Getting Back to Outside-of-Spacetime Normal

 

“Elsewhere on the Las Vegas Strip, things appeared to go back to normal quite quickly.”  -Quote from a Oct. 4th, 2017 Daily Mail post

 

“I am please asking your prayers for the late 13 year old J— T—— and for his family and friends. J—, a neighbor of ours passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, Oct. 3rd. J— was a smart, kind young man. He went through a lot of pain in his short life. May J— be surrounded with God’s unconditional love and may God lift J—’s family and friends up at this time. Give them peace, comfort, and spiritual healing over the loss of their family member and friend.”

-a recent prayer request from a church’s prayer email list

~~~

Whether be it hurricanes, floods, tornados, mass killings, local armed robberies (my town) and the loss of a child, there are life-events that seem to come out of nowhere. And, they are beyond our control. There are also cause-and-effect circumstances that follow from our own actions. These consequences often situate us in a place beyond our control. After any such occurrences, whether thrust upon us or resultant, it becomes clear to us that there is no going back to before. One passes through an event horizon* after which things will never be the same.

Those in the world who experience any of the above will likely face the situation initially with shock, hurt and outrage and then, as some time passes, turn to a “let’s return to normal” Epicurean palliative mind set -“the show must go on”. Later, they may turn off their feelings altogether within a Stoic apathy, especially if life-events ‘pile’ up. The cycle of indifference then ‘piles’ up until “action must be taken”.

After a horrific event most will seek a motive when great harm is done to others. They will ask “Why?” because they want to discover the means to stop all pain in this life, pain which so often comes home with them. A Christian will view the events from a Kingdom of God perspective, one which is Outside of Spacetime Normal.

“I am persuaded, you see, that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor the present, nor the future, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in King Jesus our Lord.” -Paul’s letter to the Roman church, 8: 38-39

Those of us who call Jesus “Lord” are being conformed to the image of the Alpha and Omega, the One who is outside of spacetime ‘normal’. As such, we are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) and are summoned to do the work of a priest – stand between heaven and earth and intercede for the world. We are to take the hurt, the pain, the sufferings and the groanings of the world and bring it to the Father and to do so without ceasing.

Maybe you have witnessed the following in your spirit. I have come to understand, after 55 years of a relationship with the Lord, that the Holy Spirit is constantly in conversation with the Father and the Son through me. The Spirit is constantly interceding. I am made continually aware of those around me. I lift them to the Lord. In my spirit I hear the cries of thousands who are hurting. When I see news reports of disasters – natural and manmade – I pray in the Spirit. Most times I do not have words. The Spirit, helping me in my weakness, prays through my very limited understanding.

“…the spirt comes alongside and helps us in our weakness. We don’t know what to pray for as we ought to; but the same spirit pleads on our behalf, with groanings too deep for words. And, the Searcher of Hearts knows what the spirit is thinking, because the spirit pleads for God’s people according to God’s will.”  -Paul’s letter to the Roman church, 8: 26-27

For some, prayers begin with a “Why?” and end up with “How could you let this happen?”

For followers of Jesus our often-wordless intercessions begin with, “How long, Sovereign Lord Jesus?” and end with “Come Lord Jesus. Maranatha.”

 

~~~

*event horizon is a boundary in spacetime, the shell of “points of no return”. Nothing inside the event horizon can ever cross the boundary and escape beyond it, including light. Nothing that enters a black hole can get out or can be observed from outside the event horizon.

Marginalizing Truth…

 

…to Fit Around One’s Agenda

Below, a recent Tweet by the same Jesuit priest referred to in my previous post. James Martin, as he often does, redefines the Gospel so as to frame the #LGBT as “intersectional” (I’m using a popular SJW word) with those who may be on the fringe of society – in other words, those deemed as being over-looked and under-loved. The LGBT’s one-of-a-kind “trials”, he posits, must be considered independently and also, curiously, in relation to others who have suffered some…thing.

Martin is seeking to brand himself as the patron saint of gays. He may well succeed with his populist mission in the venue of the Catholic church. Know that he will be held accountable for his use of the Gospel as a means to an end.

Here are my replies to his Tweet:

And…

1/Jesus’ encounter w/Zacchaeus (whose name means “pure”; a chief tax-collector) reveals the POWER OF GOD to redeem a man’s life…

2/3-Zacchaeus completely repents: he finds that the Kingdom of God is worth more to him than riches & power. Read the full account: (Luke 19:1-10)

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+19:1-10&version=NIV

3/3-Jesus’ encounter w/Paul on the Damascus road is another example of the life changing POWER OF GOD affecting those who have power over others

 Added 10-8-2017:

As I have said, the LGBT are self-marginalizing: (Caution vulgar and repulsive language)

As recorded in the four Gospels and also in the Book of Acts, Jesus and his Apostles encounter those in power and those under the influence of power. Jesus and his Apostles redefine power in every instance.  In so doing they proclaim the Lordship of Jesus the Christ and introduce them to the Kingdom of God on earth. More about this in a subsequent post.

And Nothing but the Whole Elephant

 

Jesus said to them, “If the world hates you, know that it hated me before you. If you were from this world, the world would be fond of its own. But the world hates you for this reason: that you’re not from the world. No: I chose you out of the world.” John’s gospel account 15: 18-19

~~~

From the many conversations I have had on Twitter, the word on the street is that “God is love and is all about love. We love, so we are doing what God accepts.” So, where does the world’s hate come in?

The hate spoken of in John’s gospel is generated by a protection of one’s place in the world against “outsiders”. Over and over again I have had that hatred and vitriol directed at me on Twitter. I cannot show you the Tweet replies. They are vulgar and pernicious. The replies come from a place beneath this world.

The hate-filled replies occur when I say something other than what is considered loving by those protecting their place in the world. Replies are derived from a worldview. And, one’s worldview depends on whether you accept being called out of this world knowing that that those in the world will hate you or if you are in this world for its approbation:

Called-Out Ones worldview: “For God so loved the world, that He gave…”

Social Justice Warrior (SJW) worldview: “For the world so loved me, when I…”

In order to make the world-accepted SJW worldview sustainable, mainstream churches create a Jesus who is palatable, marketable, consumable and renewable. The ministers do this by parsing Scripture into love notes. Their resultant Scripture messages, whether in a sermon or in a blog or on Twitter, remind me of a bag Valentine Sweethearts – candy hearts.

These churches promote “inclusion” because in a consumer-driven society, choice of how you live, choice of what you accept and who you accept, choice of right and wrong-choice becomes the ultimate approbation in this world.

~~~

Coming to a church near you: a populist theology which promotes the acceptance of the gay lifestyle, universal health care and illegal immigration all as works of Christian charity from the pulpits of body-of-Christ-divisive politics (race, gender, class, sexuality, etc.). This populist theology uses the high-sounding term “social justice” so as to neutralize detractor’s objections and to force a consensus, a groupthink around the premise of political correctness redefined as God’s love.

I encounter this populist theology every day now. If you are on Twitter “fighting the good fight”, you may receive the same replies from Catholics that I did. They go something like this:

1.       “God is love. I know many committed gay couples who love each other.”

2.      “Jesus never talked about sexuality or homosexuality, therefore it is a non-issue. If Jesus was concerned about homosexuality he would have said something.”

3.      “Jesus is about loving your neighbor. Jesus is not judgmental. Jesus is fully accepting, inclusive. He’s about loving the homosexual. Who are we to judge?” (from Pope Francis’, “Who am I to judge?”).

4.      “Loving your neighbor means universal healthcare. You are not charitable if you are against universal healthcare. You must be a Conservative who hates people.”

5.      “Jesus and Paul are not the same. Jesus is love and Paul is rules. Jesus is universal love. Paul, on the other hand, is a picayune fundamentalist and fundamentalists are authoritarians. Jesus would say “Live, love, eat, pray and let live.”

6.      “Jesus is social justice. He talked about helping the poor. Dorothy Day is a hero. Many of our heroes are beatified saints, saints who did good deeds while alive. Jesus demands good works from us. “Faith without works is dead”.”

7.      “Women are talking in church. Women are being ordained. Scripture is being updated and should be inclusive of homosexuality, as well.”

 

My first thought when I encountered these replies: “The Catholic church has done great harm to its charges by not teaching the whole of Scripture, the whole council of God.” Scripture has been defined down to a constructed abstraction of Jesus’ words.

One of the main reasons the populist theology has taken root in the Catholic and all (yes, all) of the mainline churches, I believe, is the lack of Scripture knowledge coupled with a deficit of personal faith-history. Deism is pervasive in the church: “God and His Word are far away from reality and not relevant to what I am experiencing”; “You don’t understand same-sex attraction. You can’t change me so, accept me for what I am.”

Post-modernist pop-theologians rightly question history and what has been passed down through millennia but without a sufficient regard for and knowledge of the discipline of the study of history – factual non-repeatable events. Their pick-and-choose history approach leads to utter confusion about who Jesus is, what happened the first century and to whether or not Jesus even existed. I have witnessed such dissociative history making on Twitter. Such groping at history and at Scripture reminds me of the Indian parable of the blind men and the elephant: each of the blind men encounter a different part of the elephant (trunk, tail, etc.) and then return home and proceed to project their ‘understanding’ of the elephant as the elephant while claiming the other five blind men must be mistaken. Blind_men_and_elephant2

Populist theology also has historical Leftist ties (“Unconstrained vision” is the term used by Economist Thomas Sowell to define the philosophy of the Left). Political philosopher Jean-Jacque Rousseau wrote, “man is born free, but is everywhere in chains.” Another philosopher, Marquis de Condorcet, believed that men in their natural state with a “natural inclination” would seek out the social good. For them, man’s nature was not the problem. Rather, institutions needed to be reformed so that man’s better nature would come out. Hence, pop-theology presses for reforms: the church must be reformed to help men to realize their better nature. “We are so much smarter now,” is the inference.

Enter the church’s “social justice” moment. And the “social justice” proffered is done under the guise of the common good but it is in reality a narrowing of focus down to subjective individual rights and individual happiness, in parallel with what is happening politically in Europe and the U.S. currently. The “common” part of their “common good” are those who share the same self-directed interests. Others must conform to their self-interests for the common good.

My second thought after reading the above replies: “It is time for another reformation – putting the Bible (again) into people’s hands and teaching them how to read it for themselves.”

It would seem that many of the above respondents view Scripture through the lens of a post-modern Epicurean Catholic world view, a worldview which replaces historical narrative (in this case, derived from the “faith once delivered”) with a relevant “social gospel” or populist theology promulgated as authentic Christianity. And with little knowledge of Scripture many Catholics are ‘falling’ for what they have been taught by the top-down government and media of the Catholic church and its social justice-primed priesthood.

When they do (see replies above) they end up with a Jesus who is fantasy blend of Dorothy Day, Ghandi, Mr. Rogers and a Democrat with a Jesus bleeding heart – an ends-justifies-the-means person. In other words, they end up not with a literal historical Jesus, but rather a figurative Jesus and one disposed to making you and your world feel good about doting on yourself. And, if you can get other people to dish out love and charity and “understanding” and, most importantly, cash, then you have done right by pseudo-Jesus.

Every self-designated Catholic I have encountered on Twitter appears to know little or nothing of Scripture. For them, it seems, raw Scripture, ‘unrefined’ by the Catholic priesthood, seems to be tied to evangelicals who are considered fundamentalists and therefore, presumptively, not connected with their Jesus’ all-assuming love. What they know and repeat is what a priest or Jesuit tells them, and their reply is usually about social justice, a catch-all for not being judged but for being loved.

