A Patriotic god

Fox & Friends was on this morning, which is less news and more of a circus. But a curious bit was they covered a photo of the sun-set. The cloud and light placement made it look like there was a big American flag in the sky. One commentator said something about that being a patriotic sky. This was followed immediately, by another, ‘that’s a patriotic god’. I was blown away that that slipped out so seamlessly. Of course, none of these anchors impress me as having any honest intellect, though they pretend to it as they discuss “the issues”. It’s all about point-scoring and partisan/factional thinking.

Anyway, that statement was unadulterated idolatry and utter blasphemy. I almost can’t believe that I heard that exact phrase come out of someone’s mouth. Maybe subtleties being removed, in this example at least, is God’s judgment. Many of America’s architects were inspired by Rome, and this most certainly included Rome’s religion.

Now Christianity was prized by not a few, but look at the context of their praise. Deistic reinterpretations of Christianity were popular in quite a few intellectual societies. Christianity was the most cultured and civilized religion, it was the closest to Nature. Weirdness of supernatural events may be discarded, or reinterpreted, in the quest for a pure religion. Christianity was disassembled and repackaged, by some more vigorously than others (I’m thinking Jefferson), so that it might fit in the New Age. Some, who were less politique, like Thomas Paine, were apt to see Christianity as worthy of the garbage heap. Enlightened peoples needed to move on.

Rome’s religious vision was compatible, though much less refined, with this Enlightenment quest. No, it was not about Nature or some abstract Rights of Man, but it had to do with the divinity of the Republic/Empire. The distinction we make between Republic and Empire is artificial, since the Senate viewed itself as being graced with imperium, a quest to rule the world. This was the gods’ city. Thus, Rome was rather accommodating to all cults and gods, as long as they respected Roma, the chief divinity. It’s the cult of the empty shrine. The gods, whether from Egypt, Greece, Syria, Carthage, or Gaul, were to move their temples and thrones within the halls of Republic.

The level-headed pragmatism of men like Madison was quickly abandoned for the fervor of Jefferson’s vision of an Empire of Liberty, for the flood of patriotic fervor that was infused into the American spirit. It is an encompassing spirit, amenable to dissidents and rewriting their history into the grand narrative. Mormons became less weird separatists, who clashed with the vision of the Union (as evinced in the response by the state governments of Illinois and Missouri). They are now an ‘American’ religion, and one of the fold for America’s hodge-podge “Evangelical” religious milieu.

I put quotes around ‘evangelical’ because it hardly has anything to do with the Christian connotations of the word, but in a way, these people really are evangelical. They proclaim a gospel of the Birth of a Nation. America is Israel, America is the god’s son. Whether it’s in the liberal vein of a Morgenthau or Fukuyama who talk of America’s divine purpose in democracy and capitalism; or it’s in the Christianized language of providence. They worship the same god in the same cult. America is god, he is the one who makes the skies the colors of Old Glory.

Respecting one’s government is good, and appreciating one’s history (culture, ethnicity etc.) is fine. I cheer for the US in the World Cup. But from On High, these things matter as much as favorite music or food. It’s apart of who we are, for better or worse, but it claims no loyalty. Nationalism is a religion from the pits of Hell, and it is in full force in the US. It’s the Babylonian spirit, one that drove everyone from the British to the Nazis.

But this Americana god is weak, ambivalent, and needy. That’s why I will hear a song like Five Fingered Death Punch’s ‘Wrong Side of Heaven’. In this song, god is this pleading and inflexible nancy, while the devil is a misunderstood and brooding figure. The singer identifies himself with the devil, and his faint moralizing conscience as god. The singer speaks for a whole generation of moody, confused, and angry young men who think they belong to purgatory, or as the song puts it “the wrong side of heaven and the righteous side of hell”. This fits with the general self-identity of military men as straddling the wall, doing what needs to be done even if it doesn’t fit within the context of standard morality.

America needs her fighting men to feed her, to die for her, to promote her, to secure her interests, because she can’t do it herself. She eats up her dead, both the enemies of her ways and her faithful martyrs. No one wants to be the sacrifice, until it’s too late, their body is on the altar, and they’re consecrated unto the greater good. The god is weak.

I wonder if this is the same vibe that comes from a movie like “God’s Not Dead”. The movie neglects any argument for Christ and His Gospel. Instead, a general theism is proved, and an entire class is converted to “belief in God”, whatever that means (good review of the problem here). I won’t read alternative motives. But it’s in the vein that God needs defenders and advocates, instead of being the Defender and Advocate. Calvin considered all his polemics and apologetics as a dog who barks when his Master is threatened. Hardly a noble self-conception!

Yet, look at Psalm 2. The whole world has gathered against God’s Anointed, and He laughs. The world has brought together all its muscle and mind, and God ridicules them: “But I have set my Holy One on my Hill”. For all their plans, they’ve lost.

“God’s not Dead” might not be a set-piece with the general American Pagan pantheon, but it certainly appeals to their doctrine as much as any vague Christian notion. However, we can rejoice with Psalm 2. We may weep to see such willful disregard for the Truth and such shaming and scorning of the Son of Man. But Christ is seated on His Throne. God Reigns, even as the nations still run to their idols. The Lord will judge the living and the dead, and none will hide from the wrath of the Lamb. They will look onto the One who was crucified and risen with a weeping and a gnashing of teeth.

The Lord is not a patriot, and He will judge such stubble for what it is. The Christ is not mild; He is the Avenger of the downtrodden, the Liberator for the slaves, and the Savior of a misfit people.

The Need for the Bishop: Leadership in the Church

In the writings of Ignatius, to an almost neurotic extent, he pushes the importance of the “officers” of the Church. I use the term ‘officer’ flexibly, because it can conjure a formalism too great. And I do not like the use of ‘hierarchy’ since that word denotes a rank of priestliness that confuses even more. Office seems to carry some of the importance, but also some of the ‘political’ aspects of the Church. Every gathering is representing the reign of our Lord. Suffice to say, office and officer are terms to be taken with a grain of salt. If anyone has better words, I’ll be appreciative to hear them

Anyway, Ignatius is adamant that the gathering of the Church is contingent upon the presence of the Bishop(Overseer), the Presbyters(Elders), and the Deacons(Servants). He’ll even go as far as to say that there is no Church without them. Funny enough, groups that retain the use of bishop and episcopal government do not abide by Ignatius’ warning. The bishop is a far away presence, wrapped up in larger affairs than the life of the local congregation. Yet that was what Ignatius was calling for.

Many authorities have read back later developments into the early Church. Ignatius didn’t conceive of the metropolitan bishops that would be responsible for an entire city. Nor was he talking about the reformulation of the Church around the Empire’s borderlines, where bishops became the equivalent of provincial governors. If anything Ignatius spoke of bishops as being the modern equivalent of “lead pastor”, though I don’t think that phrase is very adequate. The later designation that he was the bishop of Antioch is somewhat deceiving. Maybe he was the only one, but it wouldn’t be because he had some rule over a multiplicity of congregations both in the city and outside it in its suburbs.

His purposes in his overboard statements was that he did not want the communities he wrote to (in Rome, Troas, Ephesus etc.) fragmenting around conflict and sectarianism. If men were appointed to shepherd others, then running them out, or over, was, for Ignatius, committing schism. One was dividing a congregation by circumventing the leadership of the Church. This was not authoritarianism either. This was not policing every aspect of someone’s life. This had to do with living in community with an organic leadership, ordained by the Lord.

Ignatius only posits the Bishop’s presence for the assembly of the Church. And why this may run roughshod over American notions of individualism and democratic spirit, this doesn’t make it wrong. The question is why would one assemble a fragment of the Church without the leadership? To what end? Ignatius was probably paranoid of the advance of gnosticism. That an elite within the community would form, and scorn those who were not ‘initiated’. He wanted to prevent any restructuring of the Church around such lines. It certainly calls into question some later musings on ecclesiola in eclessia, or little-church in the church. The thought is to consider the ‘real Christians’ from the mass who is present. Instead of a corporate identity, the inner core are the only ones who are Christian.

There are rightful distinctions of ‘invisible’ Church and ‘visible’ Church, but the use gets blurred. The status of one’s relation to the Lord is a matter of the heart. One cannot really know or judge until the last day. Even those who seemed to do endless works for Christ are rejected, for they knew not the Lord. This is anything but a fearful call to look inside, but a call to look to the Righteous One. But the point is that one may be around those who claim Christ, but do not belong to Him. We can only see through the journey of a life, the production of fruit.

Anyway, that is not equivalent to later interpretations of a baptized nation or civilizations where everyone is conceived of as a Christian. This was the latter conception promoted under the Constantinian shift. The disciplines of learning the faith were swept away. Becoming a Christian in the waters of baptism was not the beginning of a journey in Christ towards the City of God. Instead it became a cultural act. This is not directly related to infant/paedo baptism, but it certainly became a tool for culture construction. It wasn’t for nothing that Medieval underground groups rebaptized their children out of Rome. They thought such was not really a baptism in Christ.

I mention the Constantinian shift because this too effected how Ignatius’ commands were read. As the machinery of Rome became synthesized, the Church lost its priestly function for a priestly hierarchy. By this I mean that the Church no longer became a nation of priests, and instead was the constitution of the Empire, populated by newly sacerdotalized officers. The call for all Christians, and most of all their leaders, became a call for a select few, while the rest were passively represented. The Church was not an alternative social existence, using and discarding the surrounding culture as seen fit, but became part and parcel for the empire. The day that Roman and Christian were synonymous terms by an outsider was the day the Church went underground.

I won’t argue whether Ignatius was right in his insistence, in separating bishop(overseers) from the presbyters(elders). However the early Church, as first given in the Apostles from the Lord, rejected both clericalism and egalitarian flatness. The former was rejected in that it built walls between the leaders and the rest. The latter was rejected because it’s not real. Flat environments will naturally take the contours of leadership; better to recognize them than allow a charismatic person to take command.

This might be confused for a ‘natural’ leadership, but consider the metaphor for a garden. In order to cultivate plant life, yes, one cannot use plastic plants or ‘staple’ fruit. However any successful garden requires structure. Lattices are built for vines to grow up, instead of choking the ground level plants. Pruning needs to take place. The evolution of ‘flat-leadership’ into the rule of a charismatic individual is a prime recipe for wolves. Remember, Paul was a terrible speaker, and the Corinthians sought out more ‘natural’ leaders.

There is something distinct between those called to lead in the Church and those who do not have this calling. But it is not because the former are more Christian, or more serious, than the rest. Rather it’s the vocation to shepherd, develop, and empower the people of God. It’s a great responsibility. It requires one to be the first to serve, the first to suffer, and the first to die (whether literally or figuratively). It is example setting. It’s the first to cry: ‘Follow me to the cross! Let us hide beneath the Lamb who was slain but lives forevermore!’

I use to reject any such leadership and would find Ignatius’ statements offensive and abrasive. However, leadership is real in the Church, ordained for the purposes of example. When Ignatius said that the Bishop was an ikon of Christ, the first thing that came to mind was the reverence due him. But perhaps he was thinking more about the servant-leading the Bishop would be doing. That the Bishop would be the first one to go to the fire or the arena before his people. He certainly had his own, impending death on his mind. Ignatius was not the bejeweled princeling of centuries past. He would’ve been horrified at that. The bishop of Antioch considered himself so low, that he could only plead. He did not pretend to be an Apostle.

And all of this leadership probably reflected Paul’s list of qualifications over and against what we see today. Paul referenced character as key, and not cerebral power. One must have examples of love in their life. There were no seminaries. Now teaching was important, but that was why the laying of hands and discipleship were important. One leader would validate another in successions. Of course, this would get out of hand in later centuries. Men would deny the gospel for some mechanical lineage, falsely conceived to boot.

The leadership of the Church was formal but not formalized. It was not clerical, but it was organically structured and real. I don’t know if this means the words ‘bishop’ ‘presbyter/elder’ and ‘deacon’ are overworn and devoid of true significance. They now signify less authoritative realities than authoritarian clericalism.  In Ignatius’ time, they represented a challenge to Roman social convention. Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia, would be appalled that leaders of the Church were many times slaves and women (being found as deacons, deaconessess, and presbyters).

All in all, Christ remains Head of His Church. We ought to respect those given leadership in our particular communities. Not slavishly, but in the context of life together. There will even be wolves. The Scriptures discern the differences. Christ is the ultimate authority, and may we honor Him first and foremost.

“Receive What You Are”: Community, Identity, and the Lord’s Supper

In a Sermon, Augustine describes the Eucharist, and through which he talks about the unity and catholicity of the Church. The two are a single subject to him. So here is the relevant section:

Remember: bread doesn’t come from a single grain, but from many. When you received exorcism, you were “ground.” When you were baptized, you were “leavened.” When you received the fire of the Holy Spirit, you were “baked.” Be what you see; receive what you are. This is what Paul is saying about the bread.

