Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving -- Ancient Israelite Style!

Creative Commons: "Laughs and Clean Plates" by Dinner Series is licensed under CC BY 2.0
To thank the Lord for his many blessings many of us gather together with our families at this time of year. We bring our best food, lots of meat and baked goods made from scratch with the best ingredients. Then we offer a prayer of thanks, recounting what we are grateful for. After that we spend the day eating, talking, and laughing, enjoying each other's company -- and God's blessing. We don't have to do this, but it's a tradition and we always look forward to it.

No, I'm not bragging about the Thanksgiving my extended family is having today. This is thanksgiving the way that ancient Israelites did it, 3000+ years ago.

It's buried in the depths of the almost-never-read Book of Leviticus, the third book in your Bible. Here is how the Voice Bible translates it:
If someone offers a sacrifice out of thanksgiving, then in addition to the sacrifice he must offer loaves of unleavened bread mixed with oil, unleavened wafers topped with oil, and loaves of the finest flour mixed with oil. Along with the peace offerings for thanksgiving, a person must include loaves of leavened bread. He must present one of each kind of bread as a gift to Me; it will belong to the priest who officiates the sacrifice and splatters the blood of the peace offerings against the sides of the altar.
The meat of the sacrifice for the thanksgiving peace offering must be eaten on the day it is offered. None of it is to be left over for the next day. (Book of Leviticus 7.12 - 15, Voice )
 There are obvious differences of course and the last thing I'm trying to do is suggest that Americans are modern Israelites (although the Puritans, who started our Thanksgiving tradition, are just the kind of guys who would read Leviticus).

But it is interesting to me that there is a more than passing similarity between their thanksgiving and our thanksgiving. In this book God is setting up a way for Israel to relate to their God. As part of that he includes a way to spontaneously say "thank you" to him when they are so moved.

Most of the other sacrifices ordained in the first 7 chapters of Leviticus are either completely consumed in the altar fire or part is set aside for the Priests. But when it comes to thanksgiving, God's idea is: Get your family together, bring your best animal (which is what a sacrifice had to be), make 3 kinds of baked goods, and then gather before me (at the 'congregation tent' -- the forerunner of Solomon's Temple) and we'll have a good time together. And eat all you want because there won't be any leftovers.

Throughout the Scriptures we find God working through community and food. He is not an austere, far-off deity or the kind who does everything himself. God is constantly, intimately involved with every mundane thing in his people's lives, working through them to fulfill his eternal purposes. Even the most profound, sacred thing we do as the Christian movement, taking Holy Communion, is God working through food to transform his people and through them the world.

That's a good reason to be thankful. And it's a good reason to give thanks in this ancient way that also seems  so natural to us.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Last Words

End of the Line
Photo by Willy Volk
Synchroblog is a little community of mostly Christian bloggers who write about "post-modern faith and life," posting on a particular subject each month. Bad news though: Synchroblog is on its last legs and this will be its last set of essays ever. So this post is part of the October 2015 Synchroblog  whose theme is, appropriately enough,‘If this was my last blog post, here’s what I would want to say’.

See the list at the end to read everybody else's final missives.

I haven't been a very good Synchroblogger, I admit. I joined in October 2013 with a post called The Gospel Truth About Social Justice, which actually became one of the more popular posts I've written here. But as encouraging as that was, I've only posted four more: (Jesus Christ Superstar Saved My Soul, Going Home, The Year of Reading Scripture for the First Time, and Law of Liberty). And this one if I get it done before the deadline.

This time the writing prompt invites me to imagine that this is my final blog post.  Actually I've written final posts for several blogs so it's easy to tell you what those look like: Nothing. Usually I've written until I got sick of it and just stopped.

I did do a little more with a sister blog of this one. My immortal last words there were:

I can't think of a use for this blog. And really I haven't used it a lot anyway.
Pretty moving, huh?

So I'm going to take our theme as not just my last words for this blog, but my last words ever. What if I knew that 5 minutes from now I would be dead? What words would I write on this page then?

Actually, I had an entirely different set of words I was going to include here. But as I thought about it that way -- as the final few sentences I want to leave the world with after my passing -- different words came to mind. And now they seem like the only thing important enough to say.

As you know if you read Authentic Light a lot, I am rather obsessed with the early Christian movement -- the first 300 or 400 years. I am what is called a Paleo-orthodox theologian. Jerome, the ancient Christian scholar from that era, reports an old tradition (in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, 6.10) about the Apostle John once he got up in years.

When John was too weak to deliver full sermons anymore, he still insisted on being carried into Christian meetings where he would invariably hoist himself up on his stretcher and deliver this short message:
Little children, love one another.
After a while of course this became monotonous and a few of the people asked him why he didn't change it up a little.  His answer was: "This is the Lord’s command, and if this alone be done, it is enough."

I always liked that story, so that is the last thing I want to say in my last Synchroblog: Love one another, the way Jesus loves you.

"Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another."

This is a list of the Synchrobog contributors for this final month. Read them all and leave a comment!

K.W. Leslie – Synchrobloggery
Glenn Hager – Parting Shot
Clara Mbamalu – What is love?
Carol Kuniholm – A Final Synchroblog
J. A. Carter – Last Words
Tony Ijeh – Sharing Jesus
Liz Dyer – Last words about love

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Irenaeus of Lyon
"There is one body and one Spirit, and God chose you to have one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. There is one God and Father of us all, who rules over everyone. He works through all of us and in all of us."