Without making this post too long, here are some of my quick replies to the above points. Feel welcome to add yours in the comment section below.

1.      The plea bargaining “God is Love” defense is foiled when you define love, not in terms of codependence and sexuality, but as desiring the ultimate good for another. This of course leads to a definition of what is good. I reply with Jesus’s request of the Father, “Set them apart for yourself in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

2.   When someone says that Jesus never talked about homosexuality I remind them that Jesus’s mission was to the lost sheep of Israel, the ones who were supposed to be “a light to the Gentiles”. The Israelites knew the law, the Torah. The law forbids homosexuality. This was common knowledge in the first century. Jesus did not need to repeat it. Paul, on the other hand, an apostle to the Gentiles did need to speak about the matter (e.g., Rome, Ephesus, etc. had temples to pagan gods which involved all manner of sexual immorality.)

3.   Here we have justification by plea bargain. Jesus prays for his own that they will be sanctified, separate – taken “out of the world” worldview.

4.      If you know Scripture then you know that Jesus did not heal everyone in the world during his earthly time. He told us that we can do the same and greater things than he has done when filled with the spirit. Beyond the fact of outright healing, there is the matter of personal healthcare. Universal healthcare replaces a person’s personal responsibility for their health with a non-caring impersonal government bureaucracy. This costly tax-payer bureaucracy will need to control your behavior, your paycheck and the doctor’s practice to control costs. As such, it is loving to not desire socialized coverage.

5.      When I hear someone say that Jesus is Gospel and Paul is not relevant I remind them that Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus. In the fullness of time Jesus encountered Paul. I remind them that Paul right then and there became an eyewitness of Jesus and therefore an apostle. I remind them that Jesus sent Paul to be Jesus to the Gentiles – the heathen, the pagans, the unclean. I tell them that Paul wrote the theology of the newly established Kingdom of God on earth in his letters to the infant churches.

6.      I remind them that the gospel is “Jesus is Lord”. All else falls in line and in order under this proviso:  salvation, sanctification (called out of the world) and then social gospel (to affect the world under the direction of the Kingdom’s Lord.)

When Jesus tells the rich man “Sell all you have and give it to the poor” we understand the means to the rich man’s salvation: renunciation of his coveting relationship of wealth- a relationship which came between Jesus and the rich man, sanctification (separation from the love of his money and the hold it had on him) and then faith with works – a complete detachment from self-preservation- giving his wealth to the poor, a product of the new Kingdom focus.

7. Women vs. gay acceptance and Scripture: I remind them that there is a difference between culturally defined and morally defined. There is a difference between cultural practice and culturally-imposed taboos and doctrinal principles and God-directed temperantia-God’s ordered structure for the being of man. Paul wrote about the former in his letters to the church at Corinth. Anything perceived as ambiguous was directed back to a person’s Holy-Spirit directed conscious.

 

It is no secret that the Evil One’s mission from the very beginning is to ask, “Did God really say you couldn’t…?”

Pop-theology proposes to modernize and conform the church to be a welcoming inclusive place for whatever the prevailing winds of PC doctrine bring to the church’s door step. Be it known:  the called-out ones – the ecclesia – will remain faithful under the Lordship of Jesus.  The churches that wallow in the world will have their candlestick taken away. In the dark their mutual admiration society will be left grappling with elephant parts.

 

 

Added 10-4-17:

Gulpture in the Park

 

“… Abstraction came about through the ever-narrowing focus of aesthetic gaze.

The post-modern offshoots of abstract art may seem to be engaged in the same artistic project; but the appearance is, it seems to me, deceptive. Post-modern abstraction is really construction, in which abstract elements are combined ab initio, and without reference to the natural forms and perceptions which might have endowed them with meaning…. Their purpose is to glorify the sovereign role of the artist, who shifts and arranges them as would a child playing with colored blocks…The result has been a sudden narrowing of the artistic intention, and a launching of post-modern art towards bombast and doodling by turns.”