So too, what we are to understand about the cup is similar and requires little explanation. In the visible object of bread, many grains are gathered into one just as the faithful (so Scripture says) form “a single heart and mind in God” And thus it is with the wine. Remember, friends, how wine is made. Individual grapes hang together in a bunch, but the juice from them all is mingled to become a single brew.

This is the image chosen by Christ our Lord to show how, at his own table, the mystery of our unity and peace is solemnly consecrated. All who fail to keep the bond of peace after entering this mystery receive not a sacrament that benefits them, but an indictment that condemns them.

For Augustine, as this passage clearly shows, the Eucharist was a communal meal, fostering not only the communion of the individual with the Lord, but also his connection with his siblings in the Lord. The former is utterly important, for in the Supper, we are given Jesus in tangible ways. We eat His body in the Bread, we drink His Blood in the Wine. We take the very life of the Son of God. We hear the comfort in His solidarity: I am yours, and you are mine.

However, the other factor that Augustine describes is that this Meal is not only an individualistic practice between our own individual person and our Maker, but the formation of a communal identity. In fact, contrary to many debates in centuries later, Augustine has put the focus on the communal identification with the elements. We are the Bread, and we are the Wine. We are a collective being smashed(!) together, becoming one. And better for it!

In fact, Augustine was not alone. Ignatius would speak about the communal aspects of the Eucharist, filled with a martial spirit. When we come together in the Supper, we are actively waging war against Satan. We are partaking of Life, and denying the Devil’s dominion of Death. We are announcing the Pharaoh is drowned in the Red Sea, and we’re free for God’s purposes.That in Jesus’ death, death died, and He stands triumphant over it, and we celebrate as living testimonies of this fact.

Again, I don’t believe the early Church was wrong in setting the conversation this way. This is what the Apostle Paul spoke of when he wrote to the Corinthians about their participation in the Supper, and how shameful it was. They were pushing the poor and the weak to the back, creating a hierarchy before God’s equalizing presence in the Supper. They were getting drunk and belligerent to their friends in the Lord. They were making a mockery of Resurrection by their conduct, It was in this that they failed to “discern the Body of the Lord” before partaking of it.

I’m not completely averse to Cranmer’s liturgical function of communal confession and contrition before partaking of the elements. But this may be unhelpful. It may turn oneself inward, focusing on feeling alone, and lose the presence of others in the celebration. The Supper is supposed to harken the Lord’s liberating victory, not a dirge of self-flagellation. Yes, part of discerning the Body, is recognizing that we are all unworthy of God’s love. We must understand that Jesus is Grace, a firm window to see God’s true heart. We are sinners in need of compassion. We are beggars all.

However, this discerning of the Body is not only to know that we partake of the Lord, but that we are, in partaking, the Body of the Lord. In eating the Bread, we are the Bread; in drinking the Wine, we are the Wine. Or perhaps, in eating the Body, we are the Body; in drinking the Blood, we are the Blood. We are what we eat, as the old cliche goes. Discerning the Body, eating unworthily, is denying what we are. The Romanists and the Lutherans, and anyone who fences by doctrinal matters, are wrong to do so.

Consider how the Lord brought sickness in Corinth for failing to understand the Body. The same above who are so worried about strict confessions of what the Eucharist is, would probably bring the same upon their head as both have, in certain places in times, denied the Lord’s Church. By that I speak of the Constantinian cultural synthesis where Church is a part of the Social construct. The individualistic focus fails to take note of those around you. But at least in these structures, people kneel besides one another. How much worse in some evangelistic contexts where we are given individual juice cups and crackers! The tastelessness of these elements is perhaps a sign that the Supper is devoid of vitality in bringing about catholic affection.

Let it be said that I believe in the Real Presence in the Supper, but Jesus is present in the congregation as we come together in the Supper. While I’ve found it an error amongst some Anabaptistic groups to deny the Lord’s presence or practice the Supper infrequently, they understand something much more. They see what’s happening. The Eucharist is not an individualistic moment, but where individuals see their unity in the Lord Jesus. Where they celebrate their life in the Spirit of Liberty to Egypt’s Masters.

The Early Church was adamant about being a part of the Church. By this, they did not have some behemoth denominational bureaucracy in mind. They were talking about the local community of believers. It was in this particular that the universal was beheld. In being a part of this that was one was catholic, literally one pertaining to the whole. Those who passed on this opportunity were denying their allegiance to the Lord. They were not identifying with the Lord’s Body.

Now, I understand that it may be hard to fine genuine, living communities. That command to not forsake gathering with the brethren in Hebrews is not saying “go to church”, as one might commonly say. The Church, in Scripture and through all time, is not walls and pews, it’s not a pulpit or a kind of architecture. The Church is the gathering of the Lord’s people, principally in fellowship, at prayer, beneath the Word, and around the Supper. One negative ripple from the Reformation was the denigration of the Eucharist. Hearing the Gospel preached is important, but it is equally, if not more so, to have one’s identity shaped around the Table. Receiving the Bread and Wine is not an option. It part of how we become the Body of the Son of God, a testimony to His conquest of the flesh, the world, and the devil.

While the Bread and Wine are, mysteriously, Body and Blood, how this is ought not be the point of contention. We must also see how we, too, are the Body and Blood in partaking. The communal aspect, united to Christ and, in such, one another, is how we discern the Body. In our gathers, may we remember such. You are the Lord’s people. In eating the supper, weep in repentance, rejoice in victory.

You are free

Victorian Fables: Marriage, Ekklesia, and Righteousness

Awhile back, I was listening to a pastor speaking about ministry in the heart of a city. He was describing his work, the people he is with, and what the Church must do. One interesting anecdote pertaining to the work of the Church had to do with lesbians. He admitted that when thought about lesbians, he expected butch, masculine-looking, women who just wanted to be or look like men. But that was a broad stereo-type that missed the reality. In fact, most women he met who were in a homosexual relation were attractive. These girls looked like girls. They weren’t what he expected at all.

He heard a similar story: these women were tired of abusive and neglectful men. At the end of the day, they wanted someone to be there, and not screw around, hit them, get them pregnant, and leave. Men were not to be trusted, so they found intimacy and closeness from a woman.

