There is a Storm Rising

There is a storm rising in the deep cauldron of the sea of humanity,
An untamed insanity, wailing louder and louder, like the wild child
Emerging from the jungle of irrationality to destroy all of banality,
To cannibalize civilization in the realization that it is but a carcass
Only to be eaten now in a free frenzied feast of half-starved beasts;
Woe be to the man of upper-clan, who but fans the flames of blame!
The storm rise is upon us, the size of which we cannot measure . . .
But there will be no pleasure, only pieces of what we now treasure

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San Junia to the Church in America

Mary_Magdalene

Recapitulation of the Epistle of St. James

Junia, apostle of Jesus the Christ, to my sisters and brothers in America, who are called by the name of our most gracious Redeemer, who was sent and filled by the Spirit of Everlasting Life, and our nurturing God, who is Love, Mercy and Grace; it is with heavy heart I write to you, who are estranged from the House of Heaven, uprooted from the banks of the River of Life, and wandering again in the wastelands of darkness, sin and death. So shall I come right to the point?

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters. Some of you have become proud and puffed up through your acts of generosity, imagining that you have somehow achieved something great and profound. Remember, though, every generous act of giving, along with every wonderful gift, is birthed in the heavenlies, coming down to us from the God of Light and Life, Love and Grace, whose character remains the same from age to age.

More than this, even, it is our mothering God, who has given us birth into new life; it is by the Spirit that we become like luscious, fresh fruit growing out from the Tree of Christ, our Redeemer, nourished by his very own blood and water, as we partake of his body, even to grow and extend his body throughout the earth. What? Do you now imagine that you, being mere seed, planted yourself and watered yourself? Or that being mere brick and mortar, you somehow built up yourselves into some grand mansion to be the envy of all who see your magnificence?

You must understand this, my beloved, so I will put it to you bluntly: Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, and even slower to antagonism; for your antagonism does not produce the fruit of God. So then, rid yourselves of all wretchedness and rancid growth of wickedness; rather, be open and humbly welcoming to the Spirit, who gave you life in the first place! But even more than this, be doers of the good instructions and principles you have received, not merely hearers who deceive themselves!

Those who hear the words of God but are not doers, are like those who look at themselves in a mirror but then immediately forget what they look like as soon as they move away from the mirror! But those who look into the perfect law of life and liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act – they will be blessed in their doing. Tragically, this is not the case among most of you, and so it is that the Church in America is not blessed. No! Rather it is as the Apostle St. Peter said, “Judgment begins with the household of God!” Do you doubt what I say?

By way of example, then, there are those who think they are religious, but do not bridle their tongues; they deceive their hearts, and their religion is worthless. Everyone who looks upon them and listens to them can see the truth of their wretched life, but they are blind. Religion that is pure and undefiled before our mothering God, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress; to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless; and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

What? Have you forgotten that it is the wicked who say, “Let us oppress the righteous poor; let us not spare the widow or regard the grey hairs of the aged. But let our might be our law of right, for what is weak proves itself to be useless.” Ah! But what does the Lord our God say? “The wicked will be punished as their reasoning deserves. They disregarded the righteous and rebelled against the Lord. So it is, then, that their hope is in vain, all their labors ultimately unprofitable, their works completely useless; their end, destruction.” Is this the life to which you were reborn, my beloved?

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? And you have shown favoritism for years upon years now; do not believe this has gone unnoticed by God. What? If human eyes can see and human ears can hear and human minds understand your sins, do you imagine the Everlasting One has not taken notice as well? That God has not seen the person with gold rings and fine clothes come into your assembly, and has not seen you fawn over him saying, ‘Have a seat here, please,’ and, ‘Oh, come join us; we would love to have you as a member!’ Such an attitude nauseates God and his Christ!