-Roger Scruton, An Intelligent Persons’ Guide to Modern Culture, Chapter Eight

~~~

Over many months now, during my morning contemplative walks in a local park, I have encountered objets d’déclin. Mother Earth needed tattoos to be in vogue.

A gaggle of local apparatchiks of post-modern persuasion decided at some point that nature’s exhilarating beauty-a body of narrative to be read over and to reflect on-should be forever ‘inked’ with the flippant constructionism of various ‘artists’.

The local approvers and inciters of inhuman aesthetics have ‘carnivalized’ a local nature preserve, a park and a paradise infused with wildflowers along a river, where, along such “springs in the valleys” (Psalm 104) “The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.” No matter, though. By so doing, the self-appointed culture-mongers can connote their relevance and earn self-aggrandizement brownie points with the community.

Pictures at an Exhibition:

Entrance to St. Mary’s Park

PM Art vs. Tree Planted in Memoriam

Nature’s Way

Nature Sculpts

 

Nature Revealed in Sculpture

And, “Do Not Feed Post-Modern Artists”

The last photo, a #LGBT advert, fits the theme: the ‘carnivalizing’ of nature and nature’s compliment, Scripture. More about this in the next post.

The Life of the Party

 

The office of the Director of Behavioral Management Services (BMS), Social Sciences Division, Administration Building No. 1 of 20, Government Dept. of Social Services, Godwin Ave., Washington D.C.:

A knock on the door.

A voice from inside, “Come in.”

“Life Coach Tidd reporting sir.”

“How did it go today, Tidd? Have a seat.”

“Thank you, sir.” Tidd takes a seat.

“It went well I believe. This morning I coached client Xym to continue his lifestyle. He was questioning whether his former church would accept him. I told him, ‘No matter, this government accepts you as you are. You are free to be yourself. If you are not yourself you will be unhappy. And our mission at Behavioral Management Life Coach Services is to pursue happiness with you, the client. Happy clients are the best advertisement tax dollars can buy.’ Xym seemed relieved.

My ten o’clock client, a youth pastor, I once again had to remind him of our Uniform Behavior Code which must be presented weekly to the youth. He was more than a little hesitant…”

“Remind him, Tidd, about our Universal Morals Seminars. Sounds like he needs a refresher course. We must teach our youth to be nice, pleasant, respectful. We teach them self-improvement and doing one’s best, and feeling good about oneself…and all that. We must form our youth while we can, before any thoughts of You Know Who enters the picture.

Let me remind you, Tidd, that our core mission is to generate self-happiness. We want our clients to feel good about themselves. You Know Who is not particularly interested in our daily problems. That is why we are here, Tidd. We are here for them. We are inclusive and You Know Who is not. We listen, we coach, we improve the life process for each and every one of our clients. And we do it for free!”

“Sir, this youth pastor asked me if I knew about grace. I said of course I did. I watch Will and Grace.”

“Excellent response, Tidd. Keep redirecting his thinking. We must deconstruct any inherited meaning so that we can construct what the people want constructed today, here and now. And besides, it makes no sense for this youth pastor to get all mucked up with some ancient spiritual mumbo jumbo when our Moral Code is so…so relevant and compassionate. Religion is values. But we are a values organization based on settled social science. Keep in mind that we Life Coaches are precursors to our clients in the discovery of truth. No savior from on high delivers like we do. ”

“So true, Sir. Sir, I also talked to Anna, you know the one, the feminist. I encouraged her to go ahead and write her article laying out the case for women in the work place to be promoted every two years. I told her that she is a wondrously talented person who has been sinfully suppressed by males running a patriarchal system and that the feminine had been imposed upon her by superior forces and reinforced by a culture of romance in art and literature. You should have seen her swoon.”

“Good work, Tidd. You remind me of myself when I life coached in the field.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Tidd, I am going to promote you. But before I do I want you to attend the “Cultivate the Imperial Self” training course. It is mandatory for all level three Life Coaches. The training will give you a chance to brush up on yourself. You will also learn how to do consciousness raising and how to cultivate indignation and righteous resentment and to have both directed at metanarratives. In other words, there will no longer be one voice. Also, as part of the training you will learn how to make your clients suspicious of any written word and how to liberate language from the shackles of dictated meaning. And, critical to our mission, you will learn how to build consensus among our clients. Consensus building insures our client’s happiness. The more “Likes” the better, and all that.

Before the end of the week, Tidd, let me know if any of your clients want individual rights. As you know they must fill out an application first and then I will talk to the Department of Rights. They usually issue guaranteed SCOTUS honored rights in a matter of five business days. It sounds like your client Anna needs a right to be promoted every two years. Let me know about that one. Janet, the head of our Rights on Demand Department -Rodd – will ram it through for you. Get my gist, Tidd?”

“Yes, sir, and quite funny at that, if I may say so. Thank you, sir.”

‘In any case, individual rights are the wellspring of our organization. Without them where would we be? Hand them out freely. But remember to tell them what equality says, “No rights without their duties.”

“Yes, sir. And, before I go, here is my list of follow-up appointments.”

“You are coming to the dinner tonight, Tidd, aren’t you?”

“Oh, yes, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“Good. See you there.”

 

Later that night:

“Life Coach F.E. Tidd we are awarding you the 2017 Pat ‘Em on the Head Kick ‘Em in the Ass Achievement Medal for Life Coaching Excellence.

 

 

 

 

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2017, All Rights Reserved

A Local Sighting, Part Two

 

Part One: Local Sighting

Part Two

 

You’ve just left the pool of Siloam. Your face is washed. Your eyes sparkle. And this time you are leading you mother. You find your way back to your neighborhood with familiar sounds and smells and now with fresh sights connecting the dots through firing synapses. You are almost there and you detect hubbub at the corner of Market St. And Way St.

Your neighbors, gathered, buzzing, are waiting for you. They want to see if you can see. But, they can’t believe their own eyes when you approach leading your mother and you are not hesitating with each step.

There’s a shout. “Isn’t this the man who used to sit here and beg? This is the corner Market St. and Way St., isn’t it?”

“Yes, and yes, it’s sure looks like him,” someone shouts.

“No, it isn’t!” another man shouts back. It’s got to be somebody else. These kinds of things don’t happen, not where I’m from anyway.”

As you approach the crowd you motion with your hand and say, “Yes, it’s me. Here’s my cup.”

“Well, then,” the one from out of town asks you, “how did your eyes get opened?”

“Those around me told me it was the man called Jesus! He made some mud. Then he spread it on my eyes. Then he sent me off to the pool of Siloam to wash. So, I went, and washed, and now I can see! I can see you.”

“And, we see you, but where is Jesus?” several ask you.

“I don’t know. I don’t know where to look. I’m new at this.”

Some men, eyewitnesses in fact, who were scandalized by the fact that Jesus may have broken some particular law on the sabbath, took you to the Pharisees for some jot and tittle questioning. The Pharisees had you start again:

“He put mud on my eyes and I washed, and now I can see!” You looked at them and saw their disbelief. Under your breath you said, “Ignoring reality will not go well for you.”

But they did and it did not go well.

Some of the Pharisees could no longer keep silent. “This man can’t be from God. He doesn’t keep the sabbath!”

Others said, “Yes, but, how can a sinner do signs like these?”

And so, the fact that you could now see had partys of Pharisees seeing things differently.

So, they questioned you again. This time they questioned the genesis of your sight.

“What have you got to say about him? they asked. He opened your eyes after all.”

“He’s a prophet,” you replied. You say Jesus is a prophet because unquestionable good is sent from God.

Doubting Judeans in the kangaroo court didn’t believe that you really had been blind from birth and now could see. So, they called your parents and grilled them.

“Is this man really your son,” they asked, “the one you say was born blind? How is it that he now sees?”

“Well, “replied your parents, who were very concerned about their synagogue status, “we know this he is indeed our son, and that he was born blind, but we don’t know how it is that he can now see, and we don’t know who it was who opened his eyes. Ask him! He’s a grown up. He can speak for himself.”

You knew that your parents knew how you came to see. You knew why they were holding back. They were afraid of what the leaders of the community would think of this yet inexplicable event. You also knew that you were blind from birth and that you were no longer sightless and that someone sent from God applied mud to your utter darkness. Reality would have to be dealt with at some point.

So, perhaps hoping to trip you up, you were called in for a second time of questioning. Some said the sabbath had been broken by Jesus-he did the unthinkable!

“Give God the glory!” they said. “We know that this man is a sinner.”

“I don’t know whether he’s a sinner or not,” you replied. (You never claimed to be able to see into a man’s motives.) “All I know is this: I used to be blind, and now I can see.”

Incredulous, they prodded you again, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

(At this point you recalled the story of Elisha’s servant: Elisha had prayed, “Open my servant’s eyes, LORD, so that he may see.” The LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and the servant looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. “Don’t be afraid,” Elisha told his servant. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”)

Unafraid, you respond, “I told you already and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again?” With a new-found gleam in your eye you decide to throw a hot coal into the inquiry. “You don’t want to become his disciples too, do you?”

“You’re his disciple,” they scoffed, “but we are Moses’s disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses, but we don’t know where this man comes from.”

“Well, here’s a fine thing!” you replied. “You don’t know where he’s from, and he opened my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners; but if anyone is devout, and does his will, he listens to them. It’s never, ever been heard of before that someone should open the eyes of a person born blind. If this man isn’t sent from God, he couldn’t do anything.”

Rattled to the core, the Pharisees denounced you: “You were born in sin from top to toe. You are going to start teaching us?” They threw you out so as to not to be defiled in the sight of God or man. Jesus did the opposite.

Jesus heard that you had been thrown out. He found you at the corner of Market and Way streets talking to your neighbors. He walked up to you and asked,” Do you believe in the son of man?”

Scanning the face of Jesus, you reply, “Who is he, sir, so that I can believe in him?”

 

“You have seen him. In fact, it is the person who is talking to you.”

Now it seemed that all of your brain synapses were firing at once. And this came out of your mouth, “Yes, sir, I do believe.”

You fall to your knees and give God the glory. No one demanded it from you, you wanted to worship the son of man, the one sent from God, the giver of light.

Jesus looked down at you and then around at your neighbors and spectators and said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who can’t see would see, and that those who can see would become blind.”

Some of the spectators were Pharisees, the self-styled purveyors of “a light to the Gentiles”. They heard what Jesus said to the crowd. Indignant, they retorted, “So! We’re blind too, are we?” They weren’t expecting a Kingdom of God inversion, one that would turn their world upside down.

“If you were blind,” replied Jesus, “you wouldn’t be guilty of sin. But now, because you say, ‘We can see,’ your sin remains.

The Pharisees walked off in a huff. The crowd, in wonder, remained around you until sunset.

 

The next morning your father wakes you up. “C’mon. Get up. Now that Jesus has put things right for you there is work to be done. But first, come and see the sunrise.”

 