His point was that if he was planting a church, he needed men to be men. By this he wasn’t hashing out some ridiculous hyper-masculine caricature. But instead, he needed men who would actually be there for a wife, who would be present and supportive for their families. He needed men who would raise their children, who would proclaim the Gospel in their willingness to lay down their lives. So maybe not for men to be men, but rather, men to be men resurrected. It says a lot to be a one woman man with children born in wedlock.

Inner city life gives greater weight to the realities of sexuality than the bubbled sheltered, and quite damnable, suburban context. Sex is not some isolated act of pleasure, though we’re treated to think of it in such ways. It is a formative act, both characteristically and literally. It affects who you are, whether in pregnancy, or the actual birth of a child, or in diseases, or even in the emotional and psychological effects and bonds produced. The difference is that the urban poor don’t have the resources that suburbia has. They can’t get quiet, invisible abortions. They can’t afford a million sterilization products. They can’t mutilate the sex act as effectively, repurposing it in our image.

But within the context of men being cowards and fearful of the commitment of marriage*, I think cultural mores hamstring the ability to live the gospel, living self-sacrificial love on account of the Lord’s atonement, especially in marital customs. It’s already hard for men to be faithful and renounce the ways of this world. I am one of the above, I’ve fled relationships because of responsibility, I’ve whored, I’ve bought into worldly fantasies. My life is one of repentance, always desperately turning to the Son of God. But the requirements for marriage in our society, socially imposed, make this even more difficult.

Weddings are extremely ceremonial, laborious, and, most importantly, expensive. Now I enjoy weddings, especially when there are open bars. But the requirements of such an elaborate process might actually get in the way of people getting married. Why is marriage so important? Because the only other reality, which is lived out every day, is the continuation of extramarital pregnancies, screwing around with a multitude of partners, and the possibility of disease and psychological damage. The lesbians above were damaged on account of the selfish, animalistic sex that men engage in. They are wrong to think they could find life in a partner, to find satisfaction for their souls in another mortal, but they are victims of sinful passions.

And while I don’t decry the marriages that replicate the Victorian image, the Church needs to reject this enthrallment to western culture. The Gospel does not belong to Anglo means and methods. While our practices and liturgical modes will differ based on time and place, we can’t be fool enough to believe in any particular Constantinian synthesis of culture and Church. We’re not of this world. All cultural practices are contingent. The heart of it all is love, defined by Christ and not liberal society.

Western society, in its liberalistic notion, keeps love contained inside boxes of emotional flutter and feeling. And while emotion and feeling are not unimportant, they are not determinative. But Schliermacher is preached to the masses, adulterated through media like Disney. But even Disney has changed its own assumptions. A movie like Frozen put a question-mark over the usual trope of “true-love” with the victory of familial bonds. The true love that saved was not from the lips of a prince-charming or a secret-been-there-all-along love. Instead it came from a dedicated sister who received clarity in the moment of need.

Wedding vows are promises, not statements of fact. No one knows what they’re really getting into when they enter into that relation. Love is more than sensation. Love works. Later I’ll write out how this might affect how we view ethics and disciplines. But marriage is about commitment. While it’s not necessary to being Human, it is, as Luther called it, a school for life. Again, it is quite the statement in an inner-city culture of faithless relationships, children out of wedlock, and irresponsibility.

However, we ought not to look at non-Victorian ceremonies as some sort of extreme alternative. The Church, even amongst the critics of health-wealth, has an enduring sense of wealth and entitlement. This is not just against bridezillas and self-absorbed ego displays of wealth. Sad to say, weddings aren’t about the bride, but about the King who we are to reflect. The Apostle’s description of marriage is conditioned to be another way to preach the mystery of the Gospel.

Weddings are about two becoming one, and ought to be done before the eyes of the community. Marriage happens in the midst of the Church (I’m not talking about a building), because it’s apart of our life together. But instead of cultivating life, much of the Church in America refuses combat and question the Victorian myth that is a part of our culture. They don’t doubt the received wisdom and let it stand as the definition. Thus, they find an excuse for ducking the issue. And while the actuality of marriage may speak loud in the city, simple and communal weddings may speak loud in the white middle-class districts of America.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with bridesmaids, a white dress, or a ring-bearer. But these things can promote damnable fables and wealth discrimination. They can shut out ordained means for men and women to live their lives. And yes, we all must also be instructed and grow into self-discipline. A life of celibacy is equally blessed. Whether a celibate life or a married life, both are to herald God’s Kingdom.

This isn’t about creating a new culture, and innovating new ceremonies. This will do nothing but make Pharisees. Instead, this is about being able to hold all things in question beneath our loyalty to the Son of God. If we use white dresses, and go with Victorian customs, let us meditate on how Christ has cleaned His Bride, a wayward ragtag people, white as snow. If we don’t use white dresses, let us have no after-thought in doing away with them.

May we not bind each others consciences in regard to foolish things. Let the Gospel be preached and the Lord’s people continue to grow and expand. Let us not become bound by the traditions of men.

*Marriage being defined as the union between one man and one woman. This is what Jesus identified as what was between Adam and Eve. While the Bible describes many conditions for married life, including divorce and polygamy, the above view may be described as ‘biblical’. It is the conditions of a marriage that reflect the Gospel, of One Lord, One People, One Baptism, One Faith.

The Gospel According to Ignatius

I’ve been spending some time reading through the writings of the earliest Christians. I’m now in the midst of Ignatius’ letters.This man was a bishop in Antioch and a disciple of the Apostle John. After years of service, he would eventually be called to account for his convictions before the arena. Condemned to death, he would suffer martyrdom by beast. But this would not quench his joy, as he would gladly die for his King.

While he may have pronounced rather strong statements about the authority of a bishop, he was not an authoritarian. This was different at his time than the metropolitan bishoprics of later centuries, especially when molded and remolded around Roman governmental models. He warned against wolves, and believed the leaders of God’s people ought to lead the charge to the cross, being willing to suffer first. He would gladly say, “I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest”. For him, the bishop was the one to rally his comrades towards following Christ.

Here is the Good News from this leader of the early Church:

Our Physician is the only true God, the unbegotten and unapproachable, the Lord of all, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son. We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For “the Word was made flesh.”Being incorporeal, He was in the body; being impassible, He was in a passible body; being immortal, He was in a mortal body; being life, He became subject to corruption, that He might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts.