(Letter to the Ephesians chapter 4 verses 4 - 6, ERV)


Irenaeus was a leader, thinker, and writer in the early Christian Movement. He had grown up in the church at Smyrna (in today's Turkey) led by Polycarp, a legend in the early church. Polycarp had been a student of John the Apostle himself, and he passed on stories and teachings from John and other "elders" in the Movement. Irenaeus absorbed it all with the fabulous mind he had. As an adult he moved east to Lyons, France where he cared for the Movement's outpost there and handed on the 'deposit of faith' as he had heard it from Polycarp, who had received it from St. John the Apostle who received it from... Well, I imagine you can see what makes Irenaeus so important in the history of the Christian Movement.

Today, Irenaeus describes what was in the revelation Jesus entrusted his Apostles with, and how carefully it was handed on.
Now the Church, although scattered over the whole civilized world to the end of the earth, received from the apostles and their disciples its faith in one God, the Father Almighty, who made the heaven, and the earth, and the seas, and all that is in them, and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation, and in the Holy Spirit, who through the prophets proclaimed the dispensations of God—the comings, the birth of a virgin, the suffering, the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily reception into the heavens of the beloved, Christ Jesus our Lord, and his coming from the heavens in the glory of the Father to restore all things, and to raise up all flesh, that is, the whole human race, so that every knee may bow, of things in heaven and on earth and under the earth, to Christ Jesus our Lord and God and Saviour and King, according to the pleasure of the invisible Father, and every tongue may confess him, and that he may execute righteous judgment on all. 
The spiritual powers of wickedness, and the angels who transgressed and fell into apostasy, and the godless and wicked and lawless and blasphemers among men he will send into the eternal fire. But to the righteous and holy, and those who have kept his commandments and have remained in his love, some from the beginning [of life] and some since their repentance, he will by his grace give life incorrupt, and will clothe them with eternal glory.

Having received this preaching and this faith, as I have said, the Church, although scattered in the whole world, carefully preserves it, as if living in one house. She believes these things [everywhere] alike, as if she had but one heart and one soul, and preaches them harmoniously, teaches them, and hands them down, as if she had but one mouth. For the languages of the world are different, but the meaning of the [Christian] tradition is one and the same. Neither do the churches that have been established in Germany believe otherwise, or hand down any other tradition, nor those among the Iberians, nor those among the Celts, nor in Egypt, nor in Libya, nor those established in the middle parts of the world.

Irenaeus of Lyons (early 2nd century – c. AD 202)
Against All Heresies book 1 chapters 10 sections 1 - 2 (written about AD 180)

Thursday, August 20, 2015


(This is a slightly expanded repeat of a previous post. I'm still at a conference.)

Jesus of Nazareth taught his students that, "For when two or three gather together in My name, I am there in the midst of them," (Gospel of Matthew 18.20, Voice). The rest of the New Testament, particularly the Acts of the Apostles, is permeated with the idea that he, through the Holy Spirit, is there at meetings of Christians.

This means that church is not a club where we get together for donuts on Sunday, it's a place where Heaven and Earth interlock. Just like Israel's temple in Jerusalem, only more so. Paul the Apostle taught,

What mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
(Second Letter to the Corinthians 6.16 )

Assuming we haven't forgotten this, the Lord Messiah will quite often speak there.

Are we listening?

"If the voice calls you again, I want you to say, “Speak, Eternal One. Your servant is listening”,” (First Book of Samuel, 3.9, Voice ).

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Errr... ummm...

I just wanted to apologize for Authentic Light's outage, which some of you encountered yesterday. We recently changed domain hosts and the move went into effect yesterday. All of the Internet didn't get the message all at once, including my part. As a result there was nothing to see here for awhile. 

But Authentic Light is back on now. Thank you for your patience!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Story

(This is a repeat of a previous post while I am at a conference.)

So what do we mean when we talk about the "revelation" Jesus brought or the "deposit of faith" or the faith "given once and for all to the saints?" What was it that the Apostles were so busily "passing down" to the members of the Christian Movement? Yes, certainly the New Testament, but read on for a minute to see where I'm coming from. Before word one of the New Testament was committed to writing, Jesus' emissaries were teaching this revelation face to face.

I'm taking this from my site's 'Prologue' up at the top of the page. The other red boxes break up and discuss what this Prologue says. It's fairly short and I'll expand on it in future articles, but I'd ask that you notice two things as you read it through: First, how bare-bones it is. Jesus left a lot of the work up to his Movement. Another topic for a future post, I think!

And second, notice... that it's a story! The revelation Jesus left us with did not consist of a list of rules or a detailed chart of how Bible prophecy works out. When the last Apostles died they left us with a story.


Personally, I like a religion that can be summed up in a short poem.

In ancient times, when someone decided to follow Jesus of Nazareth, they would first have this poem recited to them, line by line. And after each line they would be asked, "Do you believe this?" "Yes," they would respond, "I believe."

Then they would be baptized.

That poem, of course, is the Apostle's Creed, dating back to the earliest days of the movement Jesus founded. During the first ages of that movement, Christian documents were expensive, cumbersome, and prone to be confiscated and burned by the authorities. But, although you might not be able to carry the Bible with you, you could carry this poem (composed of artfully arranged quotes from Scripture) in your mind.

Today, whatever else they may squabble about, Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant are united on the truth of these words. Even those groups that claim to eschew creeds will usually agree with it's teachings.

It is this poem that we present here. These are the core truths Jesus and his Apostles taught. This is what the ancient martyrs died for. This is the Authentic Light.


I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell.

On the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From there he shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Gone With the Wind

Hi! Just want to let you all know that I'll be at a conference all next week and won't be able to post here. So what I'll do is re-post some older things I wrote, possibly with a little editing.  I hope you enjoy them.