~~~

The above account is found in the Gospel of John chapter nine. My retelling of the account has been embellished. The scripture passages are referenced from, “The Kingdom New Testament, A Contemporary Translation”, N.T. Wright (I highly recommend this NT translation over the NIV or any other translation.)

A Local Sighting, Part One

 

You were born the same year as Jesus. Thirty-one years later you are a beggar, a blind beggar at the corner of Market St. and Way St.

When you were born cataracts covered your little dark eyes. No one knew how to remove them. No one dared. “God has ordained this”, the neighbors whispered.

The neural construction of your visual cortex at the back of your brain did not develop.  You received no visual inputs. You could not see your mother’s face during the first nine months of your life. Photons came and went unnoticed. You would not see “the heavens declare the glory of God”.

By twenty-six weeks you could perceive sound within your mother’s womb. By thirty weeks you could respond to the sound of tambourines at a wedding. While neurons were still migrating to their assigned location you could differentiate sounds. You began to learn through sound and touch.

After you were born, in the absence of visual stimulation, your brain reorganized the almost one-quarter of your brain devoted to visual image processing toward high-level cognitive functions:  language processing, memory function and auditory abilities greater than those of sighted persons. You were born blind but now your hearing is acute, able to hear the slightest echo off a nearby object.

You heard feet shuffling by. You heard whispering and gossip. You heard people talking about a man called Jesus who does great wonders in the name of God and yet the Judeans wanted to stone him. You wondered what sight would be. You had felt your mother’s face and a donkey’s snout. Texture and sound. His mother’s voice, a donkey’s bray and his father’s exhausted return home at the end of the day.

On the Sabbath you sing the words of a Psalm:

“Search for the Lord and his strength; continually seek his face.”

The synagogue leader asks you, one of ten men required for public worship, to hold the scrolls open, one for the law and one for the prophets, as he reads them to the gathered.

You hear the prophet Isaiah read:

“In the time of my favor I will answer you,     and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you     to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land     and to reassign its desolate inheritances,  to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’     and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!

Then the scrolls are closed. There is prayer and then synagogue leader speaks. “The time of the Messiah’s appearance must be very near. When he comes he will throw off the shackles these Roman tyrants have placed on us and set his people free. Then, and only then, can we be a light to the Gentiles.” One of the men bestows a blessing on the gathered and they leave.

At festival time, as you travel along the road to Jerusalem, you are told about the Roman crucifixions. But the telling is nothing compared to the sounds you hear. Women are wailing, whips crack and anguished voices cry out for mercy. The repetitious hammering brings jolting screams and then moans and then almost utter silence as you walk past cross after cross. Your mother is crying inside her shawl and your father says “We must take comfort in the hope of the Messiah”.

