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In a brief five minute video posted to Desiring God’s YouTube channel, John Piper rips apart the cultural control of ‘cancel culture’. The small segment was taken from a talk given in January called ‘Serious Joy, Cultural Conflict, & Christian Humility: Thoughts on Christian Education.’

Piper’s argument is one of the best I’ve heard so far from Christian leaders – Voddie Baucham’s lengthy, but poignant takedown of ‘Cultural Marxism being the only exception (as has been discussed by Caldron Pool’s Editor Ben Davis, here).

Like Baucham, Piper turns the light on where few seem willing to do so. Leaning on work from Jonathon Haidt and Greg Lukianoff in their outstanding book, ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’ (2018), Piper briefly addresses the non-sequitur, and vacuous subjective nature of the movement. In sum, Haidt and Lukianoff identify ‘cancel culture’ as part of a broader new paradigm which measures good and evil by the yardstick of ‘safe versus dangerous, instead of true versus false.’

Under the authoritarian, whimsical hegemony of ‘cancel culture’, ‘if you take your stand and speak your truth, you may be subject to call-out, outrage, or being cancelled, because you have not sufficiently coddled’ the feelings of others, or sufficiently met any number of asinine politically correct requirements. As Haidt and Lukianoff quip, the response then is one where ‘you must call out [the offence giver]! Assemble a coalition of the righteous, and shame the evil ones until they change their ways.”

As part of their introduction, Haidt writes that ‘cancel culture’ ‘unwittingly employs the very cognitive distortions that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy tries to correct. For example: catastrophizing (jumping the worst possible conclusions), and negative filtering (negative self-talk; such as saying to yourself, “I’ll never amount to anything”). Haidt then notes, ‘stated simply: Many university students are learning to think in distorted ways, and this increases their likelihood of becoming fragile, anxious, and easily hurt.’

Equating ‘cancel culture’ with the persecution of Christians in Acts 5:27-41, Piper supports this appraisal. Just as the ‘Sanhedrin tried to silence the voice of Christian leaders’, so sways the motion and violent conclusions of ‘cancel culture.’ Being easily offended, or a person having their feelings hurt, isn’t enough just-cause to rage at people, call people out, or “cancel” them.

According to Piper, the response to ‘cancel culture’ is ‘serious joy.’ The Apostle Peter, beaten by enraged, and blood-thirsty authorities, ‘rejoiced’ that he and others ‘were counted worthy to suffer dishonour’ for speaking in Jesus Christ’s name; that name having been banned – cancelled – deemed offensive by the authorities.

Piper’s conclusion:

“If you take a stand the culture hates, and speak a word the culture condemns, and they shame you, and persecute you, and plunder you, but your serious joy remains, they’ve lost their power to control where you stand and what you say.
If your joy comes from the world — its benefits, its comforts, its kudos — you’re like a leaf in the wind. Yours is not a serious joy. It’s a secondhand joy. You are not free. Serious joy sets people free. And makes them the most secure and subversive people when it comes to cultural control.
This has always been true, for two thousand years. Serious joy in Christ through pain has always been radically liberating from cultural control. In getting their joy from heaven, Christians become free on earth.”

Piper is right. ‘Cancel culture’ cannot beat ‘serious joy.’ There’s no excuse for our response to be joyless. Humility wins. We speak truth in love, bearing the name of Jesus Christ. Not falling into step with the spirit of the age, but keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, knowing that though, would-be and actual authoritarians may try to cancel us, our work – or even our entire livelihoods – the unconquerable joy gifted to us in Jesus Christ, and the gracious provision God brings with, through, and because of it, cannot, and will not be cancelled.

Extending out from Piper’s final word is this: ‘stand firm in serious joy’ – for the fact that man ‘is not God. We are sinners. We are finite’ (Piper); and though men and women may arrogantly try to control it, for the very fact that ‘man has no control over God’s grace.’ (Karl Barth, CD. 3:4:105).


References:

Full video & transcript: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/serious-joy-cultural-conflict-and-christian-humility

First published on Caldron Pool, 20th April, 2020

Image cropped & adjusted from a Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash

© Rod Lampard, 2020

At the end of Isaiah, the prophet talks about the relationship between new life and the heat of judgement. Given the devastation we’re seeing from the immense fires since September in Australia, these verses have special relevance.

This doesn’t justify arson, or the political opportunism seeking to advance, distract, manipulate and use the suffering of others to feed self-interest. The relationship between new life and the heat of judgement speaks to all of us. It’s here, and not with pyromania, or political opportunism that the Word found in the prophetic meets with the pyrophytic.

Horticulturalists tell us that some Australian plants have ‘fire-activated seeds.’ According to Britannica, these ‘pyrophytic plants’ include the ‘lodgepole pine, Eucalyptus, and Banksia. They have ‘serotinous cones or fruits that are completely sealed with resin.’

As if planned to suit the dry, flammable Australian climate, these pyrophytic plants can ‘only open to release their seeds after the heat of a fire has physically melted the resin. Other species, including a number of shrubs and annual plants, require the chemical signals from smoke and charred plant matter to break seed dormancy.’ [i]

This isn’t all that different from how God’s mercy and judgment functions towards creation. The goal of chastisement is newness of life – reconciliation and redemption – to produce new life from the heat of judgement. Not just rehabilitation, but total heart transformation.

As Creator, Reconciler and Redeemer, God ‘looks to the humble and contrite in Spirit, those who tremble at His Word (66:1-2 see also Psalm 51).’  This doesn’t mean trembling before God as though He were an old, bearded man with a stick, looking to control through a crushing fear and paralysis. God doesn’t need tools that would “convince a man against his will.” For He knows all too well that this “man will remain of the same opinion still.” The fears of those who refuse to hear are harsh enough. Humanity is not the hostage of a mean-spirited old man.

Through Ezekiel we can know with certainty that God isn’t a manipulator or deceiver. He doesn’t desire [take pleasure in] the death of the sinner, but desires the sinner’s correction (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11). Although God desires all people ‘to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim. 2:4), not everyone who says to Him ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’ (Matthew 7:21).

Tremble in this sense, therefore, is a verb, not a noun. It’s decisive movement; to be both moved, and to move. It illustrates heartfelt response based on God’s movement in Jesus Christ towards humanity. He is an event, not an idea. After having heard and responded to this Word, caution gives way to trust. Like eyes that have only known darkness, now adjusting to the light.

Tremble speaks of our immediate response to a confrontation with this Word. It is directly related to the imperative in verse 5, which summons us to ‘hear’. God looks for our attention. He looks to those who receive His Word with joy, and humbly live out their reply. Hearing with reverence, empowers trust and gives reasons for doing so.

Isaiah teaches us that God is not absent. He hears, sees, speaks and acts. His mercy, as the louder of the two, is never far from His judgement! He never is without a plan, promise or pathway to fulfil both. God will keep His Word. He will do this by overcoming His enemies; those who’ve made themselves gods, those who, in His name justify themselves through sterile, empty rituals, or celebrate a return to tyrannical lordship of superstition, animism, and the man-made gods of the Ancient Near East. God’s judgement applies to all who are ‘not hearing; not responding’ – those doing whatever is right in their own eyes, but evil in His; delighting in sin, instead of delighting in the things that God delights in. (66:3-4).

For example: ‘Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river and your righteousness like the waves of the sea [constant; regular; never failing].’ (Isaiah 48:18)

Peace flowing like a river is a promise! It is God’s promise to Zion and those who dwell therein (66:12-13). As is the rejection of God’s commandments, which outline relationship with Him, so is the rejection of ‘the peace of God which surpasses all understanding’ (Philippians 4:4). This is more than a peace treaty. The imagery of living, unstoppable peace is interconnected with a life liberated by the restored joy of salvation, and a clean heart, made right by Christ, in Christ, through Christ, and with Christ.

Hence Paul can write, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always again I say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.’ This promise of peace like river to all who hear and respond will ‘guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians, 4:4-6, ESV)

Isaiah notes, Jerusalem (Zion) will rejoice for peace will flow like a river. God will nurture the city and its inhabitants. He will comfort them, as He confronts them. Hearts will rejoice, bones shall flourish like grass and the hand of the Lord shall be known to His servants and His enemies. Divine justice will bring to account those who have made themselves His enemy.

