Tuesday, April 29, 2014

An Invitation To Life.3

"Whoever hears my word and believes in the One who has sent me will find eternal life and not be condemned.  Instead, they will pass from death unto life. Do not be amazed at this; for the time is coming when even the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear his voice shall live. In their graves, the dead will recognize his voice and be raised up; those that have done good will be raised to new life, and those who have lived wrongfully will be raised to condemnation."
-- Jesus

Days after the most recent Easter celebration I was involved in a conversation on Facebook with a friend that went like this:

David: "Charlie, have you ever done a sermon or teaching on Matthew 27: 52-53 or do you know were I can find some information or commentary about those two verses?"
Me: "I can't recall if I have...but not surprising, I'm at the age where I forget that I don't remember stuff! Are you preparing a study to share with others, David, or just for your own study?"

David: "My life group class is going to do a study on what Mathew is talking about in those passages. We all hear about Jesus dying on the cross for us but I have not heard anybody talk about those two passages. Just asking and seeing if you might know of any place to look for more information about them."
Me: "What are your thoughts?"
David: "I take it literally that those other people who were resurrected when Jesus died, were brought back to testify about Jesus Christ, that He is going to come back from the dead also."
Me: "So is the question in the group about whether to take this report literally?"
David: "yes and no; and what is the purpose of Mathew reporting about this occurrence and to see why very few people will talk about this occurrence."
Me: "Here's a couple thoughts: I just read a quote from Dale Carnegie "people are not creatures of logic, people are creatures of emotion..." Think of the stirring events at the moment of his death --the earthquake, the tearing of the temple veil, dead people come alive walking out of graves-- like the fireworks that go off after a rousing team victory at a sports stadium...very moving and awe-inspiring. I think the Father put an exclamation point on the work of the cross that was undeniable by even the most indifferent of spectators, like the Roman Centurion, who said, "Surely this was the Son of God!"
Also, the resurrection of those saints surely is woven into the fabric of the faith of the church passed down through generations of believers!"
David: "I was also thinking that they were giving hope to those that were hiding and afraid of the Romans and the Jews that Jesus Christ is not dead but alive and still with us and to this day we still need that assurance."
Me: "Amen! What can better inspire courage and boldness than the knowledge and heart-felt wonder that what you believe is True?!"
David: "Still wondering why nobody will talk about those two passages."
Me: "Maybe God left it up to you, brother!!"
David: "maybe...I am praying for some answers."
Me: "I'm praying the answers you have will ring true in true hearts!"
David: "Amen"

Friday, April 25, 2014

An Invitation To Life.2

"A wealthy man planned a great banquet, and invited many guests. When the preparations were completed, he sent his servant to gather those who had been invited.

'Come,' he said, 'for all things are ready.'

But all those who had been invited began to make excuses.

The first replied: 'I have just purchased a piece of land, and I must go and look at it again. Please have me excused.'

The second said: 'I have just purchased a herd of cattle, and I must go and examine it. Please have me excused.'

A third answered: 'I have recently been married, and for this, I cannot attend.'

Finally, the servant returned and reported what had happened. Hearing the disappointing news, the master commanded:

'Go quickly into the streets of the city, and gather the poor, the lame, the ill and the blind.'

The servant hurried to do this, and soon returned, saying: 'Sir, I have done as you commanded, and still there is room at the table.'

'Go then,' the rich man replied, 'along the highways and among the fields, and urge those you meet to come in, that my table might be filled. For I say to you: none of those that were originally invited will taste of the banquet that I had prepared for them.'"


My Aunt just passed away. 

Hours before she did I received a distressful call from my cousin Connie.  A well meaning neighbor -- at least we can only hope she is well meaning -- suggested that, as my aunt lay taking her last breaths, Connie should consider that her mom's recent lack of church attendance should (I'm not making this up) cause grave concern about her eternal resting place....

I wept. And maybe tasted a bit of the disappointment Jesus felt when people get focused on the wrong things.  He came to proclaim the wonder-filled possibility of Oneness with the richness of His Father's splendor.  

But since most of us, and I say most of us in the sense of everyone who's never dwelt in the Eternal Glory of the Creator God, have never experienced anything quite like that in our mortal existence, we regard that news with an, um, earthy earthiness (not sure exactly what that means, but it kind of makes sense...)  Kind of like the guy who's just announced that you've won the Powerball Jackpot and you just sit there in a sort of stupor not sure how to comprehend.

But that never seems to stop some from ruining the party for others. Depending on your particular theological backdrop you could substitute any number of crucial litmus tests for passage into the Pearly Gates:
- "Did she say the penitent's prayer?"
- "Was she covered by the blood?"
- "Did she accept Jesus as her Lord AND Savior?"
- "Did she believe in the virgin birth?"
- "Did she believe in this version of the atonement?"