You turn your backs on the poor woman, or you say, ‘Stand over there where there is room for you.’ You let her know by word and deed that you will not help her or her children, and you will not tolerate her asking for any help. Have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Do you deny this? Then tell me, what do you do when a poor person in dirty clothes also comes into your splendid building, built on the backs of unjust poverty? Do you welcome him? Hug him? Give him new and clean clothes and put a ring on his finger? You know you do not, and if you say otherwise, the Spirit say, “Liars! Hypocrites!”

Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten! Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire! You think you have laid up treasure for the last days, but the Christ said, ‘Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven.’ Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. And ‘he will not show partiality against the poor; but he will listen to the prayer of one who is wronged. He will not ignore the supplication of the orphan, or the widow when she pours out her complaint.’

You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts on a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you. Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom promised to those who ‘love kindness, act justly, and walk humbly with their Lord?’ But you have dishonored the poor; after all, is it not the rich who oppress? Who else is in such a position to do so? Is it not the wealthy who drag people into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? Ah! But you are they, and they are you!

You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. Speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of life, love and liberty! For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement, though. ‘Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining, and like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received,’ as the Everlasting One has commanded through the Apostle.

What good is it, my sisters and brothers, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a sister or brother is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. Yes! Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith! You say you believe what is right, that you believe God is one; you do well. Ah! But even the demons believe that much, and they shudder at the mere thought! What good does it do you, all of your doctrines and confessions of faith? All of your religious customs and rituals?

Have you not heard it said, ‘Blessed is the one who considers the poor; in the day of trouble the Lord delivers that one?’ And that ‘charity – to be moved at the sight of the thirsty, the hungry and the miserable and to offer relief to them out of pity – is the spring of virtue.’ Or again, have you not been commanded to ‘perform a charity every day the sun comes up: to act justly between two people is a charity; to help someone with her mount, lifting her onto it or hoisting up her belongings onto it is a charity; a good word is a charity; every step you take in prayers is a charity; and removing a harmful thing from the road is a charity… Be kind to parents, and the near kinsman, and to orphans, and to the needy, and to the neighbor who is kindred, and to the neighbor who is a stranger, and to the companion at your side, and to the traveler, and to those in your employment. Surely God loves not the proud and boastful or those who conceal the bounty God has given them.’

Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith without works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’ and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? Understand! Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead!

Instead of living by faith in doing good deeds, you live in luxury and self-contentment, setting ablaze the whole world around you by tongues of fire which themselves are set on fire by hell itself! Every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue – a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it you sing praise and worship songs, bless the Lord God and Christ, cry out to the Spirit, and even claim to speak by Spirit! Yet with the same tongue you curse those who are made in the likeness of God, your very own human kindred! You curse the beloved creation of God even as you presume to worship God! And do you expect to be blessed?

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. So, too, you cannot claim to be followers of the Christ and slander your sisters and brothers. You cannot claim to be followers of Christ, and demean and denigrate those for whom Christ died. You cannot claim to be followers of Christ and disobey him by seating yourselves in the seat of judgment, which belongs to God and to God alone.

Who is wise and understanding among you, then? Show this by your good life and works done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, and devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind, which is evident throughout your assemblies. Listen! Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy; and a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. This, sisters and brothers, God will certainly bless.

Now you have been forewarned, yet again, so beware that you are no longer carried away by the errors of superficial religion, lawless self-indulgence and demonic delusion that parades itself under the very name of Jesus of Nazareth! Instead, grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ, to whom belongs glory and honor, both now and forevermore. Amen.

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End of the World as We Know It: Present Reality, Prophetic, or Perhaps Personal Perspective

The news is the same, really. Different headlines with different characters, perhaps, with different names in different parts of the world, but the content is essentially unchanged. Reality television programs are not real – yet, again, perhaps too real – but everyone is an actor and the audience knows the show is no more than showmanship, and it has all grown old and stale, like renamed and repacked video games that lost their novelty long ago.

