2020 Sight and Fight

No day in 2019 was trouble-free and the diligent found what they wanted and achieved a great deal even if some of it was pure fantasy. Of one thing we can be certain. There is no time machine to help us go back and change events. We can correct the narrative – retell the story to create the comforts we want. Things that did not go well can be addressed and even dressed up to look like triumphs or failures. If you had staged a death or bore responsibility for something heinous you might feel like you need to confess and move on to a better place. The need to see things before they happen can suck the growth and glory out of life, leaving us with a sense of sight and fight.

As surely as a tree’s trunk has rings that tell how much time has passed humans have deposits and withdrawals that we dare not ignore.

No one needs to feel abandoned or sink into the same 2019 attitudes and behaviours and definitely not feel that every thing in sight is an enemy. If you are a believer you do not want to be caught denying the very substantial wealth at your disposal.

Within us is the supreme power.

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

1 John 4:4

Outside of us are angels sent to help us. Why we do not achieve is a mystery.

But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

Hebrews 1:13-14

The Pilgrims Identity

Why do the Songs of Degrees begin with this adverse condition?  One assumes that the trip to the annual festivals for males in Jerusalem would have a triumphant flavour. This pilgrim is in distress and confesses the fact. No lies are allowed. There were no doubt some pilgrims who saw only the smug security of being the chosen ones, Abraham’s descendants.

The pilgrim shudders to think of what the phony confession – of his fellow traveller – might bring.

What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue?

Psalms 120:3

The war and the peace

The pilgrim laments that he speaks for peace, a rare thing in Israel, and gets a pushback in favour of war.

I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.

Psalms 120:7

Our identity as pilgrims is rooted in the experience of the patriarchal triad (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). They lived in the promised land as if they were nomads, tenting from place

By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:

Hebrews 11:9

The pilgrim’s rest

In fact, all the people of faith – not all the people in the narratives – are said to have reckoned themselves to be pilgrims. They saw beyond the land of Canaan. Being there did not guarantee peace or rest, as the writer affirms.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Hebrews 11:13

We can see that the journey to Jerusalem was not final and is not final.

Great Joy to the World

The practice of reading the New Testament and trying to find a corresponding or foundation saying in the Old Testament is not reliable, because Christ has many things to say and do that are uniquely his.
Just so no claim to authority rises to validity angels are out in front putting God’s business on the agenda for all people.

Looking for the Christ

We are better off applying that practice to apostolic sayings and their depiction of Messianic sayings and deeds. A lot of mistakes could have been avoided if we had been looking for the Christ in what anyone has to say about the kingdom of God. Thousands of books and preachers can be ignored because they do not present the Christ nor do they have a reputation for prioritizing his claim. This is reason to be joyful to the max.

Spears into pruning hooks

It is not mentally ill people who attack Jews, people of African descent, and immigrants who are not from Europe. All those people who have set their compass to God and country are sleepwalking, deaf and dumb watchmen and idolatrous zealots. The attack on the Rabbi’s home on the seventh night of Hanukkah in Monsey, New York, has its roots in a basic American perversion. There is less evidence today that America’s leaders believe in the equality of all humans. They prefer swords to pruning hooks.

What are we to think when America behaves like a deported nation? What can we expect when her “greatest president ever” makes excuses for and friends with despots Insulting immigrants is now a prime time reality in American society? Her leaders seem oblivious to the individual who works hard at three jobs and still cannot make ends meet.

Why do we expect

  • protection for Jewish people when the juvenile children of American citizens and residents have no protection in schools?
  • protection for Jewish people when the religious establishments have turned both Jewish and Christian ideals into marketing guides for greed
  • protection for Jewish people when the nationalist psyche puts people in the gutter and the nation in a palace

We expect because we believe that the rich are working for the poor and that the guardians of justice have the right to life as their north star. We believe a lot of lies.

Criminal enterprise

Guns and free speech have effectively raised the skirts of the United States of America and the sight is attractive only to pimps and prostitutes.

