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
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

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Making the God Who Is Wholly Other Into Our Own Image

I find in the article below a very powerful caution to all of our many religious judgments placed upon people and upon one another. As well as a very powerful motivator to return to the object of our affections in Jesus.

The church of the 21st century is struggling with loss of identity and meaningful relativity to society. Its traditions and customs have been called into question. Its importance to community and nation has eroded. Its beliefs found harsh and unappealing. Its command center for action, the Bible, with its rules and dogmas, have been severely displaced. There is nowhere a Christian can go without finding loss of interest to their message and organization. Pluralism has created a mosaic of authoritative loci, many of them multi-ethnic and humanistic, causing the church to lash out against the very society it has been sent out to minister to. To love and redeem.

Added to the church's frustration has come within its own ranks self-proclaiming prophets telling of its doom and destruction should it not repent and return to its own first love, that of Jesus. Prophets without proper pedigree or training, without institutionalized authorization or cathedral appointment. Whose schismatic messages rankle fellowships when hearing of their failure to meaningfully display, or sufficiently offer, that very thing they wished to have shown - the Jesus of their redemption, their rescue, and divine atonement. Discovering that its very products of message and methodologies have idolatarized the God they have chosen to avow. Falling short of the mark they had pinned life's energies, monies, education, service, hopes, family and friendships upon so many, many years long ago. To discover that the church itself has fallen into disfavor and ruin with the God of their election. Not unredeemed, sinful humanity, but they themselves.

It hurts. And it hurts deep within the pre-postmodern Christian soul when finding God has rejected the church's message for miscreants unaffiliated to itself. Shameful, irritating, divisive prophets who should be wandering about their own personal wildernesses and hells in beggarly rags seeking alms and supplications. Not hailed as friends to sinners and drunkards, prostitutes and whores, Samaritans and Hollywood thieves. How can such a holy God do such a thing? How can He chose to bless His holy message through such an unholy lot of unanointed men and women? Why does He not wash out the bowl of His holy discontent beginning with them and be done with the lot?!

And yet, for the church to reform, to repent, is too painful to contemplate. Too hard a thing to do against the pride of injustice with its impurity of heart and soul. Nay, can such a land be recovered before certain exile arises its ugly head against the unholy satisfactions of one's avowed enemies? One's bastardized, idolatrous enemies who have taken the high ground of God's love and favor against that of His own church? Can such a thing be true? Has God's anger been poured out upon His people misled in their worship and affections for the idols of their religion? Ignoring His holy pleas that redemption is meant for all, to all, through all, because of all?

Since when did the church's message become diluted with its own internal messages and restrictions upon the love of Christ? Eh, there's the rub, isn't it? For ever has it been, and ever shall it be, unless the message of Jesus is found to be holy other. Other than ourselves. Other than our own moiling likes and selfish preferences. Other than our prideful wants and misdirected needs. Other than our criticizing judgments and self-sure proclamations. Yea, the gospel of Jesus is holy Other. Wholly uncentered in us. And fully centered around the lost sinner for whom Jesus died. And until that day of enlightenment comes to the religious heart full of pride and good works, exclusionary religion and dead faith, it remains ruined upon the judgment's of God's purifying grace.

Fear not the devil without, but fear the devil within. For this be the very thing that God has come to do. To divide and displace, destroy and ruin, lift up and throw down. Unless it begins at the house of God, amongst the people of God who seek His favor and delight, it cannot be done at all. For it shall arise from without to go to the stones of the sea, to the rocks of God's everlasting hills, crying out God's holy name. Proclaiming a people not found within, but without, desperate for a Savior, lost and alone in sin's dark darkness.

That is the message of postmodern enlightenment. That is the message of the postmodern church and its preachers, its fellowships, its prayer warriors, its servants and attenders. That we have idolatarized the God we proclaim, making from Him our own image, and not that of a seeking Savior reaching out to a lost world through every voice, eye and ear that would breathe His name. Let us repent and let the Spirit of the Lord blow afresh upon us today. Let God change our own unlovely heart, learning to listen to wisdom and discretion, to unite with our brothers and sisters in holy fellowship under the banners of love, mercy, and forgiveness. Amen and amen.

R.E. Slater
March 20, 2013
 
 
 
Temple in Chennai, India
 
On March 2, 2013
 
Everyday Idolatry: My God
by Jonathan Storment

“You can safely assume you’ve made God into your own image, when it turns out God hates all the same people you do.” -Anne Lammott
 
It was June 7th, 1964. They had all gathered at the local Methodist church like always. They were having another one of their get-togethers, and as usual they started with a prayer.
 