Media, Ignorance, and Discernment

“The Populace, [Pascal] comments, thinks that the laws exist because they are just, whereas the truth is the other way round: it is force which creates opinion and determines what is right. Coercion gives birth to consent” -Terry Eagleton

“The courage, the composure, the confidence; the emotions and principles, every great and insignificant thought belongs not to the individual but to the crowd: to the crowd that believes blindly in the irresistible force of its institutions and of its morals” -Joseph Conrad

The following quotes came to mind as I continue to watch mindless American media spouting off nonsense. Fox is the best, because it not only is chief in this entertainment-corporate-news complex, but it pretends that it is not and somehow different. I love the Orwellian labeling of “Mainstream Media”, even though Fox has the greatest ratings? Doesn’t that make Fox the mainstream? I think this whole issue is like some combination of Voltarian satire and an Aesop’s fable.

However, this all is all in connection to American corporate-governmental actions that should be horrifying. Key phrase there is should be. Not many people really care too much that the White House has the power of life and death, like Caesar of old. Not many care that Federal contracted agencies are collecting massive amounts of data. And for what reason? Security?

What baffles me the most is that Christianity paraded around as the priestly blessing on this whole enterprise. You would think that the people of Jesus, who calls Himself the Truth, would care more honesty than for security. Who would care more about martyrdom than murdering? But, alas, such is not the case. Well, it can certainly be argued, without any sort of Scotsman fallacy, that adherence to the Nation supplants any adherence to the Kingdom. But Lutherian/Magisterial 2-Kingdoms* thinking will always be sucked into prizing the secular. It’s an attempt at 2 masters, but ends up in worshiping Mammon.

But that’s not the problem, it’s that many American peoples worship, functionally, the Nation, in some capacity or idealization, and like any pagan god, it makes us vicious. Of course, this feeds off our already fallenness. I have a lot of fear deep down that makes me tense up when the threat of death approaches me. I feel my fists instinctually clench as I fantasize about potential trouble. I am still being conformed to the image of Jesus, and have a long way to go!

However, many have been deluded to consider ourselves powerful and we begin to believe the lies we tell ourselves. Coverage of so many events is so imbalanced to the point of ignorance. Edward Snowden is hardly mentioned, and Bradley Manning forgotten, yet the former is at the top of the Wanted list, and the latter rots in a jail cell. Our collective lack of an attention span and memory leads to continued bafflement of world events.

Why is ISIS beheading journalists? Maybe, in their own wicked raging, they want revenge for the forced imposition of a corrupt government upon them? Fox reported this story with a headline of ‘Barbarians’, but where was any sort of reticence to connect such actions with the American prison of Abu Ghraib? Of all the collateral damage done to Iraqis who wanted to just get on with their lives? Then there’s Syria. No one likes to be treated like a chess-piece. Thus, the geo-politics of America in the Middle East ends up reaping a whirlwind.

Americans are just like the Romans. We hold our noses high in moral outrage and indignation, proud of our morals and customs, and then when the chips fall, we’re equally, if not more, ruthless in the prosecution of our objectives. And these are my people, my customs, and my instincts. My memory is just beginning to recover, to try and understand and rethink things in a different light. Christ is my Light, Wisdom incarnate, without whom I would be able to see nothing, and be a willing agent of Babylon.

In a certain twist of Providence, America is still a free society by certain restraints and self-canceling ambitions. The rhetoric of freedom and democracy, while mostly a white-wash and cover, certainly holds back open corruption and absolute power. The ambition to be the World-Power, keeps the all-seeing NSA eye spread rather wide. There is no functioning system, the ambitions of individual men end up complicating any smooth functioning. Though they’re all worshiping the gods of Babylon, not everyone can sit on the throne. Democrats and Republicans attack each other, ironically keeping a serenity.

The system is broken, but this may be its saving grace. Madison certainly thought partisanship, balance-of-power (which is quite a funny euphemism) and faction would restrain any would be Caesar.

Or possibly, it’s all a distraction. The squabbling politicians and gawking media people creates a sports event out of national politics. At the same time, the economic-military machine still exerts itself internationally. But blowback, the most potent being the continuing effects of Arab Spring, keeps America from total hegemony. China and Russia, to name but two, are trying to present themselves as alternative friends to the American way.

Either way, God’s hand is over the whole insanity.

But as the Church, we can’t be suckered for any such thinking. Our hearts are set on the Kingdom of Heaven. We live as pilgrims here, and must not believe the lies. We must wake up. America is not the indispensable nation. America is not the last hope. America is not the city on the hill. America is not the world police. God can make a thousand Americas out of the rocks on the bottom of the ocean. The institution and its civilization is an illusion, and the comfort of many, both “christians” and atheists, is based upon nothing but a dream.

But Jesus is Lord.

*I make distinction between Magisterial 2-Kingdoms and 2 Cities, one promoted by the later Luther and many Reformers, and the latter understood by a chastened, and pessimistic, older Augustine, the Waldenses, and some Anabaptists. I have written on this before, but will write on it more in the future.

Iraq, Martyrdom, and the Whore of Babylon

I end up watching bits and pieces of Fox News, which I find detrimental for my mental capacity. I try and ignore it, most of it is rather idiotic and circus-esque. How is a bus crash, a random car explosion, or a man swimming from a crocodile actually news? It’s not, but it’s “fun” to watch. My mind feels a certain tingling of flatness, so I try and ignore it. However, today, I saw a story on the Vatican’s call for US, and international, air strikes on ISIS in Iraq.

Now, let me lay out the background and some immediate thoughts. ISIS is an organizational movement to exert an explicitly Islamic dominance. Dreams of the days of old, where there was a universal caliphate, certainly fire up not a few militant Islamic factions. Ironically, where the same idea in Syria is posited ‘freedom fighters’ against Assad, they’re ‘terrorists’ in the corrupt and collapsing Iraqi Maliki government.

ISIS,and sister militias, imbibes the same drive for an empire-Babylon as the US or China. They want to make the world in their image. They’re much more overt in attaching religious significance to their actions, they see themselves as holy warriors fighting for their god’s struggle to bring the ‘telos’ of Man. Or we could say they seek a unity in submission to Heaven’s will. Well, perhaps it’s not any more or less religious than the US or China, but more self-pronounced. Don’t be fooled. American lingo of spreading ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ carries about the same language of eschaton and human flourishing. China, despite the cracking husk of Communism, is really reasserting its ancient role as being the world power. The idea of China as the embodiment of Heaven’s will, in the reign of a dynasty, is very ancient and certainly pervades the present.