Going after Jewish people did not end well for Babylon, Persia, Greece or Rome. Not caring for Jewish people in the 21st century will end very badly for the United States and Canada. God will not forgive us for allowing gun violence to shatter our sense of security.

Surely at the commandment of the LORD came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; And also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the LORD would not pardon.

2 Kings 24:3-4

Intellectual and emotional depravity has soaked into societies that used to have the admiration of the whole world. Let us be brutally honest. A nation of laws is a nation of criminals.

Nativity Lecture 2 – The Nazarene Eighteen Years later

Slices of the Nazarene

Shaped by Galilee, our Lord was familiar with both sides of Abraham’s family, the faith-formed and the natural descendants. This experience would help to shape the church’s appreciation of all people without condition. There is no Jew Gentile difference in God’s distribution of eternal life and gifts for living. We may underestimate the power of growing up in a certain place, especially when it is not where we were born. If you had a memorable birth such as King of the Jews, and such a life of contradiction you might consider how much pleasure he took from seeing people from the place where life shaped him turn to him in faith. Faith and love are the bangs in the Nazarene buck. This is what pleases God and no-one can please God without it. To be precise, faith is effective in love to others, not to a loyalty to traditions of any kind. Kindness to strangers is top of the list for the Nazarene. That is why the light came to Galilee, the land of darkness.

FINDING GENTILE FAITH

  1. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, [thou] Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. Matt. 15:22
    • But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. Matt. 15:23
    • But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Matt. 15:24
    • She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Matt. 15:27
    • Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Matt. 15:28

No-one gets rewarded for following prophets or ancestors and only the faithful get this kind of commendation. The people who were genuinely attracted to the Nazarene were the tax-collectors and prostitutes. As he forgave them, they loved him. When he did not commend people for their marketplace games they hated and plotted against him. The learned and the unlearned rallied to their lies and fabled genealogies, the gold and silver and animal blood, holy places and things, ignoring the testimony of the Law and the Prophets about the Nazarene.

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, Matt. 11:16 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ Matt. 11:17 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ Matt. 11:18 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” Matt. 11:19

Matthew 11:16-19

MARVELLING AT GENTILE FAITH IN HIS HOMETOWN

  1. And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Luke. 7:6 Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. Luke. 7:7 For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Luke. 7:8
    • When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. Luke. 7:9

Again, the Nazarene finds great faith, from a notable member from the Gentile community. This is remarkable indeed, in the light of being turned off, literally, by unbelief, and in the light of Nazareth’s reputation of being a dump, from which nothing good could come.

THE NAZARENE’S HONOURABLE PASSING

It is no surprise that Galilean women claim the Nazarene’s lifeless body. Some of these were with him from the start. They travelled with him. Now they make sure his rest in the grave has all the love they could muster. Remember the woman who emptied a jar of ointment worth a year’s salary on his feet in preparation for burial.

  1. GALILEAN FUNERAL SERVICE – FEMALE COMPLIMENTS
    • It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. Luke. 23:54 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Luke. 23:55 Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. Luke. 23:56

THE RISEN NAZARENE’S ATTACHMENT TO A GALILEAN MOUNTAIN

  1. THE LAST APPOINTMENT IN GALILEE.
    • But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. Mark. 16:7
    • Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. Matt. 28:16
    • Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Matt. 28:19

We call him Yeshua because of his effective resolution of the sinfulness of humanity. We call him Nazarene because of his connection as Light with the darkness of Galilee. We can make no progress apart from considering the identity of a migrant king, born in Bethlehem, resident in the darkness. We can hope to spin our wheels if we continue to label people and things as incapable of producing good. The entire expreience of the Nazarene makes prejudice and identity discrimination a lie that we do well to flee.

Nativity Lecture 1 – The Galilean Roots of the Messiah

Exploring the Messiah’s Galilean Roots

The birth of Christ – his nativity proper – is a prerequisite for atonement, so whether or not there is a prescribed memorial, a doctrine or a festival connected with it there is value in getting our eyes anointed with a look at the birth and early life of Yeshua. Nativity includes accuracy in time and place, and to be strict, we can say it took a moment (assuming Mary’s labour was not extended!). What birth drama there is to see is brief and filled with adventure. Nativity extends to origins too, which is why we are keen to know where does a person come from. Messiah’s connection to his place of residence is not brief. This nativity for the Saviour of the world attaches firmly to Galilee, Nazareth and Capernaum. This is not discriminatory nor accidental, because Christ’s residence in Galilee will inform us of the major character-block, if one follows the gospels. The fuller nativity narrative itself is thick, deep and rich, is more holy than its night, more awesome than its angelic interactions, more mysterious than its refugee king, and yet could be no more ordinary than to have begun in Nazareth. If we merely followed the gospels we would fill our bellies with a long list of places, and individuals, and a divine checklist of errands.

  1. The Lord’s Messenger John the Baptist
  2. The Lord’s angel Gabriel dispatched to Nazareth, Galilee.
  3. The Lord’s parents: engagement (Nazareth)
  4. Announcement to Mary (Nazareth)
  5. Prophecy (song) of Mary (Judea)
  6. Prophecy of Zechariah (Judea)
  7. Registering for the census (Bethlehem)
  8. Angelic Announcement to the shepherds (Bethlehem)
  9. Birth (Bethlehem)
  10. Magi visit (Bethlehem)
  11. Herod’s infant slaughter (Bethlehem, depart for Egypt)
  12. Prophecy of Simeon (Jerusalem)
  13. Angelic appearance (Bethlehem)
  14. Flight into Egypt
  15. Angelic appearance (return to Palestine)
  16. Return > Galilee
  17. On the brink of Teenage in the Temple (Jerusalem, Nazareth)

It seems best to stick to home for a grounded nativity panorama. We realize that home is Bethlehem, but that appears only as the hospital; an already very famous birthplace. The record of our Lord’s residence in Bethlehem is brief, consisting of his birth and speedy departure for Egypt parents returning and warned about the safety of Bethlehem. The census which brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem kicks off an adventure which turns out to be octagon of intense contradictions.

The winding road to Nazareth

THE OCTAGON OF CONTRADICTIONS

We are well aware that the Christ-child’s arrival was the cause and reason for great joy to any person tuned in to the event and for all people. Yet the intended effect of the Light’s arrival on earth was not to be felt until the Passover of His 33rd year. We would see him briefly as a 12 year old resident of Nazareth in the Jerusalem temple making the leaders of Judea scratch their heads.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Luke. 2:46 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

Luke. 2:47

The shaping of the life in those eighteen years does not have to be guessed at. Galilee had the following distinct features of interest to the young Incarnate.

  1. Galilee was among the first areas to suffer exile (as a result of the warning in Numbers 33:56)
  2. Galilee was one of areas hosting a city of refuge (Kedesh, in Naphthali territory, Joshua 20:7, 21:32)
  3. Galilee was a richly cosmopolitan region, i.e. Gentiles made up a considerable portion of the cities in Galilee, 20 known are on record (1 Kings 9:11)

Galilee was a fertile field because it was in need of light. We cannot presume that the young Incarnate (YI) ended his interest in his Father’s business

  1. All of the people who came into contact with the YI would have benefited from or at least be challenged by his wisdom
  2. All of the people with whom he had regular contact would have heard him speak at synagogue for 18 years until that day when he read Isaiah 61 (Luke 4)
  3. As with the temple so with heaven’s interests in Kedesh, the Galilean city of refuge would have fallen under his gaze and evaluation.

In Nazareth our Lord learned by experience about the Jew-Gentile partition. Even though he kept his mission focused on Jews, his encounters with Gentiles showed how well he was prepared to meet most honourably with the desire of Gentiles to reach him. Three foreigners came to the manger and worshipped, and Gentiles sought relentlessly to see and touch him throughout his three years of testimony. I am glad that there is a witness in AD 2019 that they still do, in droves.