Sunday, June 25, 2023

The character of God

So much depends on the character of God. It's not just an academic matter for the theologians. Our view of God affects everything we do, every thought we have about the world around us. So what is God like? 

Some theologians start with philosophy: unmoved mover, omnipotent and omniscient, that kind of thing. 

The Bible does not start with philosophy. If we start with the covenant at Sinai we see God as slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, faithful to his people; worship of him builds a well-ordered society with love of neighbor, justice, annual renewed cycles of penitence and celebration, and a source of blessing. If we look at the Solomon's Temple, we see God as making his home among us his people, with a sanctuary of holiness and beauty where the people gather. If we look at Jesus, we see possibly more than we can understand about God's love for the world, and how dearly he values mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. If we look at the fruit of the Spirit, if we consider the Spirit of God as by essence sharing the nature of God, then we see God as the source of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and more. 

Our present age is often a parched desert when it comes to things of God. And so the character of God, the love of God, is at the core of the good news. 

Sunday, June 18, 2023

The kingdom of heaven: as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever

In the regular lectionary, today's Scripture reading focuses on the kingdom of heaven:

As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. (Matthew 10:7-8)

The kingdom of heaven is under God's rule: he sends his workers to heal and restore. In the kingdom of heaven God works to roll back the legacy of sickness, death, and decay, to clean out any hidden source of willful evil. The kingdom of heaven is a place of health, natural beauty, and holiness -- and healing for all of us, touched by this fallen world. 

The kingdom of heaven sets things back to how they were in the beginning, when God made all things good. (Genesis 1:31).

In general, I see it as good judgment that some Christian theologians do not base any systematic theology directly on the Book of Revelation. The symbolic imagery is notoriously hard to interpret, and its inclusion in the Bible was seriously contested back in the day when the earlier church was considering which books to include. That said, the Book of Revelation does have some passages which reflect on other Scriptures in interesting ways. The Book of Revelation takes up the image of the kingdom of God, with the Lord on his throne:

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (Revelation 21:5). 

Just previously it had proclaimed the natural effects of this kingdom of God: 

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

And so Scripture ends as it begins: with God's kingship as the source of life, and God's kingdom as a place of blessing.

On this day may I willingly take up the work of the kingdom of heaven.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Death and Taxes -- and Grace, and Justice

Short post today -- last week my mother passed away, somewhat unexpectedly unless you count her age that makes it not completely unexpected. I have since then, going through her mail, learned that the saying is very true: the other inevitable thing in life is taxes. 

Grace and justice are at the front of my mind. She has estranged relatives that she feared would crash her memorial and say unpleasant things about her. (Because that's basically what they did when my brother died, with comments aimed at her.) How much does a "good news only" memorial constitute grace for the deceased, and how much is it a gag order? Life is complicated. 

I'm not offering up insight or clarity today, just possibly a moment's understanding for anyone who has ever walked a mile in those shoes!

Sunday, June 04, 2023

Out of town this weekend, no post this weekend

Best wishes to all for a blessed week, & hope to see you next time.