Reading Genesis 3

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-24)

expulsion1The above verses bring to an end the life of the first humans in God’s Garden of Delight as described in chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Genesis.

If you read the words literally, they pose an interesting conundrum – for literally only Adam is expelled from God’s Garden of Delight as is made clear in the text which repeats twice: “the Lord God sent him out” and “He drove out the man (Adam in the Greek text) …”

Anyone who reads the text literally is pretty much stuck with that point since that is all the text says. In the next verses in Genesis 4, Adam and his wife Eve have sex and conceive children, so we can assume they are able to still share life together. We can assume from this that Eve was expelled with Adam from Paradise, but that is an assumption we have to make since the text literally does not say it. The text requires some interpretation, a literal reading of the text is insufficient to make sense of the text. That suggests to me that the text itself is not advocating us to read it literally, as the text assumes an interpretation is needed. The text itself does not say we must read it literally and to make sense of the text requires some interpretation beyond what can be found literally in the text.

There is another possibility in the text, which many readers, ancient and modern, have noted. Though we often treat “Adam” as the name of the first human, the text easily can be read (and even literally read!) where Adam is not a name at all but a way of referring to a human being. Thus “Adam” can stand for a human, even the first human, but might also mean any human, or a representative of humanity, which is how St. Paul interprets Genesis 2-3 in Romans 5:14 (“Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come”) as well as in 1 Corinthians 15:22 and 15:45. If this is how we read the Genesis 3 text, then we understand that it was humankind which was expelled from the Garden of Paradise as Adam is a type of all humans. This reading too suggests that the Genesis 2-3 chapters are not meant to be read strictly literally as they require some interpretation to make sense of them. If Adam represents all humans then we understand how it is that when God expelled Adam from Paradise, Eve would be included in this exile.

There is one other significant idea though that the text leaves out. It is only Adam (whether alone
personally or as the representative of all humanity) who is exiled from Paradise. The serpent is not included in the expulsion, for only Adam and Eve (but not the serpent) had eaten the fruit and knew “good and evil” – the very reason stated by God for expelling Adam from Paradise.

So then we are left with the impression that the serpent is left in paradise while the humans are expelled from it. Was this the serpent’s goal all along? Was the serpent so clever as to figure out how to become the on with dominion over paradise? Is it possible that once the humans were expelled from the Garden of Delight that it no longer had the value which God had imbued it with? Thus the serpent became lord of nothing as paradise was emptied of everyone.

pascha5The emptying of paradise is certainly paralleled in Christian thinking by Christ’s descent into Hades/Sheol and the emptying/harrowing of Hades which He accomplished in His resurrection where He destroyed death.  Once again, Satan/Death was left as lord of an empty and meaningless realm!   So perhaps the expulsion of Adam from Paradise was also a blessing (in disguise?) from God: for God freed humanity from the lordship of the serpent and left the serpent as lord of the emptied realm.

In Luke 10:18-19   Jesus says to his disciples when they return to him after their successful ministry journeys, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”  Only then does Scripture have the expulsion of the serpent and his seed by humanity from where Satan does not belong.  Interesting that Jesus chooses the imagery of Satan falling “like lightening from heaven”!   The final destruction of Satan, the devil, death and Hades is recorded in Revelations 20 where all are thrown into the lake of fire and permanently destroyed from God’s realm.   Death and the place of the dead are both destroyed in the end of the Book of Revelation.  Not only is Satan denied any one to rule over, but also is denied a place to rule at all in God’s plan.   Hades is a temporary place that too will be destroyed with death and Satan by God in the triumphant Kingdom of Heaven.

The Freedom to Defeat Evil, Not the Freedom from Evil

Theodicy –  The effort to explain or justify the goodness of God while accounting for the existence of evil in the world.

Sergius Bulgakov in  THE BRIDE OF THE LAMB offers this thought:

pascha4The question of the final destiny of Satan becomes exceptionally acute in the problem of theodicy … Here, it is a question of whether evil in invincible in creation.  It might appear that, even though God condemned Satan to expulsion from this world, He could not, or did not want to, create a world that is free of evil, but rather one that defeats it even if only in the end, so that it  therefore forever remains the outer boundary of the world, as it were.   

