Psalm 113 and the “-ologies”

hallelujah

 

This Psalm is a reflection on the name of God (Yahweh) which is rendered LORD in most modern translations.

 

First I notice the variations on the phrase “Praise the Lord” which are all variations on the word Hallelujah (“praise Yahweh”).

  • Praise the Lord (hallelu jah)
  • Praise  (him) the servants of the LORD (hallelu abedey yahweh)
  • Praise the name of the LORD (hallelu eth shem yahweh)
  • Let the name of the LORD be blessed (yahi shem yahweh mebarak)
  • Praise to the name of the LORD (mehulal shem yahweh)

This reminds me of musical compositions that take a theme and vary it through the piece, both in classical music and jazz.  It seems a kind of memditation by repetitive variation.

Then I notice contrasts in categories of time, space, people.  So I made this outline.

ps113

These show the LORDS praiseworthiness in regards to

  • time (now and forever)
  • location (place of sun rising and setting)
  • the nations
  • the heavens (which the Lord has to stoop down to even see)
  • classes of people (Poor, princes, childless woman, mother)

It’s a bit ironic that in the tradition of the text, we change the actual NAME of the LORD to the word “LORD” so as not to break the commandment against taking the LORD’s name in vain.

 

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Power or Persuasion

It was in 1976 when Jimmy Carter was running for president that it was declared to be the Year of the Evangelical.  It was supposed to be a return from the fundamentalist wilderness, brought on by Scopes and the Modernist/Fundamentalist controversy.

Just three years prior, Roe v Wade was decided.  Abortion became legal (the part about trimesters fell to the side).  By 1980 there was a marriage between “Evangelical” and “Republican” that lasts to this day.

Carter was ambiguous on the issue.  Reagan ran with it.  Though in office he did little until the last months of his second term.  He was really about the economy and the national defense.

It takes 2/3 of the congress of the US and 3/4 of the states to pass an amendment to the constitution.    I was in college in the time of that marriage, and it seemed to me then that it would take a long stretch to get any amendment through congress, and certainly one on Abortion.  After all, some states had already legalized Abortion before Roe.

The term “Evangelical” is hardly usable any longer.

To Charismatics it means those bookish Christians with whom they agree about Jesus.

To Liberals  it means those tho are married to the wrong party.  They chose to marry the Democratic party instead.

To Fundamentalists it means wishy-washy on some of the fighting issues.

To those who used the term back in the day, it meant committed to the Gospel, to the Bible and to an educated presentation of “conservative” or “Biblical” theology.

Now in popular media it means, those people who vote for Republicans almost all the time.  Watch how the term is used in an election year.  Now every year is an election year.  Mid term elections start the day after the Inauguration.  Presidential elections start the day after the mid term elections.

Lots of us (I still use the term “evangelical” to describe my theological position) fell in for using the power of the ballot box to fix the country.  Butevangelicals

the marriage to a party or a candidate makes us an apologist for the same.  Reagan was theologically uninterested.  George W Bush waved his faith to gain votes, but could not speak well for what he was for biblically.  (I give him credit for trying to deal with Immigration, cutting across the grain of the crowd.)  Donald Trump is hard to define politically and religiously. I heard my family members say, “we are electing a president not a Sunday School Teacher.”  However, they were not so forgiving of Bill Clinton.

I think we missed the boat.  Power is held in place by persuasion.  We opted for power, and did little to persuade people about the value of life, and the cause for what marriage should be.

Abortions have gone down since the heyday.  I think that the current technology of ultrasounds destroyed the argument that a fetus was only a “blob of flesh.”  The court appointees of Republican presidents have made no difference on this issue.  Persuasion from technology has.

Dear Fellow Evangelicals, lets go back to the ministry of the word, persuasion, engaging people respectfully without name calling and listening to criticisms of our position. Are we single issue? Can we separate being pro-life for the pre-born from pro-life about health care, poverty, racism, the environment, refugees and other issues?  How does being an American fit with being a Christian?

Whomever we support politically, we cannot promise fidelity. Our fidelity has to be the the Lord and his Word.  If we have common cause, so be it. If not, we can not put up with immoral or indecent words and actions because things we like get done.

Done.

Calm in the Canoe – a parable

canoeFrom the shore we can see the man in the canoe.  He is not paying attention to the danger he is in, because his eyes are closed.  What he does not see, we can see clearly.  Just down river is a quick succession of rapids through large boulders and then a 30 foot waterfall.  We call out, but he is not connected to the world.

