Just watch.

6 07 2009

I just needed to share this. This is perhaps the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.





Guns and Jesus Christ

6 07 2009

gun

I’ve been involved in quite a few discussions lately about this recent hot topic. Some of that discussion has, indeed been over the conflation of the Church and the [American] State. That’s not what I want to focus on here though, a lot could be said on that, but perhaps another time.

Most recently, as part of one of those discussions on Beliefnet, someone spoke of the need of churches to protect themselves, either of parishoners packing their own protection or having security detail to protect the congregants and minister(s). No doubt, part of this idea may be influenced by another recent major happening.

As a people, we Christians are invited into a dangerous, vulnerable life of living beyond ourselves for the sake of others. That isn’t hubris for the sake of sounding pious. That’s actually what we’re supposed to do. We’re actually supposed to surrender ourselves for the sake of the other, give up our rights to life, and feed, clothe and love our neighbor. Sure, that neighbor might be a gun-wielding psychopath, but that changes nothing. When Jesus gave the parable of the good Samaritan, it was in response to a man who asked, “but Lord, who is my neighbor?”. Our neighbor is not only the one like us, or with whom we happen to get along. Our neighbor is everyone and anyone. The man asked this in response to when Jesus spoke the Great Commandment, “Love the Lord your God…love your neighbor as yourself.” Who are we to love? Everyone. And if for a moment we try and tiptoe around this, thinking that those who wish or cause us harm are outside of the boundaries of our love, Jesus said quite flatly, “You’ve heard it said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I tell you, love your enemies.” Indeed, it’s the love of our enemy that Jesus says is the witness that we are children of “[our] heavenly Father” who causes it to rain on both “the just and the injust”. In Luke’s version of the Sermon, Jesus says, “…who is merciful to all, even the wicked and the thankless”.

Dangerous love, that’s what we’re supposed to have. Love so dangerous that it could even get us killed.

What is a church if we’re starting to talk about using armed force to “protect” it? How can the Church be the Church in such a situation? Have we, here in the West (and particularly in America) become so complacent, so comfortable, so easy-going that the idea that we might actually have to spill our own blood to live out the commandments of Jesus makes us shrivel up in fear? That is nothing but a parody of discipleship. And I’ll admit that I’m fully saturated in guilt in this respect, I’m no less complacent and no less comfortable than the next–God have mercy on me–but, how can this be?

Is this what our religion has been reduced to here? To nothing more than a parody of faith?





The Theological Declaration of Barmen 1934

5 07 2009

I. An Appeal to the Evangelical Congregations and Christians in Germany

8.01 The Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church met in Barmen, May 29-31, 1934. Here representatives from all the German Confessional Churches met with one accord in a confession of the one Lord of the one, holy, apostolic Church. In fidelity to their Confession of Faith, members of Lutheran, Reformed, and United Churches sought a common message for the need and temptation of the Church in our day. With gratitude to God they are convinced that they have been given a common word to utter. It was not their intention to found a new Church or to form a union. For nothing was farther from their minds than the abolition of the confessional status of our Churches. Their intention was, rather, to withstand in faith and unanimity the destruction of the Confession of Faith, and thus of the Evangelical Church in Germany. In opposition to attempts to establish the unity of the German Evangelical Church by means of false doctrine, by the use of force and insincere practices, the Confessional Synod insists that the unity of the Evangelical Churches in Germany can come only from the Word of God in faith through the Holy Spirit. Thus alone is the Church renewed.
8.02 Therefore the Confessional Synod calls upon the congregations to range themselves behind it in prayer, and steadfastly to gather around those pastors and teachers who are loyal to the Confessions.
8.03 Be not deceived by loose talk, as if we meant to oppose the unity of the German nation! Do not listen to the seducers who pervert our intentions, as if we wanted to break up the unity of the German Evangelical Church or to forsake the Confessions of the Fathers!
8.04 Try the spirits whether they are of God! Prove also the words of the Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church to see whether they agree with Holy Scripture and with the Confessions of the Fathers. If you find that we are speaking contrary to Scripture, then do not listen to us! But if you find that we are taking our stand upon Scripture, then let no fear or temptation keep you from treading with us the path of faith and obedience to the Word of God, in order that God’s people be of one mind upon earth and that we in faith experience what he himself has said: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Therefore, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

II. Theological Declaration Concerning the Present Situation of the German Evangelical Church

8.05 According to the opening words of its constitution of July 11, 1933, the German Evangelical Church is a federation of Confessional Churches that grew our of the Reformation and that enjoy equal rights. The theological basis for the unification of these Churches is laid down in Article 1 and Article 2(1) of the constitution of the German Evangelical Church that was recognized by the Reich Government on July 14, 1933:

* Article 1. The inviolable foundation of the German Evangelical Church is the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is attested for us in Holy Scripture and brought to light again in the Confessions of the Reformation. The full powers that the Church needs for its mission are hereby determined and limited.
* Article 2 (1). The German Evangelical Church is divided into member Churches Landeskirchen).