Bulgakov’s thought – perhaps God did not want a world where no evil existed; He wanted a world in which evil is defeated. 

Consider Genesis 3:15 in which God is cursing the serpent for having deceived Eve –  “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.  He shall bruise your head, and you shall be on guard for His heel.”  God puts the enmity between humanity and the serpent because God wants humans to defeat Satan not to avoid him or be afraid of him or be rid of him.  God wants the humans to confront and destroy their enemy Satan.

God wanted humanity to defeat Satan.  Perhaps that is the ultimate dominion we are to have over creation.   But how was this to take place?   As Abraham told his son, “God will provide for Himself the offering”  (Genesis 22:8).   God does provide the means to defeat Satan –  the God-man, Jesus Christ who achieves  victory over Satan and death.    This gives a stronger sense to the offertory prayer of St. John Chrysostom who says of Christ: “He was given up, or rather He gave himself up for the life of the world.”  God wanted humanity to defeat Satan and God in the incarnation provides the means for this to happen.   The defeat of Satan through the death on the cross was God’s plan all along.   God confronted Satan head on and defeated him, or as Chrysostom says in his Paschal Homily looking at this confrontation from the point of view of Death:

It took a body, but happened upon God!
It took earth, but encountered Heaven!

This was God’s plan all along – to have humanity defeat Satan.  The surprise to the whole plan was that God would become human to accomplish the goal.

Christ is risen from the dead

trampling down death by death!

Thomas Sunday (1994)

Sermon notes   St. Thomas Sunday, John 20:19-29                                      May 8, 1994

dsc_00541At the very beginning of Great Lent I told you that Lent was designed to be a liturgical tool to teach us about life as disciples of Christ. I used the word microcosm, meaning the few weeks of Lent were really our whole life lived out in a few short weeks. Each Sunday of Great Lent was given a special Gospel Lesson to help us understand what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

Each week was like moving down a narrowing tunnel.

Each week our way of life, our beliefs and perspectives were challenged by our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we could properly understand and follow him. Each week we were drawn deeper into that ever narrowing tunnel, and as Mark’s gospel1Gospel has it, it is a tunnel that gets darker as we go in. It gets darker because the world increasingly rejects Christ and pushes him toward the crucifixion. It gets darker because slowly his family and followers and then even the disciples of Jesus abandon him, betray him, deny him and flee from him.

But also always, there is a speck of light at the end of the tunnel which we are drawn towards, which we continue to move towards, but to get there we must pass through this most narrow and painful passage, we are forced to crawl on our hands and knees on painful, cold and hard stone.

There is no other way for us to go if we are to follow Christ, for we all must pass through that narrow and dark passage of the tomb of Christ. And all of Lent and all of Holy Week lead to the darkness of the night, Christ in the tomb, and we hoping that God will arise and judge the earth. And then in the middle of the night, in the midst of this darkness, the light appears, the unfading and everlasting and gladsome light of Christ, Risen from the dead. We have passed through the cross, through the tomb, through death, through hades, into the never ending light of God’s Kingdom. And that tomb of Christ which stinks of death suddenly becomes the fount of life, the source of the resurrection, the font of baptism, the means of new birth, of regeneration, of access to God, to the kingdom, to eternal life.

tomb2The tomb of Christ, his death, his burial, become for all of us the passage into new life, we enter through this narrow passage way in our own baptism, where we die with Christ and are buried with him, and then are raised with him to a new and unending life. And each Pascha, we are reminded of this journey, of our journey through the darkness of this world, through the cross and tomb into the joyful light of God’s Kingdom. And our little walk into the darkness of the midnight, is a reminder that we are but sojourners on earth, passing through on our way to the Kingdom of God, and the night does pass away, and the darkness does fade into the light of Pascha, and the New Day, just as this world and our life on this earth also will pass away, and only that which God establishes will continue on forever. And that is a reminder not to live for this world which too is passing away like the night, but to live for the Kingdom of God which stands forever, and is never over come by the darkness.

tomb31And today we stand on the other side of that tomb, of the darkness of death, the cross and the grave. Today we know of the resurrection and we have experienced the light and life of Christ our God in baptism, in the Gospel, in the Liturgy, in the Eucharist. And we pass through the tomb of Christ which also becomes the font of life for us all, and we are here again in the world, facing the new reality of God’s resurrection.