I am in my canoe.  It is taking me on a journey.  I do not strive or turn, but am satisfied to follow the path of water and current.   I have closed my eyes and taken the position.  I have been breathing slowly, allowing myself to be completely in this time and place.  The flow of the river, the lapping of the waves, the gentle breeze on my face all are sensed, not as separate sounds, but part of one sound.

We start to shout, but he is not listening.

I heard chattering monkeys just then, but now they have receded.

We call out: Danger is ahead!  Turn to Shore!  Your life is in danger.

Quietly I flow, the water flows, the canoe flows, all time flows, we flow as one.
He must have fallen asleep.  We try tossing a stone against the boat, but it is hard to reach.  The first and second try miss, but on the third we hear the “clunk” of success. He stirs, but then returns to his sleep.

Nature and I are one. The river and I are one.  Time and I are one.  Words have no meaning.  All is at peace.

Just now we see the boat enter the rapids…he awakes at the third stone he hits, but not in time.  He starts to paddle, but will he get to shore in time?

What is that, the flow is interrupted. I open my eyes and the peaceful waters are shouting. The mirror water is mist.  There is a roaring just ahead.  Rapids!  Waterfall!

I grasp my paddle and pull deeply in the water, but the roaring grows louder.

Just as he goes over the edge, he reaches upward and cries out. Then he is gone.

It’s too late.  I’ve come to the edge.  Someone help me!

 

David Carlson

9/26/17

Marks of the Beast – Part 1

666           In Revelation we have hit the jackpot.   In chapter 12, we meet the great Dragon – who is Satan. Then in chapter 13 we discover two Beasts; the first is identified with the Anti-Christ and the second with his High Priest.  To top it off, we have a secret code, the number 666.  Oh what fun we can have with this!

Let me start with a quote.  This is written by a man whose last name is Boring.  He is Eugene Boring.  Yes, that makes this a boring book, by a boring author.  I will leave the rest of the jokes to you.   I do not agree with everything that he says, but this is true.

“…this text about the ‘mark of the beast’ has through the centuries been a happy hunting ground for religious quacks and sensationalizers…[so] it is important to give some clear guidance for preaching and teaching.”  (M. Eugene Boring, Revelation, WJK, 1989, p. 161)

I have heard lots of speculation: the anti-Christ was Michael Gorbachev., because of his birthmark that looked like a wound to his head.  I’ve heard many theories like that. The number 666 could be a tattoo.  Maybe it is three rows of 6 numbers. Maybe it is a microchip inserted beneath the skin.  We actually do have that technology.  People tried to change the name of State Highway 666 in New Mexico, but I think it is good for tourism.  In the Reformation era, Lutherans said the Anti-Christ was the Pope.  The Pope returned to say it was Luther.  So there are many ideas, and little information.

I believe the best way to understand Biblical teaching is that there will be one anti-Christ with a Capitol A.   That term does not come from Revelation, but from I John 2:18

 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.

There will be one Anti-Christ with a capital A in the last hour.  However, even in the early church, there were many little a anti-Christs.

Big A will have  all the worst characteristics of the worlds despots and dictators – wrap up Nero, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, and Kim Il Jung into one  and you get the idea.

But in the meantime, the spirit of anti-Christ is in the world. There have and there will appear again those with the marks of anti-Christ.

Today I do pretend to solve the mystery of the number 666  I want to talk of the things that define all of the anti Christs, the ones with the small a and the one with the big A.  These are the Marks of the beast – marks are plural on purpose.

(Note: there is a prediction that the world will end with a wandering planet tomorrow, September 23. This is based on Revelation 12 and some star charts.  So you better read quick!)

 

The Lion is the Lamb – Revelation 5

Lionlamb-3          There is a TV show called Madame Secretary. It is about a fictitious Secretary of State.  In one of the story lines there is a dangerous religious cult.  This cult believes that it is their calling to bring about the events of the book of Revelation.  They turn out to be terrorists in their own right.

Such groups exist. But they are wrong.  No one can bring about the events of the end but the Lion, who is also the Lamb.  He alone can open the scroll of God’s decree.

Up to the time of Christ, people were looking for a Lion. They wanted a great military leader. They wanted their own Alexander the Great, or their own Caesar to lead in conquest.

When Jesus came, he rode into the city on a donkey, not a war horse.  He was a teacher, not a terrorist.  He started with only 12 men – who had to follow him as a homeless preacher of righteousness.  He came to Jerusalem, not to reign, but to purify the house of worship from money making.