8.06 We, the representatives of Lutheran, Reformed, and United Churches, of free synods, Church assemblies, and parish organizations united in the Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church, declare that we stand together on the ground of the German Evangelical Church as a federation of German Confessional Churches. We are bound together by the confession of the one Lord of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
8.07 We publicly declare before all evangelical Churches in Germany that what they hold in common in this Confession is grievously imperiled, and with it the unity of the German Evangelical Church. It is threatened by the teaching methods and actions of the ruling Church party of the “German Christians” and of the Church administration carried on by them. These have become more and more apparent during the first year of the existence of the German Evangelical Church. This threat consists in the fact that the theological basis, in which the German Evangelical Church is united, has been continually and systematically thwarted and rendered ineffective by alien principles, on the part of the leaders and spokesmen of the “German Christians” as well as on the part of the Church administration. When these principles are held to be valid, then, according to all the Confessions in force among us, the Church ceases to be the Church and th German Evangelical Church, as a federation of Confessional Churches, becomes intrinsically impossible.
8.08 As members of Lutheran, Reformed, and United Churches we may and must speak with one voice in this matter today. Precisely because we want to be and to remain faithful to our various Confessions, we may not keep silent, since we believe that we have been given a common message to utter in a time of common need and temptation. We commend to God what this may mean for the intrrelations of the Confessional Churches.
8.09 In view of the errors of the “German Christians” of the present Reich Church government which are devastating the Church and also therefore breaking up the unity of the German Evangelical Church, we confess the following evangelical truths:

8.10 – 1. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14.6). “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. . . . I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” (John 10:1, 9.)
8.11 Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.
8.12 We reiect the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.

8.13 – 2. “Christ Jesus, whom God has made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Cor. 1:30.)
8.14 As Jesus Christ is God’s assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, so, in the same way and with the same seriousness he is also God’s mighty claim upon our whole life. Through him befalls us a joyful deliverance from the godless fetters of this world for a free, grateful service to his creatures.
8.15 We reiect the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords–areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.

8.16 – 3. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body [is] joined and knit together.” (Eph. 4:15,16.)
8.17 The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and sacrament through the Holy Spirit. As the Church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience, with its message as with its order, that it is solely his property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction in the expectation of his appearance.
8.18 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political convictions.

8.19 – 4. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men excercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your srvant.” (Matt. 20:25,26.)
8.20 The various offices in the Church do not establish a dominion of some over the others; on the contrary, they are for the excercise of the ministry entrusted to and enjoined upon the whole congregation.
8.21 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church, apart from this ministry, could and were permitted to give itself, or allow to be given to it, special leaders vested with ruling powers.

8.22 – 5. “Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17.)
Scripture tells us that, in the as yet unredeemed world in which the Church also exists, the State has by divine appointment the task of providing for justice and peace. [It fulfills this task] by means of the threat and exercise of force, according to the measure of human judgment and human ability. The Church acknowledges the benefit of this divine appointment in gratitude and reverence before him. It calls to mind the Kingdom of God, God’s commandment and righteousness, and thereby the responsibility both of rulers and of the ruled. It trusts and obeys the power of the Word by which God upholds all things.
8.23 We reject the false doctrine, as though the State, over and beyond its special commision, should and could become the single and totalitarian order of human life, thus fulfilling the Church’s vocation as well.
8.24 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church, over and beyond its special commission, should and could appropriate the characteristics, the tasks, and the dignity of the State, thus itself becoming an organ of the State.

8.25 – 6. “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matt. 28:20.) “The word of God is not fettered.” (2 Tim. 2:9.)
8.26 The Church’s commission, upon which its freedom is founded, consists in delivering the message of th free grace of God to all people in Christ’s stead, and therefore in the ministry of his own Word and work through sermon and sacrament.
8.27 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church in human arrogance could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans.
8.28 The Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church declares that it sees in the acknowledgment of these truths and in the rejection of these errors the indispensable theological basis of the German Evangelical Church as a federation of Confessional Churches. It invites all who are able to accept its declaration to be mindful of these theological principles in their decisions in Church politics. It entreats all whom it concerns to return to the unity of faith, love, and hope.





