Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

God With Us

Friday, March 26th, 2021

Again and again you see how Jesus opts for what is small, hidden, and poor, and accordingly declines to wield influence. His many miracles always serve to express his profound compassion with suffering humanity; never are they attempts to call attention to himself. As a rule, he even forbids those he has cured to talk to others about it. And as Jesus’ life continues to unfold, he becomes increasingly aware that he has been called to fulfill his vocation in suffering and death. In all of this, it becomes plain to us that God has willed to show his love for the world by descending more and more deeply into human frailty.

— Henri J. M. Nouwen, You Are Beloved, p. 93

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 26, 2021

Not If, But When

Sunday, March 21st, 2021

As I have often said, salvation is not a question of if, but when. Once you see with God’s eyes, you will see all things and enjoy all things in proper and full perspective. Some put this off till the moment of death or even afterward (“purgatory” was our strange word for this). Salvation, for me, is simply to have the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), which Paul describes as “making the world, life and death, the present and the future — all your servants — because you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God” (1 Corinthians 3:23).

Everything finally belongs, and you are a part of it.

This knowing and this enjoying are a good description for salvation.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 225

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 22, 2020

The Big Thing

Sunday, March 14th, 2021

I would insist that the foundation of Jesus’s social program is what I will call non-idolatry, or the withdrawing of your enthrallment from all kingdoms except the Kingdom of God. This is a much better agenda than feeling you have to attack things directly, or defeat other nation-states, the banking system, the military-industrial complex, or even the religious system. Nonattachment (freedom from full or final loyalties to man-made domination systems) is the best way I know of protecting people from religious zealotry or any kind of antagonistic thinking or behavior. There is nothing to be against, but just keep concentrating on the Big Thing you are for! (Think Francis of Assissi and Mother Teresa.) Paul’s notion of sin comes amazingly close to our present understanding of addiction. And he thus wanted to free us from our enthrallments with what he considered “mere rubbish” (Philippians 3:8), which is not worthy of our loyalty. “If only I can have Christ and be given a place in him!” Can you hear Paul’s corporate understanding in phrases like that?

The addict, or sinner, does not actually enjoy the world as much as he or she is enslaved to it, in Paul’s understanding. Jesus had come to offer us a true alternative social order here and not just a “way to heaven” later.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 197-198

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 13, 2021

Infinite Grace for All

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

As long as you operate inside any scarcity model, there will never be enough God or grace to go around. Jesus came to undo our notions of scarcity and tip us over into a worldview of absolute abundance — or what he would call the “Kingdom of God.” The Gospel reveals a divine world of infinity, a worldview of enough and more than enough. Our word for this undeserved abundance is “grace”: “Give and there will be gifts for you: full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, and poured into your lap” (Luke 6:38). It is a major mental and heart conversion to move from a scarcity model to an abundance model.

No Gospel will ever be worthy of being called “Good News” unless it is indeed a win-win worldview, and “good news for all the people” (Luke 2:10) — without exception. The right to decide who is in, and who is out, is not one that our little minds and hearts can even imagine. Jesus’s major theme of the Reign of God is saying, “Only God can do such infinite imagining, so trust the Divine Mind.”

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 184-185

Photo: Frozen lake, South Riding, Virginia, March 12, 2015

Outdoing Sin With Love

Friday, March 5th, 2021

The church was meant to be an alternative society in the grip of an altogether different story line. Restorative justice is used in new Zealand as the primary juvenile justice model, and the Catholic bishops of New Zealand have put out very good statements on it. We see this alternative model of justice acted out in scripture — famously in Jesus’s story of the Return of the Prodigal (Luke 15:11ff.), but almost always in the prophets (if we can first endure their tirades). God’s justice makes things right at their very core, and divine love does not achieve its ends by mere punishment or retribution.

Consider Habbakuk, whose short book develops with vivid messages of judgment only to pivot at the very end to his “Great Nevertheless!” For three chapters, Habbakuk reams out the Jewish people, then at the close has God say in effect, “But I will love you even more until you come back to me!” We see the same in Ezekiel’s story of the dry bones (Chapter 16) and in Jeremiah’s key notion of the “new covenant” (Chapter 31:31ff.). God always outdoes the Israelites’ sin by loving them even more! This is God’s restorative justice.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 184

Photo: Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Scotland, July 11, 2003

Casting Out Fear

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

I lived this story for years. I preached it. I fully bought into this narrative of an angry God needing to be placated. I understand the reason it works and the crushing effect it has on us when we embrace it, and I know how disorienting it is to be compelled to cling to a loving Creator while simultaneously being taught to be terrified of what that Creator wants to do to you if you don’t cling correctly. It hasn’t happened in an instant, and I can’t quite say how I got here, but I am simply living in a different story now. I still have God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit — but I don’t have fear anymore the way I used to. That isn’t to say that I don’t have “the fear of the Lord” that the Bible speaks of, that awe and wonder that recognizes my smallness and God’s indescribable scale and beauty. In fact, my view of God is as expansive and reverent and breathtaking as it’s ever been. It just isn’t defined by the rigid Christian narrative of my childhood that says I am an enemy of God at birth.

If God is God, then God is intimately aware of the path you’re on. God sees your striving, your desire to know, your efforts to love better, and so even when these things take you from tradition or orthodoxy or surety, there can be peace there and trust that God is present. Looking at the long, meandering road you’ve been on, how can you possibly define some precise pass-fail in all of that? If you feel the table of your hospitality expanding, if you feel the container you had for God being shattered, if you yourself are being drawn to something deeper than the religion of your past, that is the pull of God. It is the extravagant, barrier-breaking, tradition-transcending heart of Jesus that is demanding to be yielded to. To the gatekeepers and the finger pointers, this surrender to God will look like rebellion. They will demand guilt for the conclusions you’ve come to and repentance from the path you’re on. you will need to be steadfast and rest in the love that casts out all fear. They will snicker and condemn and dismiss. They will name this heresy. They will call this a mutiny. To you, it is a progression.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 166-167

Photo: Sunrise, South Riding, Virginia, March 16, 2015

Restorative Justice

Monday, March 1st, 2021

Such bad theology has its roots in organizing a worldview around the retributive notion of justice, as we discussed earlier, distinguishing it from restorative justice (a fancy term for healing). Jesus neither practiced nor taught retribution, but that is what imperial theology prefers — clear winners and clear losers. Top-down worldviews can’t resist the tidy dualisms of an in-and-out, us-and-them worldview. But Jesus roundly rejects such notions in both his parables and his teachings — for example, when he says, “Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40), and that “God causes his sun to rise on bad as well as good, and causes it to rain on honest and dishonest men alike” (Matthew 5:45), and when he makes outsiders and outliers the heroes of most of his stories.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 182

Photo: Citadelle de Bitche, France, March 2000

Changing Our Minds, Not God’s

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

As John puts it, “He will show the world how wrong it was about sin, about who was really in the right, and about true judgment” (16:8). This is what Jesus is exposing and defeating on the cross. He did not come to change God’s mind about us. It did not need changing. Jesus came to change our minds about God — and about ourselves — and about where goodness and evil really lie.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 151

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, February 21, 2015

Removing Barriers

Monday, October 26th, 2020

When it comes to removing barriers between people or between people and God, we as the body of Christ should be on the very front lines. We should be leading the charge. We should be defining the movement of equality and justice, not bringing up the rear and definitely not digging in our heels and fighting against it with all that we have. That simply doesn’t glorify God, and it isn’t making disciples either. The world is seeing this and rejecting it. I hear their stories every single day. The name Christian is no longer synonymous with Jesus out in the world, but with bigotry, with power, with discrimination. This is the script that we who desire the bigger table must flip.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 140

Photo: View from Skyline Drive, October 13, 2020

Friend of Sinners

Sunday, October 25th, 2020

What do we notice about Jesus? Does He, as God in the flesh, avert his gaze when surrounded by sinners? Is Jesus too holy to look upon sin or to be in the presence of sinners? Hardly! Instead, those sinners are his closest friends. He spends so much time with them that the religious elite — who, by the way, were too holy to spend time with sinners — openly criticized him for it.

“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'” (Luke 7:34)

So, is God really “too holy to look on our sin”? Absolutely not! In fact, if God was too holy to look upon our sins, then God would never be able to look at anyone or see anything. Instead, we see time and again that God’s eyes are always upon us, and that we cannot go anywhere to escape God’s presence, even if we were to descend into the depths of hell (Sheol) itself.

— Keith Giles, Jesus Undefeated, p. 79-80

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 24, 2020