New music rolls off an assembly line for mass consumption by an entertainment-saturated culture, and distributed to various artists, who have no authentic artistic ability, which no longer matters because technology adequately substitutes for talent, and rapidly flashing lights and explosives and quick movement are enough to distract an already aesthetically-numbed public anyway. And poets write for personal pleasure but in their heart hate their work.

New books are shelved in bookstores, little more than the rehashing of bygone bestsellers – nothing fresh, nothing innovative. Old cell phones and electronic gadgets are advertised with the flare of advancement as the “next generation” complete with so many trivial, unnecessary but alluring “add-ons.” And people file into churches, synagogues, temples and mosques but the Spirit is gone. Something has died … inside and out, individually and corporately.

Strenuous prayer has been replaced by simple e-cards on Facebook; fasting means only how quickly one is served at an unhealthy hamburger joint; meditation is how intently one can manage to concentrate on the televised football game without being distracted by the nuisance of children, who are better sequestered in their own rooms with their own television sets, CD players and game consoles … largely left alone to care for themselves by whatever resources available.

Astute individuals form reading and writing guilds, academic and intellectual societies, invite others to join and participate. Some respond initially, mostly with lackluster interaction, and then just fade away. Silence replaces what was meant to be stimulation. Art is anything anyone labels art, and there is no genuine appreciation because genuine appreciation requires some standard of measurement of quality. Quality is no longer manifest.

Wave upon wave, customers flow into stores and back out again, an unending tide of flesh and blood once considered human; wiping shelves clean of superfluous product manufactured on the other side of the globe in order to flood their already inundated homes. Most of them are not happy, though, evidenced by merely looking at the myriad faces walking up and down the aisles. There is stress, anxiety, boredom, anger, depression, emptiness … but seldom joy and peace.

Fall has come, as she always does in the changing seasons of this world, but this Autumn is more than merely the effect of an ordinary planetary cycle. No, as the season of Fall brings along customary dying in herald of Winter, so this more significant Autumn portents the death of an age, an era followed by an exceptionally long, dark and cold Season of terrifying tranquility as new life stirs beneath the surface, waiting to be born anew in the coming Spring.

And I wonder, will we be here to greet that happy moment of fresh growth under warming sunshine, ushering in an infant epoch in the history of our world? Will I and my children be here to witness this nativity?  I ask with some fear and trepidation, but with excitement and anticipation as well… After all, each and every age and epoch is as unique as each and every individual. So who might I meet in the Spring to come?

Chosen People, Chosen Land and the Choices We Make

John Hagee, senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, is an ardent “Christian” Zionist and the founder of Christians United for Israel

Some self-proclaimed “Christian” Zionists and supporters of Israel complain of something called “supersessionism,” or “replacement theology.” They claim that the idea of the Church superseding the Jewish people as the “new” Israel is unbiblical. This is made painfully clear in one blog article entitled, “Replacement Theology: Its Origins, Teachings and Errors.”  They go on to proclaim (rather loudly and abrasively, too) that ethnic Jews are still “God’s chosen people” and, thus, have divine right to “the Land.” Hence, the Palestinians, whom they (absurdly) claim never existed have no rights at all and just need to leave.

Let’s look at this for a moment…

Very simply, “supersessionism” denotes the belief that the Church “supersedes” the Israel of the Old Testament. Accepting this definition, then, we ought to say right off the cuff, “No, the Church does not supersede Israel.” Gentiles were grafted in to replace branches that were cut off (through unbelief), as the Apostle St. Paul teaches, but the plant itself was the same. (see Rom. 11.11-24) In other words, the Israel of God remained, but was/is now wholly fulfilled in Christ Jesus, the long-awaited and prophesied Messiah, in whom “there is neither Jew nor Greek (or Gentile),” as again Paul also makes clear:

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith… So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3.7-9, 26-29, NIVUK)

Furthermore, the Apostle very lucidly teaches that ethnicity is inferior to ethics and relationship anyway:

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2.28-29, NKJV)

As an aside, interestingly enough, Rabbi G. J. J. Neuberger pointed out at the 1976 Tripoli Conference on Zionism and Racism that…

Jewish parents throughout the world bless their children every Sabbath and holiday eve, and they have done it in the same way for millennia. If the children are girls, the blessing is, ‘May G-d let you be like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.’ Not one of these matriarchs was born a Jewess; they were all converts to Judaism. If the children are boys, the blessing is, ‘May G-d let you be like Ephraim and Manasseh.’ The mother of these two was an Egyptian woman who became Jewish and had married Joseph. Moses himself, the greatest Jew who ever lived, married a Midianite woman who became Jewish. Finally, the Tanach, the holy writings of the Jews, contains the book of Ruth. This woman was not only not Jewish by birth, but she came from the Moabites, traditional enemies of the Jewish people… At its very end, the book of Ruth traces the ancestry of King David, the greatest king the Jews ever had, to Ruth, his great-grandmother. (International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Zionism and Racism,  G. J. J. Neuberger, “The Difference Between Judaism and Zionism,” 188)

Quite fittingly, then, Rabbi Neuberger concludes, “So much for this racial nonsense!” And we should add only, “Amen!”

So, at any rate, does the Church “supersede” Israel? No. Rather what we find is the continuation of the idea of Israel, now culminated and fulfilled in Christ and opened out to the whole world, “for he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…” (Eph. 2.14, NIV) If one needs some label, then, may I suggest “continuationism” as a possible candidate?

Certainly, of course, the Jewish people as a people (ethnically speaking) have not been forever “cut off,” a point upon which the Apostle St. Paul is equally clear. Point in fact, the promise has been made and will be fulfilled that the Jewish people will eventually embrace en masse the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ who has already come and suffered, died and risen again. But this is the same Jesus who said to the Samaritan woman,

Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.  (John 4.21-24, ESVUK)

Does this directly bear upon the question of “the Land?” I certainly believe that everything thus far discussed (and certainly more could be added) does directly bear upon the question. But for the sake of argument – and the likes of John Hagee certainly would argue – let us say it does not; then  where does both the place of Christ Jesus as well as an ethical responsibility before God enter into the equation? This is an essentially important consideration, because nowhere does God make his promise for a parcel of land more important than his Law, which our Lord Jesus summarized, of course, in two basic commandments:

Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (Mt. 22.37-40, NKJV)

And, by the way, if there is any concern this might not include non (ethnic)-Jews, we should call to mind his parable of the Good Samaritan as well.

Point in fact, we Christians claim to follow the Prince of Peace, (see Isa. 9.6) the Messiah, sent by the God who is in his very nature Love. (I Jn. 4. 7-9) The idea that he has torn down dividing walls of hostility seems very consonant with his nature, then, especially when we add to this the fact that “he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins;” (2 Pt. 3.9, GNT) “for God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have life.” (Wis. 1.13-14a, NABRE, emendation mine)

Some so-called Christians seem to have forgotten this fact, if ever they knew it, and rather focus on very strange ideas of “prophecy” and even practically salivate at the thought of the whole world coming to a fiery end, the prerequisite of which (they believe) is ethnic Jews returning to and taking control of the whole of the “Promised Land.” Really rather horrifying to think that these people, in the name of Christ, actually actively support violence and bloodshed to hurry along the end of the world so they can all-the-sooner enjoy heaven … without any apparent concern, by the way, for the eternal fate of either Jewish or Palestinian people, (much less circumstances of their lives in the here and now.)

This is not the faith-religion of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, but the complete distortion of that way of life. Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware sums up our call to life in Christ very succinctly and beautifully when he says, “We become truly personal by loving God and by loving other humans… In its deepest sense, love is the life, the energy, of the Creator in us.” Amen. And this is precisely how we ought to approach the question of Israel and Palestine today, and most especially the very real and very tragic plight of the Palestinian people.