Friday, February 23, 2018
The Mercy Papers - Denouement
I had to listen to the Lion before receiving/writing this.
While I am just scratching the surface of my relationship with Jesus by the book as guided by the Holy Spirit, this series has reached its sealing.
As you read, you will discover disciples are only concerned about one relationship in the end.
While this will come as a shock to ideological idolaters of all shades and shadows, discipleship has nothing to do with being a liberal or conservative or their bastard children called progressives and traditionalists.
Discipleship is not political, religious, or socioeconomic.
Discipleship is not about pleasing the Democrats, Republicans, mainliners, sideliners, navel-gazing, and other mindless drones in your countries, cities, and churches.
Discipleship is about trusting and obeying Jesus by the book as guided by the Holy Spirit.
Discipleship is speaking truth to people who do not want to hear it but need to digest it into their heads, hearts, and guts for untapped love expressed through grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
Discipleship, as Bonhoeffer echoed the warning of Jesus, is costly.
Discipleship defines family by trust and obedience to Jesus alone.
Discipleship means death to any relationship not of/in/through/for Jesus.
Existentially, it means confronting the beast.
The beast bites back.
Eternally, it means paradise.
Yet, the existential precedes the eternal.
The existential is the meantime.
The eternal is forever.
I had to listen to the Lion before receiving/writing this.
The roar and reign of the Lion will be heard and heeded in these days.
He is coming back.
Caught with Pants Down
“Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught
in adultery, making her stand in the center.”
Sitting with my first pastor CBS group (i.e., caring, bearing, sharing) about 40 years ago, the hot topic was the inevitable ordination of avowed, self-affirming, and unrepentant gays and what it would mean for the future of mainline denominations like ours.
The verdict was the denomination would begin to unravel and become increasingly irrelevant in American religious culture; and unless you’ve got two feet planted firmly in the air or overdosed on St. John’s Wort or think elephants are mice with glandular problems, the prediction was spot on.
Mainline denominations are going down the toilet quicker than poop through a goose.
Anyway, my CBS group was pretty conservative; and, back in those days, so was the denomination as in esteeming over 2K years of Biblical, confessional, constitutional, traditional, historical, and common sense Christianity.
The etiology of decline continues to spark frustrating debate; and while I’m not about to pretend to know why, I look to those seven letters in Revelation as compelling clues.
Getting back to CBS, I was, to twist a lyric from Bob Seger, a lot younger and much bolder than I am today.
However, having piled up lots of pension credits has enabled a tad more freedom to be…honest…to God as accountable to Jesus, Holy Scripture, and common sense.
Well, I said something that rocked the boats of my buddies to get the debate going: “If we’re going to kick out the gays from the churches because they’re sinners, we may as well keep going and kick out the gossipers; but if we do that, no one will be left in our churches.”
Talk about peeing on a parade.
The oldest guy – not many female clergy back then – lit into me: “Don’t you think God is terribly grieved by homosexual behavior and can’t stop crying over the perversion of His gift of human sexuality.”
“Nah,” I replied, “I don’t think God loses sleep over two gals or guys making out as much as he does over people who make a bigger deal about sexual sins than the rest of the big ten. Beggars can’t be choosers; and the way I see it, I’m not as concerned about gays as I am about people who beat, batter, bruise, and butcher. Sorry, while I’m not into it and while I believe it’s sin because it’s listed as sin in the Bible, I don’t lose sleep over it and I’d rather spend my time introducing people to Jesus as Lord and Savior than being OCD about gays. I mean, come to think of it, if I can get them into a relationship with Jesus, they can work it out with Him now and, uh, then.”
I got a call later that day from the old pastor who was my age now: “You know, Bob, we’re a little concerned about you. We thought you’re one of us; but you sounded pretty liberal this morning.”
“Geez,” I answered, “I never really think about being liberal or conservative. I just read what Jesus said and try to repeat it within the context of everything that He said within the context of the entire book; and from what I’ve been reading, being a Christian sounds liberal sometimes and sounds conservative other times which is why I prefer to think of myself as a Christian rather than a liberal or conservative.”
He asked if I still felt comfortable with them after what he said.
I asked if he felt comfortable with me.
It was my first litmus test; recognizing that believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior by the book just ain’t enough for some folks…even in churches.
Christians quarrel and break fellowship and destroy families over…lots of things that, in my estimation and I may be wrong if proven wrong by Jesus by the book along with common sense, don’t seem consequential in the end.
I felt like the son whose mom kept calling him a SOB and didn’t catch the irony.
Because some people are really dense, let me spell a few things out before continuing.
Would I preside at a same-sex nuptial?