Perhaps ISIS is just more zealous and mystical than Chinese economic advance through Africa or the American surveillance superstructure and apparati across the globe. Anyway, I find them utterly repugnant and wicked, though their cause makes a certain amount of sense. I’m no fan of a propped-up, Western-lite, government of Maliki. He can’t even maintain tranquility like the reigns of Feisel and the British-backed monarchy and the formerly US backed Saddam and Baathist party. They’re also wicked (though in differing amounts).

However, the major thing is the advance of persecution upon Iraqi Christians who refuse to submit to ISIS’ attempt at unity through Islam. I am in solidarity with these Christians who have to suffer heavily beneath the hand of would-be conquerors, and I applaud their perseverance and not merely bending, and converting, to Islam. Now whether this is out of Gospel conviction and the movement of the Holy Spirit, or cultural attachment and westernisms, I don’t know. I won’t, and can’t judge, collectively. It’s probably a mixed bag of both.

However, what I find sad and pathetic is the refrain for, and the initiation of, US violence and bomb strikes across Iraq. Geo-politically, this looks somewhat akin to Vietnam, where the US is trying to retain whatever successes and at the same time keep a distance from a publicly disparaged war. Despite the hawks who call for a reinvasion, this would be too politically deleterious. Especially for Obama, who would decimate any morally high-handed rhetoric the Democrats purchased from the Bush administration’s warmongering. Of course, Obama is equally engaged in bloodshed, but he’s maintained a better image and facade over and against the war-party neo-cons who reigned for sometime unopposed.

Now I don’t know how much Iraqis, themselves, are calling for these attacks, or if there are particular vocal spokesmen among them, and whether it’s just the culturalists among them. But any public call for public witness, to despise the weapons of war, and proclaim the Prince of Peace despite the violence of men and demons, is null or quieted.

Now martyrdom is not death for death’s sake, or sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake, but a willing to proclaim the Truth, that this is Life, over and above any who seek to exert contrary, especially when sinning in murder, abuse, and torture.

Where are the shepherds and leaders of God’s people who seek to suffer with the Iraqi believers? Who trust that loving one’s enemy is the way to overcome them? That cry out for a cross-shaped vocation and discipleship? Instead I see the Vatican now deciding that US bombs, and whoever else wants to jump in, will be the means for saving the Iraqi Christians.

Perhaps it’s not just that they’re Christians, that ISIS hates them? These measures and  calls for military intervention play into militant’s arguments that these believers are just 5th column for America and the Maliki government. This is just feeding into the death cycle that won’t end and only reinforces this idea that Western presence in the Arab world is a re-invigoration of the Crusades.

At one level it’s not, but at another it is. While some Crusaders came to the Levant in some misguided quest of holiness, absolution, or fidelity, many came for the promise of riches and new land. The stories of wealth and extravagance in the East have existed in the West since the days of the Roman Republic. Many Frankish nights marveled at the towers of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, Edessa etc. as these cities dwarfed their little castle villages. The Middle East was the cross roads of many a kingdom. Spices, silk, gold, gems, fertile fields, all of these were available for those who could take them.

Today, the new prize is oil, and the geo-strategic worth of the Middle East is desired by many players. The US, British, French, and Russians have cut up and divided these lands in the past hundred years, creating states with about as much legitimacy and historical rootage as the Latin principalities a thousand years ago. Many in the Arab world see this as a replay, and wish to drive out the Christians (read European) and their sympathizers and hirelings.

For as much as Francis was touted as some sort of “radical” pope, he’s nothing different than past popes. He is utilizing violence and the means of this world in order to secure the borders of christendom. No wonder people designate Christianity as a mere sociological category. It really is for some. Strauss and Feurbach are God’s scourge upon those who distort God’s Kingdom into another Babylon.

In fact, John’s Revelation sees this phenomenon take place. It’s the Woman who whores herself to the kings of men, riding the Beast, decorated with jewels and fine clothing. This is nothing else but the Church that cozies itself to being just another function of the World. Francis should renounce his name, he’s just another Hildebrandt. Not that Rome really would ever do that; that’s her glory. She is just as haunted as during the Pagan days with demons of lusty ambition for the flesh, and the pride of life.

I know that I comfortably write this from a soft chair in a living room with lighting and no fear of being killed. Perhaps this invalidates some of my urgency and robs potency. But what if a bishop of God’s people called to be living sacrifices, literally and truly. What if there was a harkening to actually stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Iraqi Christians and refuse the demands of a neo-Caliphate without turning to the sword or to the quasi-pagan, materialistic West.

Or perhaps families and individuals ought to flee, and settle elsewhere. There’s nothing wrong in shaking off your feet, and moving elsewhere. Whether one ought to do this or not, that’s up to the particular conscience. But to call for the powers of the world to boast in Lamech’s infinite violence, while wearing the cross of Christ? This cannot be. But for a false Church, speaking with a Dragon’s voice, I suppose it makes sense.

Though it all saddens me deeply.

Robin Williams, Depression, and Emptiness

Everyone and their brother is writing about the apparent suicide of a comedic great. I liked Robin Williams, though he was always a little too spastic for me. However, his death has lit up all sorts of commentaries on why someone who seemed to have everything would throw it all away. Why a man with success, “friends”, and wealth would hang himself to death leaving a widow with three fatherless children.

I have no idea what went through his head, but the editorials I heard from Larry King was rather naive and foolish. He couldn’t believe it. Well, depression isn’t something that follows from some materialistic law-book that could easily determine whether one should be happy or sad at any moment. Of course, another comment, to merely give pep-talks every once and awhile to someone on your phone roladex was equally facile. No one wants a fake, pity call out of sort of patronizing desire to make sure everything is smooth sailing.

Robin Williams’ death was not tragic, but just empty. All clowns are sad on the inside, and why their jokes are so funny. Kierkegaard made a similar observation about poets. Let me retool it. Comics are the strange creature whose cries come as the most light and delightful commentaries. The crowd laughs. More, they say, more. That inner sadness, those twisted lips that produce jokes, they say, we wish more of it upon you!

I love comedy and joke-telling, it’s an art I regular perform. But, the slobbering demands of the mob, the raving audience, only rip apart these men. Of course the news will reel, round and round, with commentaries, commendations, crying etc. for Robin Williams. Then time will pass, and everyone will move on. Scratch that. Everyone will forget. His years will become a footnote on a wikipedia page. It’ll be old hat.

