Wednesday, January 21, 2015

All Live

by RadicalBender
So all live to God.

Gospel of Luke 20.27-38, Voice

God lives in eternity, outside of time. When he looks at us humans he sees all of us all at once from the beginning to the end, everyone who ever was or ever will be. And so, "All live to God."

And also -- everyone who ever lived, lives now, or ever will live in the future will continue to live. We are not eternal, of course, because we had a starting point but after that point we will continue to live -- somewhere.

God's bias on the subject of where you should continue to live is plain. In one of our ongoing series here, here, and here so far) I'm spelling out what details we have about where we go when we die, but we all do go somewhere.

And so, "All live to God."

Monday, January 19, 2015


Jesus enters Jerusalem
Crowd of Disciples:  The King who comes in the name of the Eternal One is blessed! Peace in heaven! Glory in the highest! 
 Pharisees (who were in the crowd):  Teacher, tell these people to stop making these wild claims and acting this way!
 Jesus: Listen—if they were silent, the very rocks would start to shout!

Gospel of Luke 19.38-40, Voice

The Kingdom of God is an irresistible thing. Some of Jesus' followers today fear, and many who are not proclaim, that the days of the Christians are numbered. The scales will  eventually fall from our eyes and people will see that science has shown them to be deluded. Sure, they've been saying that, off and on, since Voltaire and rationalism in the 1700s but this time, we are assured, they are certainly right.

Now, I love science myself, and am no fan of the fundamentalist approach to knowledge.  But I can't help but notice that this makes a nice challenge, in a way, because Jesus of Nazareth will have none of it. You may recall his take on the subject:
Simon, son of Jonah, your knowledge is a mark of blessing. For you didn’t learn this truth from your friends or from teachers or from sages you’ve met on the way. You learned it from My Father in heaven. This is why I have called you Peter (rock): for on this rock I will build My church. The church will reign triumphant even at the gates of hell.
Gospel of Matthew 16.17-18, Voice

Let's wait and see who's right.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes.

2nd Letter to the Corinthians 5.7, Voice

Every venture of faith involves the element of risk. Risk is everywhere where faith is concerned. And faith has to be exercised in our relation to everything. The man who will not exercise faith because there is a risk, will not venture anywhere, for there is no such thing in this world as absolute knowledge concerning anything.

In every age it has been the faith that risked that has moved mountains, cast out devils, and healed the nations.

James Hastings

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Judah Gives his Signet and Staff to Tamar
One of the main reasons I like the Bible is that it's such a real book. None of the characters in this book are lily-white, 2-D, cardboard cutouts; they're flawed, messed up people wrestling with life and with God, just like us. This morning I was reading the nasty little story found in the 38th chapter of Genesis, which reminded me of this fact like a 2 x 4 between the eyes.

I'll leave it to you to click on the link I just made in the last paragraph and read it for yourself, but I'd like to point a couple of things out.

Your Sister-in-Law?

First, the marry-your-sister-in-law-so-she-can-have-kids thing can be a bit puzzling (to say the least) to us sophisticated inhabitants of the 21st century AD. But this story takes place in the 21st century BC. It's a window into a time when the main business of life still was just surviving. At this point we'd made some progress but it was quite possible for, if not the entire human race then at least your part of it, to be entirely erased from history. All it took was a particularly bad famine, or a plague, or a family unable to leave any descendants behind when they died.

In that type of society, clinging in many cases to existence by their fingernails, the attitude of women to what constituted success was wildly different from today. 4000 years have gone under the bridge since then. Think yourself into their sandals. They were quite aware that the survival of their community depended on them. In this context, having a system set up to ensure you could produce more humans for your family even if your husband died made sense. Tamar, the heroine in this story did her level best to fulfill her duty to the species.


Second, her original husband, Er, and the replacement husband/brother-in-law Onan, were both
"particularly wretched human beings in the eyes of the Eternal One." And Onan especially, not because of what he's usually accused of, but because his pigheaded selfishness was keeping Tamar from carrying out her duty to the community despite her best efforts. And doing something like this must have been difficult on her part to say the least.

Both of these fellows were so reprehensible to God that he ended their lives. How evil is that?

So who gets blamed in all this? Tamar.

Judah, the very patriarch whose family Tamar is trying to save, decides Tamar must be the problem. She must be cursed or something because his sons keep dying. It couldn't have anything to do with them being particularly wretched guys, could it? So Judah refuses to let her have her rightful third chance, deciding instead to keep this "deadly woman" away from his 3rd son.