He was not a Lion as the people had hoped for. He was the Lamb, as John had called him.   Like a lamb, he accepted his arrest, his false trials, and his death at the hand  of the Roman governor.  Like a lamb he was a substitute, he gave his life to save his people from wrath.

All of that history of the Gospel is summarized when the Lion of Judah is revealed as the Lamb of God.

He went to the Almighty and took the scroll from his hand.  He alone is worthy.

What we see here is that the path for God’s will to come to the earth, the path to victory is not a military path.

In history the Roman General Constantine had a vision where a cross appeared in the sky, He took that as a sign to become a Christian. He baptized his army by marching them through a river.  That made them Christians (in name only). Later when he became emperor, he made Christianity a legal and even a favored religion.  Now the kingdom of God was tied to the power of Rome.

Through history the Gospel has been entangles with various political causes or parties or leaders. It always ends up as a disappointment.  Why, because we can only be lead by the Lamb of God.  The Lion of Judah is the Lamb who was slain.

Do not think that we can make our nation righteous by the use of Governmental power.  Government can do good and it can certainly do harm. But it is not capable of bringing about the kingdom of God.

Reading Companions?

scribe.2

This is an excerpt from a lecture at a local Christian College class taught by community pastors – my assignment was Neo-Orthodoxy to what is going on now!  The following introduction has to do with our reading companions – who do we consciously or subconsciously rely on to interpret the scriptures?

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Theology is written by very human theologians.  The truth of God is eternal and unchanging but our understanding is often tied to the other things we know, or think we know.  We interpret the Word of God by our world, our experience and through our culturally conditioned eyes.  We read the Bible through cultural lenses.  So we see that:

  • The Church Fathers were very influenced by Plato and Neoplatonic thought.
  • The Medieval theologians were influenced by Aristotle.
  • Modernist Theologians were influenced by science, Darwin and a view of human progress.
  • This is seen in how we view Creation, for example. Galileo did not so much challenge the Bible, but a consensus view that was based on Aristotle, Ptolemy and the Bible.
  • This is seen in how we view Revelation – is the Bible a Divine Book only (Neoplatonic church fathers), a human book only (higher critical modernists) or both ( Evangelical – e.g. Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy)
  • This is seen in how we view Salvation – The Christ pictured in the Sistine Chapel is unapproachable and busy sending sinners to hell and saints to heaven (is it any wonder that the people turned to Mary?); the Christ of Liberalism is kindly and humane. Albert Schweitzer said of the “quest for the historical Jesus” that European scholars searched carefully and found that Jesus was just like themselves.

C. S. Lewis said that one should alternate reading current books with old ones. This is one way we help see the trap that is the world view of our own times. Reading church history raises this question for us.  Who or what do we use to stand next to the Bible to interpret it?   Tradition (officially co-equal to scripture in Catholic Theology); Theological schools (Calvin v. Arminius); Popular Culture (church should entertain); the Business world (Pastors are CEOs); Social Media; Psychology (as practiced by Oprah, Dr Phil);

Question: What lens do you use to understand the Bible?

(Full notes – NeoorthodoxyEtc.notes )

Jesus as Servant

washing_feetI have been to a few councils for ministry ordination. One frequent passage that is brought to the candidate is Philippians 2: 7 which says that Jesus “emptied himself.”  What exactly did he do in that passage?

Did he empty himself of his deity?  That is contrary to the teaching of the church through the ages, and contrary to the scriptures itself.

There is a passage in John’s Gospel that sheds some light in this question. It is when Jesus washes the feet of the Disciples in John 13.

I could go so far as to say that Philippians 2 is a commentary on Jesus as a Servant. If not a commentary, a song: many hold that it is actually a hymn of the early church.

Here is John 13:1-5:

 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

John speaks of what Jesus knows, that he is from the Father and returning to the Father.  That he has god-like power in that “the Father had given all thins into his hands.”  As the LORD, Jesus removed his regular clothing and took on the clothing of a house servant and set out to do a very humbling work – he washed their feet.

Philippians says:

…he made himself nothing  taking on the very nature of a servant… (2:7)

The link is made stronger in that Philippians begins with an challenge to believers to serve each other, to be humble and considers others first.  (Phil 2:1-4). This is to be done in imitation of Christ (Phil 2:5).

In John 13 Jesus said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you….”

So there is an ethical link – Jesus act of foot washing (John) and his submission to death on a cross (Philippians) are motives and models of Christian service.  I do not believe that foot washing is now a sacrament, but a picture of the way of life of all who follow Jesus.  If he, the Lord, the Master lowers himself to serve, what should we do?