I don’t see any justification for that rite in over 2K years of Biblical, confessional, constitutional, traditional, historical, and common sense Christianity.
Would I pray with same-sex couples for God to bless them?
I don’t see any justification for not praying God’s best for everyone even when we disagree or even with enemies in over 2K years of Biblical, confessional, constitutional, traditional, historical, and common sense Christianity.
Would I ordain gays to ministry?
Well, I’ve ordained gossipers, liars, thieves, same-sex adulterers, idolaters, cranks, creeps, and…over the years as long as they weren’t, you know, obnoxious and irascible and irregular and irreconcilable and acknowledge room for improvement in their lives through confession and repentance juxtaposed to Jesus, Holy Scripture, and common sense.
Heaven, I’ve been ordained over four decades.
If I got in, there’s room for more sinners; recalling how one of our saints on the corner of Lincoln and Main likes to say, “Christians aren’t sinless. They just pray and work to sin less.”
I think of John 8 and the woman caught with her pants down.
You know the story.
A woman gets caught, uh, with her pants down.
Back in those days and still pretty common in Islamofascistnutball savage countries, women caught with their pants down were stoned to death.
Can you imagine what that would do to the female census in today’s America?
Jesus, of course, doesn’t like self-righteous or Sister-Bertha-better-than-you prigs; and if you read the Bible, you’ll find that God likes humble people eternally more than the arrogant and pride-filled.
God can work with people who know they’re not pure and perfect in every way and need a Savior.
That’s His business.
So back to the story, Jesus says to the pewsitters following the lead of the pulpiteers about to hurl on her, “Anyone without sin should be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again, talk about peeing on a parade.
Sparing her of being executed for breaking a sexual rule, Jesus says two things that every saved sinner like you and me and everyone else saved by grace through faith in Jesus must remember about Him and how we relate to His very, very, very inviting, welcoming, including, and loving family.
First, he says, “I don’t condemn you.”
Remember what he said to Nicodemus?
He didn’t stop with John 3:16 that everybody’s memorized.
He continued with John 3:17 that everybody would be wise to memorize because it’s His and our raison d’etre.
Because too many ecclesiastical prigs haven’t memorized it and don’t want to look it up because it will mean expanding the wineskin to include people that we assumed will be left out when the roll is called up yonder, here goes: “God came into the world to save not condemn it.”
That’s spelled w-o-r-l-d.
That’s everyone…even you…even me…even them.
Second, he says, “Now stop it! Stop your sexual sinning!”
Jesus is saying to her and says to us and everyone else, in effect, “If you’re grateful for being saved even though you don’t deserve it, I would appreciate you trying a lot harder to show your gratitude by living by my rules instead of the ones that you keep making up for yourselves.”
When we look at everything that Jesus said and did as recorded in Holy Scripture, we know He knew she’d still not be pure and perfect in every way and would never become so good that she still wouldn’t need Him as Lord and Savior.
Always remember God would not have gone to His extreme expressions of love in Jesus to save us if we could ever do it for ourselves.
So, contextually, Jesus is telling her to try a lot harder and be confessional and repentant about how she’s not and never will be pure and perfect in every way.
I remember hearing someone say, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”
Simply, as Paul wrote, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
No one is pure and perfect in every way; and those who think they are have, maybe, blasphemed against the Holy Spirit’s witness to everyone needing Jesus as Lord and Savior.
By grace through faith in Jesus, everyone can be better than before and know they’re going to heaven in the end.
Fidelity is living lives of gratitude – doing our best to trust and obey – for what He has done for us forever.
Putting it all together, C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity (sexual sin) as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong.”
Lewis explained, “The pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting…the pleasures of power…of hatred…They are the animal self and the diabolical self…That is why a cold self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute.”
He concluded, “But, of course, it is better to be neither!”
Amen for the ideal!
It would be awesome to be pure and perfect in every way.
We’re too human for that.
Amen for Jesus overcoming the real!
He knows we need saving.
He knows we need Someone divine in our lives because we’re too real to be ideal.
And if you haven’t figured it out by now, that’s why the Christian message is called gospel.
Good news…for the undeserving…by grace through faith in Jesus.
Everyone is invited to experience that good news…by grace through faith in Jesus.
Everyone is welcomed to experience that good news…by grace through faith in Jesus.
Everyone is included to experience that good news…by grace through faith in Jesus.
It has nothing to do with being liberal or conservative.
It has everything to do with being Christian.
That’s good to remember when we catch somebody with her/his pants down.
That’s good to remember when we get caught with our pants down.
Blessings and Love!
Shatter the sound of silence!
Wake up! Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!