Thursday, May 9, 2013
For me, both questions are answered with a resounding, “Yes, Indeed!” Scripturally it is attested that we, as floundering sinful human beings often have questioned God. The gospels were filled with many descriptions at times when scribes, Pharisees, and others questioned Jesus. Though seeing only “through a glass darkly”, many have since trudged onward in faith to gain understanding. But we must note here..., that there is a point where apostolic faith must be grasped beyond all understanding or proof.
Seeking answers to these questions then, let me first examine biblical evidence about heavenly ascending. The initial text I found for a mysterious leaving, should the curious bible student dare to investigate, comes to us as we read Genesis. In this historical witness, we have…
“Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” (RSV, Genesis 5:23-24)
If we interpret this text that Enoch did not die, then early in scripture we have a seeming anomaly…before we even get through the first book in the wondrous history of the chosen people. As we again read the surrounding text, we find that others mentioned lived very long lives, and then died, but Enoch just “was not”… for God “took” him.
While I yet wonder about the numerical age statistics, in faith I find the statement as quite plausible. Since Elohim is certainly God, as the Creator, his Divine Presence can do whatever he wills. We remember it said somewhere that with God “all things are possible.”
To answer the question, “Could Enoch have lived that long?” I retort, “Sure.., sin was new in the world and not so longevity threatening, so people lived longer”. But, with this thought being stated, someone should ask me, “Where did Enoch go?”
When wandering so in the exegetical Spirit, the only thought that comes to me is that God wholly “took” him to be with him in a holy place. To be “holy” is to be “set apart”. Surely, with God being God, old Enoch was… and still is in a heavenly place that is “set apart” The next question for me then becomes, “Where is this place?”
Several things strike my questioning mind. First, we know in Genesis that not everyone got there. But we also know from other Hebrew texts that others did get there, and some in grand fashion. We read…
“And as they (Elijah and Elisha) still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, "My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and rent them in two pieces.” (2 Kings 2:11-12)
Up into the heavens the text says clearly. In the Hebrew, the word “eshmim” describes the heavenly realm. We note that the word used occurs in the plural form, thus giving a bit of reinforcement as we remember Jesus telling his disciples that in his Father’s house there are “many rooms.” (John 14:2)
If we take in account the story in the first chapter of Job, there is a heavenly court. We can add also several horses and a chariot.
We note here that the heavenly realm is described as up there somewhere. It is a realm in or above the clouds. This spatial concept was dominant in pre-scientific cultures. For centuries afterward it was thought that God, and even many gods of nature, were described as living a cushy life above a dome of clouds. The clouds wafted above a flat earth that resembled a floating table.
To confirm this thought world, we see in the scriptures that angels are depicted as descending and climbing ladders to go to and fro upon the flat earth. Even Satan, the fallen angel described in the book of Job, is mentioned as one who is allowed to leave court to go down upon earth and pace to and fro. That pervert went thus to search for souls that he might subvert.
We may conclude, therefore, that in the century when Jesus ascended into heaven, the writer describes the departure in the pre-scientific knowledge context prevalent in his own time. Though surely Jesus, the Christ of God, knew that the earth was round and creation reaches beyond the stars into galaxies yet to be discovered… the witnesses of the Ascension did not comprehend these things. And though guided by the Spirit, it was their pen that dipped the ink.
Thus we read that Jesus spoke metaphorically of the heavenly realm in the Gospel According to John…
“And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” (John 1:51)
And later again in John, he used the same illustrative up and down, directional language when chiding the disciple’s unbelief…
“Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." (John 3:11-15)
We can see that Jesus struggled to communicate the infinite to the spatially finite human beings, and often marveled at the disciple’s unbelief and limited understanding. Graciously, our Lord continued to teach as John relates…
“This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever." This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Caperna-um. Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"
But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:58-63)
“Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rab-boni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." (John 20:16-17)
Like myself then not comprehending easily, I have historic company. All of the disciples had trouble grasping the Resurrection truth and the heavenly concept. For them it would take the proof of seeing the wounds, and hearing his voice, and watching the event. Luke relates...
“And while they (disciples) still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?"
They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.
Then he said to them, "These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled."
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.
