Incarnation, Jesus Christ, Scripture, theology, Way of Salvation

Still in Awe

Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash
Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

I can’t remember the first time that I realized it. All I can remember is that tears came to my eyes and I was filled with awe. Maybe like those shepherds long ago, tired, wondering, unsure, and ready. I too ready for a new day, ready for a deeper life God. There it was! God, creator of the universe, almighty, eternal one, becoming one of us, human, enfleshed, being born of a woman, like I was and you were. It is difficult to express how life changing this was for me.

God becoming us, God living our lives, God being born and growing up, God hanging out with friends, eating, drinking, and asking lots of questions, God loving so much that he ended up assassinated by the powerful, religious, and opportunist. All of this made sense, it clicked, it made me meet, as Marcus Borg said “Jesus again for the first time.” This kid that had grown up in the church was converted again when faced with the mystery of the incarnation.

The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach suffering men. For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders. But for Him Who came to heal and to teach the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him, and to be manifested according as they could bear it, not vitiating the value of the Divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it.

St. Athanasius in On the Incarnation.

Since then I’ve continued to delight in this mystery. I’ve realized God’s presence in unexpected places, creation groaning, and the ways that Jesus is found in the least of these. I’ve also become much more aware of how important the body of Christ, the church, is to the continual work of Jesus in the world. We the continued incarnation of God, we healing, restoring, forgiving, and proclaiming good news. We loving like Jesus loved in the midst of the broken and messy world. We not afraid to get our hands dirty in our world but instead sanctifying it by our very present, making it more kind, loving, and compassionate from our encounter with divine life.

This delight comes from an awareness of my own messiness, sin, death, and corruption. From a growing awareness that as Athanasius told us long ago “[y]ou cannot put straight in others what is warped in yourself.” So if God the creator, sustainer, and redeemer chose to put on my own messiness, sin, death, and corruption so that I could find order, abundance, life, and wholeness then I too can choose to live in the messiness, in the unexplained, in the mystery. I too can extend the grace and forgiveness given to me, I too can live into Athanasius recognition that “Christ was made man that we might be made God.”

As we prepare to celebrate the indwelling of the transcendent into the world may we be willing to allow that transcendent life, divine life, fountain of life, to come into our beings and restore us, transform us, convert us, re-create us into what love looks like in the world. The biggest gift of God for the world being claimed and lived out in the everyday of life. In today’s mangers, forgotten places, lost people, tense borders, human misunderstanding, power hungers, desperations, and hopeless situations.

I wonder what might emerge if those of us who claimed Jesus as Savior begin to live as ones who claim him as God with us, Emmanuel, the almighty living among us, humbling God-self, so that the whole world might witness the salvation of our God?

So I’m still in awe! At times my passion for this way of being Christian might seem idealistic, unbelievable, and impossible. I can only imagine what the shepherd’s thought about as the host of heaven brought news that night!


Bible in 90: 2018 Edition

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Yes, this is how I did it! Reading the assigned chapters as I walked, ate, insomniad, and drove (by using the Dwell App). But it is done! I was behind more times than any other time that I have done this and yet I kept at it. It was wonderful to have my Facebook Bible in 90 group to be accountable to it. We were all from different places, and represented different seasons in my pastoral life. Even as this post goes live many are still at it, because from the very beginning we said that what mattered was that we engaged with the text, that we ask God to speak to us through the text, and that the goal of finishing in 90 days was only the hook to get us to the text. Some will finish in a week or two, others will finish in 180, and yet others in 360 days in the end they would have read through the entire Bible and maybe for the first time get a sense of the narrative arc of the story of our faith.

This is my 5th time reading the bible in 90 days. I have attempted it a total of 10 times but have only been successful 50% of the time. Every successful attempt had one thing in common: community. We should read the bible in community more often, if we did I truly believe we would read it more often and more deeply. A few of those times I became so discouraged that I stopped reading all together. Yet every time that I do this and do so in 90 days I am thankful that I did. It speaks deeply to me about why I follow Jesus, why I love scripture, and why I believe scripture shapes my heart and life.

Reading it in 90 days helps me remember how difficult, complex, intriguing, diverse, scary, and beautiful the text is. Though we so often speak about the bible, refer to the bible, and even study the bible it is not often that we read it and ask God to speak through it. Reading it and doing so in 90 days is one of the best ways to get a sense of the narrative arch of the story of our faith. We begin with creation and end with recreation, we begin with chaos, and end in chaos that births a new heaven and a new earth, we begin with a chosen people and end with people of every culture, language, and nation. In between we find inspiring stories and scary stories, poetry and prose, historical narratives and mythical narratives, letters and biographies. All together we have a library that reminds us of our identity as God’s people and  as people called to follow the Word named Jesus.

Before I read I ask God to show me something, to reveal something, to allow for a word or phrase to jump out at me as I read. Each time I’ve read in 90 Days I have found a different set of themes that seem to jump out at me as I read through the Bible. This year was no different so there were two themes that kept emerging, in the Old Testament – Idolatry, in the New Testament – No Judgement. I am amazed at how different things get your attention every time you read with an open heart. This time these two themes kept on coming to the surface and so my question became: How am I idolatrous? How am I judgemental? Since I am a pastor a similar yet distinct set of questions came to the surface: How are we as a people idolatrous? How are we as a people judgemental?

These are not easy questions . . .

Over and over again, day to day as I read the Old Testament I was faced with the question: What gods am I worshipping? What captivates my imagination? Where’s my treasure? A few things quickly came to mind: success, money, stuff (especially books and religious trinkets), popularity, and pride. There were others that took a bit but were as powerful: resentment, anger, pity party, legacy building, and works righteousness. Shiny, controllable, and culturally accepted making them the perfect idols for a pastor.

As shame continued to deepen I entered into the New Testament. The good news, no judgement, for yourself nor for others for judgement never redeems. Instead judgement keeps us captive, it forces us to focus on the sins of others, and on ways that we can save ourselves. We are a sinful people, a people who often miss the mark from God’s intention towards peace, completeness, and healing. In the end only God can judge us and we know that grace is available. This does not mean that we cannot watch over one another in love. It means that true growth in the way of Jesus requires us to live life together with others and to companion one another through our sin and death.

In the end it was a beautiful 90 Days of reconnecting with the story of our faith. I will do it again but not any time soon. In the next 30 Days I’ll be digging into the Gospel according to Matthew, and starting January 1 I will be doing a Gospel in 90 read. So I invite you to find a reading plan that works for you so that you can reflect on the story of our faith every day. It will transform you, it will challenge you, and it will help you see God in the everyday of your life.