But for all its newness, for all the light of Christ, and the power of the resurrection, and the joy, and the hope, we also notice that some things in the world have not changed. In fact many things seem to go on as if there is no God and there is no resurrection. The world is still awash in sin – in violence, disease, warfare, abortions, lust, greed, murder, death, disbelief. And we are confronted with this contradiction, if Jesus indeed is raised from the dead, why is the world so much like it was before? Are we really to believe that Jesus is risen from the dead? Are we to understand that this resurrection has changed the world forever? The apostles tell us that they saw Jesus alive, risen from the dead, but what are we to believe?

And this is where the Gospel lesson today brings us. Because, like Thomas, we were not there when Jesus appeared, and even though people we trust, the apostles, their followers, our bishops, priests, grandparents and parents, all say Jesus is risen from the dead, are we to believe?

And Jesus says to us, “You are indeed blessed, for you have not seen me and yet you believe.”

It is the doubt of Thomas, which is our doubt, and his confession of faith is for us.

blessingRemember before you judge Thomas, that the other disciples also did not believe before they encountered the risen lord. None of them really believed in the resurrection until they had seen Christ themselves. The empty tomb, the message of the angels, the testimony of the myrrhbearing women, none of these things convinced the other disciples either. But Christ appears to the disciples and brings them to faith. He does not reject those slow-to-believe followers, he does not reject Thomas, but encourages him to faith. Neither will he reject you or I if or when we doubt the Lordship of Christ Jesus. Instead, He invites us, he welcomes us, He is ever patient with us because He loves us. If we have our doubts, note well that so did the disciples. Yet they came to believe that the resurrection was true, and then they took that news to the world.

Listen to these words from the hymns of Vespers for this Day.

Thomas, called the twin, was absent
When you came to your disciples through closed doors, O Christ.
He refused to believe what they told him,
But you did not reject him for his faithlessness.
When he saw your side, and the wounds in your hands and feet,
His doubts vanished and his faith was confirmed.
After both seeing and feeling you,
He confessed you to be neither and abstract God nor merely a man.
He cried: Glory to you, my Lord and my God!”

The disciples were assembled on the eighth day,
When the Savior came and gave them his peace,
He said to Thomas,
“Come, Apostle! Feel my hands, which were pierced by the nails.”
O Blessed doubt of Thomas,
which brought the hearts of believers to knowledge.
In fear we cry to You:
“Glory to You, my Lord and my God!”

If there are any doubts in your heart about Jesus or the resurrection, know that many people before you have also doubted, and there doubts were laid aside by personal experience, and it is they who witness to you today, who invite you to believe that Jesus of Nazereth is in fact God’s chosen Messiah, whose life, death and resurrection has changed the course of the world forever.

“Seeing” with our Ears is Believing

Being a person with little training in music or the arts of any kind (I never took a music class after 7th grade until I had my one semester of music at seminary), the world of art and music remains to my perception a foreign language – I have a hard time recognizing the patterns of meaning that others so appreciate (see my blog Let There be Light).   When viewing art or listening to music I feel the scriptural words are fulfilled:  “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive” (Matthew 13:14).

resoundingtruthI found the Mars Hill Audio Journal interview “Patterns of Musical Meaning” with Jeremy Begbie, a musician and Duke University theology professor (Number 94, Nov/Dec 2008) to be most intriguing.  The interview inspired me to purchase Begbie’s new book RESOUNDING TRUTH: CHRISTIAN WISDOM IN THE WORLD OF MUSIC, which I am now reading with great interest (and will comment on the book in a future blog).   Among the things that host Ken Myers and Jeremy Begbie discussed which caught my attention and imagination:

Culture is the ordering of meaning, providing a framework of understanding of the world around us.   Christian culture seeks to perceive the meaning to be found in God’s creation.  In this thinking any form of art is about the discovery of order and meaning in the universe.  (The Akathist, “Glory to God for All Things,” says, “The breath of Your Holy Spirit inspires artists, poets and scientists. The power of Your supreme knowledge makes them prophets and interpreters of Your laws, who reveal the depths of Your creative wisdom. Their works speak unwittingly of You.”)    Artists see and help us see things and to perceive meaning that are not immediately obvious to us, but they help us make connections which enable us to “see”.   Begbie offered the quote, “Love achieves its creativity by being perceptive.”     That is the job of the artist and the poet and the scientists – to be perceptive enough to see patterns and meaning and truth in the world around us.  It is also what “wisdom” contributes to the spiritual life – not law but understanding the world to know the when, why, where and how to apply the teachings of Christ. 

The main idea of Begbie’s which I found most provocative was his sense of how music is a different way of “seeing” the world.  When we see the world with our eyes alone, space takes on a certain meaning –  we can see only one thing in a given space, and anything that occupies one space is not present in the rest of space.   But with music one “sees” space in a totally different way.  For in music, though one note fills the space around us, we still can add more notes to the same space and yet still perceive the different notes at the same time in the same “heard” space.  He gave several examples of this and I will only mention the sympathetic resonance – where a note is played with the same note one octave lower – the sounds do not cancel each other out but in fact magnify each other. 

Begbie offers this characteristic of music – the ability for more than one thing to fill a space at the same time and still be clearly perceived – as an alternative way to understand how an omnipotent God can allow His creatures to have free will.  If our only way of “seeing” the universe is visually, we cannot understand how we can be free beings and have an omnipotent God.  But if we “see” the world in the “heard space” of music, we come to understand how this is possible.  Sympathetic resonance gives us a clue.  God’s freedom doesn’t oppose or replace ours.  God’s freedom and ours can enhance/resonate with one another and even increase the freedom for us to be who we are. 

If we only perceive visually we cannot see how God’s activity in the world can be consistent with ideas of human freedom – since visually only one thing can occupy any given space.  Music however gives us a model to re-image or re-imagine how freedom might work.   It also allows us to “see” better the Trinity – how the Three Persons can share the One divine nature – for as in music any “space” can be occupied by more than one note or Person even when that “space” was completely filled by the first.

Myers called harmony singing “a parable of what it is to be free” – for voices singing in harmony are each freely following their own path, and yet together they make beautiful music.   It is also an image of how Christian are to help one another – working in harmony to build up the church by having each freely use the gifts God’s Spirit has bestowed sunriseupon him or her.

“Seeing” the universe through music seems so appropriate for Christians.  For in the beginning, when God spoke there was light (Genesis 1:3).   It is not sound but light which God’s spoken word brought into existence.   We see space and time visually but we also need to “see” the “heard” space and time if we are going to use all of the senses with which God has blessed us to discover the meaning He has implanted in the cosmos.

See also my blog Resounding Truth: Music and the Flourishing of Humankind

The Church Does Not Exist for Heaven

12apostlesTHE APOSTLES

In the season from Pascha to Pentecost, our daily Scripture readings include lessons from the Acts of the Apostles.  The original disciples of Christ – the Twelve, the Seventy, the Women disciples of the Lord – were joined by new believers and formed the Church.  The Church in the words of St. John Chrysostom is more important than heaven!