And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high." Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven." (Luke 24:41-51)
Therefore after clouds enveloped our Lord, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance blessed men sat down with scribal pen and used the language concepts they knew in order to describe an unimaginable and divine truth. Communicating in this way to the people of their own day, the faithful painted word pictures.
However, today as persons taught by science from the third grade that hot air normally rises, we often struggle with the Spirit of revelation a bit. Like Jacob in the night, I find that I yet struggle to wrap my mind around the Ascension image. I do… until the Holy Spirit gives me blessing..
You see… the Spirit witnesses to us that Jesus did ascend. Only with the heart and mind of faith, can we comprehend that just as Jesus Christ is more than just bread, the Ascension is more than directional, cloud covered disappearance. Yes.., this very special occurrence is difficult for us to comprehend because heaven has infinite boundaries. Heaven is greater than all that we can imagine. Heaven was then, and still is now… not just up there… but as the home of the Creator, it locates for all time in a pantheon of directions. Heaven reaches beyond clouds, and beyond any natural or supernatural borders perceived with human senses.
Yet, in any given moment heaven exists near us as a state of divinely gifted being. Using some of Aristotelian logic, we might say that God is in heaven, and God is everywhere; therefore heaven is everywhere.
Let us consider, however, that hell is also that state of existence which prevails only when we fail to realize God’s heavenly presence. God presence then as Holy Trinity destroys hell. God was, is… and always will be omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. God exists, and has always existed, in every place and in every circumstance. And God and his heavenly kingdom shall eternally exist.
Thus, as we read of the Ascension we may know in faith that Jesus left his disciples to be with the Father. But though he went to be with the Father, our Lord of Heaven is both near and far, and we are not abandoned. God remains with us working in every moment through the Holy Spirit… he works to be in us, with us, and for us. So it is, and so it shall always be.
Friday, April 26, 2013
I tender that recent discovery of large deposits of shale oil in Canada and the US, and their development have spurred great disregard within the transportation and energy distribution industries, slowing progress toward developing long term clean, cheap alternative fuel technologies for society. This matter should be cooking on the front burner of our modern stove, whether the stove is electric or hydrocarbon burning.
In the electric car or hydrocarbon fuel dilemma, some technologically-challenged but lobby-influenced politicians went with big spoon toward financing electric car developments a decade ago. If these bottom feeders had only gone up the supply food chain they would have eventually arrived at electric power resources that also have predominant operational basis in non-renewable, hydrocarbon productions. I fear that when we get to the bottom of the hydrocarbon pot, which we shall certainly do in future generations, shortages of energy supply will still trigger world-wide chaos.
A Broken Pot?
Thus a marked decline of interest seems now expressed for such as hydrogen as automotive fuel. This fuel bubbled downward in research interest since recent years. The energy taste is thus salted though hydrogen as fuel for many prime movers is abundantly available in nature, can burn efficiently in automotive engines, and provides adequate vehicle power with only water vapor as its major exhaust by-product.
As well, hydrogen sourcing does not impact negatively upon Third World agriculture. I ask then, why the declining interest in doing research on this readily available and clean fuel? We already have vehicles, aside from high-tech hydrogen consuming fuel cell electric cars, that will burn this clean and renewable fuel in combustion engines. It is published fact that within the last decade, BMW marketed a vehicle that would run on either gasoline or hydrogen fuel. As well Mazda, of rotary engine fame, has built wildly successful hydrogen-powered rotary prototypes that go “Hmmm…”
The bubbling pot remains, however, though present methanol and ethanol fuels are known for high levels of alehyde-based air pollution, and negatively impact the agricultural scene of sugar cane producing Third Word countries... resulting in known competition for food producing acreage to feed the Third World's poor.
We note also that recent political conversations have been derogatory concerning promoting other bio-fuels. Within the last decade, profound advances have been made in the southern US, in the production and refining of algae-produced hydrocarbons. One of the higher agendas of the present government’s administration has been toward development of this potential. When fully developed, within a decade, farms could be established which convert sunlight into hydrocarbon fuels using this beneficial bio-tech research. Yet I hear derogatory comments coming from the political realm. I even admit that some of these blasphemous comments come from my own party allegiances…likely financed by the thickening starches of lobbying donations spewing from present fuel suppliers.
Why the reluctance to promote and invest in this promising technology? At this point in time, I can only offer that the recent, profitable fracking frenzy fills the need for viable fuel for a near future. Additionally, the cost of refining this fuel remains less than research for the alternatives. Combine this with bio-hazard warnings that are politically squelched, though nearness to a fracking site may deliver a tap water smelling like a pungent sauerkraut boil, you are left with a recipe for future disaster. My present guess, therefore, is that reluctance to get us past this technology rests in the arena of profitability. Money seems the root of all fuelish evil.
Taste the Stew!
Consider that bio-fuel emergence would lower existing fuel demands, and change the price of these naturally-produced oil products, thus making recent infrastructure investments in hydrocarbon gaseous and liquid fuel production as moot. As well, the expenses associated with converting our societal fuel infrastructure to gaseous hydrogen would also impinge large corporation profits. Any competent chemical engineer can relate that dispensing of gaseous hydrogen requires quite different handling, shipping and pumping equipment that is now present in our liquid fuel transport industry. You can see that profitability in such delivery methods as the proposed Midwest pipeline would be less certain. In other words, the economic forces at work in our present day, make a profit by continuing and developing ecologically harmful technological structures within the multi-national industrial complex. They wish to simply expand traditional fuels and improve distribution methods. By maintaining such patterns, these economic powers sacrifice our life quality for many generations to come, unless they begin to regard present energy delivery infrastructure as stepping stones toward cleaner and more sustainable fuel supply.
Two commandments thus lift my hood and boil my cooker today. As a Christian, my calling is to first love God, and also love my neighbor. Both are dependent on my listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, given to me through the power of revealed scriptures. In this, I must refer first to the Law that condemns us. In these I find that we are convicted in our consumptive guilt of God’s gifts in creation. We are like a household scourge who simply sits at table as the pot grows lean, bellowing “More meat!”
My opinion is that technological powers within the modern world are not guided by a stable, transcendent social ethic. Any ecological attitude now extant within the corporate operates in a subjective system of profit, based tenuously within wide and changing multi-national legalities. These are often far removed from true, ecologically-responsible values. It is, therefore, my proposal that this abysmal lack of a transcendent, ecologically sound ethic should be addressed by the Christian church. One of our mandated instructions from Jesus Christ was to love one another. To do this task of love properly, therefore, we must include the welfare of those in Third World nations, and our own generations to come.
We in the church are called to engage the scientific and technological communities in ethical dialog. If these powers in society refuse to embrace said dialog, as offered for the future good of all, it should cause the whole church to condemn these reluctant powers. This should be done through the focus of Divine Law upon harmful technological deeds or lack thereof.
We are thus admonished by the Decalogue to work for our neighbor’s good. While surely delivered from condemnation by Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, we are yet called to preserve life… to go and sin no more. We are to love society toward God’s formative future. It is our task now to challenge the many devils of corporate reluctance in the public square.
In the “household” of God, therefore, a word which comes from the Greek “oikiomene” or “economy”, I say that this matter can no longer be spooned into the garbage disposal of church history. We shall not find our talents hidden there. In future conversations, whether soft or harsh, let us move from the Law toward the fruitfulness of the Gospel… the good news of a warm and mobile future in Christ Jesus.
Monday, April 15, 2013
An important fact often escapes us concerning this penchant. The quietude leads us to wrestle with such alarm only as the arrest of persons affiliated with rapacious abortion facilities sounds. But we need only look at our human history to find the flaw. Looking at history, we find blaring noise from the mountain. The horrid furrow ploughed deep into our society is highlighted by those of us who would pick up the banner against the murder of both unborn and newly born children in today’s world.
Be made aware that murder of these helpless has been a stalwart of human depravity for eons of time. We find that ancient biblical record reveals the practices of rampant legal child murder in society, often given the gratuitous title of “sacrifice”. The act was a method of deity appeasement during ancient times. As biblical witness describes, the thunder gods Marduk and Ba’al Hammon were thought to be persuaded by such practices. But both of these nature gods, were natural occurrence that we moderns know as thunderstorms. In example, depending on the weather conditions of such as land and sea in Canaan, a god would seasonally roll in upon the land toward pre-scientific peoples from the Mediterranean Sea, or similar bodies of water, to quench the thirst of the land for a bountiful spring planting. However, if the wind blown entourage did not show with attending royal entourage of goddesses, named in the Canaan realm as Astarte and Tannit (thunder and lightning) and thus water the crop like a bull urinating on a flat rock, some satanic priest would say that something needed to be done to lure the diety’s attention.
When rain did not fall, being pre-scientific but not stupid, the priest divined, “Let’s sacrifice something to get Ba’al’s attention.” There was not enough food, but surely there were plenty of insignificant crumb snatcher’s running around playing with dradles. These were already too many to feed if the sacrifice idea didn’t work, so it would be repeated again, and again, etc. It was done repeatedly, and sometimes it worked. The rain would come. Thus, the practice of child sacrifice grew, entrenched satanically by such as Beel-ze-bul into the ancient cultures. Even when not always successful in bringing rain, the blood and body of a child spilt on the ground did save food that would have been consumed by that child, saved for those other villagers deemed more worthy because they would have strength for the next planting. The ancients would just keep doing this horror until the god either paid attention, bringing rain.., or the lesser population would make food shortages a moot point because there were just not as many persons left around to feed.
Mot and Worms of Destruction…
How widespread was this phenomenon? Very! In ancient Canaan, fickle Marduk was courted. Cantankerous Ba’al Hammon was also invited. In the Mediterranean arena, Isis, Osirus and Mot were wooed in Egypt to dance for the crop cycle. In the pantheon of the northern Africa, the ancient gods Ba’al Hammon, Astarte, and Tannit and other deities were enticed for grape crop success. Even wine goddesses of the very early Greeks and Roman cultures did the same, until these cultures figured that the practice was deleterious to the growth of their armies. How far did this human sacrifice go? Record of such activities echo into Germanic, Teutonic, Nordic, Slavic and other civilizations farther removed.
We see in this historical study then, that widespread child sacrifice was done very early for the plenteousness of any given society. Is it any wonder that this murderous practice still persists in our scientific era? Children are still being “sacrificed” to the gods of prosperity, whether the economic aim is personal, national, or international, though not necessarily agricultural. The recent, and too long enduring massacre of children by accused abortionist Dr. Gosnell under the State of Pennsylvania’s nose, is surely based in this economically motivated agency. He and others profit greatly by continued child sacrifice. It is a racially and class biased eradication of societal “crumb snatchers” by political powers, so that persons in this nation may be wooed by bigger, better housing, nice cars, and many fields for employment and gain. Many in our sinful society asks, “Why should a modern, progressive population allow the birth of a child, when their un-tethered pre-school tuition could be down payment for a adult college education or a new convertible?”
How Should Christians Respond?
Where should Hebrew and Christian world views differ from this habitual nature deity appeasement? The revelation of God’s mindset as to our collective faith walk on this matter begins partly through the story of Abraham and Isaac. The scripture reveals that father and son were called by God to go up Mount Moriah. Faith history tells the mountaintop scene of potential child sacrifice, designed as test for the fidelity of Jehovah’s servant. God intervenes before Abraham’s knife saps his son’s life, however, saying that Abraham should withhold the slaying… and God substitutes a goat as blood sacrifice. God then states to his servant..,
"By myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice." (Genesis 22:17)
We note here that amid the unfolding of subsequent covenant history, instead of child sacrifice for the benefit of his nomadic people, God substitutes his own sacrifice. The faith history of Israel shows our God as a benevolent, creative deity that provides plenteous population growth. In this way the faithful will survive amid wars and the warp and woof of civilizations… until the time of Christ’s birth and beyond. Therefore in the flow of history, once and for all, Christ Jesus is finally made the “one and only, all time” child sacrifice for eternal survival and the prosperity of faithful humanity.
With this history therefore, as Christians we should point out sinfulness hiding beneath burdensome ancient or modern agricultural and economic practices, that say we need sacrifice precious children to the faux gods of our own profitability. In fact, we must protest and witness that the love of our Creator indicates that just the opposite is true, in our God’s mandate he says that “Thou shall not kill.”
The only begotten, eternally living Son of God, Jesus Christ, sacrificed himself so that his church may nomadically grow across the world.. The kingdom of God shall not have its numerical growth hampered by those in the body politic who grow richer stealing the inheritance of a murdered, future community in Christ. In this proper work of faith, we are freed from our dependence on the gods of crops, houses, cars, and other possessions. We are called to rightfully use these things, not making them our masters, to only further the work of Christ’s kingdom. We are also called to voice condemnation on those who would snip the spine of children in the quest of satanic pursuits. We are called to birth, baptize, raise, educate and commune these little vulnerable and silent ones. This is where the people of God, in his one, holy apostolic church, should rightly stand… this is where we Christians need to stand firmly.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
My own denomination has thankfully already stated its position against such matters, citing that heterosexual marriage is the only human sexual union that is scripturally supported. The statement, at present, legally protects my right to provide refusal. However, this last statement does not necessarily provide for me, as a pastor, an argument for pointed justification on our position to valued persons within our society. Greater clarity is needed whenever questions arise from persons who cite that an American majority approves of such legal relationships. In considering the point, and others often expressed, I can now turn you to a recently received article published for English churches, which may help many American clergy who ponder answers for the same issue. I offer that article to you now…
Several good points are raised by the author, that leaders and laypersons of the church in this or any other nation should not join a sinful, yet progressive “going-along-with-ness” in order to “get-along-with” an impetus of our society. We are called as God’s people by the Word of scripture alone, over and above any local, state, or national government mandate. Therefore, let us study scripture.., and be ready to answer concerning the faith that is within us.
Friday, March 8, 2013
Now, there are those in my own NALC, and many in other expressions of Lutheranism such as the ELCA, LCMS, WELS, etc. who have said that we have too often fallen into argumentative mindsets. These point out that, like the Lean Burn engines of yesterday, heated debate does not clear the air, but only lights church theological fires like the inside, fiery turbulence of an automobile’s overheated catalytic converter. What’s that like? Ask your elder mechanic what it was that used to make the floorboard of that ’69 Mustang Cobra-Jet 429 ready to cook a steak! Unburned fuel would be consumed in the converter and hot, hot, hot would result! An elder mechanic who relates to you such history will tell you that failures within the exhaust emitted stew would fry the floor.
Obviously, such recipe failures in the alphabet stew of Lutheranism, and the entire Christian church, are the cause of much heat in our own faith generation. It seems we are going through another Reformation, wherein we are called by the Spirit to firmly grip the wrench of orthodox Christian expression. This trusty tool is meant to cool the foment temperature so that the church may carry on ministry even unto the return of Jesus Christ. It is not without importance that our Lenten pulpit cry is thus… “Return to the Lord your God, who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
In recent news for example, the web page “Exposing the ELCA” boldly presented warnings concerning gross distortions of the traditional “Stations of the Cross” artistic expression. You can see the content of their message by clicking... Exposing the ELCA
The web page rightly noted art that was offered by “Belief Out Loud, an entity endorsed by the Women of the ELCA (WELCA), which integrates LBGT agenda into the Lenten pageantry to the point of illustrating the crucifixion of a transgender Jesus: To quickly view such travesty you can go to: Transgender Jesus?This latter poisonous soup thus produces evil result, and the taste did not satisfy either myself nor others within my own denominational expression. Some persons of the church hold to the thought, however, that as a denomination or church we should swallow the brew, ignore the rotten-eggs in the recipe, and move on to better stirrings. To these last I retort a firm “NO!” I state this in such a way that I would likely make TV chef Gordon Ramsey on “Hell’s Kitchen” blink in dismay.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Don't straddle the white line. Get in the correct lane and feel free to ask questions there as to the effects of your own camber settings!
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
MUCH NEWS has come forth from the media about horrid tragedies to our neighbors, many of which have involved firearms. What are we as Christians to do in light of this? Please view my humble offering on the topic...
I say to you all, "The kingdom shall not arrive unto you, until you say in the Spirit, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord".
I say to you all, "The kingdom shall not arrive unto you, until you say in the Spirit, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord".