Convergence

In the book “Pride and Prejudice” Elizabeth’s cousin, Mr. Collins, proposed to her. I know. But the time frame allowed for that kind of thing. Now, Mr. Collins is a minister and he is well connected. After all, his patroness is the Lady DeBerg. Naturally, he expects Elizabeth to say “yes, of course I’ll marry you.” But she doesn’t. She flat out refuses his proposal. He doesn’t understand. He suspects that it is a feminine thing; that she is being demure or something. She says it more clearly. He still doesn’t get it. He thinks she is saying “no” so that he will prove his love and be persistent. She unequivocally refuses. I mean it couldn’t be clearer. But he still doesn’t understand. He never even considered that Elizabeth would say “no.” His station is above hers. It would be a good match for her. He is condescending even to ask. The whole scene is exasperating and slightly ridiculous. But people are like that. They have a hard time understanding anything that is the opposite of their expectation.

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Kingdom Family

His name is Intong. Originally, he was from Laos and he, and his entire family, were Buddhist. He was a professor who was conscripted into the Vietnam army. Even though this was not his choice, he was determined to be a traitor and if he had returned to his homeland he would have been arrested. I don’t know if Intong was among the Hmong people or not. That would have been enough for him to never return to Laos as the new government is suspected of having killed four hundred thousand of the Hmong people because they supported the royal government over the Lao People’s Democratic Republic which seized control during the Vietnam War. Intong made his way to the United States of America and became a citizen. While in Texas he converted to Christianity. He was disowned by his family and probably most of his friends. I knew him when we were both in Sioux City, Iowa. And disowned is probably too soft. He has been struck by his brother. When he moved back to Texas to take care of his father, it was most likely his family who disabled his fire alarm and then set his mobile home on fire. He was in a coma for sometime with horrible burns on most of his body. He survived with horrible scars. Nothing in this story would make it sound as if being a Christian were a good thing. Ah, but this is not the whole story.

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The Eye of the Needle

Paul told the Corinthians to consider their calling; to look around and see who answered the call to follow Christ. Well, not many wise according the flesh; not many mighty and not many noble; have shown up and swelled the ranks of the church. We could add here that not many rich people have shown up either. This still rings true, doesn’t it? And why is that? If the world thinks that believing in God is foolish and you have a reasonably high IQ, you might not want to let go of your wise status. You kind of have to let go of your ability to figure life out; to unravel the complexities of existence. You have to trust God knows what he is talking about. And if you are a strong person, whether that is physical or mental strength, it just may be difficult to let go of any concept of being able to power through whatever this life throws your way. And isn’t it tempting to think that money can accomplish whatever you need it to accomplish. Why would I need to trust in God if I have my own wisdom; my own strength; my own wealth. I would be more tempted to trust in what I already have than to let go and trust in Yahweh.

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Good Grief

            

There is tension in the Bible. Many a misunderstanding is found here. I received a box of books last week addressed to the chaplain of the Youth Correction Center. The author wanted me to make these books available to the students. Well, I’m going to do some reading before I just hand out random things sent to me. One of the premises of the book is that most Christians have it wrong. Yeah, I love it when people start out that way. Look at me everyone, out of all the Christians in the world, I’m the one who is right! And what are they wrong about? Well, their lists of things you have to do to be right with God. Paul’s letter to the Romans was quoted a lot here. And the truth is that Romans does emphasize that we are saved by faith. But there is this other thread in the letter that often gets overlooked. Paul does himself a lot of talking about obedience. Here’s the thing; faith and obedience dance together so closely that one without the other is not even possible. If you have faith in God it will shape your actions. Those actions do not save you. That is true. But grace without those actions is what Bonhoeffer called a cheap grace; worthless and ineffective. Tension. We are pulled here. In the midst of this tension, what makes a person a good person?

