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If the Resurrection is a sneak peak…. #WhatRapture

In my opinion many Christians who affirm the Rapture fail to take into account the simple reality that Jesus was already transformed before he was ever taken up into the sky. The leaving the disciples and ascending into the sky seemed to be a requirement for; the interim period we are now in (between the resurrection and the consummation of history) and our reliance on the Holy Spirit (“I must go so the counselor can come”).

That Jesus was already raised from the dead is the key part of this part of the gospels for me. His body was already new and transformed so that he was not immediately recognizable to some of his disciples,  he could walk through walls and even appear out of no-where (traversing dimensions?)! This new body also seems to have come out of the old body, that his previous physical body was transformed into his new body (creating the empty tomb the women found, he was not simply given a different body).

Since Jesus’ resurrection is described as the foretaste for the church (this is where immersion baptism comes from – to die and rise in Christ) I believe we can understand the transformation of his body to be one and the same that all matter in the cosmos will one day go through. A new, transformed, and perfected creation will emerge from (come out of) the current creation in a way we cannot understand or ourselves create/induce.

What are your thoughts on the idea that every atom of the cosmos will be transformed? 
I’ve shared this notion with a few peers recently to a very warm response and would enjoy further feedback.

Photo Credit: MeSnow Covered Mountain Cemetery

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What makes something Great?

St. Peters Basilica the Night before Christmas Mass 2005

Yesterday morning I found myself thinking about greatness and faith. I have come across individuals who hold that something done with Christ is automatically great. It isn’t that I would discount the importance of living a life with the Spirit, and honoring God with our times and talents. It is that I have issue with the assumption some make about the greatness of their achievements.

In thinking through this I came across what might be the a part of the source of this misplaced understanding of the greatness of the works of our hands. It starts with the belief that we hold before we meet Christ:

My Personal Value/Worth = The value of what I do/create
Also know as: I am what I do

One of the many transformative realities of faith is that our value is now infinite because of the value that Christ sees in us. We ought to work towards accepting this reality and allowing it to transform how we view ourselves. After all Jesus didn’t die on a cross for the scum of the earth, he died on the cross for those he loves and cherishes. At this point that belief now becomes:

I am Infinitely Valuable = the value of what I do/create is Infinite
Also known as: Everything I do with Christ is Great

On the surface this change makes sense, kind of. Instead of letting what we do define who we are, we are defined externally by God. Yet it is absurd that just because something is done by a Christian or with Christian intentions that it is, therefore, great. Rather I believe that there as people of faith there is a call further for us.

I am Infinitely Valuable = God loves me with an infinite love
AND
What I do has value = Because I enjoy its creation AND others attribute it value

When we allow ourselves to separate from our value from the work of our hands we are free to be critical of the work. If it is inferior it does not mean that I am worth anything less. It just means that the work I did was not excellent. I believe that we ought to do things excellently.

My Intentions are not to say that the Church hasn’t done great things.
My desire to temper our lavish praise to that which actually deserves it.
For self disclosure, I’ve not done many great things in my life. Yet I try.

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Thoughts on the Rapture… that never was

In light of the fact that it is May 21th and no-one has been raptured and we are still here, I thought it appropriate to share a few thoughts on this whole rapture idea that people have fallen in love with.

‎Right down to the present day, this new apocalyptic is spread in the United States through Bible institutes and prophecy conferences and end-of-the-world announcements in all the major newspapers. Its theology resembles the early prophetic theology of the kingdom, but its function is the precise opposite. The messianism there finds its correspondence in the apocalyptic here. The historical involvement in resistance there is paralleled here by the apocalyptic flight from the world.
Jürgen Moltmann in The Coming of God p.159

And from a more recent Anglican theologian/scholar whom I am quite passionate about.

‎When Paul speaks of ‘meeting’ the Lord ‘in the air,’ the point is precisely not–as in the popular rapture theology–that the saved believers would then stay up in the air somewhere, away from earth. The point is that, having gone out to meet their returning Lord, they will escort him royally into [God’s] domain, that is, back to the place they have come from.
– N. T. Wright in Surprised by Hope p.133

It seems to me that as our view of salvation has narrowed from being invited back into the partnership with God for the creative and reconciliatory work in the cosmos to a simple salvation from sin (which it also and always has been) we lost so much. Instead of being excited about our opportunity to bring hope, love, and restoration to people and a planet in desperate need of such care and attention we find many western Christians hoping for a quick exit from reality with little desire for meaningful engagement with those around them beyond the scope of evangelism.

I don’t believe that God has never left our reality, or our world and He continues to be our hope. Jesus didn’t come and sacrifice himself so that one day in the future all that he died to reclaim would be destroyed, but that one day God’s passion for the cosmos could be realized through a complete transformation of the very world and matter that we experience. It is this new type of creation that Jesus continues to embody ever since he was raised from the dead, he was the first, and all of the cosmos will follow.

Jesus still is going to return and it will be a day to anticipate with much hope. That the plan and hope for the cosmos will continue to unfold, a perfect justice for the oppressed, and a healing of the systems, structures and cosmos.

Yet this reality is already breaking through into the world. God is breaking through creation and we can, if we choose, be a part of this transformation. This is my passion and the reason I have chosen to respond to the call on my life to be a pastor. It isn’t only to introduce people to the living God, but also to introduce them to the God who has never stopped being present in the hurt and pain of the world.

Thoughts?

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Aesthetics – Thoughts on True Art from Sayers

I have been working through a great book by mid-century literary scholar Dorothy Sayers (Wikipedia) that touch on the topic of art and expression. They were very meaningful so I thought I would quote a portion below, if you want to read the work it’s called ‘Toward a Christian Esthetic‘ in the book Letters to a Diminished Church. If you are wondering, she is responsible for the most widely read modern English version of the Divine Comedy by Dante and she wrote the mystery series with Lord Peter Wimsey.

Event verses an Experience
To save confusion, let us distinguish between an event and an experience. An event is something that happens to one, but one does not necessarily experience it. To take an extreme instance: suppose you are hit on the head and get a concussion and, as often happens when you come to, you cannot remember the blow. The blow on the head certainly happened to you, but you did not experience it; all you experience is the aftereffects. You only experience a thing when you can express it – however haltingly – to your own mind. (p 162)

Affect of True Art
This recognition of the truth that we get in the artist’s work comes to us as a revelation of new truth. I want to be clear about that. I am not referring to the sort of patronizing recognition we get to a writing by nodding our heads and observing: “Yes, yes, very good, very true – that’s just waht I’m always saying.” I mean the recognition of truth that tells us something about ourselves that we had not been always saying, something that puts a new knowledge of ourselves within our grasp. It is new, startling, and perhaps shattering and yet it comes to us with a sense of familiarity. We did not know it before, but the moment the poet has shown it to us, we know that, somehow or other, we had always really known it.

Very well. But frankly, is that the sort of thing the average British citizen gets or expects to get, when he goes to the theater or reads a book? No, it is not. In the majoriy of cases it is not in the least what he expects, or what he wants. What he looks for is not this creative and Christian kind of art at all. He does not expect or desire to be upset by sudden revelations about himself and the universe. (p 164-5)

Artistic Impostors
Or take the spellbinding kind of art. This at first sight seems better because it spurs us to action, and it also has its uses. But it too is dangerous in excess because once again it does not reveal reality in experience, but only project a lying picture of the self. As the amusement art seeks to produce the emotions without the experience, so this pseudo-art seeks to produce the behavior without the experience. In the end it is directed to putting the behavior of the audience beneath the will of the spellbinder, and its true name is not art, but art magic. In its vulgarest form it becomes pure propaganda. It can (as we have reason to know) actually succeed in making its audience into the thing it desires to have them. It can really in the end corrupt the consciousness and destroy experience until the inner selves of its victims are wholly externalized and made the puppets and instruments of their own spurious passions…. (p 166-7)

(Headers and emphasis mine)

I realize that you have likely not read the text, and some of her statements seem a bit harsh from our perspective. Yet, I believe within her words above are a caution to anyone attempting to express anything they believe to be true. We must dive into the deepest and darkest corners of ourselves seeking to understand our experience in its reality if we are going to actually present something true to others.

This is overwhelming because of the weight and pain that exists in the recesses of unmaterialized  experiences. For one to go about expressing anything of truth means more than just repeating the words of another for a desired response. At the core of this discussion is my discomfort with my rhetorical abilities. Should I manipulate others so to attain a desired result?

I believe that Sayers would say no, that we must seek to give life and expression to the unmaterilaized experiences of those in our audience. That this would then be art and would bring the audience to say that although they had never thought of that, that they have always known it to be their experience. One last quote to follow from Paula Scher a partner at Pentagram (whom is responsible for some of the largest brands in the world) and if we pair her cultural insights with the thoughts above from Sayers I believe the path to leading others deeper becomes more clear.

Be culturally literate, because if you don’t have any understanding of the world you live in and the culture you live in, you’re not going to express anything to anybody else. – Paula Scher

If we are going to express our experience in a truly artistic manor we must not only understand the whole of our experience, but also have a developed cultural literacy or our experience will mean nothing to those who must experience it the most. Just thoughts, but I feel as thought I am getting closer to understanding something that I must know.