Of course, they prayed, they were God’s chosen people, after all, saved by Jesus to bless the world. But on this particular night, someone wrote down their opening prayer. Sam Bowers, their “preacher and leader” opened them with prayer.
 
Here’s what he said:
Oh God, our Heavenly Guide, as finite creatures of time and as dependent creature of Thine, we acknowledge Thee as our sovereign Lord. Permit freedom and the joys thereof to forever reign throughout our land…May the sweet cup of brotherly fraternity ever be ours to enjoy and build within us that kindred spirit which will keep us unified and tong. Engender within us that wisdom kindred to honorable decisions and the Godly work. By the power of Thy infinite spirit and the energizing virtue therein, ever keep before us our…pledges of righteousness. Bless us now in this assembly that we may honor Thee in all things, we pray in the name of Christ, our blessed Savior. Amen
And then the members of the Klu Klux Klan said Amen, got up, and started planning how to carry out “God’s goal” for white supremacy.
 
Taking Sides
 
A few years ago I was talking with a man who was a professional conflict mediator who had worked with Presidents and international government officials. He had helped nations resolve international conflicts bordering on war, but if you asked him who was the hardest assignment, he wouldn’t blink an eye before he told you,
 
“That’s easy…Churches”
 
There’s a bizarre little story in the book of Joshua where Joshua is leading the people of Israel into the land of Canaan, and he is suddenly visited by an Angel of the LORD, and Joshua has such tunnel vision that he immediately asks the angel, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
 
And the angel says, “No. I’m not on either, as the Commander for the LORD I have come.”
 
I love this little story, because it’s exactly what we religious people do.
 
There are days when I wonder if church is really good for the world. In out better moments, God’s done some incredible stuff through the church, but often church just gives religious people language to be more mad than they would normally be.
 
Now they’re not just angry, God is angry too. Now their not just indignant they are filled with a “righteous” indignation. All because we never question the idea that God is on our side.
 
We approach the Divine like Joshua, “Are you for us or for our enemy?”
 
KKK Worship service
 
And I think God’s answer is still “No.”
 
The Faces of Jesus
 
A few years ago, I read a fascinating book called American Jesus: How the Son of God became a National Icon. What’s interesting is that the book doesn’t talk about the popularity of Jesus, but the diversity of Jesus. Turns out, there are lots of different Jesus’ out there. There’s Republican Jesus, Democrat Jesus, Hot Air Balloon racing Jesus, Nascar Jesus, Moralistic Jesus, Buddy Jesus, and Sweet baby Jesus among others.
 
Each one gives us a picture of a Jesus who knows how to take sides.
 
So after the KKK dismissed they left armed to the teeth with shotguns and rope, to fight the civil rights movement that was “invading their Mississippi” and within a few days 3 civil rights workers were killed….In Jesus name.
 
It’s easy to see, looking back how far this group was from the heart of God, how they had made Jesus into a god of their own image. But I think we do this exact same thing all the time. At least I do.
I’ve noticed that Jesus tends to vote the same way I do. He’s never against a war that I’m for, and he’s rarely interested into calling me toward self-sacrifice or mercy to people different than me. That’s the Jesus that I am most comfortable with, and it’s most certainly an idol.
 
I like the way N.T. Wright talks about how to deal with letting Jesus stand on his own:
“My proposal is not that we know what the word ‘god’ means, and manage to somehow to fit Jesus into that. Instead, I suggest, that we think historically about a young Jew possessed of a desperately risky, indeed apparently crazy vocation, riding into Jerusalem in tears, denouncing the Temple, and dying on a Roman cross–and we somehow allow our meaning for the word “god” to be re-centered around that point.”
In other words, the scandal is not that Jesus is like God. The scandal is that God is like Jesus. He’s a God who picked a certain place and time, and entered into it. He came to show us who he really was…and who he really wasn’t.
 
He came as a Jewish carpenter, in a particular time and place, not to speak about every little agenda we have, but for the redemption of the entire world.
 
I understand why in conversation or worship lyrics we sometime refer to God as “My God” but never mistake that as meaning God belongs to you.
 
Because God’s not on your side.You can pray in his name all you want to but you’re enemies are not his enemies.
 
He’s bigger than your problems, because he’s more than just your God.
 
Just ask Joshua.

 

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