Are you not aware of this, I ask you, that the Church is placed on earth but its life is lived in heaven? How does this emerge? The facts give clear proof; eleven disciples were under attack, and the whole world did the attacking; but those attacked had the victory, and the attackers were done away with. The sheep prevailed over the wolves; do you see the      shepherd sending the sheep amidst the wolves so that they would not achieve salvation even by flight? What sort of shepherd does this? Christ did it, however, to show you that good deeds are done not in the normal course of events but in defiance of nature and normal events. The Church’s roots, in fact, are stronger than heaven. But perhaps the Greek charges me with arrogance; let him await factual proof and learn the truth, how the sun would more easily be snuffed out than the Church disappear. Who proclaims this, you ask? Its founder; “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Instead of simply making this promise, he actually brought it to fulfillment; after all, why did he give it a firmer foundation than heaven? The Church, you see, is more important than heaven. For what reason does heaven exist? For the Church, not the Church for heaven. Heaven is for the human being, not the human being for heaven. This is clear from what he actually did: Christ did not take up a heavenly body.”                                                                                                                      

Biblical scholar N.T. Wright frequently points out that the popular notion of “die and go to heaven” is not what the New Testament teaches.  Heaven and earth are not opposing places, but rather the New Testament envisions the earth becoming heaven – this is the point of the resurrection of Christ.   The New Testament is not proclaiming the immortality of the soul, but the resurrection of the dead.  As he wrote in THE RESURRECTION OF THE SON OF GOD:

 “…the Messiah here is the truly human being, the fulfilment of God’s purposes in creation, now set in highplace3authority over the rest of the created order. There is no need to escape from the created order; the Messiah is its lord.  Nor is there any need to escape from earth to heaven; instead, the Messiah will come from heaven to earth, to rescue his people not by snatching them away from earth but by transforming their bodies.” 

“In Revelation 21 … the heavenly city comes down from heaven to earth.  That is what the narrative is all about.  As Christopher Rowland has insisted, the end of Revelation offers an ultimate rejection of a detached, other-worldly spirituality in favour of an integrated vision of a new creation in which ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’, the twin halves of created reality, are at last united.  Always intended for one another, they are by this means to be remade, and to become the place where the living god will dwell among his people for ever.”

The Blessed Doubt of Thomas

thomas1THOMAS SUNDAY                  John 20:19-31

One element to the resurrection stories found in all 4 of the Gospels which I think lends credence to the story of the resurrection is the recorded reaction of the women disciples of the Lord when they arrived at Christ’s tomb and discovered it was empty.  There was no immediate proclamation of the resurrection or belief in the resurrection by the women.  They are totally baffled and dismayed by the discovery of the empty tomb and don’t know what to make of it.   Seeing the empty tomb does not bring them to immediate faith, they need someone to interpret the empty tomb to them, and that is when they learn about the resurrection.  It is only in the interpretation offered to them by the angel being(s) that they begin to understand the empty tomb.

 In Matthew 28 the women do go tell the disciples what they saw and were told but in 28:17, doubt lingers among the disciples.   In Mark 16 the women flee from the tomb in fear and say nothing to anyone about what they saw.  In Luke 24 the women tell the 11 disciples but in 24:11 the disciples clearly do not believe what the women tell them. In John 20 Mary Magdalene sees the empty tomb and reports it to the disciples.  Peter and John then look for themselves but no one knows what to think. 

 In today’s Gospel lesson when we see the disciples hiding behind locked doors in an upper room, it is not that they fear how people are going to respond to the Gospel of the resurrection that has them hiding.  They haven’t yet understood the resurrection – they are simply hiding in fear for their own lives.  The appearance of Christ in their midst comes as an unbelievable shock.

thomas_sunday Thomas is not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them.  We are not told why Thomas wasn’t there – was he absent for an honorable reason?  We aren’t told whether his absence was worthy of a blessing. 

 When the other 10 disciples tell Thomas they saw Christ, his reaction is instant and complete disbelief.  “I don’t believe you!”   The disciples witness to one of their own – 10 to 1 – and yet the 10 cannot convince their fellow disciple that Jesus is risen.   The whole resurrection narratives are filled with what seems to me a very credible disbelief.   Resurrection was unheard of, and they did not leap to belief in it. 

 Thomas’ own disbelief is called in one Orthodox hymn “the blessed doubt of Thomas.”  For Thomas represents all of us who have a hard time believing in God;   “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe,” Jesus says (20:29). 