The problem is not depression. I read one commentary that said depression killed him. Not quite. There is a difference between depression and the emptiness called despair. I speak as someone with depression, though perhaps a mild case of it. Some days, internally, you are ripped to shreds. It doesn’t matter your circumstances, any thing can be a trigger that send you into a spiral.

But I’ve learned to understand that, perhaps, depression is a gift.

What killed Robin Williams is the full demands of that depression. Now I’m not going to give a mere answer that if he had Jesus in his heart, he would have been swell and fine. As pious as it sounds (and it really isn’t), it’s fairy tale junk. It’s the equivalent of Buddy Jesus from Dogma. However, despite the repudiation of the bobble-head Jesus religion of most of America, Jesus really is the only answer.

However I mean to say something a little more rugged and painful. Our Savior sweat blood in terror of the path before Him. He prayed His Father take the Cup out of His hands, a cry to be redeemed from irredeemable pit of Oblivion (a prayer that was, indeed, answered in Resurrection). Jesus was a Man of Sorrows, and carried about the tears of a Creation in chains, and a people crying. Jesus would never cease to hear Rachel weeping for her children.

The victory of Resurrection does not eradicate depression. For me, I don’t think I will ever be rid of it. It’s almost a part of me, my identity, my emotional complex, my soul. But depression does not need to lead to despair.

For any who follow Jesus and have depression, perhaps we’re called to be a sort of Holden Caufield from Catcher in the Rye. By this I mean the strange vision he has by misreading the poem. Standing in the field, catching little children before they fall off the cliff into the abyss. Being watchful the pit doesn’t swallow up.

Perhaps we’re to be perpetual valley dwellers. Beneath cracked sky, we scour the crags, caves, and cracks looking for souls in need. Yes, we may need to take shelter from the storms. When our own sadness rears up. Perhaps we’ll be in hiding for days. Maybe we’ll even have someone near by to hide with, while the terror passes over head. But on we go, searching and seeking those who do not believe the storm will ever end.

That’s the difference. Robin Williams died in the storm. His character(s) was always on. He never ceased emptying himself. But he turned not to the Man of Sorrows, who could fill him with bread in the wilderness. Just for the day. Just for the moment. The Emptiness ate him out until he was a hollowed shell that could care less for those who were subjected to seeing a bloated corpse hanging from a rope.

I pray God may indeed have mercy on Robin’s soul. Christ’s blood is for him, and may have been applied yet. Satan loves to assail, and kill us on our life’s journey, especially through these internal means.

But for us who remain, for the time we have, may we make more. May those who live in the Valley, until the Day comes for the Feast, look out for others there. May we apply the blood of the Lamb, commissioning more to go and do likewise.

Liberated for the Void: Thoughts on Anti-Christ

Nietzsche liked to style himself as the anti-Christ in his writings. He thought that the emptiness of Western Civilization was bound to eventually crumble, but not quite yet. That was the point of his parable of the crier of the Death of God. The ‘evangelist’ (this might not be the right word for it) comes shouting that God has died, and everyone in the town looks at him funny. The messenger realizes that these people, who themselves had murdered God, were not ready for the news yet. So he departs with the knowledge that his fellows were ignorant of the reality.

Nietzsche’s point was that Western Civilization, post Enlightenment, was built upon the corpse of a god. Hegel and Kant may be considered as a strange pair of morticians who arranged the god’s body in such a way so that he still looks like he’s alive and kicking. Like a sick rendition of Weekend at Bernie’s, the Philosophs know that god is no more, but they still have use for that hypothesis.The divine need to be the a priori to explain morals, ethics, civilization, culture, and the movement of history. Without this god, the West would collapse.

This is exactly what Nietzsche would hope for, but not in a death-drive, suicidal way. He thought that this destruction would clear the way for a new set of lies. Nietzsche did not believe there was anything but the void. However, while we Humans, strange as we are, remain, we might gracefully dance before Oblivion. There was no “truth”, but differing degrees of lies. We must strive for the most beautiful and majestic of the lies. We need a remolding after the likes of the heroes of Homer.

Nietzsche was sick and tired of what he called “slave morality” of Bourgeoisie Christianity. We needed fierce, cruel, and beautifully horrifying movements of passion.The industrialist Bourgeoisie were dull and life denying, which Nietzsche equated with the contents of Christianity. He wanted to liberate all our violence and passion. He wanted to be a Dionysus, awakening both ecstatic pleasure, violence, and madness. There would Eros and Thanatos, in Freudian terms, unbound.

Nietzsche ended his life in a madhouse, he drove himself insane. But why? Because his eyes were opened, but only to see the Void. He respected Christ Jesus, but he gazed into the Dark even deeper. He lost his mind in pondering what it would be like to dance before the Black Hole of Nothingness. He was free to move amongst men, and there is a certain nobility in this.

Nietzsche was wrong about what the Gospel was, and what the Church is. However, he represents an interesting point: was he anti-Christ? Or let me refine: is anti-Christ present in the lukewarmness of the evils of Sacralized and Socialized Christianity? Or is it in this turning to the Void? With eyes opened, gazing deep into the darkness and trampling the Christ beneath our feet? Or both?

I won’t answer the question, but give more thoughts to the latter. Don Draper in Mad Men represents one of these Void-Gazers. In seeing him interact, in some ways he seems to merely move through people and mores like a shade. Problems of conforming to social mores and norms never afflict him in the same way that they do to other characters. He is free from this. Even the Bohemians, which he occasionally interacts with, are shackled on the otherside of the spectrum. They war against society, but in order to reform, alter, and change it. They are looking for the flip-side of the same thing. They’re, so to speak, playing by the same set of rules.

Like Nietzsche’s anti-Christ persona, Don is free to see the emptiness that people build upon. This is not a moment of despair, but a moment to really live, to dance gracefully before the Void. Or in his words, living like no tomorrow because there isn’t one.

There is majesty in this because of the brief moment of serenity it can create. Some see the emptiness, but try and sure up the foundations. Someone like Robert E Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian, would write and lament the endless cycle of civilization and barbarism. There was space, in the moment, to fight the hordes, but for him it was hopeless. We must try, however, to preserve and last before we plummet into the primordial ooze we are shaped from. However, the liberated Void-Gazer, can breathe easy. He isn’t frantically trying to preserve his favorite myth.

The reason this person could be considered anti-Christ is because he has rejected that Christ came in the flesh. That is to say, they reject there is a concrete hope that has plummeted through the Void and returned with its key. That there is a god who is not dead, but a Living God, more mysterious and profound than even the Void, whose voice melts the very elements of Creation, and reshapes them accordingly.

The Bourgeoisie alternative may be equally damning, subjecting the Holy One to conventions and structures for the purposes of Men. This is the project of Babel, this is Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor.  Sometimes these men are busy, busy bees, other times they’re the Ciceros and Kissingers who see Nothingness, but fight to protect the city gates from the Barbarian onslaught.  Either way, they do not believe the Christ is Risen and Ascended on High.

My fondness for Don Drapers and Nietzsches is in their freedom. Sadly, we many times cannot see that the Spirit of the Lord promises that Freedom and more. Not only can we live as Pilgrims, not slaves to the systems of Men, but we can live. Our lives are not brief flutters before the Abyss. Or as Henry VIII in the Tudors described it: the brief flight of a bird through a banquet hall before returning to the English winter of Nothing. Jesus brings Life and Life Abundantly.

My personal struggle is with this Freedom. It is so very hard to live free. It is hard to keep the barnacles of the demands of this world to attach to my soul. But the truth of this freedom is love. May my, and your, heart be inflamed by love. May the Holy Spirit dawn. May we have true freedom and life, not as a Nietzsche or a Tillich.

Christ Reigns. Amen.

Blessings of Future Past

Today’s thought is on Jesus’ command to constantly ask for forgiveness. This appears all throughout many gospels, and this can seem a bit odd in light of certain considerations, such as: what about the cross?

What I’m asking is that, how many might teach it, on the cross, Jesus atoned for the sin of the world. There a forgiveness was brought about that, in its ultimacy, blotted out all crimes and wickedness. This might be tempered with considerations about the unforgiveness for the blasphemy of the Spirit. But then, this teaching came before the crucifixion. Now some have posited that the forgiveness that accompanied the healing was in light of the future event. Which is interesting for my point.

Consider also the Pauline emphasis on the once-and-for-all nature of what Jesus had done in light of the very, seemingly, contingent nature of what Jesus teaches. Paul preaches a forgiveness wrought within an event, Jesus talks about the constant need to turn towards Heaven. Is there a divergence? I do not believe certain interpretations that there were different schools of the Gospel, rather modern people might be jamming the thoughts of the Apostles into false categories.

What I’m getting at is a certain question of time and the Jesus event. There is a reality of an ‘already’ and ‘not yet’ at work in the Gospel. There seems to be a couple definitions of time, between Chronos and Kairos. The former is the regular linear progression, whereas the latter has to do with ‘age’ shifts. This is not something we’re not accustomed to consider, with the Modern age flattening out time to be a straight line. There are no breaks, there are no parallel lines, there is no intervention of timeless eternity shattering the mold.

Time is a strange concept. We can’t really ever see it. As Augustine would comment: we recall and draw up the past, we speculate about the future, but we flip in and out of the present without the slightest awareness. This is very true, time is a slippery and strange thing, if we can even call it a ‘thing’ in the first place. However, even with such impossibilities in handling time, which has rightly been likened to stand, sliding right out of our grip, it doesn’t mean time is merely subjective.

Kant would posit that time is an imposition of the Human mind upon things. This is wrong. Even if we can’t catch time, we’re effected by its passing. Despite sci-fi movies where memories are implanted, I’m skeptical about the validity of this happening. The imprint left from real, past, events is different the ethereal remains of dreams. External realities have a certain gravity to them, and though minds are involved, the mental worlds we build lack permanence. I won’t get into the epistemological knot this might pose, that’s for another day.

However, time is a creational ordinance, even if we’re promised an ‘age’ or a ‘world’ without end. It’s immortality, perhaps like our resurrected bodies and souls, is conditional upon the Creator who made such realities. While some philosophers, akin to the Greek fables of old, posited time as eternal, that old man Chronos sat with his hour glass alongside Terra Firma. The Pagans, whether ancient or modern, believed created things to be gods. Yet the Truth would still have its day, and Einstein, among others, would posit and show proofs that time, while real, was conditional and flexible. Time was not universally the same. I’m not really sure what this even means.

Why I’m talking about time is how it links up with how we consider the events of Golgotha for ourselves. Why do we ask for forgiveness if we’ve already received it? Or have we? Or are we?

The question revolves around how God interacts with time, and the reality is we haven’t even a clue. It’s like a fish trying to describe what being in outer-space is like. Perhaps the swirling repetitions in John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ can give us a glimpse. Time seems to repeat the same story, through many different angles, stopping to explain this, speeding up to the next point, going backwards. It sounds rather authorial, an art of sculpting. But we don’t know, not really.

One of the major themes for Paul, and even the whole of the Scriptures’ writers, is that the Messiah changed everything. In Jesus Christ, there is a whole new world, a whole new creation. This is a break in the Human times we’re used to. The death, resurrection, and ascension of the Christ, which did indeed occur in our chronos, was the Time, the kairos, where something new began. Yet things keep on going. This is the already/not-yet I mentioned.

But are they really just going on? Yes and No. In Christ, there is a new world, a hope for reconciliation, whereas those living beneath the aegis of the Old continue on. For the New, there is everlasting life, boundless love, and the increasing growing into our Lord. For the Old, there is alienation and obliteration; the Creation disintegrating into the formless mass that it began as. In Jesus, we see the New at work, but all around us, the Old screams that it is all that it is.

However, as we see Jesus, we see that we’ve not received what He received. The dead still lay dead. However, perhaps, in Jesus, the promise is so sure, we live in hope, in confidence, of things we do not have, but are promised to us. We are not yet justified, but because Christ was justified, declared not to be the guilty blasphemous worm that the powers that be marked Him as, we who are with Him will be as well. The Future has not yet come, but it has come. In Christ, the Future for us has reached back to all our Presents.

But it has not yet come. We ask the Lord to forgive us, because we are not yet forgiven. But in confidence, in asking for forgiveness, we know it is bestowed upon us. Christ is the forgiveness of all sins. We ask because we know. In such a forgiveness, we will be justified and sanctified. But such hasn’t happened yet, but the Holy Spirit has placed such a mark. The Promise is carved into our new hearts, hearts cut from the same Holy Heart of our Lord, not made of stone.

Many times our prayers seem uncertain, and we must ask in humility for God’s will to be done. But in the cosmic sense, we know God’s will. His name is Lord Jesus. We can continue to utter muddled prayers for this and that with confidence. His life is our future.