Tamar's Solution

Now take a look at Tamar's admittedly illegal but rather creative solution.  Point A, she is absolutely sure, no doubt due to the patriarch's reputation, that if you put a temple prostitute in Judah's path he will have sex with her, no questions asked.  This man, I must remind you, is the direct ancestor of the renowned King David and Jesus of Nazareth himself.

Point B, faced with an accusation of sexual misconduct by his daughter-in-law, Judah shows no sympathy for what he and his sons have put her through, and not a hint that he's even aware of his own hypocrisy as a man you can depend on to visit every woman he meets who does what Tamar is accused of.  Instead, he condemns her to a particularly horrible death, so bad in fact that you hardly see it anywhere else in the Bible: "Bring her out and expose her for what she is, and then let her be burned!"

But Point C, at least he didn't try to cover up the evidence Tamar produced. Maybe I'm cynical, but he could have done that. He was the patriarch after all; his word was law. But no, he finally comes clean: "She is more in the right than I am. I did not keep my word and give her in marriage to my son, Shelah."

A little bit of redemption for the very flawed Judah.  And Tamar was finally able to carry out her duty despite the rather incredible opposition she had to face.

Nobody came out smelling like a rose in this story. It's almost embarrassing to read. You keep asking, "What in the world's wrong with these people?"

And that, my friends, is why I love the Bible.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Photo by Poojagupta21
If someone claims, “I love God,” but hates his brother or sister, then he is a liar. Anyone who does not love a brother or sister, whom he has seen, cannot possibly love God, whom he has never seen. He gave us a clear command, that all who love God must also love their brothers and sisters.

1st  Letter of John 4.20-21, Voice

Many people prefer to be "spiritual," not "religious," and given religion's reputation there is some justification for that. But there is a true religion. John, Jesus' best friend, says having an inner sense of being spiritual or connected with the infinite isn't quite enough. The authenticity of our relationship with God is tested and proven in the crucible of rugged, real life lived with our fellow humans. God, for all his virtues, is invisible most of the time. Love for an invisible God -- no matter how real inwardly -- can easily delude us, becoming a love for ourselves and an image of God we're comfortable with. Our love for God only becomes visible through our love for the people we meet.

There is a true religion, one that demonstrates its reality. Jesus' little brother once wrote,

Real, true religion from God the Father’s perspective is about caring for the orphans and widows who suffer needlessly and resisting the evil influence of the world.

Letter of James 1.27

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Where Do You Pitch Your Tent?

The Jordan Valley

Lot looked around, and he noticed the grassy plains in the Jordan Valley looked well watered and fertile, just as he imagined the Eternal One’s gardens might be... So Lot chose to settle his family on the plains of the Jordan Valley... He eventually spread out and pitched his tent as far away as Sodom.
Book of Genesis 13.10-18, Voice

Look at Lot. He was a man of the world, sharp as a needle, having an eye to the main chance. He boasted to himself that he always “took in the whole situation.” He said that what he did not know was not worth knowing. But such “knowing” men have always very imperfect sight. Lot saw “all the well-watered plain of Jordan,” but he overlooked the city of Sodom and its exceedingly wicked and sinful people. And the thing he overlooked was the biggest thing in the outlook! It was to prove his undoing, and to bring his presumptuous selfishness to the ground.

Look at Abram. His spirit was cool and thoughtful, unheated by the feverish yearning after increased possessions. He had a “quiet eye,” the fruit of his faithful communion with God. He was more intent on peace than plenty. He preferred fraternal fellowship to selfish increase. And so he chose the unselfish way, and along that way he discovered the blessing of God. “The Lord is mindful of His own. He remembereth His children.” In the unselfish way we always enjoy the Divine companionship, and in that companionship we are endowed with inconceivable wealth.

J H Jowett

Thursday, January 8, 2015


Consider this quote from the Apostle Paul:
So imitate God. Follow Him like adored children, and live in love as the Anointed One loved you—so much that He gave Himself as a fragrant sacrifice, pleasing God. 
Ephesians 5:1-2 VOICE

Reality check: It can be easy 2000 years after the Christian Movement started to be lulled into a comfortable dreamy mood about this scripture. "Yes, Jesus was such a sweet, fragrant sacrifice, wasn't he."

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy comfortable dream states as much as the next guy. But in this letter we are back in the first century, a few decades after Jesus. The sacrifice Paul has in mind is the broken, bloody, tortured, humiliated body of an agonized man on a roman cross.

How interesting that perhaps a mere 30 years afterwards people in the Movement could think of THAT as "fragrant." As the New Testament scholar NT Wright has pointed our, perhaps the greatest proof of Jesus' resurrection is that it's the one thing that adequately explains the existence of the early church.

Particularly a church that could say this about THAT.