Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Holy Week - Luke 20

I got a call at 5 :30 am that my dad, who is 88, was being taken to the hospital with heart issues. I just got back from the hospital ( he's doing OK). As the passage is about resurrection, I thought it is appropriate to talk about that.

Jesus was talking to a group who were distinctly non-mystical - for them, the Law was a way to live, here and now, and death would be the end. Jesus refutes that, saying "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." At this time most of the Jewish people believed that when God intervened, in the "Day of the Lord" when He came to Jerusalem (see chapter 19), defeated their enemies (see chapter 23), established His kingdom (see 19:11), that the righteous would be raised from the dead, to live again on earth. Until that time the faithful dead were asleep in the shadowlands. They did not believe that somehow their "souls" without their bodies, would go off to heaven: that was a Greek notion.

Jesus affirmed the resurrection of the dead - and a few days later, he became the first - the forerunner. He was not disembodied, or a "spirit" - he had a new, resurrected body, but one that could eat and talk and - so significantly - bore the scars of his suffering. The scars were not forgotten, wiped away - they were part of his resurrected body.

I believe that we have been confused by Greek philosophy about the idea of heaven. The biblical concept is that we are not souls who have a body - but that we are embodied spirits, and that we will have new bodies, bodies like the Lord Jesus' resurrection body, bodies that will live on a new earth, with Jesus and with one another. (If you want to know more, I recommend N.T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope." It is the best book I have read in the past year.)

I believe and am convinced that the best is ahead of us. As C.S. Lewis wrote: "All their life in this world, and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better that the one before."

Monday, April 6, 2009

Holy Week: Luke 19

The last two weeks have been hard: my friend's cancer, my daughter's diagnosis. It is now, in the midst of the hard things, that it is important to pay attention to the foundation on which my life is built. And these chapters are that foundation. I think that Jesus really lived, died and rose from the dead. And that is the most important fact of my life.

So - in the midst of the busy-ness and the sorrows and the worries of life - let's take time this week to remember the most important thing, the thing that doesn't change.

In the chapters we have been reading, there has been a dual focus - the increasing buy-in of the disciples, and the increasing hostility of the opponents. Jesus has been making the invitation - and the warning - quite plain. In Chapter 18 there is a stark contrast - the rich young ruler who goes away blinded by wealth - and the blind beggar who follows, rejoicing.

Chapter 19 opens with the story of Zacchaeus and one response to Jesus "he hurried down and received him joyfully" - and closes with the other -the "principal men of the city... seeking to destroy him." The story of the tenants in chapter 20 sums up the situation: The "owner of the vineyard" sends his beloved son. "But when the tenants saw him they said to themselves, 'This is the heir. Let us kill him, so the inheritance may be ours."

The choice is so starkly put. Either Jesus is the rightful king - or we wish him dead. Kind of shocking to put it like that, isn't it? There is just not much room here for the "just a good man" theory of Jesus. (If one wants to hang on to such a theory, one must avoid reading the gospels...) Do "good men" generally claim to be the rightful king of the world?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Judgment - More from Luke 16

Jesus told stories to reveal truth. Here is one of mine.

Laura's roommate moved out with little notice last weekend - she said she found a place that was $100/month cheaper. Laura had been a good friend to her, and was deeply hurt by this. The roommate knows she didn't treat Laura well, and so hasn't come back or called (or come back to clean up the room she vacated), even though Laura has just been diagnosed with a chronic illness - and needs friends now. I think she doesn't want to face us. Maybe she is telling herself what was bad about living with Laura, or what Laura did wrong.

And there is nothing at all that Laura - or I - can do to mend things. Unless the roommate is willing to face her, there can be no relationship, no possibility of reconciliation.

In Luke 16, Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus. It is more a story about what was happening right then than a story about the afterlife. The opportunity to make things right was there, right in front of them. But if they refuse to listen, refuse to admit where they have been wrong, there is no chance for them -"even if someone should rise from the dead. "