Do You Follow Jesus, or do you follow what everyone else is doing?(more…)
Archive for the ‘Modern Theology’ Category
Every year in the Eastern churches the sermon of St. John Chrysostom is read, in its heart it is a message of hope, a message that no matter how late in your life you have arrived to follow Jesus it is never too late. Even on one’s deathbed one can find salvation. Enjoy.
If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; He gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.
And He shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one He gives, and upon the other He bestows gifts. And He both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.
Matthew 11:2-6 (RSV) Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.”
Justification, or being Justified, is one of those terms that has, sadly, taken on a Holier than Thou meaning, when it really shouldn’t. We’ve come to think that only those who lead a saintly life will be truly Justified before God. But is that true? Is God only looking for the Saints (with a capital “S”)? If so, what about the rest of us who just go through our daily lives doing the best that we can in a harsh (sometime anti-religious) world?
Once again English, and time, have done us an injustice when it comes to Justification. English because it’s a very poor language to translate other languages into. English typically has only one word for a given thought (such as “love”) and requires an adjective to fully describe it (“puppy love”) while other languages, such as Greek, have multiple words, each chosen to express a particular thought (eros, agapos).
Time because how we use an word in English, and what it means, changes through time. Love was once used to describe a tight affection between two people, now it means affection, sex, or how we feel about tonight’s television show.
Justification, or Justified, is the same. It can mean anything from how we stand before God to the spacing in this blog. Even in the first case it’s meaning has changed over the centuries. If you look it up in a modern dictionary it will likely describe it as being “righteous in the site of God” (righteous is a topic for a whole other blog) and so gives us a feeling that it is something only a few can obtain, while the rest of us wonder/fear how we will fare before the Almighty.
In a word, Justified has made God unreachable. Jesus would shudder at such a thought.
The Greek and Hebrew words for Justified (δίκαιος and צדק, respectively) have a much simpler meaning – to be as God intended you to be, or, to be true to yourself, and to others.
- A judge who passes judgement fairly, without malice or prejudice.
- A landlord who treats their tenants as if they were family. Keeping the property in good repair, charging a fair price, opening their home to everyone equally.
- A tenant who keeps the home they rent as if they owned it. Not defacing it, fixing what they break, understanding that the landlord has problems as well, and is not perfect.
- A shop owner who is open to everyone, regardless of race, creed, nationality, or any other marker used to discriminate.
- And the individual, who looks at everyone as a brother/sister, and treats them with love and kindness, even if they are not treated the same way.
In other words, and far more eloquently that I am capable of:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Justification isn’t all that hard to achieve, and isn’t only for the Saintly. Simply treat everyone you meet with love and courtesy, just as you would want to be treated, regardless of who they are, or how they treat you.
God created us all: Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist. Whether they are black, white, straight, or homosexual, male or female, conservative or liberal, or any other way you choose to categorize someone, they are all children of God. Made with love and through love, and deserving of your love. Do this, and you will be Justified before our loving God.
What better time to address hypocrisy than during the elections? Politics is rife with hypocrisy, from both sides (and then some).
Biden, after 40 years in the Senate, now claims that he has a plan to save Social Security, and that it is so bad that Trump will wipe it out in less than two years. Social Security has been in trouble since I got my first job back in the 70’s. Where was his plan during all these years? Face it, he has no plan, he won’t save Social Security. Why? Because it is the #1 tool to frighten voters with, “Social Security it broken, the other guy will devastate it, but I have a plan to save it. Vote for me!” Now, to be honest, Trump is saying the same thing, but at least he hasn’t been at it for 40 years.
Trump is not innocent in hypocrisy either. He has promised for four years now to “fix” the problems with the Affordable Care Act, while he has done nothing other than direct Congress to address it, knowing Congress will do nothing because they don’t want to be the ones tagged as taking healthcare away from people. And, no one really wants to fix the problems with the ACA. Why? See the above reasons for SS, they’re the same. For the next 40 years we will hear how the ACA is broken, the other guy wants to dismantle it, but I have a plan to fix it. Vote for me!
Jesus dealt with hypocrisy many times in his talks to the people. He pointed out the hypocrisy that existed in the religious political system of the time – the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were just as bad as the politicians of today:
(RSV) Matt 6:2 “Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men.
(RSV) Matt 6:5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men.
(RSV) Matt 6:16 “And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men.
Matthew 23:13 (RSV) “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.
In your dealings with other people do you show hypocrisy? Jesus told us how to treat each other:
Mark 12:28-31 (RSV) “Which commandment is the greatest of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
John 13:34-35 (RSV) “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Matthew 5:43-45 (RSV) 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven;
Who, you may ask, is my neighbor? Jesus provided a long answer to this one:
Luke 10:30-37 (RSV) “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Who do you consider your enemy? Trump? Muslims? Liberals? Blacks? Whites? Cops? How do you treat them? With love or disdain? Do you call them names? Slander them to your friends? Spray paint message? Destroy/loot their businesses? Do as Jesus told us to do, show them love and kindness, for they are children of God no less than you.
Matthew 5:43-48 (RSV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
If your person losses the election remember also what Paul tells us:
Romans 13:1-3 (RSV) Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.
Love and forgiveness does not come easy, but I would like to share a story with you from someone who definitely gets it.