that points to Jesus”

A proclomation of Hope

Jonah preaching to the Ninevites, by Gustave Doré.
Jonah preaching to the Ninevites, by Gustave Doré. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sign of Jonah is the sign of judgment

It is important to understand that Nineveh is the capital of Assyria which is public enemy number one in Israel’s eyes. God uses prophets to lead people to either repentance and righteousness or destruction. Of course Jonah is nervous. What if Nineveh and Assyria actually repents, when northern Israel hadn’t in 150 years? Who would be the instrument of God’s judgment against who? We know what happens of course. The judgment of unrepentant Israel comes a few generations after the book of Jonah. By who? Assyria destroys northern Israel. The judgment associated with Jonah is the spirit of God departing from northern Israel to rest on the repentant Assyria. 

Assyria’s attack on Israel comes after hundreds of years of God struggling with his wayward people. Covenantal presumption is death. It is the judgment of Israel that God uses to bring the good news to the nations. This points forward to the same situation in Jesus day, but then, God uses the rebellion of Israel as a means to save the whole world. God punishes His people for its complacency. The Lord’s kingdom does not remain with the unrepentant, presumptuous or proud.

It’s like giving a bb gun to a young boy for his birthday. How many times are you going to discipline him for shooting his brothers or birds or windows before you simply take it away? How much recklessness will you allow a 17 year old to commit with an automobile? These seem like reasonable situations for discipline, but surely God doesn’t reject his people! God does reject the self-righteous and presumptuous; those who say Lord, Lord and yet know nothing of doing His will in the world.  How long will the kingdom of God remain with those who use God’s grace as an excuse to live sinful, worldly, self-centered lives? Continue reading “A proclomation of Hope”

There will be blood

English: Jonah Is Spewed Forth by the Whale (J...
English: Jonah Is Spewed Forth by the Whale (Jon. 2:1-11) Русский: Пророк Иона, изверженный китом (Ион. 2:1-11) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Sign of Jonah is the sacrifice of Jonah

Our tale begins with the descent of the prophet Jonah in chapter 1 of the book bearing his name. In verse 3 he “goes down to Joppa;” In verse 5 he goes “down into the ship,” then “lies down” to sleep. This descent places Jonah in the midst of the very people who will sacrifice him for their own salvation in verse 15. This set up alludes to Christ going down from heaven, down to Jerusalem to be crucified and being laid down in the tomb in the sleep of death.  Jonah flees from God and God uses him as a type of Christ.

Jonah is a substitutionary sacrifice for the sailors like Jesus is a substitutionary sacrifice for the new humanity. Jonah’s story is typological. It is not exactly the same in content or effect. Jonah’s sacrifice saved the lives of the sailors not their souls. But Jonah is a picture of Jesus. Jonah descends from a place of honor to a place of shame amidst those He will be sacrificed for. Jesus descends from a place of honor to a place of shame amidst those He will be sacrificed for. Jonah lies down and sleeps in a boat, Jesus lies down and sleeps in a boat. Jonah is awoken amidst a storm. Jesus is awoken amidst a storm. Jonah is sacrificed at the hands of the ones his sacrifice saves; Jesus is sacrificed at the hands of the ones his sacrifice saves. Continue reading “There will be blood”

The Dregs of Society Made Warrior-Servants

Father

For six days we have labored in the fields. Our flesh is heavy and our toil weighs upon us. The sullenness of our failed intentions, our sour words, our blind eyes and our grumblings threaten to choke our melodies and strangle our battle hymns. Our instruments are out of harmony. Our weapons have grown dull. Our armor is battered.

But lo, there is a fell voice, soft on the wind; calling us to a drink of water without end; a victory banquet set amidst our struggles, surrounded on every side by the enemy. Here, at the set time we ascend to your inner sanctum by the mighty power of your spirit. We are not trembling at the foot of your mountain, afraid of your voice, begging for an intermediary. Yet, we cannot boast of this. We are the dregs of society made warrior-servants. We are the pathetic fools given the wisdom of God spoken. We are lame beggars overseeing the household of the Lord of hosts. We are the priesthood of the plebs. Gird our loins, sharpen our swords, tune our instruments for we shall not tarry long, but only rest awhile to gather from you new strength to resume with fervor and obedience the work of your kingdom. Glorious father we beg of you, hear our prayers…

Amen

Sunday 6-14-09

A wider reach, a deeper authority, a greater giving.

English: The Gathering of the Manna, c. 1896-1...
English: The Gathering of the Manna, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902), gouache on board, 11 7/16 x 9 5/16 in. (29.1 x 24 cm), at the Jewish Museum, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joshua 5:10-12 “While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.”

God provided Manna for Israel in the desert and as soon as Israel crossed into the Promised Land, the Manna ceased and the produce of the Land fed the Children of the Lord. The link between the two; God’s provision of the Manna and God’s provision of the vineyards, wells and abundance of the conquered tribes was supposed to be obvious. God provided Israel with both. Israel was never meant to forget who provided the daily bread, whether it fell out of the sky or was planted, grown, sifted, mixed with yeast and baked.

The Triune God is a God of abundance, a God of Giving. Psalm 23:1 says “the Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” The second half of the verse is the natural outcome of the first half. Because God is our Shepherd, we shall not want.

The promise of God’s table is a promise of provision. Who among you is starving? Start with this basic necessity and move up and out and see all that God has given you.

Start at the bottom, not the top, and work through God’s abundant provision and grace visible in your life today.

Another thing is how boring, mundane and unremarkable daily bread seems when we buy it from Albertsons. We were born in a land of milk and honey and we forget all the labor others expend through God’s providence for our daily sustenance.

We would be impressed by the miracle of Manna, but there are fewer specific items to be thankful for when the bread falls out of the sky. Bread from the store requires a far greater reach. God provides your job to acquire money, the car, the store, the plastic bag, the twist tie, the rain, the farmer, the harvest, the baker and an infrastructure which allows for massive ovens and transportation.  So why are we less grateful when God displays a wider reach, a deeper authority, a greater giving?

This is the common grace which we all so abundantly enjoy just to get some bread, everyday.

The Wise man’s heart

To teach us God trains us with Grace as it says in Titus 2:11-12. How does God do this?

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”

The house of mirth is a house of amusement. Think theme park or a Budweiser commercial. Now there is nothing wicked about a theme park, but if you lived there, how would ever face the more difficult and trying aspects of life?Mere amusement does not cause us to reflect on our condition as fallen men. Sorrow causes us to closely examine our lives. If your heart dwells in the house of mourning you remember who you were in Adam and who you are in Christ. Continue reading “The Wise man’s heart”