According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Friday, January 11, 2013

Of Sons and Daughters Lost to the Fathers and Mothers of this World

Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1662–1669 | Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

The Parable of the Prodigal Sons

Commentaries by Pete Enns & R.E. Slater
A Parable of the $20 Bill
Sermon by James Grier

“But While He was Still Far Off” (or, what if God actually loves us?)

by Pete Enns
January 6, 2013

The father, obviously, represents God in this parable, but this isn’t a “get saved and go to heaven after you die” story. The son is, well, a son–already part of the family.

In Jesus’ day, he was addressing his stubborn fellow Jewish countrymen, reminding them about the love of God and that it’s never too late to come home. When this and other stories were adapted for the Christian faith, that same point remained but with a broader [non-Jewish] audience.

The story isn’t about conversion to Christianity. It’s about God being on the look out for those in the family who have wandered off, and God simply can’t wait to welcome them home.

I read stories like this and I wonder, What if this is actually true? What if there is a God who is really like this? What if God can’t wait to have us around–even with the garbage we keep carrying around and our half hearted “I’m sorries?”

What if God is glad to see us?

And the much more threatening question, What difference would really believing all that make in how I look at, well, pretty much everything?

And, what would it look like if I loved the way God loved?

- Pete Enns

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

How Does One become "Family"?

R.E. Slater
January 11, 2012

I'd like to make one small addition and add the following observation....

The traditional church view here is that "the family" refers to believers of God who follow after Jesus. To a Spirit-baptized, confessing believer, who has left God and now wishes to come back, to whom God says to His child, "Eh, verily, even now, do I love thee! Thou art my child and ever will I love thee." Of course this doesn't answer the question of "faith and works" (James, Peter, etc) so much as state a profundity of church dogma which we must save for another day's examination.

But this isn't what Jesus was saying....

Certainly Jesus had this in mind when speaking to the Pharisees about belonging to God through the covenants made in Abraham, Moses and David. As Jews under covenant (esp. the unconditional covenant of Abraham) they were part of God's people. Even if, after having broken covenant with God (sic, the Mosaic Law, and Suzerainty-Lordship of God in the Abrahamic Covenant) they were welcomed back. It's what God does as One who Loves and Redeems.

But how can one come back when covenant has been broken?

In the OT sense of "remnant (theology)" those Jews who broke covenant were no longer part of God's blessings and fidelity. They stood in jeopardy of judgment and would be treated as a non-covenanted people God knew not. This is the sense you get when reading the prophets of the OT as they preached against the sins of the people of Israel who hardened their hearts against God and persisted in refusing to repent to the prophets message that they had broken covenant with God. That they were faithless, refusing His will and word in their lives. So too had the younger son in the parable acted by rejecting his father, collecting his inheritance, and leaving the community of his birthright.

Under the Abrahamic Covenant there was a way back to God. But how?

In essence, God Himself would become the sacrifice for His people's sin, as the Lamb of God, pictured in Jesus (who was very God himself!). Hence, when God had Abraham bring a sacrifice for his, and his family's (and his future descendant's) ratification of the covenant (... a ratification that in essence was an atoning covenant for sin, a family covenant for membership, and a submittal covenant for duration of treaty, among other things... ). When this sacrifice was brought it was God Himself who cleaved the oxen in two, who functioned as both the priest and the mediating sacrifice, before Himself and Abraham (Abraham here is pictured as yet another typological figure like that of Adam for mankind).

Thus was God both the Suzerainty who treated with Abraham, and the undergirding foundation for the covenant itself, when it surely would be broken by Abraham in his doubts and faithless acts soon to come.

Even so did Jesus remind the Pharisees and religious leaders of His day of their faithlessness to God. Of their need to repent (sic, as such, Jesus was acting as God's prophet to His people Israel... ). Of their rightness of restoration based upon God's faithfulness and love as their Suzerainty who had become their surety as sacrifice upon creation of their treaty with YHWH. Which Jesus Himself would someday soon perform in His own body and spirit as Exemplar Magnifique, by way of re-establishing Israel's broken covenant with God through Himself, as God's perfect, and acceptable sacrifice.

To whom does this apply? To Israel alone?

Hence, under Paul and NT theology, God's covenant has been expanded to all men - both Jews and Gentiles alike - in and through Jesus. Jesus is mankind's surety of covenant in/under/before/beside/by God. Through Jesus is our sin removed. Through Jesus may we become adopted into God's covenant as His people. And through Jesus has Israel's covenant with God has become enlarged to all men everywhere. And if - and when - broken, as it surely will be, it will ever remain in force because it is based upon the eternal God Himself, and through His Son, and not upon our own selves. So that even in our sin, we are God's "family". By right of creation (Genesis). By right of concession (Abraham). By right of redemption (Jesus).  By right of sustenance (the Holy Spirit). We are God's lost and straying remnant. We are God's faithless people to whom He seeks day and night.

And it is to this idea that God says to us today - to those standing outside His covenant, as well as to those standing inside His covenant - that all may come. And when we fail that He will be our surety. Our sacrifice. Our Oxen and Lamb. Our High Priest and Mediator. Our Savior and Redeemer. That His covenantal love restores, as well as makes, covenant with us. That He understands our brokenness and fallibility. Our sins, selfishness, pride, ego, faults, and small-mindedness. Our hesitancies, doubts, misgivings, hurts, shames, and failures. And yet, reaches out to all who wish to enter in to His grace and mercy, peace and forgiveness, healing and strength.

Then what is our answer this day? Shall we continue to despise the Father or return home?

Regardless if you have left "the covenanted family" or not. Regardless if you were not part of that family (like Abram first was before God had ever established covenant with him). It is to you that God has made covenant. A covenant that will stand the test of time through God Himself and through His work on Calvary's cross for all Jews and non-Jews alike. He is our Redeemer. Our surety. Our Promise-Keeper. Our faithful Lord and Sovereign who seeks all who are lost, and weary, and filled with the pain of this world.

Where money and riches and fast friends never brought satisfaction. Where the pigstys and self-imposed poverties of this world would grind upon our souls in our lostness and inability to find safe haven and rest. Yet God is there. He waits for you to leave yourself behind and to come to Him. Willingly. In hope and desire. Bearing ruin and destruction in your bones through the mangle of sin in our lives. Even as He searches for you. And is pained by your absence. And when seeing you come, will run to you. Embrace you. Hold you. And never let you go. Inviting all who will come to a feast held in your honor, reveling with God's broken heart of joy that yet another sinner has come home from the pigstys of the human heart and lost dens of this world. Wherever they be. For all are sought, and longed for by God, our Creator-Redeemer, with a broken and heavy heart, until "found" on the road leading back to "home". Come. And wait no longer.

R.E. Slater

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