 

One day the weight of a drachma hits the bottom of your cup. You are about to say “thank you” when you smell fish and hear a brusque Galilean accent.

“Teacher, whose sin was it that caused this man to be born blind? Did he sin, or did his parents?

The sounds of crucifixion come rushing back. You say to yourself, “They are talking about me and my family. What do they see that I don’t? And, who is this Teacher?”

“He didn’t sin, “replied another Galilean voice, “nor did his parents. It happened so that God’s works could be seen in him. We must work the works of the one who sent me as long as it’s still daytime. The night is coming, and nobody can work then! As long as I am in the world, I’m the light of the world.”

You tell yourself, “Night is when our family sleeps.” You scrunch up against the wall, hoping all this talk will pass you by.

But then someone spits. You hear the crowd murmur. Suddenly you realize that someone is touching your eyes and you put your hand up feel. There is a hand applying wet dirt to your eyes.

“Off you go”, says the Galilean. “I am sending you to wash in the pool of Siloam.”

You struggle to your feet. You reach for your walking stick and your cup. Your eyes, and now your head, feel weird.  “This is like a dream. Could this be night? Could I be sleeping?”, you ask yourself.

Your mother grabs your arm and tells you that Jesus has done this. Almost running she pulls you toward the pool of Siloam. You stumble along wondering what is going on in your head. You don’t understand that resources are being reallocated from sound processing to sight processing.

You stop. Your mother, out of breath, tells you to wash your face. You feel for the water and begin to splash your face. You splash more and more water on your face. Each time you do there is a change: as mud comes off it is replaced by a glow and then by a brightness that hurts your eyes. The glare of the sun’s reflection in the pool blinds you for a moment but you welcome it. You turn toward your mother’s voice and then you trace her wide-eyed smile for the first time with your eyes. You tell her that you can see her. She screams with delight. “We must go back,” she says. And so, you return to the corner of Market St. and Way St. where your neighbors are waiting.

 

To be continued…

 

What’s Not to Wonder?

The Earth is the Lord’s- Horicon Marsh, WI ©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

“…Cynicism and sentimentality are two ways in which things of value are demoted to things with a price.

“To understand this we need to make a distinction between fantasy and imagination. Both fantasy and imagination concern unrealities; but while the unrealities of fantasy penetrate and pollute the world, those of the imagination exist in a world of their own, in which we wander freely and in full knowledge of the really real…Fantasy covets the gross, the explicit, the no-holds-barred display of the unobtainable; and in the crisis of display the unobtainable is vicariously obtained.”

-Roger Scruton, Chapter 6, Fantasy, Imagination and the Salesman, An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture

~~~

One aspect I derive out of the above quote is that there is a Wow! that is not wonder. Fantasy, I’ll label here as “the Wow! that is not wonder”, intrudes on our daily life. We allow it to. We do so, I believe, out of a boredom with life, a boredom sustained by a laziness which suppresses the exercise of curiosity that develops a healthy awe and wonder. In the place of applying oneself to reaching higher and beyond one’s self is down and dirty titillation’s instant gratification. Those in the thrall of fantasy, the “walkers”, need a constant diet of fresh fantasy to devour. Philosopher Scruton, in the same chapter as the above quote, provides an example of the “imaginary object which leaves nothing to the [ethical-life sustaining] imagination”. He offers a comparison, noting the queue outside Madams Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London and the queue outside the National Gallery:

 “No effort of the imagination is required to understand a wax work. It stands amid the wash of easy sentimentality, and is never eroded. It is the paradigm fantasy object; absolutely lifelike, and absolutely dead. Through the work of art, by contrast, we encounter a world of real, vulnerable and living people, which we can only enter by an effort of the imagination, where we, like they, are on trial.”

We are content to sit in front of a TV and to be mesmerized by Computer Generated Images. Comic book superheroes smash all sorts of bad guys and save the planet from other bizarre characters gone bad. Apocalypses of every kind, from earth-colliding meteorites to earthquakes to tsunamis to you-name-it-complete-devastation, is served up in order to rivet the audience to a we-are-in-this-together shared fantasy. The intruders we allow into our dumbed down subconscious also include impossible driving-on-the-edge-car chases, extreme violence, explicit pornography, perverse lewdness, vulgarity, cheapness and a host of other “for sale” excitations “walkers” must purchase to feed on.

As a follower of Christ in the Kingdom of God on earth, I fully expect unbelievers, the walking dead, to feed on Epicurean pleasures. What I don’t expect is that Christians, those alive in Christ, doing the same. When Christians purchase with Kingdom resources and live on food which does nourish the imagination, the world sees no difference between fantasy and imagination or, more importantly, between Christian and the walking dead.

This past year I have written posts attempting to prod those in the Kingdom of God towards awe and wonder. I see the Christian’s neglect in exercising his or her imagination and its required disciplined study of the surrounding cosmos as deplorable. There is so much in the universe that awaits our discovery, yet, we are content to feel something, be it raw excitement, instant righteous anger, CGI generated hope, blithe sentimentality and more, in our increasing moments of boredom

How can one be bored? God has given us two books: Nature and Scripture. There is so much to explore in both. There are mysteries that need discovery by you. And, if you think you know Scripture because you know the four spiritual laws and a few verses which look nice on pictures of cute animals, think again.

Almost daily, as I engage in Twitter, I come across those who question the existence of God. I debate them with a desire not to ‘win’ the argument but to impart knowledge which I hope and pray leads the atheist and the agnostic to question their position and to look further. To debate them I have to study aspects of Scripture, science, philosophy. I have to be well-read.

As I debate there are typically no other Christians who jump in to augment the case for Christ. If they do it is usually with Scripture which is tangential to and not on the point being discussed. In other words, where are the Christians? Vacationing on Fantasy Island? “The harvest is great, but the laborers are few..” I agree with St. Augustine regarding interpreting and positing Scripture to support things you do not understand. (see quote below).

As I see it, the church has been passive, reticent to go deep and to reach higher. Many sermons relate illustrations from current movies and not from scientific findings, philosophy or from works of art or music or literature. Beyond Christian colleges which offer scholarships are there any churches that are currently offering funding for scientific research or science scholarships for a congregant? To be sure church donations go to missionary work and to social causes. Yet the Kingdom of God, I believe, demands more of us than translating the four spiritual laws into another language. The Kingdom of God demands more of us than picking a political sideline.

In the U.S. and elsewhere Christianity is under attack. High culture is under attack. Culture is rooted in religion and high culture serves as a defense of Christianity. High Culture as depicted in the arts holds the ethical life above us as worthy of being desired. High culture needs to be maintained, as well as, science exploration by Christianity. Over the centuries the church has mainly been reactive and often antagonistic towards science. Let this be no more.

Looking up from the quotidian things of life, I find all kinds of things to marvel at. A sky that is blue, a sunset that is red, a night sky filled with diamonds in the works. Wonder and mystery fill our expanding and accelerating out-to-infinity cosmos. Einstein added the Cosmological Constant λ to his General Theory of Relativity because there was a factor at work in the cosmos which is still unknown. 

As I read “God’s Equation: Einstein, Relativity, and the Expanding Universe” by mathematician Amir D. Aczel this past week I was reminded of Einstein’s thought experiments or, as they have been called, “theoretical experiments-in-imagination”. Einstein imagined light traveling thought the cosmos. He also imagined what different observers would see when two trains passed each other. These deliberate intellectual speculations would later spur world-renowned theories, theories that were later proven true through astronomical observations. (Among other things, the church needs to operate observatories or at least buy telescopes! The Book of Nature needs to be read also!)

By coincidence, I read about Einstein’s train thought experiment while riding on a train. In that setting I soon made my own observation: If Einstein used thought experiments to create Special Relativity and did so without the distraction of fantasy, then maybe I should begin thought experiments conceptualizing the Kingdom of God in our expanding and accelerating universe!

Finally, is this how faith works, by giving us conviction about things we can’t see? When the Wow! that is wonder is exercised, the unobtainable becomes obtainable? If so, then it seems to me that prayer in the closet is the de-fantasied realm for a Christian’s thought experiments.

 