Ethics of Jesus: Judgment

25 06 2009

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly the speck out of your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:1-5 (ESV)

Yes, we’ve all heard this read and read it ourselves (well, I’d wager a vast majority of us). What seems so confounding about it is how straightforward it is: “…with the same measure you use it will be measured to you.” What does that mean? It means exactly what it says, we are held accountable to the ways in which we judge other people and with the severity with which we judge them. Jesus means to tell us that when we judge an other person, we too shall be judged by God on the Final Day. God’s judgment, as Christ reminds us on several occasions, will be based on the ways we treat other people. Need we be reminded of the teaching He offers in Matthew 25?

This isn’t a post for me to, well, judge other people (how deliciously ironic that’d be though eh?) But rather as a reminder (at the very least, for myself) that the ethics of the Christian calling demands kindness and gentleness.

St. Seraphim of Sarov, a Russian Orthodox priest-monk from the late 18th century, offers these words on non-judgment and forgiveness,

“It is not right to judge anyone, even if you have seen someone sinning and wallowing in the violations of God’s laws with your own eyes, as is said in the word of God: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Mt. 7:1). “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand” (Rom. 14:4). It is much better always to bring to memory the words of the apostle: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

One must not harbor anger or hatred towards a person that is hostile toward us. On the contrary, one must love him and do as much good as possible towards him, following the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you” (Mt. 5:44). If then we will try to fulfill all this to the extent of our power, we can hope that God’s light will begin to shine in our hearts, lighting our path to the heavenly Jerusalem.

Why do we judge our neighbors? Because we are not trying to get to know ourselves. Someone busy trying to understand himself has no time to notice the shortcomings of others. Judge yourself — and you will stop judging others. Judge a poor deed, but do not judge the doer. It is necessary to consider yourself the most sinful of all, and to forgive your neighbor every poor deed. One must hate only the devil, who tempted him. It can happen that someone might appear to be doing something bad to us, but in reality, because of the doer’s good intentions, it is a good deed. Besides, the door of penitence is always open, and it is not known who will enter it sooner — you, “the judge,” or the one judged by you.” (emphasis mine)

This is highly reminiscent, not only of Christ’s teaching which he references, but of St. Paul’s statement when he calls himself the “chief of sinners”. Somewhat counter-intuitive in an age when self-love is so highly esteemed, but I think we need to understand that such statements are not intended to make us hate ourselves, but rather to recognize the wrong in ourselves before we ever conceive to recognize the wrong in another. To pluck the log out from our own eye. According to St. Seraphim, such things are part of the process of acquiring the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Peace, of which the priest-monk says,

“Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved.”

We do more for those who do wrong and who wrong us through love and forgiveness than any harshness of conduct or words of judgment could ever hope to do. To quote Tony Campolo,

“Jesus came into the world not to condemn the world, but to save the world. When we come with condemnation, we are not coming with good news about Jesus but laying the bad news on people.”

Simple words, but definitely words that need to be said. I really don’t know where else to go with this, so I’ll just end this with another quote from St. Seraphim,

You cannot be too gentle, too kind.

Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other.

Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives.

All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other…

Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace.

Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult, and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.





Christianity, Legitimate Authority and Romans 13

21 06 2009

Well, why not just start this off with the chapter of Romans 13 in its entirety (ESV):

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay your taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Besdies this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

Verses 1-7 (the first paragraph here) are probably among the most contentious things one can find in the New Testament. These seven verses have been used throughout history to justify all sorts of evils. When Hitler took up power, the churches quoted Romans 13 to justify Christian subserviance to the Nazi regime. Romans 13 seems to be a convenient way to justify just about anything, the State can claim its power, and Christians are just supposed to honor it.

Though, of course, one will be hard pressed to find many Christians who will apply Romans 13 equally and universally, I doubt I’ll find any of my co-religionists who will insist that Romans 13 can justify the old Jus Primae Noctis (Right of First Night) whereby the king had the right to sleep with his subject’s bride on the first night of their wedding. For example, where were the Christians who quoted Romans 13 when America attacked Iraq? The Bath Party was the fully legitimate governing authority of Iraq, and yet so many Christians here in America were so very comfortable with just waving a damned flag and supporting the Bush Administration in its war campaign. Ironically, sometimes quoting Romans 13 in order to justify American Christian support of the American war machine. Where are the Christians in America who would argue that we must still be subservient to the British Crown? After all, King George was the governing authority of Britain and all her colonies, our bloody coupe against the Crown seems to be powerfully at odds with what the Apostle here has written.