Our hope in the midst of deep anxiety is awakened by the life of the pyrophytic. These plants teach us that there will not just be peace after the firestorm, there will be new life! These fires will end and the rains will come again.

Our hope in the midst of deep anxiety is shored up in the promise of the prophetic. New life springs forth from the heat of judgement. Like melting resin, hardened, stubborn hearts are freed to be free for God.

In this movement; in this trembling where we move and are moved, may heads and hearts be turned back towards Christ, and therefore towards one another, away from bitter blame and political opportunism. May the light of the prophetic meeting with the pyrophytic, bring to us a renewed confidence in God’s promise.

Therefore, may we as a nation sing along loudly, even if with an exhausted sigh, the words from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who after the loss of his wife to fire wrote:

“In despair I bowed my head. There is no peace on earth I said. For hate is strong and mocks the song, of peace on earth, good will to men…then the bells, rang more loud and deep, God is not dead, nor does he sleep! The wrong shall fail; the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”

It’s a good word for Epiphany, 2020. As the world turns the corner into a new decade, let faith in Christ reign, and may the people say, “Amen.”

References:

[i] Britannica, 5 Amazing Adaptations of Pyrophytic Plants. Sourced, 6th January, 2020.

First published on Caldron Pool, 7th January, 2020

Photo by Sam Wermut on Unsplash

© Rod Lampard, 2020

joshua-hanks-682729-unsplashWhen you come into a marriage with poverty and a broken heritage:

How do you move from the economic class of renter to “Home Owner”, without selling your own soul, selling out your own goals or killing that marriage?

When your support pillars are war ruins, broken hearts, lives and relationships:

How do you bring a shattered past to support the present?

When no gifts are left to you:

How do you say thank you for good gifts when they come?

When a parent abdicates responsibility, antagonizes the wounds, and  then a sibling speaks in half-truths, and falsely accuses, in order to hide the embarrassment of wrong doing:

How do you forgive?

How do you defend?

When the hand-downs  and opinions are always accusations, cruel measurements, and covert put downs:

How do you understand yourself and your own worth?

How do you breathe?

When the hands that were designated to be helpers don’t help:

How do you ask for help?

When people are moulded by manipulation and won by charm and false appearances:

How do you bless and not fall to the temptation to impress?

When you forgive and are not forgiven:

How do you engage or disengage properly when others refuse to do the same?

Perhaps a good place to begin is here:

                1. Talk with the Lord, humbly.
                2. Learn carefully & honestly.
                3. Care carefully & courageously.
                4. Put into service the paradoxes of thanksgiving and of forgiveness.
                5. Be brave; Hold on to God, and never let go. 

Don’t let that shattered heritage take root. Don’t bring the echoes of resentment into your marriage. Reject the cycle of abuse. Reuse the useful things you have. I.e.: take stock, then do what you can with what you’ve got.

Aim to bless rather than impress[i].

Talk with the Lord. He is a working God, active caring and in pursuit of the broken.

Listen carefully because the ‘insight into divine matters is like a seed that needs to grow into a mature plant…Mature knowledge does not come quickly or easy…it takes time to penetrate profound matters and make them our own’[ii]

As Pinnock states,

Trust and ‘humility must be the order of the day’[iii]

Learn carefully because ‘God’s leading is experienced as His Spirit fosters movement towards the truth, despite our mistakes and errors…we must be both hopeful and sober about the possibilities’[iv]

Care carefully because you are carefully cared for far beyond the extreme void, that makes you torn and breathless. Look at the blessings that do exist and count them, no matter how small, each one has significance.

There is no emptiness to His care. Give him permission to move you from an intensive care unit to a tender care one.

Put into service the paradoxes of thanksgiving and of forgiveness; losing in order to win[v], where the world measures success by appearance. Your success is measured by God in the victory and bravery of His Son, who is and was and is to come. Maintain boundaries and remember that forgiveness does not mean returning to a place of ignorance.

Be brave because beauty and light is found beyond the seemingly unbreakable walls of fear and dark loathing.

Weeping may tarry for the night,  but joy comes with the morning. – Psalm 30:5

Extreme anxiety has no future home in a broken heart[vi] touched by God. For the humble and broken are closer to the heart of God than they realise (Psalm 34:18).


References:
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[i] Mt.5:38, ESV “Forgive and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you”
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[ii] Pinnock, C. 1996, Flame of Love InterVarsity Press p.219
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[iii] Ibid, p.219
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[iv] Ibid, p.219
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[v] Matthew 16:25, ESV
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[vi] Matthew 6:25, ESV
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.Photo by Joshua Hanks on Unsplash
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©Rod Lampard, 2014

God is love. It’s his character revealed – Love is His language – peace, long-suffering, patience, joy, kindness, it does not envy or boast it is not arrogant or rude, it is not irritable or resentful it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all things, endures all things. Love never ends. Among the three top things rated in life: faith, hope and love – love remains the greatest. (1 Corinthians 13)

Sex is not God. Money is not God. Love is not God. Things we own? Not God. Social status? Not God – the Job description? Not God. Debt? Not God. The Church building, or doctrine? Not God. The self-help books we read on better living? Nope. Not God.

Although, a lot of these things can be OF God and reflect the purpose in His design, they are not God. Though, in some cases, they have taken the place of God. They are not God.

I am a Christian because of Jesus Christ. I’ve failed many times. I struggle with many things, but I have a sure hope! A certain joy that comes with strength. Not my strength, but that which comes from the person and revelation of God in Jesus Christ. In no other place can salvation be found. In no other place can love be found. This is where we find what it means to love, and to forgive. (John 14:6)

Love finds itself displayed in God’s Grace poured out towards humanity in Jesus Christ, from the stables of Bethlehem, in the dust of Nazareth, within the blood spilled at Golgotha, the echo within the now empty tomb, and even in a warm breakfast cooked up on the beaches of Galilee (John 21:4-14).

Love is a verb. We choose love because it contains both a “yes” and a “no”. We choose a direction and are responsible for its results. Love isn’t an easy road. It includes acknowledging limitations. It involves setting boundaries and empowering others through those boundaries.

‘Only when our hearts are full of love are we fit to judge another or to speak of their faults…love is always the ruling motive’ (Miller, D.D. p.24 & p.39)

Love impacts our character. God corrects the corrupt condition of our hearts. He teaches us that he is not interested in our reputation – He looks at our hearts; what informs and makes up our character; what makes up who we are and who we choose to be (1 Samuel 16:7).

Word of mouth might be great for those selling something, but a good reputation is not proof of good character. To love is to leave behind the appearance of righteousness and embrace the Godliness of the one who embraces us. We don’t love for applause. We don’t love for approval. We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).

‘Those who follow Christ never walk in darkness…our best friends are not those we make life easy for us; our best friends are those who put courage, energy, and resolution into our hearts. There are thousands of lives dwarfed and hurt irreparably by pampering’ (Miller, D.D. p.33 & p.55)

References:

Miller, J.R. D.D. 1894.  The Building of Character Mr Bruce Fry (Publisher)

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Photo Credit: Photo by ActionVance on Unsplash

 

Notes from my recent brief exegetical summary of 2 Corinthians 1:1-11. May it be of some encouragement for you today:

Not all affliction is of God, but God, in His freedom, through His love, works His salvation out through all affliction; in such a way as to remind us that we are to rely on Him. 

By affliction what is meant is, burden, trouble, pressure, oppression. Also connected here is the word suffering; pathayma. Pathayma [i] means feeling, inward torment, or to be affected, or vexed. In verse 10, Paul infers pathayma to mean ‘deadly peril’, ‘ utterly burdened beyond Timothy and his own strength’, ‘despairing of life itself, feeling that he was faced with a death sentence’ (vv. 8 & 9).

In this affliction God brought paraklesis: comfort; consolation, solace, nearness, stirring motivation, encouragement, (loosely: teaching, to urge on). My favourites from this list are nearness and consolation. God ‘draws near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit’ (Psalm 34:18).

How does He does this? In Jesus Christ, through paraklesis.

The Greek word paraklesis is also linked with the Holy Spirit [paraklete] . What we can then say is that God brings Himself into the trouble, oppression and works His salvation out through it. Comfort does not translate to mean a life of wealth, ease and prosperity. It means that ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’ (Psalm, 46:1, ESV)

God ‘rules the raging of the sea; when it’s waves rise, He stills them. He crushed Egypt (Rahab) like a carcass; scattered His enemies with His mighty arm.’ (Psalm 89:9-10, ESV)

According to Romans 8:26-28 ‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness.The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God  all things work together for good, for those who are called [those in Christ Jesus] according to His purpose.’

Likewise, in 2 Corinthians 1:1-11, the most unlikely of all Apostles, Paul, once again testifies to the decisive willingness, presence and power of God:

 ‘He delivered us…from deadly peril; He will deliver us…; He will deliver us again…(v.10) ‘On Him we have set our hope!’. On Who is it that we set our hope? On Who is it that we rely upon? ‘On God who raises the dead (v.9); is ‘the Father of mercies’; ‘Father of Jesus Christ’; and ‘God of all comfort/consolation’ (v.3)

In his devotional Faith’s Checkbook for December 6th, Charles Spurgeon writes:

‘we must go through the waters and feel the rush of the rivers. The presence of God in the flood is better than a ferryboat. Tried we must be, but triumphant we shall be; for Jehovah Himself, who is mightier than many waters, shall be with us. Whenever else He may be away from His people, the Lord will surely be with them in difficulties and dangers. The sorrows of life may rise to an extraordinary height, but the Lord is equal to every occasion.
The enemies of God can put in our way dangers of their own making, namely, persecutions and cruel mockings, which are like a burning, fiery furnace. What then? We shall walk through the fires. God being with us, we shall not be burned; nay, not even the smell of fire shall remain upon us.’

In other words, not all suffering and affliction is from God, but we can be sure that God works through all suffering and affliction.

‘Tried we must be, but triumphant we shall be!’

Jesus is Victor!


Notes:

[i] Goodrick. E.W & Kohlenberger III, J.R 1990 NIV Strongs’s Exhaustive Concordance Zondervan Publishers

Artwork by John Martin, 1840. ‘The Destruction of Tyre‘, which is said to have been destroyed by Alexander the Great and be part of biblical prophecy.

We’re walking through Nathaniel & Hans’ Bluedorn‘s 2009 book, ‘The Fallacy Detective‘ for Homeschool at the moment. The Bluedorns do an excellent job of distinguishing  between the various logical fallacies, discussing how they work on and off the page. I’ve even learnt a few things I didn’t know, and gained clarity on a few of the more nuanced fallacies like ad hominem, straw man and equivocation.

The Bluedorns provide an easy to read text. Placing at the end of each chapter well written quizzes with some humour mixed in, they effectively teach a complex subject to their reader.

‘The Fallacy Detective’ was a recommendation from one of our American homeschooling friends and I can see why they were so excited about using it as a resource for lessons in logic and communication. I haven’t finished using this text, but once I am we will be revisiting it and beginning a walk-through of Nathaniel and Hans’ next book, ‘The Thinking Toolbox‘.

In the final chapter of ‘The Fallacy Detective’ the authors hone in on propaganda. The introduction to this section differentiates between propaganda and manipulative propaganda.

Some key points are made, such as,

‘Propaganda is any strategy for spreading our beliefs or ideas…Propaganda is not always bad. There isn’t anything wrong with spreading our ideas and encouraging people to buy our product – as long as we do it honestly’ (p.188).

The definition given for manipulative propaganda is,

‘when someone plays with our emotions in a way designed to make us agree with them without thinking through the matter carefully’ (p.189)

I had a problem with these definitions because they didn’t go deep enough. For instance, someone could easily use this to (falsely) justify the accusation that preaching is propaganda, or worse manipulative propaganda. So when teaching through this part, I added a qualifier. Throwing in the fact that there is a distinction between propaganda and preaching.  Granted the two are sometimes blurred by questionable sermons, poor theology, and stale dogma.

This is sometimes seen in the Charismatic movement, where the emphasis can be more on transaction and performance. By that I mean “naming and claiming something”, “having the [quote] right anointing [unquote], “feeling God’s presence in the band if it played well, and if it didn’t play to standard? Well, God somehow didn’t show up”.

Thus giving the congregation and spectator the guilty feeling that they somehow failed to impress God and are abandoned for not having done so. Jesus had a stinging rebuke for those in the temple, who confused preaching with manipulating others. Knowing the difference between preaching and propaganda, especially manipulative propaganda falls in line with that rebuke.

‘And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.’ (Matthew 21:1, ESV)

There’s a big difference between preaching and manipulating someone in order to get something. Preaching is about proclamation, invitation, empower faith seeking understanding and learning together in humility.

I take my own understanding of preaching, from Jesus and Paul, who together, teach us that preaching, in sum, is about saying “I give this to you, in order to benefit you” (paraphrased). It’s far removed from the sales room floor of crony capitalism, the soap box of Marxists, the auctioneer’s gavel and the manipulative propagandist who, hiding behind all of these platforms, has his and her ultimate aim as being, “what can I take from you to benefit me”. At the heart of this we hear caveat emptor – let the buyer beware; Jesus and Paul telling us to be careful about what is being sold to us, who is doing the selling, and why they are selling it.

Even without the distinction between preaching and propaganda, the final chapter of ‘The Fallacy Detective’ holds itself together. The differentiation between propaganda and manipulative propaganda is followed by a clear description of, why, how, when and where propaganda is used. This includes, among others, car salesmen, lawyers right up to celebrities, artists and politicians.

Again, not all propaganda is bad, but propaganda shouldn’t be accepted without question; my take on this is that caveat emptor becomes: beware the auctioneers.

This differentiation between propaganda and manipulative propaganda gives the authors the opportunity to prepare the reader for the discussion ahead. Every time they use the word propaganda, they mean manipulative propaganda. By only using the word propaganda, the authors ingeniously force the reader to make their own differentiation between the two.

The information video I’m posting below on Marxist manipulative propaganda, circa 1957 illustrates this differentiation and the definitions presented by Nathaniel & Hans’ Bluedorn. There’s some real insight into manipulative propaganda. For instance the video explains how most Marxists/Communists play the information warfare game. Adding to this, is the small presence of American manipulative propaganda, which pops up from time to time, clearly designed to push the Communists back by using their own strategies against them.

For most hardcore Marxists there is no truth, but that which is filtered through the lens of Karl Marx. As the script writers for the video accurately describe:

“America is the major obstacle that stands between the grave-digger [Communist] and its intended victim. Here is target number one for the Reds and who’s in the bulls-eye. You are being in the bulls-eye. It’s important to know something about the enemy’s weapons and how to spoil their aim. That aim is nothing less than world conquest, and subversion by every possible means, is the cheap method used.The keyword is conflict.
Outside of the red countries themselves conflict must be promoted everywhere. Every dissatisfaction must grow into a resentment. Every resentment must become an argument. Every argument must grow into a fight. Every fight must blossom into a riot. Every riot must expand into a war. Every war must end in devastation.Where, there, in the ruins, communism finds its chance. For the Communists there must never be a compromise. Never a settlement of disputes, only conflict.”

If, as the video concludes, the only ‘effective defence against [manipulative] propaganda is the truth’, then the way forward for the aggressor, in any information war, is to attack the truth. The truth is watered down in order to get people to second guess it; smothering the truth in lies, half-truths, and the displacement of absolute truth. On this level truth means that at any stop light, red can be made to mean “go” by any individual who so desires, and no one is liable for the consequences.

This is why one of Roger Scruton’s more tongue in cheek comments in his 1994 work Modern Philosophy carries so much weight:

‘A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ‘merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.’  (pp.5-6)

Worth noting is the date this video was made. With the benefit of hindsight, the information presented shows that those who came before us, were not as ignorant as we are about the dangers posed by Communism and all forms of manipulative propaganda.


References:

Bluedorn, N. & H., 2009 The Fallacy Detective Christian Logic

Scruton, R. 1994 Modern Philosophy Bloomsbury Publishing

Image design: Rod Lampard Photo: Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

The synoptic authors recall the sending forth of the disciples by Jesus.

Matthew, Mark and Luke discuss the event with particular attention to polarity. Their focal point is the contrasts between the ‘for, against’, ‘peace, swords’, ‘binding, loosing’, ‘finding and losing’.(Mt.10:14/Lk.9:3-5/Mk.6:811/Acts 13:51)

Within the texts Jesus employs an economic[i] and political rhetoric. We read words like labouring, wages, authority, power, court and persecution.Within this discourse the sender and the sent are engaged in an economic project of proclamation.

This could be viewed as an economic protest that is both transactional and transformational. Words such as ‘value, worth, pay, giving, receiving, work and reward’ all rotate in and around the commanded reordering evident within the text.There is a transaction taking place, it precedes the announcement of transformation. Accompanying the message is exorcism, deliverance and proclamation of true value and true cost.

We read the words “take up your cross” in recollection of the steps taken by Jesus from stable, temple, workshop, garden, cross, empty tomb, upper room, and the promise of His physical reappearing.

When Jesus points to cost it is true cost. We are found or lost in underlying the notions of presence, arrival, departure and acceptance or rejection. Acknowledging presence means we hear the cost of wrath, value, worth, or worthlessness, unforgiveness or forgiveness.

Here we see that life-is-proclamation. It is not just economic but political. The transaction has no monetary value and yet it becomes transformational. These distinctions are about the strategic advancement of the Kingdom of God which lies outside human conjuring.It is given and cannot be purchased.

We, the post-modern hearers of the texts are confronted by the weight of declaration and doubt. This is a heaviness which takes place in the recollection of John the Baptist’s  call to ‘Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand – God has come near’ (ESV)

In the reminder of the horror and shame of crucifixion, and John’s call to repentance, we are redirected to align our thoughts onto the polarity between acknowledgement – acceptance, and denial – and evasion (in a word, rejection).

For instance: we read of dust, feet, and wiping away.

Dust in its Anglo-European context is understood as confusion, disturbance, something worthless, a state of humiliation, particles into which something disintegrates[ii]. For the first century audience, dust would have been ‘symbolic’[iii].Reminding them that ‘divine displeasure rests on any place that refused the Gospel’[iv].

Dust can announce arrival and signify departure.The finite significance of dust is its strength as a silent symbolic act of re-ordering; possibly forgiveness. A loving push-back; an assertive handing back of the hat, label,or false accusation that doesn’t fit.

Dust as a declaration of disturbance points us towards distinctions. The qualitative[v]: God is the majestic giver of life and ‘humanity, in its misery’[vi] runs hard and fast towards and artificial light, believing in the ability and power of self to justify.The proclamation mentioned within the texts are not about preaching the ‘manifestation of God as an idea; but about acknowledging that the revelation of God as a whole is a spiritual reality[vii]

Proclamation here is a declaration of disturbance. Our self-reliance is disrupted; as such we are not left in our sin to wallow – because “God has drawn near”.

We are forgiven, raised and reminded, by proclamation, that this state of forgiveness is not about ignoring deliberate injury.  For sin is not justified or legitimised by forgiveness. Forgiveness acknowledges a wrong, and calls for a response, a re-ordering; change. Otherwise there would be no cause for forgiveness. For the sinner this means that we are justified by the final act of the forgiver.

Proclamation calls us to acknowledgment. Here we experience acceptance and see shadows condemned in the true light of ‘veritas’ and the true cost of forgiveness.  By doing this we drop the dust from our feet, stop feeding the echoes of the past and as a consequence find ourselves moved towards healing.

‘In Jesus Christ God comes forth out of the profound hiddenness of His divinity in order to act as God among and upon us…
…In Jesus the living God has spoken to us in accents we cannot fail to hear’[viii]

In repentance thought and speech must meet deed.We acknowledge the negative but assert the positive. In this sense diverse forgiveness, including the act of forgiving the absence of apology, is like exhaling dust, and inhaling grace. The act of removing the dust from our feet.


References:

[i] Green, J.1997 NICNT:The Gospel of Luke, Wm.B.Eerdmans Publishing Company, p.413

[ii] Merriam-Webster

[iii] Hendrickson, W. 1978 NTC: Luke, Baker Academic p.575

[iv] Ibid, p.575

[v] Kierkegaard’s ‘infinite qualitative distinction’

[vi] Barth, K. 1938 The Miracle of Christmas in CD.1.2:173 Hendrickson Publishers

[vii] Ibid, p.178

[viii] Ibid, pp.182-183

Originally posted 17th February 2014  ©RL