 And the message to all of us today is a reminder how difficult it is to witness to Christ and to the resurrection.  Yet the disciples did go into the world and they and their disciples converted an entire empire over the period of about 300 years. 

Acts 5:12-20 gives us some indication that the disciple’s preaching was also accompanied by some miracles.  But the frequency of miracles declined through the history of Christianity.  And however hard it was in the time of the apostles to convince people that Jesus was risen from the dead and that Jesus is Lord, it is even more difficult for us today.  For the most part we are not able to show countless miracles.  So to prove we are disciples of Jesus our witness must rely on  our integrity and our credibility as disciples which is manifested in how we live, what we do, how we treat one another.

 Take note also of the disciples’ reaction to Thomas and his disbelief.   Do they cast him out from their midst?   Do they shun him or excommunicate him?  No, one week later he is still with them, despite his vocal exclamation that he does not believe.  The disciples kept him as part of the community for Thomas had received his call from Christ, not from them.   Thomas was chosen by Christ, not by the disciples.   And though the 10 disciples were powerless to change Thomas’ mind, they kept him in the fellowship and apparently despite his disbelief he was still attracted to Christ and to His followers.

 This too is a lesson for us in how we are to treat those who express doubt and disbelief among us.   If those who struggle with faith are still willing to come to our fellowship and be numbered among us, we are to welcome them.  For though we fail in our witness to them to bring them to faith perhaps Christ Himself will speak to them when He is in our presence.  Our task is to keep such troubled believers in our midst so that Christ can speak to them.

nativity4aRemember that not everyone sees what you see in Christ or in Christianity or the Church.  Not everyone has experienced what you have – there are other Thomases out there who want to see and believe.  Even if we can’t bring them to faith, we can at least keep them coming until Christ speaks to them.

 Not everyone can believe as you do.  Some doubt more than you do, and some doubt just as much.  Some believe as you do and some believe easier than you do or even more than you do.   If they have been chosen and called by Christ, our task is not to judge, but to treat them as the disciples treated Thomas:  Welcome them into the fellowship until that day and hour when Christ speaks to them and they come to faith.

The Touching Story of the Apostle Thomas

thomasTHOMAS SUNDAY                  John 20:19-31

 The sense of touch – what is its importance to our lives?  

 We confirm many truths with it.  We confirm that a loved one is near by.  We sense warmth and life by it.  We can convey love and concern through it.  We connect to others in a deeper way when we touch them.  We confirm we are not dreaming, that we are wide awake, still alive and we can use touch to awaken another.  We can also use touch to diagnose illness and convey health through touch as some are trained to do.  It can also be used to convey tenderness and affection, as well as use it to get someone’s attention.  Touch can be used to verify truth.

Touch is also involved when we make the sign of the cross on ourselves, when we are baptized and chrismated, and when we receive the Holy Eucharist.  Through this sense we can be put in touch with God, as the Apostle Thomas discovered.

Of course touch can be used purely for sensuous, pleasurable and self satisfying purposes as well, as St. Gregory Nazianzus reminds us:

 Let us purify our touch, taste, and throat, not touching softly and enjoying smooth things, but touching the Word made flesh for our sake as is fitting, and imitating Thomas in this. Let us not have sauces and seasonings tickling our palate, since they are akin to more harmful tickling. Rather, let us taste and know that the Lord is good, a better and more lasting taste. Let us not refresh briefly that cruel and ungrateful conduit, which sends through and does not keep what has been given it. Rather, let us delight it with divine words sweeter than honey.

Through the Cross Joy Comes into All the World

Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright frequently writes about the nature of the Kingdom of God which Christ is ushering into our world.  What has God got to say about evil in our world?  How does God respond to the evil violence in our world?   Wright says God’s answer to evil is the crucifixion – taking on Himself the evil violence of this world.  This seems to many not the response they hope from God.  They would prefer the God of Vengeance to show Himself and to violently destroy evil, the evil one and all evil ones and inflict tortuous suffering and damnation on them for all eternity. 

God inaugurates His Kingdom by dying on the cross and descending to the place of the dead, and by resurrecting His Son.  No violence, but the goal and plan of evil is totally defeated and show to be powerless.  “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”  God has the last word and God is victorious.

simplyxcian1In the final chapter of his book SIMPLY CHRISTIAN: WHY CHRISTIANITY MAKES SENSE, Wright offers a vision of justice for the world as mediated through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.  I will quote extensively from one section in this chapter:

It is a response to the longing, and the demand, of the living God that his world should be a place not of moral anarchy, where the bullies always win in the end, but of fair and straight dealings, of honesty, truthfulness and uprightness.

But to get from the longing and demand to anything that approaches God’s intended justice, we must go by a route very different from the one which the world normally expects and even demands.  The majority language of the world in this respect is violence.  When people with power see things happen of which they disapprove, they drop bombs and send in tanks.  When people without power see things happen of which they disapprove, they smash store windows, blow themselves up in crowded places, and fly planes into buildings.  The fact that both methods have proved remarkably unsuccessful at changing things doesn’t stop people from going on in the same way.

crucifixion23On the cross the living God took the fury and violence of the world onto himself, suffering massive injustice …  in some sense or other Jesus exhausted the underlying power of evil when he died under its weight, refusing to pass it on or keep it in circulation.  Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of a world in which a new type of justice is possible.  Through the hard work of prayer, persuasion, and political action, it is possible to make governments on the one hand and revolutionary groups on the other to see that there is a different approach than unremitting violence, than fighting force with force.   … 

Violence and personal vengeance are ruled out, as the New Testament makes abundantly clear.  Every Christian is called to work, at every level of life, for a world in which reconciliation and restoration are put into practice, and so to anticipate that day when God will indeed put everything to rights.  …

God, as the wise creator, uses authorities, even where they do not acknowledge him and even when they make many mistakes, to bring at least a measure of order into his world.  The alternative is the breakdown of social and cultural order, a situation in which the powerful and wealthy always win.  Precisely because God cares passionately about the weak and the poor, he intends that there should be government and authorities who can keep in check those who through greed and force would otherwise exploit them. …

Not does working for reconciliation and restorative justice mean ignoring the fact that there is such a thing as evil.  Indeed, it demands that we take evil actions very seriously indeed.  Only when they have been named, acknowledged, and dealt with can reconciliation take place.  Otherwise all we have is a parody of the gospel, a kind of cheap grace in which everybody pretends that everything is all right while knowing perfectly well that it isn’t. 

In the Orthodox world, there is the Orthodox Peace Fellowship which is endeavoring to remind all of us as members of the Church to keep the issues of peace, reconciliation and restoration in the forefront of our thinking about how to live the Gospel.  “Through the Cross joy has come into all the world….”

Christ Reigns, Crucified and Risen

pascha3Christ is risen!

 Bright Saturday

                        CHRIST HAS RISEN

                        freeing the first-formed Adam from his bonds,

                        and destroying Hades’ might.

                        Courage, all you dead,

                        for death is done to death,

                        and Hades too is stripped of strength.

                        Christ reigns, crucified and risen.

                        He has made our flesh imperishable.

                        He will raise us up,

                        and give us resurrection,

                        and make fit for that joyful glory

                        all who have put their trust in him,

                        with fervent steadfast faith.

                                            (From Matins for a Lenten Saturday)

McKenzie Living with Rejection

0409The child of God McKenzie continues to be in the hospital under close care, but she is no longer in intensive care.  Since the liver/small bowel transplant she has had to have 3 additional surgeries and 7 blood transfusions to deal with her body’s rejecting the transplants and with other health issues that came up – all related to her condition and surgeries.  The rejection of the transplanted organs continues to be of concern.  In the photo, her face shows some puffiness due to the medications she is on but her skin color has become much less jaundiced. 

Please do continue to pray for her and for her foster parents who have made considerable personal sacrifice to care for McKenzie.