Pay Attention

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

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Tell us of God.
Look at the lilies of the field. Watch the birds of the air.
Show us what God is like.
Once there were women kneading yeast into their bread.
We want to know about God.
There were these workers, see, who were lining up for their pay at the end of the day, and some had worked all day while others had been there only an hour.
What does God want from us?
Once upon a time, there was a businessman who had been dishonest with his boss and was about to lose his job, so he called in all of his master’s debtors.
We want to see God.
Pay attention to the sparrow that falls to the ground.
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When people ask to know more about God, the Son of God answers by telling them to pay attention to the world all around.
There is nothing that is separate from God. Nothing that can be deemed secular. Nothing of which could be said, That has nothing to do with Him.
We can learn as much about God by paying attention to the world around us as we can by reading Scripture.
The Holy Spirit within us whispers that both are created by the Word and speak of the Father.
Pay attention!
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Scripture speaks of truth and truth is what happens in our world.
Even when what happens is not right and good, it speaks of God.
People can learn as much about the ways of God from business deals gone bad or sparrows falling to the ground as they can from…knowing the Ten Commandments by heart. ~ Barbara Brown Taylor in An Altar in the World
What happens in our world is truth and Jesus is truth and if we want to know God we only have to look around to see Him.
Pay attention.

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It All Began with a Lamb

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

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They ate their lamb standing up, their robes tucked into their belts.
They stood as they ate, trusting that God would keep his promise, ready to leave at a moment’s notice to head toward freedom.
They trusted and obeyed, and so they remained standing up, their staffs in their hands, as they ate their lamb.
That lamb who had saved their oldest child, that lamb whose blood was painted around their doors, that lamb whose life was substituted for a human life,
that same lamb would now give them what they needed for their journey.
That lamb, as they ate, gave them sustenance for their journey. That lamb was their food at the start of their decades-long journey across a wilderness. They partook of that lamb before they took a first step, a first step of obedience toward a Promised Land.
That lamb which gave them life also gave them strength, and courage, perhaps, too, as they stood ready to take the first steps toward a Land they could not yet see.
Life, sustenance, strength, courage.
And it all began with a lamb.
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We eat our Lamb every week, gathered together with family.
We gather with family, trusting that God will keep his promises, ready to serve and care for each other at a moment’s notice, ready to love.
We trust and we obey, and so we gather together and eat of the Lamb each week.
That Lamb who saved us, that Lamb whose blood was shed for us, that Lamb whose life was substituted for ours,
that same Lamb now gives us what we need for our journey.
This Lamb, as we eat, gives us sustenance for our journey. This Lamb is our food and drink at the beginning of each week in our decades-long journey across the wilderness of our life here on earth. We partake of this Lamb before we take a first step into our week, a first step of obedience through our life toward a Promised Land.
This Lamb who gives us life also gives us supernatural power, and courage, perhaps, too, as we take Him into ourselves and abide in Him, as He through His Spirit abides in us, as we stand ready to take the first steps toward a Land we cannot yet see.
Life, sustenance, power, courage.
And it all began with a lamb.

Art credits: stained glass in Saint Peter and Paul parish church; Eucharist photo by John Snyder

 

Layers of Meaning in Scripture

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

I am often astonished at the beauty of Scripture.
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Not only astonished at the beauty of individual books or passages, although that happens too.
What often takes me aback is the elegance of how the entire Bible fits seamlessly together, flowing in and out of itself like a river flowing into the sea.
The Old Testament points toward the New Testament, while the New Testament points back to the Old as well as forward into the future.
There are layers of meaning to everything – the personal inside the theological inside the historical – and every layer is truth.
Everything that Jesus said and did points back to what God did for Israel and forward to what He was going to do for all the nations.
Exquisite.
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Look at the Crucifixion.
It was certainly historical and political. It happened to one man in one place on earth at one particular time, a man caught between two powers struggling for supremacy.
It was theological. When Jesus died, He took upon Himself the sins of the world to atone for them once and for all.
It was personal. Jesus paying the penalty for your own sins is about as personal as it can get.
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Look at the meeting between Jesus and the disciples after the resurrection. The one after the disciples had been out fishing and Jesus called them to shore for breakfast.
Jesus spoke to Peter and told him, If you love Me, then feed My sheep. That is a very personal calling.
A calling which is nestled inside of the layer of Jesus as the Passover Lamb and all of the theological meanings implied therein.
The theological meanings that are nestled inside the first Passover and Israel overthrowing Egypt in their escape through the Red Sea and all the historical and political pieces of those events.
Personal meaning burrowed inside theological meaning burrowed inside historical meaning.
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You see? Go look for it. Find it everywhere and be astonished.
See the Word as beautiful.

Using Science

I have wondered before in this space, wondered why science and our faith seem always to be at such odds. I have lamented the idea that fear is driving the Christian’s response to science and therefore is driving many intelligent people away from our faith and our churches.
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What I did not address in my previous musings is how it seems that every time there is a new scientific discovery, a new theory about our world and our universe, both sides seem to leap upon the premise as proof of their point of view.
Whether we speak of the observation that the earth revolves around the sun or the theory of big bang cosmology, every new discovery or theory is at the first seized upon to carry wide-reaching theological and philosophical consequences.
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Those who do not believe in our God grasp at the new discovery to be used as a new attack against Christianity. Those who do believe either dismiss it out-of-hand as patently false, a conspiracy of scientists who twist the facts to suit their own purposes, or else (perhaps more embarrassingly) try to use it as the basis for a new defense for proving their beliefs to the world.
Yet each time this occurs, when “the popular hubbub has subsided and the novelty has been chewed over by real theologians, real scientists and real philosophers, both sides find themselves pretty much where they were before.” ~ C.S. Lewis
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One would think that we, as humanity, would learn. I suppose, though, that what was true in the third century, BC, is still true today. There is nothing new under the sun.
We would do well, I think, to remember that the purpose of science is to try to figure out how things work.  Science does not give ultimate explanation for the origin and existence of the universe or answer questions concerning the purpose of the universe or of our existence.
Perhaps our role as believers is not, after all, to prove our faith beyond a shadow of a doubt. Perhaps this attempt is what leads us to seize upon science as either a hoax or a tool without really knowing the first thing about the particular theory or discovery we are discussing. This, I think, leads to the valid complaint among unbelievers that we tend to speak hotly about things we do not understand.
Perhaps, instead, we should remember that faith is something that can be pointed to, that can be supported by evidence and can be intelligently concluded to be true, but is not something that can be proved in a way that people cannot help but believe.
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When our faith can be proved in such a manner, that, I believe, is the day we will call Judgement.
What we believe always remains intellectually possible; it never becomes intellectually compulsive. I have an idea that when this ceases to be so, the world will be ending. We have been warned that all but conclusive evidence against Christianity, evidence that would deceive (if it were possible) the very elect, will appear with Antichrist. And after that there will be wholly conclusive evidence on the other side.
But not, I fancy, till then on either side. ~ C.S. Lewis

Art credits: DNA photo by Tomislav Alajbeg; Pulsar and Supernova photos from NASA

How Can We Find Truth?

Why do we have so much trouble with Truth?



One would think that Christ-followers would have a good grasp on what Truth is, yet we seem instead to settle into two separate and distinct camps: either we think that interpretation of Scripture is personal and whatever it means to you is what it means, or we think that there is only one possible interpretation and we know what that is.

Part of the trouble is, I believe, simply the worldview that our own time and place of living thrusts on us. 



We Americans take great pride in being individualistic, of having individual rights and freedoms. These are good things and have allowed us to worship with great freedom, yet they also teach us that religion is a private matter, that it is up to the individual to choose what they will believe. 

Which leads all too quickly to the idea that there is no one truth.


As I sat in Panera one afternoon, reading and writing, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between three people who were discussing the start-up of a New Age magazine. As they were talking about how to bring in money, advertisers, one of the women said, “Well, I can always find something in my Christian-ness to attract New Agers. I can find something in the Bible that will relate to them where they are.”

As distressing as this sort of worldview is, many Christ-followers have reacted too violently against this way of thinking about Scripture, which sends them spinning into that second camp. I have met so many who think that there is only one interpretation of Scripture and who are quite certain that they know which one is correct.



So much of Scripture contains layer upon layer of meaning. The deeper you delve, the more you uncover. Why do we give in to our pride and think that we know all there is to know about God’s Word? Why do we shore up our defenses against those who believe differently than we do? Have other Christ-followers become our enemy or is our enemy much more insidious than that?

So how do we solve this? How can we keep from falling too far towards either extreme? How can we who claim to follow Jesus know what Truth really is?


What if we simply listen? Listen to the words of Him Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life?

In the gospel of John, Jesus gives one of His most famous statements: 

The truth will set you free.

That is a beautiful (and oft-quoted!) statement, but how do we know what the truth is?

Ah. Just listen. Jesus gives us that answer too.

The whole sentence is this: 

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Then. A very key word! What comes before? One very important if.

IF you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. THEN you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

There it is. If we hold to Jesus’ teaching, if we read it, meditate on it, live it, then we are His disciples.

Jesus’ disciples know the truth (even, perhaps, the truth about Truth?). 

God’s Spirit Himself teaches us.

Beautiful.

And then the Truth will set us free.





art credit: flag photo by Robert Linder; Christ in the House of Mary and Martha by Johannes Vermeer