~~~

-Saint Augustine (A.D. 354-430) in his work The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim) regarding interpreting Scripture in the light of scientific knowledge.

 

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.” [1 Timothy 1.7]

Six Other Degrees of Separation

 

Six blind men live in Metropolis, Illinois. They were born in the eighties and have been blind from birth.  

These six men consider the earth to be round. They came to this understanding during their grade school education which included handling of the classroom globe. Their day-to-day experience told them that the world was flat and with many sharp corners.

From Mrs. Foley, their high school physical science teacher, these six men learned about Ptolemy and Copernicus. They learned that the sun and not the earth is at the center of our universe. Their day-to-day experience taught them that their universe was a big as the darkness in which they lived.

One day in August, as they listened to the news on the radio, these six men heard about a total solar eclipse. To their delight the path of totality, the announcer said, would be through Carbondale, Illinois.

When the morning of the total eclipse came, the six men took a bus to Carbondale. When they arrived the men soon became separated by the rush and noise of the crowds. While sitting on the bus the men had agreed to return on the 6:30pm bus to Metropolis.

One blind man found his way to a corner where there was talk of a shuttle bus to the viewing site. He got on.

The second blind man asked for the directions to where everyone would be for the event. A young couple said, “Follow us”. The blind man held onto the woman’s arm.

The third blind man heard a man with a loud speaker say that people should park “over there and walk to the university.” So, he found his way to the university.

The fourth blind man was hungry. So, he asked anyone who could hear if there was food nearby. An old man stopped and said, “there’s a hot dog stand around the next corner”. The blind said, “Thank you” and found his way to the hot dog stand.

The fifth blind man was tired. The noise and confusion made him tired. He found a bench and sat down. Soon he fell asleep.

The sixth blind man heard some street vendors hawking tee shirts and eclipse glasses. He followed the footsteps.

 

By late afternoon the six men had arrived at the bus station. At 6:10 pm they boarded the bus. The bus headed back to Metropolis at 6:30 pm.

As they rode along the six blind men began to talk about the day’s event.

The first blind man spoke. “The eclipse is of great spiritual value. I heard street people everywhere as I walked. They were offering remembrances and spiritual items like incense candles, crystals, and, and, special glasses to see it with. One kind man told me that no one should look at the great phenomenon without special glasses. But since I am blind, I bought a tee shirt instead. They told me it says, “I survived the 2017 Total Eclipse”.

The second blind man spoke. “No. How can it have any spiritual meaning? It is just a novelty, something unique-‘a Magic Shadow-show’. It only happens once every so many years. People should go to the carnival, have some food and entertainment, enjoy themselves. The eclipse is good times.”

The third blind spoke. “The eclipse is inclusive. It brings people together. I heard a woman say that she heard that all her friends were coming to view the eclipse. So, she had to come to. ‘Everyone was doing it,’ she said.”

“What?” The fourth blind man jumped in. “Not everyone is doing it. Someone told me that the older Navajos will not look at it when it is happening. They fear bad things can happen if you look during the eclipse, like health issues. The eclipse is taboo.”

The fifth blind man spoke. “All I know is that the eclipse is eerie. When I heard the people around me say “It’s happening,” it was like the earth stood still. I suddenly felt a chill like the sun had been unplugged. And the birds even stopped tweeting. The eclipse is scary.”