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Baby Blessing

Just so you know, I know that there is something about children that can melt our hearts. But there is also plenty that will frustrate us into a frazzle. We can debate the point of whether or not they have sin. But the truth is that children can be selfish, demanding, jealous, manipulative, bullies, and etc. I tell you this because when we come across the passages in which Jesus is dealing with children some will expend tremendous effort to extrapolate the qualities that we as adults should emulate. Years ago, I saw a news report about adults who spend money to be treated like babies. They wear diapers; they cry until they get a bottle of milk; and they sleep in cribs. This is considered therapy. They are nurturing their inner child. I am not an expert, but this doesn’t seem healthy to me. There is much that we are intended to grow out of as we mature. I think the appropriate phrase is “Grow up people.” But there is something about children that Jesus does hold up as an example.

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Position in Prayer

Its ironic. Its frustrating. More on that later. I’ve heard people excuse their negative behavior by saying, “I am not a saint after all.” Well, if you are a follower of Christ, you are indeed a saint. You are set apart; not for common use; holy. Now, here is the ironic and frustrating part: the very thing that sets us apart can be the very thing that sets us apart. Am I making sense? Every follower of Jesus is intended to be set apart and dedicated to God. That makes us different than non set apart people; people who do not believe in God nor care about his definition of right and wrong. But if we allow that difference to set us apart or above those other people, we are missing something very important; something integral to our faith.

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Fenagling

So, let me get this straight. If you whine at God day and night he will give into your tenacious nagging? I have heard this as an explanation of the parable of the unjust judge and persistent widow. Oh, to be sure the words were different, but really, it amounts to the same thing. And if God relents because of my unrelenting complaining, is he a just God or merely a weak god? I would like to suggest that a God who must answer to my whining is not powerful at all. Maybe I should put this a different way. I have seen many a child in the position of power with their parents because the people who were given a position of authority abnegated that authority under the constant barrage of defiant whining. And it does not take children long to exploit that one. And there is something out of whack here. As you may have guessed, I am going to suggest a different interpretation of this parable.

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The Coming Son of Man

Assumptions get made about certain passages and concepts. The belief in the Second Coming is cemented into the consciousness of Christians. So much so, that if you approach an accepted Second Coming passage and think it is about something different, people become irate. You are probably thinking that I am not going to approach Luke 17:22-37 as a Second Coming of Jesus passage. And you would be right. Just so you know, I know that I could be wrong. Also, I believe Jesus is coming back. I hope and trust in that all culminating coming. I can’t wait for it. I’m just not sure that every passage that gets accepted as a Parousia passage is in fact about the Parousia. Or, let me say it in a different way. I think there are many Parousia moments; moments when the coming of Jesus is manifested; moments of breaking into our reality. And all of these moments will culminate into one final coming. Weird, huh?

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The Kingdom Within

I am not a scientist. My brain just does not work that way. As a matter of fact my brain recoils at the sight of scientific equations. Quantum theory, string theory, and all the other theories end up befuddling my feeble attempts to understand. I know enough to know that not everything can be chucked into a controlled environment and forced to reproduce results that can be quantified. Some answers cannot be found by peering through a microscope. Don’t get me wrong, the varied scientific fields have helped mankind tremendously and I am thankful. But I wonder if our dependence upon medical science has left us spiritually empty. We live longer but we don’t seem to be happy about it and we are not at all sure why it is important. The Kingdom of God cannot be explained or objectified by any branch of science.

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Traveling Thanks

We kind of expect our parents to take care of us; to love us; to show kindness. I know that it doesn’t always work that way, but there is something in us that expects it. So much so that when it doesn’t happen we feel the incongruity. But when we expect it there may be a tendency to take it for granted. It can be difficult for children to fully grasp the gravity of what their parents do for them. After all, they are their parents. It’s their job. So, if you view God as your father, you may just fall into this same lethargy of thankfulness. He’s God, after all. It’s kind of his job to make sure you are blessed. Now for the Jewish people of Jesus’ day, one of the expectations of the coming Messiah is that he would make the lame to walk, the blind to see, and heal the lepers. It’s his thing as the suffering servant.

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