Planning Ahead for the Advent Season 

If you’ve paid attention to recent posts, perhaps you’ve noticed that I have been in “Advent” mode for almost a month and its just the middle of November. I can’t explain it- maybe it is due to the year we’ve witnessed since last Advent and the urgency I feel to witness to the Incarnation Event to all who will give an ear, pointing to that event as the most signifcant of all events in this present world. 

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The Coming of the Promised Deliverer

Once again this year, I am going to post about the resources over at The General Board of Disciplehip of the UMC. Here is a little teaser along with the link for planning for Advent, including the Scripture texts and the themes of worship:

“Advent places us into the sweep of the Eternal One breaking into history, awakens us to the radical disjuncture between God’s dream for creation and the mess we have made of it, and challenges us to join God’s mission to make all things new.Especially after this year of so much economic upheaval, it may be the ancient call of the Advent message, rather than the ephemeral call to recreate the “perfect Christmastime,” that the church and the people around us most need to hear and heed.

“The days are surely coming,” Jeremiah reminds. “Even so, come Lord Jesus,” the church in Revelation replies. May our reply this season join that of all the saints, here and now and in the age to come.

ADVENT PLANNING 2009 – I encourage you to check out the resources and the orientation unless you already have found your own. At the beginning of the Christian year (for most) is a great time to actively participate with Christians the world over in celebrating the Gift of the Son of God, Jesus the promised Christ.

Neglecting the Greatest Gift

I want to continue the subject of the last post, which as you remember, was the concern voiced by internetmonk that an unhealthy emphasis on the Glory of God was having on “all things human”. I agreed with the spirit of that discussion, especially the confusion among Christians that is undermining our unity of calling and purpose in the world. And to me this is the real danger that indeed faces us today: the neglect of the great salvation/redemption which is the Biblical narrative.

I think the subject has everything to do with all that we have been finding as we have focused on the Apostle Paul and his unique contribution to that narrative, especially as he interprets what God really accomplished in the Christ Event, the cycle just celebrated with Advent, Passover, and Pentecost. We have seen in this “Year of Saint Paul” that nothing short of a new humanity in Christ, a humanity that would succeed where the old had “come short of the Glory of God” and could not please God in the flesh is the message of the Gospel of the grace of God.

Is that salvation only (exclusively) about a prepared place referred to as “heaven” beyond death, or is much more included involving “all things human” in this life, which directly relates to the life beyond? There is no doubt that the Biblical narrative is about the Glory of God as it is revealed progressively to the human race on planet earth in history. But that revelation is always in the context of that humanity and its history. God indeed wants to be known and worshipped as the only true God by his creation, especially humankind made in His own image and for that very purpose. And the meaning and quality of human life is in turn always related to the right relation to the True God- qualities like peace and harmony, blessing, or strife, conflict, and cursing.

So when we fail to keep these two essential parts of the whole narrative balanced, we are not only in serious danger of missing the purpose for which we were created but the purpose for which the Redeemer has fought and won the great battle for freeing us from our former bondage into “the glorious liberty of the Children of God”, as Paul says it. In fact this is the over-all vision that the Apostle lived with from the time that he was confronted on the Road to Damacus and later had as long as three years in the Syrian desert to think out.

“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many Sons to glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (letter to the Hebrews 2:10)

God’s eternal plan involves the promise to make “all things new’; both a new earth and a new heaven. Thankfully there have always been those among us who have seen that the Glory of God is forever intertwined with His creation, humankind and the material creation. So internetmonk is raising a legitimate warning that we are not keeping the proper balance. Once again in this generation, as in those that have gone before, parts of the Body of Christ are speaking into this imbalance. Will we keep fighting oneanother from our own faith traditions precious heritage, or will we practice the UNITY of God’s New humanity in Christ and let every contribution be received which will result in the “Growing up into the fullness of the Body in Jesus Christ”? Will we finally grasp the full intent of God’s mighty once-for-all work of redemption when “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”?

I intend to mention three major ways that this “seeking a holistic salvation” took within Christianity in the 20th century, as we continue this discussion. To wet our appetites I will simply introduce a phrase that I think we can look at from the past- CHRISTIAN HUMANISM.

A related essay- Lockerbie-Thinking Like A Christian.

 

As Presented by Eckhart Tolle

I was astonished Sunday evening as I watched 60 Minutes on CBS. There on national television was something that sounded very familiar: the center of all the problems we are facing in life is due to the EGO. For Oprah and in particular this author and his theory that all we have to do to break free is to learn how to get rid of ego, has been met with eager acceptance. oprahFrom the comments in the program and from those available on her website, I think it is fair to say that this has been embraced in Oprah’s version of christianity.

There is something very basic in this version that I believe Saint Paul himself lived and taught involving humanity under the bondage of sin. He used various ways to designate this human tragedy and what God has done in Christ to heal it- the old man, the flesh, Adamic humanity.

Yet in Paul’s christianity this problem of ego is first and foremost a problem of rebellion against our Creator and the solution begins with His own provision of the Savior, Jesus Christ. So getting rid of the ego/self life begins with being reconciled to God’s broken law and that Paul says happened at a definite time in the history of humankind at the cross of his Son. Here in Paul’s own words is God’s secret-

Justified by Faith  (letter to the Galatians)

2:15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified [1] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness [2] were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

A New Earth                                                                                                     There is no doubt that there is a great spiritual hunger in our society for Tolle’s thesis and his books to find such success in the marketplace. On the otherhand, my own sense is that this is exactly where the churches with their version of the Gospel are not boldly speaking into that same society. I would even go further and suggest that the great majority of christians in America do not even know Paul’s secret of dealing with the ego- the part about what it means to be “crucified with Christ” in order to live free of the broken law. This is not just a theory, it is a way of living, and yes, it is about experiencing God’s new creation on earth. For Paul, this is included in what he called “living by faith” and “walking in the Spirit”.

Happy birthday to my oldest son, Philip!