So my question to the self-appointed gatekeepers: If someone at some point in their life accepts His tender invitation to come to the banquet, who are you to add your own indulgences to admission?

Is it not hard enough, with all the distractions in life, to get
image from deesbbbanquet.blogspot.com
someone to commit their Will to joining God's Kingdom Party and experiencing the joy of His Perfecting Will?  They may not do it until they've been humbled by infirmity or discovered their true lost-ness wandering aimlessly through the highways and byways of life!

But our part is simply to invite and gather. Not determine their worthiness to come in...If we can't trust the Preparer of the Party to rejoice in our repentance, wrap us in His robes of righteousness and make us worthy then maybe we're at the wrong address. Serving the wrong Master!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The End Times.1

"Once, there was a landowner who planted a vineyard, and on the grounds he installed a winepress. Around the vineyard he built a tall fence, erecting even a tower. Then he rented his vineyard to vine keepers, and voyaged to a distant country. When the time of the harvest approached, the landowner sent his servants to the vine keepers to collect his profits. But the vine keepers ambushed his servants, beat one, killed another, and drove the third off with stones. 
Again, the landowner sent servants to collect his profits. This time he sent a larger group than the first, but they met with a similar fate. 
Finally the landowner sent his only son, reasoning, "At least they will respect my only son." 
When the vine keepers saw the son approaching, however, they plotted foolishly among themselves: 'Here before us is the heir to the vineyard. If we kill him, 
his inheritance will be ours.'
So plotting, they bound the son, dragged him outside the vineyard walls, and took his life. 
I ask you: when, finally, the landowner of the vineyard returns, what will be the fate of the wicked vine keepers?"

An uncle once violently declared to me that Jesus was a socialist!  At least violence is what I read into the protruding neck veins and bright red face stressing his passionate opinion.

I'm sure he's not alone in that opinion.  But whether this parable is an apologetic for capitalism or socialism, I'm not sure. If you, like me, prefer capitalism to socialism, you'll find plenty to support the idea that property owners can and do provide valuable products, services and jobs to others by investing in the improvement of their property.  Socialists counter that this story teaches that profit motive drives people to exploit and harm the people who work for them.

Both economic systems attempt to define the equitable distribution of property. Property disputes are as old as the garden of Eden.

The moral then:

  • For the capitalist: don't hire thugs.  
  • For the socialist: don't let your children grow up to be Wall Street executives!
  • For Jesus: don't misinterpret my meaning!

To the King, Who's Kingdom is not of this World, the challenge of conveying His meaning through the shadowy figures of this world, continues, even today, to be daunting.  The "key", I am of the opinion, to unlocking the meaning of this story is the word inheritance
image from somestuffaboutmoney.com

Inheritance, in this world, is the legal-willful portioning of property.  Just the other day I met a business owner perplexed that his brother/estate executor won't share information with him about the family trust.  He's suspicious that his fifteen years of running the family business may be unceremoniously taken from him when mom passes.

Those suspicions, given the history of mankind, are certainly justified.  For the sharing of property, we know in our hearts, is the lessening of the whole.  We intrinsically feel the need for "fairness" in the distribution.

The Kingdom of God, however, is good news!  For its values and practices are in stark contrast to those of this world system.  Nothing illustrates that more than the idea of inheritance.  Drink in the words of Dante via MacDonald:

"To have a share in any earthly inheritance, is to diminish the share of the other inheritors. In the inheritance of the saints, that which each has, goes to increase the possession of the rest. Hear what Dante puts in the mouth of his guide, as they pass through Purgatory:
Because you point and fix your longing eyes
On things where sharing lessens every share,
The human bellows heave with envious sighs.
But if the loftiest love that dwelleth there
Up to the heaven of heavens your longing turn,
Then from your heart will pass this fearing care:
The oftener there the word our they discern,
The more of good doth everyone possess,
The more of love doth in that cloister burn.

Dante desires to know how it can be that a distributed good should make the receivers the richer the more of them there are; and Virgil answers-
Because thy mind doth stick
To earthly things, and on them only brood,
From the true light thou dost but darkness pick.
That same ineffable and infinite Good,
Which dwells up there, to Love doth run as fleet
As sunrays to bright things, for sisterhood.
It gives itself proportionate to the heat:
So that, wherever Love doth spread its reign,
The growing wealth of God makes that its seat.
And the more people that up thither strain,
The more there are to love, the more they love,
And like a mirror each doth give and gain."
The true share, in the heavenly kingdom throughout, is not what you have to keep, but what you have to give away." 
From The Inheritance by George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons III