Sunday, 19 January 2014

Next Generation Gospel - updated

The gospel of Jesus of Nazareth cannot be wholly limited to the things he said; only the matchless life he lived can provide us with the full stereoscopic reality of the depth of his teachings. It is remarkable to think that such marvellous truths could be hidden in plain sight. Indeed, if you were to ask many Christian theologians 'what was truly original about the teachings of Jesus?' many would be at a loss to tell you, and while this might seem extreme – it is nonetheless valid. 

Part of the difficulty we experience when we try to interpret the life and teachings of the Man from Nazareth is to be found in the audience of Jesus. Of necessity, he had to speak in a language they would understand – not simply Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek but employing the idioms of that day, age and culture. Consequently, it was inevitable that he would employ the vocabulary of concepts supplied by the Torah; it was literally the only show in town. While he was at pains to ensure his disciples did not confuse the Torah with the Gospel he taught and lived, undoubtedly, the flawless fluidity with which he employed the Torah to relate gospel truths compelled his followers to think they were co-extensive and mutually inter-dependant. Heaven knows, they were hardly likely to be very familiar with the traditions of others.

Jesus was so skilful in the art of putting new spin on old truths; so artful in his employment of available idioms and common concepts; so expert in using the ordinary and everyday things of life to communicate extraordinary truths; and we should remember, the truths he taught were so vital, vivifying, and enlightening, that not only was their spirit revered but so too were their very forms; such that incidental facts associated with the gospel came to be viewed as fundamental elements of it – the New cloth was sewn onto the Old. Consequently, the Old Wineskin of the Torah, contrary to the teachings of Jesus, was blended with the New Wine of the Gospel he taught and lived. For all his effort to ensure that his followers did not confuse the spirit of his gospel with its inevitable cultural expression, the subtlety of his message proved too fine – consequently they missed his point, and his gospel became identified with, and ultimately seen as an extension of, the Torah. Such was the success of this hybridisation that in the hearts and minds of nearly all Christendom the Torah is now regarded as an indispensible element of the gospel of Jesus of Nazareth.

While it is easy to see how this error evolved, there can be no overestimating the significance the difficulty this presents to the forward motion of the gospel. People’s loyalties, once mobilised, are difficult to reset; especially is this so when people are locked into a tradition where disloyalty means a first class ticket to Hell!  While the highly serviceable nature of the Torah is beyond question, it should be borne in mind that the Spirit of Truth can gainfully employ the truth of any tradition. The Spirit of God is not limited by gender, race or religion; the Creation may be limited but the Creator is not; the Creation is an instrument of the Creator but it is not that Creator. However, we commit a tremendous spiritual blunder when we take one piece of the Creation and say ‘that and that alone’ reflects the Creator and this is what we do when we assert the primacy of one tradition over another.

Do you realise, or can you appreciate, the truly marvellous nature of the revelation made by Jesus? For many people, prior to the arrival of Jesus, God was a terrifying mystery – the One who inspired fear and dread; a God of War, Judgement, and Vengeance; but the Cross put an end to such a god. Behold! In place of the god of War, we find the Prince of Peace! In place of Judgement, we find Mercy! In place of Vengeance, we find Forgiveness! In Jesus we discover a God who inspires Love and Faith and Hope; a God who can quench the raging fire of terror with the Great River of Peace that flows from the Rock of Faith; who can turn tragedy into triumph, defeat into victory, despair into hope, death into everlasting life; who can transform the flawed and weak creatures of time into the perfected children of an Eternal God. 

And so, on the cross, we see the greatest spectacle this world has ever beheld! The death of an old god and the birth a new and everlasting Ideal; a God who inspires transforming love, a hope that can give life new direction, new meaning, new value; an enlightened faith that no darkness can extinguish! A God of Loving Mercy! Behold! He was beaten and tortured, did he curse? Did he revile? Did he promise retribution? Vengeance? No! This is the one who proclaimed, 'You that have seen me, have seen God.' Behold the Great Revelation! Know your God!

My soul grows rich

My soul grows rich in wonder and joy,
The majesty and mercy of the Almighty
Pour over my soul
And I am washed,
As flotsam and jetsam,
In the torrent of his glory.
His love, like his wisdom,
Knows no bounds.
He holds the universe
in his hands
as tenderly as a father
holds his first born.
He sings songs to us
And tells us stories
That we do not understand
But we know
When we cry
He hears and responds
in the depths of our being
we know
we are loved

The Father

There lives within you the power that formed the universe. There lives within you the guiding voice of the Architect of all Creation. Behold the Heavens, even the Heaven of Heavens! Great is the power of the Almighty, who holds the stars of Heaven in his palms and plants them where he wills. Behold infinite cosmic Father! Bring unto him your troubles, nothing is too big or small for him. If he, with a shout, can shake the Heavens – how much more will your troubles tremble before his might!

He is the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, of time and space, doubt not that he would be glad to make time for you! Open your heart to his instruction. Trust wholeheartedly in the righteousness and efficacy of his ways. His plans are infinite, his goals are eternal so let not yourself be perturbed by the small things of time.

Learn of him and his ways, make your world richer by daring to be like him. Lend your shoulder to his great work; give those that thirst something to drink, those that hunger something that nourishes, give protection to them that are exposed and vulnerable, open those eyes blinded by spiritual darkness, point the way for those that are lost, liberate those captivated by fear and loose tongues that they may sing his praise!

You are his beloved child and you are loved more than you can imagine. It is the father’s delight to shoo away the Boogey Man of your fears; to give you peace, courage and hope, but until you learn to trust him you will remain trapped in the realm of your own fears – trust is the key to realising your fondest hopes. Your father will not vanquish your demons for you. He desires that his children be able to stand on their own two feet but neither will he let you struggle on your own, he will always be one hundred percent behind you – he believes in you – even when everyone else would give up. You might doubt yourself but he doesn’t doubt you.

The father will not rob you of the dignity of your achievements by doing all things for you. Moreover, he knows well what you are capable of and has set his angels the task of trying and testing you – charged them with the sacred duty of making you the best and strongest person you can be. Bearing such a commission one cannot expect an easy life, more likely a life of struggle relieved now and then by small islands of respite and rest. The love of the father makes his children strong, it is not that unwise love that indulges children and makes them weak. His is a fearless love! It does not shrink or complain about unavoidable hardships, nor flinch when sending instructive discipline upon his wayward children.

Fear not to bring your joys and hopes to him, your laughter and excitement, your dreams and adventures, for what father does not treasure to listen to his child tell their story with great excitement and energy; what father is not brought to joyful tears to see his child thrilled by his existence; or is not puffed large when the child swears to honour his generosity, kindness, wisdom and faith. Even as the father can fill your cup of joy to overflowing, you can do the same for your heavenly father when you sincerely, faithfully and humbly – even joyfully and gladly – put at his service everything he has helped you become. Rest assured when you give him everything, you lose nothing!