The last blind man spoke. “It’s worse than you can imagine. Someone next to me said “This is super cool. I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life.” I looked up for a long time but of course I saw nothing. But now, my eyes burn so much I want to tear them out. The eclipse is a deep burning darkness.”

 

 

 

© J. Ann Johnson, 2017, All Rights Reserved

 

~~~

 

August 21, 2017 – 1:21p.m. CDT

All Things Hold Together

 

“For almost a century, the Universe has been known to be expanding as a consequence of the Big Bang about 14 billion years ago. However, the discovery that this expansion is accelerating is astounding. If the expansion will continue to speed up, the Universe will end in ice.” Saul Perlmutter, astrophysicist

~~~

I find it interesting that light tells us where we have been. Astrophysicist and Nobel winner Saul Perlmutter and his team of astronomers at Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory focused the most advanced telescopes on 80 super luminous Type 1a supernova. Using red shift (a Doppler-like effect, the wave lengths of light rays increase towards the red end of the spectrum when the source recedes from the viewer) to determine the speed of recession of distant galaxies, Perlmutter concluded from the data that the universe was accelerating its expansion-the universe was expanding faster and faster. 

And since the known universe has only about 20% of the mass density needed to affect a slowdown and then a stop and a re-Bang, Perlmutter concluded that the universe must be infinite.

Guess who stands at each end of infinite?

Guess what Light has no red shift or shadow of turning?

Guess which Cosmological Constant is greater than the one once proposed and later rescinded by Einstein and is now back on the table after scientists learned about Perlmutter’s findings?

Sound trumpets. Now tympani. Start your crescendo all instruments of praise…

“I am the Alpha and the Omega…” Revelation 1:8

“I am the first and the last…” Revelation 1:17

“Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Revelation 21:6

“I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and last, the beginning and the end.” Revelation 22:13

Guess Who will meet you at every level of your existence and at any time during your existence and at every question you have during your existence?

Guess Who you will meet when you study biology, chemistry, anthropology, origins, genetics, physics, astronomy, philosophy, medicine and engineering?

Guess Who you will meet when you think science and faith are acting incompatible and seem to be accelerating in opposite directions based on cultural shift readings?

See the above. The audacious claims that Jesus makes in Revelation mean that…at the beginning of any sequence and at the end of any sequence is the Person Jesus. In the middle of the sequence is the Person Jesus.

At every level of study, in every field of science, in every atom, quark, super-quark and boson, if you go to infinity and beyond…you will encounter Jesus. The Hound of Heaven is looking for you there.

Let’s get personal for a moment, as did the Psalm writer.

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139: 7-12

Perfect love casts out fear, so start here:

“Search me, God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts” 139: 23

 

~~~

You wonder if God is silent. You watch a movie about God’s supposed Silence based on a novel written in 1966 by the same name. Like the main characters, you may even stand on the face of Jesus and commit apostasy because you think that God doesn’t hear and doesn’t see what is going on in your space and time. You behave as you think God should behave in that situation. Your perception of God, as observed through the prevalent Epicurean/Deist worldview, is reaffirmed: God must be off somewhere in the cosmos and not involved in man’s day to day life; God won’t save his own; we are our own salvation and other’s salvation; God is silent, therefore we must act.

You watch a sci-fi movie about the Arrival of aliens. The main character must learn the language of the aliens to gain the alien’s purpose for coming and to learn whether or not a threat to earth is imminent. Near the end of the movie the main character has a salvific vision. In the vision, time is shuffled as a language and an understanding barrier are overcome, vertically and horizontally. A world saving decision is made. Then, at the end of the movie, a personal choice is made, the ends of which are reconnected to the beginning of the movie.

 

Two movies. The one reveals a lack of personal knowledge about the Alpha and Omega. This accounts for a lack of faith and for actions done out of fear. The second movie attempts to show that a personal encounter with another that is completely other. The main character seeks to understand the other’s language. Full understanding comes from a personal encounter with the alien. The acquired personal knowledge brings about saving transformation for everyone involved.

Now imagine the personal knowledge that you would gain from this lesson: you are the bride at your wedding. Your head server tells you that you are out of wine just when the party is ready to get on the floor and dance. At that moment the Beginning and the End does a work of transubstantiation: Jesus turns the physical properties of water into wine.

For your personal knowledge, here is a poem about the centrality and supremacy of Jesus, from Paul’s letter to the Colossian church:

 

He is the image of God, the invisible one,

The first born of all creation

For in him all things were created,

In the heavens and here on earth.

Things which we can see and things we cannot-

Thrones and lordships and rulers and powers-

All things were created both through him and for him.

 

And he is ahead, prior to all else,

And in him all things hold together;

And he himself is supreme, the head

Over the body, the church.

 

He is the start of it all,

First born from the realms of the dead;

So in in all things he might be the chief.

For in him all the Fullness was glad to dwell

And through him to reconcile all to himself,

Making peace though the blood of his cross,

Through him-yes, things on earth,

And also the things in heaven.

Colossians 1: 15-20

Now, one may read this and say, “this passage is all about Jesus and not about me and my worries”. I say to them, “Read the passage again, but this time see that “all things” includes you and your worries.”  ”And in him all things hold together…”. Wherever you are broken, confused or lost Jesus is there to heal and make whole.

 

Fear often paralyzes us. Then, as we sit in the dark unknown biting our nails and thinking that God is uncommunicative, we act. In so doing, we deny the Alpha and the Omega an encounter with the beginning and the end of our fears. We also deny ourselves a personal knowledge that will sustain going forward. Consider Peter walking on the water until fear kicks his legs out from under him.

Perhaps your universe is expanding faster than you can keep up with it. When there is change and accelerating change, remember that God was there when it began and God is there when it ends.  If God can hold all things together in the cosmos, why not hold onto God-The Ultimate Theory of Everything– for the ride of your life?

 

Meditate on this:

Jesus said, “ἐγὼ τὸ Α καὶ τὸ Ω”