The usual line of objection, of course, is that when the State goes against “God’s laws” then we as Christians do not have to obey. But this line of reasoning is total junk. Paul was writing about Nero’s Rome. You know, Nero, the emperor who was said to have played his lyre as he watched as the Eternal City was ablaze? The same Nero who blamed the Christians for the fire and then had them rounded up, hung up on pikes and then set on fire to light his imperial gardens. This was Rome, who treated her past emperors as near-gods, who worshiped Jupiter and Mars, who at various times treated Christians like fugitives and outlaws, and–you know–had our own Lord Christ crucified. So we are only to obey the State when the State is in line with God’s laws? Since when has any empire, nation or principality been in line with God? The same God who says, “Do not kill,” and “Do not steal,” — empires, nations and principalities always kill and always steal. That’s what they do. In our own history we stole from the Native American peoples, we took away their land, their dignity, we tried to rob them of their heritage and even of their very humanity; and we killed them when they refused to sit quietly and just accept our doctrine of Manifest Destiny. And, not the least of which, such a line of argumentation can’t be found within the text in question, Paul doesn’t leave us with that sort of loophole here. So, in point of fact, this objection–that Christians are only to be obedient to the State when it is line with the ways of God–is a junk argument. Rather, our application of Romans 13, as per the usual interpretation, is entirely arbitrary. Christians should have opposed Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia because it was “godless”, but Christians should support America because it is “blessed by God”. What a load of mindless, self-indulging, trite shit.

I think, if we allow ourselves to be more sincere, we’d begin our reading of Romans 13 within the context of the epistle. That is, at least immediately, as it follows Romans 12. Here the Apostle lays down how Christians are to live neighborly, resounding quite clearly the teachings of Christ on the matter: loving our enemies, refusing to persecute, curse or do violence to an other, living generously and charitably, pursuing the path of peace with all. Only after laying this down, does the Apostle take up the case of Christians living under the State. In this sense, Romans 13 almost comes across as St. Paul instructing the Christians living in Rome to refuse outward acts of aggression, or intentional rebellion. I.e. Christians are to be peaceable and doers of good, which I think is helped supported by the Apostle in ch. 13:13a, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime,”.

Without really attempting to resolve the problems that arrise from Romans 13, and simply trying to temper them with Romans 12 (sort of a contradiction, given my hypothetical reading as briefly described above); I think that, given the witness of Scripture and the historically embedded Christian experience, there is a lot more to bring to this table of discussion than those seven verses.

I cannot call Jesus kyrios at the same time admitting the lordship of Caesar or any other. How can I? The term kyrios is, objectively so, a title of political allegiance. If Christ is lord, then how can we, who confess this as so, call anyone else lord? Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6,

“For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’–yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

When we read the Gospels, we have Jesus who presents for us a kingdom that is radically other and alternative to the systems of governance in this world. Christ offers not just some “spiritual” kingdom, but rather He challenges the very cosmic order of the world. Jesus does not offer us an improved set of ethics by which to carry on with the way things are, but rather establishes a new order and calls us to come and live with Him in that new order, and offers for us a set of ethics which demands nothing less but a total metanoia (translated in most English translations as repentance), a total overhaul of the mind (c.f. Mark 1:14-15). This Jesus says in His Sermon that it is no longer acceptable to even be angry with our brother, or to return an eye for an eye; but rather to turn our cheek, to love our enemy. Indeed, He says, that by loving the one who seeks us harm is how we show ourselves to be children of the Father; in Luke’s version (the Sermon on the Plain, Luke 6) He doesn’t merely offer the blessings for the poor and the hungry, but goes on to chastise the rich and the full. This is the same Jesus who said that prostitutes enter the kingdom ahead of us. The same Jesus who in Matthew 25 proclaims that Final Judgment will depend entirely on how we treat “the least of these”. The same Jesus who said that the least one is the greatest in the kingdom. At every turn, without skipping a beat, Jesus presents for us a political alternative, the kingdom of God. Upside-down, backwards, counter-intuitive, and comprehended through faith, not sight. This is an alternative polis, a new sort of city and human community; this is the ekklesia, called out of and gathered outside of the old city.  This Church is to be salt of the earth, and a city on a hill, so radically different than everything else that it’s light “so shine[s] before all men so that they praise your Father in heaven,”.

This is the foundation of the Christian experiment, Jesus who not only taught us how to live but showed us how to live, truly and really, whose life of kenotic obedience and servitude was such, says St. Paul, that He was obedient unto death, “even death on a cross.” I believe the Apostle is sincere in his commitment to that vision and experiment, and when he gives instructions to the various scattered communities of Christians across the Roman world, it is in this context: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5~). As Christ has kenotically given Himself in service to others, so must Christians do the same.

In this mind and in this attitude, Christians are not to be a bunch of rabble-rousers or insurgents, as though through act of force overcome and overtake the principalities and powers under which we find ourselves. This does not mean complacency, or contentment with the Powers. It does not mean faith in or acceptance of the Powers. It most certainly does not mean allegiance to the Powers. It means faith in a God who alone is legitimate, whose justice is a genuine justice. Jesus, who was crucified, has disarmed and put to death every principality and every power “making a public spectacle of them” (Colossians 2:15); God has vindicated Jesus by raising Him from the dead, demonstrating Caesar’s true impotence. Whom God raised, He made Him “both lord and christ” (Acts 2:36); this Jesus is true lord and true king. Indeed, in the Johanine apocalypse He is called “King of kings and Lord of lords”.  Therefore God has already overturned, overcome, and overpowered the Powers, not through the sharp edge of the sword, but through the paradoxical victory of the broken Jesus. Furthermore, in our confession and longing, we hope and have faith that the Same who was crucified and who was risen shall come again. God’s victory over the Powers is not enabled through violent power, He has with completeness trampled the Myth of Redemptive Violence, as yet another element of our cosmic order of things which needs to be turned over on its head.

And it is within this that much of the ancient Patristic witness becomes intelligible. Against Celsus’ complaints that Christians refused military service, Origen writes that Christians do a much better service through prayer than through soldiering. Years earlier, St. Justin had written in his Apologia that Christians were a people who, as the Prophet Isaiah once foretold, have turned our sworsd into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, forgetting the ways of war and of violence. Tertullian writes that when Christ disarmed Peter in Gethsemane, He has disarmed every soldier. St. Martin of Tours, decades after the effects of Constantianism had begun to show themselves, said quite distinctly, “I am a soldier of Christ, I am not permitted to fight.”

This is not mere pacifism, this dedication to nonviolence represents a fundamental aspect of Christian theological and ethical thought. Violence is an act of faith in the legitimacy of Powers that wield the sword, Christian nonviolence is not merely a personal ethical decision, but a corporate ethos rooted in the deep conviction in and commitment to the truth of the Christian Gospel. We do not take up arms against another, for we have no faith in the power of the sword and the Powers that wield it; rather we take up the burden of forgiveness and the outstretched hand of reconciliation in faith of the God unveiled in Christ and who has overcome the world through Cross and Empty Tomb. A conviction that can, when taken seriously, take us toward real hope in that future of God’s Tomorrow as the Prophets so often spoke of, that Tomorrow which we confess in our Creed, “We believe … in the Age to Come. Amen.”

Our commitment to the poor, the hungry, the outcast, the rejected, the unloved, the unwanted, the hopeless, the sick, the sinner, the beggar, the wasted, the junkie and the murderer is a commitment we make in the illuminating shadow of the Cross. In its wake worlds crash down around it and the God of Jesus Christ tasks us with the work of building up the world. Going into the dark, lonely places, abandoning our lives for all others. With this we wear the shoes of the gospel of peace, bringing it wherever we tred. Bearing good news and hope to any and all. Because we have become convinced of the truth of God and His Son, because we no longer swear allegiance to the Powers that would divide and separate us. We can swear no oath to the systems of governance and restraints that would compell us to fight, to compete, or to steal and destroy.

Romans 13 should never be used the way it has been used. To do so is to abandon all faith and hope in the God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To use it to justify the Powers is to once again turn away from the Way of the Cross-Bearer and instead toward the Way of the Cross-Causing. We do not execute, we endure. We do not kill, we are killed. We do not demand retribution, but offer reconciliation. We put away all swords and fists, and extend ourselves to others, to find ourselves in others, to love ourselves in others, to be ourselves in others. We are in the world, not of it.





Faith in the Kingdom

3 06 2009

Not that anyone reads my blog, but, those who have stumbled upon it, my apologies for taking so long to add a post.

I thought I might share this, it’s something I wrote in a forum post on Beliefnet.com, I might as well also offer it here:

On a personal note, the now-and-yet-to-be kingdom means that right now there is a God active and working in the world. It means that there is a God whose faithfulness to people means that He is continually working, making and creating in me the kind of person that doesn’t just proclaim the kingdom, but lives there.

Because as I move and live and breathe in this world I am a faltering person who continually makes mistakes. As we all do. That He is relentless in His mercy, and unwavering in His devotion and infinite in His goodness toward me, that I can have the sort of confidence to live boldly. Not the sort of boldness with a chest puffed out, but the confident boldness to know that even as I may take two steps back, He won’t let me be out and about on my own. He won’t let or leave me be.

As someone who has often been let down by people, and who struggles to figure out my place in life and this world, to know that there is always ground beneath my feet, hands to catch me, and a God to hold onto me means there is always a tomorrow which I can wake up to.

And despite some people’s protestations, that’s exactly the sort of God I always read about in the writings of St. Paul. That there is this unrelenting love that refuses to abandon anyone, profound in every way, that can embrace and accept the worst of us, the least of us, and the smallest of us.

To discover the strength in weakness, light in darkness, hope in despair, wisdom in  foolishness, and grace in the most unforgiving corners of this world. That’s what it means to me to look upon the cross, and to understand the Man who died upon that cross–who I now call Lord and King. Not only of my own little Jon world, but even the entire world.

That the Crucified Man of Golgotha is truly Lord in whom all things subsist, that the powerful could not best Him, that death could not hold Him, neither could the grave contain Him, that where hate and murder and violence and wonton evil seems to prevail in fact does not. This is the kingdom of God. That a wreath of thorns would be the King’s true crown, and a crucifix His throne. That a coronation took place in open secret, a peculiar majesty shown through frail body and bloody brow.

That it is not the rich man who is lord, but the poor man. It is not the might of sword, nor thunder of chariots; it is not the cannon or the gun, the armies and their generals, it is not kings and potentates, or presidents and despots who are victorious. Neither nation nor empire, neither pomp or splendor, but rather the Man of Nazareth and those He represents who are the victors.

This is the kingdom of God.

That it is not wealth or fame or power that is true greatness. It is not the CEO in his lofty office who has success.

That all these temporal, empty, hollow things are void of substance.

Truly, He says, the prostitutes are reaching the kingdom ahead of us.

This requires a certain kind of faith, the kind of faith that already believes though it has not seen, like the centurion who had every confidence that the Lord merely said the word and His servant was healed.

But so few of us have it. Our confidence is found in the vain things of life, and we imagine success and greatness in things that will be consumed by moths and wind up as dust.

It is not our empires–whether political or otherwise–that shall endure. But love, mercy, forgiveness, kindness, joy, charity, and good will toward others. These things are real. Money, power, and empires are not real.

This is faith in the kingdom of God.

It is not in the things we see, but in the things we hope for.

I believe that Christ died, Christ is risen and Christ is coming again, and so I have hope in a world made in the image of Christ, where dead bones will walk again, where every sword will be made a plowshare and ever spear a pruning hook. A conviction for a kingdom where death has been put away and hell forgotten. Where neither mourning or sadness can be found, for in their stead a overflowing bounty of joy and laughter among all. For I believe this is the will of God. And so in that conviction of God’s tomorrow, I believe so strongly that I can step into this world of today in that unwavering truth.

I can lose my faith in guns and guillotines, and open myself up to world that is absent of both. A world filled with God.

This is the kingdom of God





Obama is President. Jesus Christ is Lord.

5 11 2008

Like many of you who may end up reading this, I’m glad that Barak Obama won this election. I didn’t vote, I chose not to vote, I voted to not vote; nonetheless I liked Obama more than McCain.

With that said, we need to be very careful to remember that the Christian call to radical discipleship and to be members of Christ’s own body puts us into that place where we choose Christ over Caesar. Always. Jesus is always Lord, always King of the Kingdom. We need to remember that America is still America, America is still a State–that temporal entity of imperial power. The Church must always remain not only non-partisan, but trans-national. We cannot recognize the validity of the stately powers, to do so is not only to divide the Body of Christ along international borders, but to cut ourselves off from our neighbors.

We cannot, we must not, we must forbid ourselves the temptation to pledge allegiance to America’s flag–or any flag.

Yahweh Nissi, the Lord is our banner. Christos Kurios, Christ is Lord.

We are but poor beggars. We are only pilgrims. Amen.








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